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Augusto Pinochet was the most important Third World dictator of the Cold War, and perhaps the most ruthless. In The Dictator's Shadow, United Nations Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz takes advantage of his unmatched set of perspectives—as a former revolutionary who fought the Pinochet regime, as a respected scholar, and as a diplomat—to tell what this extraordinary figure meant to Augusto Pinochet was the most important Third World dictator of the Cold War, and perhaps the most ruthless. In The Dictator's Shadow, United Nations Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz takes advantage of his unmatched set of perspectives—as a former revolutionary who fought the Pinochet regime, as a respected scholar, and as a diplomat—to tell what this extraordinary figure meant to Chile, the United States, and the world.Pinochet's American backers saw his regime as a bulwark against Communism; his nation was a testing ground for U.S.-inspired economic theories. Countries desiring World Bank support were told to emulate Pinochet's free-market policies, and Chile's government pension even inspired President George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security. The other baggage—the assassinations, tortures, people thrown out of airplanes, mass murders of political prisoners—was simply the price to be paid for building a modern state. But the questions raised by Pinochet's rule still remain: Are such dictators somehow necessary? Horrifying but also inspiring, The Dictator's Shadow is a unique tale of how geopolitical rivalries can profoundly affect everyday life.


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Augusto Pinochet was the most important Third World dictator of the Cold War, and perhaps the most ruthless. In The Dictator's Shadow, United Nations Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz takes advantage of his unmatched set of perspectives—as a former revolutionary who fought the Pinochet regime, as a respected scholar, and as a diplomat—to tell what this extraordinary figure meant to Augusto Pinochet was the most important Third World dictator of the Cold War, and perhaps the most ruthless. In The Dictator's Shadow, United Nations Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz takes advantage of his unmatched set of perspectives—as a former revolutionary who fought the Pinochet regime, as a respected scholar, and as a diplomat—to tell what this extraordinary figure meant to Chile, the United States, and the world.Pinochet's American backers saw his regime as a bulwark against Communism; his nation was a testing ground for U.S.-inspired economic theories. Countries desiring World Bank support were told to emulate Pinochet's free-market policies, and Chile's government pension even inspired President George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security. The other baggage—the assassinations, tortures, people thrown out of airplanes, mass murders of political prisoners—was simply the price to be paid for building a modern state. But the questions raised by Pinochet's rule still remain: Are such dictators somehow necessary? Horrifying but also inspiring, The Dictator's Shadow is a unique tale of how geopolitical rivalries can profoundly affect everyday life.

30 review for The Dictator's Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Heraldo Munoz, a former leader in the left movements of Chile, provides a look at the dictator Augusto Pinochet who ruled with an iron fist in Chile throughout the 1970's and early 80's. Munoz provides what he terms as a political memoir to look at the changes surrounding the regime from those who opposed it throughout the time of Pinochet. One point that has to be appreciated from this book is that while it captures the horrors of Pinochet's time it does not go through a categorical list of Heraldo Munoz, a former leader in the left movements of Chile, provides a look at the dictator Augusto Pinochet who ruled with an iron fist in Chile throughout the 1970's and early 80's. Munoz provides what he terms as a political memoir to look at the changes surrounding the regime from those who opposed it throughout the time of Pinochet. One point that has to be appreciated from this book is that while it captures the horrors of Pinochet's time it does not go through a categorical list of atrocities as most Pinochet books do. Munoz focuses instead on what was changing in Chile and how it fit into a wider global context vis a vis communism an d the west. While clearly gloating over the fall of Pinochet and outright mocking Pinochet's defense at trial this book gives one sides account of the story and it is a side that has not been told in this much detail from one on the ground yet. For those who are starting out in this subject I would not recommend this book as it assumes a decent knowledge of Chile and does not give a balanced look at the sides. For those who have read more this is an excellent addition to the literature on the topic and a wonderful primary source for those looking into the history of Chile.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Dorney

    Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. An atypical dictator if there ever was one. This book, told through the coupling of a firsthand memoir with in depth analysis of Chilean politics past and present is the work of Chilean socialist and current Chilean politician, Heraldo Munoz. Munoz, who was an avowed supporter of Marxist-Socialist President Salvador Allende when he came to power in the early 1970s begins the book with a chapter profiling his personal experience in the nation of Chile on September 11th, Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. An atypical dictator if there ever was one. This book, told through the coupling of a firsthand memoir with in depth analysis of Chilean politics past and present is the work of Chilean socialist and current Chilean politician, Heraldo Munoz. Munoz, who was an avowed supporter of Marxist-Socialist President Salvador Allende when he came to power in the early 1970s begins the book with a chapter profiling his personal experience in the nation of Chile on September 11th, 1973 when General Augusto Pinochet, along with other military commanders Gustavo Leigh, Jose Merino and Cesar Mendoza executed a Nixon-sponsored coup d'etad which installed Pinochet as the President-General of the Republic. Munoz carries on to detail the strident anti-communism of Pinochet and how it attracted the diplomatic sympathy of the infamous Henry Kissinger. This incredibly detailed book carries a litany of names and dates, hence why it is a deceptively long read. I personally picked up this book because I was interested in learning more about the implementation of Milton Friedman's University of Chicago trained economists and how their privatization, currency deregulation and pension reform turned the country around. Munoz touches on economics lightly, showing that despite popular opinion, Pinochet was not a free-market ideologue but rather a pragmatist who was sympathetic to Chicago ideals but never went fully along with it. In fact, Pinochet implemented minimum wage hikes, currency devaluations and bank bailouts all to the dismay of the "Chicago Boys". Because Munoz specialises in Foreign Policy, much of the book details General Pinochet's tense relationship with the Carter and Reagan administrations as well as his experience working underground throughout the 1980s with various groups to attempt to foster a democratic movement in Chile, working closely alongside future presidents Ricardo Lagos and Patricio Aylwin. I found the chapter on Pinochet's 1998 arrest in London to be very a enlightened account of the arcane nature of international law, as well as doing an excellent job of highlighting a cross-section of opinions espoused by a plethora of sources during that very interesting time from Jack Straw to Margaret Thatcher to the Wall Street Journal to several western European Governments. At the end of the book, I concluded that what Augusto Pinochet did to political dissidents in Chile for 17 years under his reign was simply grotesque and impermissible behavior for a government. BUT, it is however extremely important to realize that it is far more than likely that the neoliberal reforms implemented under Pinochet - regardless of what his ideological endgame was - quite literally saved Chile from becoming the Communist hellhole of a country observable in places like Venezuela, Cuba or for that matter, Somalia. It is also an important fact to observe that Pinochet did not govern without somewhat of a consensus. He held two plebiscites on the validity of his mandate, one in 1980 and one in 1988, his defeat in the latter is what causing him to relinquish his power in 1990. This book is good for any individual seeking to know almost everything there is to know about General Pinochet and his regime, as well as those seeking to enhance their perceptions of geopolitics and economics. Heraldo Munoz is a socialist, and thus downplays the ostensible tragedy that an Allende Chile could have yielded, he also unjustly demonizes Kissinger's need to keep Chile from the iron blade of Communism. It is an extremely well-researched book, and I would be giving it 4.5 if the option was available. The lack of objectivity and subtle sympathy to Communist terror groups earns a slightly less than 5 star read. After reading this book, I am left with a deep sense of despair that Chile may be dragged into the abyss by current President Michelle Bachelet (whose father was tortured and killed under General Pinochet's government) My mature self reminds me of the evil conducted under Pinochet. But my fancifal side bellows a faint rallying call for Captain General Pinochet as the liberator of the Chilean people. 4 Stars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Andersen-Andrade

    The Dictator's Shadow is a classic study on the makings of a right-wing dictator under the auspices of the American government. Never underestimate America's capacity to undermine democratically elected governments or to destroy social justice movements that threaten predatory capitalism. "On November 6, 1970, only days after Allende's inauguration, Nixon presided over a National Security Council meeting on Chile in the White House cabinet room. Kissinger opened the meeting. "All the agencies are The Dictator's Shadow is a classic study on the makings of a right-wing dictator under the auspices of the American government. Never underestimate America's capacity to undermine democratically elected governments or to destroy social justice movements that threaten predatory capitalism. "On November 6, 1970, only days after Allende's inauguration, Nixon presided over a National Security Council meeting on Chile in the White House cabinet room. Kissinger opened the meeting. "All the agencies are agreed that Allende will try to create a socialist state," he said. A modus vivendi might be possible, but at the "risk that he will consolidate his position and then move ahead against us". "If we have to be hostile, we want to do it right," Secretary of State William P. Rogers suggested. "We can put an economic squeeze on him." "Our main concern in Chile is the prospect that Allende can consolidate himself, and the picture projected to the world will be his success," affirmed Nixon. "if we let...leaders in South America think they can move like Chile and have it both ways, we will be in trouble. Latin America is not gone, and we want to keep it, " he concluded.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Troy

