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Time to Run; Off, Not Away.

Still feeling the effects of the afterburner singe of the US presidential election, we are quickly preparing our yearly escape to Chile driven by a greater than usual urge to get away.

We’ve decided to leave earlier this year than usual, not so much as a distraction from the incessant post election hand wringing and a deep concern for what is coming (in spite of the oft repeated guarantee that the country will be “great again”, our victories will be “yuge”, and “we’re going to love it”) but mostly due to the frail health of my mother-in-law, dear Pepa, who resides in Santiago. Although tempted to truly run away, I guess I’ll admit I am just running off for awhile; most likely I’ll return next April as we usually do, open up the house, clean up the broken limbs from winter snows and winds, pay my taxes, reconnect with friends, and rush to see our kids and grand kids.

Living awhile in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Italy, and in and out of the US and Chile for the past fifty years, ours has been a fairly itinerant life, and each time we have taken the running off pretty much in stride; close up one place and say goodbye, open up another and say hello, cancel the newspapers and mail, reconnect the phone, internet and cable TV, charge the batteries in the cars, make sure Mario has renewed the car insurance, check in with old friends to catch up on the gossip left out of the interceding Whatsup and emails, on and on, over and over.

This time it’s different. I can feel it. On the one hand, I am not optimistic about our new president; that should come as no surprise. I am truly saddened by the lost opportunity for my country to finally join the progressive global club of societies that are secure enough in their own skin to choose to be led by a woman. More waiting on that, but I don’t know if I have the time to wait, since it now appears that decision may be quite off in the distance. Maybe I will take advantage of this stay in Chile to get a better feel for how Chileans feel about this gender issue. They’ve voted in a woman twice, albeit the same one, to their presidency; yes, Michelle Bachelet both times. Her public support has nosedived since she was sworn in the second time, and her two comadres in Brazil and Argentina are both facing the “lock her up” syndrome. maybe I should look deeper into how the southern cone of South America is dealing with that, as it may apply to HRC’s fate, and ours. I’ll let you know.

Chileans are concerned, like we are in the US, with the increasing gap between folks at the top and the bottom of the income, wealth, and opportunity charts, since this seems to be the source of growing discontent in the form of “indignados“, “99%ers”, and Bernie’s “army”. It seems to many of us (not all, clearly) that there is something wrong with the way wealth is distributed, and its disproportionate influence, in both Chile and the US. Leaders in both countries argue about the role of education, tax policy, and economic growth as they affect equity of opportunity. In Chile, Michele Bachelet began her present term attacking directly what she thought her supporters wanted her to fix. In her case admittedly, she won the election with a huge majority of the votes; she can be excused for believing she had a mandate to make the changes she had promised in her campaign. Donald Trump lost the popular vote but won via the antiquated (and some would say undemocratic) electoral college, but he too claims to have a mandate to wipe the slate clean of much of what outgoing President Obama struggled to accomplish in the important policy arenas of health care (a mish mash that does need fixing), immigration reform (lot of unresolved issues), and climate change (only got started; education needed).

Today a comparison of Chilean politics and US politics is extremely interesting, rich in thought provoking analogies. When Bachelet took power riding the wave of her apparent huge mandate for change, one of her supporters, the President of a coalition party, stated that what they would use to carry out their overhaul of public policies would be a retroexcavadora, a backhoe so as to completely dig out what was there and build anew. Although somewhat delegitimized in Chile, this concept seems to have been picked up by the Trump folks. While I’m in Chile  maybe I’ll try to find out if there is any connection between the Chilean concept of the retroexcavadora, and members of the Trump team; there just might be, since I note that Rudy Giuliani was in Chile recently advising the Chileans on public security! This idea will keep me busy for awhile in Santiago.

Trump wants the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) killed. So did Clinton. So did Bachelet when she was campaigning three years ago. Bachelet has since “pivoted”, as we now like to say, and has been convinced (by her country’s exporters and macro economists probably) of the value to Chile of joining such an agreement. Supporters argue that strengthening links to Asia doesn’t  just provide a market for Chilean commodities (copper, wood products, fruit, wine) but also strengthens regional security. Clinton saw it that way for the US too, until she had to debate Bernie, and she flopped. It doesn’t matter now if she changes her mind again, but it does matter if Trump stays with his firm opposition which seems to be based in part on objections by the pharmaceutical industry to terms of the agreement that limit patent life, and therefore reduce the price, of their drugs.

There are similar concerns in Chile and in the US about out-of-balance access to quality education and the high cost of University education. Increasing costs of health care and affordable insurance are shared public policy challenges that provoke similar debates in both countries.

But, I don’t want to lose you in the fog of public policy. There is a more enjoyable side of the ledger for this year’s visit to Chile. I can once again run off to my favorite wine country. If I could slough off the negatives of the US election, and make everything right for Pepa, I would still be heading to Chile, and happy to be going early. I would not be running away from anything, nor just running off either. I have learned that if you are going to run, it’s better to run towards something, so as of now I’m describing this trip as having, besides the other motivating pressures, the additional motive of running towards (not off, not away) the vineyards and wineries of the Casablanca, Colchagua, and Maipu Valleys in central Chile, towards their emblematic hefty reds and crisp whites, ever improving and still very reasonable. And maybe, in spite of the other issues that we are faced with, this angle will save the day.

