After a month of sometimes deadly demonstrations against inequality, Chile may be making its way toward peace.
A coalition of parties from across the political spectrum says it will support a constitutional referendum next year to decide whether and how Chileâ€™s 1980 Constitution should be changed in response to protester demands.
Chileâ€™s protest movement, which killed about 23 people, according to the attorney generalâ€™s office, began on Oct. 18, 2019 with mass fare evasions on the Santiago Metro after an increase of 30 Chilean pesos â€“ about US$0.04 â€“ on the price of rush hour tickets.
On that day, which ended with 20 subway stations and more than 15 buses set aflame across the capital, President SebastiÃ¡n PiÃ±era made his first crisis-time speech to the Chilean people: He decreed a state of emergency in Santiago.
Over the next week, PiÃ±era would make a series of speeches aimed â€“ unsuccessfully, it turns out â€“ at quelling the crisis.
All the presidentâ€™s speeches
Demonstrations, looting and fires occurred in various cities after the transit uprising in Santiago, resulting in curfews being declared across the country on Oct. 19. Chileâ€™s Armed Forces took to the streets to try to restore order and to prevent â€“ during certain hours â€“ free movement through the streets.
That day, President PiÃ±era announced that he would suspend the rise in transit fares. Still, the violence continued. On Oct. 20, the first protest-related deaths were reported in Chile, and human rights organizations began to denounce abuse of authority.
That night, in a press conference at a military base, PiÃ±era made what would be come to be notorious statement: â€œWe are at war against a powerful enemy,â€ he said.
This bellicose message triggered a powerful citizen reaction. Across Chile, people took to the streets and social media in peacful protest, declaring â€œ#noestamosenguerraâ€ â€“ #wearenotatwar.
This negative response, coupled with protester demands to combat Chileâ€™s extreme inequality, forced PiÃ±era to radically change his tone.
On Tuesday, Oct. 22, the Chilean president made his fourth speech in as many days. First, he apologized to the country for his previous speech. Then, he announced a series of short-term measures to combat inequality.
Analysis and key concepts
Javier Mansilla and Claudio ManrÃquez, industrial civil engineers at Chileâ€™s Universidad del BÃo-BÃo, conducted an analysis of PiÃ±eraâ€™s speeches during the first week of the Chilean crisis.
Feeding transcript of subtitles from videos of PiÃ±eraâ€™s speeches posted on YouTube into an artificial intelligence system developed from mathematical algorithms and computer science models specialised in feeling analysis, they studied the presidential messages from Friday Oct. 18, Saturday Oct. 19 , Sunday Oct. 20 and Tuesday Oct. 22.
The aim, says ManrÃquez, who is also a data scientist at the digital data processing company Krino, was to understand â€œhow different phrases from different speeches were interrelated.â€
â€œThis study allows us to understand the position of the president and the attitude he takes in different situations, without having to listen to each speech,â€ adds Mansilla, CEO and founder of Krino.
To study the feelings reflected in Pineraâ€™s presidential speeches, Mansilla and ManrÃquez referred to Robert Plutchikâ€™s Wheel of Emotions â€“ a model of emotional intelligence discipline that defines eight basic emotions â€“ fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, hope, joy and acceptance. These, in turn, combine to develop various more advanced emotions.
They found that PiÃ±eraâ€™s words expressed more optimism when he asked for forgiveness and announced measures to combat inequality, in his fourth speech, but demonstrated a significant degree of fear in his first speech, declaring the state of emergency.
The AI-based emotions analysis also allowed the researchers to distinguish words with positive connotation – such as â€œrightsâ€ and â€œfreedomsâ€ – from those with negative connotation, such as â€œwarâ€ and â€œviolence.â€
On balance, PiÃ±eraâ€™s four speeches were more positive than negative â€“ a perhaps surprising finding, given what is now clear about the depth of Chileâ€™s crisis.
In his Oct. 20 speech, however, when Chileâ€™s president declared, â€œWe are at war,â€ just 23.7% of his words had a positive connotation. That speech â€“ coupled with a WhatsApp audio recording of PiÃ±eraâ€™s wife describing the scene in Chile as an â€œalien invasionâ€ â€“ suggest that Chileâ€™s leadership had the wrong analysis of the crisis gripping the country.
Make quick decisions
Using artificial intelligence to process huge quantities of raw data is not new.
AI systems have been used to catch jaywalkers, develop Chinese miitary intelligence, continuously improve cybersecurity and train machines to replace human workers.
But using an AI system to analyze the otherwise indecipherable emotions behind official speeches is a novel technique, the Chilean researchers say.
â€œIt is an opportunity, through interviews and unstructured verbal surveys, to know how the person feels about a specific topic, identifying their emotions and tone of voice,â€ says Claudio ManrÃquez.
ManrÃquez and Mansilla see studies like theirs, which allow the processing and interpretation of a speech without needing to watch it completely, as an boon for political communication.
â€œIt is no longer necessary to look in the mirror to know what emotions weâ€™re transmitting,â€ Mansilla says, adding that the technology could also allow people to â€œmake quick decisions, such as knowing if I should invest in the stock market, according to the feelings detected in a presidential speech.â€
Restoring peace in Chile after a month-long political crisis will surely be a long process, with many more presidential speeches to come. Perhaps AI analysis of his emotions and feelings can help PiÃ±era better lead the recovery.
Alexis Javier Apablaza Campos, Profesor asociado Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales, Universidad de Artes, Ciencias y ComunicaciÃ³n UNIACC