Chile Politics — 16 October 2014

16 October 2014.  Santiago, Chile

Chile’s ambassador to Uruguay, Eduardo Contreras, told the newspaper La Diaria, “The tax reform, that touches the wallets of big business, and the constitutional reform, that for me and any other normal person are necessary changes, for the fascist right wing are a Marxist revolution.”

La Tercera newspaper, reported that Contreras said, “I have no doubt at all that these recent terrorist acts are coming from the ultra-right wing.”  He is referring to two bombs that were exploded in Santiago Metro stations recently, one of which fizzled out, doing no damage, and the other injuring many, including blowing off the fingers of a nurse.  Those attacks were attributed to anarchists, three of whom have been arrested after evidence lead conclusively to their involvement.

Contreras was elected to Congress in 1973 and fled to Mexico after the Pinochet coup ousted Marxist president Salvador Allende.  At that time the right wing helped foment the chaos that led the military to oust the government, which is what Contreras is referring to when he mentions the “Marxist revolution.” At that time, El Mercurio newspaper even received funding from the American CIA to facilitate that.

Anyone who reads El Mercurio and La Tercera newspapers today knows that those two right-wing newspapers have been unrelenting in their attacks on the Bachelet government’s education and tax reforms. There are no moderate or left-wing newspapers in Chile that have wide circulation, so those two dominate the media.

Jaime Guzman, the founder and ideological leader of the UDI political party, to which Contreras refers, even suggested at the time of the coup that if the Allende government could not bringing the stability to the country perhaps the military should.

Contreras continued, “My logic is the following: where there are no changes: there is no terrorism. Who would benefit from terrorists acts? The right wing, the right-wing businessmen….These stories I already know.”

Chilean President Bachelet is from the Socialist Party and enjoys the support of both the Communist Party and the Christain Democrats.  There is lingering anger on the left toward the Christian Democrats (DC) who did not come out to defend Allende during the coup.  Contreras referred to that in the interview. Now the DC are largely supportive of the governments’s legislative agenda.

Bachelet’s tax reform bill has already passed the congress.  Her education bill is under debate in the lower house and will next pass to the senate, where it is expected to pass with some revisions.  These two bills call for boosting revenue to pay for educational reform that would make university tuition free and to end the practice of parents paying tuition to send their kids to private schools that are subsidized by the government.  The owners of subsidized schools have taken to the streets in several protests lately to protest the effort to push profit from the school system, which they say would force them to close. In Chile, the upper classes attend private and subsidized private schools and the poor go to public and subsidized private schools.  The OECD has said that the quality of education in Chile is dismal, with most of the teachers underpaid females, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college.

Economic growth in Chile has slowed from 5% of the last five years to 2%, in large part because of the reduced demand for copper, Chile’s principle export, whose main buyer is China, whose economy is slowing.  This slowdown in Chile has given the right wing an opening to criticize the current regime, saying the country cannot afford such reforms in a declining economy.

 

 

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