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The Blindness Of The Chilean Elite

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Sat, 4 Jul 2015 15:37:59 -0300

..

  This is a loose translation of
  http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2015/06/30/actualidad/1435617430_119551.html
  by Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser.

  Please note that my Spanish is imperfect (my English too!) and use the
  original for reference.

  See also (other translations):
  * The Bolvian Case Against Chile At The Hague
    http://acooke.org/cute/TheBolivia0.html
  * The Davalos Affair For Idiots http://acooke.org/cute/TheDavalos0.html
  * Another Tax Fraud http://acooke.org/cute/AnotherTax0.html
  * The SQM Affair For Idiots http://www.acooke.org/cute/TheSQMAffa0.html
  * The Penta Affair For Idiots http://acooke.org/cute/ThePentaAf0.html

  Andrew




  It's no longer possible to rebuild the trust that has been broken, 
  the outbreak of populism is just around the corner.


Chile is usually considered an exemplary member of the Latin America ensemble.
Unlike most of its neighbours, Chile has enjoyed three decades of remarkable
economic expansion, with political stability and a strong legal system.
Today, however, this image of a model country is fading.  Why?

Everything started with a corruption scandal linked to the illegal financing
of the main right-wing political party - Union Democratica Independiente
(UDI).  This party is the main proponent of the socio-economic model
implemented by the Pinochet dictatorship, which privatised much of the public
sector, creating economic groups that, in turn, have financed, legally and
illegally, the UDI, in particular, but also political leaders, right-wing think
tanks, and open market technocrats in general.  This has recently been brought
into public view, thanks to the work of the public prosecutor.

But what started as a story of illegal finance for just one party has
blossomed into a political thriller.  The public prosecutor's investigations
show that various deputies and senators - from both right and left - have
received illegal funding through various companies.  Even the presidential
campaigns are now under judicial scrutiny.  These investigations have shown
that one of the main political financiers is Julio Ponce Lerou, a character
worthy of a Stefan Zweig biography.  Mr Ponce Lerou is son-in-law of Pinochet
and enriched himself in an unseemly way during the dictatorship.  If that is
not enough, the son of the current President of the Republic is mixed up in a
dirty property deal.

Faced with these complex circumstances, the Chilean elite have followed a
dismal strategy: stay silent, deny, or lie.  On one hand, a large fraction of
the political class have chosen to dismiss the claims, or given absurd, or
untrue, justifications.  On the other, the businessmen have stayed
complicitly, deeply silent - something of a tradition (as far as I know, there
has been no apology, from any entrepreneur, for their role during the
dictatorship, or for any more recent malpractice).


  The Chilean transition to democracy emerged as a pact between elites 
  who went on to control the country's economic and political systems.


How do you explain the blindness of the Chilean elite?  The answer is simple:
the Chilean transition to democracy emerged as a pact between elites who went
on to control the country's economic and political systems.  If this pact gave
stability to the country, it also normalised practices noxious for democracy.

With time the elites have modified details of the pact, but they have lacked
the wisdom or the motivation to create a new balance of power, suitable for
todays society.  Chile is no longer a country marked by high levels of
poverty, an absent civil society, and a submissive press.  In fact, today,
Chile has a growing middle class, with new social movements and a media that
is no longer afraid of established power.  The problem is that the elite have
not adapted; they are walking blindly on, to the cliff edge.

There is no better example than the results from the recent Report on Human
Development from the UN -
http://desarrollohumano.cl/idh/download/Synopsis_English.pdf
http://desarrollohumano.cl/idh/informes/2015-los-tiempos-de-la-politizacion/ -
which reveals the huge gap between the opinions of the citizens and the
political elites.  A single example: about 60% of the population feel that
private companies should not profit in areas like health care, education and
basic services, but only 25% of the elite share this opinion.

Nothing suggests that the elite are changing.  The current political thriller
continues to expose the pernicious overlap between business and politics.  The
situation is worrying, and is illustrated by rising levels of distrust and
worry.  How to face this problem?  The solution requires a new social pact.
For that, the elites need to drop their guard of silence; they need to accept
their errors and listen to the demands of their citizens.

It may already be too late for the elite to act.  It's highly likely that it's
not longer possible to rebuild the trust that has been broken.  If so, an
outbreak of populism is just around the corner.  Because populism is based on
the distinction between a corrupt establishment and the sovereign people, who
demand the unrestricted use of popular power.  The blindness of the Chilean
elite is paving the way for the growth of populism.  Don't say you haven't
been warned.

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