From Pinochet to Boric, The Chilean 180

Chilean economic stability for a very long time was also the primary reason behind the nation’s tenacity towards its old constitution.

Supporters of Chile's President elect Gabriel Boric, of the "I approve Dignity" coalition, celebrate his victory in the presidential run-off election, in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021. (Photo source: AP)

By Dr Aparaajita Pandey

The protests that the nation of Chile experienced in the past year can be surely held as an exemplar of a modern-day revolution. Chile has been an interesting case in Latin America, while the continental Latin American countries have tended to oscillate between the right and the left and burgeoning economies and abysmal recessions, a common thread between most nations in the region barring Chile is the instability of their politics that has inevitably seeped and transformed into the volatility of their economies.

Chile on the other hand has been lauded as the most stable Latin American economies often attributed to its steadfastness to its neo-liberal foundations. Chilean economic stability for a very long time was also the primary reason behind the nation’s tenacity towards its old constitution. The Chilean economic principles were set forth by the Pinochet era constitution which to most states who have been fortunate enough to survive a ruthless military dictator would be blasphemous. But to copper producing Chile a constitution reminiscent of crimes of death squads and torture was also the one that built a country which focused on profit and sound business environments rather than social spending and subsidies. A set up that was quite favorable to a certain section of the society while the others suffered.

Finally in 2020 with an increase in the taxes on the fare of the metro, the country reached its breaking point and erupted into protests, asking to throw away the old constitution and form a new one that was reflective of its diverse society and gave representation to those who have been marginalized and alienated for ages. The President of the Chilean Constitutional Convention founded on the fourth of July , 2021 was Elisa Loncon, an indigenous Mapuche Professor and Activist; something that would have been unthinkable before this point.

The Chilean Presidential stands testament to the Chilean need for change, while the polls have predicted a tighter presidential race, 35-year-old tattooed Gabriel Boric was congratulated by the incumbent President Sebastian Pinera on a video call that was televised as is Chilean tradition; as soon as Boric’s competition Kast conceded. The Chilean Presidential race was emblematic of the change that the populace has been fighting for and fighting over.

Gabriel Boric is the head of the coalition of parties that also contains the Communist Party of Chile. Boric has been campaigning on reducing taxis for the underprivileged, increasing taxes on the rich, increasing social spending, representative politics, empowering the indigenous communities, and women. All causes that are in direct relation with the change a large section of the society wants to see and has fought for over the past year. Boric during his campaign did not shy away from calling his opponent, Kast a fascist.

Kast on the other hand represents the other end of the political spectrum, the son of a German immigrant and a father of nine; Kast has been a vehement opposer of same sex marriages, abortions, and the LGBTQIA community. He and his party were also opposed to the revolution and establishment of a new constitution. He represents a section of society and politics that believes in minimal social spending and has repeatedly talked about a crackdown on the land of the indigenous communities. Kast glorified the old and reliable economic policies and warned the Chileans of ills of social spending, even going as far as to suggest that progressive socio-economic reforms would make Chile the next Venezuela.

There is often a tendency to speculate either the return of the pink tide or the culmination of the same pink tide after every election in the region, and the region has seen many this year. It would be difficult to categorize politicians and politics of Latin America into Left and Right, since the cold war very few regimes around the world could be perceived as the text-book left or right. However, recently with the politics in Latin America taking a turn towards being more progressive and its democracies attempting to become more maximalist a new term has been coined that also suits the result of the Chilean Presidential election. The Latin American region including Chile is witnessing and accepting the rise of the ‘Millennial Left’; a term that loosely borrows from the left of centre virtues of governance and attempts to provide people with a progressive, representative, and diverse government.

Chile has decided to like and elect a promise of a similar model. It remains to be seen how successful it would be if it survived, thrived, and built itself on the bedrock of authoritarianism.

(The author is an Asst. Professor in the Dept. of Public Policy, Amity University and has a PhD in Latin American Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).

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