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Aleida Guevara: There Will Have to be a Reaction to Trump

By | 17/January/2018|

We need the people of the US to become aware of the power that they have as a people.

Dr Aleida Guevara, medical campaigner and daughter of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, shares her thoughts in an exclusive Alborada interview with Umaar Kazmi.

More clips and full interview to follow.

Watch other clips here.

Aleida Guevara: There Will Have to be a Reaction to Trump

By | 17/January/2018|

We need the people of the US to become aware of the power that they have as a people.

Dr Aleida Guevara, medical campaigner and daughter of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, shares her thoughts in an exclusive Alborada interview with Umaar Kazmi.

More clips and full interview to follow.

Watch other clips here.

Latin America’s Grassroots and Independent Media

By | 14/January/2018|

If you’re looking for a definitive list on Latin America’s independent media, you’ve come to the right place.

Latin America’s grassroots media platforms are crucial to building social movements and resistance in the region. At Alborada, we often get asked about other grassroots and independent media outlets, of which there are many. The majority, of course, publish in Spanish or Portuguese but if you don’t speak either of those languages, there are several excellent alternative Latin America-focused media platforms that publish in English.

Below is a list of some of Latin America’s most important alternative media sites.

This is a work in progress so please feel free to get in touch with any that we have missed: info[at]alborada[at]net

In English


Brasil Wire

Colombia Reports

Democracia Abierta (principally in Spanish but most articles are also published in English)

Latin America Bureau

The Latin American Review of Books


The Prisma (there is also a Spanish-language version of the website)

Sounds and Colours

Upside Down World

Venezuela Analysis

In Spanish/Portuguese


Nuestras Voces

Red Nacional de Medios Alternativos

La Vaca


Brasil de Fato


Outras Palavras

Revista Forum


El Ciudadano

The Clinic

El Desconcierto



Colombia Plural

Contagio Radio


Prensa Rural


Cartas desde Cuba



Radio Zapatista


Cultura Nuestra

Supuesto Negado

La Tabla



Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales

Prensa Latina

Tierras de América

Best of the Web: December 2017

By | 2/January/2018|

Our monthly selection of the best articles on Latin America from around the internet.

1) The President of Honduras is Deploying U.S.-Trained Forces Against Election Protesters (Lee Fang & Danielle Marie Mackey/The Intercept)

Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández, using the specter of rampant crime and the drug trade, won extensive support from the American government to build up highly trained state security forces. Now, those same forces are repressing democracy.

(shared on our Facebook page here)

2) Human Rights Watch, While Hawkish on Venezuela, Is Quiet on Violent Repression and Apparent Coup in Honduras (Ben Norton/Alternet)

Honduras’ incumbent right-wing government has been accused of stealing the election, but Human Right Watch’s Kenneth Roth is fixated on Venezuela.

(shared on our Facebook page here)

3) The Voice of Ocalan Resonates in Latin America (Raul Zibechi/The Region)

It has become a commonplace to say that the struggle of the Kurds of Northern Syria has resonances with the Zapatista movement. However, the thought of Abdullah Ocalan, as well as what has happened in the region of Rojava in recent years, is in line with what many Latin American social movements are doing.

(shared on our Facebook page here)

4) Marichuy could be the First Indigenous Woman President of Mexico (Barbara Sostaita/Feministing)

A 53-year-old indigenous woman is running for president of Mexico. María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, known to most as “Marichuy,” is a traditional Nahua healer from southern Jalisco, and could become the first indigenous woman elected to Mexico’s highest office.

5) Video – Pioneering Argentinian Filmmaker Fernando Birri Dies at 92 (Amy Goodman/Democracy Now!)

Pioneering Argentinian filmmaker Fernando Birri has died. He’s considered the father of the New Latin American Cinema, which challenged Hollywood and focused on the lives of the oppressed in Latin America. Along with Gabriel García Márquez and others, Birri founded the International School of Film and Television in Cuba and served as the school’s first director.

(shared on our Facebook page here)

6) Video – A Massacre of Farmers in US-Colombia ‘War On Drugs’ (Empire Files/TeleSUR English)

The Empire Files’ Abby Martin goes on-the-ground to investigate the 5 October 2017 Tumaco massacre in Colombia, interviewing witnesses and casualties.

