There couldn’t be a clearer statement by the many young people amongst the tens of thousands of Chileans who took to the streets of Santiago and other major cities of the country in a mass protest. The rise in the price of a metro ticket price was the last straw. Chile regained democracy thanks to a referendum that put an end to the Pinochet dictatorship. But it is hard to define what came after the referendum as Democracy – what started in 1988 was a test lab for Friedman’s disaster capitalism: all sectors stayed privatised, and wealth remained in the hands of the old oligarchs, now businessmen. Economists and stock market investors enjoyed the economic growth, yet we know that it is not the right indicator to judge whether a society is healthy. In fact, inequalities have stayed the same as under the dictatorship. Research by Professor Ruiz-Tagle shows the extent of tax evasion in Chile, suggesting that there could be far more investment in public policies… if only the current President, big companies and wealthy individuals payed tax.
Change must happen for a fairer distribution of wealth to take place. Everybody senses it. And yet the government is blind to the strong demand for social justice, sending tanks and soldiers onto the streets against the people that the army is meant to serve. It’s like martial law all over again, reminiscent of the country’s darkest days and the 1973 putsch.
It is not only economic policy that must change therefore, but the Constitution – it is necessary to overcome dictatorship for real and reform the Constitution that dates back to Pinochet. Amongst the many steps to be taken, real social and civil dialogue must be introduced.
At the end of the day, we must also wonder if this reflection concerns only Chile. Since the putsch in Brazil against Lula, the reactionary forces continue their roll back strategy. Hopefully the elections in Argentina will lead the way for a change in the region and Frente Todos will continue to implement progressive policies. And what about the massive demand for social justice at the other end of the world, where Lebanese people have taken the streets too, with similar demands? The question is global.
The progressives have a duty to engage the EU in following the developments in the Americas closely. It concerns all of us, not only the Iberian Peninsula. It is about Democracy, about Social Justice – and social investment - and the democratic Rule of Law. It is not acceptable for us to let the Maduros of this world be credited as credible change-makers. We need a profound paradigm shift, not more populists.
A global progressive agenda is needed to unite progressive parties, labour movements and unions, democratic and progressive civil society, all over the world – to change it.