Renewable Energy in ChileWhile fossil fuels and copper mining once stood as the foundation of Chile’s energy sector, the country is now a global leader in innovative renewable energy strategies. A shift in focus toward solar power, wind energy and green hydrogen will diminish the number of remaining households impacted by energy poverty over the next 25 years. As the implementation of renewable energy in Chile grows, so does the country’s economic potential.

5 Facts About Renewable Energy in Chile

  1. Renewable energy sources are reducing energy poverty. Energy poverty takes shape in many ways, such as limited access to heating, air conditioning and hot water, inability to afford electricity bills and frequent power outages that disrupt both educational and business activities as well as access to essential services. Chile’s energy sector relies in part on coal-fired power generation, but the country’s Long-Term Energy Policy now aims to generate 70% of all electricity through renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2050. Among other benefits, this plan will provide quality energy services to all vulnerable households, reduce total electricity outages to one hour per year and offer significantly lower average residential electricity prices.
  2. Chile is now a world leader in renewable energy. The 2022 updates to the Long-Term Energy Policy additionally pledged carbon neutrality by 2050 through strategic decarbonization of the economy. Previous efforts to address changing weather patterns forged partnerships with powerhouses like Germany, but the promise of these updates solidify Chile’s status as a global leader in sustainable energy, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Other countries including the U.S., Spain and Canada are now vying to learn about renewable energy in Chile and invest in the cause.
  3. Green hydrogen exports will benefit the economy. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) foresees a significant increase in Chile’s GDP as the country expands into “green” hydrogen, a source used in zero-emission fuel cells, synthetic ammonia and gasoline substitute. According to government officials, exports of green hydrogen should generate $30 billion per year by 2050. Given the nation’s access to both the Atacama Desert and the winds of Patagonia, Chile has a stark advantage over other countries to produce hydrogen with the renewable energy generated by wind and solar power. Chile hopes to be one of the top three exporters of green hydrogen by 2040, creating jobs and further reducing poverty.
  4. Eliminating coal plants will not reduce jobs. Chile intends on eliminating all coal-fired power stations by 2040 and focusing fully on renewable energy efforts. However, guidance from the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) suggests that the closures will not negatively impact job opportunities. Germany has partnered with Chile since 2008, collaborating on renewable energy agreements and training seminars. Under Germany’s recommendations, the abandoned coal plants will become renewable power plants, such as water desalination plants. This ensures jobs stay intact throughout the transition.
  5. Renewable energy in Chile creates more jobs for women. Implementing renewable energy plants opens a new job market for Chilean women. Energy+Women is a program initially founded in 2018 that focuses on gender equality and inclusion efforts in the male-dominated energy sector. The program now offers women mentorship, among other professional opportunities. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has additionally given a $300 million loan to Chile for renewable energy efforts with a focus on promoting equal pay.

Looking Ahead

Only 52% of all Chilean households had access to electricity in 1970, but today, 100% of the population has electricity access. Now, the country is pursuing goals that eliminate even a minor power outage. This dissolution of energy poverty would not be possible without the implementation of renewable energy as both a source and commodity. The nation is paving the way for sustainability initiatives. With these exciting developments, Chile is on track to become one of the first developing countries to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

– Rachel Smith
Photo: Flickr

Updates on SDG 1 in Chile
The U.N.’s first and most important Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for all nations is to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere.” Chile has experienced an economic miracle since the fall of Pinochet, and here is an explanation of how this economic transformation has translated into modern development.


The U.N.’s SDG 1 measures poverty rates across the globe, the number of people who live on less than $1.90 a day and the amount those who live on less than $3.20 a day. Chile’s transition from the Pinochet kleptocracy to a market-based economy in 1990 helped develop the Chilean economy through foreign investment and internal economic development, which increased the quality of life and living standards across Chile.

Although the World Bank estimates that in 1990 38.6% of Chile’s population lived below the poverty line, as of 2022, the U.N. estimates that 0.03% of Chileans live on less than $1.90 a day and just 0.18% live on less than $3.20 a day. These scores show that the updates on SDG 1 in Chile are that significant progress has occurred. Market orientation to has effectively eradicated poverty in Chile, but that does not tell the whole story about the updates on SDG 1 in Chile.

