"Timeline" Continued...

Issue: "A warmer Chile," Nov. 9, 2002


The Ecuadorian military ousts President Velasco Ibarra and establishes a military government that during its seven-year reign squanders, through corruption and inefficiency, profits from oil exports.


After Chilean President Salvador Allende refuses the military's demand to step down, the army and air force attack and bomb the presidential palace. President Allende commits suicide during the assault and General Augusto Pinochet takes over.


Uruguay's military also takes control and rules until 1984, even though Uruguay was one of the continent's most stable and democratic nations. Meanwhile, former Argentine dictator Juan Peron returns from exile in Spain to win presidential elections by a large margin. His third wife, Isabel, becomes vice president and succeeds him when he dies in 1974, becoming the first female president of a nation in the Western Hemisphere.


In response to guerrilla activities by the Marxist People's Revolutionary Army and a rising tide of violence on the left and right, the Argentinean military wages the "dirty war"; thousands of people are killed or imprisoned. In 1985, high-ranking members of the military juntas that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983 stand trial for various human-rights violations. Several of them (including former Argentine presidents Jorge Videla and Roberto Viola) are sentenced to prison, but in 1990 Argentinean courts commute their sentences and halt trials of lower-ranking officers.


Peru and Ecuador fight a short war over a 165-year-old border dispute. Ecuador says it is not interested in territorial gains but in access to the Amazon River so it can ship goods through Peru to Brazil and Atlantic ports. The dispute is not settled.


Alan Garcia Perez becomes President of Peru. During his five-year term inflation reaches 1 million percent.


A new Brazilian constitution maintains Brazil's presidential system of government but grants more power to the legislature. In 1990 Fernando Collor de Mello wins the first presidential election under this constitution, but after a legislative report links President Collor to widespread corruption and tax evasion, the legislature votes in 1992 to begin impeachment proceedings. In 1994 the Supreme Court acquits Collor of a corruption charge but bars him from holding public office until 2000.


A military coup ends General Alredo Stroessner's 35-year rule of Paraguay; officers set up presidential elections.


Every South American country has an elected civilian government, although serious economic, social, and political problems remain. In 1992 long-stable Venezuela survives two attempted coups. Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori assumes near-dictatorial powers. Through the decade Colombia, Peru, and other countries battle guerrillas and drug cartels.


Brazilian voters choose to retain a presidential republic, and in 1994, for the first time, Brazil exports more to Latin America than to the United States. Former finance minister Fernando Henrique Cardosa wins the October 1994 elections-his economic program had drastically reduced inflation and stabilized the economy. He wins reelection in 1998 during an economic crisis sparked by capital flight from Brazil and other developing nations due to problems in Russia and Asia.


Catholic Bishops discuss the growth of Protestantism in South America at the first Latin American Bishops Conference. They contend that northern Protestantism ripped apart Latin America's traditional Catholic culture. Today more Catholics live in Latin America than in any other region on earth. Brazil has the world's largest national church, with more than 110 million members on its books and 350 bishops. But attendance is down; although 19 out of 20 Brazilians belonged to the church 50 years ago, its bishops estimate that only three out of four do so now.


Some 2 million Ecuadorians protest in the streets, demanding that President Abdala Bucaram resign because of his corruption and ineffectiveness. He flees the country. In 1997, under interim President Fabian Alarcon, Ecuador elects a National Assembly charged with rewriting the constitution and preparing for new elections.


Former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet travels to London to undergo surgery. While he recovers, a Spanish judge asks Great Britain's government to extradite General Pinochet to Spain to be tried by a Spanish court for crimes allegedly committed against Spanish citizens in Chile during the military dictatorship. In 2000, General Pinochet is freed from house arrest in London by order of British Minister Jack Straw. Straw said that British medical exams found the general physically and mentally unable to withstand the rigors of a trial. A Chilean air force plane carries Pinochet back to Chile.


Fujimori resigns the Peruvian presidency; Stanford-educated economist Alejandro Toledo is elected the following year.


Argentina plunges into economic and political turmoil; president resigns, interim president suspends foreign debt payments. Early the following year, Argentina's government devalues the peso, and unrest continues.


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