“After raising high hopes and promising encompassing “policies that change cultures”, Bachelet’s agenda is in crisis and partly stuck due to the interconnection of home-made errors with a changing international environment that has slowed the Chilean economy down”
Underlying the political crisis is Chile’s sharply deteriorating economic position. Once hailed as the South American capitalist miracle, the country is facing a sharp decline in most economic sectors: mining, fishing and agribusiness. The economic crisis, part of the collapse of the commodities and emerging market booms, has destabilized “left” Governments from Argentina to Brazil and Venezuela. It is expressed in lower export earnings and shrinking domestic consumer market. Growth figures for this year have been revised from 2% to 1.2%, while unemployment has risen from 5.9 to 6.3%. 68,000 workers have been laid off in the large mining sector since 2014. An environmental crisis devastated the fishing industry in Southern Chile. Since May 2016, there has been growing sentiment driving demonstrations by students and workers over the failure of Bachelet to make good on her 2013 campaign promises, to alter a social order that makes Chile one of the most unequal nations in the world. Thousands of students demonstrated against the stalling of a proposed education reform. The demonstrations have deepened the crisis of Bachelet’s Government. Her approval rating has shrunk to a record low of 24%. Hostility to the President has been fueled in part by the so-called Caval case, a scandal involving her son and a former aide, Sebastian Davalos. Bachelet’s unpopularity is exceeded only by that of her rightist opponents: her New Majority coalition was viewed favorably by only 16%, while the right-wing Alliance for Chile got only 15% approval. More than two-thirds of the population is hostile to both the “left” and right representatives of the Chilean bourgeoisie. The working class has been increasingly restive, but held back from a head-on confrontation with the government by the CUT (Central Única de Trabajadores) trade union, led by the Communist Party, which in turn has Ministers in the Bachelet government.