US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. Bush tax cuts helped the rich get richer (Washington Post)

While few question the fact that income inequality has risen in the United States over the past three decades, there is plenty of dispute about why, argues this editorial.

2. Time Running Out for Romney's Rivals (New York Times)

The five remaining candidates in the race emerged from Monday night's fast-paced, tough-talking debate in Myrtle Beach much the way they went in, says Michael D. Shear.

3. Partisan Washington: Obama's broken promise (Politico)

Obama's failure to fulfill this central claim of his 2008 campaign has never been more glaringly obvious, write Carrie Budoff Brown and Jonathan Allen.

4. ECB Seeks Plan B (Wall Street Journal)

The European Central Bank is looking for a possible alternative to its current bond-buying program, write Hans Bentzien and Nicole Lundeen.

5. Romney endures battering in South Carolina (Los Angeles Times)

Mitt Romney was repeatedly put on the defensive over his business and government record, say Paul West and Seema Mehta.

6. Rick Perry stands by defense of Marines shown urinating on Taliban (Chicago Tribune)

Rick Perry criticises the administration's response to a video showing Marines urinating on Taliban bodie, according to John Hoeffel.

7. The GOP debate in South Carolina: 8 takeaways (Politico)

After a raucous debate in Myrtle Beach, S. C., the front-runner emerged with some bruises but his dignity and, more important, his status intact, says Maggie Haberman.

8. China's economy grows at slowest rate in more than two years (Los Angeles Times)

In the final quarter of 2011, China's economy grew at its slowest pace in 2½ years, according to David Pierson.

9. Serial killing suspect's life unraveled after Iraq (Los Angeles Times)

Itzcoatl 'Izzy' Ocampo once helped the homeless and was a gung-ho Marine, but friends and family say he suffered hallucinations after leaving the service, says Louis Sahagun and Christopher Goffard.

10. Most in poll think Romney will clinch GOP nomination (Washington Post)

Mitt Romney holds a strong lead nationally in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, write Dan Balz and Jon Cohen.

Campaign pictures/Office of Jorge Sharp
Show Hide image

Meet Jorge Sharp, the rising star of Chile’s left who beat right-wingers to running its second city

The 31-year-old human rights lawyer says he is inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s alternative politics as he takes the fight to the Chilean establishment.

Bearded, with shaggy hair, chinos and a plaid shirt, 31-year-old Jorge Sharp does not look like your typical mayor elect. But that does nothing to stop him speaking with the conviction of one.

“Look, Chile is a country that solely operates centrally, as one unit,” he says. “It is not a federal country – the concentration of state functions is very compact. In reality, most of the power is in Santiago. There are many limitations when it comes to introducing significant changes [in local areas].”

In October, Sharp upset Chile’s political status quo by defeating establishment rivals in the mayoral election of Valparaíso, the second city of South America’s first OECD country. He is taking office today.

Often compared to Podemos in Spain, Sharp’s win was significant – not only as yet another example of voters turning against mainstream politics – because it denied Chilean right-wing candidates another seat during local elections that saw them sweep to power across the country.

As the results rolled in, Conservative politicians had managed to snatch dozens of seats from the country’s centre-left coalition, led by President Michelle Bachelet, a member of Chile’s Socialist Party.

Sitting in one of Valparaíso’s many bohemian cafes, Sharp accepts the comparison with Podemos gracefully but is keen to make sure that Chile’s new “autonomous left” movement is seen as distinct.

“What we are doing in Chile is a process that is difficult to compare with other emerging political movements in the world,” he says. “We are a distinct political group and we are a modern force for the left. We are a left that is distinct in our own country and that is different to the left in Spain, in Bolivia, and in Venezuela.”

Sharp’s Autonomous Left movement is not so much a party rather than a group of affiliated individuals who want to change Chilean politics for good. Considering its relatively small size, the so-called Aut Left experienced degrees of success in October.

Chilean voters may have punished Bachelet – also Chile’s first female leader – and her coalition after a number of corruption scandals, but they did not turn against left-wing politics completely. Where they had options, many Chileans voted for newer, younger and independent left-wing candidates. 

“We only had nine candidates and we won three of the races – in Punta Arenas, Antofagasta and Ñuñoa, a district of Santiago,” he says. “We hope that the experience here will help us to articulate a national message for all of Chile.”


Campaign pictures/Office of Jorge Sharp

For Sharp, the success of Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump and the pro-Brexit movement are due to people fed up – on a global scale – with their respective countries’ mainstream political parties or candidates. Given that assumption, how would he describe the cause of his own election success?

“The problem in Chile, and also for the people in Valparaíso, is that the resources go to very few people,” he says. “It was a vote to live better, to live differently. Our project for social policy is one that is more sufficient for all the people. It’s a return to democracy, to break the electoral status quo.”   

Sharp – like many – believes that the United States’ Democrat party missed out by passing up the opportunity to break with the status quo and choose Bernie Sanders over the chosen nominee Hillary Clinton. “They would have been better off with Sanders than Clinton,” he believes. 

“The [people] in the US are living through a deep economic crisis. These were the right conditions for Trump. The people weren’t looking for the candidate from the banks or Wall Street, not the ‘establishment’ candidate. The way forward was Sanders.”

Turning to other 2016 geo-political events, he claims Brexit was a case of Britons “looking for an answer to crises” about identity. Elsewhere in South America, the tactics of former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe – who led the “No” vote campaign against peace with the Farc – were “fundamentally undemocratic”.

In the future, Sharp hopes that he and the rest of the Autonomous Left will be better-prepared to take power in higher offices, in order to further reform social policy and politics in Chile.

“For these elections, we weren't unified enough,” he concedes. “For 2017 [when national elections take place], we will have one list of parliamentary candidates and one presidential candidate.”

And while Sharp clearly sympathises with other left-wing movements in countries throughout the world, this is not a call for a unified approach to take on the rise of the right.

“Every country has its own path,” he finishes. “There is no single correct path. What we need to do [in Chile] is articulate a force that’s outside the political mainstream.”

Oli Griffin is a freelance journalist based in Latin America.