Desafíos para Chile

Subsecretario de Relaciones Exteriores de Chile ante una mesa redonda en Londres

El viernes 9 de octubre oímos las posiciones de Edgardo Riveros ante unos temas. El asunto que discutió a un nivel más profundo fue la Alianza del Pacífico, un acuerdo de comercio libre entre Chile, Colombia, México y Perú.

Frente a unos embajadores en un cuarto de lujo en Canning House, dijo que el TPP es un chance de profundizar las relaciones exteriores, un paso importante para el subsecretario, que quiere que Chile aproveche las oportunidades globales.

(Hablando, derecha) Edgardo Riveros, el Subsecretario de Relaciones Exteriores de Chile

(Hablando, centro) Edgardo Riveros, el Subsecretario de Relaciones Exteriores de Chile

Observó que el mundo funciona en bloques y redes de vínculos, notando que la Alianza del Pacífico es un “desafío especial”, diciendo que es un grupo que trae problemas para superar. Actualmente, Chile exporta más a los países de Mercosur (Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay, Uruguay y Venezuela) que a los otros tres estados miembros de la Alianza del Pacífico, algo que quiere cambiar el subsecretario.

Después de su discurso, Sr. Riveros aceptó unas preguntas: una sobre la posición de poder de Brasil en la región y la segunda que trata de la posibilidad para América Latina a transformarse y acercarse como la Unión Europea en términos de supranacionalidad.

Respondió que sí existe un parlamento de Unasur (la Union de cada país en América del Sur) pero Latinoamérica “corre un esprint, no un maratón como en el caso europeo”. Por el momento, él cree que hay muchos instrumentos internacionales que tiene que fortalecer, y el rumbo hacia una multinacional soberanía más cohesiva y de colaboración está algo para muchos años en el futuro.

La cuestión de Bolivia y el acceso al mar

Yo quise saber la visión u opinión política que nos pudo ofrecer el subsecretario sobre Bolivia y la cuestión del acceso al mar para el estado andino, que perdió su costa después de una guerra contra Chile en los finales del siglo XIX.

Cuando pregunté al político, unos gemidos y acogidas sonaron por el cuarto, pero claro que este tema trata de Chile y de las relaciones exteriores del gobierno en Santiago.

Sr. Riveros me dijo que su país está listo para discutir el tema, pero afirmó a este blog que “Chile y Bolivia tienen definidos los límites territoriales”. Nos dio una idea de la política que seguirán los diplomáticos chilenos en La Haya cuando dijo “no tiene obligación de negociar”.

Por el subsecretario, no vale mucho la idea de cuestionar acuerdos históricos – “no puede desafíar cada tratado”. Tiene razón que los mecanismos de diplomacia global quedarían paralizados si los acuerdos entre países fueron desafiadas todo el tiempo pero él no puede forzar que los bolivianos olviden sus sueños.

Es claro que Sr. Riveros cree que la posición chilena es una de poder: el territorio es reconocido internacionalmente como parte de su país. Pero a la vez Chile tiene una debilidad: Bolivia no tiene nada que perder y su postura como desamparado puede afectar a Chile, que corre el riesgo de parecer ser el bravucón en la disputa.

En septiembre, la Corte Internacional de Justicia dio a conocer la decisión que sí estaría en una posición de oír el caso sobre el acceso al mar, un paso que fue entendido extensamente a señalar que Bolivia ha marcado el primer gol de partido.

Lo que espera La Paz es que logrará la devolución de acceso al mar, probablemente por el uso mutual de un puerto chileno.

Este resultado ofrecería al país naval un regreso a las olas: Bolivia ha mantenido una marina a pesar de que el país ha sido un estado sin costa desde 1904 – el año de la cesión de la región litoral a Chile.

