Chile: Sebastian Pinera Takes Helm of Quake-Rattled Nation

By Witte-Lebhar, Benjamin | NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs, March 26, 2010 | Go to article overview

Chile: Sebastian Pinera Takes Helm of Quake-Rattled Nation


Witte-Lebhar, Benjamin, NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs


By Benjamin Witte-Lebhar

Two decades of leadership by the center-left Concertacion coalition came to an official end March 11, when Sebastian Pinera, a conservative billionaire businessman and onetime senator, donned Chile's presidential sash for the first time in what turned out to be literally an earth-shaking event.

Just minutes before the start of the ceremony, held in the Congress building in Valparaiso, a series of powerful tremors rippled through central Chile, putting a natural exclamation point on a transfer of power already loaded with historic significance.

Not only did Pinera's inauguration swing the country to the right for the first time since the end of the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), it also came less than two weeks after Chile suffered its worst natural disaster in half a century: a magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck Feb. 27 (see NotiSur, 2010-03-12).

"Certainly nobody predicted, much less wanted, this government to begin in such tragic and adverse circumstances," Pinera said in his inaugural speech, delivered, as tradition dictates, from a balcony in Santiago's La Moneda presidential palace. "But this situation, far from breaking or weakening us, makes us stronger and united. If before we said we'd do things well, today we'll have to do them even better. If before we said we'd work with a sense of urgency, now we work with a sense of pressure. If before we said we would be close to the people, today I tell you we will make your hardships and hopes our own."

Quake shifts already changing political landscape

The quake, one of the largest in recorded history, affected a huge swath of central and southern Chile, killing some 500 people and causing an estimated US$30 billion in damage. It also left its mark on the country's already shifting political landscape, altering the balance of power and upending the new president's priorities.

Pinera narrowly won Chile's Jan. 17 presidential election on promises he would snuff out crime, end government corruption, improve healthcare and education, and create a million jobs (see NotiSur, 2010-01-22). All of that now takes a back seat as the president and his conservative Cabinet, dubbed the reconstruction government, confront the more pressing task of lifting a broken and battered Chile back on its feet.

The government, which has already promised the unusual step of modifying the 2010 budget, said it will ease environmental and building rules to facilitate reconstruction and modify the tax structure to encourage private donations.

But while the catastrophe certainly presents Pinera with a monumental challenge, it also provides a unique political opportunity, say observers. For starters, according to Jose Jara, director of the Chile branch of the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), the disaster gives the president some breathing room when it comes to his own lofty goals.

"The government can modify its agenda," said Jara. "[Pinera] will have excuses not to follow through on his priorities. He said he'd create a million jobs, that he was concerned about the environment. All that now gets pushed to the background."

The devastating earthquake also gives the new president what until recently seemed an unlikely chance of making good on his promise of unified leadership.

In his first speech after beating Concertacion candidate, senator, and former President Eduardo Frei (1994-2000), Pinera announced a "second transition" for Chile. The first transition--from dictatorship to democracy--was steered initially by President Patricio Alwyin (1990-1994) of the Democrata Cristiano (DC), who was praised for bridging the gaping political divide left by Pinochet's heavy-handed military regime. It was in the spirit of Alwyin, Pinera explained when naming his Cabinet last month, that he chose veteran Concertacion member Jaime Ravinet as his defense minister (see NotiSur, 2010-02-19). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Chile: Sebastian Pinera Takes Helm of Quake-Rattled Nation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.