Chile: A paragon of democracy suffers a hiccup

Unlike the protests and strikes of previous years, the protests that began in October of 2019 were much bigger, more motivated, and more violent, different from anything that Chile has seen since the return to democracy. The singular spark that ignited the protests was a raise in metro fares, but the root of the real social anger is much deeper: a culmination of disenchantment towards the political and economic elite who have concentrated the country’s wealth in their pockets. The government invoked Pinochet-era laws to fuel their response to the protests, which led to more protests and aggressive arrests by the military that revived memories of the dictatorship. Perhaps the only way left to correct institutionalized inequalities is to overhaul the existing constitution, and Mr. Piñera has yielded to a plebiscite in April of 2020. But an entirely new constitution may destabilize the free-market economy and the country’s institutions, and cause uncertainty for many foreign investors. 

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