Mario Vargas Llosa in Chile

Peruvian Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, has given an interview to Chile’s La Tercera newspaper in which he criticizes the policies of President Sebastian Piñera, warning that “economic development by itself is not enough.”

Vargas Llosa, who has visited Chile three times in the past two years, had supported Piñera’s candidacy and was impressed with the emphasis his presidential campaign had given to education. The subsequent protests by students had surprised him, he said.

“My impression is that Chile is undergoing problems it did not have before and which are, in good part, a product of its development,” he said and observed that while economic indicators were good, the Piñera government’s approval ratings were very low (26 percent, according to a poll released six months ago by the Centro de Estudios Publicos). “The problem is that development should not be measured strictly by economic indicators, statistics.  This is one of the great errors of a purely economistic conception of development.”  Equal opportunity is a fundamental principle of any democracy, he said.

The president, polls and possible successors

Chilean president Sebastian Pinera, during one of the high points of his administration.

Sebastian Pinera is less than 17 months into his four-year term as president and is suffering from one of the lowest approval ratings of any head of state since Chile returned to democratic rule. A survey by the Adimark polling company last month revealed that only 31 percent approve of his performance and 60 percent disapprove.  The poll was divided into sections, with 62 percent of respondents agreeing that Pinera was “active and energetic” and 59 percent agreeing that he was “capable of facing crisis situations” but only 39 percent thought he was credible or loved by the public.  As to how his government was handling different issues, there was only one area—that of international relations—in which a majority of those polled approved (66 percent). Less than a third approved of the Pinera government’s action on health care, the environment, crime, public transportation and education. The next presidential election is scheduled for late 2013 and here are some potential candidates:

On the political right is Lawrence Golborne, Pinera’s photogenic minister for energy and mining, who rose to fame during last year’s rescue of 33 miners in the Atacama desert. The Adimark poll gave him a 75 percent approval rating. This past week he told El Mostrador TV that he considered himself capable of being president but for the time being he was “interested in seeing the government work well.”  He also made a brief mention of having taken part in anti-Pinochet demonstrations during the 1980s.

On the left is Pinera’s predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, currently undersecretary-general of United Nations Women.  It isn’t that clear whether she is interested in running for president again, and she remarked in an interview with the Financial Times that she was enjoying the relative privacy of her life in New York. “I miss my family, but I also like to be Miss Nobody here,” she said. But a comment she made this past week to the Spanish newspaper El Pais suggested her time at the United Nations would be limited. She missed her family so much that “I don’t see myself spending many years outside of Chile. That is where I have my family, my friends, my roots.”

The Financial Times article:

The El Pais article: