Friday, August 5, 2016

Government In Inaction

Much can be said about representative government and how it is adapted in different countries. In the US, the constitution was created by a congress of men who supposedly represented the will of their individual states, or colonies at that time. One must ask if they truly represented the wishes of their populations or simply what was best for them and their peer groups (sound familiar). That is the key question in representative democracy; whose voice is really heard?

I think the answer to that is plain. In the past eras of no polls, phones or instantaneous methods of communication it would be impossible to judge the overall wishes of the population and formulate a policy that represented the majority of the wants of the people. A lot was left up to the individual to decide for the better or worse for all. Wouldn't it be nice if in the electronic future every eligible citizen could and must vote via some device such as a cellphone, PC or similar.

In today's society, we expect more due to the ease of communication and ability of people to protest their demands. However, Chile is taking a giant step backwards in attempting to create a new constitution based on input from the people in a town hall format. This is not surprising given the socialist, communist cabal governing this country. This is why.

The existing constitution which was initiated during the Pinochet era and continuously modified over the years has served the country well and has steered Chile into the top tier category of countries to be recognized in South America. The continued quest for inclusion has, in the eyes of many, necessitated a rewriting of the constitution. But, as in all liberal socialist governments, every voice must be heard and catered to in the law, regardless of what it means to the overall population. The comparison to the damage that Allende caused with such a mentality is obvious; yet there is a statue of him on the main square.

Chile used to have required voting, of a sort. If you were a registered voter, you had to vote or face penalty. This was abolished in 2013 prior to the latest Bachelet election. As a result, voter participation in elections went way down (42%) and the majority of the voting population was from the lower economic levels; a group I will call the "give me" class. In other words the wealthy and mostly middle class, who were content with what they had and were not interested in what was going to happen, stayed home. The current administration was elected through a coalition of the give-me class political parties.

Today's television news said that the new constitution, which was promised by Bachelet as part of her election campaign, would be constructed by having town hall type meetings in each of the regions. This could be construed two ways, one bad and the other worse. The input from these meetings could be political circus to show that the government is truly listening to the wishes of the people and then following their own agenda, which is the norm in most governments, or they could incorporate the voices heard time and time again in each of the 15 regions into drafting a new constitution. There is real danger in the latter approach.

The growing Chilean mentality of "what's in it for me" could prevail in these meetings, prompting calls for more socialist giveaway programs and continued robbing the rich to give to the "poor". If there is an absence of representation by the middle and upper classes, similar to the election, this could severely distort and slant the future of the country. Socialism is great until you run out of other people's money.

So, we shall see what the outcome will be after these meetings. I would hope they are televised or the results published soon after as a means of transparency and maybe a wake up call. After all, no one but the give-me class ever demonstrates for change.

Something as important and far ranging as a new constitution should be examined and formulated by experts in economic development, finance and judicial experience for the good of the entire country and not just for the loudest voices. 

As usual, comments are welcomed and you can sign up for email notification of additional posts and rants.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fear, Distrust and Anarchy In Chile

Common Definitions: Fear mongering is the deliberate use of fear based tactics including exaggeration and usually repetition to influence the public; the action of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue. What about the unintentional use of alarming news? Rumor? Hearsay? Myth?

In the time lived in this country I have heard many truths, half truths and some myths regarding The Great Bogeymen lurking in the shadows. Nothing goes viral faster countrywide than a rumor or story regarding some ripoff or scam that has just popped up. The speed and expansion of these stories beats anything that the local news channels have to offer. But remember, the TV media are competing against immediate word of mouth, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc, etc.

Gas Stations

The first distrust warning I received shortly after arriving in Chile was about getting gas. I was warned about making sure the gas pump was set to zero pesos before getting gas, otherwise I would be billed for extra or someone else's gas. So naturally I made sure to look before filling. This has become so endemic and ingrained in the Chilean culture that almost every worker pumping gas at a station will point out to you that the pump is at zero before starting.

Now there are 2 things I noticed about this supposed scam. First, almost all the gas pumps out there today automatically reset themselves when the handle is placed back in the receptacle and removed. This has been the case for many years even in the remote areas. Also, wouldn't it seem logical that if someone ordered a quantity of say 10 or 20 lucas (cash), it would be obvious if their bill or request for payment was greater than what they asked for originally. On those occasions when you fill up, again, wouldn't a light go off in your head if normally it cost 30 lucas to fill up your car but the bill was 50 or 60 lucas?? By the way, I hae yet to meet a person who has had this happen to them. But the Chileans love a good story that substantiates their culture of fear and distrust. 


Other than supermarkets, many high-volume shops and businesses will have just one place to pay for goods, even though there may be several salespeople helping customers. The reason? Trust. Business owners are still stuck in a mentality, right or wrong, that trusting only one person to handle money will cut down their risk of being ripped off by employees. Consider however that now you have all the money in one place making it more tempting for a thief. So customer service is superseded by a fear and distrust of their own employees, whom they have hired. The newer ferreterias have gone to the supermarket lane approach rather than the old way of having 1 caja.

Personal Safety and Self-Defense

Residential burglaries are a serious concern in Chile. Not only in Chile, but in every country having a Spanish colonial legacy, there is a long history of homes, simple and grandiose, having walls, bars, gates, guards, barbed wire, electric wire and/or dogs; sometimes all of the above. What that tells you is that a) the citizens don't trust the outside populace; b) the outside citizens have little respect for personal property of others and; c) police protection cannot be relied upon to prevent crime. Added to this phenomenon is the government imposed difficulty of citizens to protect themselves from robberies and home invasions. Acquiring a firearm for home defense is an arduous, expensive and complicated process. Should you use a firearm or not, defending yourself by any means often results in the defendant being prosecuted for harming the assailant. Liberalism at it's finest level of stupidity; whoever is hurt must be the victim. 
An offshoot to this residential burglary issue is the vast proliferation of dogs in Chile. As one of the very few means of self protection or warning, people will have 2 or 3 dogs inside their property fence during the night; usually barking at anything that moves. During the day, these dogs are left outside wandering the street, most of them not fixed and creating additional social problems. Many of these new arrivals succumb to disease and die or are hit by cars and live a short miserable life. Gandhi said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated".


Distrust comes in many forms and is exhibited here in Chile by the response of people to outside influences. Say hello to someone who doesn't know you and you will probably receive a suspicious look or averted eyes. Coming from a different culture, where camaraderie is welcome and sought out, Chile shows its social insularity and lack of trust. Go into a bar in the US and you will probably be able to make friends or strike up a conversation in minutes. Not so here, unless you go to a bar/restaurant where foreigners are prevalent. 

Much of the distrust comes as a result of the actions of Chileans themselves. Locals have repeatedly told me that as soon as a new process or something having a monetary value comes out or the government launches a new program, soon behind comes the scammers and thieves looking to take advantage of any loophole they can find. In the end, the people help perpetuate this cycle of mistrust.


Anarchy is defined as "a state of society without government or law", but more appropriate to Chile, "general lawlessness and disorder, especially when thought to result from an absence or failure of government". Chilean government seems to function by the rule that the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. Demonstrations of even a minor sort are allowed to close streets but worst of all destroy private property while police look on with orders not to intervene. Meanwhile, personal property and means of livelihood of the uninvolved are being destroyed in the name of free expression. A recent riot/demonstration in Valparaiso resulted in major streets being closed for a few days for cleanup of the destruction wrought upon the city; disrupting people's ability to travel and get to work.

What I haven't seen here in 3 years is a peaceful demonstration of large amounts of people calling for more police protection or stronger law enforcement. This is the illness that Chileans are forced to endure as a backlash of the post-Pinochet era where it is anathema to suggest that police protect their citizens by exhibiting a stronger response to anarchy.


When the governed are allowed to snub the rules, not only does it promote anarchy but it subverts the whole concept of law and order and respect for others. This is most noticeable when driving outside the major cities. Speed limit signs seem to be mere suggestions that if followed, will cause you to be tailgated and passed by other vehicles. Passing in restricted lanes and blind spots is commonplace. Taxis, buses and cooperativos stop in traffic lanes to pick up and drop off passengers causing delays to others.
So where is the law enforcement? Mostly absent or doing random traffic stops to check for documentation. What is surprising is that the socialist Chilean government, in its never ending need for more revenue, will find ludicrous methods to raise income by, more recently, initiating an additional tax on new cars and taxing home sales, both of which have had the expected result of undermining and stifling these industries. Consider the possibilities of raising revenue by aggressively enforcing the traffic laws with tickets and fines. More radar checks and unmarked police cars. What a concept. Besides raising additional money, It would also be a major step in instilling respect for law and order in Chile.

As usual, comments are welcomed and you can sign up for email notification of additional posts and rants.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Cornucopia That Is Chile

All over this long land, in both cities and towns, you can find ferias (open air markets) and caseras (roadside produce stands). These quaint and appealing marketplaces are abundant in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and those that are near the coast also have a diversity of seafood and shellfish.

The feria in Quintero, almost 1/4 mile in length, has stall after stall of pretty much the same products over and over: nuts, olives, berries, fruits and vegetables, all selling at pretty much the same prices. The difference being which person you like best and how their products look in appearance. The huge central market in Santiago also is eye candy for shopping food and other products; plan on spending a few hours exploring. Many coastal towns have their own seafood/shellfish-only markets located where the boats come into port. Clams, crabs, fish, urchins and octopus. You can't get any fresher than that.

The best advantage of these markets is that they are often half the price of what you will pay in a local supermarket. Do not try to negotiate prices; save that for Mexico, it doesn't work in Chile. Seasonal fluctuation in certain products such as blueberries, blackberries and raspberries does occur but you can find eggs, beans, avocados, corn, olives, onions and other vegetables year round due to the temperate climate. 

But what is staggering is the sheer volume of produce one can see in any given location. Tons of edible products which make you realize the scope of farming that is going on in the country. This abundance lends itself to the ease of becoming a vegetarian, with the added benefit of being able to live on a narrow budget. It's quick and easy to make a soup, stew or bean dish with fresh ingredients from these markets. $10 USD will allow you to bring home enough basics to make several meals. As they say in Italian, abbondanza.

For the carnivores, Chile produces local meats; beef, pork and lamb, but many of these are also imported from neighboring South American countries.

Numerous types and styles of fresh baked bread are sold in supermarkets, panaderias (bread shops) and some roadside stands (pan ahumado). These are made and sold daily and, as in Europe, a morning trip to buy bread is common.

In addition to the markets and products mentioned above, wine is very plentiful in this varied land. Pisco, the national starter drink, is grown in the hotter, drier north; white wines, predominately sauvignon blanc, sparkling wine and chardonnay, are prevalent in the north central part of the country, particularly in the Casablanca Valley, and the dominant red wines, one of Chile's major exports, are prolific in the central valley - cabs, syrah, merlot, malbec and carmenere. The wines of Chile's next door neighbor, Argentina, are also easily found and plentiful. A very good inexpensive wine could cost you less then $10. Don't expect to see wines from USA, Germany, Italy or France.

Last but not least are the cheeses that are produced locally. Forget your imported cheeses like gruyere, gouda ementhal, etc. They are too expensive if you can find them. Chile has four major kinds of cheese:  queso mantecoso or Chanco, a buttery Port Salut type cheese; queso fresco or quesillo, farmers’ cheese; queso de cabra, goat milk cheese; and “gauda” an industrial cheese that usually comes sliced. A pound of mantecoso, of which you will have a dozen choices, will cost you approx. $4/lb. Also found but scarce are artesanal cheeses such as Quesos Calafquen made locally. For more cheesy info:

So, its no surprise that many restaurants have a varied, creative menu encompassing all the abundance that Chile has to offer. No reason to go hungry here, no matter what your budget. When traveling to Chile, eat, drink and be merry, everyone else is doing just that.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

The Culture Of Rudeness In Chile

Any foreigner who has lived and traveled in Chile can appreciate the cultural differences that are evident in everyday life in this country. I would like to address one of those differences, rudeness.


Rudeness is defined by one source as discourteous or impolite behavior; without culture, learning or refinement. That definition doesn't seem to allow for much wiggle room. An excellent definition and explanation is found in Wikipedia* which eloquently grants concessions for "..a display of disrespect by not complying with the social norms or etiquette of a group or culture." In other words, they suggest that we make allowances for different cultures who may have never experienced the same societal expectations as we have in our home country. Granted, there are probably certain forms of behavior that would be abhorrent to most cultures. Details not necessary.

So, are we expecting too much as foreigners, or do many Chileans fall into the definition above as displaying behavior without culture, learning or refinement? I believe it is a combination of both. Rudeness, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder.


Rudeness in Chile is displayed in several areas: driving etiquette, public interaction and customer service.

Driving etiquette: I faithfully avoid traveling into or out of Santiago during morning or afternoon rush hour and stay out of popular coastal beach towns during summer weekends. The reason being driver rudeness, exhibited in the overabundance of the "me first" culture, and my very low tolerance for bad behavior. Trying to merge into a lane of vehicles or being stopped from proceeding by vehicles blocking a green lit intersection shows Chileans at their worst. They will pull forward to block you from entering and most often ignore your entreaty to merge. It's all about "me". Another form of driving rudeness is much more dangerous and life threatening to all parties, excessive speeding and passing. Drivers will do dangerous and stupid maneuvers, such as passing on blind spots or curves just to get one car length further in heavy traffic. Again, as mentioned above, disrespect for their own laws and rules. (More in a future blog post.)

Public interaction: It took me awhile to realize why most businesses and government services have a "take-a-number" system. It goes back to the "me first" attitude. Without this system, it would be chaos with many people jockeying to get done regardless of who was there waiting before them. This system at least forces discipline in people and possibly over time will change the culture into more of a respectful, courteous one. Also, I can't understand why many Chileans are completely oblivious to others who are shopping in their immediate vicinity. Supermarket aisles are often blocked by people who leave their carts in the middle while they are browsing or are unaware that someone might be wanting to get by them in the aisle. More than once I have had to move someone's cart  to continue shopping; like no one else exists.

