eyes on the U.S.

Hey Donald Trump, Hugo Chavez Would Be So Proud

A Latin American take on the rise of the Republican frontrunner finds a similar freedom with the facts and exploitation of the dispirited working class as the late Venezuelan strongman.

Donald Trump in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on July 25
Donald Trump in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on July 25

-Editorial-

SANTIAGO â€" The notion of a so-called incursion of Latin migrants "invading" the United States through its southern frontier to steal jobs and undermine security sounds like electoral drama cooked up by a rabble-rousing candidate. Trumped up, you might say, in this case by Donald Trump, the real estate magnate shaking up the polls leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

The more sober reality is that between 2008 and 2012, U.S. Census Bureau data showed that 800,000 Mexicans migrated both legally and illegally to the United States, compared to 1.9 million in the four years before that. That's 57% fewer â€" and without the giant wall Trump says he must build to seal the 3,200-kilometer U.S. border with Mexico.

Not that Trump cares much for realities. Practically all the economic, financial, demographic and social figures he has bandied about on television since announcing his presidential candidacy in June have been inaccurate. When it comes to citing "facts and figures," denouncing fellow Republicans or belittling public personalities such as Sen. John McCain, he speaks with the nonchalance of an entertainer. He accused one female interviewer of asking him hostile questions because she was having her period, and apparently believes most Mexicans are drug dealers and rapists.

When they ask him about foreign or domestic affairs â€" from ISIS to the nuclear deal with Iran, to education financing or factory closures â€" the response is always the same: Things couldn't be worse, and I'm going to fix it all.

Trump doesn't explain why things are so bad or how he will fix them, but when pressured, he responds quickly. He will solve the problem of illegal immigration by building a wall on the U.S. border, paid for by Mexicans. He will change laws, and even the Constitution if necessary, to prevent the children of Mexicans from obtaining citizenship just for being born in the United States.

It's populism, demagoguery and racism delivered through your television screen. Trump speaks without filters and cites statistics and figures with such spontaneity and self-assurance that he seems to be telling the truth. And that's working in his favor, for now.

From Hugo C to Cristina K

Here in Latin America, we know a thing or two about populism. Trump isn't the first politician we've heard spewing a torrent of fiction to win supporters. Venezuela's late leader, Hugo Chávez, used freewheeling and undiplomatic public discourse that his partisans adored. Argentina's Cristina Kirchner also says the first thing that comes to her mind, in a perfect combination of ignorance and aplomb. But these "proto-Trumps" didn't turn out to be good news for their respective countries.

Late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez â€" Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Likewise, Trump isn't good news for the United States. When someone who throws verbal grenades every day is leading the polls, a healthy dose of caution is in order.

The good news is that nobody in their right mind believes he will actually become president. Though he is leading polls now, voters will eventually come to understand that he's too much of a rogue for a mainstream party, that he doesn't understand that governing requires dialogue, negotiation and agreements.

If he ultimately fails to win the Republican nomination, he could run as an independent, effectively splitting the Republican vote and ensuring a win for likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Explaining his success

Media skills have helped Trump, but they alone don't explain his political success to date. The fact that 20% of Republicans see him as a viable option suggests he is a symptom of a deeper unease in U.S. society.

Trump generally attracts those who are distrustful of politicians, especially blue-collar whites who feel threatened by migrants willing to work for less money and by the movement of factories abroad.

The U.S. economy recovered well after the 2008 recession, but this isn't necessary being felt among all workers. The worst-hit group are less educated, white men, and Trump's xenophobia and hardly veiled misogyny speak to them. They are generally simple people with strong opinions despite a serious lack of information.

They believe the United States has taken the wrong path. The departure of U.S. factories abroad and the trend of migrants taking jobs in farming, taxi driving and construction have turned them against foreigners. Their resentment is understandable. There are so many migrants doing manual work that the few white people working alongside them feel out of place and threatened.

For these voters, the two more traditional Republican aspirants, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, are seen as part and parcel of the foreign invasion. Rubio is Cuban American, and Bush speaks Spanish with his Mexican wife.

Class warfare

Another source of resentment is class divisions in the United States. And it's about more than the widening income gap between rich and poor. There is a deep resentment among many ordinary Americans of the liberal elites running politics, media and the Internet.

These elites have money but appear to give it little importance. They are not ostentatious or extravagant in their spending. Trump, who inherited a fortune from his father and could be a member of that elite, has chosen instead to behave like someone who just won the lottery. Everything about him seems to scream tacky, and that's perhaps a style more in keeping with the lower classes who view the decorum of the upper classes as condescending hypocrisy.

Trump has turned the notion of the white, uneducated male as oppressor on its head. Now they are victims. He has dared to voice their complaints. When Trump says everything is going badly in the United States, what he's really saying it's that it's going badly for these guys. And they agree.

He is perhaps symptomatic of the adjustments happening within the U.S. economy and society, as globalization becomes irresistible and countries such as China become more relevant. His racist, anti-Mexican postures, which extend to other Latin Americans, reveal the existence of a disturbing current in the United States â€" much like the extreme right in Europe. It demonstrates that the United States has yet to adapt to globalization or soften the social divides that it has created.

The full scope and progression of this malaise remains to be seen, but the "monied clown," as novelist Mario Vargas Llosa calls Trump, won't be president. The Republican candidate will most likely be Bush, and the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Not that a third Bush president or a second Clinton president speaks brilliantly about social mobility and opportunities for all in the United States.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.

[*Italian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."

🇸🇩💥  IN OTHER NEWS

Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

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

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com!

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