Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Señor Piñera Goes to Santiago

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on January 29, 2010

by John Londregan, for Weekly Standard, January 24, 2010.

Sebastián Piñera’s victory last week marks the first time in over half a century that Chileans have elected a conservative as their president. It also marks the successful conclusion of Chile’s transition to democracy.

Like adolescents embarrassed by their parents Chilean voters have for years complained about the increasingly corrupt and incompetent center-left coalition governing their country. But, like the adolescent that can’t bring himself to decamp from the family basement and actually head out on his own, Chile’s voters suffered a perennial failure of nerve at the moment of actually casting the ballot that would emancipate them from their familiar but venal government. On January 17, they packed the proverbial stereo, the magic cards, and the contents of their coat rack into the back seat of their aging Dodge Colt and finally struck out into the world on their own.

Twenty years ago the picture was very different. In 1988 the military government held a plebiscite on its continued rule and lost! What’s more, it admitted that it lost, and in the subsequent elections Chileans chose a left of center coalition called the Concertación that excluded the Communists, but ran the gamut from the Socialist party to the left-of-center Christian Democrats. In a case of “midnight judges” that makes John Adams seem like an amateur, the military left behind a government well stocked with independent judges, auditors, policemen, and others ready to pounce on signs of corruption in a civilian government they little trusted. During its early years, the Concertación coalition decided to leave the laissez-faire policies of the military government in place. Left to their own resources, Chileans did what free people do best: They worked hard and made mostly good choices. As if by magic per capita incomes rose briskly…(continue reading)

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