Chile: Bid for Control

A clock near the speaker's platform had just struck 3 a.m. when the haggard, dark-eyed figure shuffled into the meeting hall outside Santiago. "Mr. Chairman," he said softly, "I demand the right to answer some personal attacks waged against me." With that, Chile's embattled President Eduardo Frei turned to the 530 members of his Christian Democratic Party's national committee and launched into a plea for his very political life.

Frei's problems had reached almost Andean proportions. During his three years in office, a congressional coalition of Communists, leftists and Socialists had tied up nearly all of his major reform legislation....