The second aspect of the U.N.’s SDG 1 in Chile is measuring relative poverty, the share of a population whose income is less than half of the median disposable income in that country. Chile scored particularly badly in this metric at 16.5% in 2017. The U.N.’s long-term goal is for all countries to score around 6%, and Chile is wide of this margin.


Chile has had long-run problems with inequality stretching back to the Pinochet era and the beginnings of marketization. The focus on Chile’s growth was firmly based on poverty eradication and little investment went towards structures that allow a thriving middle class to develop. The Chilean governments of the 2000s and 2010s did not sufficiently invest in educational infrastructure and a true welfare state, resulting in what has become known as “Santiago style-inequality,” where a lower class lives above the poverty line with little prospect of any further development.

Education in Chile is almost fully privatized, resulting in a system designed only to help high achievers and leave behind those who often need good education the most to improve their economic situation. This includes high school education, a sector traditionally run by the state in developing nations to ensure a decent outcome for all students. According to The Guardian, the cost of education in Chile is astronomical, with the average university degree costing 41% of an average yearly income which further prevents social mobility, keeps those above the poverty line in that class and creates “Santiago style-inequality.”

Major Reforms

Chile’s president from 2014-2018, Michelle Bachelet, made major reforms to education, improving the quality of and access to primary and secondary education. Still, Bachelet’s main reform was to make higher education free for those with the lowest incomes. The bill protected a certain amount of the budget to pay for the higher education of some of the poorest Chileans, which at the time made higher education free for 60% of the country. The bill also set up a national body to set tuition fees for all students apart from the 10% richest Chileans. Private universities can only charge whatever fees they choose for the richest 10% of students rather than all students.

People are seeing the benefits of Bachelet’s reform in the updates on SDG 1 in Chile today. Social mobility has increased by breaking down these educational barriers and making education available to all Chileans, reducing poverty and inequality. Poorer Chileans are going to university in larger numbers than ever. However, there is still much of done on future educational reform to help reduce inequality in the long term.

Overall, the updates on SDG 1 in Chile are that Chile is on track to achieve the poverty eradication aspect but is failing in inequality reduction. Still, hope exists for the future if Chile can put the right educational reforms in place.

– John Cordner
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Chile
Depression and anxiety have risen in post-COVID-19 Chile. Prolonged confinement, uncertainty and lack of social contact triggered a dramatic increase in these pathologies. However, these frightening figures have made these diseases visible at levels never seen before, which is the first step to achieving important changes.

Depression and Anxiety on the Rise

Mental health is often a silenced topic in Chile, as well as in most parts of the world. One can see the unequal treatment that patients suffering from mental illness compared to physical illnesses received by the lack of services dedicated to these and the discrimination that mentally ill individuals have suffered. These are diseases that the media has traditionally not highlighted and that many treat as minor problems. Undoubtedly, this generates mistrust on the part of the affected person when seeking help.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, depression and anxiety are some of the most worrying results of the lockdown. A study that the Catholic University of Chile conducted, in collaboration with the Chilean Safety Association (ACHS), indicated that mental health issues were among 35% of respondents by 2020. While, in 2020, the number of people that some symptoms of depression affected was 13%, in 2022, it rose to 16% due to unemployment and economic instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, as many as 28% suffered from anxiety.

Despite the problems with mental health in Chile, the total budget dedicated to mental health is currently at 2%, which is the lowest among all OECD countries. Without a doubt, this situation requires governmental action to achieve a change in strategy and an increase in the budget.

Mental Health: Challenges and Solutions

The impact that mental instability has on one’s performance and on society reaches consequences that affect the whole country. Giving these illnesses the importance they require and establishing a prompt response can have a positive impact on society’s well-being but also on reducing poverty. For example, mental issues have massive indirect costs that have links to the lack of productivity and motivation of the affected person. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), mental health problems are the main cause of disability in Chile. Chile is also one of the Latin American countries with the highest depression rates, especially among the lowest-income groups. This suggests that chronic depression or severe anxiety disorders cause the inability to perform well in society, increasing the possibility of unemployment, drug addiction, and therefore, the risk of poverty.

Thus, mental health problems increase the levels of poverty while poverty increases the chances of suffering from mental issues. In order to break this vicious cycle, mental illnesses ought to receive treatment in time. Accepting the reality that mental health is equally important to physical health and making this reality visible, not only brings urgency to the matter but also incentivizes people to reach out without being scared or shameful to do so. Breaking the social stigma that mental instability is a symbol of weakness or insanity is the first step toward an effective response.

