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Father Claude

As I was saying.....

I embrace the world from my backyard at the University of Portland, January 1, 2018. I again invite you to "clod-hop" with me on my journeys to Latin America via this blog. More...

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President Michelle Bachelet et Moi
My last posting was in 2015. And yes, I am still alive and traveling.

I returned to Chile in November  2016 to celebrate the 80 anniversary of the establishment of St. George’s College in Santiago. My sister Marcelle and her husband Senator Patrick Leahy joined me in that trip. Patrick arranged for a meeting with President Michelle Bachelet. We first met with the US ambassador and her staff. The conversation with President Bachelet lasted WELL over one hour and related to changes in the US government administration and possible effects on US-Chile relations.

Much has changed at St. George’s College since I was Rector in the 1980s That was the last decade of General Pinochet’ administration. The college was approaching economic collapse, and relations with the public authorities were strained. These relations improved with the end of the military dictatorship.

During that time, Chile became a close collaborator with the US, as the country experienced great stability and dramatic economic growth. This growth for Chile resulted from an enormous export of commodities, from copper and other minerals, wines, fish and various food products. But with the decline of global markets, and especially Chinese markets during the past 7 years, annual economic growth declined in Chile to less than 2%.   

A lot has changed during President Bachelet’s four years. After a huge popular majority at the beginning of he second term as president, her popularity has dropped dramatically. Widespread corruption, cynicism and controversy has changed the nature of politics — not unlike US politics, especially since November 2016.

Presidential elections are scheduled for this November, and polls favor a former president and Harvard trained  business executive and billionaire Sebastián Piñera of the Conservative business alliance, Renovación Nacional. The leading opponents on the left are Alejandro Guiller and the Socialist ex-president Ricardo Lago (I like to call him Dicky Lake). Another young contender (for the Chilean senate os Eduardo Vergara of the Party for Democracy (PPD) who is a graduate of the U of Portland, the Sorbonne and the U. of California.

For the past 25 years Chile has been a sterling example of countries recovering from military dictatorships distinguished by a popular confidence in democratic institutions with steady economic growth.  

The perception of Chile’s neighbor, Argentina is very different. the NYT  of Tuesday, July 25 published a revealing article on the role of women in political leadership in Chile, Brazil and Argentina. The article focused on President Bachelet as the only remaining female president in Latin America, and the challenges she faced as an executive in a deeply ingrained patriarchal society, with many still unwilling to legitimized roles for women outside of family and the home, and with a dominant Catholic culture that rejects the emerging role of women as leaders in politics, business and especially in the Catholic church.

My next post will be from Buenos Aires, where I will visit for the next 5 days.

Permalink | Thursday, July 27, 2017