    I loved the back and forth between the Pinochet's rise to power and the author's underground opposition work. There are even some interesting connections to the Denver area, as he attended DU, went to school with Condoleeza Rice and played on soccer teams in the area. He uncovered a lot of new information for me, such as the relatively passive personality and approach Pinochet took in his career leading up to the coup, getting involved only at the last minute after others convinced him. Its a I loved the back and forth between the Pinochet's rise to power and the author's underground opposition work. There are even some interesting connections to the Denver area, as he attended DU, went to school with Condoleeza Rice and played on soccer teams in the area. He uncovered a lot of new information for me, such as the relatively passive personality and approach Pinochet took in his career leading up to the coup, getting involved only at the last minute after others convinced him. Its a reminder of how vigilant we all have to be to prevent someone like that coming to power and then becoming addicted to it, leading to torture, kidnapping and murder to sustain it. Also disturbing is his continued career in the government of Chile with two subsequent presidents, without any concern expressed from recent US presidents like Bush and Clinton. At a time when authoritarians are popping up all over the world, let'ts not forget that Pinochet was in power for over 15 years, all the way until 1989. And they fit right into this cycle going on, whether its Syria or Honduras. http://jensorensen.com/2018/12/04/the...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie Capell

    The history of Chile, from 1973 through 2006, is fascinating and not well enough known by the majority of U.S. citizens. This memoir, written by someone with first-hand knowledge of the events, is a comprehensive and fascinating summation of this tumultuous period, during which the Chilean people suffered greatly. The dictator in the title is General Augusto Pinochet, and for a long time, he ruled by fear and benefited from a fractured political landscape. This book tells the story of how the The history of Chile, from 1973 through 2006, is fascinating and not well enough known by the majority of U.S. citizens. This memoir, written by someone with first-hand knowledge of the events, is a comprehensive and fascinating summation of this tumultuous period, during which the Chilean people suffered greatly. The dictator in the title is General Augusto Pinochet, and for a long time, he ruled by fear and benefited from a fractured political landscape. This book tells the story of how the various political factions and parties finally came together to beat Pinochet and create what is today one of the strongest economies and democratic governments in South America. The tale of how this small country on the edge of South America, with a long and proud democratic tradition, came under the thrall of one of the most notorious dictators of the twentieth century, is not that different from the way many other dictators came to power: with the help of the CIA and other parts of the U.S. government, of course! During his rule, Pinochet ruthlessly repressed his enemies using exile, torture and execution, all in the name of fighting Communism. Muñoz takes the reader through all seventeen years of the dictatorship. He describes in detail the infighting within the junta and how Pinochet managed to stay one step ahead of those who would challenge his power. He also describes, from his insider knowledge, how the various political parties spent years underground, some in armed resistance, others attempting to resist in more peaceful ways. Muñoz had a ringside seat as the various opposition players jockeyed for position, finally coming together to participate in the plebiscite election that was the beginning of Pinochet’s end. The book also has an in-depth examination of how the “Chicago Boys” became Pinochet’s economic advisors and the numerous reforms they attempted in their efforts to reduce unemployment and return prosperity to the country. This whole section of the book is fascinating and was written so that someone like me (not an economist) could easily understand. Unlike many others, Muñoz refuses to give Pinochet and the Chicago Boys much credit for the economic success Chile now enjoys, pointing out that true prosperity did not return until democracy did, once Pinochet lost an “unlosable” plebiscite and a democratically elected president took over in 1990. But the story doesn’t stop there—what happens after Pinochet leaves power is every bit as fascinating. The worldwide human rights movement used Pinochet as a test case. Indictments from a Spanish judge kept the former general under house arrest in London for nearly two years in the mid-1990’s. Tax evasion and money-laundering accusations continued to haunt Pinochet right up until his death in 2006. I lived in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship, in 1984-86, and experienced some of the events described in the book. I have been back to Chile many times since the fall of Pinochet, and greatly admire the Chilean people for the way that they reclaimed their democracy from the demagogues and fearmongers. On my last trip, in 2012, I went to visit Villa Grimaldi, a detention camp where political prisoners were tortured and killed by Pinochet’s secret police. It is now a peace park where former detainees tell their stories so that no one will forget what happened there. I also visited the new Museum of Human Rights in Santiago, a very informative and moving monument to all who fought the dictatorship and all who lost their lives in that struggle. Anyone interested in the Cold War and international human rights would find this book an welcome addition to their bookshelves. I highly recommend it, along with the Pinochet Files, a book about more or less the same period in history, but explaining the U.S. role in Pinochet’s rise.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    "The Dictator's Shadow" is a nonfiction book about life under Agosto Pinochet in Chile. It talks about how Pinochet came to power and how he was able to consolidate his power for so long. Pinochet's regime is still a regime that is studied a lot in political science. Pinochet is a hero to some and a villain to others. His rise to power is very interesting, especially for me, a person who spent a lot of time in undergrad studying Latin American history. Perhaps one of the most interesting things "The Dictator's Shadow" is a nonfiction book about life under Agosto Pinochet in Chile. It talks about how Pinochet came to power and how he was able to consolidate his power for so long. Pinochet's regime is still a regime that is studied a lot in political science. Pinochet is a hero to some and a villain to others. His rise to power is very interesting, especially for me, a person who spent a lot of time in undergrad studying Latin American history. Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this book is the author. Heraldo Munoz served under Salvador Allende, whose government Pinochet ousted and currently serves under Michelle Bachelet. He has seen his country through many different time periods and has often been on the front lines of great change. Because of who he has worked under, there is a bit of a political bend here, which is why it may be best to have a fair understanding of Chile's political history prior to reading this book. Munoz gives a lot of detail about what Pinochet's government was like and how people lived their lives under it. It is a very interesting history because it is not just a regurgitation of the facts. He gives a lot of context about what was actually happening to the people of Chile from everything just repeating a list of what Pinochet did. This book will appeal most to those who have an interest in Latin America at 10 history and have a basic understanding of some of its recent history.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bap

