The World Today for November 19, 2021


Eyes Wide Open


Fabiola Campillai was walking to work in 2019 when Chilean security forces fired a tear gas canister at her, striking her face, blinding her permanently and damaging her brain. At the time, civil unrest was rising in Chile over social inequity. As the Guardian explained, there were no protests around her at the time of the shooting, however. The soldier who fired the canister was investigated and faces serious punishment.

Campillai, now, is running for a seat in the Chilean Senate at a time when the South American country’s politics are heating up significantly. In addition to presidential and legislative elections on Nov. 21, the lower house of the country’s Congress recently impeached President Sebastian Piñera. (The Senate this week voted against impeachment). The president can’t run for reelection when his term ends on March 11 under Chilean law anyway.

Still, the stink of the allegations lingers and plays into Chile’s future.

The charges alleged that Piñera used his office to create favorable conditions for a family mining business, National Public Radio reported. The revelation originated from the Pandora Papers, a global investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. One of the richest people in Chile, Piñera was among the first heads of state to face removal from office due to the investigation.

The president’s lawyer called the impeachment “a blow to our national institutions that can leave wounds for the next and future governments,” noted the Washington Post. Piñera has maintained that the facts of the case are not as the Pandora Papers would suggest. Instead, as Merco Press wrote, he believed the impeachment was an election maneuver.

The presidential race, meanwhile, remains a tossup. Conservative José Antonio Kast has surged in the polls recently, Bloomberg reported, noting that investors and financial markets were signaling confidence in Kast. Some polls indicate that he could beat ex-student leader Gabriel Boric if a runoff vote on Dec. 9 is necessary.

Boric has proposed hiking taxes on the ultra-wealthy, replacing private pensions with a public version, and repatriating indigenous lands to their original inhabitants, Jacobin magazine wrote. The civic-minded view of Chilean citizenship that his supporters might espouse is on display in this Al Jazeera story about efforts to stop discarded clothes and other waste from polluting the Atacama desert.

In May, Chileans elected a constitutional convention to revise the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship-era document that is the current law of the land, Reuters reported. Left candidates won more than 75 percent of the convention’s seats, suggesting Boric’s ethos might exert more influence over the country whether or not he wins the presidency this month.

That’s because voters, fatigued by the pandemic and Chile’s elite, want serious change. This time around, it looks like they might get it.

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