This week I’ve been invited to be the guest blogger at http://viehebdomadaires.wordpress.com/, a blogging chain which seeks out stories from across the planet. I’ve started out with a piece on the aftermath of the Falklands War and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If anyone out there is interested in taking up this post next week, please get in touch.
The Santiago Times has a well-researched feature story on Chile’s Constitution, a holdover from the Pinochet regime (http://www.santiagotimes.cl/chile/politics/23577-ecuadors-example-sparks-debate-on-chiles-constitutional-reform).
The charter was ratified in a controversial plebiscite in 1980, which also extended Pinochet’s rule for another eight years. Subsequent governments have managed to amend some of the antidemocratic provisions, such as the appointment of non-elected members of the Senate. Other authoritarian features, such as the state security law and a binominal electoral system, remain in place.
The binominal electoral system operates in the following way: in congressional elections each district votes for two candidates, and in order to get both seats a political party or coalition must get at least two-thirds of the ballots cast—otherwise the second congressional seat goes to the candidate from a rival political party who won the most votes. Which means that quite a few members of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate were backed by a minority of voters while more popular candidates were pushed aside.
Polls suggest that a majority of Chileans have a rather jaundiced view of their legislative branch. A poll by Adimark http://www.adimark.cl/es/estudios/documentos/002ev_gob_feb012_.pdf released last month showed that the Chamber of Deputies had a 67 percent disapproval rating, with a 63 percent disapproval rating for the Senate.
Peruvian Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, has given an interview to Chile’s La Tercera newspaper in which he criticizes the policies of President Sebastian Piñera, warning that “economic development by itself is not enough.”
Vargas Llosa, who has visited Chile three times in the past two years, had supported Piñera’s candidacy and was impressed with the emphasis his presidential campaign had given to education. The subsequent protests by students had surprised him, he said.
“My impression is that Chile is undergoing problems it did not have before and which are, in good part, a product of its development,” he said and observed that while economic indicators were good, the Piñera government’s approval ratings were very low (26 percent, according to a poll released six months ago by the Centro de Estudios Publicos). “The problem is that development should not be measured strictly by economic indicators, statistics. This is one of the great errors of a purely economistic conception of development.” Equal opportunity is a fundamental principle of any democracy, he said.
Ever wonder what it would be like to be arrested during a demonstration in Chile? Read this account by Santiago Times photojournalist Jason Suder in the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-suder/chile-freedom-of-press_b_1324547.html
There’s a companion piece in the Santiago Times on press freedom in Chile and elsewhere in the region: http://www.santiagotimes.cl/opinion/opinion/23515-one-step-forward-two-steps-back-press-freedom-in-chile
Here’s what the Associated Press reports on the ugly homophobic attack in Santiago:
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A brutal attack on a gay Chilean man is drawing strong condemnation from political leaders.
Doctors in Santiago say 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio is in an induced coma while being treated for severe head trauma and a broken right leg suffered in Saturday’s beating. A swastika was drawn on his chest.
Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter posted a message on his Twitter account Tuesday saying he repudiated the homophobic attack and expressed “total solidarity” with Zamudio. Hinzpeter recently said Chile should consider enacting a hate crime law to deal with such attacks.Opposition politician Gabriel Silver also condemned the beating and urged the government to move quickly on the anti-discrimination legislation.
Zamudio’s family told the Chilean press that their son had received threats prior to the attack, and said they would take legal action against those responsible. Rodrigo Hinzpeter, the interior minister, promised that the government would quickly send a hate crimes bill to Congress. Stay tuned.
It sits on the top of the Chilean archipelago, that region of the country where much of the mainland seems to crumble into islands. Charles Darwin visited during the summer of 1834, and wrote about it in his diaries. Chilean novelist Isabel Allende used it as the setting for her latest book, Maya’s Notebook. Before he became president, Sebastian Piñera acquired 118,000 thousand hectares of land on the island’s south side and turned it into a nature park (http://www.parquetantauco.cl/). Now it seems Chiloe Island is going to have a large modern shopping mall, much to the disgust of many architects, historical preservationists and environmental groups.
The island’s unique architectural style has earned many of its buildings a UNESCO designation as World Heritage Sites. The mall is going up near the Iglesia San Francisco, one of Chiloe’s churches which UNESCO says “represents a unique example in Latin America of an outstanding form of ecclesiastical architecture” dating from the time of the Jesuit missions in the 17th and 18th centuries http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/971.
Here’s the Facebook page campaigning against the mall: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=198622940238261&set=a.105966459503910.6615.100002716698917&type=1&theater
And here’s an article from the Santiago Times on Chiloe’s buildings, food and folklore:http://www.santiagotimes.cl/travel/149-travel-news/23393-moving-house-a-centuries-old-chiloe-summer-tradition
The protests in the Aysen region of southern Chile show little sign of ending soon, with roadblocks and demonstrations by local residents venting grievances that have been accumulating for years. This past week the New York Times ran a background story http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/world/americas/in-patagonia-caught-between-visions-of-the-future.html and a photo feature by Jorge Uzon, who has been photographing the region during four trips he has made since 2008 http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/a-personal-landscape-in-patagonia/.
The unrest is having an economic impact, with over $50 million in losses to the salmon industry and an 80 percent drop in visitors to the region, according to the I Love Chile news web site http://ilovechile.cl/2012/03/04/cruise-ships-cancel-visits-due-aysen-protests/49658.
There is a stunning cruise ship route between the Chilean port of Valparaiso and Buenos Aires, with a stop in Puerto Montt, a passage through the fjords to Puerto Chacabuco—the port of entry to the Aysen region—and onto to the Argentine port of Usuaia, the Falkland Islands, Montevideo and the Argentine capital. But the unrest has prompted some ships to bypass Puerto Chacabuco, and those flying British flags or those from British territories which stop in the Falklands are now being banned from docking in Argentina. The Chicago Tribune carried this story by the Associated Press: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-bc-lt–chile-frustratedcruises,0,5230823.story