About a week ago, Chile held a presidential election. The winner, Michelle Bachelet, previously held office from 2006-2010, and was returned in Chile's first presidential re-election since Arturo Alessandri served in the 1930's. (Although do remember that little interlude with Augusto Pinochet.) Bachelet defeated Evelyn Matthei by a margin of 62-38, Chile's widest margin since 1946.
Bachelet is aligned to the left; Matthei to the right. Matthei got pasted in the election largely due to her ties to unpopular outgoing president Sebastian Pinera, aligned center-right, as well as Matthei's father having been part of the Pinochet regime; the election was defined largely as a referendum on Pinochet, which the Pinochet-aligned candidate is always going to lose. Pinochet ruled from 1973-1990, meaning there are a lot of people in the electorate who remember what living under him was like. Bachelet took full advantage by loading up her campaign platform with outright reversals of lingering Pinochet-era policies, be it on abortion or education or the constitution itself, last written in 1980, which she has pledged to rewrite.
That is obviously the big news in Chile right now. Elsewhere:
*In 2010, as you might recall, a tsunami hit Chile as the result of an 8.8 earthquake. Some 525 people died as a result, and their supreme court has ruled at least one of them as preventable. You see, the tsunami warning issued by the government was lifted a little too early, meaning some people who needed to evacuate ended up remaining in their homes instead. The court case in question regards one such person, Mario Ovando, whose home was hit with him inside it 20 minutes after hearing a radio report stating no danger from the tsunami. The government reissued the warning, but only after it was too late, and Chile's supreme court has as a result awarded his family 55 million pesos, which is $103,840.
*Doug Tompkins, co-founder of outdoor apparel company The North Face, has donated 94,000 acres of land to help create a new national park, Yendegaia National Park, in the extreme south of the country. The acreage, combined with 276,342 acres contributed by the outgoing Pinera administration, will be next to both the previously existing Agostini National Park and Argentina's Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Which is all nice and awesome and spiffy... but how in the world did Doug Tompkins manage to acquire that much land in Chile? The land, as it happens, was previously owned by a drug dealer, whose name I can't seem to track down. The drug dealer, headed for jail, needed to sell some of his property to help pay his lawyer and pay off his debts, and in 1998, Tompkins came calling.
The reaction he's getting is a big step up from the suspicion that initially greeted Tompkins after his purchase. A national park has always been his endgame; a conservationist, his goal was to hold the property he'd bought until the government could muster up the resources to protect it themselves. And it's not the first time he's donated land for the purpose. But he does still have his opponents, who state, in essence, 'who are you to tell us when we can own our land'. They contend that Tompkins' holding of the land obstructs regional development of economy, infrastructure and tourism to the area. It's land they have other plans for.
Which, of course, is the whole reason Tompkins holds onto it.