The Chilean Tsunami


By Atilio Boron*

The Piñera regime – and I insist on the term “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 in Chile since the overthrow of Unidad Popular on September 11, 1973. The ridiculous official explanations do not convince even those who disseminate them; complaints 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 triggering the protests that culminated in the declaration of the “state of emergency” by La Moneda [headquarters of the Chilean presidency], an absurd and fallacious argument previously handled by the corrupt man who now governs Ecuador and astonishingly contradicted by the facts.

The stupor of the official and opposition sectors in solidarity with the economic-political model inherited from the Pinochet dictatorship is completely unfounded, except for the anachronism of the opulent ruling party (one of the best paid in the world), its incurable blindness or their complete isolation from the conditions in which millions of Chilean men and women live – or survive.

For a well-trained eye, if there is anything that surprises, it is the effectiveness of the propaganda that for decades has convinced people and others of the excellent virtues of the Chilean model. This was extolled to satiety by the main publicists of the Empire in these latitudes: political scientists and academics with good thinking, operators and lobbyists disguised as journalists, or colonial intellectuals, such as Mario Vargas Llosa, who, in a recent article, mercilessly lashed out at existing “populisms”. or in development that plague the region, while extolling Chile's “giant-step” progress.[1]

This country is, for well-thinking opinologists, the happy apogee of a double transit: from dictatorship to democracy and from interventionist economy to market economy. The first is not correct, the second is, with an aggravating factor: in very few countries capitalism has destroyed the fundamental rights of the person as in Chile, converting them into costly commodities available only to 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 the Pinochet dictatorship and with renewed impulses in the supposed “democracy” that succeeded it.

This cruel and inhumane market fundamentalism has resulted in Chile becoming the country with the most indebted families in Latin America, a product of the endless privatization already mentioned, which forces Chilean men and women to pay for everything and go into infinite debt. with the money that the financial piranhas who manage pension funds are expropriated from their income and salaries.

According to a study by the Sol Foundation, “more than half of salaried workers cannot lift a medium-sized family out of poverty” and income distribution, says a recent study by the World Bank, places Chile, along with Rwanda, as one of the eight most unequal countries in the world. Finally, let's say that ECLAC found in its latest study on the social issue in Latin America that the richest 1% in Chile appropriate 26,5% of national income, while 50% of the poorest households have access to only 2,1 .2% of the same. [two]

Is this the model to imitate?

In short: in Chile, an explosive combination of free market without anesthesia and a completely delegitimized democracy, which only retains its name, is synthesized. It degenerated into a plutocracy that, until a few days ago – but no longer – prospered in the face of the resignation, demoralization and apathy of citizens, skillfully deceived by the media oligarchy associated with the ruling class. A warning sign of social discontent was that more than half of the voting-age population (53,3%) did not even bother looking for ballot boxes in the first round of the 2017 presidential election.

Although in the election abstention was reduced to 51%, Sebastián Piñera was elected with only 26,4% of registered voters. In short, only one in four citizens felt represented by him. Today that figure must be much lower and in a climate where, wherever it occurs, neoliberalism is besieged by social protests.

The mood of the time changed, and not just in Latin America. Their false promises are no longer credible and the people rebel: some, as in Argentina, dislodging their government spokespersons through the electoral mechanism, and others seeking with their huge mobilizations – Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras – put an end to an incurably unfair, inhuman and predatory project. It is true: there is an “end of cycle” in the region. Not that of progressivism, as some postulated, but that of neoliberalism, which can only be sustained, and not for long, by the force of brutal repressions.

*Atilio Borón is professor of political science at the University of Buenos Aires.

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves


[1] Cf. “Return to barbarism”, El País, August 31, 2019.

[2] The Sol Foundation data is collected in the note by Nicolás Sepúlveda for the digital journal The counter ( The original source is at Data on inequality can be found in a World Bank report: “Taking on inequality” (Washington: 2016).

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