Forest fires devastate center-south Chile
March 3, 2023
Forest fires blazed across 270,000 hectares of Chile in early February, killing 26 people and injuring more than 2,000. As of this week, there were still 171 active fires in the country’s center-south region, 19 of which are being combated, and 140 under control. (EFE)
The fires were worsened by a decade-long period of dry weather — a “mega drought” — that is currently afflicting Chile. (Reuters)
Public opinion is critical of the Boric administration’s management of the emergency — 44% approve, while 82% believe the emergency is not controlled. But Boric’s approval rating increased by 2 points in February, to 32% according to the latest Cadem poll.
The Commission of Experts will begin drafting a new constitution on Monday. The 24 appointed experts, the vast majority lawyers, must hand a draft to the elected Constitutional Council on June 7. (EMOL)
The new constitutional process, arduously hashed out by lawmakers after voters rejected a proposed magna carta in September, “underrepresents the Left and includes figures with deep ties to the dictatorship, while lacking a mechanism to include the voices of the Chilean people in the process,” write Cathy Schneider and Sofía Williamson-García in Nacla.
Campaigning begins for candidates to the new Constitutional Council on March 8. Fifty members will be elected by citizens on May 7. The coalitions that will participate are: Partido Republicano, Unidad para Chile, Todo por Chile, Chile Seguro and Partido de la Gente. La Neta has an interactive map with candidates by geographic location.
Chile’s main political blocs presented multiple candidate lists — political divisions should help candidates with centrist views, according to Bloomberg.
Chileans strongly back a new constitution for the country (62% in the latest Cadem poll) but only 39% believe the new Constitutional Council will succeed in proposing a magna carta that will be approved in a referendum. (Cadem)
Chile and the World
Boric lambasted Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Twitter: "The dictator does not know that the homeland is carried in the heart and in actions, and is not deprived by decree." The message was a response to a poem published by Gioconda Belli, one of the Nicaraguans stripped of citizenship in February. (El País)
Ortega's move to strip more than 300 critics and political opponents of citizenship, and Chile's forceful condemnation, have shone a spotlight on a deep ideological divide between leftist Latin American leaders, reports AFP.
The Rewilding Chile Foundation donated an extensive 93,492-hectare piece of land in Punta Arenas, for the creation of a new National Park in the Magallanes Region. The Boric administration expressed interest in exploring the option of adding a “mirror” marine protected area to the terrestrial park. (Futuro 360)
Chile's economic activity in January beat market forecasts and put an end to a negative string of four consecutive monthly drops, reports Reuters. The local IMACEC index, a close proxy of GDP, rose 0.4% in January from the same month last year.
Chile’s Congress will resume sessions this month, and bills important to Boric’s agenda, like reducing the workweek to 40 hours, are expected to advance. Tax reform and pension reform will be voted on in March, reports EMOL.
Chile is pushing to create a new marine protected area in international waters of its coast and those of Peru. It hopes seal the deal during an upcoming UN summit, reports AFP.
A campaign against a planned local human rights memorial in Chile “is one more skirmish in a larger and prolonged national battle for memory that has been ramping up” ahead of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende approaches, writes Ariel Dorfman in The Nation. “In Chile, as in the rest of the world, the way in which a nation understands its most traumatic past is constantly determining its deepest identity, the sort of future it imagines for its children.”
It has long been widely believed that Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda was murdered by Chile’s newly installed dictatorship in 1973. Evidence revealed this week by a forensic investigation concludes that he was indeed possibly poisoned, but it’s not certain — leaving the 50-year-old mystery unresolved. (New York Times, see Tuesday’s briefs.)
Neruda was not only one of the 20th century’s greatest poets, but also a political activist and leading spokesman for Chile’s left, notes the New York Times.
Archeologists uncovered a new moai statue on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The figure, like others of its kind, represents the islanders’ “deified ancestors,” reports the Smithsonian Magazine.