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American Chilena? This is about as close as it gets.

You’ve heard me mention the Cobin scale for Chilean Spanish in the past. If not, here’s an entry I posted on it – The Cobin Scale of Spanish Proficiency.

For most of us, level 10 will be forever elusive. Unless we started studying Spanish at a young age, the learning curve can be long and challenging. But even those who are proficient in Spanish can find Chilean Spanish difficult.

As an adult, it will likely take you months to get to a level where you can form simple sentences, and it will be frustrating for you to get your point across. With hard work, dedication and good training, you could get slightly conversant in less than a year, but that would be exceptional. On the average, it takes adults at least three years of effort to become conversant. I’ve defined conversant as:

passably bilingual and “fluent;” can communicate with some difficulty, understand about 80%+ in social or church settings where the context is known, can give an intelligible lecture; basic writing can be done; can fill out government, job application and insurance or other forms; one regularly utters sentences in English unintentionally laced with Spanish words; Spanglish becomes more the norma and intelligible; one encounters about 20 new vocabulary words per week; books and newspapers can be read by looking up fewer than 5 words per page; little problem ordering food in restaurants.

Some families think they want to wait a few years before moving abroad, so that their children can mature before taking them to another culture. If that’s your plan, then let me offer you a challenge. There’s no better time in life to learn a new culture and language than when we’re children. Before twelve years of age, the child’s mind can intuitively pick up nuances and accents far better than an adult’s. This is even more pronounced with children immersed at younger ages.

I ran across an example of this recently and wanted to share it with you. Here’s a young American lady who married a Chilean (Chileno). I don’t know how young she was when she started learning Chilean Spanish, but I’d guess under ten years old. Her accent is all but absent. And her use of slang is excellent. In fact, she’s incredibly close to a 10 on the Cobin Scale of Spanish Proficiency.

She talks about the 10 things she loves about Chile: cazuela, ferias, peruvian food, good character of Chileans–“buena onda,” 6 months of post natal time off, carabineros (police), teletón, french bread–marraqueta, asados, natural beauty, and Chile’s many holidays.

I don’t know if there’s such a thing as an American Chilena. If not, this is probably as close as one can get.

Changes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Free Trade Treaty)

I have written about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Treaty in an earlier entry. Chile already has good free trade agreements with all of the Pacific countries meeting to revamp and increase participation in the present Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty. Thus, it stands to gain little or nothing by ratifying a new or revised treaty, other than some minor benefits regarding shipments of agricultural products to Japan. The original members were New Zealand, Chile and Singapore. Brunei joined a few years later. Now Australia, Mexico, the USA, Japan, Vietnam, Canada, Malaysia and Peru want to join (image source). However, all negotiations in Salt Lake City are being held in Secret and hundred of representatives from major companies are present to lobby their causes. I smell a rat. The little gains that Chile will make pale by comparison to the sacrifices in other areas.

For residents and citizens of the Land of the Free, the story might be a little different. An avid reader of this blog and listener to the Red Hot Chile internet radio show named “Jim C.” sent me the apropos text below that might be considered by those who find themselves in that beleaguered country:

The major reason the trade deal should be avoided is because it is written by the banking cartel to bring individual freedom in all countries down to the lowest common denominator.   In the case of Chile the changes required would be to make Chile more like the USA in all the things we like least about the USA.   I think that right there is why we should be against whatever the secret text of the TPP says. Interesting to note that the US Constitution was also negotiated in secret.  In the end the best things about the document were the first 10 amendments that states added as a requirement to approve the deal after they saw what had been developed in secret.  In the case of the TPP there is no option for the players to debate openly and make amendments.

When one considers that Chile, New Zealand and Singapore–all top ten countries in the Economic Freedom of the World index and the Index of of Economic Freedom–put together a free trade treaty it is hardly surprising that the pat really did make trade “freer” between those nations. Now that the USA is involved, we can expect big-pharma, Monsanto/Pfizer/Bayer, big IT and other multinationals to start pushing their agricultural, intellectual property and prescription drug agendas as a prerequisite to free trade. This danger must be avoided by Chile. It is best for Chile to leave things as they are. What concerns me is that the “big boys” will sweeten the pie and offer Chile something on the side so that they stay in the game. And the new administration might just be tempted by such goodies to sign off on the deal and weaken Chile’s position. The main cause for hope I see in Chile is that there have been newspaper articles and television interviews which criticize the modifications to TPP and explain why Chile stands to gain little from any revised accord.

Help Chile be a freer place by investing in the country and even moving to Chile. Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.
Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).
Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.
Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Thanksgiving Offer – 25% off

It’s no big surprise that when people expatriate from the country of their birth they bring along traditions and cultural nuances. When it comes to Chile, the result is quite a mix. With the various influences from Europe, North America, Oceania and Asia (not to leave out South America), you can find just about everything in Chile. Of course, you might not find exactly what you’re looking for in order to create the feast of your ancestors, but with a bit of creativity and imagination, you should be able to come pretty close.

