Discourse Coalitions in the Controversy around the HydroAysen Project in the Patagonia Region of Chile

María Eugenia Merino, María Elena Bello


This paper explores the discourse coalitions that became evident during the conflict around the HydroAysen hydroelectric megaproject in the Patagonia region of Chile. We explore three nodal concepts around which the coalitions were constructed and the argumentative and rhetoric strategies used.

The analysis, inspired by a socio constructivist approach and based on Hajer’s argumentative method (2005), studies 40 discourse allocutions from relevant leaders and social actors publically available through national press releases and web pages between 2011 and 2012.

Findings reveal the presence of two discourse coalitions holding competing views. The first coalition includes the President of the Republic of Chile and the Ministry of Energy, together with the proposing hydroelectric company. This coalition displays a neoliberal socioeconomic-oriented argumentation based on the proposition that the Chilean energy crisis can be resolved through hydroelectricity, a natural resource abundant in the Patagonia, which would bring more development and connectivity to the Aysen region. The second coalition, made up of social and environmental groups ‘Patagonia Without Dams’ and ‘Aysenines against HidroAysen’ exhibits a more socio-environmental oriented argumentation. Their narrative revolves around the absence of a national energy policy which makes the country economically vulnerable to the establishment of mega projects such as the HydroAysen project that may benefit only a few enterprises but ruin unique environments such as that in Patagonia.

We conclude that these antagonistic coalitions run along assymetric processes of discursive institutionalization. Furthermore, the HydroAysen case analysis contributes to explain the way discourse coalitions contribute to the failure of Chilean democracy to build social consensus on contentious issues.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/ijsss.v2i3.395


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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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