A constant that continues over the years: extreme wealth and extreme poverty continue to increase in the world. Today, the wealthiest one percent of the world’s richest people account for two thirds of the world’s wealth, which is why economic growth is failing to narrow the inequality gap. According to Oxfam’s latest report to the World Economic Forum in Davos, the fortunes of billionaires are increasing by 2.7 billion dollars every day, while the wages of some 1.7 billion workers are growing below inflation. In our Latin American region alone, more than 131 million human beings do not have access to a healthy and balanced diet, according to a recent FAO report.
These figures should be enough to conclude that capitalism and the neoliberal ideas that govern a large part of the world are responsible for the fact that there are currently some 820 million human beings suffering from hunger and, with it, diseases and tragedies that massively confront them with malnutrition and death. In short, we are facing an unprecedented situation which, of course, threatens the political stability of nations, foments wars and feeds the most varied forms of crime. Chile, of course, does not escape this dramatic reality, remaining among the most unequal nations on Earth.
It is also the sad human condition that imposes itself and becomes the main danger to our coexistence. Much more than pandemics and natural cataclysms which, by the way, are increasing with global warming and the very slow development of sustainable energy. There are serious analysts who are no longer satisfied with efforts to eradicate poverty: to save us, they say, it is essential that the rich stop earning so much and considerably reduce their colossal and excessive consumption.
It cannot escape anyone’s notice that some of the countries with progressive or left-wing regimes, which pay lip service to social equality and care for nature, will be the last to replace coal and oil, resources they have in abundance and which, unfortunately, help to sustain their economies. On the other hand, it is already clear that the corrective measures adopted by the richest countries are very minimal compared to the urgencies established by the scientific community, which constantly warns of the imminent dangers of the predatory consumption of their populations. In this respect, for example, the gap between what needs to be done and what is actually being done to decarbonise our forms of production and social habits remains immense.
Under the pretext of the Russian-Ukrainian war, it is a real setback that Germany and other European countries maintain and even replace their thermoelectric plants, even if our third world countries take important steps in this regard, such as the recent resolution of Gabriel Boric’s government to oppose a mega ecocidal port mining project like “Dominga” in the north of our country.
Despite the doubts that are being installed in the world regarding the possibility of achieving greater social equity, it is clear that we are in Latin America at a juncture once again favourable to progressive regimes, which could still do much to curb blatant injustices and environmental threats. In Chile and other countries in our region, various tax initiatives are being discussed to enable their states to raise resources and implement measures to promote employment, invest in education, housing and health where inequality figures are increasingly scandalous.
These reforms, as is well known, must obtain the support of governments and parliaments in order to become law and overcome the millionaire lobbies of the most powerful national and foreign businessmen who still postulate the hypocritical idea that if it goes well for them, it will necessarily go well for the millions of workers. A posture that several decades ago was baptised as the “Chorreo Law”, which we already know only provoked more inequality here and in the world. By this we mean that tax reforms must be much stricter than what is now being proposed, just as countries must be forced to impose severe taxes on the enormous wealth and gross consumption of the richest. That is, the two percent of billionaires.
A left-wing government only has a chance to be successful and dignified if it makes substantive progress in ending extreme inequality and redistributing national wealth more fairly. Its management, in this sense, as well as the very consolidation of its democracies, can only be proven by the real improvement of salaries, the accelerated construction of popular housing, as well as real advances in access to health and education. The leadership of our leaders must be tested by their strength in promoting social reforms and not by their ability to maintain and complete periods of government in collusion with big capital and de facto powers. On the other hand, leaders with true social sensitivity must urgently undertake forms of collaboration and joint action, just as globalisation has brought us all face to face with the same transnational powers.
In this regard, it is regrettable that the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Peru has caused such weak reactions in neighbouring countries governed by self-declared leftist leaders. It would seem that the OAS and other multinational referents only become active when it comes to putting in check political and social changes that threaten the empire and powerful regional and national economic interests.
Progressive governments must also do their job, always backed by organised, active and mobilised peoples. It is definitely not in the legislative and top-down compromises that any real change can be derived. Nor is it in complacency with the powerful media that serve the powerful entities that finance them in order to block information diversity and procure ignorant and passive citizens.
It is worth adding that the fight against drug trafficking, common crime and organised crime is the primary task of governments, their police forces, as well as the solvency of the courts. This means that, together with repression, exercised without compromise against criminal groups, it is in the effective progress of cities, towns and neighbourhoods that many of the crimes that today plague our countries can be prevented.