One tradition that can be held onto from the US is Thanksgiving. And we see many American expats here celebrating in their new country. While the US is a far cry from the freedom the Puritans sought when arriving at Plymouth Rock, many of the ideals we’re pursuing are the same. They left confinement for freedom – oppression for opportunity.

As the US increasingly embraces fascism and the police state grows in power, it becomes ever more apparent that it is not the place for those who embrace libertarian ideals. Reflecting upon these things, I’m very thankful to be in Chile. To say that a load was lifted off my shoulders when I left the US for the last time would be an understatement.

There are some similarities to the reasons the Pilgrims left Europe for America. And it is these pursuits of freedom and a desire to offer a setting where people can concentrate on the important things in life rather than the onerous laws and regulations that hang over American heads 24/7, that have resulted in my residency and consultancy services, Red Hot Chile radio show and, more recently, Freedom Orchard.

I’m also grateful to you for being a part of my life in Chile. It’s been a blessing to share my insights with readers from around the world and help many embrace Chile as their new home. And your notes of encouragement reveal that what we’re doing here is certainly needed. As an added encouragement, the new newsletter format we offer has grown our mailing list by almost 50% since it started!

As an expression of my gratitude to faithful readers like you, I’m offering my books on Chile at a 25% discount through this coming weekend. My residency services are discounted 10% as well.

We’ve made it very easy for you to access these discounts. Simply visit our “Thanksgiving Special” page and input the password, “ThankYou.” The page will open up with all your discounted opportunities available. In case your browser removes the link, the page is – http://escapeamericanow.info/thanksgiving-special.

All you need to do is click on the payment link and make your payment through PayPal. Once you’ve made your payment, the page will reveal a contact form where the button was. Fill this out and your book will be sent to the email address you use in the form within minutes of when you press “Send.” The discounts are already applied.

I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. And please pass this on to those you think might be interested in Chile.

Leftist Romp in Chilean Elections 2013

A Setback for the Right

The 2013 general election results were harrowing for the Right and libertarians. The center-left presidential frontrunner, Socialist Party candidate Michelle Bachelet, is sure to win the runoff election next month. And she will enjoy huge gains in Congress to help her implement a nefarious leftist agenda. The Left is really close to being able to do so at least, as many Chilean newspapers have reported (see seats by party graphic in the links). Some earlier reports of the Right’s losses turned out to be underestimated since the vote tallies were so close that some races came down the the wire.

To make major structural changes the Left has to have at least 4/7ths of the seats in each house of Parliament (57%) along with a leftist President. After this election, they achieved 68 seats (56.7%) in the House (Cámara de Diputados) and 21 seats (55.2%) in the Senate (Senado). The Cámara has 120 seats and the Senado has 38. Independents have four seats in the Cámara and one in the Senado. That means that by swinging just one independent their way in each house the leftist coalition will have the required 57% minimum to start their nefarious programs. 

Obviously, the Left will be offering that independent a bundle of benefits, which will be a temptation hard to resist unless the Right can somehow compensate him better. The major governance changes require 57%, 60% and 66.7% (the latter being required for a new Constitution). Obviously, some structural changes are off limits; the Left will not get over 60% legislative support. But the lower echelon of changes are within reach. Another noteworthy item is that the Communist Party boosted its presence and influence in the Cámara to six seats, up from three, showing a disturbing trend (stemming mainly from the northern part of the country). One of the seats went by landslide to young “free university education” communist activist Camila Vallejo.

Largest Leftward Swing in Two Decades

The romp would have been worse had it not been for Chilean binomialism in congressional elections, which tends to protect minority interests. Nonetheless, this election is the biggest leftward swing that I can remember in Chile during the last two decades. Liberty-lovers should be concerned. Even if the Left fails to achieve its structural goals, we can now feel the ever-present danger before us. I should note, however, that voter turnout was only 56%, mainly because many people on the Right were disgusted with the populist Matthei campaign and chose to stay home instead of voting. That means that Chilean society is not quite as leftist as the election results might lead one to believe.

Chile is Not Down for the Count

There are new congressional elections in two years. We have a lot of work to do before that election. We have a lot to write about and educate. We need more libertarians in Chile than ever before, and thus we need Freedom Orchard to succeed. The Left will not rest until Chile, too, has been conquered by their evil ideology. But Chile is not down for the count. Sure, there has been a wake-up call issued and a big scare on account of this election’s results.

The Right has to learn not to run populist candidates. A bit more than one-half the country is clearly left-leaning and the Right can hardly endear itself to unprincipled median voters with populism. Programs must be adopted which are composed of more than just lowering taxes and reducing the size of government. Alternatives like homeschooling to get middle class kids out of public schooling, and tax-free living granted for pioneers living in remote areas, need to be placed on the Right’s platform. More paved roads need to be established , especially in remote parts of the country. Foreign investment and immigration need to be encouraged. Market-based regulation needs to be promoted, too. 

In short, the Right has to become the alliance of parties with new and creative ideas to improve the quality of life. And the Right needs to continue remind people just how much better life is now for nearly everyone on account of freer market policies. These things are the only course by which Evelyn Matthei can attract more rightist voters to vote in the runoff election on December 15, 2013 and boost her overall total from 25% to 50.1%, a daunting task when the leftist opponent Bachelet already garnered 46.7% in the first round.

