On October 18th, 2019, Chile, South America’s poster child of economic success, erupted in massive protests over a price increase in subway fare. Although less than 5 U.S. cents, the fare increase gave way to larger protests about/concerning an economic system that was not working for large swathes of the Chilean population. Decades of persistent inequality, economic precarity, and financial insecurity drove the protests to be some of the largest the region has seen in recent years.
Chileans have had a troubling history with dictatorship, corruption, and violence. Beginning in 1974, a year after General Augusto Pinochet rose to power in a coup that was backed by the United States.
During the past few weeks, Chile has been experiencing a social movement, an awakening of sorts, that has moved people of all ages to the streets to protest against the living conditions that have made this country one with the highest levels of inequality in the world (BBCNews, 2019) There are several reasons that have led the country to the current state, most of them stemming from the reforms and neoliberal agenda adopted during the dictatorship.
Today’s headlines surrounding Latin America illustrate a continent full of raging protests in Nicaragua, political oppression in Venezuela, and economic crisis’s in countries like Brazil and Argentina. Yet, there lies one country with significant stability compared to its Latin American brethren. Chile, although it encompasses a similar history to its neighbors, including economic instability, socialism, and military dictatorships—persists as a Latin American success story.
In the past few years, countries throughout Latin America have been narrowing their focus on the renewable energy sector. Latin America was predicted to take one of the leading roles with renewable energy as of 2017.
This October, the international community saw a new development in an ongoing territorial dispute between the South American nations of Bolivia and Chile.
The Catholic church is in the midst of an institutional crisis as allegations and evidence of sexual abuse by members of the church, and cover-ups by their superiors, continue to be exposed in immense quantities. Chile has found itself at the forefront of this scandal as various raids around the country have led authorities hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by clerics, bishops, priests, and other non-priest members of the country’s diocese.
In the past decade, student movements in Chile have been a major force shaping the country’s public opinion and policy reforms. The latest cycle of student protests occurred this year when dozens of schools and universities were occupied by feminist activists in favor of gender equality in general, and in particular against several high-profile sexual harassment cases.
The crisis of political representation is pushing contemporary democracies to search for new legitimating mechanisms, including higher levels of transparency, openness and participation in political decision-making. This trend is also reaching constitution-making, an area formerly restricted to experts and representatives. Participation and inclusiveness seem to be requisites for a Constitution to be legitimate and to produce adherence.
This article was written as part of the course “Latin American Economic Development” offered by Professor Marla Ripoll, Department of Economic, University of Pittsburgh.