Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Chilean spring in the Canadian fall

For some time the foreign media have been observing Chile's student movement, usually with a sympathetic eye. A few days ago the Guardian published this.

It is inevitable, I suppose, for the press to take kindly to the David and Goliath narrative which the students inspire. So the experience of sharing thoughts on current Chilean politics with 'Chileanists' from around Canada and the United States at a seminar at the University of Toronto's (my alma mater) Latin American Studies programme.

Along with some admiration for the students, there seems to be real concern for where Chilean politics is heading. McGill academic Philip Oxhorn said it best, I think, when he pointed out that social movements are very good at demanding rights but very bad a governing. The current impasse between the students and the government is pretty much about this point. How much will the students be allowed to influence political decisions over things like the budget? Should the be allowed to do so? Who do they represent? Is it good for democracy for a social movement to shove the political parties aside? But on the other hand, why have the political parties been unable to take on their cause?

The general consensus among the eggheads was that Chile is in for interesting times, that this may not be a good thing, that the political and economic model was ripe for change, but the political and economic elite has been unwilling to bring about this change. And yet, as Patricio Navia pointed out, polls do not show a groundswell of support for an outsider, populist candidate. Chileans seem to prefer insider soft-populists like Golbourne and Bachelet.

Interesting times.


Davis Jones said...

Honestly, I think that it's time for the students to show some diplomacy. I'm not familiar with the recent developments, but Chilean students do not need to push for demands that are too drastic. These reforms need to be focused on revamping the sciences and skills-based studies at the schools in Chile. It's probably time for the protests to stop and the dialog to begin.

Kristina Fallon said...

Hello, my name is Kristina and my friend said that you recently gave a presentation about the protests in Chile to her university. I was recently an exchange student to Chile and I am fascinated by the protests. I am currently writing a research paper for my University about the protests since not many people from the United States know about them. If you could please contact me at so I could e-mail interview you to get some information that I could use in my paper I would appreciate it.

Thank you!