(shared on our website here)

7) How Brazil’s Sex Workers Have Been Organized and Politically Effective for 30 Years (Amanda De Lisio/Upside Down World)

In Brazil, sex work remains politically and socially contentious. But thanks to a staunch sex worker movement in the country, the people who actually do the work have made themselves key contributors to the debate. It is a movement which has informed political policy, affected legislation in urban reform and sexual healthcare and fought tirelessly for the full recognition of sex work as a profession.

8) Best Albums of 2017 (S&C Team/Sounds and Colours)

If you’ve been following Sounds and Colours since the start you’ll know that we started off by focusing on South American music. The reason for this was simple: we wanted to show that there was an incredible amount of great music being made in South America that was distinct from the Latino music of the US

The Plot Against Honduras

By | 21/December/2017|

Despite the crisis enveloping Honduras over November’s apparently-rigged presidential election, the international groundwork is being laid to install a new rightwing government that will exacerbate ongoing social and political tensions.

The electoral crisis that has left Honduras reeling shows few signs of consensual resolution. Even in a country whose recent history is marked by social violence, political instability and external meddling, the current situation threatens to eradicate any dwindling vestige of democratic process that the country purportedly upholds. With ruling party and opposition at loggerheads and tension building over the alleged election fix, a dangerous impasse has occurred. Something must give, yet nothing suggests either side will blink first.

It is the latest blow inflicted on Honduran ‘democracy’ following the 2009 coup against elected president Manuel Zelaya, whose policies included expansive social programmes, land reform and closer relations with Venezuela and Cuba. Zelaya’s removal – with the assistance and approval of the Obama administration – opened the way for his successor, Porfirio Lobo Sosa of the conservative National Party, to implement a series of neoliberal and securitisation programmes. This exacerbated already-high levels of inequality and social violence that cemented one of the world’s highest murder rates.

With the fallout from the disputed election on 26 November, the country has again been plunged into turmoil. Supporters of opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, of centre-left coalition the Alliance against Dictatorship, believe he won the election. To recap, with over half the votes counted Nasralla had a five per cent lead over his rival, sitting president Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party. However, long and unexplained delays at the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which is responsible for the election, raised suspicions of vote-rigging. These suspicions intensified once counting restarted and Hernández appeared in the lead.

With the TSE under government control, and after a TSE official had called Nasralla’s lead ‘irreversible’, the opposition demanded a recount. Nasralla supporters staged mass protests in which security forces so far have killed at least 20 people. Nonetheless, on 17 December the TSE declared Hernández the winner, a verdict immediately rejected by the opposition. The have cited an ‘electoral coup’ in progress, while Nasralla himself has even warned that the crisis could descend into civil war.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) backed calls for a recount, citing the ‘poor quality’ election. This appeared to further legitimise opposition demands and cast doubt on the ‘victory’ of the National Party. When even the OAS, a continental institution discredited in much of Latin America for its historic role in upholding US interests in the region, expresses concern over possible bias towards the pro-Washington candidate, there is surely a solid case to restage the election. As OAS secretary general Luis Almagro – no ally of the Latin American left – said, ‘facing the impossibility of determining a winner, the only way possible that the people of Honduras are the victors is a new call for general elections’.

Ongoing developments, however, suggest this is unlikely to happen and that the

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2017 End of Year Musica Selection ♫

By | 20/December/2017|

A selection of 10 songs: eight from 2017 and two especially for the December holidays. Selected by the Alborada Soundsystem’s Ursula Parvex.

Listen to 8 of the 10 songs on our Youtube channel and the full selection on our Spotify channel. See here and below.


1) ‘El Origen’ (Nicola Cruz Remix) by Rodrigo Gallardo (Chile) and Nicola Cruz (Ecuador)

2) ‘Giumbele’ by Nelda Pina y La Boa feat. Nidia Gongora (Colombia) – album: Volumen

3) ‘Receita Rapida’ by Anelis Assumpcao (Brazil) – album: Receita Rapida

4) ‘Anunciacao’ by Ubunto (Brazil) – album: Piva

5) ‘Yo Me Tomo El Ron’ by Chuito EL De Bayamon y Johnny el Bravo (Puerto Rico) – album: Musica Jibara para las Navidades

6) ‘Caldo Parao’ by Ondatropica (Colombia, United Kingdom) – album: Baile Bucanero

7) ‘No Fim’ – Thiago El Nino (Brazil) – album: A Rotina do Pombo

8) ‘Tu Luz’ – Lido Pimiento (Colombia, Canada) and Thornato (US) – album: Bennu

9) ‘Cuentos de anoche’ by Chico Mann (US) and Captain Planet (US) – album: Night Visions

10) ‘La Fiesta de Pilito’ by El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico) – album: 30th Anniversary

To listen to this and other Alborada playlists, click here.

