Wednesday, 29 December 2010


The Concertación is so removed from the public imagination that even a major embarrassment like the resignation of the director of the National Daycare System (JUNJI), after declaring that her US$7000 a month salary was kind of paltry (reguleque), did not provide it with any sort of public relations windfall.

Yesterday I wrote a piece on the misguided discussion the Concertación is having. Rather than thinking seriously about how to reclaim the political centre, it is flirting with what could be called the flotsam of the left -- all the bits and pieces floating around and looking for a place to land. I compare the strategy with President Obama's recent success in passing lame-duck legislation, which was only possible by compromising on several points. In other words, he moved to the centre.

Meanwhile, back in Chile, Piñera is becoming increasingly adept at claiming the centre. If the Concertación does not change its strategy, it will all but guarantee that the Alianza wins again in three years.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Blue Moon

A lunar eclipse was observed in many places around the world last night, including Chile. Coinciding with the solstice (summer or winter, depending on your point of view/geography), I suspect that a Roman or Egyptian soothsayer would have reached some kind of conclusion, positive or negative, regarding the year to come. Or the year just ended.

In fact, in modern times we do something similar. Every year at around this time year-end reviews begin to appear. The Economist published a much-awaited (at least by geeks like me) The World In..... issue, which does its best to reduce predictions to political responsible generalities.

In Chile, we are not immune to this festival of nostalgia/divination. And if we look at the year that is ending, by most accounts, the Chilean versions of these analyses will conclude that 2010 was pretty awful. It began in January with the second round of the presidential election (which, depending on one's point of view, was either fantastic or awful, although these days it is hard to find anyone who will admit to it having been an awful result). Then came the earthquake, the World Cup, the miners' accident, the Bicentenary, the miners' rescue, the prison fire and resulting deaths. In between, the usual noise caused by the President's 21 May speech, the Teletón, and other yearly rituals.

Chileans do not tend to look on the bright side, but one could. The earthquake was far less lethal than it could have been, and Santiago suffered relatively little (downside: the reconstruction has been slow and inefficient, resulting in this week's political dogfight between the government and the opposition). The World Cup was a much needed release from the seismic tension of the preceding months (downside: Chile discovered the genius of Bielsa, turned him into the biggest Argentine national hero since San Martin, and then due to politics and in-fighting, managed to lose him). The mining disaster, or rather, rescue, was a PR bonanza for Chile and its government (downside: no one remembers the miners, and much less the issue of workplace safety). The Bicentenary was muted and classy, not an ostentatious and expensive show (downside: it was a missed opportunity for an imaginative, nation-wide project in the arts, in infrastructure, in something that would last). The prison fire has no upside.

All this hyperactivity on the national scene has given both government and opposition some breathing space. The Concertación has tried to regroup, but it has a long way to go, and bets are still off on whether it will actually survive in its current form. And the government has got away with a series of mistakes whilst the (favourable) press looked the other way.

Meanwhile the economy, buoyed by the high price of copper and Chileans replacing their earthquake-affected TVs, zoomed right along. The (favourable) media ignores the possibility of Dutch disease, of the economy overheating, of the total lack of creativity in terms of development policy, of the creeping privatisation of (what's left of public) health care and education, and fiscal deficits (Bachelet had deficits to finance one of the world's largest (in relative terms) stimulus packages; not to finance spending with 5.5% growth rates).

Since Chileans are drowning their sorrows in consumer spending, they do not seem particularly gloomy. But they are exhausted. Comments on Twitter are all about hoping that 2010 ends soon. One person wondered whether it would be possible to just slice the last two weeks off the year and get it over with. So even though last night's moon was red, the year in Chile really ends with a colour much closer to blue

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

What a drip

As my latest column in Americaeconomía suggests, I am getting a little tired of the collective fiesta that Wikileaks as inspired. As the days and weeks go by, it seems Mr. Assange is becoming like one of those James Bond baddies who threatens to obliterate the planet if he doesn't get what he wants. In this case, he's threatening to divulge secrets if he doesn't get what he wants, whcih is a) to have serious legal charges ignored or dropped, and b) to be able to keep divulging whatever information he and only he deems to be fit for public consumption.

He presents himself as a democrat, but he is actually the complete opposite.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Denial, Anger, Negotiation, etc.

Hundreds of public sector workers are apparently getting the ax in Chile today, ostensibly because they are not necessary (implying that the Concertación had a bloated and inefficient public service.......a line which has been used by Piñera since the 2009 campaign).

It will be interesting to see how the public service workers react, how the unions react, and how the Concertación reacts. I do not expect much.

Part of the reason can be found in my latest column, published today in El Mostrador. The Concertación is in no condition to combat the cutbacks, perhaps because it secretly understands many are justified, but probably because it is just in a different place -- according to my piece, in one of the five stages of grief.

I leave it up to others to decide which one, exactly.

Monday, 29 November 2010


As my column in El Dínamo suggests, I really don't see what all the fuss is about. While the revelations are kind of fun and salacious, and certainly embarrassing for the State Department, I have seen very little so far that is truly surprising.

I have the feeling that journalists around the world are just patting themselves on the back, and this entire story is more about the fact that the State Department has a security problem than about the foreign policy of the United States, Iran's nuclear capability, Hillary Clinton's opinion of Mrs K, or Putin's machismo.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

No Logo

Chile is all atwitter, or at least Twitter is all atwitter, about the announcement this afternoon of the Government of Chile's new logo.

In keeping with the new corporate culture, here is a promotional video:

Apparently this piece of graphic art cost the Chilean taxpayer -- the same Chilean taxpayer whose taxes were raised earlier this year because we all had to tighten our belts in the wake of one of the worst earthquakes in recorded history -- some $20.000.

I am clearly in the wrong line of work.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

E-media in Chil-E

Even while it was in power, the Concertación knew that the media, and especially the print media, was ideologically opposed to it. Its strategy, which was particularly successful during the Lagos government, was to woo the media, try to reach a kind of détente, instead of searching for ways of encouraging friendly capital to start up new products and sources.

The massification of e-media has made this task easier, and since the changeover of power in March, two new online sources have joined the already existing El Mostrador and the more investigative CIPER -- El Post, and today, El Dínamo, in which I have published this column.

