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New Constitution in Chile: From a protected transition to an agonic transition

Image: Juan Manuel Núñez Méndez/ Unsplash

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A constituent process has been installed in Chile. On October 25, 2020, the date of plebiscite, the alternative “Apruebo” (78%) by a new political constitution, and the option of “Constitutional Convention” (79%), obtained the majority over the option of “Rejection” (22%) and over the “Joint Constitutional Convention” option (21%), respectively.

This is the current state of things. But let’s go back a little bit regarding its origins.

In 1988 the Plebiscite took place that said NO to Pinochet, and which then led to the first presidential and parliamentary election after 17 years of dictatorship. Pinochet accepts this plebiscite in large part for fear of a popular rebellion, an issue that was akin to protests that would begin to occur progressively and on massive scale from 1983 to 1986 in Chile,(Délano, 1985; Delgado-Torres et al., 2018; Manzano, 2014, p. 80; Salazar Salvo, 2019) called “the awakening” (Moulian, 2002, p. 261), and for the assassination attempt  on Pinochet (the so-called “Operation TWENTIETH Century”) on September 7, 1986  (Equipo de prensa CHV, 2015; Holzapfel, 2006; Zalaquett, 2011).

And all this popular uprising occurred, even though the media of the time were trying to create distortions in the perception of the veracity of the facts. What is iconic, for example, is the protest that took place in an act broadcast on television about John Paul II’s visit to Chile, where it is possible to contrast the social reality of the events caught at that time on camera, and the fully uchronic journalistic narrative (TVN, 2015) With the Plebiscite of 1988, this would put an end to the right-wing military dictatorship or “pinochetist” dictatorship.

The new regime or new state of affairs would arise from a political negotiation (Departamento de prensa, TVN, 2018; Godoy, 1999; Kaltwasser, 2007)or “antisocial pact” agreed between a sector of political opponents to Pinochet- on tone hand, and Pinochet and the pro-dictatorship political sectors on the other.. Pinochet leaves the political power of the executive, not without first ensuring his own political-judicial immunity for the future, and his economic and political heritage which, and as such, should continue and be projected over time. Proof of the first are the negotiations of the governments of the “Agreement of parties for democracy” to rescue him from trials in England  (Agencia EFE, 2018; Guzmán, 2001; Huneeus, 2018; Portales, 2018)and the one who was never tried on national soil  (Gárate, 2016). Thus, it was said: “We Have an unwritten covenant, but morally subscribed by all political forces, so as not to review the dictatorship”(Baby, 2011). To enable this, from an economic and political model that would have already been installed in dictatorship  (Salazar Vergara & Pinto, 1999)”transition” (a term adopted by Pinochet himself in Chacarillas’ speech in 1977), consisting of a process of administration protected by the continuators, is proposed. In short, Pinochet’s political power would be abandoned, but the political and economic model flanked by the Political Constitution and related laws would not be touched.

Between 1990 and 2000, there is a phase that we could call a protected transition, somewhat in reference to the name that some gave of this period as “protected democracy”  (Huneeus, 1997). Protected by Pinochet and political parties; protecting the model. All the police measures taken in that period, and for the sake of this “protection” were aimed at disarticulating the movements of armed insurgency. Just like the Dictatorship through the DINA and its “turn continuator”, the CNI did so with the self-styled “Revolutionary Left Movement”(MIR), and, in part, with the” Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front” (FPMR),and the police also did so during the transitional governments with the”Lautaro Youth Movement” or  MAPU Lautaro, and any other focus of insurgency that was thus”(Labbé, 2019)

For their part, economic measures were geared towards gaining the maximum economic access to foreign capital. The Chilean economy was opened to the installation of foreign companies of all kinds in Chile, and Chilean companies with large economic conglomerates. It is the time of the Great Stores that trade with all kinds of goods and services, species of “Walmart”, that allowed a constant flow of purchase and sale of goods, of all those destined for consumption, an issue that led to the consideration of Chile by the authors, as a “paradise of consumption”  (Moulian, 2002).

