Santiago, Chile – 27/10/2012 – as published by Americas Quarterly. As Chileans wake up tomorrow for municipal elections throughout the country, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has urged his citizens to investigate their local candidates online before arriving to the polling stations. If his advice is heeded, it may well be a first in a day […] Read more
Linking “Chile” and “extreme sports” usually conjures up an image of off-road vehicles racing at breakneck speed through the Atacama Desert during the annual Dakar Rally [AQ, Summer 2011], or of high-endurance hikers climbing the Andes. But downhill racing in Valparaíso, Chile’s bohemian harbor city?
The most controversial outcome of last month’s second CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) summit in Santiago, following close on the heels of the first EU-CELAC meeting, was the decision in Santiago to appoint Cuban President Raúl Castro to the chairmanship of the 33-member regional body. Castro, who will be splitting the two-year term with his Costa Rican counterpart, Laura Chinchilla, could not resist several pointed remarks aimed at the United States. He decried the presence of multinational companies in the region and the U.S.’ continued possession of Puerto Rico. The 81-year-old leader’s message was clear, however:
Chile’s Mapuche population has long struggled for greater rights. So many warmly greeted President Sebastián Piñera’s recent promise to give “top priority and urgency” to finding a constitutional solution that will recognize Chile’s Indigenous Mapuche people, a 700,000-person strong minority group that constitutes 6 percent of Chile’s population. His reaction comes after a month of increased tension in the southern Araucanía region, where the majority of the Mapuche live.
Just like the cueca (Chile’s national dance that will be on full display during Independence Day celebrations this weekend) Chilean politicians were running round in circles last week over controversial tax reform legislation to overhaul its protested education system. The bill, which will increase education-allocated government revenue by $1.23 billion, originally did not clear the Senate—where it was rejected on August 28 by a vote of 6 yeas, 19 nays and 7 abstentions. The legislation had included a welcomed increase of the top corporate tax rate to 20 percent. But it also included controversial measures, including a 2-to-5-percent tax decrease—compared to 2011—for the top income-earners in Chile as well as incentives for children in private subsidized schools.
Chile has embraced extractive industries as a tool for sustained economic growth, but this relationship does not come without controversy. At the beginning of this month, only one week after the government had announced the winner of its lithium contract, the concession had been scrapped and Sub-Secretary of Mining Pablo Wagner had resigned. Chile is the world’s biggest lithium producer, generating 30 percent of the world’s profits on the sale of raw lithium and sitting on an estimated 23 percent of global lithium reserves—second only to neighboring Bolivia.
It’s not just Olympic athletes who live in fear of a drug test ruining their career. Chilean politicians are being threatened with the revival of a bill that would remove politicians from public office if caught using illegal drugs. The legislative hype began last month when Chilean Senator Fulvio Rossi admitted in an interview with Chilean newspaper La Tercera that he smokes marijuana “two or three times a month”—a revelation that shocked his colleagues and delighted a nation of thousands of cannabis users.