Customer service (CS): Regardless of where you come from, I believe that everyone has an expectation of being treated well when you are the consumer. This is an ethos that has escaped most Chile businesses. Granted, good customer service has to be taught and expected from the top down, so I can't always blame the individual for not knowing right from wrong behavior. It is interesting that the most personable, prompt and helpful CS individuals are often found as baggers in the supermarket or waiters in upscale restaurants. Too often, low wages and a boring, non-challenging job leads to young,inexperienced, low-wage personnel, who could give a damn about the customer and rather stick their head in their cellphone.
A recent trip to the supermarket had my wife almost come to blows with one of the employees who, when we needed several of a particular item, stated that there was more in the back. She asked him to get a case and he went postal, claiming he was going to miss his bus and throwing his pen and clipboard on the ground. I guess the bus comes before the customer. He never complied and somewhat later the assistant manager did come to apologize after repeated attempts to talk with someone about this level of CS.
This segues into another facet of CS, trying to contact and/or complain to someone in charge. In all this time in Chile, when I have asked to see or speak to a manager of a store, they are always "busy" or "on the phone". It seems that they will do anything to avoid customer complaints or having to deal with their client's issues. Rude. By the way folks, don't expect most businesses, especially mom & pop types, to be open from 2-4 PM. Most be a legacy of the Spanish colonial siesta time. All that being said, just like anywhere else, find the places and people that treat you right as a consumer and stay with them, hopefully the others will change or disappear. Hope springs eternal.
Last customer service rant has to do with dealing with government bureaucracy, again a legacy of past times. To try and get important paperwork done, schedule a full day. The norm is that person 2 tells you that you are missing a document that person 1 or the internet failed to mention; do not pass GO, do not collect 200 pesos. Also, you most likely will have to go to 2 or 3 different locations to get a stamp, notary or some other nonsense. Once, for a seemingly easy task of a single document approval, I was directed to the Ministerio, then to Registro Civil and then to PDI, all with waits and all in different parts of town. If government truly wanted to be more efficient and helpful to citizens, they could easily have representatives of all these functions in one location. I pity the poor person who has to take a day off from work to accomplish a simple task. This is a different kind of rudeness on the part of government; my process right or wrong.


As mentioned earlier, when living abroad one cannot expect a carbon copy of the culture they left behind. Allowances and adjustments must be made; it is an imperfect world. Living in Chile these past years has instilled a bit more tolerance in me but certainly not acceptance of rude behavior. Maybe if the sheep bleat loud enough, someone will listen.

As usual, comments are welcomed and you can sign up for email notification of additional posts and rants.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

What Do Carabineros Really Do ??

Having lived in Chile for several years, I have had the opportunity to observe the day to day actions and responses of the local police, the Carabineros. 

Looking through gringo eyes, it is difficult to understand the effectiveness of the Chilean police. They seem to be more interested in stopping vehicles to check on ownership and documentation than anything else involved in crime prevention. I have often wondered what their primary event garners them in terms of apprehensions or arrests. My expectation is that they should be more interested in patrolling areas of high crime at the critical times, yet they seem invisible or stand on the same street corner for hours. They seem to be reactive after a crime is committed and reported rather than proactive.

Additionally, when there are riots, euphemistically called demonstrations, the perpetrators are often allowed to run amok, destroying the personal property of anyone who happens to be in the vicinity of the "demonstration". This seems to be contradictory to what is expected of a police force of protecting and serving the public interest. Who is in control here, the police or the anarchists?

A local Chilean professor, whom I respect very much, stated the following: In my opinion, what you are seeing are the effects of a very long trend in Chilean politics, one that, since the return to democracy, centers around the principle against the use of force because of the political backlash that it generates thanks to the agenda of some human rights groups and the far left. And when that happens, the police do not have the political support to suppress violent manifestations with legitimate violence, because it will they who will be subject to harassment or threats of going to court. Sooner or later, the public will demand more coercive measures, but it requires a strong leader to make this happen.

So, in the post-Pinochet decades, the pendulum has swung widely towards the other direction. In the meantime, the wolves eat the sheep.

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Introduction To This Site

Thank you for taking your time to visit this site. I sincerely hope that you will find it interesting, informative and thought provoking.

The purpose of this blog is to share thoughts and ideas with other fellow travelers and expats in Chile. Understand that this is not a trip advisor or all about Chile type of website, there will be no reviews of restaurants or travel destinations. It aspires to be a journalistic endeavor to discuss important cultural and governmental issues and other insights as they relate to Chile. It may sometimes be satirical, sometimes be esoteric and hopefully, as mentioned earlier, be thought provoking, inviting intelligent discussion and comments.

From time to time we will have educated, knowledgeable Chilean contributors to evoke comments and discussions with, what we hope to be, a large group of attendees looking for intelligent conversation. 

There will be no ads, nothing to sell and nothing coming back except possibly a response to your comments, which you can make below..

Eat your heart out Washington Post and New York Times. Enjoy.

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