Presidential Elections

With the primaries just around the corner the streets are covered with posters and one can’t help but wonder who the next president of Chile might be this coming November. Fun fact: This is the first year in Chile in which all eligible voters will be automatically enrolled and voting is not mandatory. Before 2012, voting was compulsory for life for Chilean citizens who wished to enroll.

TECHO has decided to invite all the presidential candidates to the central office to speak. Upon my arrival to the office today, everyone was getting ready to hear from Claudia Orrego, a candidate from the Christian Democratic Party. (seen here in the middle)

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Coincidentally, Orrego worked as the minister of state for President Ricardo Lagos (president from 2000-2006). I was lucky enough to get accepted into a special seminar last Fall taught by Lagos on the emerging middle class in Latin America and am currently in the process of reading his book “The Southern Tiger.” The course was a very fascinating focusing on the diverging economic class systems that have been present in the country which have lead to very bad consequences for the poor. The trend of expanding inequality is quite similar to what we see in the US today. Orrego shared his platform and then proceeded with a question and answer discussion.

In the afternoon, I was scheduled to accompany another member of our team, Sofía. Sofía is actually one of my second cousins that I didn’t know was working in the same department until I arrived in Chile. Big family, small world

We were planning on going to two different campamentos however, as the day started to turn to night, Sofía informed me that this neighborhood would be risky to go to in the dark so we better not take any chances. We decided to only go to one located in Maipu. This campamento houses roughly 35 families and lies directly next to a river used as a dumpsite. I have never seen so much trash piled up that close to where people live. I can’t help but imagine what this kind of toxicity can do to the health of the people that live here.

Just a little clarification, campamentos are the communities that are built by TECHO and their first step of intervention and they are composed of “media aguas:” small shacks used as temporary housing. The community we visited today is in slow process of creating permanent houses, “Vivienda Definitiva,” which typically takes about 4 years to start. This is an example of a Media Agua. They are very simple and are lined up side by side.

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After work I went with Sofía to her house to celebrate her birthday with sushi for dinner. Following the wonderful birthday dinner we sat and watched the 10pm primary debate. Monday marked the day for Chile’s first presidential debates by the left-leaning political party candidates. Today we heard from the conservative side. It’s always fun to watch history unfold right before your eyes. Can’t wait to see how the primaries turn out in two weeks!

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