The US in the eyes of Chilean people: Gonzalo Albornoz on how Chile views the US elections and their aftermath
By Adriana Dancu
This is the first in a series of interviews with people in Groningen that have a connection to the Americas, to try and find out their views on the recent US elections. First up, we spoke to Gonzalo Albornoz about how a new Biden administration might affect relations with his home country of Chile.
Besides the fact that the elections in the US took place in unprecedented conditions, their aftermath meant different things for different people. Even though the US has important relations with most countries in the world, Latin American countries’ experience with the Trump administration, the US elections, and their expectations for a Biden administration are very important.
Note-worthy are the relations between the US and Chile, and the historical US interventions in Chile, which ultimately affected their view of the United States. Gonzalo Albornoz, a PhD student from Chile whose work focuses on fictional representations of law in prison environments discussed with The Northern Times how Chilean people see the US, the sitting-President, and the President-elect.
Domestic issues create general indifference towards the US elections
The US elections, and the victory of the Democratic Party, although important for some, were not the main concern for the ordinary Chilean people. “Chile is currently going through internal problems, such as a wave of riots against the political and police powers, and a lack of jobs due to the COVID-19 situation, among other problems,” says Gonzalo, thus, the domestic issues that Chile is confronting at the moment does not give people time to engage with US politics.
“However, the US elections were important for some people, especially: mass media, professionals, scholars and experts, who rejected Trump’s refusal to concede from the start,” says Gonzalo. He notes that Chilean officials and scholars criticized President Trump for rejecting the election’s result, but that “doesn’t matter for the major part of the Chilean population.”
Nevertheless, Gonzalo argues that the lack of homogeneity within the Chilean people is important to be stressed, as people’s opinions are divided.
Biden-a new hope
“I’ve noted a majority preference for Biden,” says Gonzalo. According to him, “for some, Biden’s election represents a change in terms of more democracy and a better treatment with the region’s countries…and the election of Kamala Harris as a Vice President hasn’t gone unnoticed.”
Moreover, Gonzalo says that Biden is seen as a more charismatic person in comparison to Trump, and people are hoping for better relations between the US and Chile under Biden: “I think the majority of people expect better international relations between the US and the rest of the governments around the world, more participation of the US as a principal actor at international institutions such as the UN, or WHO among others.”
“The main argument is not necessarily an understanding of Biden or his governmental plan, but a rejection of Trump and his way of governing. In this sense, Biden’s preference could be referred to as a rejection of Trump, rather than a support for Biden,” argues Gonzalo.
He notes that “for some far-right groups in Chile, Biden’s victory means the decline and deterioration of the US and Latin America,” however, those people are few.
Past US interventions are the cornerstone for Chile’s view of the “great democracy”
“I’m pretty sure that the idea of the US as a “great democracy” for the Chilean people was scrapped some time ago, given the US’s historical intrusion into other governments and politics in Latin America,” says Gonzalo. He mentions US intervention in Chile on September 11, 1973 to overthrow Salvador Allende’s government, the various US interventions in South America throughout the 1070s and 1980s, and the US criticism of Chile’s standpoint at the Afghanistan War. “In consequence, I think Trump’s refusal to concede just came to bolster the ideas that people had about the US as a country that doesn’t show a real image of itself to the out-world,” argues Gonzalo.
Gonzalo states that the US-Chile relations during the Trump administration “were cold, as well as with the rest of Latin American countries.” He thinks that at least in the first year of Biden’s presidency, “the relationship will be focused on the COVID-19 vaccine, and to reaffirm international political norms.”
Given the similar issues both the US and Chile are confronting with now, ordinary Chilean people do not give much thought to the US elections. The relations between the two countries under Trump were distant, to say the least, and the US’ interventions in Chile affected their view of the United States as well. “Since that occasion, the power of the United State to undermine the economic and political system of the countries was highlighted,” says Gonzalo. Nevertheless, people are hoping for a change under the Biden administration.
Gonzalo Albornoz is a PhD student at the University of Groningen, his doctoral thesis is entitled Fictional Representations of Law, Legality and Justice, and the Construction of Legal Knowledge by Key Communities in a Prison Environment. Gonzalo is also a member of the Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies, and Outreach Coordinator of the international research project: Converging Horizons, in which he directed documentary with the same name.