hunger in Chile
Chile is a country located in the far southeast of South America. With a population of over 18 million people, Chile is the sixth most populous nation on the continent and the ninth most populous in the Western Hemisphere. The country is largely developed with a high-income classification from the World Bank, but staggering levels of poverty and hunger in Chile remain. This is mainly due to government corruption, income inequality, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Chile’s Hunger Problem

The issue of hunger in Chile is partly a result of the national government’s decades-long neoliberal policies, which have created a high level of income inequality in the country. The Covid-19 pandemic has also contributed to this issue by causing widespread economic devastation.

The large number of Chilean citizens employed in informal work reveals a major connection between income inequality and hunger in Chile. The accumulation of wealth and resources, especially in terms of education and healthcare, in the hands of a very privileged elite has catalyzed the growth of poverty in Chile. A lack of financial and structural development in the country’s rural and peripheral areas has forced large numbers of Chileans, many of whom are unskilled and without formal education, to work outside of nationally recognized businesses. The unregulated nature of this under-the-table work has worsened the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the University of Chile, the salaries of workers have fallen by 60% since the beginning of the pandemic.

Before the recent economic and health crises, the national economy of Chile was greatly improving. Levels of poverty within the country had greatly diminished, from almost 40% to 9% since 1990, the last year of the military dictatorship. Nevertheless, the swift devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic has raised the poverty level in the country to almost 15% since last year.

Covid-19 and Hunger

This decline in income and increased levels of poverty have been matched by increasing food scarcity and hunger in Chile. Many local markets in Chile’s more impoverished and isolated areas have been forced to close due to both government-mandated social distancing restrictions and high levels of debt among the country’s lower class. The dire need to bring home food to their families has forced many Chileans to continue to work despite pandemic conditions, disproportionately increasing their exposure to the virus.

Beyond the rising cost of food and living in Chile, the recent social restrictions and rising unemployment due to the virus have left hundreds of thousands of Chileans in danger of hunger. Families’ lack of income as well as their increased difficulty providing food point to the development of a hunger crisis in the country. The economic impact of the coronavirus has had a particularly great effect on lower-class citizens living near the capital who work in informal and unregistered jobs. Many critics of the Chilean government’s response to the pandemic and economic crisis point out that its proposed stimulus package, which includes millions of food baskets to be distributed to the hardest-hit areas, would be largely insufficient to tackle the ever-increasing problem of hunger.

Anti-Poverty Protests

In 2019, widespread protests erupted in Chile for a variety of reasons, mainly related to the increased cost of living and rising income inequality in the country. These protests marked the first time since the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s that the Chilean Army had entered into Santiago to maintain order. Although protests initially broke out in response to a hike in the metro fare in Chile’s capital city, most people agree that Chile’s past macroeconomic policies have laid the groundwork for the current economic situation.

Income Inequality and Neoliberal Economics in Chile

A major factor that has contributed to the ongoing anti-government protests in Chile is the staggering income inequality present within the country. Although the popular protests against the government of Sebastián Piñera began in 2019, the socioeconomic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shutdown have greatly exacerbated the poverty and income inequality in Chile.

The country’s stark income inequality can trace its origin to the Pinochet regime. During the military dictatorship, various neoliberal economists from the United States were invited to Chile to help modernize and revitalize the national economy.

Although the effects of this neoliberal approach have greatly expanded the economy of the country as a whole, most of this new wealth was heavily centralized with the majority of Chileans still facing grave economic and health-related conditions. Although Chile boasts the fourth largest economy in South America with a registered nominal GDP of approximately $300 billion in 2018, the distribution of wealth within the country tells a very different story. According to the CIA World Factbook, Chile has the fifteenth highest level of income inequality in the world, ahead of both China and the United States when measured with the Gini index.

Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Chilean Poverty

Like in many other countries worldwide, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting national lockdown have greatly exacerbated the high levels of poverty and income inequality already present in Chile. Despite Chile’s overall economic success and complex healthcare system, the country has one of the highest infection rates per capita in the Western Hemisphere with 13,000 cases for every 1 million citizens. In comparison to similarly-sized economies in South America, Chile’s rate of infection is 10 times that of Argentina and twice that of Brazil, making it one of the most hard-hit countries on the planet.

