The World Today for December 07, 2022

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Irina Karamanos recently resigned from her position as First Lady of Chile. She is still Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s partner. The 33-year-old Santiago-based anthropologist, feminist and political organizer simply didn’t want a public position based on that personal relationship.

Writing in the Washington Post, columnist Kate Cohen supported the decision. Karamanos initially accepted the role reluctantly, saying she could use it or reform it for the better. “But there’s no way to reform the role of first lady,” Cohen wrote. “It’s either sexist or antidemocratic or both.”

The former first lady’s move exemplifies how Boric, a leftist, is presiding over the country known as one of the most conservative and pro-free market in South America.

As the Australia-based Lowy Institute explained, the 36-year-old Boric became the youngest leader in Latin America when he assumed office in March. His victory was part of a wave of left-wing victories in the region, known as the ‘Pink Tide,’ where many voters now reject the conservative, pro-business views of past generations. Socialist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s victory in the recent Brazilian presidential election over right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro was the latest example of the trend.

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But Boric suffered a defeat in his first major test as president when 62 percent of Chilean voters said no in a referendum that proposed a new, progressive constitution, CNN wrote. The new charter would have expanded social rights, environmental protections, social welfare programs, mandated gender parity, and given new seats in the Chilean Congress to indigenous representatives.

A military junta ruled from 1973 to 1990, building up the country’s extractive economy and setting the stage for growth. Sympathizers with those right-wing movements are organizing to oppose Boric, argued author Ariel Dorfman in The Nation, a left-leaning magazine. Other Boric critics say his government is composed of millennial-generation activists who don’t know what they’re doing, Al Jazeera added, noting that the president’s popularity has fallen sharply.

But Boric now faces a second test that, if he can pass it, could reinvigorate his administration. Pensions in Chile are now too low, Americas Quarterly wrote. Boric recently proposed a new system that would hike pensions, compel workers and companies to contribute more to the funds, and allow investment funds to participate, too. It was not clear how Boric would compel companies to pay an additional six percent of their employees’ wages to the pension system without raising prices, cutting expenses or other adverse impacts.

Regardless, if he fails, don’t blame his partner.


Boiling Over


Mongolian protesters tried to storm the country’s main government building amid mass demonstrations in the capital of Ulaanbaatar this week, angry over rising inflation and allegations of corruption in Mongolia’s lucrative coal industry, Al Jazeera reported Tuesday.

Police clashed with protesters as some attempted to force their way into the State Palace, which houses the parliament and the offices of the president and prime minister. Demonstrators, many of them young, called for “justice” against corrupt officials and the dismissal of the country’s legislature.

The unrest comes amid rising frustration with Mongolia’s ailing economy: Inflation has topped 15 percent following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and closed borders that have impacted trade with neighboring China.

It also follows whistleblower claims that a group of lawmakers with links to the coal industry has stolen billions of dollars. Last month, the country’s anti-corruption authority announced that more than 30 officials are being investigated for embezzlement, including the chief executive of the state-owned coal mining company Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi.

The company controls the Tavan Tolgoi deposits, which contain 8.26 billion tons of coking coal – an important ingredient used in the manufacture of steel and a key contributor to Mongolia’s budget.

The legislators are accused of illegally profiting from their ownership of coal mines and companies that export coal to China.

Mongolia sends 86 percent of its exports to China, with coal accounting for more than half. Mining accounts for a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product.



Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan called off the country’s independence day celebrations scheduled for Friday, ordering the budget to instead be spent on urgent projects and public discussions on development, Business Insider Africa reported Tuesday.

The president said the $445,000 budget for Tanzania’s independence day celebration on Dec. 9 would instead be used to build more dormitories for children with special needs.

Minister of State George Simbachawene added that discussions to address the state of the country and activities to promote social goods would be better ways to commemorate the national day.

Tanzania’s independence days are usually marked by extravagance and pomp, Africanews noted.

Even so, Hassan is not the first president to divert funds from the national celebration to other public projects.

Her late predecessor, John Magufuli, canceled celebrations in 2015 and used the funds to build a road in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam.

He did the same in 2020, directing the budget toward the purchase of medical facilities.

The Imitation Game


Honduras imposed a “state of exception” this week in order to fight street gangs and rising crime, becoming the second Central American nation to do so, the Associated Press reported.

The extraordinary move will suspend some constitutional rights, such as free movement and freedom of association, and will loosen the rules governing police searches and arrests.

The measures will mainly target the capital, Tegucigalpa, and the northern business hub of San Pedro Sula, which have both struggled under the sway of powerful gangs like Barrio 18 and MS-13.

The state of exception will last a month, but lawmakers will be able to extend it if necessary. The government said the decision was essential because of the threat to life and property posed by the gangs in both cities.

Honduras’ decision follows similar moves by El Salvador, which imposed a state of exception in March and has been extending it continuously since then.

Former Honduran National Police Commissioner Leandro Osorio said the government’s decision aims to prevent crime and “penetrate these criminal structures to get to the (leaders).” He warned that the move would at times trample civil liberties.

Still, analysts noted that Honduras’ state of exception was “an imitation” of El Salvador’s, adding that it pales in comparison with the all-out effort by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, who has faced international criticism for his repressive tactics.


The Golden Tongue

Ancient Egyptians may have had to plead their case for entrance into the afterlife, the Independent reported.

Egyptian archaeologists recently uncovered a number of tombs in the ancient cemetery of Qewaisna near the Egyptian capital of Cairo, containing mummies with golden tongues in their mouths.

Initially, in 2021 the archaeological mission found a skull with a tongue-shaped ornament. More digging unveiled other mummies with golden tongues, although their preservation was very poor, according to the secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Archaeology, Mustafa Waziri.

Waziri added that researchers also found mummies coated with gold and other artifacts, including golden scarabs and lotus flowers.

Scholars believe the real tongues were removed during the embalming process and replaced with golden ones to allow the dead to speak to Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian “Lord of the Underworld.”

Meanwhile, other officials noted that the excavations at Qewaisna confirmed that the cemetery was used during different time periods. Archaeologists discovered that burial rituals differed at each level.

The Qewaisna site was first discovered in 1989 and subsequent excavations revealed mostly Ptolemaic- and Roman-period structures, covering from about 300 BCE to 640 CE.

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