The First Signs of Grass Shoots

Fortunately, there is a change for the better. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed the importance of mental health in a series of guidelines that it published earlier in 2022. These are in the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030. In fact, the WHO argues that every country can move towards progress simply by making the problem visible. It promotes:

  • Raising awareness about mental health so that everyone understands the importance of it.
  • Eliminating the stigma of mental illness.
  • Improving access to mental health treatment.

Mental health in Chile became more visible since COVID-19. In 2021, Chile increases its budget by 310% compared to the previous year. The funds go toward:

  • Strengthening the human resources in mental health care for children and teenagers.
  • Improving primary health care in mental health.
  • The introduction of the Remote Brief Psychological Intervention Program, which people can use to communicate with a doctor through a video call.

Some of the most recent updates in Chile show even more positive progress. The national budget for public spending in 2023 that the President of the Republic, Gabriel Boric, announced dedicated more than $18 billion to strengthen Chile’s response to mental diseases.

As Boric stated “mental health matters and we are not going to leave them alone.” Meanwhile, global mental health day was celebrated on October 10, 2022, and the Health Minister from Chile, Ximena Aguilar, reaffirmed the same idea stating that people will no longer have to face their mental health issues alone. The Government of Chile establishes as a priority to advance the improvement of the treatment of mental illnesses while protecting the rights of the people who suffer from them.

– Carla Tomas Laserna
Photo: Unsplash

Chile to enter CPTPP
In October 2022, Chile’s Congress passed a vote allowing Chile to enter the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), previously known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international trade agreement. Chile, a nation that relies heavily on international trade, is joining the CPATPP to boost its economy and the global economy.

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

In 2005, the CPATPP began as a five-nation agreement. The nations were Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. In 2008, President George W. Bush agreed to begin talks for the United States to join this trade agreement. President Obama continued the trade agreement, with a finalized agreement by 2016. Unfortunately, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement, crumbling the TPP and forcing all 12 countries involved to re-plot the deal. The TPP then turned into the CPTPP.

The remaining 11 countries in the TPP moved forward to create their international deal, with the recent vote for Chile to enter the new international trade deal.

Eleven, soon to be 12, countries have ratified the deal to enter the CPTPP, a free-trade agreement aiming to boost domestic and global economies. For its members, the CPTPP removes 95% of the tariffs used commonly for international trade. The CPTPP eliminates all tariffs on sheep’s meat, wool and cotton. There are partial tariff eliminations for industrial/manufactured products, plants (medicinal or otherwise), wine, dairy products and beef (specifically Japan’s beef products). The CPTPP is the first international agreement providing a free market for e-commerce and no policies forcing ownership of one nation over an e-commerce enterprise. It protects foreign investments and keeps all parties safe from potential discrimination, thus creating fair and free trade that benefits all involved.

The CPTPP accounts for 40% of the global economy and in the case of the global trade value, about 25%. The CPTPP can create lasting positive effects on the global economy because of its impact on raising global GDPs. It can increase productivity and national income worldwide, bringing money into local economies, increasing wages, creating jobs and effectively lowering poverty rates worldwide. The potential benefits of the CPTPP convinced Chile to enter the trade deal.

Chile’s Global Trade

Chile is trusted internationally for its strong trade presence, but like the rest of the global market, Chile experienced some economic downturns during the COVID-19 pandemic, though it appears to be recovering. With the U.S., Chile has an established free-trade agreement. Chile already limits tariffs on its exports, welcomes foreign investments, and its open market operations. An open market, such as Chile’s, has no barriers to trade, i.e., no tariffs. Its economy is in solid shape with only around a 4% poverty rate. As many can benefit from Chile’s lack of tariffs, it is logical for Chile to seek similar financial gain elsewhere.

Chile’s main exports are copper, which accounts for 48% of all Chile’s exports, but it also relies on its exported manufactured and industrialized goods for income (38% of exports and export income). Chile earned $50.7 billion from copper alone in 2021, an incredible increase from $33.17 billion in 2020. Chile’s international presence and trade are substantial factors in the government’s decision for Chile to enter the CPTPP. The Chilean government hopes to promote additional changes regarding certain “state-to-state” trade operations in the CPTPP but remains hopeful for future economic prosperity.