For now, these online sources of news, information and opinion tend to be read and commented by the commenting classes. Most Chileans get their information from TV, radio, and glancing at the headlines in kiosks. Although newspapers are cheap in Chile, it is common to see groups of people in the morning huddling around news kiosks reading the front pages of various newspapers.

It remains to be seen, then, how the increasing, but so for electronic, diversity of news sources affects Chilean politics. We know that people tend to read things they want to read, both in terms of interests and ideology.

But at least it will be increasingly difficult for anyone to claim the information was not available.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Beatle hair

OK. So this (via is not exactly political science. But it's history, and pretty brilliant.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Holy Grail of politics

There are certain parallels between the recent Congressional elections in the United States and what is happening in Chile. In fact, since I wrote this piece last week (but published today), the UDI had a weekend retreat where the division between the (at least) two souls of the governing coalition were laid bare. Rodrigo Hinzpeter's suggestion that Piñera and his government are building a new, modern, less ideological right, was rejected by the UDI, who, it is to be supposed, don't wish to appear new, or modern, or less ideological.

As such, the search for the political centre remains, for now, an impossible dream, or as I put it in the piece, a Holy Grail.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Trying again

I'm back. Taking advantage of a rainy November Sunday in Santiago, to try to regain the blogular momentum. There is no excuse for my prolonged absence, besides this interesting piece on how blogs are slowly being eroded by Twitter and Facebook. It is certainly what I have found. Twitter is faster, easier, and more accessible. It allows one to upload links, as I do on the blog. Pictures too.

What it does not do is allow for much analysis, except in short, hopefully witty, clips. So, here's to trying again with the blog.

Which is sooooo 2008.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


For almost two weeks the Chileans have been glued to their TV sets as 33 miners have been trapped almost one kilometer below the surface of the earth. Today, at about 3 pm, probes managed to reach them, and the miners managed to send a note saying they were all alive and well. It may take many weeks to get them out, but it will be possible to send food and other supplies down in the meantime.

While the miners remain trapped but in touch, the Concertación remains trapped and out of touch. The rescue effort is a big red cherry on top of Piñera's Sunday, and special kudos must go out to Mining Minister Golborne, who has worked around the clock on the rescue effort. The success will contrast favourably with the Concertación's post-earthquake efforts, and will undoubtedly raise Golbourne's ratings, possibly making him a presidential front-runner for the 2013 elections (in which case, Joaquín Lavín must be the only person in Chile not cheering today).

All Concertación leaders can do is stand by and claim they are relieved and happy for the families, but in reality, it's a political disaster for them. The only silver lining is that it has happened now, and not three years from now. Lots of things can still go wrong -- and if Piñera's track record is anything to go by, lots of things will go wrong. But in the meantime, people are honking their horns, the government did a great job, and will milk it for all it's worth. The race is now on to get the miners out before the bicentenary celebrations.

For all intents and purposes, however, the celebration started today.

Thursday, 5 August 2010


My column in El Mostrador (or ElMo, as the Tuiteros call it) has caused quite a stir.

For some time now, I have suspected that Chile could be much more competitive if it was more open-minded. Patricio Navia and Eduardo Engel wrote a book along the same lines, calling for a level playing field. Since then, studies have come out in North America, most notably those of Richard Florida, that claim that open-minded societies are more creative, more open to new ideas, and therefore more prosperous. I am convinced that the only way that Chile will change is if the business class understand that being less conservative is good for business. There is nothing wrong with rational choice, as long as it's rational.

But lately, Chile seems to be going in the opposite direction. But what's worse, is that the current crew, even the most affable and gentle amongst them (like my friend José Miguel, who tweeted this only a few minutes ago) don't seem to get it.

But then, it is so hard to find good help these days.

Friday, 30 July 2010

CEP Piñera. C'est Piñera?

Anyone who follows politics in Chile knows that the CEP poll is the one poll that people trust to indicate the nature of the political universe. The first CEP poll of the Piñera years was released yesterday, and it can be found here.

The Concertación tried to make much of the fact that Sebastián Piñera's approval ratings, at 45%, were the lowest that any president since 1990 has received at this point in his, or her, administration. But not by much. The fact is, besides Aylwin, who took over in extraordinary circumstances, the others have all been in the ballpark.

The Concertación, in looking for the silver linings, also points out the stratospheric approval of Michelle Bachelet. But Ricardo Lagos was also pretty popular in the first CEP poll after he left office. And Bachelet's high approval will only contribute further to making her a juicy target for the government, trying to burst the bubble as they did successfully with Lagos. It won't be pretty, but I doubt it will work. It's like trying to dis Mandela. Who ends up looking bad?

I think that if the Concertación wishes to find some silver linings, it's actually to be found in the small print. For example, when asked 'Who is to blame for the bad economy' (besides the fact that it's a strange question -- the CEP thinks that the economy is in bad shape?), the number one answer is the current government. Not the previous government.

Oooooooo. That's gotta hurt.

In fact, for voters to blame the current lot of economists, MBAs and businessmen, who got elected on the basis of their expertise in these matters, who tout efficiency like IBM used to tout 'think', is a really bad sign for the government. It goes to the heart of their discourse, in the same way as the recent CASEN poll went to the heart of what the Bachelet government was all about.

That's where the silver lining lies, and what the Concertación should be exploiting. But they're not, becuase their heads are too far up their [insert appropriate body part here].

Thursday, 15 July 2010


Despite the Piñera government's communication problems, one thing it does well is present one thing as something else. While this may seem cynical and dishonest, it is good politics. The current debate on 'reforming' higher education is really an effort to strengthen the position of private universities vis-a-vis public ones, and especially the University of Chile. This has led to a discussion, led by the Rector of the University of Chile, on the future of public financing for higher education and education in general.

But as my latest column suggests, the government's attitude on this matter is symptomatic of a deeper conceptual confusion on the public and private sphere. Many of the communicational problems the Piñera government has faced arise from this fundamental misunderstanding: the difference between the public and the private.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Ricardo Lagos (Weber) Acting Like Ricardo Lagos (Escobar)

Senator Ricardo Lagos Weber is an easygoing guy. So when I saw the clip below I was a little taken aback by his temper.

But then I remembered who his father is.

