Chile’s Left Waits for Bachelet to Fulfill Promises

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As Chile struggles to overcome the past and restore justice and human rights, an obstacle remains in the system. In the 1980s Chile’s then dictator, Augusto Pinochet, installed an electoral law that in effect blocked the left from participation in the electoral process. The "bi-nominal" sometimes called binomial system, was composed by the far right and imposed on Chile by Pinochet.

The Pinochet imposed system allowed the far right to have 35 percent of votes and to have 50 percent of the congressional seats. This, while smaller left wing parties are not allowed to participate in the bi-nominal system at all. The left, having no representation, has been calling on Bachelet to keep her campaign promise of doing away with the electoral system and putting in place a more democratic one.

In early April, a group of communist female leaders met with Chile’s president Michelle Bachelet to urge her to keep her campaign promise to do away with the bi-nominal system. The left voted en masse for Bachelet.

Because of her earlier promise to do away with the undemocratic system as she was, in a sense, the only game in town. Her opponent in the January 15 election was billionaire Sebastion Pinera, a conservative, who likely would not have removed the electoral system. Dolores Cautivo, one of the communist women who met with Bachelet said, "We think all of Bachelet’s gestures positive, but we think gestures are weak and we believe we need concrete actions for Chile to really live in full democracy."

On May Day the Chilean Communist party continued their speaking out against the bi-nominal system in their rallies and demonstrations, also calling for democracy and justice.

Another area where Chilean leftists are closely watching to see what Bachelet will do is in the Judiciary. Conservative Judge Victor Montigio using another controversial law, put in place by Pinochet in 1978, and still in place granted amnesty to General Sergio Arellano Stark, chief orchestrator of the "Caravan Of Death", one of the worst mass murders of civilians of the Pinochet era, also given amnesty, General Odlanier Mena, who ordered the assassinations of Oscar Ripoll, Julio Valenzuela, and Manuel Donoso, all occurred within weeks of the coup and staged to look like traffic accidents.

President Bachelet will have to decide if justice and human rights can square with amnesty for killers. She will also have to decide if full democracy is Chile’s future, or the lie that is the bi-nominal system.

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