The Benefits of the CPTPP

The CPTPP still has room for advancement as more countries enter it. Despite its newness, there has already been significant progress relating to the world of e-commerce. The CPTPP inspired e-commerce trade regulations and other free-trade agreements between Chile and Argentina. China, an important trading partner for most of the world, has applied to receive recognition as a full member of the CPTPP. China’s presence could entice other nations to follow suit, given its placement on the world stage.

The CPTPP protects small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a fact that Canada heavily promotes. About 47%  of Chile’s businesses are SMEs. The presence of SMEs allows for local economic development and can attract foreign investments. As the world faces economic troubles and continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada reported stable and trusted trade and attributed this success to the CPTPP.

Many nations have already found the CPTPP beneficial in one way or another, be it regarding e-commerce trade, decreased tariffs or protection of SMEs. As a free market, Chile exemplifies the benefits and economic prosperity that the CPTPP can provide on a larger scale. Chile is an example of the kind of nation and partnership the trade deal seeks to create. When Chile enters the CPTPP, it can share its economic prosperity worldwide with strengthened trade partners.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Global Gender Equality Progress
World Vision reports that 689 million people endured extreme poverty in 2021 and research shows that women make up a majority of the world’s impoverished. One trend that is common among countries with high poverty rates is a lack of gender equality. In some of these countries, women make less money than men, have limited access to education, or have fewer rights than men. Fortunately, in recent years, the world is noting global gender equality progress.

New Female Leaders Worldwide

In recent years, gender equality movements have reached government offices as countries around the world have made the progressive change of appointing women to leadership positions. In 2021, Albania appointed 12 out of its 17 total cabinet seats to women, a 70% majority. By giving the prime minister a new, primarily female cabinet, Albania could begin to go in a new direction that could further empower women in the nation. Albania ranks 25th out of 156 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report of 2021.

Honduras also made a significant change to its government in January 2022 when Xiomara Castro became the first female president in the country’s history. Castro has already voiced her intentions to tackle social injustice and help women. This should be encouraging to the citizens of Honduras, particularly its women who have faced numerous challenges such as femicide and reproductive rights restrictions.

Like Castro, in December 2020, Maia Sandu became the first woman to hold the presidency in her country, Moldova. In Moldova, almost 27% of people lived in poverty in 2020 and gender inequality is prominent as women face high rates of gender-based violence and less than half of Moldovan women participate in the workforce. Despite the challenges that Sandu has faced due to gender biases, there is hope for the women of Moldova to reach equality through Sandu’s efforts.

New Female Leader of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

In 2021, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO) as director-general. She is also the first African to lead the organization. The WTO is focused on the “global rules of trade between nations.” Its goal is to help nations efficiently conduct trade with each other. Having Okonjo-Iweala as the WTO new leader could be promising in terms of reducing global poverty as Okonjo-Iweala is a “firm believer” in using trade to help raise countries out of poverty. Furthermore, being an African woman, Okonjo-Iweala has experienced the struggles of the African continent first-hand. Africa holds a large majority of the world’s poor, most of whom are women.

New Constitution in Chile Strengthens Equality

In 2021, Chile voted to elect an assembly made up of 155 citizens to construct the country’s newest constitution. This is the first constitution in the world that men and women wrote equally. Many believe that this will help women in Chile make significant progress toward equality.

The previous constitution had a number of flaws as it was drafted, primarily, by one person during a time when Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile with an iron fist. One of the main issues is that men had more rights than women. The new constitution heavily prioritizes gender parity in the country. With more people having input on their country’s laws, Chile can better address the issue of inequality.

Chile’s new constitution could create a new standard for gender equality movements around the world. Because the world’s impoverished mostly consist of women, improving gender equality could reduce that poverty. If more countries adapted governments to promote gender equality, more women worldwide would have the same rights as men. This could be a driving force behind eliminating inequality between men and women as well as eliminating poverty for both.

Continued global gender equality progress will ensure that more women rise out of poverty across the world.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty Reduction in ChileWith the highest GDP per capita in South America in 2020, Chile’s growth in the last few decades has been viewed as a model for Latin American development. Adopting a laissez-faire approach, the government shied away from significant spending on welfare, with the few existing programs geared toward middle and upper-class Chileans. However, recent administrations have made combating poverty a central theme of their campaigns, with presidents like Sebastián Piñera and Gabriel Boric both committing to the elimination of extreme poverty. Poverty reduction in Chile and the challenges the country faces serve as an inspiration and a warning for other developing nations.

