Sunday, 31 March 2013

What she should do

Another piece from La Tercera where I, and others, have the chutzpah to tell Bachelet what she should do. I honestly didn't even know I was doing that when the journalist called. I thought we were just talking about the weather.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

She's back......Now for the hard part

So with this morning's arrival of former president Michelle Bachelet her honeymoon is well and truly over. At the airport she managed to avoid making major statements, but she won't be able to keep up the silent treatment for long.

I wrote something this morning for La Tercera on one of the less obvious challenges that Bachelet will face during the campaign and in government. The column was quoted in an article in Spain's El Pais.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

She's coming home

Last weekend Michelle Bachelet announced she would leave her post at the UN to, in all likelihood, run for president of Chile. Again.

Here is a column I wrote on the subject for America's Quarterly.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Is he or isn't he?

How much ink has been spilled on the subject of Pope Francis in less than a week? Most of this has been speculation, on what kind of pope he will be, what signals the Church is sending with his election, whether he supported the Argentina dictatorship, whether he is a right wing homophobe or a closet Commie sympathiser.

As the first Latin American pope Francis' place on the democracy-dictatorship-o-meter is important, not only because of the region's history over the last half century. As this Salon piece suggests, Francis may or may not represent the continuation of a thirty year counterrevolution in the Church, a reaction to Vatican II whose intellectual father was the former and now-retired Holy Father.

Pope Frank's actions thus far send mixed signals. Perhaps because the context is so different today, and the Church is more threatened by corruption than Communism, the signals seem to be that Francis will try to rein back the splendour and concentrate on the poor. This, together with Francis' Latin American roots, have led some to wonder wither the new pope might not be a secret adherent of Liberation Theology. But, as this article, sent to me by my friend Pablo Bello (@pablobello), suggests, things may not be so simple. Just because Francis is worried about the poor doesn't make him a liberal, much less a liberation theologian. Just because he favours good relations with Jews does not make him a fan of Vatican II. Just because the pope is not a capitalist doesn't make him a communist.

The whole debate seems so last century. But there is a deeper point and one that is more relevant for Latin America, and it pertains not only to how 'left' and 'right' mean different things than they did a generation ago, but how they also mean different things in Latin America. Is a pope who ministers to the poor, but is also a homophobe, left, right, or is he just Hugo Chavez? Does taking the bus to work make you humble, or a populist?

These are issues that have come up in Chilean politics. President Piñera, for example, took exception to the opposition calling itself progressive, saying that he, too, believed in progress. His government has been far more active in establishing regulations on things like second-hand and drunk driving than were the four 'progressive' governments of the Concertación, and he is likely to get a civil partnership law passed by the end of the year. Confused? Try being a chilean voter.

So far, the only thing that seem quite clear is that Francis is leaving the red slippers to Dorothy.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Where Hugo I'm not going

Hugo Chavez' death, while not unexpected, caused quite a furor last week. Typical questions included 'What future for Chavismo?', 'Who is the heir apparent?', 'What did Chavez mean for Latin America?'.

With that question in mind, here is something I wrote with Francisco Javier Diaz for the Policy Network in London. It is the English version of a column I wrote last week in La Tercera.

On balance, Chavez was not a good thing. But it would be irresponsible not to recognize the causes which led to his rise in Venezuela, and the conditions around the world which make his type of politics attractive for alienated voters and desperate politicians.

While Chavismo may or may not survive Chavez, elements such as populism, personalism, resource-exploitation and anti-Americanism will be with us for a while I'm afraid.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Que Pasa?

After a bit of a summer break, I'm back. The academic year gets going tomorrow.

Over the summer, I wrote a couple of columns for the weekly newsmagazine Que Pasa. The first was a tribute of sorts to Albert O. Hirschman. I have always found that his Rhetoric of Reaction was as good an explanation as any to why things get or do not get done in Chile.

I wrote the second on an airplane, having just watch Lincoln, the Spielberg film. It seemed to me that Lincoln's heroic efforts to get the Thirteenth Amendment passed put Chilean legislators, who have spent a quarter of a century blaming Pinochet for everything, to shame.

Anyway, hope to update more regularly now that we return to our regularly scheduled life.