Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Education in Chile: We want the world

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on August 11, 2011

by Patricia Navia for The Economist, August 11th, 2011.

A trial of strength between students and the government.

It began on August 4th with the metallic clink of a few pots and pans. By nightfall, thousands of people were on the streets of Santiago banging kitchenware, a form of protest last heard under the dictatorship of General Pinochet. This time the cacerolazos, as they are called, are being staged in the name of educational Utopia—and in response to a cack-handed government ban on marches.

Chile’s school system is the least bad in Latin America, according to the OECD’s PISA tests, which compare educational attainment across countries. But that does not make it good. And the overall performance hides huge disparities. Analysis done in Chile of the test results in the 65 countries that took part finds that it ranked 64th in terms of the variance of the results according to social class. Rich pupils get good private education; poor ones are condemned to underfunded, dilapidated state-funded schools.

This “educational apartheid” as Mario Waissbluth, a campaigner, puts it, is widely blamed for the fact that Chile remains a highly unequal society, despite its dramatic progress over the past quarter of a century in reducing poverty. “The kids from the posh suburbs study in those suburbs, go to university in those suburbs, get jobs as company executives in those suburbs and employ friends from the schools they went to themselves,” says Mr Waissbluth.

The centre-right government of President Sebastián Piñera agrees. Chile inherited from the dictatorship a voucher system under which the government pays money to the school of the parents’ choice. In November the government unveiled a plan to increase the value of the voucher, especially for the poorest children. As well as trying to attract better teachers to state schools, the government will set up 60 lycée-style “schools of excellence” aimed at bright children from poor families.

Students and teachers responded by demanding the abolition of all for-profit education. After they staged big marches along the Alameda, Santiago’s main thoroughfare, Mr Piñera last month sacked his unpopular education minister. The government also said it would draw some $4 billion from its reserve fund of windfall copper revenue to pay for better schools. (continue reading… )



Codelco’s strike: the start of something bigger?

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on July 12, 2011

by Jude Webber for Financial Times – Beyond Brics, July 11th, 2011.

It wouldn’t be hard to beat the last big strike at Codelco, the Chilean state copper miner, 18 years ago. It lasted for 45 minutes. This time around, workers walked off the job from 4 am and union leaders were delighted with the turnout of the 24-hour stoppage, called to protest restructuring plans and fears that the government is plotting to privatise the company (despite its assurances to the contrary).

A day-long strike may still not sound much – but its ramifications could be a lot bigger than any short-term dent in the price of copper.

“The strike is a total success. Radomiro Tomic, Chuquicamata, Gabriela Mistral, El Salvador, El Teniente, Andina and Ventanas are all paralysed,” said Raimundo Espinoza, head of the Federation of Copper Workers, listing the company’s divisions. He urged the government to drop any thought of privatisation or “undoubtedly” face more strikes.

Despite the disruption, the one-day stoppage is not expected to have any lasting impact on production targets for this year, though it has helped unsettle markets. (continue reading… )

Bolivia ends protest hitting top silver mines

Posted in News and Articles by politicalrisklatam on August 16, 2010

by Carlos Quiroga for Reuters, August 16th, 2010.

 Protests had affected two of world’s top silver deposits.

LA PAZ, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Bolivian protesters ended more than two weeks of demonstrations on Monday that disrupted operations at two of the world’s top silver deposits, and Japan’s Sumitomo said it had resumed work at its halted mine.

The 19-day protest over infrastructure in the mineral-rich Potosi region has hurt the mainstay mining industry in Bolivia, a big global producer of zinc, silver, tin and lead, in a major challenge for leftist President Evo Morales.

As the protest leaders ordered demonstrators to lift roadblocks and reopen the mines, it was still unclear how much the strike affected the Potosi region, which exported $880 million — almost exclusively minerals — in the first half of 2010.

Sumitomo (8053.T) said its silver-zinc-lead San Cristobal mine had resumed operations hours before the protest had officially ended. It had been forced to stop processing ore after some demonstrators threatened to cut energy supply to the operation.

Coeur D’Alene’s (CDE.N) San Bartolome mine, the world’s largest pure silver mine, was shut after workers joined the protests, which blockaded the city of Potosi. A spokesman for San Bartolome was not immediately available for an update on operations. (continue reading… )