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Who makes the rules in Chile?8 min read

November 3, 2020 5 min read


Who makes the rules in Chile?8 min read

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Chile on the Map. Source: National geographic Kids

That ribbon-like country on the west coast of South America is known as Chile. It is home to deer, penguins, pelicans, sea-lionspuma, foxes, condors and flamingos. If you look at its biodiversity, Chile is a symbol of shared relations and peaceful living. But, among Chile’s humans, the story has been a bit different. 

Chile’s national symbol with a Condor (right) and Andean Deer (left). Source: ChileArms

The story of Chile 

It was only after the chilling 17-year rule of their dictator General Augusto Pinochet that Chile became a democracy in 1990. General Pinochet is remembered a cruel leader who terrorized the people of Chile for his and his friends’ gain. Globally, he was a symbol of hate and violence. Within Chile, people had to suffer in silence. Those that spoke out did so at the risk of being killed. Under his rule, tens of thousands of people were jailed, tortured, kicked out, or killed. 

Augusto Pinochet | Biography & Facts | Britannica
General Pinochet is known as one of the world’s cruellest dictators. Source: Britannica

So how did General Pinochet come to power?

Before Pinochet, Chile was a country troubled by poverty. Almost everything was run and owned by the government. Eventually, once the government ran out of money, their President, Salvador Allende, shot himself and died.  

Seeing this as an opportunity, General Pinochet took over. As he was a general in the army, he violently took control with the help of the Chilean military. Soon, he made himself into a dictator. He was allowed to make all decisions for the country, and no one could question him. There were no more democratic elections in the country, and he would be Chile’s ruler for life. 

Chile's 9/11: Survivors recall horrors of Pinochet coup, 40 years on - CNN
Pinochet’s army’s violent takeover of the government. Source:CNN

Chile: New and Improved?

When Pinochet came to power, he rewrote the country’s book of rules and rights or constitution to give himself total control. In fact, he changed most of the constitution to ensure that he would stay powerful. He even changed the country’s trade systems. Lastly, he adopted a system called a free market to allow foreign governments to set up businesses easily in Chile. So, anyone could raise their prices and pay their workers very little without the government interfering. They could also charge for necessary items such as water and electricity. As you can imagine when many of them raised their prices, the workers who were paid very little could not afford very much. 

Wineries, Record Stores, Art Museums, Hotels, and All You Need for the  Perfect Weekend in Santiago, Chile
Chile’s Capital: Santiago. Source: Fodors Treavel Guide

Even then, this model worked well for Chile at first. Since a lot more people wanted to set up businesses in Chile, there were many more jobs for the people. Extreme poverty reduced a lot, and paid services were getting better and better. Fancy buildings and signs of extreme wealth were scattered across the country. 

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: Chile is the wealthiest country in the South American continent! 

A problem that won’t go away!

Income Gap Shrinks in Chile, for Better or Worse - The New York Times
Slums and fancy buildings in the same photograph highlight Chile’s inequality. Source: New York Times

But, inequality among the people of Chile kept rising. Lots of people weren’t too poor to survive, but they had to work extremely hard to get simple stuff such as water, houses, and food. They were unable to afford most things and had to live a low-quality life even though they worked very hard. At the same time, people who already had a lot of money kept getting even richer!

Explained: How a raging pandemic is widening India's wealth gap - Business  News

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: India is facing a gaping wealth gap too. 73% of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest 1%, while 67 million Indians who comprise the poorest half of the population saw only a 1% increase in their wealth. – Oxfam Report.

<< A beggar with no shoes holds onto the glass of an air-conditioned cafe. Source: India Today.

General Pinochet’s dictatorship ended in 1990, but his constitution left a mark on the people. This constitution was made with personal gain and cruelty in mind. It allowed unnecessary violence by the police force as well as other unjust practices. While a lot of the constitution has been changed for the better, the change has not been nearly enough. Chile’s inequality problem has remained long after Pinochet. Many feel that it has been caused by the fact that Chile still uses the money management system that Pinochet put in place! 

Chile despertó – Chile woke up

Last year, the people of Chile had had enough. The poor people who have to work day and night to make enough money to survive were angry. Triggered by an increase in the metro fair, millions of people took to the streets and protested these rising prices. These protests were initially met with force from the government, but soon they became too large to ignore.

Finally, their current President, Sebastian Piñera, realized that Chile needed a change. He offered to hold a vote on building a new constitution that works better for everyone in Chile. If the majority of the people who voted wanted a new constitution, then that is what would happen. This year millions of people voted. 78% of whom wanted a change!

<<President Piñera. Source: Wikipedia

People standing in line to vote in October 2020. Source: Guardian

Democracy gets busy at work

So now, a group of experts will make a new constitution. To ensure that no one will unfairly benefit from these new rules, the group of experts will not include people from the government. The people of Chile definitely don’t want to create another General Pinochet! Remember he rewrote the constitution as well, but with only his own interests in mind. 

The People of Chile celebrating President Piñera’s announcement that there will be a new constitution if that’s what the majority of the Chilean people want. Source: CNN

This new diverse and fair group of experts will put the constitution together for over one year. Then in 2022, there will be another vote to see if people like it. This could mean that Chile will change forever! Hopefully, there will be more equality, peace, and harmony in the new Chile.

With excerpts from :MediumKiddle, The New York Times, NatGeoKidsThe New York TimesThe GuardianThe Guardian, Oxfam , Oxfam

Think with Owliver:

What’s the big deal about a democracy?

How does voting work?

If Chile got richer anyway does the system really need to change?

Are you excited for Chile? Let us know in the comments below.