The presence and spread of Covid-19 in the country are highly related to the preexisting level of income inequality in Chile. A large majority of new cases can be traced to the highly impoverished areas surrounding the capital of Santiago. Like other low-income areas in 2020, many of its residents are essential workers and unable to quarantine if they are to continue earning enough to pay for food and other necessary resources. This phenomenon of lower-income citizens facing increased exposure to the coronavirus due to their inability to stay home from work is not unique to Chile but is also occurring in many other economies across the globe.

Improving Conditions for Hungry Chileans

One group working to address the problem of hunger in Chile during the Covid-19 pandemic is Desafío Levantemos Chile, an NGO which aims to aid hundreds of Chileans by distributing food, providing microloans and housing projects, and advocating for public education reform. The group’s healthcare work has proven to be indispensable during the pandemic. The organization has worked to distribute testing kits and personal protection equipment to rural areas of the country and has also supported local hospitals and frontline workers through crowdfunding. Since its founding in 2011, Desafío Levantemos Chile has provided primary medical care to over 185,000 Chileans.

Many of the factors related to the high levels of poverty, income inequality, and hunger in Chile are endemic to the country’s socioeconomic and political status quo. The effects of the neoliberal push of the late 1980s have created a stark division of wealth and resources in the country. The austere policies of the Piñera government have incited civil unrest, which the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. As in many other countries around the globe, and especially in South America, the lingering effects of this difficult year will continue to create economic hardships for many ordinary and impoverished people well into the future.

– Jason Beck
Photo: Wikimedia

B Corporation

B Corporations are businesses that give back to the community by following a set of guidelines for transparency, accountability and that pledge a certain amount of profits for a greater purpose.

Five B Corporations You Should Know

  1. Salt Spring Coffee, Canada
    B Impact Score: 118.4/200
    Salt Spring Coffee is a fair-trade organic coffee company that works with the Nicaraguan farmers to sustainably farm, sell and serve the highest grade of coffee beans on the market. Salt Spring hopes to pave the way for the coffee industry in producing eco-friendly packaging and contributing meaningful donations. The company does this by donating to innovative, eco-conscious projects through their 1% for the Planet fund.  These donations have allowed the company to co-found a Canadian waste-reduction initiative, help install solar panels for isolated Nicaraguan farmers and assist a women-run Ugandan farming co-op.
  2. Hora Salud, Chilé
    B Impact Score: 117.8/200
    Hora Salud is a simple user-friendly app for the rural Chilean populace that allows individuals to schedule and cancel appointments and check-ups online without wasting time. The app uses SMS to schedule and cancel doctors appointments. This allows already-sick individuals to avoid the burden of traveling to a Health Center and waiting in line for hours to book an appointment. Hora Salud may also be used in tandem with other markets to spread relevant information including weather, national emergencies and public policies. Their mission is to “Improve the quality of people’s lives, optimize service delivery and decision making with reliable and quality data.” As one of many B Corporations, Hora Salud promotes healthy business practices and opportunities for rural Chilean people.
  3. BioCarbon Partners, Zambia
    B Impact Score: 177.3/200
    BioCarbon Partners (BCP) operates in and outside of Zambia to offset carbon emissions in the atmosphere by sponsoring payment for eco-friendly business operations. BCP is an African leader in the reforestation carbon offset program. With a mission to “Make conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people,” BCP is cultivating an ecosystem that protects one of Africa’s largest migration sanctuaries. The company prioritizes community engagement and partnership to incentivize forest protection through long-term habitat protection agreements. BCP calculates the amount of carbon that is not released into the atmosphere due to its project and generates sales of these forest carbon offsets through independent external auditors. BCP then reinvests this revenue into conservation and development projects in local communities that rely on wildlife habitat for income. BCP has created 87 jobs for Zambians and continues to create opportunities for wildlife and humanity alike.
  4. Avante, Brazil
    B Impact Score: 136.1/200
    Avante is the largest benefactor of small businesses in Brazil with more than $200 million invested to serve “micro-companies” that are typically pushed out of the financial industry. Avante functions as a non-conventional financial technology service that uniquely combines credit, insurance and payments. It is currently the largest MFI in Brazil. Avante’s mission is to “humanize financial services,” through a combination of empowerment, ethical business practices and acknowledgment that small businesses are the foundation of a strong economy.
  5. Alma Natura, Spain
    B Impact Score: 153.8/200
    Alma Natura established B Corporation status in 2013 to give back to the Sierra de Huelva community of Spain. The first institution of the business began as a nonprofit. It eventually evolved into a limited partnership as Alma Natura continued to invest in rural businesses, guiding them towards a more sustainable and ethical future. With their increased profits, Alma Natura gave back by funding education, technological development and sanitation, ensuring financial equality and sustainable practices in towns with less government funding. Not only has Alma Natura functioned as a business consultant to guide rural communities towards a more equitable economic future, but their commitment to preserving the planet and providing care and education to disadvantaged agricultural centers places their ranking high among businesses that take responsibility for the betterment of humanity.

