Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 294 | Enero 2006


Latin America

“Chile is for all of us”

One of the most novel banners raised by Chile’s new President is the fight against all forms of exclusion and discrimination. Her proposals should inspire the entire Latin American Left, because being a leftist is an ethical stance and an ethics of inclusion, respect and tolerance is indispensable to the creation of that other possible world we dream of and are working for.

Michelle Bachelet

The Concertation is a coalition of parties that emerged to fight for a better Chile. During the eighties we won democracy. The first years of the nineties witnessed our successful efforts in consolidating the freedoms it had been so difficult for us to recover. We have also succeeded in our daily efforts to make the country grow and develop.

A Chile for all, not just a few

But we still have a great challenge ahead of us. The democracy and economic growth we’ve achieved provide opportunities and benefits. The moment has come to fight to make those benefits open to all, not just a few. My government will take a strong stand against prejudice and discrimination, which often shut the doors of opportunity in our people’s faces. Chile is for all of us; we want progress for all, not just a few.

The amount of discrimination in this country is unacceptable. There is systematic discrimination against the poor, against women and against people with disabilities. It’s not just that certain ethnic groups, religious creeds, sexual minorities and immigrants suffer such unequal and often humiliating treatment. How long will we continue to tolerate the existence of privileged groups in this country? Such situations will be unacceptable during my government. We must eradicate discrimination based on race, color, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, political opinions or any other factor, including national or social origin, the condition or status of immigrant, economic position, birth or any other social condition.

The first step towards a society of equals is to build a society whose main values embraced by everyone include plurality and tolerance. During my government we will ensure that the state fosters these values so that ideas of intolerance and violence are never again viewed as acceptable.

We will modify the Constitutional Organic Education Law to specify the fostering of peace and non-discrimination. The state itself should provide an example to the country, which is why we will establish a Code of Public Ethics that eradicates any kind of arbitrary discrimination in the hiring, treatment and promotion of officials. We will strongly promote freedom of worship. We will implement an indigenous policy that fights discrimination and reinforces our peoples’ identity, granting them constitutional recognition as a first measure.

I won’t compromise in my
fight for gender equality

But a state that promotes values isn’t enough. We need a state that ensures equal treatment for all and protects the oppressed. Women are still discriminated against in Chile. We earn less than men in similar jobs and are discriminated against in health insurance and social security. Women also bear a greater burden of domestic work and many endure abuse at home.

I will not compromise in my fight for gender equality. Politically, we will have an equal government and will promote a Quotas Law to correct the deficit in female political representation. We will guarantee the right of pregnant adolescents and adolescent mothers to continue their education and will develop national sexual and reproductive health programs for adolescents. We will apply a major childcare and nursery education plan so working mothers don’t have to choose between their children and their work.

We need everyone

But it’s not just women who are discriminated against. Many of the over two million Chileans living with some form of disability are openly discriminated against and their rights not respected. Our first task in this area is to promote a human rights vision. We will concern ourselves with their education and work. We will guarantee disabled people freedom of movement, and will therefore come down very hard on people who fail to comply with the adaptations contained in the law on access to physical space for people with disabilities. We will establish training, remuneration and infrastructure subsidies for companies that contract people with disabilities. We need everyone if our democracy is to remain healthy, and will therefore strengthen the right to vote through a more friendly voting system for people with disabilities.

Sexual education and
respect for sexual minorities

We will also build a better country for sexual minorities. People must be valued for their ideals, their work and their capacities. We Chileans have been unjust in this sense: we have mocked, discriminated against and sometimes even ignored the problems facing these compatriots. We want legislation that provides legal stability to de facto couples in order to regulate their acquisition of common goods, hereditary rights, responsibilities and social security benefits. Nor can the state ignore its teaching role in this respect: we will incorporate specific contents on sex education into school curricula, emphasizing respect for sexual minorities.

Chileans abroad and immigrants in Chile

The dictatorship forced hundreds of thousands of Chileans to go into exile. Many compatriots were taken in by other countries and it is time to reintegrate them into our society. We will work to ensure that Chileans abroad have the same rights as their compatriots living in the country, particularly the right to vote.
Just as other countries received Chileans expelled during the military regime, we also want to be a country that takes people in. We will promote the design of a new migratory law that reflects Chile’s current reality as a country that receives significant quotas of immigrants. We have to include the immigration issue in the educational curriculum so children get used to a globalized and cosmopolitan world.

We in the Concertation have witnessed the price of intolerance. The unforgettable memory of the dictatorship’s brutality forces us to commit to a more tolerant and diverse society. The suffering of all who dared disagree with those in power forces me to fight for today’s cause, which is just as noble: in my government, we will put an end to discrimination and exclusion.

A special piece by Chilean President-elect Michelle Bachelet for the Chilean magazine Punto Final, December 9, 2005.

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