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  • Former Economy Minister Axel Kicillof and Chilean student leader and mayor of Valparaiso Jorge Sharp.

    Former Economy Minister Axel Kicillof and Chilean student leader and mayor of Valparaiso Jorge Sharp. | Photo: Reuters

teleSUR spoke with two young leaders of the left in Argentina and Chile about the region's political and economic future.

Ahead of key elections and right-wing economic shifts in Latin America, analysts said the future development of the region resides in strengthening integration among social movements, political leaders and economic processes.

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For Jorge Sharp, mayor of the city of Valparaiso, Chile has been called an "example" in international relations for economic development, but its citizens experience the same issues that the rest of Latin America faces. Chileans, he said, should be closer to the people of Latin America as opposed to Europe.

"Chile has turned its back to what happens in Latin America," Sharp said. "We have much to learn."

The country faces a key election with a division between conservative candidates and new alliances with youth movements seeking reforms. One of the main demands is to promote a plebiscite that will allow Chileans to call for a Constituent Assembly and change the "Pinochet" Constitution.

The country still holds the Magna Carta drafted under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which social groups criticized for blocking student, worker and women's rights.

"The Chilean institutional system is made to exclude people," Sharp said. However, he does believe a new wave of political conscience and participation is on the rise.

As a member of the Broad Front and a former student leader, he said the country has also seen a change in its culture as more feminists and student leaders have made the leap into the political scenario.

He believes this is key to achieving reforms because elections come and go, but social movements and their strength need to continue. Sharp said they should never lose their opportunity to propose changes.

"The most important thing is to never lose sight of who we are and where we are going," Sharp said.

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For Axel Kicillof, the former economy minister in Argentina during the government of Cristina Fernandez, regional integration presents an opportunity to speed up progress.

"Economic issues are not divorced from social issues," Kicillof said. 

As production of technology and energy benefited large transnationals in right-wing governments, such as Mauricio Macri's in Argentina, it hurt equality and the balance of social and labor issues, Kicillof said. 

"We should have integrated more in the productive issue with the rest of Latin America," he added.

Kicillof was a key player in the strengthening of Mercosur, a commercial block in South America intended to promote commerce through complementary products and services. However, there's still a lot to be done, he said, and it should begin with supporting multilateral organizations such as Unasur and Celac.

"Now is a key moment to have a Latin American economic strategy," Kicillof said.


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