Abstract

This article examines the debates surrounding Chile's economic model after the 2019 social uprising. It does so by studying how the leading columnists in the Chilean print media discussed the country's economic model between 2019 and 2021. The social uprising shook the political stability, social order, and economic certainty that had characterized the Chilean model for thirty years. Further, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic triggered a triple crisis—socioeconomic, political, and medical—that raised serious questions as to the market model's ability to guarantee social security. The analysis of the public debate shows how two landmarks of the Chilean model, namely, its legitimacy as a development path and the exclusive right of economists to discuss the economy, were subjected to questioning. The columnists' debate reflects a model in crisis that contrasts drastically with the optimistic narrative of Chile as a “model” country in Latin America. The 2019 social uprising also marked a critical shift in both the ways in which the economy is discussed and who is authorized to legitimately debate economic issues in the public sphere, thus constituting a break from the technocratic consensus regarding market-led policies. If the aftermath of the social uprising triggered the cultural decline of the Chilean model as a dispositive to justify market-oriented policies, the way in which the economy is publicly discussed also changed radically.

It was not only the business class who were complacent. . . . After the boom of the first 20 years of democracy, the right concluded that “the model” was an evident success. . . . It was no longer necessary to defend the “social market system” in forums, debates, TV broadcasts, classrooms or universities. . . . This disengaged and disinterested right had handed “the narrative” to its opponents, failing to understand that . . . whoever controls the narrative wins the “war of ideas,” and whoever wins that war has the best chance of . . . coming to power. The narrative installed by the radical left was that Chile's model was systematically abusive, unjust, extractivist, undemocratic, speculative and patriarchal.

—Sebastián Edwards, La Tercera (May 16, 2021)

Debates surrounding capitalism and democracy, their tensions and convergences, are as old as capitalism itself (see, e.g., Marx, Durkheim, Weber), and Chile is no exception in this regard. The question of the types of political and economic models that would best equip the country to achieve “development” has been hotly debated for a century (Pinto 1959; UNDP 1998; Ffrench-Davis 2022). In recent years, however, the discussion has been unusually vigorous, unleashing a “cultural battle” over the economic model (Undurraga et al. 2023). An overview of recent bestsellers—for example, El derrumbe del modelo (Mayol 2012); El otro modelo (Atria et al. 2013); El derrumbre del otro modelo (Svensson et al. 2017)—confirms that the model is an issue of public concern. These books also illustrate the ways in which intellectuals aim to influence the public debate concerning the economy. The reason is clear: any explanatory system gives power to those who mobilize it. Whoever wins the cultural battle for ideas and interpretations not only understands the movements of a society but also helps to shape and, above all, justify them (Boltanski and Thévenot 2006).

This article examines the debates surrounding Chile's economic model after the 2019 social uprising. This event was a critical juncture that shifted Chile's political and economic course considerably. Over the course of October 18 and 19, 2019, more than fifty stations on the Santiago metro were vandalized and large-scale disturbances erupted across Chile's major cities. In response to the ensuing week of social unrest, on October 25, 2019, thousands of people took to the streets in peaceful protest against social, economic, environmental, political, and gender inequalities, and to voice their discontent in relation to a range of other issues. Following a month of protests, looting, and violent police response in the country's major cities, which resulted in more than thirty deaths, on November 15, 2019, the political parties agreed on an institutional solution to the social crisis: a plebiscite to decide whether to replace Pinochet's 1980 constitution, the institutional base of Chile's economic model. On October 25, 2020, Chileans overwhelmingly (79 percent) decided to replace it. The 2021–22 constitutional process further widened debates concerning the type of society that Chileans wish to pursue. On September 4, 2022, in the exit plebiscite, the new constitution proposed by the constituents was convincingly rejected, with 61.9 percent voting against it, thus giving way to a new constitutional process led by Congress, which will proceed over the course of 2023.

The idea that Chile has a clear economic model, and that this is, in fact, a country model, has been around since the 1980s, when the Chicago Boys (Valdés 1995)—a group of monetarist economists—led the implementation of a swath of neoliberal reforms. These reforms included opening up its markets to foreign investment and trade, privatizing state-owned enterprises, reducing trade barriers, and creating market-led services in critical areas such as pensions, health care, and education. Between 1990 and 2000, Chile's economy grew at an average annual rate of 7 percent, and poverty fell from 40 percent to 20 percent, a process that has been referred to as the “Chilean miracle.” Given the “original sin” of the neoliberal reforms—that is, having been imposed by force during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973–90)—supporters of market policies from among the economic and political elites made particular effort to highlight the country's economic results through different “cultural circuits of capitalism” (Undurraga 2014),1 aiming to install a narrative of success in a bid to grant social and democratic legitimacy to the privatizing reforms (Tironi 2013). Over the past four decades, the concept of the Chilean model has had different meanings, but generally refers to the package of policies, laws, and norms of governance that constitute the economic strategy established during the Pinochet dictatorship, characterized by market solutions to public problems and a subsidiary role played by the state. This model was preserved by the center-left governments of the Concertación (1990–2010), albeit with significant reforms that tempered market economics with an agenda of social and political inclusion (Undurraga 2015; Huneeus 2014), and subsequently by the Piñera governments (2010–14; 2018–22). According to Manuel Castells (2005), Chile's strategy is the combination of two models: the “exclusive liberal authoritarian” model imposed by Pinochet, based on trickle-down policies that marginalized large sectors of the population from the benefits of growth; and the “inclusive liberal democratic” model, in place since 1990, in which the state continues to acknowledge the central role of markets in distributing resources while increasing social spending to include broad segments of the population.