Natalie Williams
Photo: Pixabay

Groundswell Aid is mobilizing surfers in the world’s most renowned surfing locations to help address the burden of poverty. It was born from passionate surfers scouring the earth for a perfect wave. Founders Roy Harley and Jeff Ryan created Groundswell Aid as a way to connect the surfing community to disadvantaged people that live only minutes away from the most impressive surf breaks around the world. The organization partners with local leaders’ in locations such as Mauritius, El Salvador, Chile and South Africa, and uses surfing as a way to inspire and mobilize these impoverished communities.

Groundswell Gardens

Jeffreys Bay is the new home to Groundswell Gardens, a homegrown project that provides sustainable ways to address food insecurity in surfing communities in South Africa. In 2017, 20% of South Africans struggled to access food. The Republic of South Africa reported that agricultural development and subsistence farming is an effective way to address the issue.

As a result, Groundswell Aid is taking unused land and transforming it into a community garden filled with fruit, and leafy and root crops. The project has built 36 garden planters so far and hopes to create 270 for the community. After the crops are ready for harvest, the food will be given to the locals and the gardens will be reused for a sustainable farming process.

Indonesian Mercy Huts

The Mentawai Islands Regency, Uluwatu of Bali and the T-Land of Rote Island are world-class surfing locations in Indonesia. However, the side of Indonesia that many surfers do not see is the 80% of people in Mentawai living in poverty in 2017. However, Groundswell Aid partnered with a grassroots project called Mercy Huts to address and provide resources to those suffering from poverty in rural Indonesia.

Mercy Huts creates beachfront surf retreats for tourists that then give back to the islands of Indonesia. The profits of Mercy Huts are invested in community resources that promote education for youth, community development training and creating a stronger tourism industry. The tourism industry, which includes surfing tourism, is vital to the Indonesian economy because it is predicted that tourism will account for $141.3 billion annually for the country by 2027.

COVID-19 Campaign

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, impoverished communities are more susceptible to high mortality rates. It is also predicted that 49 million people in the world will sink into poverty by the end of 2020. Groundswell Aid is mobilizing surfers to help address the impacts of COVID-19 on poor surfing communities through the organization’s Groundswell Aid COVID-19 relief campaign. The campaign has raised more than $10,000, which has been donated to surfing communities in Indonesia, South Africa and El Salvador.

Groundswell Aid has created an impact as strong as a wave crashing against the sand. The organization is mobilizing surfers through a variety of projects that address poverty and the issues that come along with it. The humanitarian work that the organization has completed is helping relieve many people from the burden of poverty, while also providing opportunities for local leaders to become involved with their communities and move one step closer to ending poverty for all.

Josie Collier
Photo: Pixabay

COVID-19 in ChileChile is a small, narrow country in South America blessed with magnificent mountains and gorgeous Pacific Ocean views that attract tourists from all over the world. The World Bank estimates that Chile has a higher life expectancy than the United States and classifies it as a high-income country despite its many impoverished regions. Like many other countries, however, Chile has experienced substantial economic distress in the wake of COVID-19 due to the high infection rates. In fact, Chile has one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the world with more than 364,000 confirmed cases as of 5 August 2020 in a population of only 18.7 million. Fortunately, in an effort to quickly recover from the crisis, the National Police formulated an unconventional, yet clever plan to combat COVID-19 in Chile.

Poverty & COVID-19 in Chile

Confirmed cases in Chile have steadily risen since May, beginning in high-income neighborhoods and slowly infiltrating low-income communities where the virus has caused the most damage.  The country has remained under a national state of emergency since mid-March and is now experiencing Phase 4 of the outbreak, which includes “uncontrolled and widespread community transmission,” forced quarantine in some areas and even a nationwide curfew. The Chilean government closed the country’s borders on 18 March 2020 to all tourists, cruise ships and other unnecessary traffic, excluding citizens and permanent residents who must be quarantined for 14 days upon re-entrance.

