Executive Summary

Pandemic follows on heels of social unrest; work on new constitution begun
The period under review was characterized by social unrest, political realignment and economic struggles due to the massive, in some cases violent protests that had taken place by the end of 2019, as well as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Even before the onset of the pandemic, the government’s response to the social unrest had already divided the country. According to statistics from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Institute for Human Rights (Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos, INDH) compiled by Amnesty International (AI), as of March 2021, there had been more than 8,000 victims of state violence and more than 400 cases of eye trauma resulting from the improper use of “less lethal” weapons by the police. At least 23 people died during the protests and about 5,000 were detained. At the same time, total damages to public and private property caused in the context of the social unrest were estimated at $1.4 billion, and the estimate of associated job losses exceeded 140,000. As a consequence of the public pressure, the Agreement for Social Peace and the New Constitution (Acuerdo Por la Paz Social y la Nueva Constitución) led to a plebiscite that paved the way for the drafting of a new constitution. The Constituent Convention began its work on 4 July 2021, and is expected to present a new constitution that will be voted on via a binding exit-plebiscite (under mandatory voting) by the end of 2022.
Pandemic displaced
reform initiatives
Thanks to a consistent fiscal policy over the past few years, the government was able to initiate relatively rapid measures to try to mitigate the economic and employment impact of the pandemic. Chile is characterized by a high coronavirus vaccination rate compared to other Latin American countries, but also compared with OECD member countries, as 86.58% of the population was fully vaccinated by the end of the period under review. Beyond the economic pressure, the political crisis has been a crucial factor in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government´s response to the social demands. In this context, the state budget has been severely tested, and the government was unable to implement most of its reform initiatives.
Traditional party system has collapsed
The traditional party system that had structured the political competition since the democratic transition is no longer existent. New actors and political forces have entered the political arena, and are building variable constellations. After a highly polarized pre-election phase, Gabriel Boric of the left-progressive alliance Broad Front (Frente Amplio), which was founded in 2017, was elected as Chile’s youngest president ever (36 years old as he assumed the presidency) after a runoff against José Antonio Kast of the far-right Christian Social Front (Frente Social Cristiano).
Power centered
in capital
Chile is a particularly heterogeneous country, yet economic and political power remain highly centralized in the capital Santiago. Consequently, regional and local interests are often insufficiently reflected in national policymaking. Unresolved ethnic conflicts often trigger a response by the state that, at times, fails to respect the civil and political rights of ethnic minorities (e.g., the Mapuche). This situation has become even more salient as the number of recorded terrorist attacks with alleged ethnic backgrounds has increased significantly in recent years. In addition, certain forms of political discrimination inherited from the military dictatorship remain.
Inequality and exclusion persist; solid democratic institutions
Chile is a high-income country, and as such, has not been eligible for official development assistance (ODA) since 2017. It is ranked best among the Latin American countries on the Human Development Index. However, several structural factors still produce inequality and exclusion. Its economy is highly open but extremely dependent on copper exports, and is consequently vulnerable to commodity-price volatility. Competitiveness is negatively affected by collusion and in some senses by corruption. Nevertheless, Chile has the region’s strongest macroeconomic framework and independent institutions. The fact that Chile was able to hold many different elections (plebiscite on the new constitution, regional governors, presidential and parliamentary elections) under quite challenging public health conditions prove that the South American country has solid democratic institutions. A further indicator of this is the ongoing constitutional process.
United Nations’ Office for Human Rights (OHCHR), “Mission Report”, December 2019,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

National Institute for Human Rights (INDH), “Annual Report 2019”, November 2019,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

National Institute for Human Rights (INDH), “Annual Report 2020”, December 2020,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Centro de Estudios Públicos (CEP), “Estudio Nacional de Opinión Pública N°85, Agosto 2021”, August 2021,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
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