Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A lesson for our Democrats?


When democracies elect progressive politicians, we hope to see public campaigns like this poster in contemporary Chile.

Maybe our Democratic administration could try to emulate some other moderate progressives who took office under far more difficult conditions than they face.

Chile grew at an average of 5.1 percent per annum during those twenty years. The proportion of the population living in poverty fell from 38.8 percent of the population to 13.7 percent in 2009. GDP per capita was $4,542 in 1989: in 2009 it was $14,299.

... In 1989 there were 249,482 students in higher education -- in 2009 there were 809,417. Chile was investing $7 million in health in 1989; by 2009 that figure had risen to $307 million. In infrastructure, the 27.3 kilometres of the metro line in [the capital] had expanded to 94.5, and major roads improved. Minimum wages increased substantially, and the pension system was reformed to benefit poorer pensioners. ...

The government ... in 2005 was eventually able to reform the constitution to make it more democratic... On human rights, the government has a record that compares favourably with other countries. Since 2000 in Chile, some 779 former agents have been indicted, charged or sentenced for human-rights abuses ... By the end of December 2009, 279 former agents of the military had been sentenced for abuses, of whom fifty-nine are serving out final sentences in prison; while most of the rest are still in the appeal process or have received lesser punishment such as house-arrest or suspended sentences.

Open Democracy

Who were these paragons? The governments of Chile between 1990-2010 that pulled that country back to democracy in the wake of the brutal Pinochet dictatorship. They accomplished all this under the dangerous eyes of a previously all-powerful military that had to be both controlled and appeased in order to enable civilian government to survive.

I sure don't see U.S. Democrats achieving anything like that much.

The article linked to above is an account of how these moderate reformers wore out their welcome after 20 years. It examines whether the election of a President from the right will mean a consolidation of democracy or a swing away from progress. Unhappily, one of the worst omens for continued progress toward social justice is the enhanced weight a government of the right will have to give to the Roman Catholic Church's regressive views. All very interesting and worth thinking about in our context.
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