Tourism prevention has been particularly harmful to Chile’s economy since the country shut down in March. The country was named the 2017 Best Destination for Adventure Tourism in the World with more than 5.6 million people visiting each year, a group that has consistently stimulated the economy by nearly 13% annually. Jorge Rodriguez, Chile’s Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism stresses that tourism “is strategic for the growth of Chile,”  but COVID-19 is decelerating the progress tourism has made in the last decade.

The World Bank identifies Chile as one of Latin America’s “most unequal countries” because there are two socioeconomic extremes: incredibly impoverished or wonderfully wealthy. There is no middle class, forcing socioeconomic status to determine whether a person hopelessly struggles under government dependence or flourishes in their own monetary independence. Because people living in poverty must rely on assistance from the government, poor Chileans are suffering now more than ever as COVID-19 devastates the economy.

Retrievers to the Rescue

Luckily, the Chilean government, in partnership with the Catholic University of Chile, has constructed a strategic recovery plan that relies on retrievers. Chile’s National Police has embarked on a journey to teach K-9s to find COVID-19 in crowds. Three highly trained pups, with experience in drug and bomb detection, are learning to sniff out human odors specifically emitted by prospective patients.  COVID-19 itself does not have an odor, but minor metabolic changes can be detected as well as “volatile organic compounds” according to Fernando Mardones, professor and epidemiologist at the Catholic University of Chile. Those distinct markers enable the K-9s to intelligently track and discover people who are either asymptomatic or just entering the earliest stages of infection. Once a target is located, the “bio-detector dogs” do not scratch or use their killer bites. They simply sit by the COVID-19 carrier for discrete identification that prevents panic.

K-9s to Conquer COVID-19

The program currently remains in pilot stages but should be fully implemented by mid-September where the K-9s will be immediately deployed to high population centers. By the end of the training, one K-9 will be able to search more than 250 people in one hour with more than 95% accuracy. After the K-9s successfully memorize how to detect the virus in humans and remove COVID-19 patients from densely populated areas, confirmed case numbers in Chile should steadily decline. The country will then be able to reopen its ports and borders. Reestablishing its rightful place as one of the world’s most sought after tourism destinations will allow the economy to heal as travelers renew their plans to enjoy Chile’s beautiful scenery and exhilarating adventure sites.

Economic stability boosted by tourism revitalization will ease the concerns of people in poverty because the government will return to adequately assisting low-income regions as it did before COVID-19. Hopefully, extinguishing the virus in Chile will begin to bridge the gap between the country’s seemingly untouchable upper class and its disadvantaged lower class, giving impoverished people a chance to thrive.

-Natalie Clark
Photo: Unsplash

Chile has made major strides in reducing national poverty, with 62% of the population holding a secure job. Social and educational policies have increased the number of mothers at work, with fewer people to take care of children. The need for childcare and afterschool programs in Chile has become a key focus for decreasing poverty rates in female-headed households. The government and nonprofit programs have stepped in to make crucial childcare reforms in Chile.

Poverty Trap For Female-Headed Households

Of the 49% of Chileans who were unemployed in 2011, a disproportionate amount were women. Female-headed households make up 51% of households below the poverty line. The tremendous obligation of Chilean women to raise their children is a full-time job. Many mothers are unable to seek employment because of a lack of childcare resources and services, increasing the rates of poverty in female-headed households

Chilean Education Reforms

In 2013, the Chilean government passed a law making kindergarten nationally accessible to all children. Previously parents had to pay to enroll their students in school at six years old. The law helped alleviate stress from many mothers and increased employment rates.

In efforts to equitize and optimize access for Chilean children to quality education, the government passed the Inclusion Law in 2015, making any for-profit ambition and action from government-funded schools illegal. The law had positive effects; a study conducted in 2017 showed that 85% of students in Chile were accepted to “one of their preferred schools.”

After the enactment of these two laws, public schools became an accessible form of childcare for struggling mothers. This allowed them time to seek employment. Parents can now send their children to their desired schools affordably and close to home.

