Web Letters | The Nation

Chile: Far from despair

This article described a very different country from the one I, as a young Chilean, experience every day. It is simply not true that the gains of the past three decades have gone only to the elite. Chile’s GINI coefficient decreased from .56 to .52 between 1990 and 2000 (World Bank data). This implies that growth was, at least, evenly shared—which is more than you can say for the United States.

Beyond the data, every year we see more and more Chileans moving from shantytowns to real houses, traveling abroad, and attending universities. Higher education enrollment grew sixfold in two decades. The sad place described in your article, where “Chileans have been struggling,” “retirees have been joining the ranks of the poor” and “expensive tuition has shut out all but the wealthy from advanced education” does no justice to the real gains made by the lower and middle classes in Chile.

Injustice still exists here, painfully so. The fact is, however, that Chile has been one of the only countries in the world to dodge the global rise in inequality of the past twenty years. The author of your piece projected her own (very justified) fears about rising US inequality and financial deregulation onto our country, but this was mistaken.

It is past time to stop viewing all events in Chilean politics through the lens of the Pinochet dictatorship. (Wouldn’t it sound weird to you if foreign correspondents associated Obama’s 2012 re-election with the traumas of LBJ in Vietnam or Jimmy Carter’s failed re-election bid?). Our little country has made significant strides decades in effective financial regulation and the fight against inequality, achievements the United States could learn from. These gains are ignored by foreign journalists’ anachronistic obsession with a dictator who left power before I was even born.

Diego Salvatierra

Santiago, CHILE

Feb 26 2014 - 3:43pm