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Un shock ao sistema

From Brazilian hip-hop to the social commentary of a Chilean MC, the London Latin Music Festival served up a strong variety to thrilled crowds

London has a vigorous Latin American side to the capital, especially south of the river. But venues in Shoreditch and the Barbican were the hotspots for the 15th London Latin Music Festival. The talent ranged from the Equatoguinean singer Buika, to Uruguay’s Academy Award-winning songwriter Jorge Drexler to the Mexican flautist Alejandro Escuer and guitarist Morgan Szymanski.

 Source: Emicida

On 24 April the Brazilian MC Emicida played at Rich Mix, in Shoreditch, to a sweaty crowd of buoyant Brazilians. He wore sunglasses for most of the performance and the only adornment to his baggy grey t-shirt was a green, yellow and blue national flag, grabbed from someone in the front row. He sauntered on stage to a roar from the floor and plunged straight into his repertoire, aided in some of the rap sections by his band members. There was a good feeling in the crowd, as punters paused between numbers to refresh themselves with lager in plastic glasses.
Source: Author's own

Source: Author’s own

The sunny morning beats of ‘Levanta e Anda’ stretched through the jumping pack, with its laid-back under-rhythms and old-school R&B-tinged chords. The rapper from São Paulo played ‘Zica, Vai Lá’ (see below for video) in full early on, gearing the hordes up for what would become a staple throughout the show. The song tumbles straight into its chorus from the off, its steady accumulation giving the audience ample opportunity to shout along.
Source: Author's own

Source: Author’s own

He returned to ‘Zica..’ – which is one of his most well-known songs – later on, giving the baying, dancing crowd the chance to belt out one of their favourites themselves, as he stood off, acting up. At the end, quick queues formed as the hip-hop artist agreed to sign copies of his latest CD at a table set up at the back of the hall.
Source: Emicida
A sold-out Rich Mix went wild again on 30 April for French-Chilean MC Ana Tijoux. From the moment she jumped up to join her ensemble the hall was captivated, with her borderless rap-rock reverberating around the joyous bunch.
Source: Author's own

Source: Author’s own

Wearing black cycling shorts under a lace bodycon dress, she bounced happily in her white trainers, rapping out her numbers thick and fast, and crooning slowly where choruses demanded.
 Source: Nacional Records
Her well-known ‘1977’ was accompanied by a mad echo from the packed mass in front of the stage and the galleries above. Those sweaty bodies were moved to ska-jive in the pit by the funk notes of ‘Los Peces Gordos No Pueden Volar’.
Source: Author's own

Source: Author’s own

She paused for a notable interlude early on to explain her politics; how she sang for the masses as she saw them: an interconnected world free from national boundaries and patriotic sabre-rattling. She stood up for the lowly and denounced capitalist colonisers.

‘Shock’ was adopted by students in her homeland in 2012 as part of their demonstrations for education reforms since promised by the new socialist government in Santiago. Although the video is focused on the protests and dozens of the student activists, Ana makes a brief appearance, holding a sign showing her support for the demonstrations.

In her London show, the vibrancy of her beliefs coming through her music resulted in a firm message underlining the dancing and mirth.

 Source: Nacional Records

The political drive reached its zenith in the mad ‘Somos Sur’, a punchy concoction of international support for the “quietened, omitted, invisible”. The Dominican Republic, Algeria and Tanzania are all among a selection of Latin American, North African and sub-Saharan African countries celebrated with Tijoux’s power Spanish overlaying stylised Arab wails.

This leads into the Arabic attack rap section of the song from Shadia Mansour, introduced as a ‘sister’ to Tijoux. The British-Palestinian MC lays down her message enthusiastically, rapping in a colourful full-length gown.

A mesmerising gig.

 Source: Nacional Records

‘¡Vivir con honor o morir con gloria!’

Chile’s half-Irish independence hero is commemorated in the London suburb of Richmond

Mothers chat idly, pushing buggies in one hand and cradling coffee in the other. Upmarket shops bustle; the rugby clubs of Old Deer Park hum with ale and cheer. This is Richmond-upon-Thames, a smart town on the south-west fringes of London.