In economic terms, the Chilean model is based on export-oriented extraction of raw materials such as copper, wood pulp, and fish and seafood products, along with agriculture. In terms of public policy, it stresses the centrality of macroeconomic balances and the avoidance of large-scale state debt; the progressive reduction of the state's sphere of action in the economy; foreign policy focused on free trade agreements; pursuit of poverty reduction via narrow, targeted measures rather than universal social policies; and the key role of private actors in the provision of basic services such as health care, pensions, housing, education, electricity, gas, and water. The model's main consequences have been significant economic growth and poverty reduction, especially during the 1990s, accompanied by income inequality, social segregation, and wealth concentration. The reduction in inequalities has been only modest (after dropping from 0.52 in 1990 to 0.48 in 2013, the Gini index in 2017 was running at 0.44). While the model has produced good macroeconomic results, it has faced criticism in recent years for its failure to address rising inequality and persistent poverty, leading to a decline in its reputation and support. Furthermore, its social legitimacy has been eroded by the perception that it favors the political and economic elites over the population as a whole and has enormous environmental impact.2

A particular feature of the Chilean model is the boundary work (Gieryn 1999) conducted by economists to demarcate the economy as their exclusive jurisdiction (Abbott 1998). The Chicago economists not only guided privatization and the opening up of the economy to foreign investment and trade but also converted the economic profession to a monetarist approach, driving the growing influence of economists in policymaking (Gárate 2022). The emergence of “technopols,” a new type of economically oriented politician and technical expert, displaced cosmopolitan lawyers, the traditional political figures in Chile (Silva 1991; Gárate 2018). The public and political growth in authority on the part of economists may be explained by their ability to delimit an independent and depoliticized jurisdiction—that is, the economy—focused on the key governmental problem of economic growth and poverty reduction, and to present themselves as the only agents in possession of the tools to deal with it. In “Give me a laboratory and I will raise the world,” Bruno Latour (1983) argues that there is an intimate relationship between calculations and models made by scientists in laboratories and their ability to intervene in the world and dominate the phenomenon in question. In a similar vein, Michel Callon (1998) studied the intimate relationship between economics as theory and the economy as reality, or how the former affects and performs the making of the latter. Echoing Latour and Callon, we argue that the authority of economists in Chile is linked to the Chicago boys' construction of markets in critical areas of society and the achievement of good macroeconomic results during the 1990s. These monetarist economists presented themselves not only as the proud founders of the Chilean model but also as its primary guardians, whose technical expertise was required in order to manage, defend, and export the economic model to other developing countries.3 As a consequence, economists managed to build a technocratic consensus that has come to dominate public policy and the public discourse on the economy over the past thirty years. This technocratic consensus concerning the benefits of the economic model, along with the demarcation of the economy as the exclusive domain of (monetarist) economists, was reinforced through three combined phenomena. First, a technification of language positioned economists as the only legitimate professionals entitled to talk about the country's economic policies. Second, the circulation of international rankings positioned Chile as a high-growth economy with significant potential, thus limiting the emergence of critical perspectives and dissent. The dominant Chilean media outlets published these rankings constantly, thus verifying the positive results of a completely depoliticized management of the economy, and economists as their key interpreters. Third, the privatization of various spaces within Chilean society and the creation of markets in areas of social security such as health care and pensions promoted a type of economic rationality that strengthened economists' perspectives and language and limited political action to contest markets (Laval and Dardot 2013). The maintenance and repair of markets in support of governance of collective concerns reinforced the centrality of economists (Ossandón and Ureta 2019). For political and economic elites who support market economic policies, having a “model” is a dispositive4 that serves both as a roadmap with which to orient domestic policy and as a blueprint to be exported to other developing countries as a successful path for achieving economic growth and political stability (Undurraga et al. 2023; Pelfini 2022).

In this article we study how the leading columnists in the Chilean print media discussed the country's political and economic model between 2019 and 2021, examining the framings and expectations of what is publicly imagined about “the model.” In the aftermath of the 2019 social uprising, both the legitimacy of the model as a development path and the exclusive right of economists to discuss the economy were subjected to questioning. A variety of actors and intellectuals scrutinized the outcomes and principles of the Chilean model from different angles, breaking the economists' technocratic position as the unique lens through which to examine the economy. Activists, academics, and journalists played a fundamental role in these debates, taking critical positions vis-à-vis the model. This is not to say that the model itself is disappearing or facing terminal crisis; rather, its narrative of a successful path for economic development and political stability led by the technocratic criteria of economists has been toppled, thus allowing new actors to enter the public debate. Echoing the demands expressed by social movements, journalists and columnists have, since 2019, discussed traditional and novel topics concerning the model, such as social rights, the rights of nature and animals, territorial autonomy and gender parity—all of which are critical topics within the 2021–23 constitutional process.

From a diachronic point of view, Chilean history over the past thirty years has seen moments of both stability and acceleration. Between the return to democracy (1990) and the student protests of 2011, the country experienced two decades of economic growth (annual rate of 4.2 percent) and political stability anchored in the neoliberal institutions inherited from the dictatorship, as these were explicitly designed to demobilize social pressure groups. This institutional scaffolding was sustained by the 1980 constitution and a set of “consensus agreements” between the economic and political elites. A series of social actors became involved in the 2011 student protests, incorporating new demands that included improving state education, offering household debt relief, supporting environmental protection, and promoting gender equality, as well as defending the feminist movement and campaigning against the private pension system (NO + AFP). For most of these contentious topics, the 1980 constitution emerged as one of the great obstacles to bringing about the desired social changes. A period of greater politicization (UNDP 2015) led to historic levels of acceleration, culminating in the social uprising of October 2019 and the ongoing constitutional process with its substantive discussion of Chile's economic model.

The argument that we advance here is twofold. First, the 2019 social uprising was a coup de grace to the Chilean economic model, understood as a cultural dispositive that promotes market solutions to public problems and the subsidiary role of the state. The legitimacy of the Chilean model had been eroding over the past decade due its unequal outcomes: corruption scandals involving the business class, political parties, state institutions, and others; institutional restrictions to bringing about changes through democratic means, perhaps most prominently the 1980 constitution; and discontent on the part of citizens expressed through social movements calling for improved labor conditions, social justice, environmental protection, gender equality, indigenous rights, and other issues. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 further exposed the inequalities produced by the Chilean model, revealing its inability to guarantee social security. Together, the 2019 revolts, the pandemic, and the constitutional process discredited the model as a dispositive of justification to promote market policies, bringing about what Alexis Cortés (2022) calls “the end of the myth.”

Our second argument is that the 2019 social uprising marked a critical shift in both the ways in which the economy is discussed and who is authorized to legitimately debate economic issues in the public sphere, thus constituting a break from the technocratic consensus regarding market-led policies. It encouraged developmentalist economists to present their ideas forcefully in the public sphere, and noneconomists to discuss substantive issues of the economic model in the press. Furthermore, economists lost their hold on the public economic discourse as an enclosed jurisdiction. As the column analysis below shows, key journalists and commentators gained public prominence, debating the assumptions, practices, and results of the Chilean model and challenging the economists' technocratic approach to examine the economy using other normative criteria such as social justice, environmental impact, and gender balance. A combination of these factors helps explain the cultural decline of the Chilean model as a dispositive to justify market-oriented policies.