Apart from this, there was a strong export incentive, but where only one sector of entrepreneurs (large scale company) enjoyed the benefits of such activity, of full liberalization of the economy based on an extractive economy whereby transnational corporations made use of domestic labor at low wages compared to the resulting benefits for enterprises-i also with serious environmental damage (Espectador, 2019),foreign contractors selling second-hand or obsolescent goods and services at the price of first-hand goods and services and state-of-the-art technology. As an example of this, we have the purchase by the administration of the government of Ricardo Lagos Escobar of second-hand Spanish trains on the railwa,y that united the capital “Santiago” with the city “Chillán”(Délano, 2008), whose closest effect is the trail of economic damages that it has brought to the company and its workers(Donoso, 2008; Mostrador, 2011; Sánchez, 2008).

A social structure based on the acquisition of material wealth and social ostentation would also have contributed, an irrepressible need of the popular classes to resemble the most affluent classes; there is an aspirationalism or social climbing (Ariztía, 2016; Contardo, 2013). As the most affluent classes were constantly gazing at Europe, and then the U.S. as their image to imitate, this eventually irrigated the entire Chilean social structure. There was no “identity” (with all the issues that have been encountered by the postmodernist academy regarding this term). Chile, fertile province for the ideology and practices of remote nations.

Now, on  one hand was politics based on the logic of political parties, under a system of indirect representation without the possibility of revocation of mandates or citizen trials for poor performance (Salazar, 2011, 2015). On the other hand, the practical attempt to monopolize politics by political parties in Chile and exercise unweighted dominance of it leads us to the phenomenon of the “partidarquía”(Carrasco Jiménez, 2016, 2020).

The Chilean “partidarquía” originated with the first post-Pinochet government, that is, in the government of Patricio Aylwin. The political blocs of Pinochet were clearly recognized, and the pro-dictator block. These blocks would continue with dominance until the first luster of the 21st century, when the student movement of 2001 and Pinochet’s death in 2006 occur, turning points in the historical process of Chile.

Adherents to mass, incendiary, and revolutionary protest socialism of the 1960s and 1970s began to enjoy the economic “goodness” of the model established by the dictatorship and ceased to be (if ever really) critical of economic disadvantages. If their model worked for them, then the gangsterism, arrogance, threats, and corruption of the administration as ways to preserve power in all its manifestations didn’t matter. Instead, they were installed as ways of doing things, all with the aim of extending their prebendas, privileges, and domains. What Pinochet’s partisan block already perversely enjoyed, even before it became a block and simply being Pinochet’s adherents during its regime, the socialists, who were the block opposing it, would also begin to taste its perverse fruits. Therefore, right, or left, it was already the same when it comes to embodying the vices of the political and economic model.

Many exhibited their corrupt and corrupting practices without inhibition, exercising nepotism, the trafficking of influences, the undue pressures, participating in television shows as celebrities, posing as movie or rock stars, and others, notorious for their romances and confessions (Equipo FMDOS, 2016)an exhibitionist egolatry. It should come as no surprise, then, that the world of the show is interspersed with that of partisan politics (Sandoval, 2013). We understood that they were public servants, but figuration, flattery and power made them feel like land gods. Drunk with ego, they did not know what was going on in real Chile, the one of daily life.

The “partidarquía” was also built on political operators who did not belong to the dome but lived off partisan clientelism. His entire social position, his “benefits”, were secured by the party only by his belonging and devotion. Jobs were secured for people without professional instruction, or who, having it, were and are of paradigmatic mediocrity, along with accumulating, a whole “toolbox” of bad practices: deviations from public resources for personal interests  (Bravo, 2019; Mostrador, 2019); obtaining professional qualifications for projects through bribery, threat and extortion  (Arroyo, 2017; Espinoza Riquelme, 2020; Jara Herrera, 2020); the granting, with public funds, of professional services at a cost to friends and family without merit (Cooperativa.cl, 2017; Kelly, 2020; Pizarro & Sepúlveda, 2017). Thus, a working culture was built based on this mediocrity, on the trafficking of influences based on political favor. That is, a corruption of practices, an issue that was permeating every labor organization.