The real point, however, is the level of political debate between government and opposition. A slightly more irreverent comment on the exchange can be found in The Clinic.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Political Football

I have not blogged much these days, in part because Twitter is a bit all-consuming, and in part because politics in Chile seems to has taken second seat to soccer during the World Cup, a contest in which Chile, as my previous post graphically illustrates, did reasonably well (but not as well as the graphic illustrations would imply).

The idea that politics disappeared, though, is deceiving. It didn't, and it even made itself felt in many ways through -- and not only despite -- the World Cup.

International sports has always had a political element. Take the mutual Olympic boycotts during the Cold War, for example. But the local implications of international sporting events are interesting too.

Chile's coach during this world cup was Marcelo Bielsa, an intense, almost autistic, Argentine, who by most accounts got on well with Michelle Bachelet. On the two occasions where President Piñera has tried to use the Chilean national soccer team for photo-ops, Bielsa has been -- to put it politely -- uncooperative.

Ascanio Cavallo makes an excellent analysis
of the relationship, but his final point is most important. The way the government has handled the footy-photo-ops is indicative of a far deeper problem: its communication strategy. Several earlier posts have alluded to this problem, and almost half a year (one-eighth) into its term, the Piñera administration has yet to get a grip on its message.

The Bachelet experience shows that it is possible to recover from a shaky start, and recent polls show that Piñera's start is even less shaky than was Bachelet's. But Bachelet fixed it by dramatically changing the approach. Behind the smile, Bachelet was actually quite ruthless in doing what she had to do -- changing ministers, supporting an unpopular finance minister, dropping gobierno ciudadano.

Piñera is a pragmatist, and there is reason to believe he is capable of analyzing and taking steps to remedy a situation. That is why the Bielsa affair is, while seemingly unimportant, so interesting. From a policy point of view, Cavallo explains the conflict... and the conflict of interest. From a communications point of view, Piñera committed the same mistake twice.


Friday, 25 June 2010

Chile loses!!!!!!

Only in Chile do people go out and fill the streets to celebrate losing a World Cup game.

Well, to be fair, that's not what they were celebrating.

Here are some pictures of earlier in the day. Let's hope we see the same scenes on Monday afternoon, after we play Brazil.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Obama's Latin American Policy

Last week a few American officials passed through town, and conversations with them got me thinking about American foreign policy in Latin America and beyond. Here is a column published today on the subject in El Mostrador.

To sum up, however, I think that Obama has held an excessive belief in his own powers of persuasion. I think he thought his soaring rhetoric would be enough to convince the world that the United States was now kinder and gentler, and that centuries of history no longer mattered because he, personally, was so much like them. In fact, the subliminal message for most of last year was, "I am more like you than those rednecks back home".

But he only ended up alienating the rednecks without really winning over the rest of the world. Latin America has not forgotten American history. The Arabs are suspicious, the Israelis pissed off. The Europeans are in a mess that Obama cannot solve. And the rednecks are having a Tea Party.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

When it rains it pours

Santiago was battered by 40 mm of rain yesterday. Doesn't sound like much, but even though every winter there are days like this, every year the authorities claim that the city is not prepared for something so unusual. It is like the leaves on British railway tracks: a yearly surprise.

In any event, while the rain was good news for ski resorts and the agricultural industry, it was bad news for a Piñera government. Just as it was celebrating what it described as a very successful first 100 days, several government officials went to South Africa to watch some soccer. Among them was the mining minister, who is in the midst of negotiating what place a royalty on mining will have in financing reconstruction efforts, and the governor of the region of Santiago, who would be in charge of overseeing the emergency response to the rain (yes kids, 40 mm of rain is an emergency in these here parts).

Ena von Baer is not wrong. After 100 days, the government has not done a bad job. It is certainly energetic, and is putting in place some audacious initiatives. But its weak spot continues to be PR. Whether nominating unsuitable candidates for positions, having its officials say outrageous things, having them do outrageous things, the government seems to take one step forward and two steps back. If it can get this under control, its next 1360 days should be much better.

If not, it will be like watching a car wreck over and over.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Fair is Fair

The last couple of days have been dominated by the outcry over the Chilean ambassador to Argentina's Clarin interview, in which he defended the Pinochet dictatorship (or 'pronouncement', as he calls it). The government's first reaction was to say he did not speak for them, which is, at the very least, an odd position for an ambassador to be in. If he doesn't speak for the government, then what's he doing all day?

In the end, the media pressure was too much. Within two days, Otero was called back to Santiago, and resigned.

So, fair is fair, the Piñera government acted swiftly and controlled the damage. It has probably opened (yet again) a flank with the UDI, but on the other hand it can claim that it named a hardliner to an important post and he blew it. In other words, the government has another red mark in the UDI's notebook, and the UDI has another red mark in the government's notebook.

As Rick Blaine would have said, Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Lunch with Seb

His Excellency the President of the Republic did not request the honour of my company for lunch yesterday.

Apparently I was among the few people in Chile who was not invited.

OK, maybe not Chile. Santiago.

Maybe not Santiago, but Academia.

OK. Maybe not Academia, but Political Science.

OK. Maybe there were a few economists there too.

In any event, it was an interesting signal. The president and some top policy advisers inviting what passes for the Best and the Brightest to chit chat. It is notable for several reasons: for the fact that the president values the opinions of academics (and political scientists to boot!), for the fact that he smoked, for the ideological diversity of those at the table, and for the lack of diversity of those at the table. They were almost all men, almost all of the same generation, and almost all academics who have some sort of public profile, columnists, etc.

In other words, and as Patricio Navia noted, the views expressed were not necessarily much different from those Piñera could obtain in the newspapers on any given Sunday.

So what was the point of it all? Does the president want to be seen as an equal, that he can hold his own amongst academics (as well as among CEOs and presidents)? Does he want to be seen as ideologically open? Does he wish to turn the Moneda into a kind of Chilean Camelot?

It is an intriguing notion.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Piñera: Third Way?

Chileans are still trying to get to know our new prez. So far, the 21 May State of the Union may have been our best chance to read the tea leaves, but he did not make it easy.

Never one to be daunted by a mystical challenge, I try to do so here.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Kafka eat your heart out

Santiago has two huge neon billboards which I have always admired. They have a certain retro-Parisian air which is sadly missing in the rest of the city, even with our Eiffel-designed public buildings.

