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Countdown to December 15th

November 27, 2009

Smile harder!

Within 20 yards of each other in the Plaza de Armas of Coyhaique stand three identical signs. They show a balding man with a slightly forced smile and say ‘Eduardo Cruces, Senador’ along with a campaign slogan in Spanish that evades my limited grasp (“Aysén elige a su gente“). The rest of the square, which is actually a pentagon, is flooded with similar signs, some touting cheaper energy from your friend (and candidate for Diputado) Señor Galilea, others supporting senatorial hopeful Antonio Horvath, who if elected will put Aisen first while riding a horse over treacherous terrain, many more touting other politicans and all endearingly under-photoshopped by American standards. Cars circle with campaign flags flickering above their windshields. Clearly, the town is excited about the upcoming elections which will take place on December 15th.

While I’m unsure of the nuances and potential effects of the local races, the issue of my previous posts – the proposed dams – make the presidential election significant to the local environmental community as well as their foreign and international supporters (a group in which I’d include myself).

Chilean law prohbits a president from serving consecutive terms so the current president Michelle Bachelet is not in the race. Three candidates from the left and one from the right are running to replace her and their positions on the dams vary widely, from unequivocal opposition to tacit approval, as the Santiago Times describes:

The issue is currently playing out in Chile’s presidential election, with maverick candidate Marco Enriquez-Ominami strongly opposing HidroAysén, together with Communist Party candidate Jorge Arrate. Front-runners Sebastian Piñera and Eduardo Frei have indicated their support of the dam project.

Recent polling suggests that Frei and Piñera will be the top vote-getters and thus face each other in a runoff in January. However, Enriquez-Ominami has been closing the gap between him and Frei and in fact polls better in a hypothetical runoff agasint Piñera. As I mentioned, only the government can stop the dams, so hopefully that gap continues to close.

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