I fear that Chile may have a couple of challenging years ahead. Still, there is no other country in the world that can beat it, other than enclaves like Singapore and Liechtenstein. Like many near-death experiences, Chile can recover.

 

Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.

Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).

Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.

Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.

Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Voting and Elections in Chile

November 17, 2013 was Election Day 2013 in Chile. People voted for President, Senators, Representatives (diputados) and consejeros regionales (COREs), which are elected to force the regional governors (intendentes) to allocate federal money within each province. Note that Chile does not have regionalism or federalism but instead has much stronger centralism than places like the United States, where governors control money funded through state taxes rather than simply distribute money allocated to them by the central government. For that reason, Santiago is always favored over the regions in terms of economic benefits and, in addition, there are independent “regional” members of Congress and presidential candidate.

In Chilean elections, should no presidential candidate garner at least 50% of the votes in his respective race, the top two vote getters will face each other in a runoff election on December 15, 2013. Senatorial and representative races are, however, run very differently. There is no second round for them. Instead, there is an election by coalition rather than scores wins based on party coalitions rather than individual candidates’ results–a brilliant binominal system devised by rightist Jaime Guzmán under the Pinochet government to protect the minority interest from being overrun by the majority. In each congressional or senatorial race, two candidates will be elected per district. However, the two seats will not necessarily go to the top two vote getters. They go to the top vote getters in the two parties that receive the most votes. In addition, there is another exception that makes the races even more interesting. If the combined percentages for all candidates in any one coalition end up being at least double the combined total of the second place party, then the first place party gets two seats, creating what is called in Chilean Spanish a doblaje. Note that congressional elections are staggered, even though members of both houses serve for four years, so that one-half of the members of Congress are elected every two years. The staggered schedule is similar to the American system.

This special coalition rule means that if the third place vote getter is in the same coalition (for instance, if the first place goes to an UDI candidate, second place to a Communist Party candidate and third place goes to an RN candidate), then the third place candidate will win over the second place candidate by virtue of the rule of coalitions. However, in the vast majority of races, the second place party, the minority, is guaranteed a voice in Congress. Moreover, this rule effectively allows dominant ideologies to prevail in regions of Chile and also encourages smaller parties to compromise and join coalitions since they have a much better chance of a third place finish than anything else. Imagine that the Socialist Party candidate takes 40% and the runner-up is a libertarian from the UDI party with 35%, If the Communist or Ecologist party candidate comes in third with only 3% of the vote he will not be elected elected to office by virtue of his coalition because the total vote percentage for his coalition is only 38%, which is not at least double the 35%. But in some locales it is possible to see those party candidates getting 40%, 30% and 27%, respectively, with the other second place party candidate only getting 3%, clearing the way for the winning party to gain two seats by virtue of coalition, supplanting the second-place vote getter by more than doubling their votes.

In the November 17, 2013 election, scored one doblaje in the cámara de diputados in northeastern Santiago (three if one counts a couple victories along with an independent rather than the official Right party), but the Left garnered eleven doblajes: three in the traditionally leftist 8th Region (Coronel, Bulnes, Alto Bio-bio near Concepción), one in the 6th Region (Codegua), two in Santiago (El Bosque and La Granja/San Joaquín), two in the 4th Region (Coquimbo and Illapel), two in the 3rd Región (Copiapó) and one in the 15th Region (Arica area). In the Senate, the Left gained doblajes in Antofagasta and the inland 5th Region (Los Andes/San Felipe). The northern part of Chile is dominated by leftists. Thus, when one votes for Congressmen in Chile, regardless of his particular party preference, he is really voting for coalition party candidates to which his party belongs. the election was widely considered disastrous for the Right, since the balance of power in the House switched to 64 leftists to 50 rightists, although independents dropped from six to three. Still, there was a net gain for the Left of at least 4 seats, and probably in reality 7 seats. The Senate losses were far less. The worst part for Chile is that now the Left will have a easier time passing difficult bills that require more than a simple majority.

Aside from the absence of an electoral college, the nuances of presidential and congressional elections are quite different from those in North America or Europe and should be somewhat fascinating for foreign onlooker or prospective immigrants to Chile. If you think about this binominal system strategically, it probably rarely makes sense to run candidates from the largest parties of single coalition in the same district since they will risk losing being the first place vote getter to the opposing coalition. This will be true everywhere except in cases where the vast majority of voters in the district are from either the Right (like northeastern Santiago) or the Left (like Antofagasta). Note that in this latter case, it makes sense for strong libertarians to run and be in coalition with the dominant party, because with even a few votes (e.g., 6%) resulting in third (or lower) place he can still take office if the dominant part candidate in his coalition has a landslide victory (e.g., 60%). Hence, libertarians and constitutionalists are far more likely to be represented in the Chilean Congress than in legislative bodies in the United States.