Is There a Drugs War in Latin America?

By | 20/December/2017|

The War on Drugs has been a disastrous failure – at immense human and financial cost – since its introduction in the 1970s but the opportunities it presents are central to US strategy in Latin America.

In 1971, while still embroiled in Vietnam, President Richard Nixon announced a new war. This one was not against an ideology or regime, but a collection of inanimate substances. Nixon’s war would be one of the defining planks of domestic and foreign policy during the next 45 years, and it goes on.

By the late 1980s, seven Latin American or Caribbean countries accounted for the vast majority of all marijuana, cocaine and heroin that illegally entered the US. The region has been the centre for War on Drugs foreign policy.

Since the early 1970s, the US has spent upwards of a $1 trillion and seen thousands of people killed in the fight to eradicate production. The U.S. federal government spent over $15 billion dollars in 2010 on the War on Drugs, at a rate of about $500 per second.

In 1986, President Reagan had formalised the program with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act and even during the Cold War, the problem was more concerning to the US population than any other. In an article written in 1988, Bruce Michael Bagley notes that: ‘Control of drug trafficking ranks higher than immigration, foreign debt, and communist expansion in Central America as a priority issue in US-Latin American relations.’

A March 1988 New York Times/CBS News poll revealed that 48 per cent of those surveyed believed drug trafficking was most important foreign policy issue facing the nation. (63 per cent said stopping drug trafficking was the top priority as opposed to 21 per cent who thought stopping communism was more important.)

These attitudes, in the context of the still-ongoing Cold War, reflected decades of intense propaganda by the state and, following it loyally, the majority of the US media. But why was such effort put into promoting the War on Drugs by the political class? Was it just concern about the prevalence of drugs consumption and production? Or were there deeper causes?

Whatever the answers, after nearly 50 years of the Nixonian War on Drugs barely anyone says it has been a success. ‘Despite the increases in resources, manpower, drug seizures, and arrests, however, no one in the US government can realistically claim that the war on drugs is being won,’ notes Bagley.

In Washington, most will say privately that the policy doesn’t work and is too expensive. ‘I’ve been struck by the criticism when speaking in private conversations with members of Congress who are perceived as hardliners on the drug war,’ Michael Shiftner, an analyst in Washington DC, told me. ‘But they don’t want to be caught in position that says this is a failure when they don’t have an alternative.’

Nearly all the academic literature on the War on Drugs in Latin America has focused on analysing this failure from a shared premise: that the goal of the War on Drugs in Latin America is

Redressing the Balance? Inequality in Chile

By | 16/December/2017|

Chile’s presidential election offers a chance to tackle inequality levels among the highest in the world but will require a break from the status quo, something the country has struggled to achieve in recent decades.

As the Chilean elections reach the decisive second round, now is a good time to revisit Chile’s historical problem with inequality. The left wing coalition of Frente Amplio (Broad Front) surprised pollsters by gaining 20 per cent of the popular vote, almost beating the centre-left coalition into second place and a potential second round. Since the return of democracy in 1990, Chilean politics has been dominated by a duopoly of centre-left and centre-right coalitions. However, despite steady economic growth since the end of the dictatorship, frustration with the political establishment has grown and numerous sectors of society have questioned how this upturn in national income has, or hasn’t, been distributed across the country.

Statistical analysis shows that high levels of socioeconomic inequality have been constant throughout Chile’s history. While Chile has experienced impressive economic growth during several periods of its history, its extreme concentration of wealth has proved difficult to overcome. Of course, the military coup that overthrew Salvador Allende’s socialist government in 1973 curtailed a series of measures specifically aimed at income and wealth redistribution. However, more than 25 years after the return of democracy, Chile continues to struggle with the problem of inequality.

