Chile in flames
Religion & Liberty Online

Chile in flames

It’s been a good week for the left throughout Latin America. In Columbia, center-left and left-wing parties did well in regional election. Argentina also took a left-turn with a left-wing Peronist easily winning the presidency, and bringing the former president Cristina Kirchner back to office as Vice-President. In Bolivia, long-serving left-populist president Evo Morales looks as if he is going to get away with stealing an election.

Events in Chile are also a cause for concern. What started as a student strike tipped over into rioting, looting, and mass vandalism in the capital city, Santiago, which spilled out into the provinces. The center-right president Sebastian Pinero put the military onto the streets—something that immediately brought back memories for older Chileans of the Pinochet dictatorship—but somehow also managed to look weak and indecisive as he sought to placate angry protesters.

I have had the good fortune to visit Chile several times to lecture. That, however, doesn’t make me an expert on what is happening there right now. In any case, I always think it’s wise to listen to experienced commentators on the ground who have insights into the particularities shaping a given situation. And, in my view, one of the most impressive commentaries on what is transpiring in Chile appeared in the American Mind this week. In his article “Red October in Chile,” Pablo Maillet gets beyond the superficial instant-analyses, and shows how what is occurring is far more complicated than we might suppose.

It’s not just that the Latin American left have always resented that the very painful economic liberalization undertaken by Chile from the 1970s onwards has done something they have never achieved: i.e., taken an entire nation into the ranks of developed economies. Nor is there any doubt that professional leftist agitators are at work. Yet there are also more specific cultural and even spiritual problems driving events in Chile to which, Maillet suggests, Chilean conservatives and free marketers are struggling to provide coherent responses.

In Maillet’s words:

Chile’s situation echoes the American political moment: social disunity, political parties in flux, an elite disconnected from material and spiritual needs, and a seemingly stable democracy which is in fact constantly threatened by certain ideas. The vast majority of the population are becoming enamored with socialist progressivism, which is very dangerous because it threatens to destroy the underpinnings of democracy.

Read the whole article. It’s worth your time if you want to understand some of the deeper currents shaping events in Chile and Latin America more broadly. Kudos to Maillet for his excellent analysis and the American Mind for running his piece.

Featured image: Carlos Figueroa [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Samuel Gregg

Samuel Gregg is the Friedrich Hayek Chair in Economics and Economic History at the American Institute for Economic Research, an affiliate scholar at the Acton Institute, and author, most recently, of The Next American Economy: Nation, State, and Markets in an Uncertain World.