Both citizens and permanent residents of more than five years are eligible to vote and are registered automatically at their address of record. A person must vote in the comuna where he is registered and he must go to a particular table (mesa) that has been assigned to him. There is no absentee voting in Chile and Chilean citizens and permanent residents living outside of the country cannot vote unless they come back to Chile and vote in the comuna where they are registered. The whole voting process, held on Sunday, from the time one leaves his home, drives to the polling place, fights heavy traffic, finds a distant parking place, walks to the event, waits in line for ten minutes at his mesa, votes, places his votes in the ballot box (urna), signs out and drives back home, takes about an hour. All around northeastern Santiago, one could see considerable traffic congestion at 11am. The polls open at 8:30am and close at 6:00pm.

2013-11-17+11.24.21

Once at the polling place, one must find his mesa. Each mesa has four or five helpers (vocales de mesa) and, at times, there will also be observers sent by one or more political parties (apoderados), cops (carabineros) and military men dressed in fatigues (but without weapons). Clearly, the majority of people waiting in line to vote were women. Elderly people have the right to go immediately to the front of the line. In order to vote, one must present his carné (ID card) at the mesa and the vocal will find his name on a list. The vocal then notes on the list next to one’s name the serial numbers of each of four different ballots of distinct paper colors. At each mesa, there are four urnas (the gray boxes in the image below): one for Presidente, another for Senador, another for Diputado and another for Consejero Regional. Each mesa has two side-by-side voting booths behind it with a blue curtain to ensure privacy.

One vocal folds each of the four ballots as indicated and another vocal gives the assigned ballots to each voter along with a pencil and four stamps that the vote must use to seal each vote before leaving the voting booth. One of the vocales will answer questions (the one in Las Condes spoke in English to me) like “How do I mark my ballot?” The answer to that question is to draw one vertical line that intersects the horizontal line before the name of the candidate of one’s choice.

The images below show evidence of my voting on each ballot given to me, marked and then sealed.

The vote for two COREs in the image below is invalidated because two candidates were chosen from the UDI party. Apparently, only one was supposed to be chosen but this fact was not explained well by the vocales. So the vote will not be counted on this ballot.

Economists argue that for most people voting is a waste of time since (i.e., a utility-minimizing activity) the costs of doing so exceed the expected benefits (unless one is, say, gathering information to write a blog entry on voting in Chile, for instance). There is effectively zero possibility the on person’s vote will change the outcome of an election. The Chilean Right has been particularly apathetic over the years and somewhat rationally lackadaisical about voting, especially because the current “right-wing” Piñera regime is really center-left. The true Right is tired of hearing populism, especially from the present presidential candidate Matthei (along with he soft stance on abortion), and it is sick of having innocent military officers not be released by the presidential power which were hurled into prison by leftist activist judges. This apathy is somewhat unfortunate since the present election will have such a strong effect on Chile’s future, and not wanting to vote for Matthei as President will thus harm the Right important senatorial and congressional races where the candidates tend to be more truly right-wing. In November 2013, only 6.6 million of the 13 million eligible registered voters (56%) actually voted. That fact might have really hurt the Right.

Five of the presidential candidates are from the Left, two are from the center (Christian Democrat and the Regional party) and one is from the Right. That is good news for the Right since the squabbling and infighting on the Left ensures that none of their presidential candidates will win more than 50% in the initial election (la primera vuelta), forcing a runoff next month  (la segunda vuelta) between the top leftist presidential vote getter (Bachelet, who got about 47% in the primera vuelta 2013) and (normally) the candidate on the Right, in this case Matthei, who got 25% in the primera vuelta 2013. Independent presidential candidate, Keynesian economist Franco Parisi made a strong run for the second-place finish, but ended up, getting less than 11% in the primera vuelta 2013. Thus Bachelet and Matthei will have to square off in December to see who will be president, which at this point seems likely to be Bachelet.

The greater problem in Chile for the Right and people who love liberty, including those who are considering immigrating to Chile, are the congressional races. All signs indicate that Socialist Party candidate Michelle Bachelet will win in the segunda vuelta. Her ideology is scary but not nearly as bad as those from other leftist parties in Chile. But in order to institute her radical policies she needs to have as much as 2/3rds approval of both houses of Congress to do things like change the constitution. The new coalitions will make things easier for her to do some things, but hardly all that she desires. There is little risk of throwing out the Pinochet-era constitution, or adding a bunch of positive rights (e.g., free university education and welfare benefits), while the Left has much less than the 2/3rds majority. In either house the Right is vulnerable and change is more possible now than it has been for some time, at least for some policy matters. There are still not enough votes for a constitutional change but the Left closer. There are also important policy changes to things like central bank policy, congressional or judicial rule changes, copper and water rights nationalization, or immigration policy reform, political party reforms and public education reforms that only require 60% or 57% (4/7ths) to pass. The Left is close to attaining its nefarious ends in such votes. Thus, the November 2013 seat loses might be damaging to freedom in Chile. Consequently, those that love liberty today should not only be hoping for a miraculous Matthei victory in the second round but also that senadores and diputados regain seats in two years.

Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.

Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).

Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.

Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.

Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Sectors of Viña del Mar

Without a doubt, Viña del Mar (about 1:45 by car via superhighway WNW of northeastern Santiago) is the second most livable city in Chile. Note that when I make that claim I am not considering the many beautiful smaller Chilean towns with First World amenities reasonably close: Pucón, Zapallar, Puerto Varas, Rocas de Santo Domingo, Coyhaique or even Pica, San Félix, Vicuña (and surrounding towns), Vichuquén, Corral and Bahía Inglesa. I am referring to the most livable larger city in Chile outside of northeastern Santiago.

Viña del Mar is precisely that place, with La Serena running a distant third, followed by spots mostly in the southern and eastern parts of Concepción (as well as Pingueral) and then possibly Valdivia, Temuco and maybe Rancagua (in that order). Remember that the metro area formed by Viña del Mar and Valparaíso (Chile’s second most important port and home of the Chilean navy and Chilean Congress) has almost one million inhabitants, making it a commercial center, full of culture and attractions.

One can live and work in Viña del Mar, even though it is harder to do so than in Santiago, far more than he can in smaller regional cities in Chile. Only Concepción comes close to offering the same employment possibilities for professionals outside of Santiago.

The Viña del Mar area has three Jumbo supermarkets (if one counts the branch in Valparaíso), several Líder stores, Homecenter and Easy builder’s supermarkets and home improvement centers, all banking and medical services, car and replacement parts dealers, a hospital that is the best among the regions of Chile (the Clínica Reñaca), good bilingual private schools (Mackay and St. Margaret’s), several universities (including one of Chile’s top three engineering schools, the Universidad Federico Santa María in nearby Valparaíso), an elegant Casino, an upscale mall with a bowling alley, cinemas, good restaurants, fast food chains and most everything else one can think of.

Of course, it probably goes without saying that there are much less of these things in Viña del Mar than in northeastern Santiago. However, the level of infrastructure and amenities is more than adequate. Viña del Mar also has a better climate than Santiago, just like coastal southern California is more temperate than inland areas, with warmer winters and cooler summers (but with 7% to 19% more rainfall during the winter months).

The city seems to be full of flowers and gardens, including its famous flower clock. The people tend to be among the friendliest I have met in Chile.

Viña del Mar is a tourist city and hosts the famous Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar, where many singers and musicians begin their rise to fame. There is still felt much of the British influence from the past when the port of Valparaíso was thriving and wealthier than before the Panama Canal era. For instance, the British institute has a good English language library and one can find several Anglican churches. 

The cost of living is lower in general (by about 17.8%) than in Santiago. Comparable housing in the upper class sections of Viña del Mar is about 30% to 50% cheaper than in northeastern Santiago, as are the costs of property taxes and community fees in apartment buildings and condominios (gated communities with common areas). Maid service is cheaper, too, along with public transportation costs (metro, bus, train).

Busses leave for Santiago every 10 minutes from downtown Viña del Mar, making the big city very accessible for just a few dollars. The air is far cleaner in Viña del Mar than Santiago, there is much less noise (other than the constant sound of rolling waves for homes near the shore) and, outside of the dreadful summer months, less traffic congestion.

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2013-10-25 16.29.29

On the hills above the city, one will find good ocean views looking one way and mountain views the other. Many pine forests run along the hills overlooking the coastline and there are areas with significant sand dunes just to the north in Reñaca and above Concón. Viña del Mar (up through Concón) features the interesting phenomenon of something like 90% vacancy in the thousands of apartments during the non-summer months, other than long weekends and holidays. Most of the beachfront apartments are owned by upper class people in Santiago, as are some a little bit further inland, although most of those tend to be owned by year-round residents.

Housing is well defined by sectors of Viña del Mar, which are strikingly more distinct than in Santiago. One can drive twenty kilometers in Santiago’s upper class area before seeing much in the way of lower or lower middle class housing. The same is not true in Viña del Mar that has abrupt and obvious distinctions. Immigrants from the First World should know before hand where to look, avoiding areas not highlighted in this article, and bearing in mind that apartments and housing closer to the shore will usually carry a much higher cost per square meter than interior properties. 

The main section just north of downtown is no more than 15 square blocks, along with the older part west of downtown called El Plan. It is an elegant area, located mainly between Avenida 1 Norte and Avenida 15 Norte, west of Avenida Libertad to the beach, full of apartment buildings, a mall, banks, pharmacies, private hospitals, automobile dealers, restaurants, the Casino, services and nice stores. Buildings range from 5 to 80 years old, with newer part being on the northern subsection near Avenida 15 Norte.

A second section of town, housing the “old wealth” much like the comuna of Providencia does in Santiago, is called Miraflores Bajo. It is located further inland (just past the famous horse racing track), with some of the homes going up the hill having views, but nothing spectacular. Some of the homes are elegant and well kept, with nice gardens, with larger ones being 350 square meters (around 3,750 square feet) for around US$600,000. It boasts its own hospital and fire station, too.


