Top stories this week are likely to include: student protests in Chile; Ecuador and the UK continue Assange standoff; newspaper kiosks close in Buenos Aires; Brazilian candidates start regular media appearances ahead of municipal elections.
Student Protests Persists in Chile: More than 130 activists were arrested last Thursday and Friday during protests at the University of Chile and other educational institutions. Gabriel Boric, president of the University of Chile’s student federation, responded via his Twitter account, “Secondary school students and university students are in the same fight and we are not going to take a step back on this.” The students demand free higher education for all. At the same time, a recent Harvard study found that Chile raised student learning more than three times the average in a 49-country survey; still, its PISA scores are in the bottom third of all countries. Expect more protests this week and a continued hardening stance from the government. Today, police used tear gas to clear student occupiers from the Instituto Nacional.
Ecuador and UK Continue Assange Standoff: Foreign ministers of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) expressed their solidarity with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for granting asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over the weekend. They rebuked Britain for "threatening" to storm the country's embassy in London. A seven-point declaration notes that Britain's threat to force its way into the embassy is counter to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as well as the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Correa’s decision was also backed by member nations of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), which issued a joint statement expressing "emphatic support.” AQ Editor-in-Chief, Christopher Sabatini, observes that “given all the other issues in the region—including challenges to freedom of expression in Venezuela and Ecuador themselves—it’s hard to believe that expressing support for Ecuador’s offering asylum to Julian Assange for unsubstantiated allegations of a U.S. witch hunt should rise to the level of a foreign ministers’ statement.”
Buenos Aires Newspaper Kiosks Threaten to Close Again: Kiosk vendors refused to sell newspapers in Buenos Aires and the surrounding urban zones this past weekend in protest over a decrease in fees collected from each newspaper sale. Distributors and publishers unilaterally reduced the take for vendors to 32 percent of the newspaper price; the vendors want it to be raised to 40 percent. Omar Plaini, secretary general of Sindicato de Vendedores de Diarios y Revistas (SIVENDIA), noted, “we will join our colleagues at a meeting next Friday and, if they do not comply with our claim for the return of what they seized unilaterally and arbitrarily, which is 20 percent of our income, we will have a battle plan that will extend what we are doing today.” He declared that the closures could take place again this weekend if no agreement is reached.
Brazilian Candidates to Begin Free Radio and Television Appearances: This week, candidates for mayor, vice-mayor and city councilor will begin appearing on radio and TV as part of the obligatory free programing mandated as part of the Horário Gratuito de Propaganda Eleitoral (HGPE). Elections will take place on October 7 and October 28, 2012, in the 5,566 municipalities across Brazil. The one hour of daily programming is divided into two half hour blocks: 7:00-7:30 am and 12:00- 12:30 pm for radio; and 1:00-1:30 pm and 8:30-9:00 pm for television. Beyond the TV and radio coverage, “look for a continued shifting of political alliances as national alliances don’t necessarily translate into local ones. Still, the results will have important national implications,” notes AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak.