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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

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.

Documentary

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.

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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

Eric Hobsbawm and Latin America

By | 7/November/2017|

Outside of Europe, the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm only truly felt at home in Latin America, as his posthumously-published collection of essays shows.

Shortly before his death in 2012, at the age of 95, Eric Hobsbawm expressed the desire to publish a volume with his articles and essays on Latin America. He did not have time to do it, but the British historian Leslie Bethell collected the task and organised a volume, which was given the title of Viva the Revolution, published last year in London.

In his autobiography Interesting Times, published in 2002, Hobsbawm claimed that the only region outside Europe that he thought he had known well and felt fully at home was Latin America.

However, Latin America’s presence in his classical works is marginal. In The Age of Revolution there are only references of passage to our continent. In The Age of Capital, there are only half a dozen pages on Latin America, in the chapter entitled ‘Losers’. In The Age of Empire, there are few references and four pages dedicated to the Mexican Revolution. In The Age of Extremes, Latin America became a prominent place in the emergence of the Third World, with references to several important historical events, from the Mexican Revolution to Allende’s Chile.

This book begins with his first impressions of the continent, which significantly, arise from his first trip to Cuba in October 1960, opening with the statement: ‘Unless there is an armed intervention of the United States, Cuba will very soon be the first socialist country of the western hemisphere’.

Hobsbawm will return several times to Cuba, which will be a permanent reference for the continent. But he will be a systematic critic of Cuban life, expressed in guerrilla movements.

His interest in Latin America will be more focused on the peasant movement, which is why he focuses his travels and analysis on Colombia, introduced to him by the great Colombian intellectual Orlando Fals Borda, and Peru. The issue of social banditry leads him to turn even on Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). Hobsbawm focused his analysis much more on the peasant movements than on Latin American urban workers movements.

In any case, Hobsbawm did not consider himself to be a Latin American historian. In fact, he never managed to free himself from the European imprint, which strongly marks his work, to understand the Latin American particularities. On social relations in the countryside, he always has feudalism as a reference, failing to incorporate the broad debate during the 1960s, represented first of all by Rodolfo Stavenhagen, and later incorporated by much of the social thought of the continent.

Hobsbawm always understood nationalism on the continent in terms of the phenomenon in Europe, referring to Perón and Vargas, as well as other populist leaders of the continent as fascists. His book on nationalisms does not incorporate an analysis of the peculiarities of the phenomenon, with the anti-imperialist slant that is characteristic in our continent. The anti-neoliberal features of Latin American nationalism appear to him always analogous to fascism and Nazism.

However, Latin America

Back from the Brink: Chavismo Reloaded?

By | 1/November/2017|

How did the Maduro government score surprise victories win in 15 October regional elections and what are the challenges that now await it.

This article was originally featured at Upside Down World and has been republished here with permission. To read a Spanish version of this article click here.

In July 2017 the Chavista government of Nicolás Maduro was under siege and the country on the cusp of civil war. Three months earlier a new and more extreme round of opposition street violence, known as guarimbas, had once again catapulted Venezuela into the global media spotlight. Images of death and destruction reinforced the “authoritarian failed state” thesis that had been peddled for years. Coupled with a severe economic crisis that was eviscerating the quality of life for ordinary Venezuelans, the heightened vilification of the government in international media outlets fed into a perfect storm for a new attempt at regime change. On the ropes, the Maduro government appeared unable to alter the dynamic that had left the 18-year-old Bolivarian revolution spiraling into what seemed like terminal decline.

Fast forward to Oct. 24 and the announcement by Venezuelan opposition leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski that he would no longer participate in the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) as long as fellow opposition leader Henry Ramos Allup continued to be a member. Capriles offered a litany of charges against Ramos, including that he was serving as a spokesperson for the Maduro government. The political earthquake of significant Chavista candidate victories in the Oct. 15 regional elections to elect state governors and state legislators was producing aftershocks within the opposition, leaving them divided and rancorous.

