“The Chilean Tsunami” by Atilio A. Boron. Oct. 21, 2019

Spanish language original: https://www.pagina12.com.ar/226437-el-tsunami-chileno

The Chilean Tsunami

The Piñera regime—and I insist on the term “regime” because a government that represses with a brutality that all the world has seen cannot be considered democratic—is faced with the most serious popular threat to a government [in Chile] since the defeat of Popular Unity on September 11, 1973. The ridiculous official explanations do not convince even those who propagate them; one hears denunciations of vandalism by demonstrators or of criminal contempt for private property. One hears calls for peace and tranquility, not to mention the oblique references to the lethal influence of “Castro-Madurismo” on the outbreak of protests culminating in the declaration of a “state of emergency” by La Moneda, an absurd and fallacious argument also recently advanced by the corrupt government of Ecuador and overwhelming refuted by the facts.

The official stupor, as well as the sectors of the opposition in solidarity with the economic-political model inherited from the dictatorship, are completely lacking a rationale, except for the anachronisms of the opulent ruling party (one of the highest paid in the world), with its incurable blindness to, or complete isolation from, the conditions in which millions of Chileans live or survive. To the well trained eye, if there is something that surprises it is the efficiency of the propaganda used [by the ruling party] to convince themselves as well as others of the excellent virtues of the Chilean model. This model was extolled ad nauseum by the principle publicists of empire in these latitudes: right thinking political analysts and academics, operators and lobbyists disguised as journalists, or colonial intellectuals, such as Mario Vargas Llosa, who in a recent article lashed out without pity against “populisms”, existing or looming, that afflict the region while exalting the progress “of giant steps forward” of Chile. [1]

This country is, for thoughtful pundits, the happy culmination of a dual journey: from dictatorship to democracy and from an interventionist economy to one of the market. The first is not at all certain; the second yes, with one aggravating caveat: In very few countries has capitalism devastated the fundamental rights of the person to the degree that it has in Chile, making these rights expensive goods only available to a minority. Water, health care, education, social security, transportation, housing, and the wealth of the mines, forests, and the sea coast were voraciously appropriated by the friends of the regime during the dictatorship of Pinochet and with renewed impetus in the supposed “democracy” that succeeded it. This cruel and inhuman market fundamentalism has resulted in Chile’s conversion into the country with the largest household debt in Latin America, product of the unlimited privatization already mentioned that obligates Chileans to pay for everything and take on debt without limit with the money that is taken from their wages and salaries by the financial piranas which manage pension funds. According to a study by the Sol Foundation, “more than half of salaried workers are unable to rise above the poverty level” and the distribution of income, according to a study by the World Bank, put Chile next to Rwanda as one of the eight most unequal countries in the world. Finally, note that CEPAL showed in its last study on the social question in Latin America that the top 1 percent of the rich in Chile control 26.5 percent of the national income while 50% of the poorest households only have 2.1 percent of the same. [2] Is this a model to imitate?

To summarize: In Chile there is a synthesis of an explosive combination of free market economics without anaesthesia and a completely delegitimised democracy, retaining only the bare name. It has degenerated into a plutocracy that, up until a few days ago, but not any more, was sustained by the resignation, demoralisation and apathy of the citizenry, skillfully deceived by the social media oligarchy of the ruling class. One warning sign of social discontent was that more than half the population (53.3%) of voting age abstained from voting in the first round of the presidential election of 2017. While voter abstention was reduced to 51 percent Sebastián Piñera was elected with just 26.4 percent of registered voters. In a few words, only one out of every four citizens felt represented by him. Today this number should be much less and in a climate where neoliberalism everywhere is beset by social protests. The climate of the epoch has changed, and not only in Latin America. The false promises [of the free market] are no longer credible and the peoples are in rebellion: some, as in Argentina, in the process of removing their government spokespersons by means of elections, and others, trying through enormous mobilizations—Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, to put an end to an insanely unjust, inhumane, and predatory project. For sure: there is an “end of a cycle” in the region. But not, as postulated by some, of progressivism, but rather of neoliberalism, the latter of which can only be sustained, and not for long, by the force of brutal repression.

Translated into English by Frederick B. Mills

[1] Cf. “Retorno a la barbarie”, El País, 31 de Agosto de 2019.

[2] Los datos de la Fundación Sol son recogidos en la nota de Nicolás Bravo Sepúlveda para el periódico digital El Mostrador www.elmostrador.cl/destacado/2019/08/21 . La fuente original está en http://www.fundacionsol.cl/2018/12/un-tercio-de-los-chilenos-no-tiene-ingresos-del-trabajo-suficientes-para-superar-la-pobreza/ Los datos relativos a la desigualdad se encuentran en un informe del Banco Mundial: “Taking on inequality” (Washington: 2016)


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