Tags: Chile | economy | democratic

Chile Becoming Social, Economic Powerhouse

By Tuesday, 08 April 2014 08:51 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Practically all of the countries in Latin America, maybe with the exception of the Cuba, have experienced a decade of economic growth and expansion. But practically only one of them has truly taken advantage of this process and is on the way to being the first to enter the select club of developed nations: Chile.

The international prices of Brazilian iron, Argentine soy, Bolivian tin, and Venezuelan oil, have been pushed higher by the almost unstoppable demand from China.

Although the copper exported by Chile to the emerging markets followed same pattern, that isn’t the only variable to explain its development. In the 25 years since the end of Gen. Pinochet’s dictatorship, the Chilean leadership has built the foundations of a real institutional system.

The center-left governments that replaced him, instead of changing everything, maintained growth trends that the military had implemented during its authoritarian regime.

In 2009, after four terms of Christian Democrats first and socialists later, the center-right won the election and maintained practically all of the social warfare programs incorporated by its predecessors.

Finally, it seems that the newly-elected socialist President Michelle Bachelet is going to continue with this practice. The consequence of all these processes has been the establishment of real and healthy power-sharing between the two halves which represent Chilean society as a whole and the construction of strong state policies in each of the main issues of their agenda.

They stayed away from populist temptations, avoided generalized corruption, and didn't turn to extreme personalist methods to cement their leadership.

Practically all of the democratic presidents left the Palacio de la Moneda with very high approval ratings and no one ever thought about the possibility of changing the constitutional clause which forbids re-elections; marking a huge difference with some of their neighboring colleagues, especially the Bolivarian ones, who strictly follow the Chavista and Castrista manuals which always include that they remain in power indefinitely.

After waiting for two five-year periods, President Frei unsuccessfully tried to be elected again, an objective reached by Bachelet. By contrast, across the Andes Mountains, in the richer Argentina, there is a saying that the political careers of the presidents who rule the country from Buenos Aires end in a criminal court, always facing charges for corruption.

Chile has always faced challenges. An extremely long succession of very compressed valleys between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, it had never been rich during its more than 200 years of independence.

They worked very hard to get their current status. To the permanent revenues produced by their copper exports — this South American nation produces 25 percent of the world supply of this strategic metal — they added massive production and exports of fruits, fishing and other minerals, and have also developed a sophisticated service sector.

Recently, they have improved in practically all their social indexes, reducing the inequality which affects like a plague all Latin American countries, allowing them to be considered now as a middle-class society, a status reserved in the past only to Argentina and Uruguay.

The organized reaction to the earthquake that affected the northern regions of Arica and Iquique last week has showed to the world the good practical consequences of those policies. Five years after a similar tragedy, but in the south, the response was superb: only six casualties, massive evacuations, immediate help for the victims. Chile learned the lesson and as always, managed to make the most from adversity.

The rest of the region could also learn this Chilean lesson. But not necessarily the one related to the earthquake. Latin America, with all of its natural and human resources, without strong ethnic or religious problems, absent wars or strong animosities among countries, could be a key factor for the future of our civilization.

By building institutions, respecting individual freedoms, reducing poverty and inequality, and eradicating corruption, this subcontinent could generate a real expansion of Western thinking.

Luis Rosales was elected as the youngest state representative in Mendoza, Argentina, in 1989. In 2011 he was candidate for governor in Mendoza, representing Compromiso Federal, a union of three local and national conservative parties. He is the Latin American partner of Dick Morris. Together they have worked in more than a dozen presidential campaigns around the region. They have written the book “El Poder,”  about their experiences in Latin America and other parts of the world. To read more of Luis Rosales' reports, Go Here Now.

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Tuesday, 08 April 2014 08:51 AM
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