lunes, 29 de octubre de 2012

Salvador Allende's granddaughter now a mayor in Chile

Veterinarian, socialist and granddaughter of Chile's ill-fated president of the 1970s Salvador Allende, Maya Fernández Allende became on 28 October the mayor of the Ñuñoa commune or municipality in the Santiago Metropolitan zone, ousting a right-wing opponent during nationwide municipal elections. Her opponent Pedro Sabat Pietracaprina had been mayor since 1996, and lost by 92 votes to Fernández who won 44.9 per cent of votes cast, Agence France-Presse reported. France-Presse cited the academic Mauricio Morales as saying that such results were influenced by student protests in 2011 against the conservative government's education policies; these were especially vibrant in larger districts like Ñuñoa, where he said Sabat had responded with force, ordering police to dislodge several schools or colleges occupied by protesting students. Fernández reportedly expressed support for students. She admitted her family name may have influenced her votes, "but I do not know how much." Allende committed suicide on 11 September 1973 during a violent coup undertaken by the armed forces. Fernández's mother Beatriz Allende Bussi - a physician like her father - left Chile for Cuba where she too killed herself in 1977. Sabat's daughter Marcela Sabat Fernández, a member of the conservative Renovación Nacional coalition, represents the Ñuñoa and Providencia constituency in the lower house of parliament. She was reportedly the youngest member of the chamber.

Chile's Left advances in municipal polls

Chile's President Sebastián Piñera Echenique deplored the low voter turnout in the 28 October elections for 345 municipalities, which handed his left-wing opponents a relative victory and may herald their success in the general elections of November 2013. The officialist Renovación Nacional lost important municipal governments like Concepción or inside the Santiago conurbation, and cabinet changes were expected as the government began to plan its strategy for 2013. Renovación won 37.47 of votes cast and the center-left Concertación 43.1 per cent, Reuters reported on 29 October, also qualifying the unprecedented abstention as the government's "second defeat." The head of the Electoral Service Juan Ignacio García said on 28 October that a lower turnout was normal in municipal elections, and anticipated the usual 15 per cent abstention rate to rise to 40 per cent this time, EFE reported. In turned out to be 60 per cent or over, with Dpa reporting on "dozens" of polling stations where nobody voted. Piñera, president since 2009, said on 28 October that many "exercised their right not to" vote but that this was "an alarm signal for democracy" in Chile. The "voluntary vote means respecting the freedom of citizens, but liberty also signifies duties," he said, stating nevertheless that "we have very carefully listened to the message" of this abstention. Changes in election laws in 1990 allowed citizens to vote or not, while automatic voter inscription placed the number of registered voters this year at 13.4 million, EFE reported. The president was expected to partially reshuffle his cabinet before or around 11 November, as two ministers were cited by media as possible presidential hopefuls. The law required ministers who would be candidates in the general elections of 17 November 2013 to leave office by 16 November if they were running for parliamentary or Senate seats, or a little later if competing for the presidency, EFE reported.

Colombian leaders voice divisions at party congress

Colombia's present and last presidents made a public display of their differences on 28 October, alternately defending and attacking the latest round of peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Both justified their records and aspirations for Colombia as they addressed supporters in the conservative Partido de la U, gathered in Bogotá to elect new party directors. The former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez reiterated his criticisms of incipient peace talks and said the government seemed more interested in talking to "terrorism" than assuring Colombia's security. Uribe, who sought to defeat the FARC when president in 2002-10, told party members "the last two years have made many Colombians think that the Government has shown greater interest in talking to terrorism than in security," and alleged any strikes against FARC commanders under his successor Juan Manuel Santos seemed "more the fruit of of the Armed Forces' resolve" than government determination. He deplored that the government should seek to build "trust with terrorism" or they should now be deemed a warring party when "many countries" and "most Colombians" considered them terrorists, EFE reported. Santos was Uribe's defence minister in 2006-9, but the two have drifted apart for Uribe's opposition to a compromise with the FARC. Members of the Partido Social de la Unidad Nacional - the Unity or U party - have thus faced a dilemna in the discord between their leading personalities. Santos later defended talks as a continuation of Uribe's own policies. He said the previous government tried "the impossible" to talk to the FARC, chose possible locations for such conversations and asked Brazil to act as garantor. There were letters he said, setting out preconditions including an end to terrorism, the broadcaster RTVE reported on 29 October. He said "they were negotiating for five years and now they say, how are we talking to terrorism?" while "members of the previous government forget" he was pursuing its policies. He declared he had not come with "rancour" or "resentment," but to "build the future and talk about the future." He observed that professional political parties with discipline, debate and "internal democracy" were a key part of the democratization process. "I do not believe, let me be clear, in made-to-measure parties that become shorter or longer" to fit the needs of a "caudillo or the one currently in charge," RCN radio reported.

Prison staff jailed in Mexico after inmates' flight

Authorities jailed nine former employees of the Piedras Negras prison in northern Mexico after they were charged with aiding a mass flight of prisoners on 17 September, Proceso reported on 27 October. Over 130 prisoners, mostly presumed members of The Zetas drug cartel, reportedly either walked out of the prison that day or fled through a hole made in the carpentry workshop. Troops and police have caught some of them and killed others, but most seemed to be free and likely involved in numerous criminal incidents in northern Mexico in recent weeks. The Coahuila state prosecutor's office stated it might question other prison staff. Two men were separately shot dead in the northern state of Chihuahua on 28 October, one in the city of Chihuahua, the other in Meoqui further south, Proceso reported.