As well as confounding critics, the elections results surprised even the most ardent Chavistas. The government coalition Great Patriotic Pole (GPP), led by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), won 52.7 percent of the vote, which translated into victory in 18 of the country’s 23 states. According to the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE), 61 percent of Venezuela’s 18.1 million-strong electorate came out to vote, representing a level of participation in regional elections second only to the 65.5 percent turnout in 2008. The infrastructure in place to ensure electoral participation was significant: 13,599 polling stations; 30,274 election machines; 90,822 election officers; and around 54,038 technical and operational personnel.

As is the norm in Venezuela under Chavismo, the elections (the 23rd national election or referenda held since the late Hugo Chávez first won the presidency in December 1998) were subject to considerable scrutiny. There were over 1,300 international observers, including representatives of the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America (CEELA). Eleven audits of the voting system were carried out prior to the election; three more on election day itself; and a further two audits after the election, with one more pending for the week beginning 30 October. These audits have involved representatives of both pro- and anti-government parties. While international electoral observers testified to the veracity of the results, unsurprisingly,  sectors of the domestic opposition, as well as international forces hostile to the Maduro government, such as government of

Best of the Web: October 2017

By | 1/November/2017|

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

Joe Emersberger says the corporate mainstream media is in denial over Venezuela’s regional election results.

2) The United Colors of Benetton Include Blood Red in Argentina (Darío Aranda/Upside Down World)

At the center of the forced disappearance of Santiago Maldonado and his subsequent death lay a global fashion company, Argentina’s long-standing extractive model, and the repression of displaced Indigenous communities.

3) Who Ordered Killing of Honduran Activist? Evidence of Broad Plot Is Found (Elizabeth Malkin/New York Times)

The evidence, the lawyers said, points to a plot against Berta Cáceres that was months in the making and reached up to senior executives of Desarrollos Energéticos, known as Desa, the Honduran company holding the dam concession.

4) ‘Take the Victoria Line to Colombia’: Inside London’s colourful Latin market, threatened with demolition (Will Worley/The Independent)

Traders in the Pueblito Paisa market – overwhelmingly made up of South American migrants – are fighting a Compulsory Purchase Order which would see their precious community hub demolished.

5) Caetano Veloso & Brazil’s Cultural Wars (Brasil Wire)

Veteran singer songwriter, Caetano Veloso, legend of the Tropicalia movement which emerged in resistance to censorship and moralism of the 1960s Military Dictatorship, was prevented from performing for what he said was “the first time in the democratic period”.

6) 10 Iconic Latin American Photographers Who Challenged Repressive Regimes & Societal Norms (Christina Noriega/Remezcla)

At a time of great political turmoil in Latin America, the following photographers questioned societal conditions, uplifted the downtrodden, and challenged repressive regimes.

7) Soviet Influences in Latin America That You May Not Know (teleSUR English)

The relationship between the Soviet Union and Latin America was very profound, complex and full of solidarity.

8) Is Latin America Ready to Accept More Resettled Refugees? (Marcia Vera Espinoza/The Conversation)

A group of 70 refugees from Syria who have been living in Lebanon are set to arrive in Chile in October. With an estimated 1.2m refugees globally in need of resettlement in 2018, regions such as Latin America are being asked to expand their resettlement programmes to take more people in.

9) Tracking El Salvador’s Progress in Historic Human Rights Cases (Geoff Thale/Washington Office on Latin America)

This commentary is the first of a three-part series that will attempt to assess various areas where El Salvador has made progress and others where resistance to change, underdeveloped institutions, and a weak culture of respect for the rule of law have hindered progress.

Documentary

10) Children of the FARC: Baby Boom in Colombia’s Jungles (Lali Houghton/Al Jazeera English)

Two Colombian guerrilla fighters prepare to give birth for the first time, as their rebel army lays down its arms.

Volviendo del Abismo: El Chavismo Re-energisado?

By | 31/October/2017|

Un artículo originalmente publicado en inglés por Upside Down World, escrito por el coeditor de Alborada.

