Protests and demonstrations that have characterized the country in recent years are constantly faced with police violence. There are numerous reports, including Amnesty International and the National Human Rights Institute (INDH) on police abuse and the unnecessary use of violence against students and high school students in and after demonstrations. Police violence against journalists covering demonstrations is also well documented.
Human Rights Watch and INDH also emphasize the use of police violence against indigenous activists, children and women (including sexual violence), in many cases followed by inadequate investigation by the authorities. The Chilean authorities’ treatment of indigenous peoples, in particular the Mapuche people, is the topic that is most widely acknowledged in human rights reports by, among others, the human rights organization Observatorio Ciudadano, INDH and in the UN Human Rights Council’s periodic review of Chile in 2014. Both the UN and Observatorio Ciudadano believe that implementation of ILO Convention no. 169 on the rights of indigenous peoples has been deficient. The UN has repeatedly criticized the systematic use of anti-terror law from the dictatorship against mapuches. The Bachelor’s new government has promised to stop using the law against indigenous peoples. She has also nominated Francisco Huenchumilla, intendent, “county governor,” in Araucanía, the region most affected by the conflict. This conflict is primarily related to the mapuche’s right to self-determination, water and land, while attempts have been made so far by political groups to criminalize activists. Several have been killed by police in recent years.
Another issue that comes up in human rights reports on Chile is sexual and reproductive rights. Chile, alongside Nicaragua, Oman, the Vatican, El Salvador and Malta, is one of the only countries in the world that does not allow abortion under any circumstances. International organizations, including the UN, have for years pointed out that Chile must decriminalize therapeutic abortion, where abortion is carried out for medical reasons or by rape. In February 2015, the Bachelors Government sent a bill of this to Congress.
Despite the fact that there were two female candidates in the second presidential election in December 2013, there is still a great deal remaining regarding women’s rights and women’s access to political positions in Chile. CEPAL figures show that the country has the lowest political participation among women in South America and some of the largest gender pay gap in the region.
Freedom of speech in the media sector is reserved in Chile for a few, as media concentration is very strong. Two companies with the same political affiliation (right) control over 90 percent of the written press. This situation severely restricts the ability of many groups to participate in the public debate.
On a more historical level, 25 years after the end of the dictatorships, Chile still has an ambiguous relationship with the serious human rights abuses committed during Pinochet. Despite the fact that truth commissions have been set up, and very many abuses have been documented, only a small proportion of human rights cases have been prosecuted. Those responsible have largely been released – including the dictator himself, who died in 2006 without a sentence.
Under Piñera’s government, Chile saw economic growth of five to six percent per year, which coincided with high copper prices on the world market. The beginning of the Bachelor’s mandate coincided with a decline in copper prices and somewhat reduced growth (1.7 percent in 2014). At the same time, all of Latin America is observing economic de-acceleration. Chile has failed to diversify its exports where copper represents half its value: 14 percent of gross domestic product. Other industries include wine production, fishing and fish farming, including salmon farming with a large Norwegian presence. Chile is the country in Latin America with the most free trade agreements. China has now passed the United States as the country’s most important trading partner.
The country has a very low tax rate compared to other OECD members, and companies often do not pay taxes. Most of the tax revenue comes from VAT, and the system is therefore not progressive. In fact, the poor pay a larger share of their income to the state than the rich. Only eleven percent of workers are unionized and it is illegal to strike in the public sector. In July 2014, the minimum wage was raised to 225,000 pesos, or approximately NOK 2,500. Fundación Sol, a research center focused on working life, estimates that the minimum wage is just enough to rent a room, pay for public transport to and from work, and buy a pound of bread a day.
Chile is a member of the regional cooperation alliance CELAC and the UNASUR integration bloc. The Bachelors Government wants to give priority to regional political cooperation more than the previous administration. At the same time, Chile continues its membership of the neo-liberal Pacific Alliance, which it established under Piñera together with Colombia, Peru and Mexico in 2012. Bachelet also participates, albeit with less enthusiasm than before, in the US-led and controversial negotiations for a very comprehensive trade agreement for the entire Pacific region, Trans Pacific Partnership (T PP).
According to Countryaah.com, the maritime border dispute between Chile and Peru ended with the judgment in The Hague in January 2014, where Peru received a greater count than Chile. Shortly after, in March 2014, Bolivia filed a claim against Chile for access to the Pacific before the same court. Bolivia lost its coastal areas to Chile in the Pacific War in the late 1800s.
When it comes to bilateral relations with Norway, the Norwegian companies Cermaq and Marine Harvest are among the most important players in fish farming in Chile. Norway and Chile are observers at peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government in Havana.
It is clear that the second government of Bachelet is pursuing a more radical policy than the first between 2006 and 2010, and that it takes into account the strong social mobilization in the country. It will be exciting to observe developments in Chile going forward.
Population: 17.65 million (2016)
Life expectancy: 78.8 years (2016)
Infant mortality: 6.7 per 1,000 (2016)
GDP per capita (PPP): US $ 24,000 (2016)
Religion: Catholicism 66, 7%, evangelism 16.4%, other 5.5% (2012)
Official languages: Spanish
Currency unit: Chilean pesos
Export items: Copper, fruit, fish products, paper and wood pulp, chemicals and wine.
Regional Relations: Member of CAN (Associate Member), Mercosur (Associate Member), Pacific Alliance, CELAC, UNASUR, Union Latina and OAS