This, in some way, was accompanied by a whole process of deep banalization, a “concertacionist aesthetic” (Oporto Valencia, 2015, p. 254), kind of “soma” as described by Huxley in Brave New World, an opium that was distributed by the political system prevailing “post-pinochetist” and  transitional (1990-2000), whose effect produced some malaise in Chilean culture, and the evasion of the population to the social reality resulting from the model. Many “ingested” this drug, this alcohol, as an anesthetic wayof trying to forget rape and its trauma, not only human rights violations, but also real and concrete violation of the body, one of the political foundations of Pinochet’s dictatorship and of hispolitical heritage. So many others also consumed this “soma” so as not to hear. Pitifully, this led them to insult those who wanted to restart their lives with the necessary justice after the ageing, an issue that the political system threw under the carpet out of fear and cowardice  (Deutsche Welle, 2018; Herceg, 2020) In this way they were “resentful”, there was a boredom to listening to the issue of human rights, and in the most extreme cases, to mention that the unfinished work of the dictatorship lay in not having killed all those who were part of political dissent  (Guzmán, 2001) This type of violence demonstrated, in our view, two things: (1) that the model installed by the dictatorship was more than just a “brick” and a Constitution; it was a structural complex, within which the economic and the political are elements, but that the way to configure them socially and historically, is what defined the model; (2) that the model produced the same effects as in dictatorship, also in “democracy”, so that the people humiliated were still humiliated.

This is how the questions that arose in everyday conversation, on the journey on public transport, in the opinion of the driver, the passengers, at the clothesline, a cashier, in the mass chats, began to gather at the mouth where their waters were slowly growing. And the rumour of them did not stop, and it was timed by the stone on which the political parties had founded their building. This was decanting in a distrust of the “political class” and in a “crisis of representation” (Salazar, 2019).

It is not that the current Constitution, in itself, is “the” source of any possible corruption. Rather, the defect would be the type of relationship between the economic structure implemented in Chile and the established political-legal structure, a political-legal structure whose head, ceiling and support is the current Constitution. The result of the interaction and dynamics of both structures in Chile is a set of social and/or practical relationship modes that are distributed lenticularly throughout the social body. It would have to be the “what are you willing to do to achieve the social objectives that the political-economic framework allows you”, that is, cost. And optimization would indicate, in a society like ours, that media matters more than ends. Therefore, political or class favor, which is but the “sale of the soul to the devil”, implies a means of obtaining social position, riches, and recognition. But if these are conceived only individual means for purposes other than just individual ones, the way of social relations, perhaps they could change. This lack, in my view, is the current social model.

All these critical points are sharpened by bordering a phase that we will call agonic transition. The transition is beginning to dilute, because the political and economic model that was intended to be founded would have already progressed in its maturation sufficiently. The transition was simply the “snake egg” that enabled the process of “maturation” (Oporto Valencia, 2015) of a political and economic model that began to peck the space for its culmination. And this was possible to perceive as social problems became more acute and critical, and as a result, the social bubbling of this culmination begins to burst on the surface, producing an ever-increasing social cracking. In other words, the greater the consolidation of the model, the greater the social cracking, and as a result, the student protests that were to come begin to take place.

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Research scholar, School of Law, University of the Americas, Chile. Doctor in Criminal Law, University of Salamanca, Spain. Master in Criminology and Juvenile Delinquency, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain.

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The hegemony of knowledge and the new world order: U.S. and the rest of the world

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In today’s world, knowledge and technological advantages determine – to a large extent – differences in the management of international policy. The increase in a country’s intellectual power directly defines an increase in its economic power, thus changing its position in the international competition for dominance.

The power policy, first in the agricultural age and later in the industrial age, was characterised by military and then economic hegemony, while the power policy in the information age gradually reveals the characteristics of knowledge hegemony at both the scientific and intelligence levels.

The hegemony of knowledge in contemporary international relations manifests itself specifically as unequal exchange in international trade, exploitation of high-value information and various conditions related to technological production. Hence, we see the transfer of polluting industries from privileged to poor countries: energy-consuming and high-intensity activities.

Western culture and values are disseminated vigorously, through the so-called soft power in information and mass media, and take on obsessive and oppressively hypnopedic forms.

Developed countries have patents in the use of outer space, as well as in the development of deep sea resources and in the production of environmental resources that pollute, while developing countries can only sigh as they look at other’s oceans and satellites, which fly around, do reconnaissance activities and monitor them.

The resources of the great and deep seas – which should be shared by mankind as they belong to everybody like the air, the moon and the sun – are instead exploited by the developed countries. On the contrary, they freely and ‘democratically’ share with the wretched ones only the evil consequences of environmental pollution.