The article is organized as follows. We begin by discussing the literature within the intellectual field and the features of the Chilean public sphere. We then explain the methodological decisions taken in sampling and analyzing newspaper columns. In the third section we discuss the main findings, that is, how the economic model was debated between 2019 and 2021. We conclude by discussing the transformations in the debate surrounding the Chilean model and their consequences for the constitutional process.

The Chilean Journalistic Field and the Cultural Battles That It Elicits

The news and opinions published by the media are among the most significant forms in which society produces knowledge about itself and the world. Journalists and columnists play a vital role in the intellectual field by signaling issues of public interest and showing why and in what ways they matter (Donsbach 2014). Journalistic and opinion pieces, therefore, are fundamental to the “construction of reality” by generating knowledge and opinion about the public sphere among its audiences (Schudson 2005).

In line with Gil Eyal and Larissa Buchholtz (2010), we study public intellectuals' interventions in the public sphere. Specifically, we study columnists' interventions using the notion of “field” (Bourdieu 2005). Columnists are central agents of both the intellectual and the journalistic fields due to the recognition they have achieved, their intellectual prestige, and their capacity to influence public and political debate (Duval 2004). Through their comments and points of view, they not only help to set the public agenda but also help adopt normative positions regarding the issues involved, thus framing events. The ideas mobilized by these columnists are far from innocuous and are performative in nature, producing realities and affecting the politics, laws, and institutions that govern us. In studying the role of columnists in debates about capitalism and democracy, we assume that there are disputes between agents for recognition, intellectual authority, and the interpretation of political events. We leave aside commentators from television, radio, and social media, instead focusing our analysis on print media columnists, as these continue to be the main producers of interpretive frameworks for debating public issues (Undurraga 2018). Some of these columnists are also key players in radio and television, but while other influential commentators do appear on TV, radio, and social media, they do not necessarily discuss the economic model positively.5

The Chilean journalistic field has certain features that serve to shape a particular public sphere. The print media is dominated by two journalistic consortia—El Mercurio and Copesa—which control 80 percent of national newspaper circulation (Becerra and Mastrini 2017). There is no robust independent press media to provide a counterbalance to the reporting and views expressed by mainstream outlets. According to María Olivia Mönckeberg (2013), journalistic work in Chile is anchored to and conditioned by political and economic interests. Given the high economic concentration of the print media, certain positions tend to be rendered invisible, reinforcing a public agenda consistent with elite interests (Mellado and Humanes 2017). It is also worth mentioning that the Chilean public sphere is conditioned by its historical and political situation. Since the return to democracy in 1990, public debate between intellectuals has been self-contained due to the fear generated by dissent within the elites and the threat of a return to authoritarianism. This elitist consensus tended to “silence” a fully diverse and contentious public debate, generating an elitist public sphere in the leading print media (Undurraga et al. 2023).

Finally, it is important to consider the audiences that read newspapers. Columnists write for readers who tend to be from the political, economic, and intellectual elites. Mainstream newspaper readership in popular sectors in Chile is extremely low.6 Another factor in play is the emergence of social media. While audience dynamics have certainly changed with the spread of social media, the mainstream media vehicles continue to be the dominant producers of journalistic content. In the wake of the social uprising of October 2019, however, concern about the distance between elite public discussion in the mainstream press and popular realities and debate on social media grew considerably (Luna, Toro, and Valenzuela 2021).

Methodology

To investigate the predominant discussions surrounding the Chilean model between 2019 and 2021, we identified the fifteen most influential columnists in the print media who were involved in debates about capitalism and democracy. We selected these columnists according to criteria of public prominence, reputation, readership, and field of expertise. We considered the rankings of the most influential columnists prepared by the press itself (La Segunda, Capital) from which we selected those columnists who regularly refer to issues relating to political and economic topics, that is, to the economic model.7 We left aside columnists who specialized in popular culture, arts, the city, and so on. Based on their media trajectory and ubiquity, they were identified as the dominant columnists discussing political and economic issues. We then went on to test our proposed list of names with academic peers who specialize in this area. Most of the columnists selected were from the main national newspapers: La Tercera and El Mercurio. The list of columnists consists of Sebastián Edwards, Lucía Santa Cruz, Daniel Mansuy, Pablo Ortúzar, Eduardo Engels, Hugo Herrera, Daniel Matamala, Paula Escobar, Carlos Peña, Eugenio Tironi, Claudia Sanhueza, Fernando Atria, Paula Walker, Ascanio Cavallo, and Yanira Zúñiga. The list comprises three economists, four journalists, two lawyers, two philosophers, one historian, one sociologist, one political scientist, and one anthropologist.

We collected all the columns published by this group of fifteen in the national press between 2019 and 2021, assembling a corpus of 869 columns. The columns averaged between three hundred and nine hundred words. We coded each column using thematic analysis to inductively identify the main issues addressed (Kohler Riessman 2008). Then, we selected the columns that focused on the Chilean economic model (i.e., those that explicitly named it the “model”) and that discussed issues relating to its structure, namely, the economy, the role of markets in public policy, neoliberalism, justice, rights, the tax system, the shape of the state, and the rule of law. We then selected columns containing at least two of these topics, that is, those that dealt explicitly with issues of the model or mentioned it directly, which left us with a total of 226 columns. We subjected these 226 columns to analysis, identifying how justifications and criticisms of the economic model were expressed by the columnists.

Debates concerning the Model in the Aftermath of the 2019 Social Uprising

Argentina and Paraguay [are] in recession; Mexico and Brazil, stagnated; Bolivia and Peru suffering a major political crisis; Colombia seeing a resurgence of the FARC and the guerrillas. In the midst of this troubled Latin America, Chile is a true oasis; with a stable democracy, the country is growing, creating 170 thousand jobs a year, wages improving.

