- Advertisement -spot_img
Monday, November 29, 2021

Sick of the status quo, Chileans go for polls

SANTIAGO, Chile. The outgoing President of Chile narrowly escaped impeachment this month. A month earlier, the army had been deployed south to counter an increasingly violent uprising by indigenous militants. And since July, delegates in the capital have been drafting a new constitution, fueled by massive 2019 protests over inequality and rising cost of living.

This turbulent period, further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, set the stage for the first round of an unusually polarized presidential election on Sunday. The centrist coalitions that have traded power in recent decades are outsiders in a race led by more radical candidates who offer the Chileans sharply opposed views of the future.

Chile’s elections are among the few in Latin America where incumbent leaders and ruling parties are on the defensive, in part due to the turmoil and economic suffering caused by the pandemic. First of all, it is next year’s presidential competition in Brazil and Colombia, where the virus killed hundreds of thousands of people and seriously damaged large segments of their economies.

“Covid identified inequality, he exacerbated inequality and made it easier to politicize that inequality, which we expect will be very difficult for incumbents,” said Jennifer Pribble, professor of political science at the University of Richmond with a focus on Latin America. “This gave rise to malaise and discontent, which the citizens are forced to impose on someone.”

Leading candidates fighting to replace President Sebastian Piñera, who is ineligible for re-election, are Gabriel Boric, a leftist MP promising to significantly expand the social safety net, and José Antonio Cast, a former far-right congressman who proposes a radically leaner state in which the forces security has been given broader powers to suppress violence and unrest.

The latest polls in Chile, which proved to be unreliable in the last elections, show that Mr. Cast has pulled ahead in the final stretch. But polls also show that Mr Boric is likely to win the second round in December if, as expected, none of the candidates win the first round.

Mr Cast, who won 8 percent of the vote when he ran for the presidency in 2017, and Mr Boric surprised political observers by climbing to the top of the presidential competition as more moderate politicians have not achieved much success.

Both took advantage of the seething discontent of the establishment parties that have dominated Chilean politics since the return of democracy in the 1990s.

Griselle Riquelme, a 39-year-old seamstress from Santiago, the capital, who runs a small family business, said she is so frustrated with politics that she might spoil her ballot in protest.

“All candidates come with the same message that they are going to help people, that they are going to solve problems, that the economy will recover, that there will be jobs and that the quality of life will improve,” she said. … “But then they forget about all the promises, the faces change, but everything remains the same.”

Dissatisfaction with the status quo erupted unexpectedly in October 2019, when higher fares on the Santiago metro triggered months of demonstrations. The vandalism, including the burning of subway stations and other government buildings, prompted violent reactions from security forces, who fired rubber bullets into crowds of demonstrators, blinding hundreds of people.

After failing to calm the streets for weeks, Mr Pignera, a billionaire who was far from the ideal leader to fight an uprising over inequality, agreed to support an initiative to convene a constitutional convention in late December 2019.

The process began in May with the election of delegates representing broad sections of Chilean society who have historically been marginalized. The body drafting the new Constitution has gender parity and is chaired by Elisa Loncon, a scholar from the Mapuche indigenous community.

Read Also:  'Little evidence' of COVID falls short of expectations: UK statistician

Given how unstable and violent Chile’s streets became in 2019 and how many Latin Americans have lost faith in democracy, the deal to create a new constitution was a great achievement, said Pia Mundaca, executive director of Espacio Público, a research group in Chile. who studies the political system.

“Given our history in Latin America with democracy and undemocratic moments, it is very important that a political crisis as deep as the one Chile faced at the end of 2019 found a democratic and institutional outlet,” she said.

Delegates to the constitutional convention discuss broad economic and social rights that could turn around issues such as the pension system, reproductive rights, and indigenous peoples’ claims to their ancestral lands.

Boric, 35, a tattooed politician who avoids ties and will become Chile’s youngest leader ever, has been a staunch supporter of the new constitutional process, which he sees as a means of radically overhauling Chile’s market economy and political system.

“If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave,” says his campaign platform.

Boric from Punta Arenas, a city in the far south of the country, has proposed a complete overhaul of the social security system, cutting the work week from 44 to 40 hours and canceling student debt. He suggests that the significant increase in government spending will be offset by new taxes on the super-rich and a more effective anti-corruption system, according to his campaign platform.

He supports the legalization of abortion, which is prohibited in Chile, with a few exceptions, and same-sex marriage.

Mr. Cast, 55, a lawyer who served in Congress from 2002 to 2018, strongly opposes same-sex marriage and the legalization of abortion. He proposed tough tactics to restore security to the country, underscored by a proposal to build a ditch along the Bolivian border that would serve as a gateway for undocumented immigrants.

He says the Chilean bureaucracy should be drastically reduced, calling for the consolidation of 24 ministries into 12, but advocating a significant expansion of the prison system. His forceful approach will extend to an armed uprising by indigenous groups in the Mapuche region of Aracaunia, where some are seeking to restore ancestral lands controlled by logging companies through the occupation of land and the burning of trucks, houses and churches.

Mr Piñera, who declared a state of emergency in Arakaunia where he stationed an army last month, is ending his second, inconsistent term of office on a somber note. Lawmakers came close to impeach him this month in a 2010 deal involving a mining company partly owned by his family.

He leaves office when nearly 79 percent of the electorate disapproves of his actions, and many of them have a vague idea of ​​how the political class has dealt with the problems of the past few years.

“Governance has never been easy and we have faced particularly tough times,” he said in his address Wednesday. “Unfortunately, this time, I feel that in the world of politics, we lacked greatness, unity, cooperation, dialogue and agreement to face huge and pressing challenges.”

Viviane Asun, a 21-year-old law student from Santiago, said she had little faith that Mr. Piñera’s successor would be more effective. On Sunday, she could not vote, as she is far from the city in which she is registered. But that’s good too, ”she said.

“I have no idea who I would vote for,” she said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t care who wins, but there is no candidate who can meet the needs that we face as a nation.”

Pascal Bonnefoy reported from Santiago, Chile, and Ernesto Londono from Florianopolis, Brazil.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
Latest news
Related news
- Advertisement -

Leave a Reply