It took only two weeks for the right wing and big business to dispel their fears about Gabriel Boric’s presidential victory. In just a few days these sectors managed to install an economist of their confidence in the Finance Ministry and assign to the “laws of the market” the fundamental role in the political and administrative progress of the nation. Despite the initial annoyance of the President of the Communist Party, all the groupings that make up the motley ruling party ended up agreeing to the appointment on the grounds that Mario Marcel’s name is trusted even abroad.
It has long been assumed that whoever holds this ministerial portfolio has more power than the Cabinet as a whole, as well as being an enormous counterweight to the possibility of radical changes that threaten the interests of large national and foreign investors. In reality, when a government dares to appoint someone from the avant-garde political world to this post, the country can be confident that the demands expressed for so long on the streets, in social mobilisations and even in academia itself will be met.
It is also surprising to see the enchantment that La Moneda has shown in just a few days with regard to the Armed Forces, which it was said would be drastically reformed afterwards after the repression exercised during the right-wing government that has just finished its presidential term. Although the current Executive decided to withdraw the military from the hot zone of Araucanía or Walmapu, it is not ruled out that this decision will soon be revised or that another one will be implemented to deal with the rebellion in the so-called southern macro zone, whose increasingly angry actions have not ceased with or without the uniformed forces in the region.
Everything indicates that the drastic changes that were promised in military matters will soon be slowed down or postponed, although it is encouraging that at least the judiciary remains determined to prosecute and convict corrupt officers, whose names abound in the judicial archives and in the press considered uncomfortable for the objectives of impunity that some believe necessary to prevent further “sabre rattling”.
A naïve but laudable attitude on the part of the new authorities led them to think that the Mapuche struggle, which has been going on for more than two centuries of confrontation and disappointment, could be attenuated with new dialogues and promises of a solution. Everything indicates, however, that our ancestral peoples can now see a real opportunity for their historic demands, but only if the government first implements effective measures that really mean the recognition of their rights, the return of their confiscated territories and a certain amnesty and pardon for their prosecuted and convicted combatants.
The distant Russian-Ukrainian war undoubtedly explains to a large extent the serious difficulties already being experienced by Chilean households, especially those of the poorest and the middle class itself. Indeed, inflation has made bread, fuel and basic household services so expensive that the minimum wage adjustment promised by President Boric in his election campaign would become practically nothing in relation to this explosive rise in the cost of living. A rather modest increase that, for the sectors most reluctant to change, could do further damage to the economy. Likewise, they are firmly opposed to the proposal that the state should abolish VAT, for example, on the most essential products. In other words, in the midst of an emergency they want to put all kinds of restrictions on state subsidies, an initiative that is implemented without major problems in other capitalist nations less orthodox than ours in order to alleviate the effects of the rise in oil, gas, transport and the so-called commodities.
It is too early to evaluate the performance of the new government teams, but some appointments are worrying the most radical sectors of leftism and make them fear that Boric’s mandate will be in the style of the Concertación governments that never dared to fulfil what they promised in terms of re-establishing fuller democratic institutions and taking measures to recover for the State the assets, companies, deposits and powers lost during the dictatorship. Let us remember that before the Aylwin government took office, the terror of big business and the right-wing became even more evident than it is today. This fear disappeared very quickly, then, as a result of the president’s desire to “do justice only insofar as possible” and save so many socio-economic promises for another opportunity.
Despite the good wishes and enthusiasm expressed by the new rulers, it is worrying that social discontent is once again on the rise, as well as protests that lead to vandalism and the destruction of public and private property, such as the brand new and expensive public transport buses that are set on fire on a daily basis. In this way, it complicates La Moneda that the National Congress insists on approving new withdrawals from pension funds so that taxpayers can meet their pressing needs. An initiative that used to have the enthusiastic support of those in power today, but which now agrees with the right wing and the business associations that they are to blame for the current inflation.
Ideologically speaking, the idea of encouraging and guaranteeing private and foreign investment is unfortunately taking shape. The employers’ press is once again insisting that only with growth and investment can development and social equity be expected. A fallacy that does not take into account that when we had sustained growth for years, the profound inequality among Chileans did not change at all. And that the much-vaunted high national GDP only serves to hide the immense concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, as well as the perpetuation of the deprivation of the vast majority.
It would be a good idea for those who govern today to bear in mind that, while development is important, social justice can only result from a fair distribution of income. This is in the possibility of really preventing extreme wealth and implementing a real tax “revolution”. Something difficult to conceive within the economic model that still governs us, when we know that the main incentive for investors in our country is the possibility of having cheap labour, that is to say, poorly paid. Because copper and other natural products can also be found in abundance in other countries, only more dignified and sovereign than ours. Here, even a mining royalty proposal, in the midst of an emergency, seems inappropriate or dangerous for the sacrosanct “stability of the markets”.
If the government gives in to the siren songs of the business entities and their media, it is certain that a new social explosion will take place, this time with the appearance of greater upheaval and insurrection.