But they are, after all, only advertising. So it is one thing is to admire them. It is quite another to declare them national monuments, as the Piñera government has just done. That's just wierd.

When Piñera came to power, he changed the government logo, eschewing the modern and simple Chilean flag logo of the Concertación years for the traditional coat of arms (which includes the motto, By Reason or by Force). At the time, some wags suggested he might skip a step altogether and opt for the LAN Chile logo.

Somehow, now that doesn't seem so far fetched.

Friday, 21 May 2010

After this morning's speech, a mental health break

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union XV

Two observations in conclusion:

It was not a memorable speech, but most of what he said was reasonable and would not have sounded out of place in a State of the Union by Michelle Bachelet or Ricardo Lagos.

But the emphasis on bonuses and subsidies shows that this is, indeed, a new right. It is not the UDI, Pinochetist right. It is much more retrogade than that. It is a right of the 1950s, which believes the state has a role to play, but its role is to throw money around. It does not believe the state can contribute to structural reforms that will change the social makeup of the country (and probably doesn't want to).

Hopefully the Concertación will pick up on that, and not nitpick on the details, which many people will find quite palatable.

Well, that was Liveblogging for today. Thanks for tuning in.

The line of the day

So far the line of the day does not belong to President Piñera, but to the journalist Miguel Paz, who has tweeted:

"Si el Pdte Piñera logra 1 quinto de sus medidas, Chile sera como Japon en tech, Harvard en educacion, Finlandia en trabajo, Canada en salud"

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union XIV

On health he seems to be making promises that are already part of the Plan Auge (offering medical attention at private clinics if the public system cannot deliver)

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union XIII

Talking about improving public education, the President inserted, almost as an aside, that he would be willing to close schools that do not meet standards of quality education.

It seems to me that this is a loophole that could actually allow the government to close many public schools or privatise them. In other words, the beginning of the end of public education in Chile.

Just saying.

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union XII

Three good bits:

Facilitating the business-creation process and simplifying bankruptcy is long overdue. Both have been mentioned often by international observers who rate things like competitiveness.

He also says they will widen the space for collective bargaining.

For the most part this really does sound like the Concertación's 5th government.

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union XI

The President says he will double investment in science and technology -- but his government has not got around to naming someone to head up the higher education division in the Ministry of Education.

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union X

The President thinks to be progressive it to 'progress economically and spiritually'.

In that case you can be a Communist if you 'commune with God?', or a Socialist if you have a 'social life', or a Capitalist if you live in a capital?


Shopping List

He's getting into the shopping list part of the speech, so he's losing me. Instead, it's time to play



Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union IX

Clearly the theme of the speech is reaching a state of development.

He asks what is needed to get there. He says it's not resources but will.

Again, not true. It's resources, particularly of the human kind.

This underscores an attitude which has been present since the campaign, whose principal message was that his would be a government of similar policies but with better management -- the will and the skill to do things better. But so far there has been no evidence of this superior talent that the MBAs bring to government, so it is strange that now he would return to this theme.

Piñera thinks that governing is about setting targets and meeting them. He is quoting the questionable target which he set for getting students to return to school within 45 days of the earthquake.

And now he says they may not always meet other targets in the same way, but they will try. Great.

So the same policies but with better management, except when they can't.

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union VIII

He's gone right into the 'tema valórico', and called for non-discrimination on basis of gender, religion, sexual orientation. But he has not gone further. Yet.

And then he goes on to quote John Paul II.

A fine line.

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union VII

"Todos somos hijos del mismo dios". The Right will like that he mentioned the big guy. The talk of national unity has not changed since Feb 27. But it rings hollow. No one knows what that means, except trying to get the Concertación to blindly support whatever he puts forward. If that's what he means, it's not working.

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union VI

Regarding the total value of earthquake damage, he continues to repeat the 30 billion dollar figure. It's not true.

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union V

A moment's silence for the victims of the earthquake.

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union IV

Piñera has mentioned and honoured each one of the presidents of the Concertación. The UDI will love that.

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union III

"El Presidente y el Congreso son aliado y no rivales". Yup, he's reaching out.

But what is he offering them?

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union II

Piñera starts by congratulating and reaching out to Congress. Is he finally realizing that he needs them?

Liveblogging the Presidential State of the Union

President Sebastián Piñera has just entered the Congress, and is about to give the annual May 21st State of the Union -- his first.

And now, all stand for the antional anthem....

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Greeced Lightning

The Chilean news media, in general, have fallen into the habit of interviewing political scientists when they need a comment on some event. This is, in general, a good thing. It sure beats those CNN types who interview each other. "Anderson, what is your view of the possible impact of the hurricane on corn futures?"

The problem is, that political scientists specialize in different areas, often having nothing to do with corn futures.

So as a general rule, I try to avoid commenting on corn futures, or other areas which are not somewhat related to my particular area of interest. As proof, here is an interview I gave on the situation in Greece.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Prime Minister Cameron. Do Chileans Care?

As this column notes, I was in London when Tony Blair, leading something called New Labour, won the 1997 British elections. No matter what one's political stripes, it was an extraordinary time, coinciding with a surge in British pride, nationalism, and not a little bit of marketing, that had not been seen since the 60s. Looking back, much of it was pretty tacky (think Spice Girls and Tellytubbies). But there is no question that Blair's election brought about a major change in how British politics is done.

So I thought I would jot down a few thoughts in El Mostrador -- written before the coalition talks were settled and Cameron took over as PM. What I find amazing, however, is something unrelated: of all the columns I have written in El Mostrador, this is the first one that is not about Chilean politics. And it is also the first one that has attracted no comments from readers.

Now, unlike on this blog, where readers are informed and interested and usually kind, comments in El Mostrador can be about anything, and more often than not descend into a shouting match between commentators and end up losing any relevance to the issue at hand. Nevertheless, I suspect that the absence of reader feedback on this article reflects the almost total lack of interest that Chileans have in the rest of the world -- unless they are asking what the rest of the world thinks of Chile.

