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Fresh disasters in the making

18 January 2010

MEXICO:

As Patrick Corcoran notes this morning,:

According to a study from the National Institute of Adult Education, 700,000 Mexican youths have dropped out of school as a result of the crisis. The dropouts are concentrated in southern states like Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas, and Michoacán.

He might have, but probably didn’t need to tie that small item to a previous item, to the effect that Alonso Lujambio Irazábal, the Education Secretary had fired two education officials, presumably at Esther Elba Gordilla’s insistence.  Esther Elba has been a de facto part of the PAN administration since the Fox Administration and her party, PANAL, played a crucial role as a spoiler in the 2006 election.  Even if one assumes (which I have my reservations about) that Felipe Calderón was elected in 2006, the margin of victory wouldn’t have been possible without PANAL’s overt efforts to siphon votes from the “Benefit of all” coalition (PRD-PT-Convengencia) and the PRI-Green ticket. It’s probably not accidental that public education is being neglected in states where PAN (and PANAL) do poorly, and where Esther Elba’s leadership of the teachers’ union is most challenged.

You also need to remember that the Calderón Administration has used the “drug war” as an rationale for keeping military expendures high, despite “la crisis”.  This is directly opposite what was done in the Great Depression, when Interim President Emilio Portes Gil slashed military expenditures while protecting education and rural development projects.

CHILE:

Speaking of spoilers, as Hemispheric Brief writes this morning:

Right-wing businessman Sebastian Pinera was elected the next president of Chile Sunday, breaking two decades of rule by the center-left Concertación coalition.

There’s no real surprise here.  Eduardo Frei, the Concertacíon candidate was, well… kinda boring… and Michele Bachelet was a hard act to follow.  Dr. Bachelet remains popular, and Pinera had to go out of his way to promise not to undo the twenty year run of social democratic programs, the poor showing by Concertacíon in the first round (Chile’s system includes a run-off between the two top vote getters if no candidate receives fifty percent plus one of the total votes) was largely due to an insurgent campaign by the more exciting Marco Enriquez Ominari.

In addition, as in Mexico’s 2006 Presidential election, organized abstention campaigns hurt the left more than the right.  In Mexico, it was the Zapatistas, in Chile it’s younger voters turned off by electoral politics in general, and the Chilean voter registration system in particular.  In that country, once one votes in any election, voting is mandatory the rest of your life.  Bachelet, at the last minute, has tried to change the system to give automatic registration to voters when they turn 18, but would make voting optional.  Too late.

Naturally, the Wall Street Journal sees this as a resurgence for the right in Latin America.  Pinera has gone out of his way to assure voters that the social democratic safety net would be untouched (although he has been making noises about some denationalization of the copper industry, much as Calderón did about PEMEX) and — in a country where divorce has only been legal since 2004 — successfully avoided appealing to the social conservatives, even spotlighting gay couples in his campaign advertising. And, Pinera had to promise to distance himself from supporters of the discredited (and blood-thirsty) Pinochet regime (his brother was a Pinochet-era cabinet member), but expect some resurgence of nastiness.

HONDURAS:

After all the smoke and noise from the right that the coup that wasn’t a coup was all about preserving the Constitutional order in that country (yeah, right) and the restoration of law,  any pretense of searching for justice was dropped last week, when Roberto Micheletti and fifty of his henchmen were made “Senators for Life” under some hitherto unknown constitional provision.  As Senators, of course, these guys have immunity for prosecution… but they don’t need it, since they’ve also decided not to offer “amnesty” for themselves.  The other side…no.

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