En julio de 2017, el Gobierno chavista de Nicolás Maduro se encontraba sitiado y el país estaba casi a inicios de una guerra civil. Tres meses antes, la oposición había comenzado una campaña de violencia callejera extrema, mas conocida como “guarimbas”, que habían catapultado una vez más el tema de Venezuela a los medios de comunicación internacionales. Las imágenes de muerte y destrucción reforzaron la tesis del “Estado autoritario fallido” que se había ido vendiendo durante años. Junto con una severa crisis económica que estaba destrozando la calidad de vida de los venezolanos comunes y corrientes, la creciente difamación del Gobierno en los medios de comunicación propició la tormenta perfecta para crear un nuevo intento de derrocar al Gobierno. Arrinconado contra las cuerdas, el Gobierno de Maduro parecía incapaz de alterar la dinámica que había dejado a la Revolución Bolivariana, de 18 años de antigüedad, descendiendo en espiral hacia lo que parecía era su declive terminal.

Si avanzamos de un salto hasta el 24 de octubre de 2017, nos encontramos con la oposición en una severa crisis reflejada en el anuncio del líder opositor venezolano y ex candidato presidencial, Henrique Capriles Radonski, de que ya no participaría en la coalición opositora Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), mientras su colega Henry Ramos Allup continuara siendo miembro de ésta. Capriles ofreció una serie de acusaciones contra Ramos, incluida aquella de que éste servía como vocero del Gobierno de Maduro. El terremoto político creado con la importante victoria de los candidatos chavistas en las elecciones regionales del 15 de octubre, en la que se eligieron gobernadores y legisladores en cada uno de los estados, produjo sus efectos al interior de la oposición, dejándola enconada y dividida.

Además de confundir a los críticos, los resultados electorales sorprendieron incluso a los más fervientes chavistas. La coalición gubernamental Gran Polo Patriótico (GPP), liderada por el Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), obtuvo el 52.7% de los votos, lo cual se tradujo en victorias en 18 de los 23 estados del país. Según el Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), votó el 61% del electorado, de un universo de 18,1 millones de electores, lo que representa el segundo nivel de participación más alto en elecciones regionales, solo superado por la participación del 65,5% en 2008. La existente infraestructura para garantizar la participación electoral fue significativa: 13,599 colegios electorales; 30,274 máquinas electorales; 90,822 oficiales electorales; y alrededor de 54,038 empleados técnicos y operativos.

Como ha sido la norma en Venezuela durante el Chavismo, las elecciones (la elección numero 23 desde que Hugo Chávez ganó la Presidencia por primera vez en diciembre de 1998) fueron sometidas a un considerable escrutinio. Hubo más de 1.300 observadores internacionales, incluidos representantes del Consejo de Expertos Electorales de América Latina (CEELA). Se llevaron a cabo 11 auditorías del sistema de votación antes de la elección; 3 más el mismo día de las elecciones; y otras 2 auditorías después de los comicios, con

Truth, Justice and Memory in Argentina: The Life of Nora Cortiñas

By | 28/October/2017|

It is forty years since Nora Cortiñas, a housewife and mother of two sons, left her quiet life to become one of the most respected and committed human rights leaders in the world as co-founder of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (Madres de Plaza de Mayo).

It seemed only yesterday that Argentina was lauded for its human rights and memory policies. The enforced disappearance of 30,000 citizens, labelled subversives, during its last military dictatorship (1976-83) attained global notoriety. Democracy was restored following the disastrous Malvinas War in 1982 which coincided with deep economic crisis, growing street protests and international condemnation. Thus, after a century of successive civic military governments with intermittent democratic periods, representative democracy was re-established in 1983.

Currently, under the government of President Mauricio Macri, the state barely recognises dictatorship victims. Macri has questioned the number of ‘disappeared’, as defined by human rights organisations and the gravity of the atrocities committed. The government’s historical revisionism sits alongside the imposition of a neoliberal economic programme that slashes jobs and wages, sells off public assets and increases public debt. Amidst an atmosphere of repression there are still many brave people that will not be silenced.