On the one hand, this should not be surprising. Spending 400 years living on a virtual island will make anyone turn inward. But for over a generation, Chile has been one of the most open countries, trading with anyone, signing dozens of free trade agreements, and Chileans increasingly travel to the US, Europe and within Latin America. And yet, they just don't seem to care.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


Somewhat belatedly, here is something I wrote in El Mostrador this week.

And speaking of El Mostrador, I am beginning to understand what Karl Marx meant when he wrote that history repeats itself as farce. In the last 24 or 36 hours, the government of Chile has
made headlines twice for the same, badly handled story. First they named Mirko Macari, who is editor of El Mostrador, to head up the editorial team at La Nación, the government-owned newspaper. This was a big deal as Mirko's political sympathies are well known and not, precisely, pro-government.

But then yesterday afternoon La Segunda carried a headline that presaged what was to come. It said that the UDI was up in arms over the appointment. By the time I drove home last night, I heard Mirko being interviewed on the radio, confirming that his appointment had been withdrawn.

I have lost track now of how many appointments have been reversed or withdrawn since this government took office. The reasons are diverse, but the cause is the same: they don't do the necessary legwork beforehand. Either they don't check criminal records, or they don't check conflicts of interest, or they don't check with their coalition partners. At this point, though, having undergone a series of these mini-crises, one can only conclude that they just don't care.

It is baffling. Perhaps they figure nobody is paying attention. Perhaps their internal polling shows that the damage is transitory. But week after week, it builds an image. And it's not a good one.

It couldn't happen here, could it?

This story is going to get nasty. And it will be an interesting test case of how the elite handles these things.

If the church in question, and the victims, were in some marginal part of Santiago, it would be easier to circle the wagons. In this case, it may be easier to cut the Father loose and hope that the story then quickly goes away.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

It's a small world after all

The task of reconstruction is so great that Chile cannot afford incompetence, laziness or corruption. That is why I hope for the best with this government. Yet day after day, the signs are not encouraging.

In the last few days the government has announced that it will purchase reconstruction materials from three large corporations, sidestepping any process of public tender. This is permitted, because of the extraordinary circumstances in the areas most affected by the February 27 earthquake.

But as this report shows, the personal links between government officials and the companies in question make the whole thing seem rather sordid. What's worse, it's a structural problem. Since Piñera named so many non-political, private sector types to high ranking posts, these conflicts of interest will appear again and again. In the long run, it will only serve to delegitimize the government and its parties, and that doesn't do us much good.

Thursday, 1 April 2010


Piñera thinks that his first three weeks in office have been a tremendous success. In fact, he thinks he has already equalled, or in fact surpassed, the Concertación's record of achievement. That's great! Good for him. It just shows how efficient he is.

However, as I suggest here, sometimes in the interest of efficiency one can commit all sorts of mistakes that then come back and bite you on the head (or elsewhere). That is why most of last week was dominated by the errors committed in political appointments, some of which had to be rescinded, and the extraordinary sight of a Supreme Court judge saying that some formal legal steps had been missed in the implementation of a new law. Who cares? It's efficient!

To be fair, this week was a far better week for Piñera than last... he managed to sort of regain control of the message. But there is a fundamental problem that underlies everything that has gone wrong. In the private sector, one tries gain the maximum advantage in order to sell things, make things, earn money, etc. The law is often an impediment to efficiency, and certainly to profitability. But in government, the maximum advantage, the raison d'etre, is the law. One cannot bypass the law in order to do something else, because if it goes beyond the law, that something else is not only illegal, it is probably not something that government should be doing in the first place.

That is today's fight. They're still learning, and as I have repeatedly said here, it is unfair to criticise too much at this stage, given the lack of experience in government. Tomorrow's fight, however, will be when the Piñera government figures out how to work within the law and still maximise its advantage. When that happens, fasten your seatbelts.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Early days

Michelle Bachelet's learning curve lasted at least two years, and she had extensive experience in government before becoming president. That is why it is unfair to begin dumping on the current government for what has been a pretty awful first week in office.... which is not to say that the major newspapers have not been unprofessionally fawning in their reporting.

One example is yesterday's emergency, last minute meeting between Interior Minister Hinzpeter and José Miguel Stegmeier, who had been named by this government as governor of the province of BioBio. Turns out Stegmeier had some dogdgy dealings with the unsavoury characters at Colonia Dignidad, a german colony in southern Chile which has been linked to Nazis, the military dictatorship, and child abuse. Even after decades, the entire truth on Colonia Dignidad has yet to emerge, and I suspect we have not heard the last of Stegmeier. He is, in fact, named in some ongoing lawsuits against the Colony.

The episode is an interesting case study. For one thing, the front page of this morning's Mercurio had two huge headlines on Piñera's hectic work schedule and the first aid package anounced by the government, and only a small square on the right hand column making reference to the Stegmeier affair.

Second, one has to ask what kind of vetting has gone on in government appointments. Are they really this hard up for people? Why is the right still linked to these characters?

Third, however, is that credit is due to the government, and especially the Interior Minister, for acting quickly. They did not try to justify, defend, deflect or delay. Hinzpeter called in Stegmeier on a Friday night, and fired him. It augurs well for the Hinzpeter method.

Friday, 12 March 2010

The PPT Presidency

I know that Chile likes to show the world that it is a serious country, with serious, business-oriented leaders, but does Piñera really have to start off his presidency with a Power Point presentation to visiting leaders?

Is God Concertacionista?

If there is a word that everyone has used to describe yesterday, 11 March 2010, it is surreal.

Sebastián Piñera's inauguration took place in a climate of nervousness and fear.....not because of him or his MBA Coalition, but because of the constant aftershocks that are being felt throughout the country since the 27 February earthquake.

But then, just as he was about to take office, we were hit with one of the strongest aftershocks yet --either 6.9 or 7.2 on the Richter Scale, depending on who you believe. Frankly, the 0.3 points makes little difference. I was at work, on the fifth floor of a very sturdy building, and the thing moved like a cocktail shaker. Now I know what an olive feels like.