—President Sebastián Piñera (economist), El Mercurio (October 9, 2019)

The years 2019, 2020, and 2021 were turbulent times for the economic discussion in Chile. The violence expressed in the unrest that raged from October 2019 to March 2020—street clashes, vandalism of public space, and police repression that left thirty dead and more than five hundred people with eye injuries—went hand in hand with polarization and heatedness of public debate. The economy was no exception. The economic model was discussed intensely and agonizingly, and the country entered a constitutional process that revised the foundations of the social contract. Structural aspects considered untouchable and indisputable for forty years—such as the private pension system—became the focus of discussion. While the 2019 revolt generated a political crisis, lack of faith in institutions and public authorities and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic triggered a health-care crisis that saw the imposition of severe restrictions on people's mobility. Added to this was the economic crisis caused by paralysis of the economy and large-scale unemployment. This triple crisis—political, health care, and socioeconomic—shaped the context in which the Chilean economic model was scrutinized over the period.

Adopting a panoramic view of the columnists' debates on the economic model during this short period, four structural axes emerge from the analysis: (1) the social uprising as an expression of discontent with the economic model; (2) the pandemic puts the model to the test; (3) eating into the private pension funds (AFP); (4) defense of the model and new economic debates.

The Social Uprising as an Expression of Discontent with the Economic Model

The social uprising of October 18, 2019, took most columnists and members of the elites by surprise, and especially the Chilean government. Only a week earlier, President Sebastián Piñera had claimed that Chile was “an oasis” within Latin America. The distance between the president's analysis and the reality of those Chileans who joined together in mass protests a week later was stark, despite the fact that various analysts had for years been warning of growing public unrest.8 The protests were sparked by a small rise in the Santiago metro fare (by 30 pesos—four American cents—to 830 pesos) suggested by a technical committee of economic experts. The government, failing to consider the possibility of widespread discontent about the increase, decided to apply it.9 Fanning the flames, Piñera's ministers of finance and economy, both economists, went on to mock people's discontent, suggesting that they should “wake up earlier” to avoid the peak-time fare rise and “to buy flowers,” as these were unaffected by inflation. Faced with the violence of the social uprising, both left- and right-wing parties blamed the government for not containing or repressing it. A common response from the government spokesperson was that “nobody saw it coming.” As the revolt raged on, columnists outlined various theories of the origins of the social unrest: discontent with the model's inequalities, disaffection with a political system perceived as corrupt, and a sense of unfairness in response to abuse that called into question the key interpretative frameworks of the political and intellectual elites.

One theory was the reality of a middle class mired in a precarious existence within an economic model that exhausts them and benefits only a few. As the journalist and political analyst Ascanio Cavallo points out: “The immediate trigger is the overwhelming of a huge sector of the population for whom daily life has become insufferably more expensive while their salaries do not rise and corruption and abuse of power are rife in all their provocative worldliness” (La Tercera, October 27, 2019). Along similar lines, the conservative philosopher Herrera (Capital, July 6, 2019) argued that the demographic growth of the middle class and an exhausted economic model left large groups of people burdened with debt and abuse. Another universal explanation among columnists relates to a series of business corruption and collusion scandals that directly affected the middle class and popular sectors—involving such products as toilet paper, chicken meat, pharmaceuticals, and retail in general—thus increasing the perceived unfairness of the economic model.

For others, the causes of the model's decline are mainly political. According to the liberal economist Edwards, Chile's success between 1990 and 2010 responds to a cosmopolitan leftist elite that understood the dilemmas of globalization and negotiated well with right-wing parties, the military, and the business class, generating stability and economic growth. That strategy exhausted itself in the second decade of the new century, when the right wing failed to understand that the constitution had to be changed and the left wing was unable to sustain its enormous previous success: “The ‘uprising’ of 18 October is, in part, a consequence of this situation. A country almost paralyzed, with salaries advancing at a snail's pace, with political forces incapable of achieving a minimum understanding, and a sensation of widespread abuses” (Sebastián Edwards, La Tercera, November 27, 2020). The polarization of society and the agonizing nature of the political debate are entangled phenomena. Politics is no longer about debating public policies but confronting imagined enemies, sharpening the positions of both political sectors. According to Herrera: “For decades, the economism of the right wing has sought to submit reality to the notions of the human being as an individual independent of society and of the neoliberal economy as a condition of a correct political order. . . . For decades, the moralism of the extreme left has sought to hold reality under the notions of the market as an immoral sphere of alienation” (El Mercurio, March 2, 2021).

Some columnists directly criticize the elites for their detachment from people's experiences. According to the journalist Escobar, “The elites, all of them, experience a profound disconnection from the reality of those who are not part of them” (La Tercera, October 18, 2020). The economic elite, in particular, with its technocratic approach, is accused of being distanced from the working classes. As Jorge Atria and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser (2021) show in their study of Chilean elites, 70 percent of members of these groups consider that the economic system works very well, and that salary equality is not an issue (only 28 percent see it as relevant). Their estimate of conflict level between rich and poor is low: 61 percent consider that it is not important.

The key interpretative frameworks of political and intellectual elites were questioned. Escobar, for instance, points to the government's inability to understand the population's exasperation, blaming foreign infiltrators for the violence. The signs of discontent were there long before October 2019, in that the meritocratic ideal of the Chilean model was difficult to achieve (Moretti and Contreras 2021). Until the social uprising, the model's dominant justification was the “capitalist modernization” thesis. This explanation, defended by key intellectuals (e.g., Carlos Peña, Daniel Mansuy), proposed that Chileans were empowered by their better material conditions, helping them to express their demands with greater impetus. Carlos Peña (2017, 2020), lawyer, philosopher, chancellor of Universidad Diego Portales, and key liberal thinker,10 explains social unrest and protest as responses to the success of the model, which raises the expectations of those who previously lived in poverty: “When the material circumstances in which existence unfolds change, culture also changes, as well as the way in which individuals conceive themselves and relate to others. This is exactly what has happened in Chile” (Peña, El Mercurio, November 23, 2021). According to his account, Chileans have become unrulier in the face of authority because they are more individualistic and not, as various intellectuals believe, because they perceive themselves as victims of the social structure and income inequalities (Araujo 2019; UNDP 2017; Cortés 2022). As such, citizens' disaffection with politics is, for Peña, evidence of the success of the model. That interpretation, supported by the political and economic elites since the 2000s, gradually lost its legitimacy due to the model's struggle to bring about social inclusion, and to its inability to incorporate new actors emerging from civil society. Peña's argument could be interpreted as an example of “paradigm repair,” or an attempt by conservative intellectuals to uphold the model.11

For intellectuals who question the legitimacy of the 1980 constitution, violence in the streets was not just the result of a worn-out political class. Rather, it was a key moment for the Chilean people, who rejected the institutions inherited from the dictatorship and demanded profound political change. The violence reveals the contained rage and reflects the model's lack of legitimacy. For Claudia Sanhueza, a developmentalist economist from the left-wing party Revolución Democrática, “The social uprising was not a peaceful event. It is in the same category as other revolutions that the history of mankind has experienced . . . like that of France” (La Tercera, December 10, 2020). Both the social uprising and the COVID-19 pandemic raised the feeling of a lack of control over the country. Following Scheidel 2017, Sanhueza argues that social uprisings and catastrophes such as the pandemic have in the past been the cause of equalizing social changes. In a similar vein, several columnists celebrate the institutional democratic character of the constitutional process as a way to deal with the social crisis. From this perspective, the agreement of November 15, 2019, revealed a responsible political class and a mature democracy.

