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Arabica Robusta

Democracy experiments in the Latin American political lab | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • But their action took on real strength from its territorial outreach. They managed to mobilize local communities, parents and teachers, neighbours and local organizations, into supporting the movement in the face of increasing pressure from the government and the police. Civil society responded, in short, to the embattled students.
  • Feeling the pressure, in December 2015, state governor Geraldo Alckmin finally announced the dismissal of his government’s education secretary, and the shelving of the school reorganization. His proposal, which was received with caution by students, consists in undertaking an extensive dialogue with students, parents, teachers and principals to understand the specific situation in each school and decide its future accordingly
  • We have witnessed numerous demonstrations where citizens have organized themselves to challenge government decisions, have used technology to liaise and social networks and independent media to convey their story. And they have occupied public spaces as a means to convey the message to politicians that politics is about people’s concerns, and that democracy must prevail not only in the formal access to power, but also in the way it is exercised.

    The political and democratic crises are not exclusively Latin American, but today there is an opportunity for Latin America to rethink its own democracy model, originally developed in the region. The political action in the making, shown by the student mobilization in Sao Paulo, is one of the ways to seize this opportunity.

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  • We know that democracy in Latin America is far from being consolidated. Not because there is a threat of military coups or openly autocratic regimes, but because of the weakening of institutions, the threats to fundamental rights, the curtailment of freedoms, and the hijacking of power by the economic and political elites and organized crime.
  • There are certainly positive and negative aspects to this social transformation, but what is important here is to recognize its inevitability, and the fact that current political systems have not yet discovered how to react to what is happening. The existing gap between government and society is evidenced in every political process, every protest, every decision made by the powers that be which are incapable of understanding the voices and complexities of public opinion.
  • The classical dynamics of representative democracy, where citizens choose their representatives democratically but the exercise of power is carried on behind closed doors, seems not to take into account the 21st century’s citizen.
  • Something is happening in Latin American politics. While the political system shows structural problems, we witness the emergence of a new field, a laboratory of political experimentation that allows us to imagine a next step forward for democracy in the region.
Arabica Robusta

Harnessing Spain's "communist moment" | In English | EL PAÍS - 0 views

  • If one thing convinced the founders of Podemos of the need to enter politics, it was the mass protests on the streets of Madrid in 2011, when disparate civic associations and single-issue activist groups, along with huge numbers of people with no previous involvement in politics, identifying themselves simply as “indignant,” coalesced into what has become known as the 15-M movement.

    There were two important things about those protests. The first is that they weren’t led or coordinated by the organizations that should have been able to do so, which were labor unions such as the UGT and the CCOO, or the Communist Party-led United Left grouping.

  • Despite the domestic and international media’s portrayal of the 15-M movement as little more than a bunch of anarchists, the creators of Podemos were aware throughout the summer of 2011, and would point this out later, that 15-M, despite its success, provided two important lessons: “It wasn’t us who organized this,” and that not everybody in the movement was “left wing.”
  • Carolina Bescansa, who had been studying 15-M for the Center for Sociological Research, noticed during the street protests that the traditional right-left divide no longer made any sense when trying to understand people’s voting intentions.
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  • Aware that 15-M was not left wing, but made up of a cross-section of society that was sick and tired of the current political system, one dominated by two large parties that were increasingly seen as out of touch with the people, the founders of Podemos and the groups related to it joined in the protests enthusiastically, trying to lead them and to channel their energy, but at no time trying to appropriate them.
  • For Iglesias, there was little to celebrate in having almost doubled its vote from 969,000 in the 2008 elections to 1.7 million in 2011, and instead the party’s celebration of its achievement was further proof of just how out of touch it was with reality. Amid the worst economic crisis in more than four decades, what was so great about garnering seven percent of the vote, when the Socialists had seen their share fall from 43 to 28 percent?
  • But the leaders of the Communist Party, argued Iglesias, “have become a regime, people who are happy to be awarded a bronze medal, and never think in terms of actually winning elections because all they are interested in really is being seen to be on the left, to be authentic, and to not win.” In short, the communists had become conservative, argued Iglesias, because they had failed to see that the only way to win was by changing the rules.
Arabica Robusta

