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Chile, Wake Up! Corrupt Politicos Rely on Your Lethargy

By: Malgorzata Lange - @MalgoLange - Mar 4, 2015, 12:26 pm

EspañolDespite everything, I welcome the arrival of March. It’s usually a month dreaded by Chilean students — when school, timetables, and uniforms all begin again (I’m no fan of enforced uniformity either).

Parents also have their own reason for resenting the month: it’s time to pay the fees for said schools (for a quality of education which leaves much to be desired), and render tribute to the Chilean Internal Revenue Service (SII).

Adding to the sense of doom, March began with the eruption of the Villarica volcano in the south of the country. According to the ancient Greeks, such explosions are due to hell bubbling over. Is Hades enraged? It should be, along with all the gods of Olympus.

I rejoice that March has come: now there are no more vacation excuses. The beautiful lakes of Chile will be deserted once more, and national prosecutors will return to towering inboxes; they have the most work of all. I want to know how multiple cases, whose common denominator has been the capture of politics by huge corporate interests, will pan out.

I’m also anxious to see what President Michelle Bachelet’s next move is. It seems as though the poor handling of the Dávalos case, a scandal that erupted within the presidential family itself, and the absence of clear and cautious advice have made themselves felt. Witness the huge fall in popularity of the president and her government.

The government’s reaction to the scandal — involving a multimillion dollar loan by Banco de Chile to the wife of Bachelet’s son and government official Sebastian Dávalos — has been catastrophic. It’s caused profound damage to the governing coalition, despite Senator Ignacio Walker’s attempt to brush it off. The Bachelet administration will find it hard to rebuild. Will there be a cabinet reshuffle?

So I welcome March. Journalists and intellectuals of Chile will also return from their vacation. The past month has seen a general media silence on ongoing scandals, with some exceptions. The majority of radio and television channels have followed a holiday program of “fillers,” various music festivals, and news programs broadcasting from the exclusive beach resort of Viña del Mar. It’s incomprehensible that they’ve had so many issues to cover, but have decided not to do so.

I understand the anger of journalist Juan Manuel Astorga over the refusal of politicians to speak with the media, and their attempt to direct them in the stories they should cover, but I don’t agree with him on everything. The other side of the issue is that journalists have failed to penetrate through the smoke and mirrors to investigate and air uncomfortable questions, even if their questions are met with silence.

I hope that they return well rested, ready to go for the jugular with their questions, and be insistent and dogged in uncovering the truth. Above all, I hope that their employers, the owners of the media, don’t stop them from going on the attack.

In March, I want to believe that there will be change, and that some politicians might show that they would rather lose power before losing face. My optimism remains undiminished, despite the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) already announcing that none of its members will resign over the Penta scandal.

This is because, to paraphrase Mario Vargas Llosa, I still want to believe that everything in Chile isn’t screwed. I want to believe that the republican institutions of which Chile is so boastful will be resistant and deserving of their famed stability.

I want to believe that Chileans will know how to overcome these cases, just as they’ve shown their strength in the face of furious volcanoes and earthquakes. And we’d better learn from our mistakes well, before the Olympians all come down to show us the error of our ways.

Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.

Malgorzata Lange Malgorzata Lange

Malgorzata Lange is a native of Poland who lives in Santiago de Chile. She holds degrees in political science and international Relations, and is a PhD candidate at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She is also a radio panelist on international politics issues. Follow @MalgoLange.