In sum, the social uprising saw the expression of discontent with a number of issues relating to the inequalities of the Chilean model—a political system perceived as corrupt and beneficial mainly to the elites. The revolt also called into question the main interpretative framework with which intellectuals have described the model's success, namely, capitalist modernization, revealing that market mechanisms were, in fact, not particularly successful in producing social integration.

The Pandemic Puts the Model to the Test

The 2019 revolt shook the political stability, social order, and economic certainty that had characterized the Chilean model for thirty years, but the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic triggered a triple crisis—socioeconomic, political, and health care—that raised serious questions as to the market model's ability to guarantee social security, stressing the need for state action in the realms of health care and the economy. The Piñera government had serious difficulty in responding to a wide-ranging health-care emergency in a model where health care and employment depend mainly on private actors, and where social policies have been focused only on vulnerable sectors in the form of direct financial transfers. Columnists could do little more than comment on the critical situation.

Some criticized the government's technocratic response; others questioned the absence of universalist policies and a genuine social security system that protects the population. The political philosopher Daniel Mansuy, from the conservative think tank IES, criticized the government for managing the crisis in an economistic manner and without taking politics into account. Adopting a similar logic, Hugo Herrera diagnosed the failure of the economic model in its “Chicago” form, which he considers incapable of doing good politics due to its economic reductionism and its attachment to technocracy. In his view, the management of the pandemic would be the best example of “managerial” failure in the face of a global emergency. Other columnists, such as the journalist Paula Escobar (La Tercera, October 4, 2020), questioned the government's restriction of funding for knowledge production, while vast quantities of vaccines were purchased from abroad. “One of the weaknesses of our development model is the lack of investment in research and development (R&D). . . . If the coronavirus is going to leave us with a positive lesson, it is the importance of financing scientists and researchers in each country.” It is worth considering whether columnists who stress the government's lack of R&D investment are motivated by economic conviction or by their own position as intellectuals whose social milieu might benefit from greater funding. It is also interesting to note that some columnists who are at the top of their professional field—and therefore among the ranks of the cultural elites—tend to speak about the elites as if they were not members of them.

The pandemic exposed the profound social cleavages hidden behind the economic success of the Chilean model. A traditional critique in social science is that the Chilean model was successful only for a few, while for the many it was an illusion, a narrative, a myth (Moulián 1997; Cortés 2022). Echoing this critique, several columnists stressed how the pandemic laid bare the fragmentation of Chilean society. In the words of the journalist Paula Walker, “We are a country whose social mobility is based on private loans (CAE) to train at university and then pay up to 3 or 4 times the value of the degree. Where the old must work after they retire because they do not have enough to live on. The Chilean model, installed 40 years ago in response to the economic crisis of the 1980s, broke in October 2019, revealing the cost that Chile has paid to achieve our economic miracle” (Diario Financiero, May 2, 2021).

The pandemic is one of those “monstrous events” (Dosse 2010) that tests societies and their ability to respond in solidarity. For some columnists, the pandemic was an opportunity to rethink the model, taking the universality of the vaccination program as an example. For Paula Walker, “in this large-scale vaccination we have seen firsthand what the right to health care means: all people sharing the same rights is an experience that we had not lived before” (La Tercera, February 18, 2021). In short, the pandemic provided a glimpse of another development model and provided the final push to open the economic discussion in Chile. The pandemic, as the social uprising before it, constituted the most demanding test of the Chilean model to date and put emphasis on its structural weaknesses. Considering the cracks unveiled by this monstrous event, developmentalist economists such as Ricardo Ffrench-Davis (2022) took the opportunity not only to question the fragilities of the neoliberal model but also to treat neoliberalism itself as a pandemic.

Eating into the Private Pension Funds (AFP): A Critical Blow to the Market Model

Various studies consider that one of the fundamental pillars of the Chilean economic model implemented during the military dictatorship is the private individual capitalization pension system (AFP) (Santillán-Salgado and Montenegro 2010; Gárate 2012). This is because, fundamentally, it sustains the capital market and grants the Chilean business sector access to cheap credit.

The NO + AFP movement (2016) was ahead of events. The social uprising of 2019 turned the rejection of the AFPs into one of the main drivers of social unrest. In March 2020, faced with the exponential spread of COVID-19, the government first implemented restrictions on free movement and then total quarantine, paralyzing education, trade, and employment. Faced with mass unemployment, and in the absence of universal assistance policies, parliamentarians from all parties echoed public pressure to access individual savings held by the AFPs. On June 30, 2020, the Senate approved the withdrawal of 10 percent of funds, going against the Piñera government's position and, for the first time since the system was created in 1981, allowing Chileans to withdraw part of their savings. In the following months, more than ten million Chileans withdrew their funds. Parliamentarians then approved a second withdrawal at the end of 2020, followed by a third in 2021. The individual capitalization system, administered by the AFPs, was shaken to its foundations, as was the whole economic model.

