Chile hosts Pacific Alliance; Piñera tries to boost investment in energy sector; Bolivia and Chile revisit old tensions at OAS meeting.
Chile deepens Pacific Alliance with region’s most open economies
At a meeting in the Paranal Observatory on Wednesday, the presidents of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Perú signed agreements for a new sub-regional integration group, the Pacific Alliance. Together, the four countries of the Pacific Alliance have over 200 million inhabitants and over $1 billion in GDP. This was the fourth annual meeting of the Alliance, but the first official signing of a Pacific Alliance treaty.
The four partner nations already have free trade agreements with each other, and are the most open and outward-looking economies in the region. Costa Rica and Panama observed Wednesday’s meeting and are predicted to join the Alliance.
President Piñera announced that the Pacific Alliance will work toward the free movement of goods, services, and people between member states, and will form a negotiating bloc for integrating with the Asia-Pacific economies. This week the four member states eliminated visa requirements for travelers moving within the new bloc.
Some saw Wednesday’s signing as further proof that there are “two Latin Americas”—one with liberal market economies like Chile and the other comprising more statist, protectionist economies such as Ecuador, Venezuela, and, increasingly, Argentina.
President Piñera meets with leaders of Chile’s energy sector
Since Colbún announced last week that it was dropping out of plans for the HydroAysén dam due to what it called the lack of a clear national energy policy, Piñera has sought to restore confidence in his government’s plans for the sector. This week he called the heads of Chile’s largest energy firms to discuss energy policy at a working lunch in the presidential palace. At the luncheon Piñera heard feedback from energy executives and revealed his government’s contingency plan for maintaining foreign investment in the energy sector in the event of a global economic crisis.
A survey conducted by Chilean newspaper El Mercurio and the pro-business Generación Empresarial (Business Generation) found that 63 percent of the 162 executives surveyed do not believe the government has a coherent energy policy. The executives said the government should work to secure energy supplies, boost Chile’s competitiveness, lower energy costs, and reduce carbon emissions.
Chile and Bolivia revisit old tensions at OAS General Assembly
Earlier this week, Bolivian officials threatened to put forward a resolution at the OAS General Assembly condemning Chile for not doing enough to provide Bolivia with access to the sea. In the event, Bolivian officials presented a memorandum but did not put their condemnation to a vote at the meeting in Cochabamba.
A 1979 agreement between the two nations obliges Chile to help the land-locked Bolivia access port facilities in Chilean territory. Chile’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfredo Moreno, said Chile “has nothing to fear” from Bolivia’s recent complaints.
In March 2011 Bolivian President Evo Morales said he would denounce Chile to the courts in The Hague, but has not done so. Morales has also argued that if the United States gave back the Panama Canal, Chile should have to give Bolivia back its access to the sea.
New study shows Chilean women are not pursuing degrees with high earning potential
Although women make up more than half of all university students in Chile, only one third of women pursue any of the 50 degrees with the highest earning potential, says a new study by the Ministry of Education. In 2009 women broke with historical trends to outnumber men in universities, technical schools, and professional institutes.
Few Chilean women pursue science and technology degrees. Women make up only 17 percent of the students in the most lucrative degree track, civil engineering for mining. By contrast, women form 65 percent of the graduates from degree programs with the lowest future salaries, such as education and social sciences.
The head of Chile’s División de Educación Superior (Division of Higher Education) said the numbers show Chile has progress to make.
New program to crack down on drunk driving in Santiago
A new police program launched on Thursday aims to increase citations and prosecutions of drunk drivers in Santiago at lunchtime and happy hour. The program is a joint effort of the Santiago traffic police and Chile’s Servicio Nacional de Prevención de Drogas y Alcohol (National Service for Drug and Alcohol Prevention—Senda).
The director of Senda says the new program, called “Control 2.0”, will catch drunk drivers who have started drinking earlier in the day to avoid late-night and early-morning police patrols. Drivers in Santiago have also been using the Waze social networking application to warn other users of police patrols.
As part of Santiago’s new zero-tolerance policy on drunk driving, the city will urge restaurant and bar owners to partner with taxi companies and to encourage the practice of designating a driver.