Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Establishment politicians lost in Chile's referendum (Oct. 27, 2020)

 Chileans overwhelmingly voted to scrap their Pinochet-era Constitution on Sunday. (See yesterday's post.) 

"Sunday’s victory in Chile did not come easily or swiftly," writes Ariel Dorfman in The Nation. The change in the decades of post-dictatorship governed by a Magna Carta that "blocked all key efforts to create a more just and equitable society" was possible only because of the "startling revolt" that started in protests exactly a year ago. He celebrates Sunday's vote as the rebirth of a nation that seemed to have died in the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende.

Voters decisively rejected permitting acting lawmakers to participate in drafting a new charter, part of a broader rejection by citizens of the country's elite politicians -- those who are currently governing and opposition parties -- writes Patricio Fernández in a New York Times Español op-ed

"What is being demanded is not only the end of the neoliberal system imposed by the Chicago Boys during the Pinochet dictatorship and sweetened by the governments of the alliance of parties that conformed what was called the Concertación ... but also a democratic actualization in the broadest sense: a redistribution of power that recognizes the changes lived by our community throughout these decades," writes Fernández.

But the institutional design for the constitutional process -- which will take two years -- has many potential pitfalls, warns Patrio Navia in Americas Quarterly. Though voters have rejected political elites, the elected constitutional convention will be comprised mostly of career or aspiring politicians with enough clout to be nominated by political parties, or by people with strong name recognition – athletes, artists, television personalities and other well-known individuals with little constitution-writing skills or training. "There will likely be disappointment among many voters when they see that the composition of the constitutional assembly does not reflect the idealized conception of a representative group of Chileans from all walks of life meeting to deliberate on the framework of a more just and equitable society."

But the challenge for the 155 members of the future Constituent Convention will be to overcome the lasting legacy of Pinochet that not only structured the country's political system, but also many citizens' mental maps, writes Álvaro Ramis in Le Monde Diplomatique.

And nobody is sure the vote will calm the anger protesters demonstrated in Chile's streets over the past year. (See yesterday's post and Friday's.) Fifty percent of eligible voters participated in Sunday's referendum -- it is a very high percentage compared to recent elections, but also an indication that many voters did not feel the ballot box was a mechanism to resolve their dissatisfaction with the status quo, warns Yasna Mussa in the Post Opinión.

News Briefs

  • Luis Arce's landslide win in Bolivia's recent elections is not just a demonstration of Evo Morales' lasting legacy, but a lesson on how renewal is possible for the region's leftist movements, writes Brendan O'Boyle in a New York Times op-ed. "Morales resigned last year, after his attempt to win a fourth term sparked unrest and ended in a contested election, in what some have called a coup. But if leaders like him can pass the baton to less polarizing figures, they may be able to inject new life into their political movements." (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa tapped a virtually unknown 35-year-old economist as his candidate for the upcoming presidential election. Could Andrés Arauz become the latest loyal technocrat to help stage a comeback for a sidelined populist leader, following Bolivia and Argentina? Also by Brendan O'Boyle. (Americas Quarterly)
  • Forest fires raging across parts of Paraguay in recent weeks were likely started, at least in part, by criminal groups seeking to clear land for marijuana plantations, reports InSight Crime.
  • Beaches throughout the Caribbean are eroding as a result of rising sea levels and dangerous storms resulting from climate change. And many island nations lack the funding to invest in the infrastructure and innovation necessary to combat the changes. Jamaica recently became the first Caribbean nation to increase the ambitiousness of its plan under the Paris climate agreement to reduce its carbon emissions, reports the Guardian.
  • One more country in the region has to ratify the Escazú Agreement in order for the new environmental treaty to come into force. Supporters hail the treaty as a groundbreaking instrument for environmental protection and human rights -- it includes specific measures to protect environmental defenders -- but detractors voice concern over "sovereignty." -- Latin America Advisor (See Oct. 9's briefs on Escazú.) 
  • Latin America's capacity to position itself as a relevant actor in the international sphere is sorely lacking, an issue of particular relevance as the U.S. heads to its election next week, writes Michael McCarthy in Perfíl.
  • The U.S. ambassador in Bogotá warned Colombian politicians to "avoid getting involved in U.S. elections." The unusual warning comes as least three senior Colombian politicians have been accused of acting as Trump surrogates in Florida, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said it would be easier and cheaper to invest in a cure for Covid-19 rather than a vaccine. The president is increasingly positioning himself against inoculation programs, reports Reuters. Bolsonaro has positioned himself against a Chinese vaccine under trial in São Paulo, apparently because of political concerns. (See last Thursday's briefs and yesterday's.)
  • Mexican officials believe there have been 50,000 more Covid-19 victims than officially reported, which would mean the coronavirus has killed 139,153 people in the country. The new estimates are based on excess deaths, reports the Guardian.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines citizens head to the polls on Nov. 5. The incumbent United Labour Party (ULP), government of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, is running for its fifth consecutive term in office, but the contest is expected to be close, much like the last two votes in 2010 and 2015. (Global Americans)
  • To be politically active in Buenos Aires is to visit Plaza de Mayo often, particularly for Peronists who claimed the space as their own on an October day 75 years ago. The space is bursting with patriotic symbolism on every centimeter of sidewalk, but also quotidien transit. Like a space of worship, where prayers and gossip occur in tandem. I've always been drawn by the collective emotions there: outrage, desperation, pride, and joyful celebrations. The mood in Plaza de Mayo is like the pulse of our political condition. Today is the ten year anniversary of Nestor Kirchner's death. The evening of Oct. 27, 2010, Plaza de Mayo filled with people who trickled in on foot, silent and stunned, looking for company in the masses. Página 12 has a special supplement on Kirchner's lasting legacy.

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


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