Chile’s Approach to Poverty Reduction

Chile’s approach to poverty reduction is based upon a series of programs that focus on short-term income support and long-term economic security. During the 1990s, the Aylwin administration invested in hospitals and schools while also increasing the minimum wage. These reforms halved the number of Chileans living in poverty while contributing to the country’s steady growth throughout the decade. However, the highly centralized and inefficient public services system, coupled with strikes from teachers and health workers, meant Chile required a new solution for the new millennium.

Chile Solidario

With a new presidential administration and the need for change amid stagnating results, the government introduced ‘Chile Solidario’ as the country’s newest front in reducing poverty. Conceived in 2002, the program aimed to help low-income Chileans on an individual level while simplifying the arcane bureaucracy behind the country’s welfare system. Chile Solidario provided those in extreme poverty with cash stimuli and “psycho-social support” from social workers, assisting with immediate needs and future plans. In addition, the program synthesized many smaller financial assistance programs into a cohesive system, aiming to make aid more accessible to low-income citizens.

The program showed some successes with poverty reduction in Chile, albeit with limitations. The clearest evidence supporting Chile Solidario is the rapid decline of the percentage of people living in poverty in the years after the program’s introduction in 2002, from 29% to 8.6% by 2017.

Furthermore, attendance in schools and hospitals rose significantly, suggesting health and educational benefits in the future. A significant drawback of Chile Solidario is that while many in the program leave poverty, the rates of exit from the program are not as high. A study during Chile Solidario’s early years also found that household income per capita among recipients did not significantly increase.

The administration of Piñera further modified Chile Solidario. In 2012, President Piñera replaced Chile Solidario with the Ingreso Ético Familiar (Ethical Family Income). As part of his broader promise to end extreme poverty in Chile, IEF focuses primarily on conditional cash transfers to eligible Chileans, requiring school attendance and regular health checkups.

Looking Ahead

Unfortunately, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and Chile’s strict lockdown has challenged the nearly continual progress of poverty reduction in Chile, with the poverty rate increasing from the 2017 low of 8.6% to 10.8% in 2020. Chile’s new president Boric promised $3.7 billion in aid in April 2022, undertaking to create new jobs while raising the minimum wage.

The ongoing debate over Chile’s draft constitution offers hope in the fight against poverty, promising to end job insecurity and institute a universal basic income. However, it also risks undermining the gradual, albeit successful progress of the last four decades in its radical rejection of the blueprint of the 1980 constitution.

Poverty reduction in Chile stands at a crossroads, able to embrace more direct government involvement in reducing the poverty rate or continue to let economic growth naturally spread to its poorest citizens. President Boric’s government seems to firmly favor the former, but in September, it is up to Chileans to decide whether they agree with his vision for the country.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Pixabay

Boric’s Election
Following a highly polarized election, Chile elected Gabriel Boric, aged 35, as Chile’s youngest president in December 2021. Running as a fierce advocate for poverty and inequality reduction, Boric has pledged to overhaul the country’s economy and society to become more inclusive and prosperous for all Chileans. Winning 56% of the people’s votes, Boric’s election means he has achieved the mandate needed to push through such transformative policies. Through these policies, Chile can become a model for more inclusive economic development that promises adequate living standards for all in a country nonetheless deeply divided over the direction Boric is proposing to take.

Democracy is Critical to Reducing Poverty in Chile

Boric has led to commitments to protect Chilean democracy and avoid the paths taken by other autocratic regimes in Latin America, such as those of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, in pursuit of socio-economic equality. Boric says that poverty in Chile can only reduce by protecting the institutions that safeguard democratic regimes, such as rule of law, freedom of the press, free and fair elections, constitutional government and support for human rights.

Overhauling Chile’s Economy to Reduce Poverty and Inequality

Between 2019 and 2020, Chile saw a wave of national protests over increased transportation fees that catalyzed into general protests over socio-economic inequality and corruption throughout the country. This allowed the political environment for Boric to thrive to emerge.

After Boric’s election, he pledged to overhaul an economy in one of the most unequal countries in the world to benefit all Chileans and reduce poverty in Chile. Boric has much work to do as 1% of Chileans control 25% of the nation’s wealth. Chile also has a 44.9 Gini index ranking as of 2020, indicating a high level of wealth inequality.