Half-Irish Chilean independence leader, Bernardo O'Higgins

Half-Irish Chilean independence leader, Bernardo O’Higgins

Off to one side of the grand stone bridge, overlooking the rowers pulling along the river and the children running along the bank is a bust. It is a simple head and shoulders sculpture, set back a little way from sandy-cream stone steps leading gently down to the Thames.

It is of Bernardo O’Higgins. A memorable name, and he certainly is a memorable man. Born in Chile to an Irish father and a Chilean mother; a Latin Celt revolutionary who led his country to independence from Spain. He is commemorated all over Chile.

But what is this bust of him doing in this leafy part of London? He was born in Chillán, in the centre of the country. As a teenager, he was sent overseas to study. First in Peru, then Spain, and finally, aged 17, to Richmond, where he encountered several political activists, including Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan soldier who strove for independence for Spain’s colonies in the New World.

The bust overlooks the River Thames at Richmond

The bust overlooks the River Thames at Richmond

On returning to Chile, O’Higgins inherited his father’s properties and entered local politics, moving through activist circles to the nationalist movements. One of the crucial moments for Chilean independence came when Spain’s back was turned, during Napoleon’s peninsular invasion in 1808.

That left a gulf in the imperial administration that the Chilean separatists filled, creating a national congress. Spain’s royalist forces in the Viceroy of Peru wanted to quash this separatist rising and mounted loyalist attacks on the Chilean militia. O’Higgins was the military leader-in-chief who stood against them.

The Irish-Chilean independentist general began the military struggle for Chile on the back foot and lost at the Battle of Rancagua in 1814, which forced him over the border into Argentina with other Chilean nationalists to try to regroup and plan a comeback.

O'Higgins' military call to arms: "Vivir con honor o morir con gloria"

O’Higgins’ military call to arms: “Vivir con honor o morir con gloria”

At the battle of Chacabuco in February 1817 a combined ‘Army of the Andes’ of O’Higgins’ men and Argentinian forces under José de San Martín swept aside the troops in Chile loyal to the Spanish crown, and they took the capital, Santiago.

One of O’Higgins’ famous martial cries has passed into Chilean folklore: “¡Vivir con honor o morir con gloria!” (‘Live with honour or die with glory!’ – inscription visible in the photo above).

The decisive victory resulted in Bernardo O’Higgins being elected to the position which would cement his place in the history of his country. He became the ‘Director Supremo de Chile’, the country’s first independent leader.

He served for six years as de facto president, establishing the basic workings of a governmental administration and building a national navy. However, public consensus around him gradually disintegrated, as many of his reforms were opposed by the Church and elite.
He stepped down from the top job in 1823, under pressure from growing revolts across the country. Bernardo O’Higgins retired to Peru, where he lived in exile. Like his father he never married, but unlike him, he did know and live with his son.
His father, Ambrose O’Higgins, (who would become Ambrosio O’Higgins), was born in County Sligo, in western Ireland, and emigrated via Spain to what is now Peru and then became a colonial administrator in Chile. Bernardo was born in the late 1770s. It was an illegitimate birth as Ambrosio and his partner, the much younger Isabel Riquelme, were not married. O’Higgins senior eventually recognised Bernardo as his own not long before he died.
Bernardo O’Higgins lived in a large estate in Peru until his death in 1842, at the age of 64. His remains were repatriated and he is buried in Santiago and commemorated across Chile, and elsewhere in the world, including in a quiet spot overlooking the River Thames in London.

An Arab and his amigos

Colonel Gaddafi appears to be increasingly isolated. Will he look to his Latin friends for an exit route?

William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, suggested (erroneously) back in February that Muammar Gaddafi had fled Libya and sought refuge with the friendly face of Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president – a claim which Caracas criticised heavily. However, that idea was not a whimsical prospect dreamt up by Mr Hague at random – Mr Chavez has made it a habit of his to befriend states with clear anti-US rhetoric and ideals, such as Iran and Cuba. Libya has been no exception and in 2009, Gaddafi named a football stadium after the Venezuelan premier (only for rebels to rescind the honour a few weeks ago). (Football seems to be a peculiar source of mutual content for states which take pleasure in upsetting the US.)

Now Colonel Gaddafi is losing support in the Maghreb and in his own cabinet , can he look west across the Atlantic for help? Chavez has derided the ‘no-fly-zone’, calling it ‘total madness’ and his thoughts have been echoed by many across Latin America.

Brazil abstained from voting on the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1973, the document which gave the allies their international legal permission to crackdown on Gaddafi’s forces. Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, did not agreed with the UN’s decision and announced his ”condemnation, repudiation and rejection” of the intervention.

Similar noises were made by Nicaragua, where Daniel Ortega, a constant thorn in the side of the West, criticised the UN for turning itself into ”an instrument of warmongering and death for these powers”. Fidel Castro accused NATO of ”demonstrating the waste and chaos that capitalism perpetuates” and the President of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, although ‘lamenting’ the attacks by Gaddafi, pointed out that ”saving lives with bombs is an inexplicable contradiction in terms”. Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay also came out against Resolution 1973.

But there were some resolute stances from the Latin Americans in favour of the allied action. Mexico, Peru, Chile and El Salvador all came out in favour of the Security Council’s decision. Colombia said that the Gaddafi regime had ”made fun of” the resolution and President Santos called for an end to the fighting.

So Gaddafi seemingly has a few open doors in Latin America. Whether he will choose to walk through them remains, at this stage in the crisis, very hard to predict. However, public opinion can be fickle in Latin America and presidents are always on the hunt for high approval ratings – giving the Colonel some free bed and board might not go down too well. So as this situation develops, despite their previous announcements, it is not a given that the Latin capitals will continue to be so welcoming to the dictator.

An island life for me

Tempers have flared up again between Russia and Japan over the disputed Kuril Islands. Islands remain at the centre of many international territorial conflicts.

On Thursday 10 February Japan’s foreign minister, Seiji Maehara, restated his country’s commitment to the belief that the four southernmost islands of the Kuril group remain under Japanese jurisdiction. His call comes after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the contested archipelago in November last year. During his trip Medvedev promised greater development and outlined an increase in military presence on the islands, clearly not a move that has been welcomed in Tokyo. Remarkably, the fractious nature of the two countries’ relationship over the Kurils means that they still have not got round to signing a joint peace agreement to end World War Two hostilities between them.

Islands are at the centre of an ongoing dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia. The San Andres and Providencia group in the Caribbean has been part of Colombia since the 1920s but Nicaragua took the issue to the International Court of Justice in 2001, which ruled in favour of Bogota. Managua’s main argument is over location, and the islands are much closer to Nicaragua, but it would not be surprising if the tourist factor also plays a part in their disquiet: the islands are beautiful Caribbean hotposts, an English creole is widely spoken and visitor numbers are growing.

Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela. Source: marcellogentile1, YouTube, 11/02/11

At the other end of the Americas, there are The Falklands, or Las Malvinas, as they are known in Buenos Aires. A well-known island disupte which provoked a war between the two claimants in 1982. The UK posititon is clear: the islands were, are, and will remain British, for as long as the Falklanders themselves wish to remain under British jurisdiction (which at the moment they do). The Argentine outlook takes a similar line: the islands were, are, and ought to be part of Argentina. One only needs to look at an Argentine national map to understand the geographical stubbornness. But there has been a change of dynamic since 1982. Back then, Chile and the US both openly backed the UK, and Spain supported Argentina. But now many of Latin America’s leaders have openly urged the devolution of the islands back to Argentina, and idea rejected by London. Hugo Chavez famously railed against what he views as another example of ‘Western imperialism’.

The Kurils are next to Japan and form part of a territorial island link chain that goes north to Kamchatka. The Falklands are nearly 8,000 miles away from the UK. But the issue of island disputes is extremely old, complicated and is prevalent across the world (the examples above are just three of the more prominent disputes). It is not an argument that can be simply resolved by stating history, distance from home country or ‘proper ownership’.

The politics of the presidenta

On Sunday 31 October, Dilma Rousseff became the president-elect of Brazil, replacing her mentor and supporter, the outgoing Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva. Modernists hailed the election of the first female Brazilian premier, and Rousseff became the ninth Latin American presidenta. But do female politicians in the Latin America have to rely on the support of men to get into power?

Machismo prevails across the Latin world but although men have dominated the political sphere, women have been increasing their presence over the last 40 years, since Argentine Isabel Martinez de Peron rose to prominence as the first elected female head of state in the Western Hemisphere. She was also vice-president during her husband’s third stint in the Casa Rosa. Argentina is no stranger to matrimonial politics and the current president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, took over the presidency from her husband, Nestor Kirchner, in 2007.

But on 27 October he died suddenly of a heart-attack, leaving Cristina on her own, both maritally, and politically, for although he had stepped down from the presidency, Mr Kirchner still had a major seat at the top table, running the Partido Justicialista (Justicialist Party) behind the scenes while his wife shook hands with other world leaders.

Such was the force and influence of Kirchner that commentators rushed to point out that ‘Kirchnerismo’ passed with the death of Nestor and that the key aim for Cristina now would be to try to see out the rest of her term in office and reaffirm her political principles, goals and direction, all of which were thrown into disarray by her husband’s death.

Indeed, some critics argue that all the objectives she has outlined so far have been her husband’s policies, and that her challenge now is to show that she is not just a puppet and demonstrate that she can lead her nation without the support of her husband.

In the case of Brazil, a different sort of wedding has been the main reason for the success of Dilma Rousseff. The marriage is purely political but it has been a conjugal arrangement which Rousseff has flouted to the maximum, using her proximity to Lula (and his fanatical popularity) to carry her to victory in last Sunday’s electoral run-off.

Once again, just like Mrs Kirchner 3,000 km to the south, the case arises of a female president facing the challenge of defining herself to the nation and displaying distinct political objectives. Brazilians have been extremely pleased with the direction in which Lula has been taking Brazil and they have chosen a politican built in very much the same vein as the outgoing premier.

Moreover, the fact that the new incumbent of the Palacio da Alvorada is a woman means that she has an extra responsibility to use her new position to show to the world that Brazil can be as successful under uma presidente as it was under Lula. To her credit, Rousseff has already made it clear that social and sexual equality will be a flagship policy of her period in office. She is caught between maintaining the popularity of Lula and not being seen as purely an inexperienced pawn of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party).

She has acknowledged the rise in status of the Green Party, whose presidential candidate in the first round was also a woman – Marina Silva. Indeed, the fact that many first-round votes which Rousseff had expected to go to her in fact went to Silva necessitated a run-off a month later. Rousseff has accepted the need to follow a green agenda in power, a possible policy declaration which shows that she has already recognised the challenges which a popular Green Party, led by another popular female politican, could create for her in office.

But these two Latin giants have not been the only countries where females have flexed their political muscles and over the years Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua have all elected female heads of state. From 1999-2004 Panama was led by Mireya Moscoso although her waning popularity towards the end of her term affected her chosen successor, Jose Miguel Aleman, and he failed to follow her into office, showing that the ‘Lula’ affect has not always been the case. In addition, Michelle Bachelet was in power in Chile until earlier this year when she was defeated by Sebastian Pinera. And the current president of Costa Rica is Laura Chinchilla.

The majority of these women have run on centre-left manifestoes and have been leading campaigners of social reform. But often the closeness of ties to men means that there are inevitable restrictions to navigate. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner lost a pillar of political support when her husband died and Dilma Rousseff cannot spend her whole presidency invoking her mentor; she has to continue Lula’s popularity while carving out her own policies to carry out which can define her as a separate success in her own right, not just one who basked in the glow of a former, male president.

The fine line between defence and politics

On Monday 18 October the Chinese vice-president, Xi Jinping, was promoted to second-in-command of his country’s Central Military Commission, the government body which controls the 2.2 million-strong army. It is a posting which is undoubtedly seen as a stepping-stone to the presidency in 2013 in a nation where the military and political promotions go hand-in-hand.

