The Inter-American Dialogue, in partnership with the Organization of American States (OAS), Proyectamérica, and the Centro de Estudios Públicos (CEP), hosted the third of eight national dialogues on democracy in Reñaca, Chile from July 26 to 28, 2008. The workshop, titled Chile: Twenty Years after the Plebiscite, convened 20 distinguished Chileans representing previous administrations, the opposition, nongovernmental organizations, universities, a labor union, and the media. Discussions of the central themes of Chilean democracy reflected a broad range of political perspectives.
Although participants believe that democracy in Chile has improved since the plebiscite in 1988, they concede that Chileans expected a more efficient transition to both democracy and economic development. Participants also agreed that a lack of legitimacy and representation plagued political institutions. Some cited corruption and low quality of leadership as problems within the political system while others proposed systematic reform.
To improve the situation, many participants suggested a higher degree of electoral participation and more competition within and among the political parties. They reached a consensus that Chilean political parties need more transparency. While some noted that full reform is necessary to improve competitiveness, others think that compliance with the existing laws would suffice.
Participants also discussed inclusion and equality. Some mentioned that existing inequality is rooted in a culture of discrimination, but others disagreed, stating that prejudice has decreased over time. Most participants agreed that equality of opportunity, rather than equality of outcome is the end goal. Proposals for change included re-stimulating economic growth, higher quality of education, basic human rights, and improving state efficiency. Finally, participants proposed increased transparency at all levels, more space for formal dialogue, and a stronger culture of compromise and consensus.