Chile Grows With You Program

The youth support and care program Chile Grows With You was enacted in 2009 during the first female presidency of Michelle Bachelet. Chile Grows with You provides intersectional childcare, nutrition, health and hygiene services to help nurture Chilean children’s psychological development. The childcare programs and outlets fit various social and developmental needs of students.

Bachelet’s push for reform of past childcare services and policies is the reason why all Chilean children from ages zero to six are entitled to childcare and healthcare services, regardless of socioeconomic status or disability. Although the program is open to all, it specifically seeks to help families in the lowest socioeconomic bracket of Chile. This gives struggling, low-income families access to childcare, education and healthcare systems.

Chile Grows With You Childcare Reforms

Chile Grows With You guarantees free access to nursery school for children two to six years old and provides additional childcare hours as needed to full-time mothers and caregivers.

For children too young for nursery school (under two years old), the program provides free access to daycare centers for mothers or caregivers lacking the financial means to leave work to care for their infant.

Chilean children with disabilities are also protected under the program. President Bachelet increased access to healthcare and childcare services for children who show signs of mental and physical disabilities in their early youth.

A New Life For Chilean Mothers and Children

Since the implementation of Chile Grows With You, over 60% of families of the lowest socioeconomic status have been able to gain access to free childcare programs and services, directly impacting female-headed households by giving women more time to attain education and employment.

While poverty in Chile remains an issue, particularly in female-headed households, the government and Chile Grows With You are working to make a positive change. Chilean mothers raising young children have been able to take small steps, turning over major strides through Chile Grows With You; pulling themselves and their children out of poverty. Government-provided childcare programs and services are not only helpful for struggling parents — they are an inspiration for impoverished Chilean children.

– Nicolettea Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Chile
Healthcare in Chile primarily comes from the state-funded insurance National Health Fund (Fondo National de Salud – FONASA) or from private companies collectively known as Las Instituciones de Salud Previsional (ISAPRE). According to a 2019 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 78% of the population participate in FONASA and around 17-18% enroll in ISAPREs, while 3-4% receive coverage from the armed forces insurance program. A number of newly implemented government reforms in Chile have challenged healthcare inequity to ensure universal healthcare for all.

Morbidity and Mortality

In the 1980s, a series of successful reforms decreased infant mortality rates (from 33 per 1,000 live births in 1980 to only eight per 1,000 in 2013) and improved communicable disease rates, nutrition and maternal and child health. While the health status of Chileans consistently fell below average among OECD nations in recent decades, the life expectancy in Chile in 2015 rose to 79.1 years in the last 40 years, nearly on par with its OECD peers. Determinants of health status include life expectancy, avoidable mortality rates, morbidity rates from chronic diseases and percentage of the population in poor health.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart diseases are identified as the burden of disease in Chile, accounting for 85% of all deaths. Key risk factors include high obesity rates, heavy tobacco use and increasing rates of alcohol consumption. The infant mortality rate is improving but remains high, as are mortality rates from cancer compared to cancer incidence.

Some Effective Government Measures

The Chilean government has undertaken effective measures to address the nation’s most urgent issues through a multi-intervention strategy that targets different population groups and settings:

  • Obesity: According to a 2016 WHO report, 39.8% of the Chilean population was overweight, and another 34.4% was obese. Childhood overweight and obesity rate is particularly problematic at 45%, with no reduction in prevalence over the past 15 years. Chile has implemented nationwide policies to tackle behaviors that cause obesity, especially inadequate physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. At the national level, mass media, such as websites, Twitter, TV and radio adverts, educates the public on healthy food choices and emphasizes the consumption of vegetables and fruits. The government has also mandated labels on packed foods that indicate high caloric content in salt, sugar and fat.
  • Tobacco Use: Tobacco consumption rates in Chile in 2016 stood at 37% (41% among men and 32% among women) of the adult population. Adult smoking rates have declined from 45.3% in 2003 and 39.8% in 2009, a percentage below average in comparison to other nations. Since joining the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2005, Chile has implemented various tobacco control policies, such as prohibiting smoking in public spaces, requiring health warnings on tobacco products and raising taxes on these products.
  • Cancer Care: The OECD projected that cancer could soon become the leading cause of mortality in Chile. Among men, prostate, stomach, lung, colorectal and liver cancer have the highest mortality rates. In women, breast, colorectal, lung, stomach and pancreas cancer account for high mortality rates. To lessen the burden of cancer, Chile has reinforced its cancer care system and launched nationwide programs focused on cervical and breast cancer and cancer drugs for adults and children. From 2011 to 2015, Chile reduced cancer by 4.1%.

