Week 8: Acting Responsibly: Chile’s Current Stance on Economics and Foreign Policy
By Elizabeth Pietanza
For over the past year Chile has been serving as a rotating member of the UN Security Council. As a Member State, Chile drew criticism from the United States for its refusal to support an additional U.N. Security Council resolution which would have authorized clear enforcement action against Iraq for flouting previous U.N. Security Council resolutions. The US government sent Otto Reich, at the time an assistant Secretary of State, to Santiago to meet with President Lagos and to court Chile’s swing vote for a resolution on Iraq. Reich received a cold dignitary reception and his visit was marked with street protests. During this time, the US Congress delayed ratification of the Chile-US Free Trade Agreement.
In contrast, President Ricardo Lagos, referring to Chapter VII of the UN Charter, announced on March 1, 2004 that within the following 48 hours Chile would join the US, France and Canada in sending troops to Haiti. This decision exemplifies Chile’s current foreign policy of attempting to distinguish itself from other Latin America nations and align itself more with developed countries. As a preemptive response to any criticism he may receive in Chile, Lagos noted that a country gains international respect “not only for doing good things, but also because it understands the responsibilities it must assume in a continually complicated and challenging world.” Chile is now trying to convince Brazil, the only other Latin American country currently on the U.N. Security Council, to also join the international military force in Haiti.
Over the last several years Chile has emerged as a political and economic leader in Latin America. Since 1989 it has had a stable democratic government. In addition to its free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico, last year it significantly lowered or eliminated trade tariffs with the European Union through a trade accord. As of January 1 of this year the Chile-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) went into effect, and on April 1, 2004 a recently signed FTA will go into force with South Korea. Many Chileans will credit the country’s current economic success to the economic infrastructure established under former strongman, General Augusto Pinochet. Whatever the cause of its growth, since it emerged from 17 years of authoritarian rule Chile has served as a political and economic role model to the rest of Latin America.
This positive image of Chile can be contrasted to its image in the US, where many people associate Chile with the Pinochet regime and its systemic human rights abuses. Chileans also have negative images in countries such as Sweden and Singapore, where there are rumored to be operative bands of Chilean thieves. Very recently, a group of Chileans, with other Latin Americans, were caught stealing thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from an Old Navy store in Los Angeles. These stories, however, are not representative of the image Chile purports in Latin America. The country is stable, strong, successful and fearless for taking a stance “in a continually complicated and challenging world.”
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