Socioeconomic inequality in Chile is a many-headed beast, encompassing education, healthcare, institutionalised corruption, ethnic discrimination and geography, as well as a multitude of other factors. Currently topping the list of OECD countries in terms of income inequality[1], Chile is a prime example of how economic prosperity is not always followed by the supposed ‘trickle-down’ effect. The richest ten per cent in Chile has an income seven times as large as that of the poorest ten per cent. As a point of comparison, the same ratio in the United Kingdom is around 4.2. Furthermore, the share of national wealth in the hands of the top five per cent of the population is a staggering 42 per cent.

In 2014, the incoming president Michelle Bachelet proclaimed her desire to tackle inequality. However, like her predecessors, her attempts fell short and her popularity plummeted in light of numerous corruption charges relating to her political allies and  family members. The president she replaced, and who could yet replace her again, is billionaire Sebastián Piñera, who better than anybody represents the inextricable link between the mega-rich and those who occupy the corridors of power in Santiago. According to Andrés Solimano in 2011, the wealth of four families in Chile (including that of former president Piñera) accounts for roughly 25 per cent of Chile’s national income. Piñera is the favourite to return to power after the second round of voting on 17 December, his closeness to industrial and financial lobbies failing to dissuade voters of his suitability for office.

What the likes of Piñera and Bachelet demonstrate is the entrenched nature of inequality in Chile, where an

Socrates and Football as a Tool of Anti-Dictatorial Struggle in Brazil

By | 15/December/2017|

The majestic footballer Socrates fought tirelessly for the restoration of democracy during Brazil’s dictatorship and helped pioneer a radical experiment in democratisation at his club, Corinthians.

Six years ago, on 4 December 2011, the wonderful footballer Socrates died. Besides being a player defined by talent on the pitch, he would also go down in history for his actions away from it as a tireless fighter for democracy during Brazil’s dictatorship. Not only that, he worked with friends and teammates (Zenon, Wladimir and Casagrande, among others, who were part of the Corinthians Paulista team) to promote democratisation in all social spaces, such as football. This gave rise to the so-called ‘Corinthians Democracy’, a short experiment of direct and horizontal democracy that established equal conditions for everyone at the club: footballers, directors, coaches, assistants, drivers and so on. Decisions were discussed in meetings where all participants had equal right to a voice and a vote. The reason for this was that democracy was not only something to be demanded, but also practiced, and it would remain incomplete unless established as firmly in political structures as in society’s closest confines.

Everything was therefore a matter of debate and deliberation: from what was eaten to whether to hold meetings before each match or the players’ style of passing. Each footballer was free to be at the club or to leave: ‘nobody owns anyone else’ and ‘nobody will be forced to do anything’. Players’ demands and proposals began to be considered and, probably facilitated by a technical body willing to open discussion spaces within the team, the practice soon extended throughout the club. It even set a democratic precedent, both then and today, when the players chose their coach, as well as his replacement after he failed to get good results. In little time, certain players and organised fan groups began to influence the internal politics of the club and its relationship with external political institutions.

However, Socrates and the other members of Corinthians Democracy understood that, in an authoritarian context, a democratic ‘island’was unthinkable. If we consider the context, their greatest impact was as a bastion of anti-dictatorial propaganda and a space for subversion. And, of course, this ‘democratic’ team belonged to the anti-dictatorial social struggle in a country as football-crazy as it was violated. They broke the prejudice of the football player as absorbed by his work inside the stadium, faced external and internal opposition within their own club and joined calls for direct elections (the famous ‘Diretas Já’ [Direct Elections Now]campaign of 1984-1985), mobilising to demand the restitution of universal voting rights, the election of the President of the Republic through such methods and the recovery of democratic freedoms stolen by the dictatorial regime that governed Brazil between 1964 and 1984. Corinthians thereby managed to challenge the dictatorship on and off the pitch, as social movements flooded the streets of major Brazilian cities (as was happening in Argentina and Chile) and the democratisation movement grew in strength.

There is another non-minor detail. This was also a

The War on Peace

By | 14/December/2017|

One year after the signing of Colombia’s peace process and approaching the most important elections of the modern era, an escalation in political violence and deliberate attempts at bureaucratic sabotage threaten the entire agreement.

In November 2016, as the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia met in Bogota’s Teatro Colón to sign an agreement – for the second time – to bring the country’s long-running armed conflict to an end, it was clear that peacebuilding in Colombia faced a myriad of challenges and obstacles.

The shock rejection of the first peace agreement in a national plebiscite revealed strong opposition towards the deal and threatened to plunge the country into renewed instability and violence. But with the No result serving as a major wake-up call, the hope was that Colombians across the socio-political spectrum would work together to overcome right-wing attempts to scupper the peace process. Sadly, one year on many Colombians’ fears over the agreement’s fragility are being realised: the peace process today finds itself in crisis, with the real and alarming prospect that it could collapse altogether.

Rather than unforeseen or unfortunate circumstances, this is the result of deliberate sabotage instigated by the same political sectors behind the effective No campaign that swung the plebiscite. The crisis is unfolding at all levels of Colombian society, from the highest courts in the country to isolated rural communities where the new dawn promised by peace has failed to materialise.

The sense of urgency around saving the peace process is intensified by looming presidential elections in May 2018. President Santos is a lame duck, unable to muster the political strength to push through core terms of the agreement – that’s if he even wants to. When the FARC completed its decommission of weapons, the government’s main incentive to fully uphold the deal was gone. Santos’ grand ambition of the Nobel Prize was, of course, already in the bag. As such, the truly complex work of implementing the social programmes designed to eradicate root causes of conflict – land reform, rural development and voluntary crop substitution – has yet to properly begin.

For all the talk of economy, crime and public services, the election will be fought along the pro- and anti-peace dichotomy. The political right has staked its opposition to the agreement from the off, with the Democratic Centre party of former president Álvaro Uribe looking to replicate its success in mobilising its constituency to vote against the 2016 plebiscite. Its candidate, Iván Duque, refuses to recognise FARC legitimacy as a political party and supports exemption for military personnel from civilian courts. Former vice-president German Vargas Lleras, of the Radical Change (which wants to keep things the same, especially economic hierarchies) is another contender. A presidential victory for either party would have severe repercussions for the entire peace process: although the FARC would not return to armed struggle, the agreement would likely disintegrate, leaving Colombia potentially vulnerable to violence that has so terribly affected post-conflict societies in Guatemala and El

Best of the Web: November 2017

By | 1/December/2017|

Our monthly selection of the best articles on Latin America from around the internet.

1) El Salvador’s New Savior (Hillary Goodfriend/Upside Down World)

Popular politician Nayib Bukele is, in many ways, a monster of the FMLN’s own creation. To defeat him, and to ensure the continuity of its own revolutionary project, the party will have to cultivate radical new voices from within.

2) Will the errors of Chile’s left facilitate a right-wing victory? (Ramona Wadi/TRT World)

The country’s right-wing candidate Sebastian Pinera has gained a lead in the presidential elections, but the left , even though battered by the low voter turnout, still has a chance of bouncing back in the upcoming run-offs.

3) Fighting Chevron in Ecuador (Lindsay Ofrias/NACLA)

For twenty years, Chevron-Texaco dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into Ecuador’s northern Amazon. How have communities responded?

4) Djamila Ribeiro: The fight against racism & sexism in Post-Coup Brasil (Brian Mier/Brasil Wire)

Djamila Ribeiro, 37, is currently one of the most popular writers and public figures in the Afro-Brazilian woman’s rights movement. Her new book, Nos, Madelenas: uma palavra pelo feminismo (We Magdalenes: a word for feminism) will be released this December and promises to be a best seller.

5) “Colombia is safe for business, but not for people”: interview with Daniel Kovalik (Ricardo Vaz/Investig’action)

Murders of trade unionists and social leaders, paramilitary activity, coca production… If we only paid attention to the mainstream media we would not get the idea that these problems are actually growing in Colombia, one year after the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC came into place.

6) How Three Butterflies Defeated a Brutal Dictator (Laura J Snook/teleSUR English)

The Mirabal sisters made the ultimate sacrifice to topple Dominican despot Rafael Trujillo, triggering the advent of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women every November 25.

7) The Media, Venezuela, and Hunger Statistics: A Case Study in Careless Reporting (Jacob Wilson/Venezuela Analysis)

The mainstream press has been irresponsibly exaggerating the extent of Venezuela’s food crisis.

