Oh no, not Chile!

In many Latin American countries, when a police officer stops a motorist, there’s a good chance that money will change hands. This is not the case in Chile; in fact a few years ago, the Carabineros de Chile web site included an advisory to foreign visitors in several languages warning against this practice and here is the English version:

“If you commit a fault or crime during your stay in our country—according to the in force Chilean legislation—NEVER try to bribe a Carabinero, since only trying to perform this action you will incur into a crime. If it is the case you will be detained and the background of the case will be delivered to the court concerned.”

Sadly, the country ranked by Transparency International as one of the least corrupt in the region is groaning under the weight of a recent series of scandals across the political spectrum. There was a questionable land deal by President Michele Bachelet’s son and his wife, known as “daughter-in-law gate,” and the arrests of executives from one of Chile’s largest financial groups on charges of an illegal scheme to finance the right-wing Union Democratica Independiente (UDI) via money laundering and tax fraud. And the former son-in-law of the late dictator General Augusto Pinochet, Julio Ponce Lerou, is under investigation over payments made to rightwing political figures AND some members of Bachelet’s center-left coalition. The New York Times article explains it all:


The article quotes Chilean political scientist Patricio Navia of New York University, who compares the current crisis with a “trip to the emergency room with some chest pains.” Neighboring Brazil may be having a real heart attack, but doctors would tell Chile that “we’re overweight, not exercising and maybe smoking too much.” The scandals are a kind of warning that “we’ll end up with a heart attack five years down the road if we don’t change our ways now.”


Rightwing lawmakers in Chile's Chamber of Deputies hold a minute of silence on the eighth anniversary of Pinochet's death.

Right wing lawmakers in Chile’s Chamber of Deputies hold a minute of silence on the eighth anniversary of Pinochet’s death.

He died eight years ago in Santiago’s Hospital Militar, ironically on the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His ashes are kept in a chapel on an estate owned by his family, one of several properties he acquired during his lifetime. And he still has his admirers, as demonstrated by no less than 28 tributes published in the obituary section of El Mercurio, Chile’s largest newspaper. Here’s one: “We will always remember you for your great work for the good of Chile, for the restoration of its democracy and the enormous development achieved and projected, and for having kept the country’s peace, without ceding a centimeter of territory.” http://impresa.elmercurio.com/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?dt=10-12-2014%200:00:00&dtB=10-12-2014%200:00:00&BodyID=3&PaginaId=15

And a group of lawmakers from Chile’s rightwing Union Democratica Independiente (UDI) party tried to hold a moment of silence in Pinochet’s memory. Ignacio Urrutia made the motion in the Chamber of Deputies, prompting lawmakers from other parties to walk out in protest. One politician from the Party for Democracy (PPD) remained in the chamber in order to break the silence, while a number of younger UDI politicians remained but did not take part.