The Geography of Repression and Support for Democracy: Evidence From the Pinochet Dictatorship
58 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2018
Date Written: September 11, 2018
We show that state-led repression under dictatorship can fail to discourage political opposition and can contribute to democratization in the medium term. Studying the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, we exploit the fact that the predetermined location of military bases predicts local levels of civilian victimization, but is unrelated to historical political preferences, as well as to state presence during the dictatorship. We use geographic proximity to these bases to construct instrumental variables and estimate the causal effect of exposure to repression on citizens’ revealed preferences for democracy in the high-stakes plebiscite of 1988. We find that counties with a higher rate of civilian victimization also had a higher rate of voter registration for the plebiscite, as well as a lower vote share in support of Pinochet. However, these counties do not show differential political alignment in national elections after the return to democracy. Our results indicate that the common phenomenon of democratization by elections may be partly driven by increased support for democracy in response to repression under dictatorship.
Keywords: Chile, Human Rights, Repression, Dictatorship, Democratization, Elections
JEL Classification: D72, N46
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation