Friday, November 15, 2019

Chileans to vote on new constitution and who'll write it (Nov. 15, 2019)

Chile will hold a plebiscite next April, asking citizens whether they would like a new constitution and who should serve on the convention to draft it. The agreement was reached by lawmakers early this morning, and seeks to quell four weeks of intense unrest in Chile. The April referendum will propose three different models for a body to devise a new constitution, made up of either fully elected representatives, political appointees or an equal mixture of both. If elections to the body are needed, they will be held in October 2020 to coincide with regional and municipal ballots. Finally, citizens will vote on whether to accept the draft when that is ready. (Reuters, Al Jazeera, AFP)

The current charter  has been in force since 1980 and was enacted by the military government of Augusto Pinochet. Though protests don't have specific leadership and demonstrators have diverse complaints (inequality, low wages, high education and health costs, etc), a new constitution has emerged as a key demand for a broad swathe of the country's citizens.

More Chile
  • Chilean singer Mon Laferte uncovered her chest emblazoned with the words "In Chile they torture, rape and kill" at the U.S. Latin Grammy awards' red carpet. (BBC)
Bolivia's stability depends on cooperation

Ongoing protests against Bolivia's interim government have been concentrated in El Alto. (La Razón)

The United Nations has dispatched a special envoy to Bolivia, in response to a call from former president Evo Morales. The emissary will observe the crisis, establish contact with both sides to further a peaceful resolution, and assist with guaranteeing fair and transparent elections. (Al Jazeera, La Razón)

The narrative on Bolivia is shifting from whose fault it is -- the whole coup or not thing -- to how the power vacuum might most productively be filled. There is a general consensus that cooperation between Bolivia's warring factions will likely be key. In particular cooperation is necessary to legitimize new elections. And to avoid further radicalization.

Pacification will require a pact between Morales' MAS party and Jeanine Áñez's new interim government, writes Natalia Cote-Muñoz in Americas Quarterly. Cooperation will be made difficult by lack of clear leadership in Morales' absence, and the fractured nature of the anti-Morales camp. Áñez’s choice of cabinet showed no signs that she intended to reach across the country’s deep political and ethnic divide. Her senior ministers includes prominent members of the business elite from Santa Cruz, reports the Guardian. (See also yesterday's post.)

Yesterday Áñez said Morales and former vice-president Álvaro García Linera would not be allowed to run in new elections -- and that while MAS could participate, the elections will be held with or without them. (Telam) She also said that Morales is "inciting" Bolivians from his Mexican exile, and said the foreign ministry will present a formal complaint to Mexico. (La República)

In a positive sign, MAS and Morales-opponent lawmakers managed to agree on new Senate leadership yesterday, and named a MAS senator to lead the chamber. (La Razón)

 And Áñez and other anti-Morales leaders appear to have recognized that fanning anti-indigenous flames is a bad idea, according to the Economist. One police chief made a public apology after another video showed officers cutting the flag out of their uniforms. On Thursday Áñez swore in an indigenous woman, Martha Yujra as Culture Minister. Yujra kissed the Wiphala flag and promised to help pacify unrest in El Alto. (La Razón)

But it's not clear these gestures will be able to overcome a history of ugly antagonism, documented in their social media history, detailed in the Wall Street Journal.

News Briefs

  • One of the lessons we can glean from Bolivia's ongoing crisis is that "the process of stopping semi-democratic leaders is likely to be semi-democratic as well," writes Javier Corrales in a New York Times  op-ed. "... the Bolivian case suggests that in situations where democratic backsliding is advanced and civil unrest on the rise, it is naïve to expect restoration to occur in a perfectly democratic fashion. Radicals will emerge and the military will likely play a part. ... The chance of escalation is high, and so is the risk of military involvement."
  • Successful protest movements in one country galvanize demonstrations in others, writes James Bosworth in the latest Latin America Risk Report. The success of anti-fuel protests in Ecuador changed the regional narrative regarding protests, which were widespread in other countries, but failed to impact policy in Venezuela, Haiti and Honduras, he argues. "The significant successes in the protests in October and November is one reason protests are likely to continue and expand in other countries," he writes, pointing to Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia as areas to keep an eye on.
  • The outbreak of popular uprisings this year is already the region’s strongest and most widespread in decades -- but the Washington Post warns against calling it a Latin Spring, as " the actors and causes of the still-unfolding uprisings in South America are as varied as the countries themselves."
  • An under-covered factor in demonstrations that have erupted around the world is domestic, rural-to-urban migration, argues Henry Carey in the Conversation. "All these capital cities gripped by protest have huge populations of desperately poor formerly rural people pushed out of the countryside and into the city by climate change, national policies that hurt small farmers or a global trade system that impoverishes local agriculture."
  • Thirteen activists were arbitrarily detained in Nicaragua, while taking supplies to a group of mothers protesting political detentions. The Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco said police had corralled protesters inside a Masaya church, and cut off their supply of potable water and electricity. The activists detained in the night sought to assist the demonstrators in the church, reports Confidencial.
  • The U.S. "Remain in Mexico" program is creating a new humanitarian crisis -- a former asylum officer said the policy is "clearly designed to further this administration’s racist agenda of keeping Hispanic and Latino populations from entering the United States." (Washington Post)
  • Remain in Mexico, officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols, allows U.S. authorities to send asylum seekers to await court hearings in Mexico -- but it cannot be applied to Mexican asylum seekers. Possibly because of this, Mexico has outpaced the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to become the largest single source of migrants taken into custody along the U.S.-Mexico border, reports the Washington Post.
  • With the fifth Quito Process meeting ongoing in Bogotá, WOLA examines the current patchwork of regional responses to the estimated 5,000 people leaving Venezuela each day -- the piece looks at issues over the definition of refugee and insufficient funding. (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)
  • The International Crisis Group spoke with politicians, activists and political analysts in favor and against Venezuela's government. Though the gap between the two remains very wide, they found "there are areas of common ground. Many people from both sides believe that the only peaceful way out of the crisis is through negotiations, and, just as importantly, both sides are willing to make concessions to that end."
  • Mexico's mediocre economic growth and its brutal violence are linked, argues Viridiana Ríos in a New York Times op-ed.
  • Nearly a year into office AMLO has achieved surprisingly little progress in pushing his agenda, and has even failed to appease many supporters, writes Luis Rubio in Americas Quarterly.
  • Americans accustomed to bluntness might be surprised at Mexican reticence to disappoint in social circumstances -- the Economist helps us understand why so many Mexican wedding guests are no-shows.
  • A man traveling from Miami with an arsenal of weapons was detained in Haiti's airport this week, reports the Miami Herald. The case highlights the situation of a country awash in illicit weapons: an estimated 500,000 illegal guns are in circulation despite a U.S. arms embargo, and heavily armed criminal gangs are exacerbating a political and economic crisis by barricading streets, hijacking vehicles and holding entire communities hostage.
Dominican Republic
  • A U.S. citizen living in the Dominican Republic was found dead, dragging the country back into the international spotlight after several unexplained tourist deaths earlier this year, reports the Washington Post.
  • The IMF does, on occasion, have happy endings, and Jamaica appears to be one. "But graduating with good marks from the imf is not the same thing as economic success," warns the Economist.
  • Argentine president-elect Alberto Fernández again backed calls to legalize abortion in Argentina, this time at a book presentation in Buenos Aires. (Clarín)

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...  


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