The geography of repression and opposition to autocracy
American Journal of Political Science, 29 April 2021 online.
Abstract: State repression is a prominent feature of non-democracies, but its effectiveness in quieting dissent and fostering regime survival remains unclear. We exploit the location of military bases before the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power in
Chile in 1973, which is uncorrelated to pre-coup electoral outcomes, and show that counties near these bases experienced more killings and forced disappearances at the hands of the government during the dictatorship. Our main result is that residents of counties close to military bases both registered to vote and voted “No” to Pinochet’s continuation in power at higher rates in the crucial 1988 plebiscite that bolstered the democratic transition. Potential mechanisms include informational frictions on the intensity of repression in counties far from bases and shifts in preferences caused by increased proximity to the events. Election outcomes after democratization show no
lasting change in political preferences.
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