Boric proposed a series of sweeping reforms that include reducing the 45 hour-workweek to 40, expanding pensions and universal health insurance, investing in renewable energy and raising tax rates on corporations historically favored in Chile’s economy to fund investments in infrastructure, education and health care.

Such policies promise to transform Chile’s economy and reorient it to focus on poverty reduction and higher living standards for all Chileans rather than economic growth alone. Boric’s proposals could also address a troubling national problem. About one in five Chileans live in multidimensional poverty as of 2017, a measurement by the World Bank that takes into account “additional deprivations experienced by the poor in addition to the extreme poverty threshold of $1.90.”

These policies could also reduce Chile’s unemployment rate following Boric’s election. Unemployment in Chile as of 2021 stands at 9.1%, indicating that the economy is still struggling with the destabilizing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic where Chilean unemployment peaked at 11.2% in 2020 and stood at 7.3% at the pre-pandemic 2019 level.

Boric’s election offers hope for a better quality of life through investments in infrastructure, education, health care and housing to raise living standards for all Chileans and stimulate the economy at the same time.

Gender Equality: A Critical Component of Reducing Poverty in Chile

Another major strategy of Boric to reduce poverty in Chile is to increase the role of women in the Chilean economy. Boric announced a goal of creating 500,000 new jobs for women over the course of his presidency. Boric intends to prioritize women, who constitute about 50% of Chile’s population, to ensure higher living standards for all Chileans and reduce poverty in Chile in the process. Currently, female labor participation in Chile stands at 41.3% as of 2021. This statistic indicates that there is significant potential for Chilean women to contribute to the economy and reduce poverty if given the equal opportunities Boric pledges to create.

One can also see Boric’s attempts to empower Chilean women in the unprecedented level of representation in his cabinet as 14 out of 24 ministers are women, making Boric’s cabinet the first female majority cabinet in Chile’s history. This unprecedented level of female representation in Chile’s government signals that Boric intends to politically and economically empower Chile’s historically excluded female population. Female economic participation results in dual-income earners, which will help strengthen the economy and build a middle-class society.

Every Citizen Can Play a Role in Reducing Poverty in Chile

Boric’s story itself inspires hope in Chileans that anyone can play a role in reducing poverty in Chile. Boric started out as a student activist from 2011-2013, leading protests for more affordable education opportunities. In 2013, Boric was “elected to congress for Magallanes as an independent.” He then became Chile’s youngest president, inaugurated in 2022.

Boric’s story shows how everyday people can play a role in fighting for equal opportunities and effecting change in Chile and beyond. Given his age, Boric’s election presents the potential for youths to play a part in reducing poverty and achieving a better world for future generations.

Chile is a country that has experienced mass upheaval in recent years due to impoverishment and inequalities that have lingered beneath the surface of its stable economic growth relative to other Latin American countries. Boric offers solutions both for addressing this poverty and demonstrating to a nation hungry for socio-economic security that everyday people have a role to play. Boric’s election serves as an inspiration to the youth of all countries, encouraging them to undertake grassroots activism to address poverty and effect change.

– John Zak
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

COVID-19's Impact on Chile
COVID-19’s impact on Chile has been particularly negative. The pandemic triggered a recession that caused significant increases in unemployment and poverty. Unemployment reached 14%, the highest rate since the 2008 global financial crisis. Additionally, poverty levels have risen from 9.8% to 15.5% since the start of the pandemic, according to the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

As a result, the pandemic has hit lower and middle-class Chileans the hardest. The World Bank estimates that the country’s middle class decreased by 2 million people in the opening months of the pandemic alone. Despite these grim numbers, though, there are governments, NGOs and individuals doing meaningful work that gives cause for optimism. Here are five sources of assistance that have reduced COVID-19’s impact on Chile.

