SANTIAGO – A social movement has spread across Chile the past week, demanding serious change from the government. How can the country be improved? What needs to change? The readers of Chile Today offer their thoughts.
Last Friday (Oct. 25), Chile Today asked, “How can the country be improved? What needs to change?” Many readers responded.
The answers varied from profound, long-range changes, such as rewriting the Chilean constitution, to more immediate, short-term shifts, like the resignation of the president.
Chile Today takes a look at a number of the prevailing suggestions of its readers.
Change the Constitution
A number of readers vigorously asserted that a constitutional change is essential. Simply put, as one reader did, “The only solution is a new constitution.”
In the eyes of many, the damage to Chilean society is aggravated by the Political Constitution of the Republic of Chile. Devised in 1980 under Pinochet’s dictatorship, it is still the constitution used by the Chilean government today.
Another reader summarized his thoughts regarding constitutional change: “New constitution for a new beginning.”
Echoing the idea of a fresh start, another reader commented, “We need urgently [sic] a new constitution. That is what we should do first to apply new changes. We need to start from there.”
Another reader prioritized the water system in Chile above all else. Advocating for deprivatization, the reader asserted, “We need to take back the fresh water from privately owned companies first and foremost.”
A second was emphatic in this regard: “Water must be a social right again, it should not be private.”
Still another equally criticized the privatization of water and blamed the previous government for causing the privatization of “health care, highway tolls, water, electricity, etc.”
In response to former President Ricardo Lagos’s reaction to the unrest in Chile, one reader commented, “Very funny statement, when you were a president nothing changed.”
Lagos said, in an interview with El País, that the Chilean people “have new demands. Not to be poor again, and for the government to provide more public goods than before.”
He denied culpability for privatization in Chile and said, “I never privatized any company.”
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🗣️ #ChileDespierta Lagos spoke about the ongoing social movement in Chile. “[The citizens] have new demands. Not to be poor again, and for the government to provide more public goods than before … that can allow better education, health, and a better elderly life,” he said.
A number of readers shared the opinion that the government needs to make serious salary reforms. One reader rejected the whole system: “It is not possible that a person who works 45 hours per week gets a ridicul[u]os 450 USD, it is not enough to have a decent life. Shame.”
A reader suggested that all salaries should be paid in Unidad de Fomento (UF). He argued that the “UF represent[s] the cost of living, so salaries should be given and regulated by it. And so, if the US dollar changes, our people wouldn’t be hit as hard with price changes.”
The exchange rate between the UF and the Chilean peso is adjusted continually according to inflation. It is used predominantly in the credit system, banking transactions, and the real estate market
On Oct. 22, President Piñera proposed “a guaranteed minimum wage of CLP$350,000 (USD$482)” as one of the points on his 10-point plan. However, it has not yet been put into place.
Reform the Pension System
One reader identified the pension system as one that is in urgent need of change. He argued, “People would not save money for their retirement on their own, so an AFP is needed. The problem is that they are currently private, and every loss is assumed by the people.”
The Chilean people have strongly criticized the AFP system in recent months and have demanded a major overhaul.
The “No More AFP” movement continues to resonate throughout this current period of social unrest, calling for serious reform to the system.
Obtain Piñera’s Resignation
On Twitter, the hashtag #PiñeraRenuncia was in frequent use during the protests over the last week. Much of the Chilean public is expressing frustration with its President and calling for his resignation.
One reader repeated these sentiments: “We need a Constituent Assembly and Piñera’s resignation. It’s time for all Chileans to come together and decide the future that we want for our country!”
Protect the Environment
One reader did not focus on the political and social issues at all. Instead, she drew attention to the need for environmental reforms: “We need to change everything about the protection of [the] environment, natural forests and places. […] We also need to be a plurinational country and return the lands to their ancestral owner, natives peoples.”
Ravaged by forest fires and drought, Chile has faced serious problems with environmental protection in recent years. A number of Chileans want to ensure that the government addresses these issues, especially with the upcoming COP25.
The Mapuche people continue to campaign for their land to be returned to them. The flag of the Mapuche was flown by many people throughout the recent protests, as a reminder to the government that there are more than just economic problems.
Ana Truesdale is a British student, studying Liberal Arts at Durham Univeristy, who is currently interning at Chile Today on her year abroad. She has a strong interest in Latin American culture and journalism and wishes to experience all that Chile has to offer.