Challenging Inequity

The establishment of the National Health System (NHS) in 1952, subsequent expansions and reforms together enabled Chile’s move towards universal coverage with more than 98% of the population having some kind of health insurance. However, inequality remains one of the main challenges in Chile’s two-tier healthcare system, mainly due to the unequal distribution of resources between the underfunded public facilities and the elitist private clinics. Equity monitoring shows less insurance coverage for less educated people, low-income quintiles, residents from rural areas and those with state insurance.

Significant inequalities due to socioeconomic position and residence area persist. According to a study that PLOS Medicine published, the infant mortality rate among the highest educated women was 2.3 times lower than the least educated, while the ratio was 1.4 between urban and rural residence. Risk factors like obesity, alcohol use disorders and cardiovascular risks also disproportionately affected the least educated segment of the population.

Moving Forward

Despite tremendous challenges, healthcare in Chile has improved thanks to the government’s effort to prioritize health reforms. In 2005, Chile launched Universal Access with Explicit Guarantees (AUGE) program that sought to improve access, timeliness and quality of care in the public sector. The OECD assessed that the system of healthcare in Chile is overall “well-functioning, well-organized and effectively governed,” with a particularly robust public healthcare program that operates efficiently on both the central and regional levels. Although challenges such as rising rates of certain NCDs and inequities between sectors and populations persist, the country’s ambitious reforms demonstrate its preparedness to tackle these issues.

– Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr

indigenous groups in chile
Indigenous groups throughout Latin America have a long history of fighting to preserve their land, their culture and their lives. Here are eight facts about indigenous groups in Chile and some of the struggles they face.

8 Facts About Indigenous Groups in Chile

  1. Different groups: Chile is home to nine indigenous groups. These groups include the Mapuche, the largest and most politically active indigenous group in Chile, as well as the Aymara, the Diaguita, the Lickanantay and the Quechua. Together, these nine indigenous groups account for more than 1,565,000 people or approximately 9% of the total Chile population.
  2. History: The Mapuche have continuously fought for their independence since the 1500s, first against the Spanish and continuing after Chile gained its independence in 1818. They were successful in maintaining their sovereignty until the 1860s, when the Mapuche lost nearly 23 million acres of land to the Chilean government. From 1860 to 1885, 100,000 Mapuche were killed in a joint military effort by the Chilean and Argentine governments.
  3. Poverty: Approximately one-third of the indigenous peoples in Chile live in poverty. For the non-indigenous, the rate is closer to one-fifth.
  4. Recognition and rights: Chile remains the only Latin American country to not recognize its indigenous peoples in its Constitution. However, the Chilean government did adopt the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and a year later they ratified the International Labor Organization Convention 169. Convention 169 recognizes the human rights violations many indigenous peoples have faced at the hands of their own government. It also calls for policies to protect the language, culture and freedoms of indigenous peoples and tribes.
  5. Land ownership: Dispute over land ownership is one of the primary issues for indigenous peoples in Chile. The indigenous fight with corporations, such as the logging firm Forestal Arauco S.A.. After taking control of much of the Curanilahue region, the company stripped it of its trees. This ruined the land lived on by many indigenous peoples.
  6. Resistance: Some indigenous peoples and tribes have broken out in rebellion against the taking of their land by setting fire to trees, forestry vehicles and crops. In response, the government created anti-terrorism legislation that labels arson as a terrorist act. Resistance has continued, however. In 2017 alone, 43 acts of resistance, many of them in the form of arson against logging firms, were taken by the Mapuche in Temuco, the capital of the Araucanía region.
  7. Positive changes: There has been continuous communication between the Chilean government and various indigenous groups about the creation of a new constitution. Additionally, the Piñera administration announced plans in 2018 to invest a total of $24 billion in development projects in the region of La Araucanía, an area heavily populated by indigenous peoples. These development projects will include housing subsidies, infrastructure improvements and a dozen new hospitals. Piñera’s plans also include the creation of a Ministry and Council of Native Peoples to give them greater federal representation. His plans have not yet included any land redistribution, however.
  8. Legal victories: The Human Rights Watch reported that the murder of Mapuche activist Camilo Catrillanca in 2018 led to the persecution of four police officers directly involved. This was a small but key victory for the Mapuche. For decades, police have abused their authority to torture and kill indigenous peoples and manufacture evidence to unlawfully imprison them. In 2017, charges against several Mapuche were eventually dropped when it was brought to light that police officers had created fake WhatsApp messages to build a case of arson against them.