8) Gender violence in Guatemala: ‘A woman’s struggle is everyone’s struggle’ (Elizabeth Melimopoulos and Ali Rae/Al Jazeera English)

Mayan women share challenges they face every day in Guatemala, which has one of the highest femicide rates in the world.

9) Ten truths about Cuba’s general elections (Sean J Clancy/Green Left Weekly)

Although the media spends a lot of time portraying Cuba as a “dictatorship”, it has barely covered the fact that Cubans have once again begun a process of electing officials, starting from the local and going all the way up to the national parliament.


10) Atarraya (Ricardo Santana)

Atarraya portraits the lives of Sergio and Raúl, two fishermen living in the coasts of Cerro Gordo, one of the few active fishermen coast in Puerto Rico. Surrounded by restrictions, their day by day living becomes a struggle.

The Saga of the Fearsome Fujimoris

By | 28/November/2017|

The dynastic Fujimoris continue to make their political weight felt in Peru, despite former president Alberto’s imprisonment for human rights abuses and daughter Keiko’s defeat in last year’s election.

Is it possible that just one family can paralyse an entire nation’s political dynamic, centrally occupy its institutions and establish a parallel government that overrules the actual executive?

If the family is called Fujimori and the country is Peru, the answer is yes.

Since losing the presidential elections in June last year, but winning an absolute majority in the Congress, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former dictator imprisoned for crimes against humanity, has done all she can – and with some success – to impede the government of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK), depriving it of its best ministers and revealing the fragility of a government of technocrats lacking any political ability.

Keiko’s pathological resentment at having been deprived – and by a derisory 0.24 per cent! – of a presidency that she felt was already in her pocket after two highly expensive campaigns, has translated into fifteen months’ fierce boycott of executive action by making powerful and bullying use of her absolute majority in the unicameral Congress of 130 MPs.

The 71 orange Congress members – the colour represents her party, Popular Force (Fuerza Popular) – have been defined as a ‘bunch of unthoughtful cavemen’ and ‘monkeys with machine guns’, dedicated to challenging, censoring and insulting the more competent members of the government –six ministers, plus an entire cabinet, have already resigned – due to pure spite. Their sole activity has been to promote reactionary laws such as removing protections for women and LGBT victims of violence or offering generous tax exemptions to large companies, causing an ungovernable climate of instability which does not help the necessary economic recovery.

When it rains, it pours. The floods caused by the coastal El Niño phenomenon at the beginning of the year and the political damage resulting from the revelations in the Odebrecht case – with former president Ollanta Humala and the ex-first lady imprisoned, the former president Alejandro Toledo and his wife fugitives from justice and pressure building on the once-bulletproof Alan García and Keiko Fujimori herself – have aggravated the sense of disappointment over the PPK government’s first year. Its opening period has shown a government that is weak and servile when faced by Ms Fujimori’s vengeful attacks, which explains the reasons behind the resounding fall of popularity of the current president.

In contrast, the Fujimoris’ implacable ascent – despite the fact their patriarch is serving a 25-year sentence for crimes committed (and nearing a possible release) – has not paused since the late-1980s, when an unscrupulous rector of the La Molina Agrarian University burst into politics and beat an opponent as famous as Mario Vargas Llosa to the presidency.

The illusion that a political outsider could rescue the country from the crisis provoked during Alan García’s first presidency lasted a very short time. On 5 April 1992 – less than two years after assuming the presidency –

Brief Thoughts: Chile’s Elections

By | 20/November/2017|

Following shock election results in Chile, the country’s elite need to make a decision: allow substantial reform to Pinochet’s constitution or face the prospect of increased social unrest and polarisation.

Shock election result in Chile – the left-wing Frente Amplio presidential candidate came third with 20 per cent of the vote, just behind the ‘officialist’ (governing coalition) candidate who got 22 per cent. This, even though the number of voters taking part was less than 50 per cent of the possible total. It’s unclear as yet whether the youth vote had a significant impact. As usual split votes hurt the left – if you count the total number of leftish votes they’d be in first place. As it is, rightwing billionaire Sebastian Piñera will face off in the second round against the officialist candidate, Guiller. The big question is: will the Frente Amplio call on its voters to support him? Will their voters do it even if they do?

