Democracy stirs in Brazil and Chile
MANKIND'S deep yearning for freedom underlies current developments in Brazil and Chile. In both South American nations the citizenry is pressing for an end to military rule, and for a stronger public voice in government.
For 20 years the military has ruled Brazil. Months of demonstrations demanding popular elections for the presidency this year culminated a week ago in a rally by nearly 1 million people. This week Brazil's Congress is to consider a constitutional amendment proposing that direct presidential elections be held this year.
In part the military has lost popular support because of the nation's economic crisis, which includes inflation now at a rate of 200 percent annually; the public hopes the opposition can somehow improve the situation.
Congress is caught between the people, who overwhelmingly support popular elections, and the ruling military, which opposes them. President Joao Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo instead has proposed that next year a president be selected indirectly, and that direct popular elections wait until 1988.
The roots of the push for democracy in Brazil are indigenous, as they are in Chile. But in both nations the citizenry is also affected by the success thus far of Argentine President Raul Alfonsin in forcefully restoring democracy to his land, also formerly run by the military.
Chile, like Brazil, has seen months of popular demonstrations in the streets against the military, which has been in power for 10 years. In Chile, too, an economic crisis has fueled opposition to the military government.
Opposition leaders, and a majority of the citizenry, are dissatisfied with the political status quo, and seek a return by some means to a civilian government. But President Augusto Pinochet appears adamant on remaining in power until 1989, in line with results of a 1980 plebiscite.
Analysts are divided on whether Pinochet can withstand the growing public pressure. Some hold that it is so strong he is likely to be ousted well before his 1989 target. Others, however, say no strong opposition leader has surfaced who is likely to rally a majority of popular support. As a result, Gen. Pinochet may survive politically.
In either case, it is clear that Chileans, like their continental colleagues in Brazil, are chafing under the long military rule. In both nations the winds of freedom are blowing, and the authoritarian governments are struggling against their force.