5 Sources of COVID-19 Aid to Chile

  1. Grassroots Aid. The first type of aid begins at the individual level. Many local communities have taken it upon themselves to create volunteer soup kitchens, which have proliferated in at-risk areas across the country. Chileans call these kitchens “ollas comunes,” or “collective pots” that help to combat food insecurity in light of the recent economic downturn. Most of the kitchens started out small, but many now serve hundreds of meals every day of the week. For many Chileans with little or no income during the COVID-19 lockdowns, the kitchens stood as a stable source of food that likely saved many lives and slowed the spread of malnutrition in rural communities.
  2. Chile Solidario. Translating to “Solidarity Chile,” Chile Solidario is a federal program established in 2002 that focuses on cash transfers and social assistance for low-income households. This program helped create Chile’s welfare infrastructure, which the federal government used to provide direct assistance throughout the pandemic. The transfers offer truly impactful aid by concentrating funds on Chile’s most vulnerable households.
  3. U.S. Aid. By September 2021, the U.S. had provided approximately $1.8 million in COVID-19 assistance for Chile. This assistance went toward the purchase of two field hospitals, eight ventilators and miscellaneous personal protection equipment (PPE). The U.S. dedicated further funds to local organizations, most of which provide basic health and hygiene products, including hand sanitizer, plastic gowns and personal hygiene kits. Additionally, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research provided $500,000 to a team of Chilean scientists to research the spread of COVID-19 and study the evolution of new variants, which can help improve local responses to future outbreaks.
  4. Private Aid. Many U.S. companies have created their own private initiatives to provide assistance to Chileans. Most notably, the UnitedHealth Group donated $1 million to Desafío Levantemos Chile, a public foundation that has raised emergency funds for Chilean communities in need since 2010. The foundation has helped around 1.9 million people through more than 2,200 service projects across the country and has used this donation to purchase medical equipment for public hospitals and retirement homes. The Pfizer Foundation also donated $100,000 to the Chilean Red Cross to help those who the virus affects. Over the course of the pandemic, the Chilean Red Cross has donated 6,000 liters of disinfectant while leading multiple vaccination campaigns and delivering 37,500 PPE items to affected communities. Many U.S. brands stepped in to offer direct assistance to vulnerable populations. Walmart donated food directly to hungry Chileans, and other brands, including McDonald’s, Starbucks and Domino’s Pizza, have delivered free food to frontline health care workers.
  5. Nonprofit Aid. Two notable U.S. nonprofit organizations are doing meaningful work in the region. By September 2021, Project HOPE had sent more than $140,000 worth of medical supplies to Chile, which included blood pressure monitors, face shields, disposable gloves and KN95 masks. Another U.S. nonprofit called World Hope International made a similar donation of medical supplies, which they delivered directly to first responders in Chile. The U.S. Air Force helped transport both donations and has cooperated with the Chilean Air Force throughout the pandemic to facilitate the transfer of aid into the country.

Looking Ahead

COVID-19’s impact on Chile is certainly difficult for many Chileans, however, community service, foreign aid and nonprofit donations stand as major sources of hope throughout the pandemic. Due to these efforts, Chile is on its way to recovery. The OECD Economic Survey concluded that the national economy will resume gradual growth over the next two years with output reaching pre-pandemic levels by late 2022.

– Jack Leist
Photo: Flickr

Smart Cities in Latin America
According to TWI, “a smart city uses information and communication technology (ICT) to improve operational efficiency, share information with the public and provide a better quality of government service and citizen welfare.” The primary purpose of a smart city is to improve the lives of its citizens by using innovative technology “to optimize city functions and promote economic growth.” According to the Inter-American Development Bank, “a Smart City is one that places people at the center of development,” highlighting the value of smart cities in addressing issues that impact a city’s most marginalized population. In particular, smart cities in Latin America have the potential to lift the region out of poverty.

Addressing Poverty with Information and Communication Technology

In Latin America, smart cities are gaining more traction as nations look for innovative ways to address poverty and improve the lives of their citizens. Across the region, developing nations are embracing information and communication technology to address environmental concerns, improve energy efficiency and provide people with essential resources such as running water.

Investment in smart city infrastructure allows for the opportunity “to build more reliable power grids or expand the Internet” to stimulate economic growth in low-income communities. In addition, technological advancements in public transportation have the potential to create an equitable and accessible city, providing people on the periphery the opportunity to access urban centers unlike ever before. More than half of the world’s population live in cities with a projected increase to 66% by 2050. As rural communities continue to seek economic opportunities in the urban landscape, it is more important than ever for cities to implement the people-centered model of smart cities.