It was only later that I managed to see the images on TV of the interrupted inauguration. As the image above shows, foreign dignitaries, including the presidents of Bolivia and Paraguay, stayed put but looked nervously to the ceiling (I suspect to the TV lighting, which swayed like Tarzan on a vine). Out on the streets of Valparaiso, the soldiers meant to maintain peace, order and good government ran for the hills as the emergency services, who screwed up so badly last time, announced a tsunami warning.
In the evening, Piñera, who had hoped to enter Santiago triumphally riding in Salvador Allende's Ford Galaxy (Kafka, where are you when we need you?), didn't, because nobody wanted to be out on the streets in the midst of so much seismic movement.
You have to feel badly for Piñera. For someone who has wanted to be president for so long, yesterday must have been a most unsatisfying day. Still, people will remember the day for a long time. Especially President Lugo, who wins the prize for Most Freaked Out President.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

So long, MB

After the extraordinary bad luck of having to deal with a massive earthquake in her last days in office, yesterday's poll showing that Michelle Bachelet's popularity remained at stratospheric levels must have been a welcome going away present for her. It also got me wondering about the phenomenon. Why is Bachelet so popular?

No single answer is enough. As I write in this column, there is a Reaganesque quality to her (a description I am sure she would hate). As with Reagan, Bachelet has come to be a smiling symbol of optimism and a better future. She leaves office coated in Teflon.

But she is more than a happy face. The policies, the hard work, the strength in the face of adversity, are all things that are directed to, and can be related to by Chileans from every background, but especially lower middle class Chileans.

In my piece, I hint at the PR machine around Bachelet, but I am not quite that cynical. I think the PR strategy is to sell a product that is genuine. In today's politics, it's not enough to care, you have to care on camera. Everyone from John Paul II to Mother Teresa to Princess Diana knew that. So does the soon-to-be-ex-president.

Funk in the New York Times

It's not every day you get quoted in the New York Times, especially if you live at the end of the Earth, so here you go.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Milton and the Earthquake

I have always thought that the Referente, Patricio Navia's long-standing list-serve on things Chilean, has been a fantastic contribution towards the creation of an international community of Chileanists. The material he sends almost daily is a useful eye on what the world says about Chile. But I fear that he goofed in circulating this op-ed piece from the Wall Street Journal.

There is nothing wrong with singing the praises of Milton Friedman, if that turns you on. Neither am I averse to the argument that neoliberalism -- at least its watered down, post-1982 form -- laid the foundation for the Concertación's economic success over the last twenty years.

But sloppy journalism is something else. Stephens conflates Pinochet's economic policy with the current economic situation and development levels, which is to ignore the Concertación's expansion -- however limited -- of the role of the state in health, education and other matters.

Worse still is Stephens' reference to building codes. Chilean building codes got anti-seismically tough after the 1939 Chillan earthquake, under the progressive Radical government of Pedro Aguirre Cerda. The reconstruction effort at that time, in fact, led to the establishment of many development institutions, such as Corfo, which still exist. In fact, since the implementation of Friedman's ideology, one of the things that has been watered down is the building code.

Today, which seismic standards remain tough, construction companies autoregulate their compliance. As a result, many of the most damaged buidlings in Concepcion and in Santiago were new apartment buildings. The highway that collapsed in Santiago, and Santiago's airport, were built by private concession companies, not the government, often importing foreign models and designs not apt for an earthquake-prone landscape. The older buildings that suffered damage in the south were often built of adobe -- precisely the kind of construction that Aguirre Cerda tried to stop. Those older buildings made of concrete, built, say, between 1940 and 1980, tended to survive mostly intact.

Having said that, I am struck by how well much of Santiago held up to what was still, here, a pretty strong earthquake. The subway was working the next day. Glass-covered office buildings hardly showed signs (on the outside at least) of damage. Most roads were in tact. The malls as well. But is this thanks to Milton?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

What would Jan do?

Much ink has been spilled over the last few days (figuratively speaking -- although now that I think about it....) on the issue of the post-earthquake looting. Undoubtedly, as in Katrina, it arose from, but also caused, much suffering. It raises questions regarding the delay in the government's -- and especially the armed forces' -- response time. Surely the ability to maintain full control of the territory at all times is a fairly fundamental responsiblity.

Nevertheless, much of the commentary has concentrated on how uncivilised Chileans are compared to others. Especially poor Chileans. How very ugly it has all been. Why can't we be more like the Swiss?

I am not a fan of these arguments. For one thing, besides the mountains, we are nothing like the Swiss (and their mountains don't shake). However, a few days ago David Brooks published this op-ed piece in the New York Times which shows how other societies react to extraordinary circumstances.

It also shows that, contrary to what some may be tempted to argue, misery does not cause inhuman behaviour. On the contrary, it is then that people really have the potential to show their humanity.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hualpén vs Haiti: Maule vs Miami

It is inevitable that many people on the street, especially the broken up, lawless streets of Concepción, are criticising the government for its slow response, builders for shoddy construction, telephone companies for cut lines, power companies for outages, and so on.

So this posting (hat tip Two Weeks Notice), is refreshing.

There are two separate issues here. On the one hand there is the quality of construction and infrastructure. While tradtional Chilean building codes have strong anti-seismic elements, it has not escaped our attention that many new buildings, and most unforgiveably, Santiago's international aiport, have suffered serious damage. What is behind that? Laxness in enforcing building codes? Corruption? Laziness? Or, as one colleage put it, a blind desire to pretend we live in Miami, and not in the most seismically active country on earth?

The same questions can be applied to the second issue: government and military response after the fact. Why were government communciations impossible in the hours after the quake? Why did Hillary Clinton have to donate the twenty or so sattelite phones she was carrying on her airplane? Why does Chile have only three MASH units, each capable of handling a maximum of 50 or 75 people? Why was the government unwilling to declare a state of emergency, including curfews? Why do the regions outside of Santiago have no more than one or two representatives of the national emergency response agency?

Corruption? Laziness? A Miami mentality?

Monday, 1 March 2010

Picture of the day

There are so many photos of the last few days circulating, that it is difficult to determine which one best reflects what has happened. In this bicentenary year, I think this one speaks volumes. It is a statue of Bernardo O'Higgins, father of the country:

Sunday, 28 February 2010

The day the earth moved

After a bit of a hiatus, I fear I have come back with a bang.

