The Southern Tiger, Chile’s Fight for a Peaceful and Democratic Future Ricardo Lagos, Palgrave MacMillan, $28.00, £16.99

The Southern TigerIn this book Ricardo Lagos, former President of Chile, gives an extraordinary account of his fight against Pinochet’s regime, his struggle in transitioning Chile into a democracy, and his role in lobbying against the Iraq war. Once started, it is hard to put this autobiography down because it is much more than a personal account of a political figure. It is the story of a country’s fascinating recovery from dictatorship and devastating political economic policies. Its underlying theme is Chile’s fast economic growth —hence the title The Southern Tiger. An economist at heart, Lagos critiques Allende’s extreme socialist economic approaches and Pinochet’s “Chicago Boys” free market principles because both had disastrous effects on the economy and the people. Lagos believes that it is rather the synergy between democracy, economic growth and social equality that makes a country strong. Lagos’ passion for Chile and his acute awareness of inequality permeate the pages of the book. The fact that Lagos kept on fighting for his vision of a free Chile despite the deaths and disappearances of friends as well as his own imprisonment make his story truly inspirational. Lagos narrates with refreshing clarity, exhibiting humor and optimism. “When I became president in 2000, I was the first Socialist president to occupy La Moneda for nearly 30 years. The right viscerally distrusted me; the left expected me to enact a program of massive social distribution. Instead I was going to disappoint every ideology —because it was the only way not to disappoint Chile.” An essential and timely read because it gives an invaluable insight into the hardships endured by a society struggling to free itself of a dictator and his demons.

J. H.