The economist Sebastián Edwards reads the discontent as a “tectonic movement,” which reflects the accumulated rage against what is perceived as an abusive system that provides poor pensions and obscene enrichment for a few. Claudia Sanhueza, meanwhile, maintains that the AFPs speeded their own crisis by insisting for years that the funds belonged to the workers and that therefore they could be used, especially in times of acute crisis: “If there were a social security system, there would be no right to withdraw funds, because these would be used to pay pensions (probably those of other people) with cross-subsidies, thus ensuring solidarity and gender equity, and it would be the responsibility of the state” (La Tercera, November 23, 2020). She warned, however, that eating into the pension funds means that the state will have to assume the future pension burden. Social movements and MPs justified eating into the pension funds as a way to compensate for the lack of security provided by the Chilean state and policies that target only the poorest. In response, several columnists expressed catastrophic prognoses such as “the end of the successful cycle of Chile” and “the return to underdevelopment.” For Lucía Santa Cruz, a conservative historian and board member of several large firms, it was a point of no return: “15 July will be remembered as a key milestone in the sustained process of destruction of the current democratic institutions and economic system” (El Mercurio, July 17, 2020). For Edwards (La Tercera, November 14, 2021), redistributive public pension systems have historically failed. In his view, public pension systems impose a “tax on work,” suffocate employers, and are doomed to be defunded, especially in Chile, where wages are low and there is a high level of labor informality.

This policy shift was read as a critical blow to the market model. For some, it heralded a default on the model's promises; for others, it represented the demise of the model's firewalls that prevented the expression of popular will. According to Eugenio Tironi, a sociologist with links to Concertación governments, withdrawing funds from the AFPs constitutes the fall of a central dogma of the Chilean model: a “safe” old age thanks to the individual savings of workers, and the possibility of upward social mobility thanks to access to private education (secondary and tertiary). “Both (dogmas) had been showing signs of erosion for a long time, but the elite, especially the business elite, did not want to face it . . . threatening that any change would bring a deluge” (El Mercurio, July 21, 2021). This massive public policy shift was possible only due to both the weakening of presidential power (the only office that has a legal initiative in pension matters) and a spontaneous emergence of de facto parliamentarism. According to the CNN journalist Daniel Matamala (La Tercera, May 11, 2021), eating into the AFPs heralds the collapse of the model's safeguards, leaving it at the mercy of popular will.

What is coming to an end is the Old Regime . . . a system of firewalls to hinder or prevent the popular will to cause change. . . . Faced with any threat to the status quo (taxes on the richest, mining royalties, annulment of the fishing law) the government's response was the same: the Constitutional Court (CC) would prevent it. Withdrawals from pension funds had immense support from citizens and were overwhelmingly approved in Congress. . . . But then the CC rebels. It says no to the government. The firewall falls. The popular will become law. And in that act, the Old Regime ends up collapsing.

Defense of the Model and New Economic Debates

The resounding approval of the new constitutional process came as a heavy blow to defenders of the Chilean model. The convention elected a body of 155 representatives to write a new constitution, most of whom were critical of the existing system. After years of toiling under a dominant narrative of a successful economic model, the public imagination in Chile between 2019 and 2021 also acknowledged the other side of the coin: an unfair model that is unable to deliver social peace. Columnists debate when and how the model went off the rails. For those who see it as the most prosperous period of economic growth and political stability in Chile's history, the decline of the model is a tragedy. Recriminations abound. Some criticize the center-left coalition that governed during the period (1990–2010, 2014–18) for not defending the social achievements of the model. Others question whether the right “rested on its laurels” and neither defended it nor offered solutions. For others, it was the greed and corruption of the business class that triggered the unrest.

Various columnists, including the economist Edwards, the philosopher Herrera, and the journalist Escobar, criticize the business class and the right-wing sector for locking themselves into the supposed success of the model. This complacency led to its “cultural defeat” and political downfall. The problem lay in the ideological gaze of the business class (Undurraga and Huneeus 2019). According to Edwards, the Left successfully installed the idea that the Chilean economic model is abusive, unjust, extractivist, speculative, and patriarchal (see the epigraph at the beginning of this article). Right-wing politicians and the business sector thus did not know how to defend capitalist ideas, following the thesis that Joseph Schumpeter put forward in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942). The deterioration of the spirit of capitalism—that is, the entrepreneurial aspiration to innovate—was Schumpeter's main concern. In his view, capitalist societies would eventually turn socialist due to a growing crisis of legitimacy and the role played by intellectuals who persistently advocate change in a socialistic direction. The bourgeoisie, for Schumpeter, was destined to defend capitalist values, but in fact failed to defend the importance of entrepreneurs in order for capitalism to prosper.

Some columnists, such as the historian Lucía Santa Cruz, make a historical defense of capitalism, arguing that the free market is the system that has generated the greatest personal freedom and global prosperity in the last fifty years—echoing Margaret Thatcher's arguments in the 1980s. Economic growth, in her view, is the only instrument that allows improvement of the living conditions of the population. According to Santa Cruz (March 12, 2021), regardless of left- or right-wing policies, in order “to improve the lives of Chileans it is necessary to increase the country's wealth and that requires economic growth, better jobs and greater productivity.” For Santa Cruz, to touch the AFPs is to strike at the very heart of the model. Her defense is visceral. Here, there are no nuances, varieties of capitalism, or alternative welfare states: is it capitalism or anticapitalism: “Faced with all the new dilemmas, [for the left] the solution is always more state and suppressing private sector and civil society initiative” (El Mercurio, June 18, 2021). Her call is to defend capitalism against those who seek to destroy it through street protests and the constitutional convention.

The constitutional process triggered a seismic shift in the economic debate in Chile and in the relationship between democracy and capitalism. It encouraged developmentalist economists to present their ideas forcefully in the public sphere, and noneconomists to discuss substantive issues of the economic model in the press. For progressive lawyers such as Fernando Atria, the constitutional process is a democratic triumph that returns power to the majority. A new constitution “gives us back the power to decide, to control our destiny, whose usual name is democracy. The power to decide, for example, whether the AFPs will continue to exist” (Atria, La Tercera, October 14, 2020).

The constitutional process opened the economic discussion up to issues that had been “untouchable” for forty years, such as ending the individual capitalization system (AFP) and rethinking industrial state policies or the role of workers on company boards. For the economist Claudia Sanhueza (La Tercera, September 14, 2020), Friedrich Hayek's ideas that inspired the 1980 constitution—the market, competition, and prices as governing principles—should be abandoned, and public policies should be inspired by J. M. Keynes's ideas, where “the government has a great responsibility in the economy and society, and the economy is an instrument for everyone to achieve financial security.” A sustained criticism of the Chilean economic model is its extractivist character, that is, its low-added-value exploitation of raw materials, such as copper, wood pulp, and fish and seafood products, which makes it more difficult to increase the productivity of the economy and provide better jobs and higher wages. An environmentally minded industrial policy emerges as a possible response, focused, for instance, on infrastructure for renewable energy, engineering, and management services. According to this view, Chile should aim to build an entrepreneurial state like the one proposed by Mariana Mazzucato (2015).

