Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Ok. So again this column is not really about Chile. It is about a businessman turned candidate who is running for president in order to fulfill some unresolved father issue, who has made millions in business dealings which many suspect as having been unscrupulous, who has zero empathy and is therefore having a hard time gaining in popularity. It is about a candidate who, every time he opens his mouth, seems to commit a gaffe, to confuse the public and private spheres, to underline how out of touch he is with the common folk, to offend someone, and to alienate even those in his own party.

No, it's not about Chile.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Gaddafi's Revenge

This morning I woke up to two pieces of terrible news. The first was that a police officer was shot and killed in Santiago during the "traditional" night of rioting which follows the 11 September anniversary. He wasn't killed in the course of any political demonstration, but basically by young, probably underage, looters with guns. Totally senseless.

The second was, of course, the death of Christopher Stephens, the US ambassador to Libya, in the course of an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. In a way, both events share that they represent uncontrolled, mob violence masquerading as political protest. In both cases, although to varying degrees, the killings were more about societal disintegration than about any meaningful protest.

In any event, I have written a little column for La Tercera on events in Libya. My point is basically that with this event the presidential campaign enters dangerous territory. The last thing Obama needs is to have a Carter moment, and having Muslim extremists threaten embassies overseas is as close to a Carter moment as he can have (especially as there is a slim chance that the Russians will be invading Afghanistan any time soon), So how Obama handles this has the capacity of making or breaking his campaign.

So far, more so because of Romney's tin ear on foreign policy than because of anything Obama has done, the signs are good. But if pressure building within the US for him to actually DO something, the game could change very quickly.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Guardian on Chile

The Guardian published this piece last week on Chile, claiming that the country is shedding its post-authoritarian fear. The general argument is sound, except that it could be argued that more than shedding fear, young people never actually felt it.

That being said, there are several details in the piece which are not quite right. The Confech was led by a Communist, Camila Vallejo, not by a Socialist. I would also question whether "worker's struggles" are all that relevant. In fact, student leaders often been put in an uncomfortable position precisely because union leaders have tried to hitch their wagons to the student movement. Hardly a sign of resurgent labourism.

And finally, the attempt to draw parallels with other movements around the world ring rather hollow. Each context is vastly different. In Chile, if one needs to draw broader conclusions about what is going on, these are to be found in the attempt to move beyond the political restrictions of the transition years (which is much more in line with the 'abandoning fear' argument of the title), and not with class struggle, which the Guardian tries to hard to rehash.