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Other sectors include areas of newer apartments east and south of the central district’s seashore, hillside sectors called Recreo and Agua Santa, as well as basin sectors called Avenida Álvarez (and Avenida Vianna) and some of Avenida 1 Norte. I do not care for these areas as much as others, even though they are usually cheaper for the same quality, because the surrounding properties are either older or often not well kept up, the views are not always as good, and they are further from amenities and job sites or many business opportunities.

Nevertheless, bargain-hunters and future-looking buyers might consider them. Small, newer apartments can be had for under US$150,000. Like Miraflores Bajo, Avenida Álvarez and Avendia 1 Norte have an important advantage of being close to the Jumbo superstore and quick superhighway access.

The fastest-growing and thus most popular affluent sections of Viña del Mar fall along the north side of the ocean crescent and several miles inland from the shore. These communities include scenic places like Reñaca (right on the beach with stair step apartments and homes lining the adjacent hillsides), with easy beach access, easy shopping access, wonderful views and ocean sounds, but horrible traffic in January and February.

More popular among year-round residents are the communities directly inland, often with hillside sea views, pine or eucalyptus forests and mountain views to the east. The oldest of these in Jardín del Mar, mostly built in the 1980s and 1990s, but new construction is still going on, with many smaller (140 square meters or about 1,500 square foot) homes and apartments selling from US$200,000 to US$300,000. There are also larger homes priced near half a million dollars. The main branch of the Clínica Reñaca is in this section and the northwestern viewscapes are wonderful from just about everywhere.

Across the valley is a new, perhaps slightly more elegant section called Los Almendros, although prices do not seem much different. Much of the building quality is the same, but some spots do not have ocean views. One does see larger homes here and fewer apartments, and there are some gated communities with cookie cutter homes that are not found on the other side of the valley. Electrical and phone wiring are also buried on this side, making views better than from many homes in Jardín del Mar.

Finally, there is the ever-expanding section that bleeds north into Concón from Reñaca, called Bosques de Montemar. This section is residential and much like Vitacura or La Dehesa (in Santiago). Most have only views of the impressive sand dunes except for housing going up the hills toward the pines that have broad ocean views. Some of the homes are much larger and prices tend to be 20% higher in these neighborhoods than they are in parts of Los Almendros and Jardín del Mar. (Of course, it is hard to generalize such things!) The sector is also loaded with many 20 to 35 story luxury apartment buildings, some right on the cliffs overlooking the sea below. These apartments tend to be very elegant and range in price from US$250,000 to US$800,000. There are Jumbo, Líder Express, Easy, Construmart and Monserrat superstores nearby, along with St. Margaret’s private school for girls and a couple of service stations.

One thing that has struck me time and again is the relative lack of mansions and estates in Viña del Mar. Sure, there are some elegant and exclusive spots. But the real concentration of wealth in Chile is clearly in Santiago.

However, looking to the future, Viña del Mar is set to continue its expansion into greater prosperity and progress. Those who settle there will enjoy a higher quality of life in many ways over Santiago and a good chance for future gains in property values. If you want to bet on Chile’s future, besides Santiago, mining areas and farmland, Viña del Mar should be a prime consideration.

Chileans I have spoken with consider that Viña del Mar is Chile’s best overall city to live in. In many ways, I think they are right. I have been in every part of Chile, and it is hard to think of any other place that ticks all the boxes like Viña del Mar does. Every immigrant should have a plan to check it out.

Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.
Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).
Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.
Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

These and other resources can be found on the Escape America Now resource page.

 

 

Eighth Wonder of the World

According to a survey by USA Today, the majority of five million voters elected Torres del Paine national park in Chile’s 12th Region as the 8th wonder of the world. Those of us who have been there are hardly surprised. In fact, I have been saying for years that southern Chile is the most beautiful part of the planet, especially that national park and the western side of Lago General Carrera in the 11th Region running a close second, with honorable mention going to Lago Todos los Santos in the 10th Region.

The scenery on a sunny day is absolutely breathtaking. There are so many beautiful things there that make it special.

One can say that many places have one or two things with are outstanding, like Mount Blanc, Yosemite, Mount Cook or Banff. But I know of no other place in the world that offers so many different spectacular sites: glacier, five lakes each of a different color, waterfall, jagged and multi-colored glacier-encrusted peaks (with two very different main ranges), and interesting wildlife.

Torres del Paine is one of those interesting and wonderful benefits about life in Chile. It earns a 10 on the Cobin scale of natural beauty, with the other places mentioned earlier earning 9.9 and 9.7 respectively.

Chile has dozens of places over 9 and many over 9.5 on my scale, but Torres del Paine stands at the top. The voters in the USA Today poll certainly got it right. I try to get down there every few years and each time is just as worthwhile as the time before. Don’t miss it!

Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.

Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).

Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.

Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.

Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

“Cuotas” on Credit Card Purchases in Chile

In terms of financial planning, using other people’s money to make money can be sensible–especially when the borrowing costs are zero. In the world of fractional reserve banking and fiat money, credit cards and consumer loans are a reality. Being wise as serpents and gentle as doves in such an environment may be prudent.

