VALPARAISO, Chile – A discussion on “The democratic fragility of Latin America,” held in the Chilean port city of Valparaiso this weekend during the Puerto de Ideas Festival 2015, revealed that Argentina, after the U.S., receives the most number of Latin American emigrants globally, leaving behind even Spain.
“The migratory phenomenon has not increased in percentage terms in the last century, it is still four percent of world population,” said the former secretary general of the Organization of American States, or OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza.
According to Insulza, who earlier served as the Chilean foreign minister, “what has changed are the numbers in Latin America,” where migration has become a growing phenomenon showing “the poorest sections emigrate to neighboring countries.”
It was on this account that the U.S., Dominican Republic and Bahamas opposed a resolution on emigration in the OAS when Insulza headed of the organization.
Recalling that “Chile has more nationals living outside its territory than foreigners living within,” Insulza maintained that emigrants tend to perform the low-paying jobs that locals do not want to take up.
Also taking part in the panel was sociologist and PhD in Political Sciences from the University of Paris Ernesto Ottone, who stated that “very soon, income levels in Chile are going to reach levels similar to that of southern European countries.”
But the real challenge, in his view, is unequal wealth distribution, as neither Chile nor other Latin American countries can develop without reducing the differences between social classes.
In this respect, Ottone, Director of the Chair Globalization and Democracy at Diego Portales University, stressed that the Gini index in Chile stands at 50.5.
The Gini index measures income distribution between individuals and households in an economy, where 0 represents perfect equality, and 100, perfect inequality.
And this despite the fact that the figure has been calculated after taking into account taxes and social benefits transfers, which are all steps to counter inequalities created by a market economy.
The panel, with Chile’s Interior Minister Jorge Burgos among the attendees, also discussed other topics affecting Latin America such as populism.
In this respect, Insulza added that in general, the countries that suffered dictatorships in the 1970s and 80s are more unyielding to populism as their democratic institutions are more solid.
The panel was moderated by journalist Tamara Avetikian, columnist for El Mercurio, and the event witnessed discussions on topics such as populism, economic fragility in the region and the consequent social inequality.