OK. That’s the agenda. Friday we fly to Santiago. We’ll be back in the Spring. Please have everything wonderful for us when we return, warming spring weather, beautiful flowers, civil public (and private) discourse restored, stock market strong, interest rates still low, the New York Yankees promising a championship season, and mostly happy, healthy grand kids. You know, all of it. In the meantime, please watch this blog,  I’ll be talking to you again soon, from sunny Santiago. Please stay well.

Maybe it is.

Maybe it is.

Posted on November 16, 2016, in Leesburg, Virginia.


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David Joslyn
David Joslyn, after a 45-year career in international development with USAID, Peace Corps, The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and private sector consulting firms, divides his time between his homes in Virginia and Chile. Since 2010, David has been writing about Chile and Chileans, often based upon his experience with the Peace Corps in Chile and his many travels throughout the country with family and friends.
David Joslyn

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11 thoughts on “Time to Run; Off, Not Away.”

  1. Tom Fox says:

    Bill Reese sent your blog to his golf buddies. I was very glad to read it and to understand that good Chilean wine will help you to deal with Trump and his policies. I hope I can find a similar helper, but I won’t get to Maine until July!

    Best to you, David.

  2. Andrea says:

    Have a safe trip! We’ll miss you dearly on Thanksgiving. Love you both, Andrea

  3. Carl Gallegos says:

    We share your apprehension about the results of our recent election. We hope that the Republican party is able to exert some control of Donald. That said, it is up to us as individual citizens and and participants in various groups to keep Donald and the Republican Party honest. We have struggled to hard and to long to achieve lasting change in our country (e.g., environmental stewardship, gay rights, affordable care, etc.) to let those advancements be lost. Modified in a bipartisan manner possibly, but definitely not lost!

    It is ironic that Chile is now seen as a bastion of political stability. It wasn’t that long ago Allende and the leftists came into power, followed by the coup staged by Pinochet and his cronies (with the help [?] of our CIA). The phrase one heard after the coup was, “nosotros los Chilenos estamos vacunados contra el izquierdismo”. Hopefully the political situation in our country will be worked out in a peaceful and bipartisan manner, and we’ll never come to the point of needing a similar vaccination.

    Have a great trip, and enjoy Chile Lindo.

  4. Melica Heuser says:

    I love your blog Dave. We wish we could run with you. Guess I’ll have to settle for my usual trip…to Cost Plus to pick up a bottle of the “mother land in a bottle.” Cheers & travel safe! Love you both. ❤️

  5. Mack Storrs says:

    Dave – We’re in total agreement with your sentiments. We got back to the States from Southern Africa the day after the election and wished we had stayed instead. Our thoughts and prayers are with you & Ximena and her mom. We hope her health improves. See you in a few months. Kris & Mack Storrs

  6. Floyd Thompson says:

    I am most grateful for your renewed health and ability to enjoy the beautiful blessings of the red and white grapes distilled into delicious nectar of the gods.
    I am disheartened by the election but realize in many ways Hillary lost this and Trump just stole into the mistrust people have held for the Clintons and the mental block of a woman in the Head of State role. It is sad and I wished so much that Hillary could capture our imagination and energy for a new beginning, not the same ol….
    Stay well and I look forward to your journalist forays into Chilean culture and the sense of their feelings about America and the future of the world. I still love the Chilean wines but have really found great wines from many places. The gist of Chilean wine is rising but it is still a good buy. Argentina is benefiting from a better dollar value due to monetary valuations but that could and will change I am sure. Stay healthy. Enjoy your family down south and come back to us with a renewed spirit. Mucho provenir, amigo! Give our best to Ximena! Too.
    Floyd. Ex RPCV CHILE 75-79

  7. Valentina Concha says:

    Dave que bueno que estarás en Chile. Espero verlos antes que llegue abril!! Un abrazo para ti y Ximena!

  8. Osvaldo says:

    Gloucester: “Tis the time´s plague, when madmen lead the blind” – King Lear, Act 4, Scene 1. W. Shakespeare, 1605. Al pobre Conde tampoco le fue muy bien. Nada nuevo bajo el sol. A disfrutar Peor es Nada. Salud.

    1. David Joslyn
      David Joslyn says:

      Y para complicar las cosas, ayer llovió en Peor es Nada; no hubo sol.

  9. John Clapp says:

    Thought provoking as always. Would love to discuss higher education with you on your return. In the meantime, stay with the lol ahead alproach and enjoy your time in Chile.

    1. David Joslyn
      David Joslyn says:

      John, we are both clearly experts on the issues of higher education; more emphasis on the “higher” than on the “education”.

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