The Chilean Tsunami

21 October 2019 —  Internationalist 360°

Atilio Boron

Piñera’s regime – and I insist on “regime” because a government that represses with the brutality that everyone has seen cannot be considered democratic – faces the most serious popular threat ever faced by any government since the overthrow of Popular Unity on September 11, 1973. Ridiculous official explanations do not even convince those who divulge them; denouncements are heard about the vandalism of the demonstrators, or their criminal contempt for private property, or for peace and tranquility, not to mention the oblique allusions to the lethal influence of “castro-madurismo” in the unleashing of the protests that culminated in the declaration of the “state of emergency” by La Moneda, an absurd and fallacious argument previously used by the corrupt who today govern Ecuador and overwhelmingly denied by the facts.

The official stupor and that of the opposition sectors in solidarity with the economic-political model inherited from the dictatorship is completely unfounded, except for the anachronism of the opulent ruling partycracy (one of the best paid in the world), its incurable blindness or its complete isolation from the conditions in which millions of Chileans live -or survive. For a well-trained eye, if there is anything surprising, it is the effectiveness of the propaganda that for decades convinced its own and others of the excels virtues of the Chilean model. This was praised to the end by the main publicists of the empire in these latitudes: political scientists and academics of good thinking, operators and lobbyists disguised as journalists, or colonial intellectuals, such as Mario Vargas Llosa, who in a recent article mercilessly whipped the existing or budding “populisms” that afflict the region while exalting Chile’s progress “in giant steps”.1] For well-thinking opinion experts, this country is the happy culmination of a double transit: from dictatorship to democracy and from the interventionist economy to a market economy. The first is not true, the second is true, with an aggravating factor: in very few countries has capitalism destroyed the fundamental rights of the person as in Chile, turning them into expensive merchandise only within the reach of a minority. Water, health, education, social security, transport, housing, mineral wealth, forests and the sea coast were voraciously appropriated by friends of the regime during Pinochet’s dictatorship and with renewed impetus in the supposed “democracy” that succeeded him.

The consequence of this cruel and inhuman market fundamentalism was that Chile became the country with the largest household indebtedness in Latin America, the product of the infinite privatization already mentioned, which obliges Chileans to pay for everything and to get infinitely indebted with the money expropriated from their wages and salaries by the financial piranhas who manage the pension funds. According to a study by the Fundación Sol, “more than half of salaried workers cannot lift an average family out of poverty,” and the distribution of income, says a recent World Bank study, places Chile alongside Rwanda as one of the eight most unequal countries in the world. Finally, ECLAC found in its latest study on the social issue in Latin America that the richest 1 percent of Chile appropriates 26.5 percent of national income while the poorest 50 percent of households access only 2.1 percent of it. 2] Is this the model to imitate?

In short: in Chile an explosive combination of a free market and a completely delegitimized democracy is synthesized. It degenerated into a plutocracy that, until a few days ago – but no more – was prospering in the face of the resignation, demoralization and apathy of the citizenry, cleverly deceived by the media oligarchy, a partner of the ruling class. A warning sign of social discontent was that more than half of the population (53.3 percent) of voting age did not even bother to go to the polls in the first round of the 2017 presidential election. Although in the ballot the abstention decreased by 51 percent, Sebastián Piñera was elected by only 26.4 percent of registered voters. So only about one in four citizens felt represented by him. Today that figure must be much lower and in a climate where neoliberalism is everywhere harassed by social protests. The climate of the time has changed, and not only in Latin America. Their false promises are no longer credible and the people are rebelling: some, like in Argentina, evicting their spokespersons from the government through the electoral mechanism, and others trying with enormous mobilizations – Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras – to put an end to an insanely unjust, inhumane and predatory project. It is true: there is an “end of cycle” in the region. But not, as some postulated, that of progressivism but that of neoliberalism, which can only be sustained, and not for long, by brutal repression.

1] See “Retorno a la barbarie”, El País, 31 August 2019.
2] The data of the Sol Foundation are collected in the article by Nicolás Bravo Sepúlveda for the digital newspaper El Mostrador http://www.elmostrador.cl/destacado/2019/08/21 . The original source is at http://www.fundacionsol.cl/2018/12/un-tercio-de-los-chilenos-no-tiene-ingresos-del-trabajo-suficientes-para-superar-la-pobreza/ Data on inequality can be found in a World Bank report: “Taking on inequality” (Washington: 2016).

Translation by Internationalist 360°

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