Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

How the mighty have fallen

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on June 16, 2011

by The Economist – Americas View, June 14th, 2011.

Voters famously have short memories. Despite their reputation as a sober, well-governed lot, Chileans are no exception. Just six months ago Sebastián Piñera (pictured), the president, was riding high after the miraculous rescue of 33 miners who had been trapped underground for ten weeks. According to Adimark, a pollster, his approval rating reached 63% following the successful operation. The company’s June survey painted a far grimmer picture for Mr Piñera: his support has dropped to just 36%, the lowest figure since he took office in March 2010. Meanwhile, his disapproval rating hit 56%, the highest mark for any Chilean president since the return of democracy in 1990.

Mr Piñera’s poll numbers have tumbled primarily because of his support for the Hidroaysén electricity scheme, a plan to build five dams on two rivers in the pristine wilds of Patagonia, which would flood 5,900 hectares (14,573 acres) of nature reserves. His government approved the project on May 9th, failing to anticipate staunch opposition from environmentalists. More than 30,000 people marched last month through Santiago, the capital, urging the government to halt the project.

The Hidroaysén case might not have unnerved the public quite so much had it not fit with their preconceived notions of Mr Piñera’s management style. Unlike Michelle Bachelet, his popular, consensus-minded predecessor, Mr Piñera is a former business tycoon. He has centralised decision-making in his own office and rarely goes through a broad consultation process before making up his mind. As a result, when he approved the dams, many Chileans suspected that he had become too cosy with Endesa, the Spanish company leading the construction. And since his ministers are seen to have little authority, Mr Piñera himself has become a lightning rod for all criticism of his government. (continue reading… )


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: