We are delighted to welcome back Tim Taylor. He is with us today to discuss his book, Revolution Day, which is currently on special offer for 99c/99p on both Amazon.com and Amazon.UK. Links provided below.
Bio: Tim was born in 1960 in Stoke-on-Trent. He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford (and later Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London). After a couple of years playing in a rock band, he joined the Civil Service, eventually leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing.
Tim now lives in Yorkshire with his wife and daughter and divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.
Tim’s first novel, Zeus of Ithome, a historical novel about the struggle of the ancient Messenians to free themselves from Sparta, was published by Crooked Cat in November 2013; his second, Revolution Day in June 2015. Tim also writes poetry and the occasional short story, plays guitar, and likes to walk up hills.
Dictators in history: Augusto Pinochet
Hello, Claire. Many thanks for inviting me over today.
My novel Revolution Day (currently on special offer for Christmas at 99p/$0.99!) follows a year in the life of Latin American dictator Carlos Almanzor, as his vice-president plots against him and his estranged wife writes a memoir of their marriage and his regime. Carlos is a fictional figure and is not based upon any particular individual. Nevertheless, his life and career share many elements with those of real dictators and in some cases I consciously drew on historical events in writing the novel. I thought it would be interesting to explore, in a series of blog posts, the lives of some real-life dictators, and to look for similarities and differences between their careers and characters and those of my own fictional dictator. Today I am looking at Augusto Pinochet of Chile.
Born in Valparaiso in 1915, Augusto Jose Ramon Pinochet Ugarte went to the Military School in Santiago, graduating in 1936 as a junior Army officer. He rose steadily through a range of command, staff and training posts, to become a brigadier-general in 1968. Thereafter, he quickly progressed to become Chief of Staff of the Army in 1972 and on 23 August 1973 was appointed its Commander-in-Chief by the then President Salvador Allende.
At this time, a political and economic crisis was developing in Chile, as Allende’s socialist government, elected in 1970, implemented a programme of nationalisation (including of US-owned businesses) and redistribution of wealth – to the dismay of right-leaning parties, much of the Chilean military and the United States. There had already been a failed coup attempt in June 1973. On 22 August, the Chilean Chamber of Deputies passed a resolution accusing the government of violating the constitution. After a defiant response by Allende, on 11 September a group of senior military officers including Pinochet perpetrated a coup d’etat. During an attack by land and air upon the presidential palace Allende died, apparently by suicide. Following the coup, a military Junta was formed, comprising the heads of the three armed services plus the national police. Pinochet established himself as the leader of the Junta and became the President of Chile in June 1974.
The new regime was – and remained – ruthless in eliminating opposition, dissolving Congress, suspending the constitution and arresting many thousands of people. Estimates of how many people were killed, tortured and imprisoned vary: the Chilean government has recognised some 40,000 victims of the dictatorship, of whom over 3,000 were killed or ‘disappeared’. Others fled into exile.
Pinochet implemented free-market economic policies influenced by the neo-liberal Chicago School, achieving success in controlling inflation and restoring economic growth, though critics argue that this this was at the cost of deepening inequality, pushing many into poverty. He also amassed a considerable personal fortune, much of it almost certainly by illegal means.
In 1980 Pinochet held a plebiscite on a new constitution that, inter alia, gave him considerable powers and an eight year term as President. The constitution was approved, though there were were allegations of electoral fraud. In 1988 a further referendum rejected Pinochet’s continuing as President for a further term. He complied with the result and allowed democratic elections the following year. He remained Commander in Chief of the Army for another 10 years and under the constitution became a senator for life, enjoying immunity from persecution as a result.
Nevertheless, Pinochet was arrested in 1998 in Britain for human rights violations, on an international warrant issued in Spain. Though the House of Lords ruled that he could be extradited, he was eventually released on health grounds in 2000 and allowed to return to Chile. Further legal battles ensued in Chile, where he was eventually stripped of his immunity and charged with a number of offences including torture and illegal financial dealings. However, he died on 10 December 2006 without having been convicted of any crimes committed during his dictatorship.
Carlos and Pinochet
Pinochet’s look in his later years, with his greying hair and flamboyant military uniform (see pic) is as close as any historical figure comes to how I imagined Carlos’s appearance (though Carlos has a beard). Unlike Pinochet (but in common with many other dictators who affected military uniform) Carlos has had no military career, though he is nominally head of the Navy.
In his early career Carlos was very different from Pinochet: politically on the left and initially reluctant to adopt authoritarian measures, whereas Pinochet was emphatically on the right and dealt brutally with potential opponents from the very outset of his regime. In time, though, as Carlos abandons state-controlled socialism for a more pragmatic economic policy and comes to see himself as the only person who can be trusted with the running of the state – embracing autocracy and repression as necessary means of preserving his power – he comes to preside over a regime which is in some ways not dissimilar to Pinochet’s Chile. Another similarity between the two is in their uneasy relationship with democracy – anxious to be seen as legitimate rulers but reluctant to gamble their future on an election. Pinochet did eventually stand down in response to a popular vote (having taken steps to protect his personal position first). As to whether Carlos goes the same way – you’ll have to read the novel to find out!
Thanks again for hosting me, Claire!
Thank you Tim for being with us today. All the best with your fascinating book. As promised, here are Tim’s links:
Revolution Day page: http://www.tetaylor.co.uk/#!revday/cwpf.
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/timtaylornovels
on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Revolution-Day-T-E-Taylor-ebook/dp/B0106GALR4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1435512473&sr=1-1&keywords=Revolution+Day&pebp=1435512460458&perid=1CCVM4BE2J6WKH55WM9Y