The biggest losers in the election are the Christian Democrats, who are down to a historic low. In the parliamentary elections the left, taken broadly, has won 63 seats, including eight communists (up from six) – but the right has taken about 86. So no prospect of serious change to the system. Nevertheless, the Frente Amplio is only a year old, and it now has 21 members of parliament. It’s a pretty incredible result.

As a result, I think we can expect the language of Chilean politics to change. The polarisation evident across the world has hit Chile. The vote is an indication of how fed up Chileans are getting with the post-Pinochet system. This vote will give people more confidence that they can shake things up. If Guiller wins, it will be thanks to a growing and self-confident left, and he will need to take that into account. If Pinera wins, he will face a growing, militant and more confident left.

The Chilean elite need to make a decision – allow substantial reform to Pinochet’s constitution or face the prospect of increased social unrest and polarisation.

Broadening the Front

By | 15/November/2017|

In Chile’s upcoming elections, the progressive Frente Amplio coalition aims to reshape grassroots and institutional politics  to end the neoliberal model and establish a more horizontal form of participatory democracy.

In the 1990s, Chilean sociologist Tomás Moulián compared Chilean democracy to a birdcage: the bird represented democracy and while it could fly, it could not break free from the limitations posed by neoliberalism. In other words, Chilean democracy was fenced in by strangleholds related to the Constitution of the Republic – written in General Augusto Pinochet’s time – and the process of neoliberalisation initiated in the late 1970s and continued after the Washington Consensus. Written in the acclaimed book Chile Actual: Anatomía de un Mito (Chile Today: Anatomy of a Myth), the metaphor provided a graphic snapshot of Chile after the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990) and the beginning of democratic administrations.

With the passing of time and the military’s withdrawal from major positions of power – especially after the Chilean state played a key role in taking Pinochet from London to Chile to avoid trial in Spain for crimes against humanity – the country’s economic path did not change. Having campaigned under the slogan ‘Growth with equality’, the administration of Third Way socialist Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006) followed an economic policy in keeping with neoliberal guidelines. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank praised Chile as a prosperous and stable country. However, Chileans increasingly felt that their democracy failed to reflect or consider public sentiment, did not address problems connected to basic rights – such as access to water or the right to public education – and did not challenge the unbalanced distribution of income that today makes Chile the most unequal country within OECD nations.

Several contentious movements made explicit this malaise during those years, but there were always political obstacles that along with the weakness of social organisations, state repression and a culture that rejected large-scale cooperation, watered down the attempts to affect political power in a sustained way. This trend shifted in 2011 through a seven-month wave of protest led by university and high school students in opposition to the segregated, privatised and market-driven education system implemented during the military dictatorship, and subsequently deepened by successive social democrat and rightwing administrations (1990-2011). The movement brought together different organisations, from the Communist Youth to many new groups that were outside the traditional Chilean left. After one year in power of the first rightwing administration since the return to democracy– led by businessman Sebastián Piñera – the mobilisation emerged on an unexpected scale and amid widespread support. The student-led movement was on the streets, in the media, at home and across the nation as a new political actor demanding to speak and be heard.

Another kind of politics

While the movement did not achieve students’ demands in the short term – ‘we are not even close to the goals we set as a movement’ said Giorgio Jackson, one of the leaders, in 2012 – there were key changes in the institutional realm of Chilean politics. The first


Hamburg, Germany, 2017

By | 19/November/2017|

Allende Platz (Plaza Allende) in the German city of Hamburg is one of several international landmarks or monuments that commemorate Chile’s democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende, who was overthrown in the military coup of 11 September 1973 (Image/Copyright: Nick MacWilliam)

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Hamburg, Germany, 2017

By | 19/November/2017|

Allende Platz (Plaza Allende) in the German city of Hamburg is one of several international landmarks or monuments that commemorate Chile’s democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende, who was overthrown in the military coup of 11 September 1973 (Image/Copyright: Nick MacWilliam)

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Hamburg, Germany, 2017

By | 19/November/2017|

Allende Platz (Plaza Allende) in the German city of Hamburg is one of several international landmarks or monuments that commemorate Chile’s democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende, who was overthrown in the military coup of 11 September 1973 (Image/Copyright: Nick MacWilliam)

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