Right-wing businessman Sebastian Pinera was elected the next president of Chile Sunday, breaking two decades of rule by the center-left Concertación coalition. In fact, as the New York Times reports, Pinera’s victory is the first time the Chilean Right has been elected in more than 50 years. Nevertheless, says the paper, Sunday’s results—in which Pinera appears to have taken some 52% of the vote against his challenger, Eduardo Frei’s, 48%--are being interpreted by most as less a national shift right and more a reflection of voter “disenchantment” and “a desire for renewal.” In line with such analysis, Mr. Pinera has thus far argued that he will pursue continuity in the country’s economic and social policies. After being pronounced the victor late Sunday, Pinera told supporters he had no desire to “start from zero,” but rather would “start a new era in the development of our country.” However, Pinera has said he will seek the privatization of part of Chile’s national copper industry, CODELCO, one element of what some are calling “Latin America’s growing preference for free-market centrists” (43 percent of Latin Americans surveyed in the 2008 Latinobarometro poll called themselves centrist in 2008, compared with 35 percent in 1996). The businessman-turned-president has also signaled that he would take a tougher stance against drug traffickers and common crime.
Adding to reporting this morning, the Washington Post points out that for many Chileans, the wounds of the Pinochet dictatorship still remain sensitive—so much so that Pinera felt it necessary to declare he would have no former Pinochet ministers in his cabinet (his brother, now a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C., was once the dictator’s labor minister). As Peter Kornbluh and Katherine Hite write this weekend in The Nation the issue of human rights abuses came to the forefront of the political debate just last week with the opening of the country’s Museum of Memory and Human Rights. The two write, however, that like the Concertacion’s political campaign this year, the opening of the museum reflected a “political dynamic” in which Chilean “human rights constituencies” participated very little. Indeed, Mr. Frei and his father (also a former president) supported the 1973 coup against the government of Salvador Allende, although both later became opponents of the Pinochet regime.
And in the Wall Street Journal, a bit of analysis of the “New Right” which the paper says Pinera is representative of in Latin America. According to Johns Hopkins professor, Riordan Roett, Pinera’s victory marks “the arrival in power of the democratic right that has travelled a long road from pseudo-fascism to mainstream politics.” The WSJ’s Matt Moffett goes on:
“Mr. Piñera heads a self-styled ‘New Right’ that has made a greater effort to reach out to the poor and minority groups. He has promised to maintain a number of Mrs. Bachelet's popular social programs. Mr. Piñera caused a stir in this socially conservative country by appearing alongside a gay couple in one campaign spot.”
On now to a wrap-up of some of the stories from Haiti over the weekend:
--U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, went to Port-au-Prince on Saturday to meet with President Rene Preval and other Haitian officials. UN Sec. General Ban Ki Moon also visited the country.
--Notably, Ms. Clinton thanked the Cuban government for opening up its airspace for flights trying to make it into Haiti in what is part of a weekend of stories related to how the U.S. might cooperate with the Cubans to coordinate relief and reconstruction efforts. Former U.S. diplomat Gary Maybarduk argues the U.S. must work with the Cubans to provide medical personnel and supplies to Haiti, in a letter in the Post. The Center for Democracy in the Americas’ Sarah Stephens writes at the Huffington Post that the on-the-ground work of Cuban doctors should provide the foundation for broader U.S.-Cuba cooperation. The health minister of Peru says the eastern Guantanamo province of Cuba should serve as “one end of an aerial bridge” to get much-needed supplies into Haiti. In the New York Times, a weekend op-ed series of “8 Ways to Rebuild Haiti” includes a short-piece on how the base at Guantanamo Bay might be used as a center for humanitarian relief. And , most importantly perhaps, the Cubans themselves said late last week that they are “willing to cooperate with all countries on the ground…including the United States, to help the Haitian people and save more lives.”
--the coordination of relief efforts seems to be improving finally, but is still the subject of much criticism as more planes than are capable of landing at Port-au-Prince’s airport (currently about 100 are allowed in per day) circle awaiting approval to land by the U.S. military which has taken control of the airport. The U.S. has denied, however, that it is “in charge” of all efforts in Haiti. “This is an international effort, the US is not in charge here, the government of Haiti is in charge, the UN is in charge - we're supporting them,” State spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters over the weekend. These words followed criticisms from some foreign governments (including the French), some Haitians, and aid groups who say the United States and UN have placed military needs and security concerns ahead of humanitarian ones. Also, a note on long-term concerns over a $100 million loan made by the IMF to Haiti last week, at The Nation.
--Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were presented by President Barack Obama as the heads of a Haiti fundraising campaign (www.clintonbushhaitifund.org) over the weekend. The two penned a piece in the New York Times and did the Sunday morning show circuit with ex-President Bush arguing the issue of relief in Haiti should not be “politicized.” He also mentioned how the U.S. should continue caring about Haiti after relief efforts wind down, because, in his words, it’s in the United States’ “strategic interest” to do so.
--Also, a Times piece analyzes what exactly the U.S. role in Haiti ought to be after relief efforts end. The Post asks, what happened to President Rene Preval? And while much of Port-au-Prince was destroyed, new reports that much of the city’s wealthy suburbs remain intact.
--With opinions, Jeffrey Sachs argues for the internationalization of recovery efforts in the WP, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Western Hemisphere, Stephen Johnson, calls for the Haitian diaspora to lead reconstruction efforts in the WSJ, Andres Oppenheimer repeats calls for a “Marshall Plan” for Haiti. OAS Sec. General, José Miguel Insulza emphasizes the necessity of “coordination” among inter-American and international bodies in Haiti, in the MH. Speaking with the LA Times, Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners In Health, says the biggest challenges in Haiti currently include the implementation [of relief efforts]: “getting the stuff to the people who really need it.” And there is praise from the editorial boards of the WSJ and LAT for last week’s decision to extend Temporary Protected Status to undocumented Haitians already in the U.S.
In other news items this morning:
· From Honduras, word that Roberto Micheletti was not the only one to receive a lifetime appointment by the outgoing Honduran Congress. At least 50 other state officials received the same honor, including Supreme Court chief magistrate, Jorge Rivera, the entire Military High Command, and Public Prosecutor Luis Rubi. The AFP adds that Mel Zelaya will decide on the 27th (inauguration day) if he plans to remain in the Brazilian embassy or seek asylum outside Honduras.
· From the AP, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Sunday he has authorized his Deputy Foreign Minister Francisco Arias Cardenas to seek a meeting with U.S. officials in Washington to discuss forging better bilateral relations. No immediate reaction from the U.S. just weeks after Chavez accused the U.S. of planning an invasion of his country.
· And from Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, professor of international relations at the Universidad de Di Tella in Argentina, a very good opinion on Latin America in 2010. Tokatlian argues that, “In 2009, Latin America scored an unrecognized achievement: the global economic crisis did not affect the continent as dramatically as it did other regions. Politically and institutionally, however, Latin America’s weaknesses and perils worsened.” Among the region’s biggest worries this year and beyond, says the professor: the increased militarization of politics seen in 2009—from the coup in Honduras to ramped up defense spending to an increased U.S. military presence in Colombia. He writes:
“The military question – believed to have been resolved after the region’s transition to democracy which came with the Cold War’s end, the effort to achieve regional integration, and the push toward globalization – has reappeared. Indeed, it is now clear that one of the main regional challenges is to preserve civilian control of the military, which will require that Latin American elites avoid the temptation to strengthen disproportionately the armed forces’ place in their countries’ domestic and international politics.”