4 Smart Cities in Latin America

  1. Santiago, Chile: According to IESE Business School, the Chilean city of Santiago “is the smartest city in Latin America,” with initiatives in “mobility, environmental control and citizen safety.” To prevent water wastage, the city has developed a sensor data collecting method in which parks and other public green spaces undergo irrigation based on the amount of moisture necessary. The city has also implemented an advanced electric transit system.
  2. La Paz, Bolivia: This Bolivian city overcame its geographic challenges by creating an extensive cable car system to serve the population living in the steep Andean hills rising 500 meters above the city center. The cable car system has now become the main mode of public transportation in the city, allowing residents on the outskirts access to the main areas of commerce and employment.
  3. Guadalajara, Mexico: Guadalajara is the first Mexican city to receive designation as a smart city. Through the city’s Digital Creative City (DCC) initiative, Guadalajara is revitalizing its city center by emphasizing historical and cultural preservation while relying on technology to improve the city’s infrastructure and accommodate its population growth. The city is also relying on various technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and a smart grid, to provide its citizens with clean water, efficient transportation and affordable electricity. The city relies on a participatory model to engage residents in the city planning process.
  4. Montería, Colombia: Montería is one of the first Colombian cities to establish a sustainable infrastructure plan aimed at tackling extreme weather patterns and emissions. It intends to reduce emissions by declaring city-wide car-free days and improving public mobility. The city is also home to an innovation lab, which focuses on developing digital technologies and training individuals to work with these technologies. Montería is also tackling public health issues through its e-health initiatives and is installing solar panels in its public schools.

Rising Smart Cities in Latin America Alleviate Poverty

Cities throughout Latin America are alleviating poverty by integrating smart technology into their frameworks. Urban areas that focus on creating smart and connected systems of living offer numerous benefits for their people, including improving the quality of life and ensuring the sustainable application of resources. With an urbanization rate of 80% in 2017, Latin America stands as the world’s most urbanized region, which means there is ample opportunity for smart city implementation.

Jennifer Hendricks
Photo: Flickr

New Chilean Constitution to Reduce Social InequalityThe 2019 sweeping protests in Chile may be leading to radical change in that country by 2022. The protests, which originated in Santiago and spread throughout the country, sought to end the vast social inequality throughout Chile. This led to the government’s October 2020 decision for a referendum to draft a new Chilean constitution. The old constitution had been in place since the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. According to protestors, that constitution gave far too many privileges to Chile’s private sector.

Chilean Constitutional Convention

The referendum saw overwhelming support for the new constitution with 78% of the country voting in favor. It also asked voters whom they wanted to write the constitution. Almost 80% voted to elect 100% of the delegates to draft the new Chilean constitution. This replaced the old system that appointed 50% of the delegates from Congress.

Overwhelmingly, the Chilean people elected independent and opposition candidates (48%) to write the new Chilean constitution. It is the first such convention in the world to stipulate parity between male and female members. It reserves 17 seats of the convention for members of indigenous groups, not even mentioned in the original Pinochet-era constitution.

Among these indigenous delegates is Elisa Loncon, a progressive academic. Delegates elected her as the leader of the constitutional convention. Her election signposts the strong possibility that the convention’s decisions, and thus the constitution, will be left-leaning. Born into poverty, Loncon has gained attention in academia with a Master’s degree and two PhDs.

Suggested Reforms of the New Constitution

Another woman elected to the convention is Carolina Vilches, a water rights activist. She believes that the privatization of water must end. The current constitution allows private companies to extract as much water from the land as they require. This creates desertification that makes agriculture difficult and forces many small farmers to emigrate to wetter land. Vilches’s presence in the constitutional convention suggests that private companies may lose their rights to do this.

Many commentators are also focusing on Chile’s unequal education system, which includes a large number of for-profit universities and their high costs for a bachelor’s degree. There are also severe and widespread teaching shortages. Expectations have determined that the constitutional convention will ban for-profit universities, which have been unpopular for years and only protected from the previous constitution banning them. Even so, a previous attempt to ban them in 2018 resulted in a narrow defeat with a six to four vote decision.

An Uncertain Future

The new Chilean constitution referendum will most certainly be contentious. According to a poll, half of the general population believes that there is a conflict between the rich and poor, but only a quarter of the economic elite hold the same views. If the private sector attempts to block certain reforms, many believe this will cause unrest similar to what occurred in 2019.

The convention’s outcome is uncertain as are the responses of the general population and the private sector. Regardless, the fact remains that Chile’s social inequality bears the strong possibility of radically reducing in the years to come with the new Chilean constitution.

Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Flickr