Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Chilean independents to rewrite constitution (May 18, 2021)

Chilean's choice of Constituent Assembly members demonstrates a broad rejection both of the ruling right-wing coalition, and of traditional leftist parties associated with the country's transition to democracy, the Concertación. The results ratify the demands of social protests that rocked the country and put a new constitution firmly on the national agenda in 2019. It is the continuation of a long crisis of establishment political parties, which have had scant generational renewal, reports El País.

The 155-member assembly will include 47 independent candidates and 17 representing the country’s 10 indigenous groups, whose participation was guaranteed for the first time in Chile. (Guardian) Depending on how you count it, 64 percent of the new assembly could be considered independent, reports El País.

Many of the political outsiders in the new assembly have made their mark as activists -- in social protests or within their communities. Several articles with profiles of a new generation of Chileans: here, here, and here

Chile in 1988 demonstrated that a dictatorship could be overthrown by election. In 2021, Chile is demonstrating how popular demands for social transformation can be channeled through the ballot box, writes Pedro Abramovay, Open Society Foundations' Latin America Program director in Estadão. The assembly's composition is promising for those who advocated change, but only the results of the difficult negotiations ahead "will show whether politics still has the capacity to hear the calls for profound transformations that the streets have called for."

But the hard work has just begun, and "there is an extensive record of disappointing constitution writing processes in Latin America," warns Patricio Navia in Americas Quarterly. "Chileans might be in for a rude awakening when the new constitution turns out not to be the magic pill that ends persistent inequality and generates the conditions for a more sustainable, gender-equal, environmentally friendly and inclusive kind of economic growth."

News Briefs

El Salvador
  • A U.S. State Department list includes five senior Salvadoran officials deemed credibly suspected of engaging in or facilitating corruption or drug trafficking. They are key allies of President Nayib Bukele, including his chief of staff. The list, obtained by the Associated Press, was originally included as a classified annex of a report sent to Congress in April. That report also contained the names of 12 Honduran and Guatemalan politicians accused of corruption or believed to have ties to drug trafficking organizations.
  • The list of five Salvadoran officials deemed to have “engaged in significant acts of corruption” during their terms in offices was declassified May 4. This list has no legal implications for those named, but the fact that the section on El Salvador was declassified sends a clear political message at a time of tense relations between the Bukele and Biden administrations, reports El Faro.
  • El Faro looks at previous reports of wrongdoing linked to the officials on the list.
  • The world is no longer just at risk of "vaccine apartheid" - according to the WHO, we've reached it. "The big problem is a lack of sharing. So the solution is more sharing," said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Reuters)
  • Just about a tenth of the Latin America and the Caribbean's population of over 653 million has received at least one dosage of the vaccine. The Pan American Health Organization says at least 500 million people need to be vaccinated in the Americas to control the spread and achieve “herd immunity.” An analysis by the Miami Herald found that a region already in trouble is falling further behind, with the poorest suffering the deadliest consequences as new contagious variants emerge.
  • Colombian President Iván Duque ordered the public forces to deploy their “maximum operational capacity” to dismantle road blockades erected by protesters during the past 20 days of demonstrations. The president said he based his decision on the fact that peaceful protest is allowed in Colombia, but illegal roadblocks have affected millions of citizens who have not been able to get their products, reports EFE.
  • The protests began three weeks ago, with demands for a repeal of the tax proposal, which the president granted. But they have grown over time to include calls for the government to guarantee a minimum income, to prevent police violence and to withdraw a health reform plan that critics say does not do enough to fix systemic problems, reports the New York Times.
  • One interpretation is that Colombia is undergoing a post-peace deal democratic spring, Rodrigo Uprimny told El País.
  • Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro, a leftist rabble-rouser politician, has taken a low-key approach to the protests, apparently believing that he must win over some of his many conservative skeptics to prevail in what would be his third run for Colombia’s presidency, next year, reports the Associated Press.
  • "People across Latin America are watching the protests in Colombia," writes Ian Bremmer in Time Magazine.  Public anger boiled over in many countries in the region in 2019. "The coronavirus has exacerbated the economic stagnation that drove much of that anger and done nothing to help address problems of government corruption. Governments across Latin America are short of cash, people are short of patience, and COVID will make both problems worse."
  • For the first time, a portion of the population that supports the impeachment of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is greater than that who opposes his removal, according to the Datafolha survey.
  • Argentina is mired in counter-productive political polarization that distracts from its economic and social crises, laments Hugo Alconada Mon in a New York Times guest essay. He argues that political reform could offer a serious path out of the morass.
  • It would be a mistake to see Argentina's current conflict over in-person schooling conflict purely as an education debate, writes Eduardo Levy Yeyati in Americas Quarterly. "At a time in which a largely token opposition lacked an appealing message — and appealing candidates — education became a political banner for families that have been so far politically underrepresented." But, it could also be an opportunity to spur much-needed pro-education policies, he argues.
  • Argentina suspended foreign sales of beef for 30 days to combat price increases on the domestic market. (AFP)
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's so-called "fuel-fixation" relates to a struggle for "energy sovereignty," an idea with roots in anti-colonialism, explain Patricia Narvaez Garcia and Aman Abhishek in Al Jazeera.
  • Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's construction group faces scrutiny for the possible role it played in the building of a metro railway line that collapsed earlier this month, killing 26 people, reports Reuters.
  • Vietnamese and Taiwanese demand for sea cucumber is financing a thriving black market for the in-demand echinoderm in small Honduran fishing villages, reports InSight Crime.

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

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