Before I arrived to Chile I was intent on observing their politics in action while I was here. The fact that they have a female president who is also a single mother and openly agnostic fascinates me [I don’t think this would ever go over in the United States, at least in the near future]. You will also notice that her last name is not Chilean or Spanish, at least I don’t think it is; there is an overwhelming amount of German and other non-Spanish last names here, but I’ll talk about that more in a different post.
Three tidbits that I will let you judge on your own:
1. In order to vote in Chile you have to register, once you register it is for life. But IF you register you are required to vote in EVERY election always, including little tiny elections [something like for a city alderman in the U.S.]. If you are registered and miss voting in an election you are required to pay a fee every time.
Ok, I can’t help but insert commentary here: This voting system requires two things: stability in one’s life and money in case of fines. Both of these are things that people below a certain income level certainly lack. If someone isn’t positive that they will be able to vote in every single election for the rest of their life it takes away their ability to vote in one presidential election, for example. Even I don’t know where I’ll be on a certain day in five years, and I can’t promise I would make it to the polls. This obviously makes for a pretty exclusive voting system, which perhaps they’ve realized as they are currently taking strides to change the system, however the current system will be in place for all of next year’s elections.
2. September 18th is Chilean Independence Day. There is a mandate that says every single Chilean home must have a Chilean flag outside of their home on this day, if you don’t have one you get fined. Everyone is also prohibited from having a Chilean flag outside of their home on any day besides September 18th, if you do have one besides the 18th, then you get fined for that.
I just think this is absurd.
3. Santiago has a major problem with abandoned dogs, they are running ALL over the city. More so than there ever were in Colombia, where I felt like there was a pretty sizable amount. Some dogs are really dirty and gross, but there are a lot of them who seem like they were living in a house just last week. People here have a habit of just dumping domestic dogs into the streets. These perros vagabundos are called quiltros. There’s quite the critical mass of these quiltros surrounding “La Moneda,” an official government building where the president conducts meetings, in downtown Santiago. My Spanish teacher told us that visiting foreign presidents continually commented on the need for Santiago to take some steps to address the problem. Apparently after one state visit too many (I don’t know after which one) all of the dogs around La Moneda disappeared overnight (most likely taken somewhere and killed). Everyone who lived and worked down there had grown attached to the dogs and given most of them names. There was a city uproar about cruelty towards animals after this. The state tried to open a shelter for abandoned dogs but inspectors ended up discovering the conditions were far worse in the shelter than the street.