These 8 facts about indigenous groups in Chile illustrate some of the struggles they face. Moving forward, more work needs to be done to ensure the voices of the indigenous are heard and their rights are recognized.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in Chile
Like many other countries, Chile has struggled to ensure its citizens remain out of poverty. Luckily, the country has experienced economic growth over the past few years, now one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America. This success can be seen by looking at how much of the population was impoverished in 2000 compared to 2017. In 2000, 30% of the population was impoverished. By 2017, the country was able to cut that number all the way down to 3.7%. As a result, Chile has grown its economy, helped those in poverty and reduced the poverty rate.

3 Things to Know About Poverty Reduction in Chile

  1. Free-Market: Much of the reason there has been poverty reduction in Chile is due in part to its decision to become a free-market economy in the mid-1980s. This resulted in increased trade with other countries. From 1985 to 1989, Chilean exports doubled. That trend has only continued for the country up into the modern day. By becoming a free-market economy, the country set itself up for a healthier economy.
  2. Chile Solidario: The Chilean government has implemented a multitude of programs to bring aid to those in poverty and bring about poverty reduction in Chile. The Chile Solidario was the first large-scale version of such programs. The program continued throughout the years 2002 and 2009. One of the ways the program met the needs of impoverished people in Chile was by actually sending case workers out to meet with Chilean citizens in poverty and rectify the problems they struggle with. By doing so, the program was able to personalize the aid given to a family depending on the unique problems that family was struggling with. While Chile Solidario did not help with employing Chilean citizens in poverty or improving housing conditions, it did help them use the welfare system within the country to get them through their economic troubles.
  3. Countercyclical policy: A countercyclical policy works opposite to the business cycle rather than along with it. The country instead lowers taxes and increases spending during a periods when the market is not favorable and raises taxes and reduces spending when the market is favorable. During the early 2000s, Chile adopted a countercyclical policy. As a result, public spending remains at the same rate throughout the year. The countercyclical policy has proven effective and reliable in Chile. For example, copper is the most important export to the Chilean economy. During 2009, however, the copper industry suffered quickly and as a result unemployment increased to 10%. The excess money that Chile saved up due to its countercyclical policy was used as a stimulus to help the people. Therefore, this policy can promote poverty reduction in Chile should there be an economic crisis in the future.

Due to the Chilean government’s actions, Chile has reduced poverty and provided a better standard of living for its people. Moving forward, it is essential that the country and other humanitarian organizations continue to focus on poverty reduction and improving livelihoods. If they do, poverty in Chile will hopefully continue to decrease.

– Jacob E. Lee 
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness In Chile
Homelessness in Chile persists as a problem. The wealth distribution continues to place a great number of people on the streets. Below are 10 facts about homelessness in Chile.

