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Protests In Chile: President Piñera Must Start Taking The Student Demands Seriously

Analysis: A year ago President Piñera enjoyed international ‘hero’ status thanks to Chile’s widely-covered mine rescue. Major student protests now have him on the rocks. By continuing to ignore their demands, Piñera may be digging himself a deeper hole st

Protests in Santiago increasingly focus on President Piñera (Horment)
Protests in Santiago increasingly focus on President Piñera (Horment)
Roberto Pizarro

SANTIAGO -- History has a way of repeating itself. In 2006, then President Michelle Bachelet faced massive protests by students demanding major reforms to Chile's economically segregated and low-quality education system. She responded by forming a so-called Committee of Experts. The result? After two years of useless discussions, Chile's Organic Constitutional Education Law (LOCE) – the education framework law in place since the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990) – was replaced with something called the General Education Law (LGE).

Except for the acronym, however, nothing really changed. Holding hands and locking arms, the politicians – on both the right and left – celebrated passage of the LGE as a major victory. But it was a trick, one that served to reinforce the education system that was invented by Pinochet's economists and kept intact by the four governments of the center-left Concertación coalition (1990-2010) that succeeded him. For 90% of Chilean families, Bachelet's Committee of Experts was more bad news for their children.

Five years later, it's now Piñera's turn. President Sebastián Piñera, a billionaire businessman, is Chile's first conservative leader since Pinochet. Like his more left-leaning predecessor, Piñera faces massive student demonstrations. Only this time around they're even bigger, and have lasted much longer – five months and counting. The student reform movement has pushed his administration into a corner. It has also mounted a serious challenge to the education model that's held sway for the past 30 years.

The protestors and their supporters say only a shift in paradigm will ensure a more just and democratic society. First, they want Chile to do away with for-profit elementary schools, which segregate students economically and end up reinforcing inequalities by providing wealthier students with a better education. Instead, children from different social backgrounds should have a chance to integrate and thus assimilate the same values and language.

Second, the traditional "public" universities should receive direct financing from the state. Relative to average family income, Chile's universities are the most expensive in the world and, unlike public universities in most of the other OECD countries of the developed world, they receive the bulk of their financing (80%) from tuition paid by students and their families.

Third, the state should stop paying both direct and indirect subsidies – such as scholarships – to private schools, universities and other companies that make money in the education business without reinvesting those profits back into the education process.

The student protestors are rebelling against a system that has ended in disaster. The children of poor families end up suffering the same fate as their parents thanks to the useless municipal schools they must attend. Middle-class students able to attend partially- subsidized private schools aren't much better off. The schools teach little yet still enrich the unscrupulous business people that run them. And the children of the wealthiest families live enclosed in a fantasy world where they learn to look down on everyone else. In the end, the segregation doesn't benefit anyone, which is why the protestors want to do away with it.

A comic interlude

How has Piñera responded? By refusing to budge on the issue of for-profit schooling and by deciding, along with his education minister, Felipe Bulnes, to cut off talks with student leaders. "Everything in life costs money," the president said. In addition, he has directly provoked the protestors by stiffening public order laws, prison sentences included, so that students cannot express their demands by occupying universities and elementary schools. Finally, like Bachelet before him, President Piñera called together a Committee of Experts – in order to draw out the decision process and hopefully exhaust the student movement.

Bachelet's committee perpetuated a longstanding tragedy. Piñera's is just a downright farce. The Committee of Experts involves 12 people. With a few exceptions, most of the committee members know little or nothing about education. They do know about business and profit – and they all agree that it has a place in the education system. The president of the committee, Ricardo Paredes, an economist, has said as much.

Pardedes' committee colleagues are also economists. For the most part they attended private schools in Santiago's wealthy neighborhoods, went on to study at private universities and later earned post-graduate degrees in the United States. They're also all men. Inexplicably, the committee does not include teachers, school deans, students or even people chosen to represent those groups.

The government's Committee of Experts is simply absurd. It's a farce, a comic interlude in what is otherwise a serious drama. It is nowhere close to being a reasonable response to the students' demands. This decision, like the government's decision to stiffen public order laws, is unjustifiable. And it's one that will come with a steep social and political cost, not just for the government, but for the country as a whole.

Read the original article in Spanish

Photo –Horment

Pizarro, a regular columnist with AmericaEconomia, teaches economics at the Universidad de Chile

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com

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