It is forty years since Nora Cortiñas, a housewife and mother of two sons, left her quiet life to become one of the most respected and committed human rights leaders in the world as co-founder of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (Madres de Plaza de Mayo). Nora Cortiñas was born in Buenos Aires, in 1930. Her son, Carlos Gustavo Cortiñas, belonged to the Peronist Party. He was abducted and disappeared by the armed forces in 1977. Ever since, Nora has devoted herself to campaigning for numerous human rights causes, especially those concerning state-committed crimes against humanity and enforced disappearances.

Since Carlos’ disappearance, Nora has travelled a long journey in pursuit of justice and truth for her son. The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, one of the most important human rights organisations in Argentina, brought together many women searching for their children. Women who had suffered the abduction of their children confronted the military dictatorship in the historic Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. Inside the Presidential Palace, the dictatorship generals Rafael Videla, Roberto Viola, Leopoldo Galtieri and, finally, Reynaldo Bignone, commanded the abduction, torture and enforced disappearance of thousands of innocent people.

The Madres of Plaza de Mayo was founded on 30 April 1977, after gathering in the Plaza de Mayo to protest the military junta. After soldiers demanded that they move along, the reaction of the Mothers was to move, but in circles around the square. This gave birth to their iconic march that continues to take place today, four decades later, every Thursday afternoon. Years later, the organisation split into two groups due to ideological differences – the Founding Line and the Association. Nora Cortiñas belongs to the former.

Although democracy was restored in 1983, traces of the dictatorship remain – particularly if one analyses Argentina’s current economic and security paradigm: the external debt is one of them. Privatisations,

Stories of Black Mexico

By | 20/October/2017|

Filmmaker Ebony Bailey discusses her short film on African-Mexican society, Life Between Borders, which is streamed here, and the conditions faced by Haitian migrants in Mexico.

In her film Life Between Borders: Black Migrants in Mexico, Ebony Bailey meets Haitians who find themselves in Mexico hoping to reach the USA. She also speaks to Mexicans of African heritage, a group often overlooked in discussions around national identity. Over one million Mexicans have African ancestry.

In this Q&A, Ebony, who describes herself as ‘Blaxican’, a self-identifying term used by people of African and Mexican descent, talks about the issues raised in the film, which you can stream above.

Why did you decide to make this film?

This film was actually a final project for a certificate programme I did last year – we could do a short film or video on anything we wanted. I got the motivation after looking at photos in the newspaper of migrants at the border, and noticed they were all Black. I thought, wow, more Black people in Mexico! We share the same experience of being Black bodies in a country where we seemingly don’t exist, but very different experiences on how we got here. That really intrigued me, so I decided to go further. It was a very personal project for me.

I also thought it was important to make a film like this because, if we’re being honest, Black erasure in Latin America (especially Mexico) is real. Blackness is the backbone of many parts of LatAm culture, and the pioneering efforts of many Afro-Latinxs have been made invisible. So, in my view, representation can be very empowering. I see films like these to be part of the greater mobilisation for our communities.

The film addresses the conditions experienced by Haitian migrants in Mexico. What brought them to the country and what are the main challenges they face?

Many of them arrived in Mexico while trying to get to the United States, making the trek by land from Brazil. After the 2010 earthquake, thousands of Haitians fled to Brazil for humanitarian visas. Then, as Brazil’s economy started to slip, many of the Haitians started making their way up north in hope of reaching the US. But after Obama suspended the humanitarian visa for Haitians, the path to the US became much more difficult and many Haitians found themselves stranded in Mexico. Now a lot of them are trying to make their lives here instead of crossing.

For conciseness, I use ‘migration’ and ‘migrants’ a lot in relation to my film, but from my point of view I see it more as forced displacement. The global system of imperialism and white supremacy leave oppressed people with no other choice but to leave their homes in search of a better life. We can say that the earthquake was the tipping point for many Haitians to leave. But Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, and also the Blackest, and that’s not a coincidence. I’m reminded of a quote I once read from one of my favourite authors, Junot

Photography

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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Photography

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)

Visit our photography homepage

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)

Visit our photography homepage

Video

Visit our video homepage

Visit our video homepage