Against the proposals for an entrepreneurial state, two types of argument are put forward: normative arguments from liberal historians such as Santa Cruz, and those of a technical nature from the likes of Sebastián Edwards. Santa Cruz (July 30, 2021) draws on Hayek's principles to attack the idea of the “entrepreneurial state” from a classical political perspective: it would be a return to twentieth-century central planning, where the state determines investment areas and manages development. In her view, when the state had that role, “its main characteristic was its inability to achieve an increase in wealth that would allow it to overcome poverty and all material deficiencies, such as infant mortality, malnutrition, illiteracy, few schooling years, limited access to higher education and low life expectancy.” In parallel, in “Open Letter to Leftist Economists” (La Tercera, June 13, 2021), Edwards questions whether, given its geographic remoteness, Chile is able to transform its productive matrix and participate in global value chains as developmentalist economists propose, given that sophisticated products are manufactured in a variety of countries closer to the Global North. Edwards maintains that implementing an industrial policy in Chile is the wrong choice. “According to this argument, Chile would be trapped by an overly simplistic structure, where fruits, copper, and other natural resources with little added value are exported. This idea, repeated by the Left and promoted by the journalist Daniel Matamala, is wrong and can lead us to harmful policies” (La Tercera, August 20, 2020). It is interesting to note that Edwards criticizes Matamala, a journalist, as one of the main proponents of industrial policy. This reveals two novelties in the economic debate. The first is that the economy ceased to be a field exclusive to economists, as it had been in Chile since 1975,12 with journalists, historians, and the lay public discussing the scaffolding of the economy in the press. Second, developmentalist ideas found spokespeople not only in economists but also in communicators who reach the same conclusion, namely, that Chile needs a new development model that produces greater value and goes beyond extractivist capitalism.

A central theme among the demands for a new model is a more equitable distribution of resources. The proposals vary from parity arguments, especially columns by the journalist Paula Walker, the lawyer Yanira Zúñiga, and the journalist Paula Escobar, to redistributive policies, universal basic income, or a tax on patrimony. With these policies, its defenders argue, Chile could create a social security system that includes pensions, unemployment benefits, and health care, strengthening the solidarity component. These proposals, arising mainly from the economic team of then presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, were rejected by Sebastián Edwards. In La Tercera (October 16, 2021), Edwards argued that Boric's economic team is young and well trained but lacks experience, and that the numbers provided in his proposals do not add up. In response, Boric's economic team (Sanhueza, Grau, Pardow, Petersen, La Tercera, October 20, 2021) told Edwards that what is important is the empirical evidence, and that this changes from country to country. “The urgent expansion of social rights needs to be financed and, given the considerable income inequality that exists in Chile, it is reasonable that it should come from the people with the highest income.” As such, taxing the wealth of the richest 0.1 percent is considered essential.

Discussion of a universal basic income is also new. Chile has historically operated income policies with minimum salary floors. According to Sanhueza (January 18, 2021), “The universal basic income is a ‘basic’ subsidy to which people are entitled by virtue of being citizens . . . it is a way of remunerating unpaid social work or care.” Perhaps the most progressive proposal for the Chilean economic model is that of gender parity and worker representation on company boards (codetermination). Emulating the German policies of parity boards, Boric's economic team— José M. Ahumada, Nicolás Grau, Diego Pardow, Sanhueza, and Ugarte (2021)—proposes parity boards at main companies.13 Business representatives and columnists who were supporters of the Piñera government strongly rejected the proposals of Boric's economic team.

As these debates reveal, new economic policies such as the entrepreneurial state, universal basic income, a tax on patrimony, and codetermination—policies that constitute the antithesis of the Chilean model, with its market solutions to public problems and a subsidiary role of the state—were widely discussed in the public sphere. These debates show in turn how the economy ceased to be a jurisdiction closed to mainstream economists, and how developmental economists, and journalists, philosophers, and historians have come to publicly discuss the policies and outcomes of the economic model.

How is it, then, that noneconomists were able to break the economists' forty-year monopoly on the economic debate? A combination of variables may help explain the shift. First, the economic results of the Chilean model have waned over the past decade, evincing certain fatigue on the part of the model and opening up spaces for criticism of structural issues of the market system, such as low pensions, low-quality health care, environmental degradation, and gender inequalities. Second, the wave of social protests that began to grow in 2011 and eventually broke in 2019 highlighted several areas of discontent among different groups and sectors. These were in relation to a series of business corruption and collusion scandals concerning products such as toilet paper, chicken meat, pharmaceuticals, and retail in general, and contradicted the discourse of competition and free markets, together installing a narrative that the Chilean model is unequal, unfair, and of benefit only to a few. Third, as the narrative of success surrounding the Chilean model began to erode, noneconomists—that is, journalists, politicians, lawyers, and historians—started discussing economic issues that they had not previously addressed, such as gender balance, productive structure, and social rights, echoing the discontents of citizens. Noneconomists and developmentalist economists explicitly challenged the expertise of monetarist economists with the help of other economic data and thinkers such as Keynes, Thomas Piketty, and Mariana Mazzucato, combining these with normative and historical sources. This led to a decline in the narrative of success surrounding the Chilean model, namely, that market capitalism and democratization strengthen one another and produce wealth, social peace, and political stability. Once the model as a cultural dispositive began to decline, monetarist economists—the undisputed guardians of the model—also lost their monopoly on interpretation of the economy, finding themselves defending the narrative of success against the real-life experiences of citizens and columnists who claimed that Chile's economic performance was a broken promise.

