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Security Brief: SOUTHCOM Week of October 11, 2021

Week of Monday, October 11, 2021 | Issue 47

Mirjana Stancic, SOUTHCOM Team


President of Chile Sebastián Piñera (right)[1]


Date: October 13, 2021

Location: Chile

Parties involved: Chilean President Sebastián Piñera; the Liberal Alliance (the opposition coalition); Chilean Public Prosecutor’s Office

The event: Following the global Pandora Papers leak, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera is being investigated by the public prosecutor of Chile for allegations of corruption relating to the sale of a mining company in 2010. Opposition lawmakers, from a range of political parties belonging to the Liberal Alliance coalition, are pushing for Piñera’s impeachment which has plunged Chile into a political crisis. Throughout 2020 and 2021, political and civil unrest have come from Chile’s poor handling of the COVID-19 crisis, which was already negatively affecting Piñera’s popularity.[2]

The implications:

  • The investigation is likely to exacerbate current social and political tensions within Chile as the country continues to struggle with the COVID-19 crisis. Regardless of whether or not Piñera is impeached, the Pandora Papers leak and the accusations of corruption are likely to negatively affect Chilean society. Significant discontent and distrust in the political system, compounded by Chile's wealth gap, are very likely to result in political protests and further division between supporters of the president and supporters of the Liberal Alliance.

  • The opposition lawmakers pushing for the impeachment of Piñera are likely to take advantage of the current scandal to reshape domestic politics in their favor. Members of the Liberal Alliance will likely benefit from the President’s removal from office, as it will likely be easier for them to perform well in the upcoming election.

  • The investigation into Piñera’s activities is likely to signal further calls for action on allegations of corruption in Latin America. There is a roughly even chance that citizens in other countries within the region will see Chile’s decision to take allegations of corruption seriously and that they will subsequently push for their leaders to be held accountable. Given the high numbers of Latin American politicians implicated in the Pandora Papers leak, Chile’s potential impeachment is likely to encourage other Latin American countries to address the corruption in their political systems.

Date: October 12, 2021

Location: Biobio and Arauco, Biobio region, Chile; Malleco and Cautin, Araucania region, Chile

Parties involved: Chilean President Sebastián Piñera; Mapuche Indigenous groups; Chilean military

The event: Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of exception and sent reinforcements to the country’s south due to recent clashes between Mapuche Indigenous groups and landowners.[3] The fighting over disputed land in the Biobio and Araucania regions and high rates of drug trafficking have fueled Piñera’s decision to send reinforcements.[4] Mapuche groups within the region view their land claims as legitimate, given Chile’s history of removing indigenous groups from their land.[5]

The implications:

  • The decision to send Chilean troops into the country’s south will almost certainly increase existing tensions between Mapuche groups and Chilean authorities. Piñera is increasing the likelihood of further political division between indigenous and non-indigenous groups. This has a roughly even chance to lead to demonstrations from both sides.

  • The connections of indigenous Mapuche groups to the land are likely both culturally and economically significant, as land almost certainly provides both food security and the ability to connect to communities. Therefore, the presence of Chilean security forces is very likely to inflame tensions and risk further radicalization of Mapuche groups, which would almost certainly have significant negative impacts on security in the disputed territories.

  • If Piñera’s claims of drug trafficking and illicit use of land within the region are true, then the use of land is likely to lead to increased levels of insecurity and instability by attracting more drug trafficking groups to the region, particularly those with links to transnational criminal organizations. The criminal operations in the area are likely to cause violence due to conflict over territories and drug trafficking routes, as well as disrupt communities whose members decide to join. In this case, sending the Chilean military is likely to improve security in the region and prevent further violence between indigenous groups and landowners or from drug traffickers operating in the disputed territory.

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[1]President Pinera of Chile” licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

[2] Chile opposition moves to impeach president over Pandora leaks, Al Jazeera, October 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/13/chile-opposition-moves-to-impeach-president-over-pandora-leaks

[3] Chile declares state of emergency over Mapuche conflict, Al Jazeera, October 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/12/chile-declares-state-of-emergency-over-mapuche-conflict

[4] Ibid

[5] Chile's Mapuche indigenous group fights for rights, BBC News, November 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55042838

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