With specific reference to sanctions and armed interference in international relations, the technique of violent and conscious bullying is adopted: whoever is militarily stronger imposes the validity of their interests, also at legal level.

The root cause for generating knowledge hegemony lies in the polarisation of the intellectual status of the nation-State. Western developed countries have already crossed the threshold of an information society, while developing countries are still struggling to climb towards industrial civilisation from the most primitive and closed state of existence. Although developing countries hold most of the world’s natural and human resources (just think of Africa), they are far behind in science and technology. Just look at the continental histogram of the 207 Nobel Prizes in Physics from 1901 to 2017 (winners are counted by country of birth except for the Algerian Nobel Prize winner Claude Cohen-Tannoudji [1997], who was born when Algeria was a French territory):

Source: Nadua Antonelli <<Africana>> XXIII (2017) page 12

If they have no means to study, even the greatest and most brilliant brains cannot make discoveries or file patents, looking only at the sky and the earth.

About 80 per cent of science and technology staff and their achievements are concentrated in developed countries. The knowledge advantage gives developed countries the right to set the rules of the game and of communication for all global knowledge production and dissemination. In particular, the developed countries’ knowledge advantages in the military and high-tech media enable them to expand their influence on the civil and military fronts and achieve their strategic objectives.

Developing countries wander between traditional society, modern industrial civilisation and post-industrial civilisation, and are often challenged and oppressed by the third party’s hegemony of knowledge.

The new economy created by the information revolution is still a ‘rich-country phenomenon’, the core of what is called ‘advantage creation’, under the cover of ‘competitive advantage’, or rather: competitive towards those who cannot compete.

The country leading the information revolution is the United States, which is the biggest beneficiary of these achievements. The digital divide highlights the status of the US information superpower. In the global information sector, in 2000 the central processing unit production in the United States accounted for 92%, and software production for 86%.

IT (Information & Technology) investment in the United States was 41.5% of global investment, Microsoft’s Windows system accounted for 95% of global platform applications, while the US Internet users accounted for more than half of global Internet users, and 58% of all e-mail goes through US servers.

E-commerce is worth 75% of the global total and US commercial websites account for 90% of the planet.

Currently, there are almost three thousand large-scale databases in the world, 70% of which are in the United States. There are 13 top-level domain name servers in the world and 10 of them are located in the United States.

The above figures far exceed the share of US GDP, which is 28% of the world total. The United States is far ahead of all countries in the world, including the other developed countries. The leading position in information technology allows the United States to control the basics in the field of information with its strong economic and talent advantages, as well as to master the actual rights, and to set standards and formulate rules and regulations.

The status as cradle of the information revolution has brought enormous wealth and development benefits to the United States. Since the 1990s, the development of information technology and the rise of the related industry have become an accelerator of further economic advancement in the United States.

In the growth of US GDP – from 1994 (the beginning of the Internet) to 2000 – the share of the information industry in the value of the country’s total output has caused the economy to rise from 6.3% to 8.3%, and the contribution provided by the information industry development to the actual US economic growth is estimated at 30%.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the United States – with its strong national-global power and the relative hegemony of knowledge/information – was already ready to build a new world order.

Knowledge is also the soul of military hegemony. Since the 1990s the United States (after the USSR’s demise) has taken advantage of its absolute leadership in information technology to vigorously promote a new military revolution and equip its armed forces with a large number of modern sophisticated weapons, especially cyber weapons: an overwhelming advantage in the conventional field, clearly overtaking the Third World, as well as its Western allies.

The US superiority in equipment ranges from one to two generations (i.e. from 15 to 30 years) over developing countries and from 0.5 to one generation over allies. All this has established the hegemonic status of the United States as the world’s number one military power.

Gulf Wars II (1991) and III (2003) (the first was the Iran-Iraq War in 1980-88), the Kosovo War (1999), the Afghanistan War (2001- still ongoing), and the Iraq War (2003-2011) were four localised wars that the United States fought to establish a new world order after the Cold War. During those events, the US hegemony was strengthened on an unprecedented scale and its attempt to establish a new order made substantial progress.