One thing that will puzzle Americans who shop in Chile is the cashier’s question about whether they want to pay for their credit card purchase in installments (cuotas, pronounced “quotas”). An American will ask, “Why? Why should I pay for $50 worth of groceries in installments?” They will tend to think that some Chileans are poor and cannot afford even little stuff unless they pay over time.
The fact of the matter is quite different. Chilean credit card companies make deals with merchants that make cuotas a good deal for consumers and the products sold by retailers more attractive. They also offer discounts to credit card users through the cuotas system. For instance, banks will sometimes offer 3, 6 or 12 monthly payments on an item purchased without charging any interest. Thus the prudent buy can make a major purchase using money interest free for up to a year, making the effective cost of the product less on account of the time value of money. And since all purchases are cumulative when the deal is being offered (which is almost always), it makes sense to put all purchases on the cuotas system and make payments but pay no interest, saving the money that would normally be used to pay for the item up front and gaining the interest on that money over the year. If one has a high enough credit limit to buy a car on the credit card, the savings can be substantial. Thus, if one can manage his money well in Chile, and has good self control, utilizing the cuotas system may make sense.

Viña del Mar and Valparaíso

Viña del Mar and Valparaíso used to be two physically separated cities long ago. Today they have merged into one. Moreover, they have grown to engulf Con Con to the north and spurted inland to Villa Alemana, Quilpué (where my daughter Rachel was born) and beyond. The area has a bit under a million inhabitants and is mostly Second World living–other than a good chunk of Viña del Mar (including Reñaca beach) and Con Con which are very First World.


Indeed, Viña del Mar is the second most livable city in Chile besides northeastern Santiago, except in February. During that month a large chunk of santiaguinos move into town for summer vacation and cause the worst sort of beach and automobile traffic nightmare you can imagine. There is no lack of loud music at night either. January is not much better when the area is full of Argentines and Brazilians. Teenagers apparently love all the company. The best time for someone (especially over age 21) to visit is in either December or March. I recommend that adults visit the southern part of Chile during January and February and leave the beach and hassles to youngsters.

Valparaíso was greatly expanded in the heyday of the British Empire when much shipping went around the horn. And there are still remnants of the British era: horse racing, cricket, rugby, Anglican churches, a British cultural center, architecture, soccer teams with English names, trains and funicular elevators that run on the “wrong side” of the tracks, etc. Even though it is very run-down, Valparaíso is a great place to visit for a history lesson. Like Viña del Mar, the hillside city is full of interesting nooks and crannies, winding narrow streets, quaint plazas, and great ocean views. Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda’s house is there (now a museum). The Chilean Congress is also located in the city, and the Chilean navy is headquartered there. Fish is inexpensive. There are several good universities in the area like Universidad Federico Santa María (top engineering school) and Universidad Adolfo Ibañez (top business school).

The view from either side above the crescent bay is spectacular. The climate is very similar to Santa Barbara, California’s (i.e., mostly dry and warm, rarely very hot, with rainfall only coming from April through October). The cost of living is almost 20% less than in Santiago. Rent for great view houses is very cheap from March to December. The air is clean. It is only a little over an hour to the Santiago airport, and about 2 1/2 hours to the Portillo ski area. Horseback riding is nearby (north of Con Con). People tend to be very friendly and helpful. The plaza in Viña del Mar is gorgeous. It is a city full of flowers. 

Our family lived in a nice cliffside home above Reñaca beach for 6 months in 1996. There were spectacular ocean views (maybe 300 degrees from my glass office space) I have lived a lot of places but I think that was the best house I have ever lived in on account of the view. I enjoyed listening to the waves crashing while lying in bed at night too.

To see photos, click these links below:








Why Chile is a Good Choice

Are you ready to leave America for a freer, saner country?

Allow me to give you some food for thought about why you might pick Chile. Take a look in the “About” section in the menu above to find out how I have helped others accomplish their goal of relocating overseas.

You won’t hurt my feelings if you choose to live in Panama, Costa Rica, or Belize instead of Chile. I will even help you relocate to one of those places! But I think you will be making a mistake.

Spanish is a must

I have always made a HUGE emphasis for anyone I have spoken to about Spanish. But it is doable. I did it. And I am better for it as are my kids. You will have it tough for a couple to three years and then you will be a better person for it. Going to Latin America to live simply requires Spanish in all places but Belize, the Guyanas, or Brazil (Portugese).

First world

Also, for those of you who have seen urban and countryside photos, there is a substantial difference between Chile, the most advanced country down here, and the other three mentioned (Panama, Costa Rica, or Belize). Santiago and Vina del Mar are First World cities with all the job opportunities and explosive development that you would expect. Towns like Arica (at the north end of Chile) are cheaper but are “Second World” in my view. But even they are probably at least as advanced or more advanced than any place in the other countries mentioned other than downtown Panama City.Beautiful Seascape View of Chile

Do you want to live in the Third World? I have no problem with anyone doing so, as long as one knows what he is getting into and does not mind that sort of lifestyle. Most people I know do not want to live in the Third World or at least want to live near others they know. That is why so many people are moving to Chile, have moved here or bought property here, or are thinking of coming here relative to the three (soon-to-be) CAFTA countries mentioned. Note: the “free trade agreements” that Chile has with Canada and Mexico are not, in my opinion, on par with the managed trade and loss-of-sovereignty pacts like CAFTA.

