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The Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a…

The Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous…

by Ricardo Lagos

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

I've been far too long in hitting publish on my review of Ricardo Lagos' Southern Tiger, because I've struggled to unify what I have to say about the book's three acts.

What do you know about Chile under and after the reign of Augusto Pinochet? Too much or too little.

I came to Lagos' book knowing these things:
1) Pinochet ruled Chile in the modern autocratic fashion, by pretending to have been elected;
2) He came to power in the '70s, backed by the US amid a string of disastrous Cold War medling with South American politics, and he ruled into the late '80s;
3) He died in 2006, having never been punished for the war crimes he committed against the people of Chile.

The first third of Lagos' book was exactly what I had hoped for from the former opposition leader and Chilean president- an insider's account of the movement to oust Pinochet, and pride for the peaceful and democratic process that followed that transition. Lagos presents himself as (and may feel himself to have been) a key leader in the opposition, but his positions in the first post-Pinochet coalitions make him look more an observe of history, rather than a shaper of history. Still, that transition seems so much more remarkable as I watch the violent aftermath of the Arab Spring, of the collapse (re-collapse?) of the Congo, of the drug lords turning Mexico into a failed state to expedite their with the United States. Souther Tiger may suffer, after all, from a politician's gloss on history, but that doesn't diminish, for the me, the importance of that history.

The final third of Southern Tiger was just as eloquent- an idealogical manifesto for the future of Chile and the world, with (of course) Lagos' socialist slant at its core.

The middle section, though... I just lost interest. My limitation are no small part of the problem- reviewing Lagos' time in government after Pinochet was just too much inside baseball. With no prior knowledge of Chile's domestic struggles or dreams, I have no way to contextualize, no way to appreciate Lagos' achievements, nor do I have any knowledge of his failings. But the story also lacked a grand vision, a unifying arc to make Chile's struggles compelling to a foreigner.

Ultimately, Southern Tiger was a political memoir, neither the best nor the worst I've read in that genre. A fine enough book, but the wrong book for me. ( )
  jscape2000 | Jan 4, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
After reading Bolano for years, this is the first time I’ve read an in-depth review of the violence and strife in Chile that he and many others escaped. It’s harrowing to see how the author, Richard Lago, escaped after the September 11, 1973 coup that overthrew President Allende for General Pinochet. He does escape, but he goes back to face the evil and through his efforts, he and his allies convince the country to vote out a dictator. It’s an amazing feat and I have never heard of the overthrow of a dictator through a free election. Lagos should have been killed ten times over, but he persevered to free Chile from tyranny.

Great detail on how Lagos fought Pinochet, probably 2/3 of the book. He highlights the horrors of living under Pinochet, the disappearances and what people did to survive. It’s only when support from the U.S. fades does the dictatorship begin to falter, allowing Lagos and his allies to gain a foothold leading to unprecedented protests against the regime. This all leads to a critical moment in Chilean history that Lagos refers to as “The Finger”. He goes on a live television show debate and challenges Pinochet to a new Plebiscite reminding everyone of his promise not to run after 1989. This becomes the catalyst that leads to the election and the “No” vote against Pinochet.

The rest of the book is denouement. I think the major points are Lagos attempts to highlight Chile as a country transformation away from dictatorship and embracing a free market economy. His brushes with President Bush seem to highlight how far Chile has come from being a puppet regime to a country in its own right. Lagos also highlights Pinochet’s arrest in the U.K. and how that led to stripping away the last of his power from Chile, a country now looking forward instead of backward.

The book ends in a hopeful tone, highlighting all Chile has gone through, but still struggling towards prosperity. It was like a country dreaming a nightmare and now they are beginning to wake up to a brighter future, a truly inspiring story. ( )
1 vote shadowofthewind | May 8, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
More interesting in its look at the Pinochet dictatorship--the subsequent aftermath and Lagos' own political rise--not quite so much. In that regard for a self-professed socialist he comes across not so well at least in sticking to his core beliefs or in other words the further his political careers seems to rise the more distanced he becomes from his past. I'm sure he wouldn't agree but at least to me adapting free market stances is unreconcilable with socialism. In this respect he reminds of two of his heroes--the USA's Clinton and the UK's Blair.

As mentioned by others it is a self serving memoir--not unlike most books of its kind written by politicians or movie stars. It moves along decently for all that. Not something that appealed all that much to me. But one opinion is only that--and it needs being said again that Pinochet was a total bastard. ( )
  lriley | May 5, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Before beginning this memoir of past president Ricardo Lagos, I knew little about modern Chile and its struggle to overcome the dictator Pinochet and his method of government. Because the past is told from one man's perspective, it is likely to be biased; however, if given a more complete picture of the events, I would myself likely end up with Lagos' viewpoints. The writing is not always smooth (I wonder if there's a Spanish edition?), but the story is enthralling: both terrible and uplifting. The world would be a better place if there were more politicians like Ricardo Lagos. ( )
  dandelionroots | Mar 14, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
From darkness into light - Lagos was instrumental in bringing and end to the Pinochet dictatorship, and became president of Chile. Although a socialist, he incorporated ideas that would not be a problem for any dyed in the wool capitalist. Chile is now thriving, and is truly democratic after years of repressive, violent, authoritarian rule.

His memoir is not particularly modest, but I think he deserves all the pats on the back he gives himself. The bravery he showed in standing up to the dictatorship was awesome, and the Chilean people rewarded him with rhe presidency. ( )
  almigwin | Mar 7, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Former Chilean president Lagos lucidly recounts the extraordinary efforts to end the Pinochet dictatorship and lead the country to truth and reckoning. A deeply affecting eyewitness account of a despicable period in Chilean history.
added by elenchus | editKirkus Reviews (Oct 18, 2011)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ricardo Lagosprimary authorall editionscalculated
Clinton, BillForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dickinson, Elizabethsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hounshell, Blakesecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 023033816X, Hardcover)

Former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos provides a fascinating glimpse inside his country's meteoric rise on the world stage. A leader in the underground resistance movement against Augusto Pinochet and his Dirty War, Ricardo Lagos burst onto the national stage in 1988 when he gave a speech denouncing the dictator, the first of its kind. Revolution soon followed, as Chileans took to the streets to oust a criminal despot and pave the way for democracy. In The Southern Tiger, Lagos chronicles Chile's journey from terror and repression to a thriving open society, and from crushing poverty to one of the wealthiest nations in Latin America. His thrilling stories of surviving Chile's political prisons, standing up to President George W. Bush over the war in Iraq, and rebuilding Chile's education system demonstrate why President Obama recently called Chile 'a model for the region and the world.' As citizens across the globe rise up to demand more from their governments, The Southern Tiger is an inspiring story of political and economic rebirth in the wake of fear.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:32 -0400)

In The Southern Tiger, Lagos shares the story of Chile's journey from terror and repression to a thriving open society during his presidency. Chile has emerged from crushing poverty to become one of the wealthiest nations in Latin America and adopted a centrist government that avoids the hard-line traps on both left and right. Just in time for the current wave of populist uprisings, Chile offers a sustainable political and economic model for new democracies to follow. This is a fascinating look at Chile's rise under a charismatic and visionary leader and its role in today's global community. -- From publisher description… (more)

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