Sebastian Pinera sworn in again as Chile’s president

Latin America

CHILE-PINERA-INAUGURATION Supporters of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera cheer outside of La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago on March 11, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / CLAUDIO REYES)

A familiar face is back as president of Chile.

Sebastian Pinea returns for a second term, after four years of civilian life. After being sworn in, Pinera and his wife arrived at the presidential palace.

The conservative politician has promised to kick-start the economy. But he will face a new challenge in Congress, where several smaller parties represent growing discontent with the political class.

CGTN’s Joel Richards reports from Santiago.

Billionaire Sebastian Pinera returned to the presidency in Chile on Sunday, consolidating Latin America’s shift to the right. Chileans voted Pinera in for his second term following a campaign to reboot the economy after slow growth in recent years.

This is the third time power has swapped between Pinera and Michelle Bachelet. The presidency has switched between these two leaders since 2006, as Chile’s center-left and right coalitions alternated in power. But now in his second term, Pinera faces a new political landscape.

Corruption scandals have hit the Chilean political establishment across the board. “The entire political system is seeing fewer and fewer people vote,” said Claudia Heiss of the University of Chile. “From 90% turnout in 1990, when everyone wanted to vote after the dictatorship, to municipal elections where a third voted, that is the sharpest decline in voter turnout in Latin America for sure and one of the sharpest in the world.”

In 2015, Chile introduced its electoral reform replacing the system left by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet which essentially ensured a two-party system. Now because of the changes, many minority parties have representation in Congress.

Natalia Castillo is one of the new generations of deputies. In her mid-30s, she says she is one of the oldest in the leftist coalition, the Broad Front, which wants Congress to respond to social demands.

“Chile changed many years ago,” said Castillo. “For a long time, the country has wanted a more democratic and fairer country, with more access to social rights, but it is the political class that had not responded. Our representatives have not been up to the citizens’ demands.”

In Chile, there are debates over social inequality, education and welfare, as well as sensitive issues such as abortion and immigration. Pinera’s first term of office saw large social protests over his policies.

Claudia Heiss of the University of Chile said “it’s going to be difficult inside Congress and on the streets as well.”

Hundreds of millions of Latin Americans go to the polls this year as much of the region decides its future. And while there will be more debate, for now Chile has joined its neighbors Peru, Argentina and Brazil in moving to the right.