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- In an article from May, Cora Fernández Anderson examined the lessons that Latin America’s “Green Tide” abortion rights movement has for U.S. activists.
- In a briefing from February, Joshua Collins and Daniela Díaz explained the implications of Colombia’s legalization of abortion for the region.
- In a column from December, Frida Ghitis looked at the cautionary lessons for the U.S. of El Salvador’s draconian ban on abortion.
- In an in-depth article from February 2021, Cecilia Palmeiro and Verónica Gago examined the domestic and transnational organizing effort that helped legalize abortion in Argentina.
- And in a briefing from 2018, Christine Wade explained why the region's restrictive abortion laws are a public health crisis.
This Week’s HighlightsChile Shows How Constitutional Reform Should Be Done—and Why It’s Insufficient. In Monday’s briefing, James Bosworth explained why Chile’s process for constitutional reform should be a model for similar efforts across the hemisphere, but also why political mobilization will be necessary to implement the promises made by the new constitution if it is approved in a September referendum.
- The text of the new constitution is mostly finalized, after a messy and controversial drafting process that created resentment among many on the right, who feel they were excluded, and disappointment among many on the far left, who believe the proposed constitution does not go far enough in terms of economic and social reforms. Despite all these perceived shortcomings, the process that set in motion the drafting of a new constitution was a welcome change for the region. If the constitution is passed, however, its ultimate success will depend on whether advocates for the reforms it promises remain engaged and organized in politics over the long run.
- In the typical model for constitutional reform in Latin America, a popular and populist president comes to power decrying the old system and almost immediately seeks to revise or redraft the existing constitution. The subsequent reforms inevitably expand the powers of the presidency, limit the checks on executive authority and reset or extend presidential term limits, allowing the “reformer” to essentially remain in office indefinitely. Chile, in contrast, began its constitutional reform process due to protests in 2019 that forced then-President Sebastian Pinera, who didn’t want to revise or redraft the constitution, to call a constitutional referendum anyway.
- The resulting Constitutional Assembly, elected in 2021, was full of independents and political novices, rather than representatives of the traditional political parties, reflecting the anti-establishment and anti-status quo energy that had engulfed the country by then. The assembly’s profile was both good and bad. It created space for debating reforms that went well beyond what political elites would consider reasonable or realistic. At the same time, many of the assembly’s members lacked the political instincts and savvy to understand how the broader public would react to some of their proposals, creating an ugly climate in which the public grew disgusted with how the new constitution was being hammered out.
- As lengthy as the new constitution is, it will take thousands of pages of additional legislation, regulations, judicial rulings and executive orders to actually implement much of what it calls for. The challenges that led people to demand a new constitution in 2019 remain, and the choices that the government must make after the constitution passes will pit important issues and their respective constituencies against each other. For example, the new constitution promises the right to health care and free public education, but raising the revenue necessary to fund and administer those systems will be a battle decided in the political arena. While constitutions can be written with a level of idealism, the most vocal supporters of reforms will now need to remain organized, mobilized and pragmatic.
- After a two-year hiatus in talks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first half of 2022 has seen quantifiable progress in the peace dialogue between Thailand’s government and separatist rebels based in the country’s Muslim-majority south. Since the beginning of the year, two rounds of formal negotiations have been held in Kuala Lumpur, in a Malaysia-facilitated process between the government and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, or BRN, the most powerful rebel group in southern Thailand. The latest meeting, which concluded on April 1, led to a 40-day truce that covered the holy month of Ramadan and the Thai New Year, or Songkran. The truce held, building momentum ahead of a third round of dialogue scheduled for July or August.
- But there are signs that not everyone in the south is on board with the peace process. On April 15, the Patani United Liberation Organization, or PULO, an older rebel group whose remnants had been inactive for half a decade, disrupted the truce with a double bomb attack in Sai Buri, a district located in Pattani province. Then, less than two weeks after the truce ended on May 14, BRN fighters attacked a police station in Tak Bai, a district in Narathiwat province, with rifles and grenades, marking the first attack by the group in months. These incidents demonstrate that disunity on the rebel side could raise the stakes at the negotiating table, at a time when a breakthrough appears more likely than at any stage in the conflict’s six-decade history.
- Identity politics as a source of conflict in the region have now become deeply rooted. The state’s promotion of Buddhism as the official religion has hardened attitudes among many Muslims, who account for 85 percent of the population in the south and reject forced assimilation. The pervasive militarization of the region also fuels tensions, while allegations of torture and mistreatment in custody have driven mistrust. This legacy has been compounded by economic marginalization: Narathiwat and Pattani are the poorest provinces in Thailand, with a poverty rate of 34 percent, compared to 6 percent nationwide, leaving young men vulnerable to rebel recruitment.
- The Thai government maintains that the recent attacks will not impede dialogue, and according to the BRN’s chief negotiator, the Thai side appears for the first time to be serious about discussing a political solution that recognizes Malay identity and addresses governance issues in the south. While an independent state is firmly off the table, this could equate to an autonomous region, with Malay as the official language and an Islamic justice and education system. Yet even if Bangkok were to agree, winning over all insurgents and the wider population to back such an arrangement would be difficult in a region where public grievances toward the Thai state are deeply embedded and the desire for independence remains strong.
This Week’s Most-Read StoryBerlin Is Having Second Thoughts About Its Trade Dependence on China. And in this week’s top story by pageviews, Aaron Allen explained how the war in Ukraine is serving as a wakeup call in Germany to reexamine its approach to bilateral ties with China, which under former Chancellor Angela Merkel prioritized the short-term economic benefits of trade over long-term strategic decision-making:
Merkel’s approach … was consistently met by a chorus of skeptics, with critics arguing that her China policy prioritized short-term economic gains over a long-term strategic vision. Some have even maintained that Germany’s growing trade dependency on China has allowed the authoritarian regime in Beijing to exercise undue influence over Berlin. Like Russia, China is an illiberal and revisionist state that aspires to reshape the rules-based international order in its favor. As a result, China’s growing leverage over Germany, and by extension the EU, represents a strategic challenge and even, according to some observers, a threat.
What’s On TapAnd coming up next week, we’ve got:
- A column by James Bosworth on the challenges facing Latin America’s newly elected left-wing leaders in an anti-incumbent political environment.
- An article by WPR’s Chris Ogunmodede on the implications of a corruption scandal engulfing South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
- A briefing by Jonathan Gorvett on a controversial bill in the U.K. that could provide amnesty for perpetrators of atrocities during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
- And an in-depth article by Samira Sawlani on the push to reform wildlife and wilderness conservation in Kenya as part of a reckoning with race, Indigeneity and the legacy of colonialism.
Judah Grunstein is the editor-in-chief of World Politics Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @Judah_Grunstein.