Conclusions

In this article we analyzed the debates surrounding the economic model voiced by the leading print media columnists in Chile in the wake of the 2019 social uprising, interrogating the framings and expectations of what is publicly imagined about “the model.” One of the fundamental pillars of the model was the consensus among political and business elites regarding the benefits of accelerated economic growth with a minimal state, focused on social policies for the very poor. Although the narrative of a successful model has been crumbling since 2011, it was the triple crisis of the 2019–21 period (political, socioeconomic, and health care) that seriously eroded the model's legitimacy. Both the 2019 social uprising and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic raised the feeling of a lack of control over the country. Whereas the pandemic confirmed the unequal consequences of the market model, the decision to eat into private pension funds revealed that the model's pillars were in fact movable. The strategy chosen to deal with the political crisis was the drafting of a new constitution—in other words, to overcome the institutional framework that supported the economic model. The constitutional debate about a new economic model raised topics that until just a few years ago had been unthinkable: the shape of the state, the political regime, the rights of the natural world, and even the productive matrix of the economy. The columnists' debate reflects a model in crisis—rejected for its concentration of wealth, environmental damage, gender inequalities and abuses—that contrasts radically with the optimistic narrative of Chile as a “model” country in Latin America: an oasis of political stability and economic growth. The social uprising brought an end to the traditional narrative of the model. The 1980 constitution that protected it was delegitimized after the uprising, and what had seemed like the pillar of the model, modifiable only through focused reforms, collapsed. As Atria, constituent lawyer from the Frente Amplio, states: “Sometime after 18 October, the 1980 constitution disappeared. . . . Nobody [today] believes that it is the constitution that Chile needs” (La Tercera, January 9, 2020).

If the aftermath of the 2019 social uprisings triggered the cultural decline of the Chilean model as a dispositive to justify market-oriented policies, the way in which the economy is publicly discussed also changed radically. Echoing civil society demands for greater participation in political and economic decisions, columnists scrutinized the outcomes and principles of the Chilean model from different angles. The discussion surrounding the economy ceased to be about the model as such and was opened up to new actors and concepts. At the same time, economists lost their monopoly on the narrative of the economy as a technocratic jurisdiction, and journalists, lawyers, anthropologists, and activists for a variety of causes now contribute to debates on fundamental economic issues such as inflation, employment, and public debt. Political economy became more present, where previously it had been the exclusive domain of scientific “economic experts.” New concepts emerged and others disappeared. Justice abandoned its strictly legal sphere and began to be applied to the environment, to gender differences, and to the country's various territories and indigenous communities. Concepts such as capitalist modernization, democracy of consensus, and technocratic policies are, broadly speaking, losing strength. Chile appears to the world as a society in the process of self-reconfiguration—a new laboratory of constitutional processes.

Finally, a novelty of the 2019–21 economic debates, unlike in previous years, is that columnists question each other publicly, adopting a language that is at times hostile and visceral. While the traditional public economic debate articulated by the main columnists used to be a sort of “elite bubble” (Undurraga et al. 2023), with the 2019 social uprising that bubble burst. The variety of topics and economic positions diversified, and new columnists—many of them women and noneconomists—entered the debate. Whereas developmentalist economists found greater room in the mainstream print media to express their ideas, opponents of the constitutional process and defenders of the model—including the editorial positions of mainstream print media like El Mercurio and La Tercera—maintain catastrophic predictions regarding the country's economic future. For many, the 2019 social uprising put an end to a golden age in the country's history. Nevertheless, regardless of the outcome of the 2022 constitutional plebiscite—which strongly rejected the constitutional text—and the 2023 constitutional process led by Congress, the narrative of the successful Chilean model has ceased to function, and the space for debate on the economy and polity is now open to new and diverse social actors.

We would like to thank Tiago Mata and the editors of HOPE for inviting us to participate in this volume and to the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. We also would like to thank the Chilean projects that support our research: (FONDAP) No. 15130009, ANID–Max Planck No. MPG190012, (FONDECYT) Projects No. 1230300 and No. 1230291, and Anillo ATE220047. We thank Paul Salter, who did the proofreading. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are ours.

Notes

1.

According to Nigel Thrift (2005), capitalism has developed its own “cultural circuits,” enacted by management consultants, business schools, pro-market think tanks, and the economic media. This reflexive apparatus generates theories that integrate the latest critiques while responding to fresh social demands, thus revitalizing the stamina of capitalism. For a picture of Chile’s cultural circuits of capitalism, see Undurraga 2014.

2.

The most robust studies confirm that the economic model is perceived by Chileans as unequal, favoring political and economic elites. See UNDP 2017 and Atria and Rovira Kaltwasser 2021.

3.

Mariana Heredia (2015) made a similar argument regarding Argentina, showing how economists built up political authority by identifying a specific object of control—inflation—and subordinating everything else to it.

4.

We use Michel Foucault’s (1980) concept of dispositive—or apparatus—in reference to the links between knowledge, practices, techniques, and institutions that serve to enhance and maintain the exercise of power.

5.

Analysis of their role in the public debate would give rise to other types of study, such as those addressing the impact of social media on the 2019 social uprising, e.g., Calderón et al. 2021.

6.

Newspaper readership in 2015 was as follows: El Mercurio, 384,526 people daily; La Tercera, 339,328 people daily; the Clinic, 117,030 people weekly. Seventy percent of those readers were classified as belonging to social strata ABC1 and C2, that is, the Chilean social elites. In 2017, readership and socioeconomic distribution remained almost the same: 70 percent were classified as ABC1 and C2 (IPSOS Media TC. Encuesta Valida Research, 2015 and 2018). https://www.ipsos.com/es-cl.

7.

Rankings, in this sense, were one more input for our selection, not the sole criterion.

8.

As the UNDP (2017) report shows, Chileans were frustrated not only with the unequal distribution of wealth—1 percent of the population holds 30 percent of GDP, whereas half of the population’s salaries are just above the minimum of US$450—but also with inequalities in social relations, treatment, privileges, and abuses. It is no surprise, then, that “dignity” was one of the main demands voiced during the revolt.

9.

Public transport in Santiago is among the most expensive in Latin America. Rising transport costs have frequently led to popular revolts in Chile since the 1950s.

10.

We refer to Peña as a liberal thinker not in the American political tradition—i.e., social-democrats who advocate for larger government, protectionism, and economic interventionism—but according to the European notion of liberals who are generally in favor of limited government, economic liberalism, and the empowerment of individual consciousnesses and rights.

11.

For a discussion of the notion of “paradigm repair,” see Haran and Kitzinger 2009.

12.

The construction of the economy as a technical field was a deliberate process promoted by monetarist economists—the Chicago boys—from 1975 onward. They presented the economy as a field with clear boundaries and its own rules that only economists could explain (Gárate 2012).

13.

Several columnists who defended progressive policies assumed positions in Boric’s government on March 10, 2022: Claudia Sanhueza is undersecretary to the Ministry of Finance; José Miguel Ahumada is undersecretary for international economic relations; Nicolás Grau is minister of economy.

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