Chile. According to Countryaah.com, Sebastián Piñera, former president (2010-14) and candidate for the right-wing coalition Chile Vamos, won the second round of the presidential election on December 17 with 55% of the votes cast, against 45% for Alejandro Guillier of the ruling left coalition New Majority. In the first round of November 19, Piñera received just under 37% of the vote, but in the following month managed to mobilize support for its campaign promises of lower corporate taxes, doubled economic growth and eradicated poverty in the country. Noteworthy was that Beatriz Sánchez, candidate for the new left coalition Breda Front (FA) and representative of a third political force in Chile, received a full 20% in the first round, only 3 percentage points or the equivalent of 160,000 votes less than Guillier. She also clearly won over him in two of the country’s three most populous regions.
The congressional election, which was held at the same time as the first round of the presidential election, was the first under new electoral laws that replaced the rules of the dictator Augusto Pinochet’s time (1973–90) and which guaranteed a two-party or two-block system, while increasing the number of seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, the election result led to a situation where no presidential candidate could expect a comfortable majority. Admittedly, Piñera’s Chile Vamos became the House of Representatives largest party with 73 seats out of the 155 House of Representatives and increased the number of senators, while President Michelle Bachelet’s New Majority lost three seats in the former, winning only one more Senate seat. The congressional big winner – and thus the great surprise of the presidential election – was otherwise the FA, which increased its congressional seats by a total of 18 members to 21, including the party’s first senator. The percentage of women in Congress increased from 16% to 23%.
The indigenous people of the mapuche situation affected the election campaign and the political debates. Four activists had hunger strikes for a hundred days at the first round, and in a speech June 23, President Bachelet asked the mapuches to apologize for the state’s longstanding neglect. At the same time, she announced major investments in infrastructure and education, land grants and the creation of a cooperative development institute under the so-called Plan Araucanía in mapuche areas in southern Chile.
Extensive forest fires raged in central and southern Chile at the beginning of the year. More than 226,000 hectares of forest were destroyed in the O’Higgins, Maule and Biobío regions in what was described as the worst forest fires ever, and disaster conditions were announced.
Following the student protests in 2011, Piñera’s support reached 22%. The road was therefore paved for a political change of course. Michelle Bachelet won the first round of the presidential election on November 17, 2013 when she gained 46.7% of the vote against right-wing Evelyn Mattheis 25%. However, the victory was not big enough for her to get over 50% and thus could be selected in the 1st round. Bachelor’s Nueva Mayoria obtained 50.6% of the vote for the Senate and 47.7% of the vote for the House of Representatives. In the second round of elections in December, Bachelet won by 62.2% over Matthei. She was inducted into the presidential post in March 2014. It happened in the Senate when Senate President Isabel Allende (daughter of Salvador Allende) handed her the post.
The court settlement following Pinochet’s dictatorship has barely started yet, as the right wing remains strong. In December 2012, however, a judge ordered eight officers arrested for the murder of the poet Víctor Jara a few days after the military coup in September 1973. In November 2013, 80-year-old Leopoldo García won a significant victory when the Inter-American Human Rights Court issued a ruling ordering the Chilean authorities to investigate the circumstances surrounding García’s torture by the military in 1973. The responsible police and military officials for the violence against the student protests in 2011-12 continue to be released. On the other hand, members of the Mapuche people are treated as terrorists together and are judged on the basis of the country’s terrorist legislation.
Still, e.g. Denmark is much further ahead in the criminalization of popular protests. In 2013, the conservative Chilean government tried to adopt a “bullying package” similar to the Danish one that would criminalize participation in demonstrations, and at the same time tried to adopt a ban on caps and gas masks. However, all three measures were voted down in the Senate.
The government announced in May 2014 that it would propose access to abortion in special situations: when pregnancy was a consequence of rape, when the woman’s life was at risk as a result of the pregnancy, or when the fetus would not be able to survive. The Pinochet dictatorship had introduced a total ban on abortion in 1989, and any attempt since then to ease the ban had been met with blank rejection by the deeply conservative Catholic Church and by the right wing.
Also in May 2014, 75 former officers of the military dictatorship of DINA’s secret police – including DINA’s Chief General Manuel Contreras – were sentenced to 13 years in prison for kidnapping, torture and subsequent disappearance of Jorge Grez Aburto in May 1974. Aburto spent several days in the torture center of London 38, without contact with the outside world and under constant torture. It was not clear how DINA murdered and buried him. General Contraras, along with 5 other senior officers, were sentenced to 13 years in prison. The disappearance of Abuto in 1974 was linked to DINA’s “Operation Colombo” of 1975, when the intelligence service allowed hundreds of opponents to disappear, and afterwards the national and international public realized that they had disappeared due to internal power struggles among opponents of the dictatorship.