For much of the last year, politicians, academics, and other talking heads have debated what a suitable project would be to celebrate Chile’s bicentenary in 2010. It’s now clear. It won’t be statues or parks. It will be a reconstruction the likes of which the country has never seen. Michelle Bachelet has had a lot of bad luck during her term in office, but it is Sebastian Piñera who will have to deal with this during the next four years. Total estimates on damage are being reported as $30 billion, but I suspect if you take in roads, it will run to 50 or 100 billion. The country is, thanks to Andrés Velasco, in good fiscal shape, despite what the incoming government wants you to believe. But it wasn’t prepared for a disaster of this magnitude.

As for me, after almost 48 hours I feel things have settled enough to be able to write about my experience of what will be known as the earthquake of 2010.

First and foremost, I consider myself very fortunate. The scenes on television of destruction and suffering in the South, and especially in Concepción, are heartbreaking. I have several friends with family in the area, and although it seems they are all well, day-to-day living is going to get very tough for a while. The city will take years to recover. Other towns on the coast have disappeared entirely.

For most Chileans, it is the first time they experience a quake this strong. The last one was in 1960, and it was worse, but far more localized. This one has affected literally half the country, and the main cities – Santiago, Valparaiso, and of course Concepción.

As for me, this has been, obviously my first big earthquake, and the strange thing is, at the time I just thought it was a strong tremor. I got up, ran for the door, which fortunately opened. Many people in my building, including an elderly couple on my floor, found that the building had shifted sufficiently so as to not be able to open their front door. For the next couple of hours the sound of the concierge hammering door locks could be heard.

So all the neighbours ran out into the hall, as the building finally stopped swinging. One of them stopped to put on his toupee. Priorities. When I came back in, it was still dark and the power was off. When I tried to open the sliding door in my bedroom, I found a) the earthquake had opened it a bit, and b) it hit something. Turns out it was the TV, which had fallen backwards as another piece of furniture fell on it. It was then that I realized that maybe this was bigger than I thought.

For those who have not lived through an 8-grade earthquake, the closest I can come to describing it is that it is like walking drunk. You think you are walking straight, but you keep bumping into walls. You look ahead but everything is moving. There is a terrible noise, which is in part just the noise of the earth moving, but also the noise of the entire building grumbling, and your property jingling. I vaguely remember hearing things falling.

Fortunately, my phone was working, so I arranged to go to my aunt and uncle’s place, as they had electricity. Amazingly, the generator allowed the gate to open.

It was only about 5 or 5.30 when I got to my aunt and uncle’s. There were lots of people on the streets, some just sitting in park benches, probably afraid to venture back into their buildings.

After a few hours and with daylight, I came back home to see what had happened. Still with no power, I packed a small bag to camp out at my family’s place. But with daylight I realized that more furniture had fallen over, my CDs were all over the place, some kitchen tiles had loosened, but that was it. Nothing, compared to the images on TV. Even compared to my aunt’s place, very little plaster had fallen off. Lucky, lucky, lucky. Saturday there were several aftershocks, which is almost worse than the original, as one doesn’t know just how strong it will get. By the end of the day, though, it was clear that we were in aftershock mode – less frequent and less strong. We felt nothing on Saturday night, but were awakened at 8.30 with a fairly strong tremor (about 6 on the Richter scale). Sunday there has been almost nothing.

It is early days, but I fear the government has not handled this terribly well. They did not manage to predict the tsunamis that hit the coast, and only recently declared the kind of emergency that allow them to deploy soldiers to control looting. But for at least a day and a half, there was not much sign of government help in Concepción, which is only an hour by airplane.

Something else to watch for is the reconstruction effort. Will the Piñera government use the rebuilding effort as an excuse to privatize more roads, hospitals, prisons, ports, etc?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Pinera's Cabinet

February is a difficult time of year to keep blogging, but many things have happened in Chile since my last posting. I have been itching to comment on the president-elect's insistance on returning to the pacted democracy of the 1990s, but I think I will leave that until later. But this week's announcement of the new cabinet is worth a comment as well.

In fact, in both cases, the conclusion is similar. Beyond the usual comments that have already circulated widely in Chile -- that this is a businessman's cabinet (by and for business), there is a detail that has been less observed. Both the cabinet and the rhetoric on pacted democracy are about dividing the Concertacion, weakening or splitting the coalition and minimising opposition.

There are some good people in the new cabinet (it's the least we could have expected), but given the amount of talent that presumably exists in the private universities, the right's think tanks, and the country's boardrooms, the total list is pretty unimpressive. My biggest 'WTF?' goes to the selection of the foreign minister.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Piñera pays off his 'debt', his supporters, and then some

El Mostrador is rapidly proving itself to be Chile's best source of investigative journalism, and after March 11, perhaps with The Clinic, will be the country's only independent news source, not openly partial to the Piñera govenment. Imagine if during the Bush years all there was in the US was Fox and the Washington Times.

Today El Mostrador publishes a report on how much Piñera has won since winning the election three days ago -- enough, in theory, to pay off whatever the election cost him. Plus, since it stands to reason that most people who buy stocks are people who have they money to do so, and the people who have the money to do so are in the top 5% (if not 1%) of Chile's population, the rise in the value of Piñera-linked stocks amounts to a massive pay-off of those who overwhelmingly supported Piñera. Thanks for playing.

Only a few days since the election, the issue of money and politics has already come to the fore. And things are only getting started. Piñera has already anounced that he intends to open up Codelco to private investment. Will he resist the temptation to invest a few of his own shekels in this bonanza? He will argue that his holdings are all in blind trust. Blind but not deaf: if someone, just at the right momenty, happens to mention to the blind trust to have a billion or so handy.

I'm just saying.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Losing it

I jotted down some further thoughts (in Spanish) on the Concertación loss in last Sunday's presidential election. I can be found here.

Basically, I think that the Concertación lost because it lost its way. Frei was a symptom, not a cause. Now there is a chance to re-establish some fundamentals. Does it wish to continue being a coalition? Is there anything keeping the four parties together? Is it willing to make substantive changes to its internal institutions? Is it willing to rethink its ideas?

Sunday, 17 January 2010

President Piñera

In the end the predictions were a bit off. It wasn't as close as all that. Piñera won (51.6%, to Frei's 48.4%).

Many things go through one's mind. If you live in Chile, or if you study Chile, this is a big one. Like the Berlin Wall or the moon landing. As someone who does both, I need a few days to digest it all. But a few things can be said, so in honour of the shennanigans that have gone on in American late night TV this week, here's a top ten list.

