The World Today for April 09, 2021

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Change, Deferred

The coronavirus has forced many people to shelve their plans. In Chile, the pandemic is preventing officials from rewriting their constitution, which was created in 1980 under dictator Augusto Pinochet.

As Agence France-Presse reported, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera recently proposed delaying an election of members of a constitutional convention who would rewrite the country’s constitution starting in April until mid-May.

Earlier this week, the Chilean Senate agreed to the proposal.

Voters approved the idea of rewriting the constitution last year after months of protests over social inequities in the South American country that Chileans refer to as the estallido social (social outbreak). The Constituent Assembly will be evenly divided between men and women and include 17 seats reserved for delegates from Chile’s indigenous communities, Al Jazeera wrote. It has a year to draft a document.

Critics say the current constitution gives the central government too much power and prioritizes business and property interests over individual rights.

Chile, for example, is the only country in the world that enshrines in law the private ownership of water, noted María Jaraquemada, an activist at the Espacio Público think tank, in Americas Quarterly. With or without a new constitution, officials are setting up a new Water Ministry to deal with the most privatized water system in the world.

“We long for a constitution that is pluri-national, decentralized, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and that prioritizes unfettered respect for human rights and recognizes the rights of nature,” Ingrid Conejeros Montecino, a member of the Mapuche community, said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Those are radical proposals. But the left failed to coalesce around candidates sufficiently to win enough delegates to dominate the convention. Instead, moderates are expected to hold a majority, Bloomberg reported. Chile’s finance minister predicted that the new constitution would not result in government overspending that might jeopardize the country’s reputation as a free-market-oriented economy but instead pave the way for stability.

The delay is striking because Chile is a world leader in vaccinating its people against Covid-19. Almost 40 percent of its population has been inoculated. It’s likely the first nation that will reach herd immunity. Yet cases of the virus are surging. An epidemiologist told the New York Times that high transmission rates will spread the virus despite vaccinations until most people have received a jab. Variants speed up transmission, too. The country has imposed new lockdowns to stop infections, the Guardian added.

Pinochet’s legacy is on the way out but it’s not going away easily.



Private Versus Public

Addressing the issue of mandatory inoculations in the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that compulsory vaccination of children does not violate human rights, Politico reported.

The case arose after Czech authorities fined parents for refusing to vaccinate their children and banned some children without vaccinations from nursery schools.

The parents said this was a violation of their rights. However, the court sided with the Czech authorities.

The judges said that the Czech policy “pursued the legitimate aims of protecting health as well as the rights of others” and that in all decisions concerning children, “their best interests must be of paramount importance.”

The court maintained that the government’s measures could be regarded as “necessary in a democratic society.”

While the immunizations were unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, the ruling could set a precedent for mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for children, Bloomberg reported.


Changing the Game

Palestinian leaders and the United Nations welcomed the United States’ decision this week to restore more than $200 million in aid previously cut by former President Donald Trump, the Guardian reported.

The restoration of aid is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to push for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis, following a dispute between the Trump administration and the Palestinian leadership.

The aid will include $75 million in economic and development funds for the occupied West Bank and Gaza to provide food and clean water. Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which supports more than five million Palestinian refugees will receive $150 million.

Despite international praise for the resumption of aid, Israel criticized the decision to restore funding to UNRWA claiming it’s a flawed and bloated group.

Starting in 2018, Trump gradually cut all funding to aid projects in Palestine after the Palestinian leadership accused the former president of being biased toward Israel.

Leaked emails suggest that the decision was a political tactic to weaken the Palestinian leadership and force it to accept Trump’s controversial blueprint for an Israeli-Palestinian deal.


Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

French President Emmanuel Macron is planning to close one of the country’s top educational institutions, a bastion of the elite responsible for educating most of France’s politicians and the upper echelons of society, Radio France Internationale reported Thursday.

The Ecole Nationale d’Administration is a French “grande école,” elite higher education institutions that are separate from but parallel and often connected to the French public university system. In existence for 75 years, they produce much of the “state nobility” and its alumni include four French presidents including Macron.

Macron said the school shutdown is part of an effort to eliminate elitism and “offer the French people a closer, more efficient, more transparent and more benevolent public service.”

The school was originally founded by General Charles de Gaulle in 1945 to break the hegemony of France’s ruling elite and end nepotism in the country.

However, the school’s reputation is now more synonymous with elitism and privilege. Before the school’s existence, 55 percent of ENA students were from working-class backgrounds. Now that number is about six percent.

Macron’s decision to close the ENA follows pledges made during the “Yellow Vests” protests in 2018 and 2019 to lower fuel taxes and bring about economic justice. Analysts say the move was made to gain support against the far-right ahead of next year’s election, France 24 reported.


Thank You For Your Service

In Poland, service dogs and horses fight crime and save lives.

Many veteran animals have been in service for years and the government plans to offer them more than just a pat on the head: State pensions.

Poland’s Interior Ministry has proposed new legislation that would offer paid retirement for old dogs and horses in the nation’s Police, Border Guard and Fire Service, according to the Associated Press.

“More than one human life has been saved, more than one dangerous criminal caught thanks to the animals in service,” Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said in February, calling it a “moral obligation.”

The new law would affect some 1,200 dogs and more than 60 horses currently in service.

Each year, around 10 percent of animals are retired, according to the Interior Ministry. Most of the dogs are German or Belgian Shepherds.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a country that less than 30 years ago, saw its cities full of stray dogs.

The proposal comes amid concerns from (human) service members that the animals have no safeguards for their future welfare once they retire.

Former policeman Slawomir Walkowiak, who cares for retired service dogs and horses at “The Veterans’ Corner” shelter in central Poland, said the pension could soften the financial burden of the owners who care for them.

For example, owners have to pay for stabling fees for their horses or cover expensive medical bills for old dogs suffering from various ailments.

“These animals have worked for the state, they have done their jobs well and they should be entitled to health care and proper retirement – on green pastures in the case of horses,” said Sgt. Katarzyna Kuczynska, riding a 13-year-old horse named Romeo II, or Romek.

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COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 31,002,569 (+0.26%)
  2. Brazil: 13,279,857 (+0.66%)
  3. India: 13,060,542 (+1.02%)
  4. France: 5,000,155 (+1.98%)
  5. Russia: 4,563,026 (+0.19%)
  6. UK: 4,384,954 (+0.07%)
  7. Italy: 3,717,602 (+0.47%)
  8. Turkey: 3,689,866 (+1.54%)
  9. Spain: 3,336,637 (+0.30%)
  10. Germany: 2,966,789 (+0.90%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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