“Chile, lindo País esquina con vista al mar”, was the title of a play by the prestigious Ictus theatre that premiered in 1979. The play aimed to denounce the excess of mercantilism that at that time was installed in Chilean society, “the market” took over all conversations, all spaces, it was the invisible actor that with its incorporeal hand, assigned, improved and generated benefits, growth and equity in the long term for society. The theory of “trickle down”, i.e., what is in excess in some, was to permeate to other layers of society, generating benefits and supplying the needs of the most deprived. That last part has unfortunately been very slow in coming.
Today, 40 years later, Chile has undoubtedly progressed and at the macro-economic level, we have been praised as the best student of the class, our GDP has grown very significantly from 21.8 billion in 1979 to 253 billion dollars in 2020, a little more than 10 times. Poverty has decreased very significantly and within the Latin American context, our progress is very significant, reaching the first place in terms of cumulative growth rates in this period, especially in the 1990s.
Undoubtedly, progress has not reached all the country’s inhabitants and we continue to lag behind in many services for the most disadvantaged, which is why there have been many social demands and a programme for the formulation of a new constitution and a very important election process in the remainder of this year 2021, among many other things, is underway.
Chile is now experiencing a very important immigration process that is putting pressure on our borders, this is an unprecedented process, Chile is not used to people knocking on its doors and demanding entry, in general in our history the forces were more centrifugal than centripetal, as we are now seeing. The authorities are very complicated with this process and have increased patrolling at the borders and have seen a greater number of migrants crowded in border towns and towns near the borders with people in precarious conditions. Some have died in the attempt to cross the borders due to the inclement desert climate and their precarious travel conditions, where entire families are seen trying to reach Chile. This is a humanitarian and global problem, in 2019 more than 80 million people in the world moved from one area to another in search of better living conditions.
The response of the Chilean government to this problem to date, has been disappointing, force has been used to prevent people from arriving, once in the country as undocumented illegals, they are expelled from their precarious facilities, public squares and other places in the cities are invaded, the streets are populated with beggars who with children and women seek food and any support to subsist. What a problem.
The government should strive to see the opportunity behind this problem, there are thousands of these immigrants who are professionals, technicians, skilled workers, who are desperate to find a place to live and start a new life. Thousands of years of university and technical education are knocking at our door, if we believe that this new fourth revolution we are in, will be based on knowledge, we need to build an increasingly educated society, well, through the arrival of immigrants and added to our professionals and technicians, we can come close to achieving in a short time a new quantum leap of progress, allowing us to rejuvenate our extractivist development model, which has been diagnosed as tired and exhausted for at least 10 years. We need new energy and an epic. One of the successes of this government that is coming to an end has been its handling of the pandemic, with a massive vaccination campaign never seen before, today almost 90% of the resident population in Chile has been inoculated and this is a guarantee of good teamwork and should mean a good reaction in the coming months and years after the pandemic, we should be able to emerge faster than other nations from this scourge. So this is also a factor that attracts people to the country, instead of worrying about expelling them, we should think about how to welcome them very openly and generate in this new society of innovation and growth, that we need to implement opportunities for our compatriots and for migrant populations.
If we believe that this is possible, the first and right thing to do from a humanitarian point of view is to receive all immigrants who are at our borders and give them physical asylum, which means taking these people to massive shelters, set up in stadiums and gymnasiums for a temporary stay, so that people do not wander around the cities, nor beg, provide them with food and the basics to live and immediately make a file on each person, identify them and see their professions and potential, contact their relatives in Chile if they exist, promote the immediate formation of companies and enterprises, generate creative spaces so that they can carry out projects that support the regions where they are and the country, through the formalisation of their professional activity and their support for projects of implementation, for example of OOPP, so necessary today in the regions of Chile.
This personal file and interviews also allow for the detection of problems or people who may indeed be conflictive and for whom the exit from the country should be immediate and without the possibility of returning. This controlled treatment also allows our citizens to have cities that can continue to function, where the quality of life is not threatened due to the precarious installation of camps, which leads to unhealthy conditions and delinquency or illicit conduct, derived from the desperation that these people are already suffering. It is important to consider that some of these people have had the strength to walk thousands of kilometres to Chile in search of a new horizon, abandoning what little probably remained of their previous life in their country of origin. Failure to act in this way risks creating a bellicose and confrontational attitude between the immigrant and the resident, where both compete for a physical space that is threatened. It is up to the government to act for the benefit of its inhabitants and to take charge of the situation we are facing.
We have worked to make Chile a better country, we have made progress that is outstanding in the Region, today we have thousands of people who want to come here to live and contribute honestly so that we can continue to improve and move forward. There are many problems, but as they say in every crisis there are opportunities, we repeat this saying in all leadership and innovation courses, it is time to implement it and make Chile “the asylum against oppression” we have preached in our culture the Love for the stranger and the newcomer, let’s do it and generate mechanisms and budgets to make this a reality, I think there is much more to gain from this opportunity. Let’s not waste it because of fear and xenophobia, it is a grave mistake to do so.