10 Facts about Homelessness in Chile

  1. Around 6,000 homeless live in Santiago, Chile. This number accounts for half of Chile’s homeless population.
  2. A significant cause of the high number of homeless individuals is because the minimum wage often does not cover housing costs. According to reporter Misha Wilmers, the average cost of an apartment per month is the equivalent of $200 over what the minimum wage offers. 
  3. A Ministry for Social Development study found that 77% of the homeless population in Chile had jobs. A leading academic voice in Chile, Ignacio Eissmann, is skeptical of the report. Eissmann claims that it is misleading due to the inconsistent nature of many homeless citizens’ employment.
  4. Around 785 of the homeless are children. These “street children” live without access to proper food or education.
  5. A major contributor to child homelessness in Chile is familial violence. While some don’t have a home to return to, others won’t due to the adverse family situations. If there is an abusive parent, a child might choose the dangers of the street instead of facing a dangerous parent.
  6. The president, Sebastián Piñera, urges the Chilean citizens to help with the crisis. In 2012, he said, “please make the effort to get them to the shelters we have provided.” He went on to say that the shelters are helping reduce winter season fatalities. 
  7. Housing inequality is a major contributor to Chilean homelessness. According to the Santiago Times, “[homeless Chilean citizens] are offered few to no government services and certainly no housing options but for periodic shelter and charitable services.” Without housing options, the homeless have little chance of changing their situation.
  8. A priest founded housing shelters that form a network through Santiago. The network is called “Christ’s Home,” and offers “trade schools, rehabilitation centers, and other facilities to serve the poor” according to the Catholic News Agency. According to Harvard’s Review of Latin America, Christ’s home “ministers to the sick and dying, tends to the homeless… Volunteers visit the elderly… They work with street children and orphans.”
  9. The government has attempted to implement housing shelters, but it has not had a noteworthy impact. Some citizens claim that the previous president was more effective in confronting homelessness. Others have noticed that the president seems unfamiliar with the reality of homelessness.
  10. While the plight seems grim and meagerly addressed, shelters continue to offer hope and futures to the Chilean homeless. For example, one lovely shelter—set up by the Salvation Army— specializes in helping older men. The existence of this shelter is significant since males make up more than 10,000 of the 12,000 homeless in Chile.

As people begin to take notice and set up organizations, the issue of homelessness in Chile may be brought to the forefront of government discussion. Meanwhile, 12,000 Chileans still struggle to find a place to sleep at night.


Abigail Lawrence
Photo: Flickr

Salmon Farming in ChileSalmon farming in Chile has grown to become one of the nation’s top trading exports. Chilean salmon farming now produces “25% of the world’s supply” with more than 1,000 fish farms in operation. It also created 61,000 jobs. In recent years, however, the practice has come under fire due to the overuse of antibiotics and environmental damage to surrounding wild fisheries. Chile’s aquaculture has brought in much-needed revenue to the economy. However, it has also threatened many impoverished indigenous communities, such as the Kawésqar, who have lived in Patagonia for thousands of years. Chile’s fragile ecosystems and artisanal fishing culture are at risk of being degraded from the country’s poorly regulated farmed salmon industry.

Fishy Farms

Once considered a seasonal delicacy, salmon is now one of the most widely available superfoods on the market. The fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fats, selenium and several B vitamins. It has also been attributed to lowering the risk of illnesses and conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Store-bought salmon is either wild-caught or farm-raised. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program rates wild salmon, particularly from Washington, to be one of the best sustainable seafood options. The company suggests avoiding farmed Atlantic salmon from Chile.

One of the biggest concerns of salmon farming in Chile is the high levels of antibiotics and pesticides used to fight diseases and parasites in the net pens. In 2014, the industry used 1.2 million pounds of antibiotics in their marine enclosures. In comparison, Norway used roughly 2,142 pounds. The overuse of antibiotics like florfenicol and oxytetracycline can create antimicrobial resistance. This could lead to public health issues, as well. Since both drugs are regularly used in human medicine, more studies are needed before Chilean salmon farming companies continue to use them responsibly.

Unregulated Industry

The salmon farming industry threatens Chilean artisanal fishing, which relies on the ocean’s natural abundance for their livelihood. In 2016, massive red algae bloom toxified almost all of the wild shellfish in Southern Chile, putting enormous economic pressure on local fishing communities. Thousands of fishermen protested the lack of governmental response and aid during one of the country’s worst red tides.


In southern Patagonia, local community members and campaigners celebrate a rare victory of protecting Chile’s coasts from salmon farming operations. The combined efforts prevented the raising of 1.9 million fish and construction of 18 industrial cages in the Beagle Channel. The remote untouched habitat stretches over 240 kilometers. The Channel is also home to a wide array of species, including whales, dolphins and penguins. Indigenous groups like the Kawésqar fish these waters, continuing to be a vital natural resource today. The protection of the Beagle Channel is also a victory for the region’s tourism industry. The Beagle Channel contributes $74 million annually to the local economy.

With salmon farming in Chile becoming more regulated, traditional fishing communities can continue to harvest seafood off their coastline. Local wild-caught fisheries, along with eco-tourism, are sustainable options for traditional Chilean fishermen. Historically, the indigenous people of Chile ate and dined on hundreds of different species of fish and marine life. With more government regulation and support, Chileans can continue to gain economically from the seas while also protecting them.

Henry Schrandt
Photo: Flickr