The situation in Chile: The sharp shift from being Latin America’s oasis to facing harsh reality

Par Mario Radrigan Rubio , Chercheur
26 November 2019

What Chile has undergone in the past four weeks is most likely to change the perception we had of ourselves up until now, but will also affect how we are perceived from abroad, with the government authorities having insisted on using the term ‘oasis’ when talking about Chile in the Latin-American context. Without wanting to be armchair quarterbacks, we have had the impression for many years now that our country’s overall framework or the “rules of the game” as they were written, were not exactly what we could call “fair”. Then, from one day to the next, everything collapsed like a house of cards. It will most likely take a long time to attempt putting the pieces back together again. A lot of energy, pain, of expectations, of joys and uncertainties, can be exected with everything having shifted, in order to attempt a new framework. Shaking things up once and for all, or at least trying to.

Yet here we are, without wanting to be self-referencing and trying to look at the world through the lenses of the social and solidarity-based economy and social entrepreneurship, we are trying to explain what is happening to us (or at least part of it). And this, all because we have lost, over forty years ago, our sense of being “one” country, along with the still very fundamental foundations of our “Pact of Solidarity”. We no longer see ourselves as being in the same boat or believe that for “me” to win, the “other” needs to lose. It is no longer a question of simply seeking to live in an idealistic, happy world, but avoiding having walls so thick we don’t even know who is on the “other side”, although the “other side” was also “my side”.

This tediously fluid ‘scenario’ is a great opportunity to rethink the role of the social and solidarity economy and their many practices that create collaborations between the business and civil society worlds. This would also allow us to actively integrate a new development strategy. However, if this is feasible, we must not forget the pain of the many people who have made this possible, not only in the past few months but throughout the history of our country’s struggle with roots in the dawning of the republic (and probably even before).

Let us look at our economy in an almost poetic or metaphoric way, while remaining grounded in reality. Let us consider the economy as a large fire station (Chile’s firefighters are volunteers), meaning a nonprofit, with a voluntary, democratic management… These factors are the reason why the People appreciate the firefighting institution in Chile most of all. It is evident that this thought exercise is what is needed to increase solidarity practices by at least 10.000%, not to be considered as charity, but simply as mutual aid. We can and must do it, and this cannot wait until tomorrow, as it will already be too late.

Of course, all of this is possible only by stirring things up. It cannot function if we only look at the four buildings surrounding the Moneda in Santiago (House of Parliament), or the three districts of the capital’s upper neighbourhood. This can only work if and only if all of the country’s territories, cities and communities, where the People live, are taken into consideration. Solidarity, collaboration, cooperation and participation is within reach to all, ourselves included. There is thus much to do, or more, to continue doing, as of now, and not tomorrow…

The National Peace Agreement and the new constitution that were signed on Friday, November 15th at two o’clock in the morning, between a great majority of political parties, spanning the ideological spectrum, are positive signs, but as we say in science, it is a necessary condition, but it does not suffice…

Translation from Spanish by Katherine MacDonald