Where did the 15-M movement go? | In English | EL PAÍS - 0 views

  • The movement's strategy is based on assembling ad hoc citizen coalitions to help push back and challenge specific government actions; trying to figure out how to affect policy by exerting force on specific choke points in a system that badly needs reform. Politicians worried about inter-party politics, re-election or special interests can't see the importance of this. It's about using the power of the network to shake things up and find ways to make the political process more responsive to the needs of everyday citizens.
  • Typical of the all-encompassing approach of the 15-M movement are the myriad cooperatives set up around the country by a range of professionals looking to barter their services with other groups, as well as to sell them to the wider community.

    As the Spanish welfare state crumbles, 15-M offers practical solutions based on collaboration and cooperation

  • "I was brought up to be competitive; but what really matters is sharing.
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  • Reflecting a growing perception that the labor unions are standing by doing nothing while the government presses ahead with labor market reforms that make it easier for businesses to sack employees, on May 1, 15-M set up an initiative to protect the interests of people who are having to work on short-term contracts, grants, bogus training schemes or on a self-employed basis to save their employers from having to pay their social security. The idea is to encourage more people to work together through cooperatives, as well as to use social networks and other media to report companies that are taking advantage of high unemployment to impose abusive working conditions.
  • Last week it emerged that a police unit normally assigned to monitoring terrorist groups has been given instructions to put some of the higher-profile 15-M leaders under surveillance. "Putting these kinds of stories about is clearly an attempt to use the media to create a climate of fear," says Aitor, who belongs to the Real Democracy Now (DRY) organization, which spawned the 15-M movement. "They want to convert what we are doing into a public order issue." He blames the Popular Party administration at the central and regional level of trying to prevent people from using public spaces to protest.
Arabica Robusta

Police dislodge last of 15-M protestors | In English | EL PAÍS - 0 views

  • Since the main camp was disbanded on June 12, the government had held that the 15-M information booth that remained in Sol was a municipal concern, while local authorities argued that it was a matter of "public order" and thus of national interest.

    The eviction comes a week after a failed attempt that ended with police charging against the protestors. A few demonstrators told the SER radio station that this latest move is "more than strongly related" to the upcoming visit to Madrid by Pope Benedict between August 16 and 21, and that they were "expecting it."

  • Ignacio Laro, president of Apreca, the association of business owners in the area, said he was "very happy" because "the problem has been solved and the square can now resume its [commercial and tourist] activity."
Arabica Robusta

Interview: Zygmunt Bauman: "Social media are a trap" | In English | EL PAÍS - 0 views

  • He has outlined his pessimistic world view in books such as 2014’s Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All?, which argues that the world is paying a high price for the neoliberal revolution that began in the 1980s and that wealth has not trickled down to the rest of society. In Moral Blindness, published last year, he and co-author Leonidas Donskis warn about the loss of community in our increasingly individualistic world.
  • Power has been globalized, but politics is as local as before. Politics has had its hands cut off. People no longer believe in the democratic system because it doesn’t keep its promises.
  • Forty years ago we believed that freedom had triumphed and we began an orgy of consumerism. Everything seemed possible by borrowing money: cars, homes… and you just paid for it later. The wakeup call in 2008 was a bitter one, when the loans dried up.
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  • Conflict is no longer between classes, but between each person and society. It isn’t just a lack of security, but a lack of freedom.
  • Changing one party for another will not solve the problem. The problem is not that the parties are wrong, but that they don’t control things. Spain’s problems are part of a global problem. It’s a mistake to think you can solve things internally.
  • I think we’re still following the principles of Versailles, when the idea of each nation’s right to self rule was established. But that’s a fiction in today’s world, when there are no more homogeneous territories. Today, every society is just a collection of diasporas. People join the societies to which they are loyal and pay their taxes, but at the same time, they do not want to give up their identity. The connection between where you live and identity has been broken.
  • most people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice, where the only things they see are the reflections of their own face. Social media are very useful, they provide pleasure, but they are a trap.
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