Chile: Rightwing Government Cometh

Chile: Activists Fear Setbacks Under Rightwing Government By Pamela Sepúlveda (IPS) – Trade unions and non-governmental organisations in Chile are worried that rightwing billionaire Sebastián Piñera’s election as president will mean setbacks in terms of social policy and respect for labour and social rights.

Statements by the conservative president-elect, who triumphed in the Jan. 17 runoff vote, with regard to overhauling state-owned enterprises to boost efficiency and adopting policies aimed at increasing economic growth, sparked concern among the labour movement, environmentalists, indigenous peoples’ associations and other social organisations.

His campaign pledges also worried the centre-left “Concertación” or Coalition for Democracy, which lost its hold on power for the first time in 20 years.

To judge by the Harvard-educated airline magnate’s pro-business campaign platform, strikes, protests and social tension will increase over the next five years, Álvaro Ramis, president of the Chilean Association of NGOs (ACCION), told IPS.

Especially given the fact that part of the Chilean right still identifies with the 1973-1990 de facto regime of late dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who died in 2006. Some 3,000 people were killed or forcibly disappeared and nearly 30,000 were tortured under the dictatorship.

“I believe there is an emotional aspect (in the NGOs’ concerns), awakened, for example, by seeing ‘Pinochetistas’ in Piñera’s rallies justifying and legitimising human rights abuses,” said Ramis.

There are fears that such influences and the president-elect’s neoliberal positions will lead to a major conservative shift in policy direction in areas like education, health, labour, the environment and women’s and indigenous rights, which in Ramis’s view would bring increased social unrest.

Activists say one of the most vulnerable areas is labour. Trade unionists are concerned that the future administration will not only turn a deaf ear towards workers’ demands, but could even roll back acquired rights.

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3 Responses to “Chile: Rightwing Government Cometh”

  1. otto Says:

    Let’s start with ‘not here to defend or attack Piñera’. That out the way:

    It’s a real strain to consider the Bachelet gov’t as anything really lefty anyway. According to the Gini ratings, Chile still has the 2nd highest breach between the richest 10% and the poorest 10% in LatAm, after 20 eyars of “left wing” coalition. Huh? (top is Paraguay BTW..you’ll know why if you ever go there…Asuncion is the only capital city i’ve ever seen that has a Porsche behind a oxen and cart at a traffic lights)

    The pinochetistas have cottoned on to Piñera yup. However if he gives them any rope he’ll get an ungovernable country on his hands and the guy isn’t stupid. Once the rah rah and the honeymoon period is over, he’ll be forced ot move to the centre in the way ‘Chelle was (but from the opposite side.

    Chile’s foreign policy won’t change a jot (bar not giving Evo false hope the way Michelle did about giving Bolivia coastline). Chile doesn’t export politics, it exports economics.

    At home, the police will still be as Stazi-like as they’ve been in the last 20 years.

    Bottom line: if somebody wants to find polemic in the Piñera gov’t, they will. But on a substance level there won’t be much political difference to the last bunch.

  2. Duder Says:

    Very true on the domestic front Otto, but for instance if Pinera had been around in 2008 instead of Bachelet I doubt UNASUR would have convened to back Morales against the Media Luna fascists.

  3. RickB Says:

    I hope Otto’s pragmatic future plays out (and I agree the ‘left’ was only in name that which neoliberal strictures allowed) as in the right are not free to do what they like, but the unions are right to be concerned, I do think it alters the math re: US footprint and thus the geopolitics Morales and the leftish axis now must navigate. I think a weather eye should be kept out, old fascist habits etc.


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