    The NYTimes comments about this memoir that the author went to State Univ of NY at Oswego thinking it was a suburb of NYC. It si only a five hour drive. He returns to Chile and as Pinochet launches his coup he has unstable sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest lookimg for a target. Fast forward, he is now Chile's permanent representative to the UN. Pinochet was not only a ruthless dictator but he was also a pragmatist and a survivor. He lived into his 90's (think Franco) and presided over the The NYTimes comments about this memoir that the author went to State Univ of NY at Oswego thinking it was a suburb of NYC. It si only a five hour drive. He returns to Chile and as Pinochet launches his coup he has unstable sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest lookimg for a target. Fast forward, he is now Chile's permanent representative to the UN. Pinochet was not only a ruthless dictator but he was also a pragmatist and a survivor. He lived into his 90's (think Franco) and presided over the transition back to democracy. Despite being indicted for crimes against humanity by a spanish prosecutor and held in London and later charged in Chile, he never was convicted. Pinochet was also the darling of the right for his embrace of Milton Friedman's monetarism and his "Chicago boys". He was aided and abeted by Nixon and Kissinger and fast friends with Thatcher but blundered by ordering the assasination of Letlier on Massachusetts Ave. The author persevered and saw the socialists return to power.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    It's a fairly dense book and not exactly something fun to read when I have reading for classes to do so it took me about 9 months to read it. That said, I don't know if I could have gotten a more clear picture of the Pinochet regime from any other source. For a fairly academic book, Munoz provided a lot of personal anecdotes that gave a clear picture of who Pinochet was. Munoz' own political views were apparent, so his take on some issues was certainly sided, but the purpose of the book was not It's a fairly dense book and not exactly something fun to read when I have reading for classes to do so it took me about 9 months to read it. That said, I don't know if I could have gotten a more clear picture of the Pinochet regime from any other source. For a fairly academic book, Munoz provided a lot of personal anecdotes that gave a clear picture of who Pinochet was. Munoz' own political views were apparent, so his take on some issues was certainly sided, but the purpose of the book was not to attack the other side which I appreciated. I was surprised at the action sequences the book contained that are far more exciting than any action movie out today because they were real. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to understand Chile's political atmosphere in the last third of the 20th century.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    Wow, this book just reminds me how little I know of the world, politics, and history. I choose to read this because Jonathan served his mission in Chile and had mentioned Pinochet before. I don't remember even knowing the name before that. So interesting, but very difficult for me to read. Difficult because of all the political stuff, millions of names of people I had never heard of, and just more intense than the normal read for me, thus it took me forever to get through it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cal

    Very interesting account of being on the "wrong" side ideologically. The writer stays fairly objective given his political allegiances ; recognizes some of the economic changes made under the regime were positive but at a very heavy price of human suffering and democracy. Good recent history.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jenny M

    A well-written and informative account by Munoz (the current Chilean ambassador to the UN). Even though I've followed the Pinochet case obsessively for ten years, I still learned new information in this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

    This is a great book--I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in Pinochet and Chilean politics. It is very accessible for non-specialists, and offers a really interesting insider's view (Muñoz has held numerous high positions and is currently Chile's Ambassador to the UN).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    Chile has had numerous coups and dictators. The Dictator's Shadow looks at Pinochet's rise to power and his reign in Chile. The author also discusses his personal involvement in the socialist movement.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    A very detailed and heartbreaking account of Chile under Pinochet. And how even after his death, the legacy he left changed the lives of so many.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marcos Vázquez

  16. 5 out of 5

    Oscar Chagas

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hilary

  18. 5 out of 5

    Claudia Castillo del Muro

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  20. 5 out of 5

    Frank Lodge

  21. 5 out of 5

    Augusta Klug

  22. 5 out of 5

    Victor Cecílio

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rodrigo

  24. 4 out of 5

    JwW White

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alvin

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

  27. 4 out of 5

    Javiera

  28. 4 out of 5

    M

  29. 5 out of 5

    Fabian Miranda

  30. 5 out of 5

    Trent Swanson

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