Brian Winter, AS/COA Vice President of Policy, spoke with Univision News about the protests in Chile and their potential effect on Sebastian Piñera's presidency. Widespread protests in the country occurred after an increase in subway fare.
"Inequality in Chile, it's quite high," Winter said. "If you really look at the numbers, not just in Chile, but elsewhere around the region, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras, some of these other places where we've seen protests: the common denominator is that economies have slowed down."
Winter cited the International Monetary Fund's prognostic of barely any economic growth in the region this year, saying that although President Piñera rolled back the increased subway fare in Chile, people are still angry. Due to protests and unrest in the country, a military presence was brought in.
"It's clear that having soldiers and tanks in the street in a country like Chile that just came out of a dictatorship in 1990 resuscitated memories for a lot of Chileans," Winter said.
When asked about how unprecedented the protests are in Chile due to the country's level of stability, Winter said that "it was among the most stable countries in Latin America at least for a very long time."
"It's proof there's something going on not just in Chile, but around the region. This tale of stagnant economies is one that has a lot of people angry," he said. "I think there are very high expectations, especially in a country like Chile where a lot of people think their country has more in common with European countries than with the rest of Latin America. And when things slow down and people get disappointed, there's going to be anger."
Winter said that although Piñera rolled back the transport increases, the economic inequality in Chile makes it "tough for people to break into a comfortable upper middle-class or middle-class existence." He also said poverty has decreased in the last 25 years or so, and that Chile has done better on many fronts than other Latin American countries.
"It's a tough one for Piñera, and we'll just have to see how things go."