10. Piñera ran a great campaign. Tight, well funded (no kidding!), and on message throughout.
9. The Concertación ran a lousy campaign at every level.
8. The Concertación could have one this but...
7. MEO is not to blame (he's still finished, though).
6. The Concertación knows what the problem is... renovation. I am not sure they know how to tackle it, however. The problem is not just generational.
5. There will not be much change in domestic policy.
4. There will likely be a shift in foreign policy. We'll be Colombia's new best friend.
3. Many will find the result unpleasant but reluctantly recognize that it's healthy. Like a visit to the dentist.
2. The UDI is going to cash in on what they think they have coming. Piñera is not going to hand it over so easily.
1. President Piñera. The rest is commentary.



The latest projection from Radio Bio Bio/CNN is 50.9% for Piñera, 49.1% for Frei. This is the fifth projection they have announced, and they have all hovered in the same ballpark.


Radio Bio Bio, which did a pretty good job last time, is projecting a win for Sebastian Piñera: 50.7 to 49.3

If they're right, it's going to be a loooong night.


Did my duty. My thumb is blue.

I have also observed that the streets of Santiago appear to be suddenly full of SUVs with dust on the back. My keen eye tells me that this means lots of people have returned from the coast and the country to vote. And the people who drive SUVs to the coast and the country probably vote for Piñera.

In other words, from a strictly anecdotal point of view, any hopes that the Concertación may have had that Piñera voters would not bother to interrupt their summer holidays seem to have been misplaced.

Similarly, my polling station, the Adventist School in Las Condes, was packed. Again -- not a sign of Piñeristas staying on the beach.

Meanwhile, Greg Weeks quite rightly points out that the close nature of this race, the internal dynamics and relationship between Piñera and his coalition, and the little experience the world has with a non-military right wing government in Chile, has meant that the press is a bit wobbly on what this all means.

They're not the only ones.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Where do things stand?

Less than 24 hours before the polls open, the truth is nobody knows.

Certainly Marta Lagos' poll this week helped, if nothing else, to put a bit of wind in the sails of the poor souls running around the country trying to convince voters of something not even they believe. It is likely, however, that it also put some wind in the sails of the Piñeristas, who for much of the campaign were so self-confident that many had proabably already decamped to Cachagua. The poll will probably force these poor people to wipe the 50 SPF off their bodies, load up the Land Rovers, and return to Santiago.

I suspect, though, that les jeux sont faits -- that Piñera will win by a slim margin. I suspect that what follows will be a month or two of triumphalism, and once in office, a short witch hunt. Then, he will have to veer to the centre, if he is to avoid total social chaos, and it will be business as usual.

For it's part, the Concertación will enter a period of tribal warfare of a violence and intensity to rival Rwanda. The left will split (again) in two or three: a labour-friendly Arratish left; a Lagos-like third way left; and a post-modern, or rather, post-transitional MEOista left. La izquiera no-unida is not worth a mechada at El Liguria. The question is how these forces, in the medium and long term, will reorganize, and whether they will unite with the PDC. Doubt it. That was a freak of nature and history, and there are no ideological, political or policy reasons why they should join up again.

If Frei wins, it will be business as usual for four years, except he has zero leadership, and hardly any support from divided parties and a divided Concertación, plus a strong opposition presence in Congress. Frei will have a bad four years -- with economic growth, yes -- but will have no support internally, and a really, really pissed off right.

It's usually not a good idea to piss off the right.

On the other hand, I have to admit that although Frei has zero charisma, his positive attitude and absolute commitment to the campaign, his hard work, have been really admirable. A whole new meaning to Arbeit Macht Frei.

That's pretty much it I think.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


MORI released a poll indicating that the presidential race is far closer than anything (except me) thought. In a nation-wide survey, 50.1% of those polled say they support Piñera, while 49.9% support Frei.

What is more interesting, however, is little tidbit that got far less coverage. About 35% of those who voted for Marco Enríquez-Ominami in the first round say they are either undecided or will abstain in some way (blank vote, etc). If we assume that many of these will make up their minds in the next few days, or decide to vote strategically in one direction or another, the only conclusion is that all bets are off. We're three days from the election, and can only say that we have no clue as to what is going to happen. I only hope that it is not so close that we enter into some sort of national crisis, a sort of Florida or Mexico reloaded. I hope that whoever loses by one vote has the dignity to accept it.

Don't count on it.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Tonight's debate

On the eve of tonight's presidential debate, Greg Weeks says that he has yet to see someone predict a Frei win. Here's one.

I will be liveblogging the debate tonight with Pato Navia on the Santiago Times. Do tune in for insightful -- albeit somewhat sleepy (it's at 10 pm) -- commentary.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


Over the last few days, a major issue has gripped the nation. Or at least the chattering classes.

I am talking about Naviagate. My good friend and colleague, Patricio Navia, announced that after publicly endorsing Marco Enríquez Ominami, he was switching his allegiance to Sebastián Piñera.

It has been a real scandal, even including leaked emails, protestations of innocence, and accusations of betrayal.

Personally, I don't see what the big deal is. What I do find interesting is the underlying issue of the role of the public intellectual. Is it an issue if a political scientist announces his political preferences? Does it affect objectivity? And even if it does not, does it affect how people regard that objectivity?

I am not sure what the answer is, but my ruminations in Spanish can be found here. (Do take the time to read the comments.... they're pretty funny).

Monday, 4 January 2010

Happy New Year

I and the electoral campaign have been on something of a hiatus during the holiday season, but both of us gear up again today. But just as being back at work for one day makes you forget the holidays, being back on the campaign trail for one day makes the campaigns forget everything that went right or wrong in the previous weeks.

As a result, the political comments today from both campaigns seems to be a lot of talk, but saying very little. Just two offerings:

From the Piñera campaign: Frei seeks to "bring out old ghosts and hatreds"

From the Frei campaign: the Right "shows nervousness, loses its calm and composure"

This is pretty much representative of the level of political debate. But it doesn't seem to matter... electoral campaigns in the middle of summer vacations do not summon massive public attention. Which suggests that barring major earthquakes (geological or political), things remain on course for a Piñera win.

And it doesn't matter what Ominami says.