Sunday, May 25, 2008

Study Finds Military's Legitimacy, Image Improving

Chile's armed forces are considered much friendlier to democracy today than in 1991, when the election of a civilian president ended 17 years of military rule. In a survey conducted last year, 70% said another military coup is unlikely or impossible to occur in Chile. That compares to 44% who felt the same way in 1991, according to researchers at Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences. What's behind the shift in opinion? Gen. Pinochet's stepping down as army chief in 1998 was a key step, says Claudio Fuentes, one of the study's authors. The military also moved to change its image by joining peacekeeping operations, for instance. Voluntary military service, the addition of women soldiers and a greater willingness to accept responsibility for errors are other factors boosting the military's image. Still, less than 8% think the armed forces are firmly committed to democracy, while 46% say they're lightly committed.

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