Chile

John Paul Rathbone

While Dilma Rousseff and Cristina Fernández face rising political uncertainty in Brazil and Argentina, across the Andes plucky Chile soldiers on in time-honored fashion – that’s to say, predictably.

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet after winning primary elections in Santiago, on June 30, 2013

Michelle Bachelet, the former president, steamed towards another presidency on Sunday with a romping win in the primaries – which pretty much guarantees her a landslide win in November’s presidential election. But then again, is everything so certain, even in stolid Chile?

Brazil’s recent protests, and student riots in Chile last week over university tuition fees, have led some to wonder if “Chile is the next Brazil?” (Although, truth be told, it would be more accurate to call “Brazil the next Chile” as Chile’s student riots, despite the country’s booming economy, pre-date Brazil’s turbulence by several years; the first were in 2006.) Read more

Another runner in the Great Tax Race: Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico, hopes that recently approved cuts to corporate tax rates will help diversify its economy – following on from a tax incentive measure for the film industry designed to attract more television productions like Breaking Bad.
♦ As the Syrian state pulls back, necessity has forced rebel fighting brigades to take on the role of governing the towns and villages across rural northern Syria.
♦ Chile is embroiled in an embarrassing statistical scandal, casting a cloud over Sebastián Piñera’s final months in office. It seems analysts were right to question how he kept inflation at just 1.5 per cent despite growth of 5.6 per cent.
♦ The US seems to be headed for a manufacturing renaissance.
♦ Since the revolution, Cairo residents have turned to do-it-yourself infrastructure as they grapple with getting about from day to day. The New York Times has photographed the boom in illegal construction.
♦ The New York Times has also profiled Sohel Rana, the most hated man in Bangladesh: “He traveled by motorcycle, as untouchable as a mafia don, trailed by his own biker gang.”
♦ IBM has created the world’s smallest film by manipulating single atoms on a copper surface.
♦ Cash is still king in China, where home buyers make payments in trunks filled with cash and monthly salaries are delivered in armoured cars.
 Read more

♦ “There is no such thing as good timing for a government when political scandal erupts,” says Hugh Carnegy, “but the tax fraud affair that has brought low François Hollande has hit the French president at a moment of severe economic difficulty.” Dominique Moïsi thinks Hollande must heed the lessons of Louis XVI: “in the wake of the Cahuzac scandal, France’s president looks ever more like a modern Louis XVI – the king guillotined by revolutionaries.”

♦ The FT looks at how Taiwan needs sweeping reform to preserve its status as one of Asia’s great successes.

♦ A recording of a private meeting between Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, and his campaign aides shows how they considered using Ashley Judd’s mental health and religion against her as political ammunition. Mother Jones, who published it, is also looking at the ethical questions it raises about McConnell’s staff.

♦ Sri Srinivasan, the Obama administration’s principal deputy solicitor general, is a candidate for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. According to Jeffrey Toobin, “if Srinivasan passes this test and wins confirmation, he’ll be on the Supreme Court before President Obama’s term ends.”

Jon Lee Anderson at the New Yorker looks back at the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Augusto Pinochet. On the basis of that he argues that, “In a country where, for decades, history was buried, it is fitting for Chileans to dig up [Pablo] Neruda to find out the truth of what happened to him.” Comedian Russell Brand recalls a chance encounter with Margaret Thatcher and the less coincidental legacy she left: “She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism.”

♦ The BBC has been looking at the changing state of modern journalism. Frank Rich, writing for New York magazine, thinks when it comes to journalism, “the last thing the news business needs is a case of nostalgia.”  Read more

Alan Beattie

Intriguing piece in the Economist about “Chilecon Valley”, Chile’s attempt to snaffle some of the start-up tech talent driven out of the US by self-destructive American immigration laws. Some public seed capital and easy-to-get work visas and the sector is up and going.

So where does this leave the argument that a tough intellectual property rights regime, particularly with software and other tech patents, is necessary for innovation? Chile was forced to tighten up its patent and copyright law as a result of its 2004 bilateral trade deal with the US, but Washington remains unhappy about the implementation. Chile is one of the dirty dozen countries (actually 13 in 2012) on USTR’s ominously named annual Priority Watch List for poor IP protection, and Washington is trying to raise the IP bar yet higher for Chile and the other countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Read more

John Paul Rathbone

Josefina Vázquez Mota. Photo AP

Women currently govern some 40 per cent of Latin America’s population. If Josefina Vázquez Mota wins Mexico’s presidential elections in July, that figure will rise to 60 per cent. “I will be Mexico’s first presidenta (female president),” Ms Vázquez said this month after she won the primary of the conservative National Action PartyRead more

John Paul Rathbone

More than a few readers of the FT, thinking politicians a useless lot, must regularly imagine “I could do better”.  It must be a particularly tempting line of thought for any “Master of the Universe”.

President? No problem. Those politicians are all second class brains. I, by contrast, run a bond desk/am a successful hedge fund manager/private equity honcho/chief executive of a multinational corporation. After all, if I already manage an operation with the annual revenues equivalent to the GDP of a small country, I could surely run a small country. It’s only logical. Well dream on. Chile ’s Sebastian Piñera, president of a small but rather successful country, is the counter factual that should make such fantasists think again. Read more

John Paul Rathbone

Where lies the world’s biggest source of instability? For many, it is the “clash of civilizations”, an idea popularised by Samuel Huntington, whereby people’s cultural and religious identities will remain the main source of conflict in the post-Cold War World. “The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future,” the political scientist wrote in 1993.

Certainly, Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks, the rise of China and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to confirm this notion. Yet, as Moises Naim, the former editor of Foreign Policy Magazine points out in a recent article , most conflicts have lately been within civilizations than between them. Islamic terrorists have killed more innocent Moslems than anybody else. Ditto the fight between Shiites and Sunnis. And the source of the “Arab Spring” is homegrown. Indeed, the main source of global conflict, Mr Naim suggests, stems not from a clash between civilisations but  rather the changing fortunes of the world’s middle classes inside them. Read more

By Daniel Dombey, US diplomatic correspondent

What do you say about a natural disaster that has displaced 2m people, destroyed or damaged 500,000 homes and killed some 800 people – but still seems almost overshadowed by an even greater calamity elsewhere?
Hillary Clinton sought to put her thoughts and feelings into words when she paid a flying visit to Chile on Tuesday, whose devastating 8.8 Richter scale earthquake comes hard on the heels of the Biblical scenes of devastation in Haiti.
Arriving with aid, promises of more help on the way and a vow not to distract the country from its emergency and reconstruction effort, she was clearly moved. Read more