Moreover, backed by strong military advantages (scattering the planet with its own bases and outposts), as well as economic and technological advantages, those events ensured that the United States had and still has a leading position in the world, thus making the White House a planner and defender of the new world order. (1. continued)

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Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics

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The United States and Iran seem to be hardening their positions in advance of a resumption of negotiations to revive a 2015 international nuclear agreement once Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in early August.

Concern among supporters of the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program which former US President Donald J. Trump abandoned in 2018 may be premature but do raise questions about the efficacy of the negotiating tactics of both parties.

These tactics include the Biden administration’s framing of the negotiations exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than also as they relate to Iranian fears, a failure by both the United States and Iran to acknowledge that lifting sanctions is a complex process that needs to be taken into account in negotiations, and an Iranian refusal to clarify on what terms the Islamic republic may be willing to discuss non-nuclear issues once the nuclear agreement has been revived.

The differences in the negotiations between the United States and Iran are likely to be accentuated if and when the talks resume, particularly concerning the mechanics of lifting sanctions.

“The challenges facing the JCPOA negotiations are a really important example of how a failed experience of sanctions relief, as we had in Iran between the Obama and Trump admins, can cast a shadow over diplomacy for years to come, making it harder to secure US interests,” said Iran analyst Esfandyar Batmanghelidj referring to the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by its initials.

The Biden administration may be heeding Mr. Batmangheldij’s notion that crafting sanctions needs to take into account the fact that lifting them can be as difficult as imposing them as it considers more targeted additional punitive measures against Iran. Those measures would aim to hamper Iran’s evolving capabilities for precision strikes using drones and guided missiles by focusing on the providers of parts for those weapon systems, particularly engines and microelectronics.

To be sure, there is no discernable appetite in either Washington or Tehran to adjust negotiation tactics and amend their underlying assumptions. It would constitute a gargantuan, if not impossible challenge given the political environment in both capitals. That was reflected in recent days in Iranian and US statements.

Iranian Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that agreement on the revival of the nuclear accord was stumbling over a US demand that it goes beyond the terms of the original accord by linking it to an Iranian willingness to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support for Arab proxies.

In a speech to the cabinet of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, he asserted that the West “will try to hit us everywhere they can and if they don’t hit us in some place, it’s because they can’t… On paper and in their promises, they say they’ll remove sanctions. But they haven’t lifted them and won’t lift them. They impose conditions…to say in future Iran violated the agreement and there is no agreement” if Iran refuses to discuss regional issues or ballistic missiles.

Iranian officials insist that nothing can be discussed at this stage but a return by both countries to the nuclear accord as is. Officials, distrustful of US intentions, have hinted that an unconditional and verified return to the status quo ante may help open the door to talks on missiles and proxies provided this would involve not only Iranian actions and programs but also those of America’s allies.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks seemed to bolster suggestions that once in office Mr. Raisi would seek to turn the table on the Biden administration by insisting on stricter verification and US implementation of its part of a revived agreement.

To achieve this, Iran is expected to demand the lifting of all rather than some sanctions imposed or extended by the Trump administration; verification of the lifting;  guarantees that the lifting of sanctions is irreversible, possibly by making any future American withdrawal from the deal contingent on approval by the United Nations Security Council; and iron-clad provisions to ensure that obstacles to Iranian trade are removed, including the country’s unfettered access to the international financial system and the country’s overseas accounts.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks and Mr. Raisi’s anticipated harder line was echoed in warnings by US officials that the ascendancy of the new president would not get Iran a better deal. The officials cautioned further that there could be a point soon at which it would no longer be worth returning to because Iran’s nuclear program would have advanced to the point where the limitations imposed by the agreement wouldn’t produce the intended minimum one year ‘breakout time’ to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

“We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely. At some point, the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear program…The ball remains in Iran’s court, and we will see if they’re prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance,” US Secretary Antony Blinken said this week on a visit to Kuwait.

Another US official suggested that the United States and Iran could descend into a tug-of-war on who has the longer breath and who blinks first. It’s a war that so far has not produced expected results for the United States and in which Iran has paid a heavy price for standing its ground.

The official said that a breakdown in talks could “look a lot like the dual-track strategy of the past—sanctions pressure, other forms of pressure, and a persistent offer of negotiations. It will be a question of how long it takes the Iranians to come to the idea they will not wait us out.”

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Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn

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Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

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