The next day, 5000 miles away in London, the coalition government led by the Conservatives announced wide-ranging defence budget cuts. The run-up to the publication of the ‘Strategic Defence Review’ was dominated by criticism from the opposition Labour party, the public, soldiers, sailors and airmen alike. Even the Defence Secretary himself was found to have been railing against the cuts he was asked to find by George Osborne, the British Chancellor. The outcome of the report has been a source of contention and paradoxy: the Royal Navy’s flagship, HMS Ark Royal, is to be retired four years earlier than planned but two new aircraft carriers will be built. However, there will be no British planes for use on the ships for 9 years. In addition to the naval cuts, the number of tanks and artillery pieces will be slashed by 40% and up to 20,000 service jobs will be at risk.

The government has stressed that a streamlining of a mismanaged and economically wasteful budget was imperative but there is no doubt that the British military standing in the world will be severely reduced, and any future conflicts will probably be impossible without allies’ aid.

But this notion does not apply to the UK alone. The Falklands War in 1982 was a purely British-Argentine affair, although each combatant did receive oral backing, Argentina from some fellow South Americans and Spain, and the UK from the US and Chile. Times have advanced though and if tensions rise once more in the South Atlantic, then Argentina would be able to call on direct military support from friends on the continent, notably Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela. Britain would be unable to respond as it did in 1982 and would have to seek out allies of its own.

The current Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, reshone the spotlight on Las Malvinas last weekend through Twitter when she labelled British soldiers carrying out exercises on East Falkland island ‘pirates’. Chavez also joined in online, recalling for the return of the archipelago to Argentina.

Looking further north, there is a different type of military deployment occurring in Colombia and Mexico. Both countries have large-scale deployment internally, as presidents Santos and Calderon look to conquer the drugs gangs. Mexico has sent the greatest number of soldiers to the frontline, and has also increased the remit of the navy and its marines, who are regularly involved in operations inland, not just in coastal areas. The gangsters are ingenious, and only the armed forces have the firepower to engage with the gangs, and the know-how to intercept seaborne missions and underwater deliveries via miniature submarines, although these conflicts have led to a massive death toll over the last four years, with more than 28,000 killed.

Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are the two African countries which are consistently in the current military news regarding Africa. Somalia hits the headlines for the ongoing unrest and firefights between the Al-Shabab militia and government forces, with the armed piracy situation adding to the problem. And the DRC is in the news for the gross abuses of villagers carried out by the army. The African Union (AU) provides peacekeeping elements to both these nations, among others, and it is in Africa where we see this type of military sanctioning and control the most in the current climate.

Looking back across the Indian Ocean, Burma has been under the control of a military regime for the past 22 years, and any attempts to promote democracy are dealt a fierce rebuke. Upcoming elections will be closed to outside observers, disallowing direct comment on the campaigns and results. Indeed, as Indian Nobel economics laureate Amartya Sen remarked on Thursday 21 October, only Burma’s closest allies, (which he cited as India, China and Thailand), have enough sway within the governing junta to be able to argue for democracy or promote greater transparency regarding human rights. Burma has an omnipotent role for the military in daily life in the country, but it is not the only Asian country to place such great value on the standing of the armed forces.

Last week, North Korea’s rulers named the present leader Kim Jong-il’s son Kim Jong-un as a general, and the foreign media (which was allowed within the borders, albeit under tight monitoring) was quick to point out the proximity of military high-command to political office. It certainly seems that Kim Jong-un, the dictator’s youngest son, will replace his father as the head of the country, but such a transition would have been extremely difficult without first giving him a prominent military role.

South Korea has US backing but has been keen to extend the diplomatic arm in recent months, refusing heavy-handed retaliative action after its neighbours sunk a warship in May. With Australia and New Zealand playing minor roles in Afghanistan, there remains the possibility that they could find themselves getting more and more involved with the nations to their north in the future.