If Chile were not an option, I would certainly not rule out those second-best countries myself, along with some places in Eastern Europe or even Argentina. Plus, it goes without saying, Hong Kong, Andorra, Liechtenstein, etc. would be great too for those who are wealthy.

Many of my clients, like me, just like having solid infrastructure, a big city hub, universities nearby, cultural events, a large group of political activists to hang with, a wide variety of people, etc. I also want activities for my children. I do not want to be cloistered on a farm a plane ride from town or 4 hours by dirt road watching my organic crops grow. If others want that sort of lifestyle that is just great. Wonderful. If I do live on a farm, I want to be no more than an hour away from a major supply hub with a paved highway or superhighway.

Chile’s medical care in Santiago is top-drawer. Gun laws are relatively liberal. Taxes are very low. The people like Americans. The country is a national park of wide variety in many places–just beautiful–rather than a postage stamp tropical location (that part really matters when you live in a place for a while) ravaged by humidity, mosquitoes and ticks. You will not have views and scenery in those other countries that you will in Chile. You are too far for a Tomahawk missile shot or nuclear/bacterial fallout (wind patterns in the southern hemisphere differ from up there).

I have no idea how local produce is grown, if organic or not. Probably the stuff for export differs since the USDA requires them to do something to their food. But I know that organic foodstuffs are so important to some people that they want to move where food is all grown organically.

International Banking

I do not recommend keeping your money in the country where you live. Panama and some places in Europe or a slew of islands are good choices for keeping money.

Life is full of choices. You all are about to make one.

I lived in Chile for 5 years (1996-2000) and have been back many times since then. I have been in Panama and Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Mexico, and 37 other countries around the world. I have been researching offshore jurisdictions for 15+ years and have made it a part of my financial planning and business consulting practice. So I think I can weigh in with some authority here.

No place you go will be perfect. But any place you go might be better than barbed wire.
That’s easy.

Warning: Belize and Panama are pegged to the dollar so they would die along with the US. Chile has one of the strongest currencies in the world now, notwithstanding the idiot commie regime’s foolish manipulations recently.

All economies do not go into the same level of depression, especially when the economy is not so over-bloated and wealthy as America’s. The fact is that the bigger the economy is the harder it will fall. There is some reason to believe that you will do far better with having your dough in an Liechtenstein, Jersey, Guernsey, or Swiss account along with owning and operating self-sustaining property in Chile. The delusion is that you have a lot of time to think about it and get ready to move. Or that you can be choosy. Or that once the calamity begins here you will be able to get out of Dodge at the last minute.

Are you really serious about going or just playing “what if” games?

Some other items of importance:

  1. The Central American countries have much cheaper costs for maid service, perhaps only $80 per month versus $200 in Arica or $400 in Santiago. That is a NICE benefit.
  2. Crime is MUCH higher in central America than in Chile, especially robbery, theft by relatively poorer maids, and kidnapping for ransom. If you have kids, Central America can be a problem.
  3. You have to bribe cops and other officials in Central America to get anything done or to drive normally. There is no bribing of cops, especially, in Chile.
  4. Chile has a lot of stupid regulation on different things. I imagine the other countries do too but I am not aware of an exhaustive list. Then again, America also has stupid regulations and many evil things like DSS and Family Court so who cares. Lets not forget the IRS and the Federal Reserve System.
  5. The folks who put out those lists of relative freedom in the world consistently put Chile in the top 10 or top 20 places to live, whereas other countries like Panama, Costa Rica, or Belize are nowhere near that highly ranked.
  6. Property rights are VERY secure in Chile. I cannot say the same for the other countries under consideration.
  7. Santiago has an international airport with MANY flights daily to Miami, New York, Dallas, LA, Toronto, Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt, London, Auckland, Sydney, Mexico, Lima, Buenos Aires, Panama, etc. It is served by major airlines and not just mainly Copa and Lacsa with their usually small, older, and uncomfortable planes. Panama has better connections than Belize or San Jose but it still pales by comparison to Santiago.
  8. As with Panama, air travel within Chile is reasonably priced. $125 goes a long way on Lan Chile or Sky Airlines.

Don’t fall for the notion of Panama or Costa Rica being bilingual. Just because you will find a lot of people who speak English there does not mean the culture, legal structure, etc. is bilingual. You can find several hundred thousand people in Santiago, Chile who can speak English too, but that fact does not make Chile a bilingual country like Canada. The bottom line is that if you think you can go to Panama or Costa Rica and carry on your life in English even close to normal like in America you are dreaming.

So how many of you are serious about getting your money offshore and getting out of town soon?

If you seriously think it’s time to escape from America, we should talk. You can contact me (serious inquiries only) for consulting services on our consulting page. If you’re considering residency or visa services, we can help you with that too.

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