Besides an unusually cold spring possibly caused by a large number of icebergs drifting away from the Antarctic, the weather turned pleasant in time for the annual Diplomat Ladies’ International Handcraft Festival.
Forty countries participated with food and handcraft stands. Very prominent was the Vietnamese presence as hundreds of visitors bought and wore conical hats while ambling through the grounds. The biggest mob for food jostled in front of the Russian stand where the embassy ladies dished out a large variety of food goodies, vodka and kvass. Long queues formed to sample Brazilian caipirinhas at a buck a glass. Indonesia offered satee brochettes and meat pies—yummy stuff. Greek dancers did dances from the various regions of their country. The Czech Republic also had a strong dance troupe. Of course, the Brazilians stole the show with samba dancers.
To accommodate the over 10,000 visitors, large dining tents of about three acres each provided shade and comfortable seating for eating, show watching, and drinks guzzling. With a tiny stand, Belgium cheated a bit by having other countries sell Stela Artois beer. Cuba didn’t have food but was mobbed by CD and DVD buyers. Palestinians sold kebabs and various sweets. The U.S. food stand was the smallest, it had some boxes of Dunkin Donuts.
Well fed, nicely oiled with vodka, caipirinhas and beer, though I didn’t bring enough money to buy a Panama hat, I went home a happy camper.
Once upon a time, elections in Chile caused grave dread in the White House and the CIA spent millions trying to influence Chilean elections. Nowadays, the U.S. is interfering in the internal affairs of places like Afghanistan and doing color revolutions.
This makes elections in Chile less dramatic but more fun to watch. In the running, there is a Communist candidate to provide comic relief, a Socialist who got chucked out of the Socialist Party, a former president, and a billionaire. They are all either center left or center right. Their platforms differ very little. So where is the fun?
First of all, the campaign season is only one month long. Before the official opening, candidates may travel, hold rallies, participate in debates. The media may cover their activities, but no advertising is permitted.
Supporters, individuals or businesses may make campaign donations via the Electoral Commission, which holds the funds.
One month prior to elections, after having laundered the money collected, the Elections Commission transfers the now anonymous donations to the different campaigns.
All candidates get free and equal TV time (something like ten minutes a day).
On the same day, the poster campaign begins.
Before midnight, campaign workers scatter throughout the cities and try to occupy and hold the best places where to place posters. Trucks with posters roll out and the poster war begins.
The posters consist of a wooden frame with a PVC message stretched over it. The poster is then wired to a tree or a lamp post.
At dawn of November 13, Santiago was a forest of posters, police were busy removing posters from prohibited locations like intersections. The following night individuals armed with box cutters were busy cutting the posters.
This was followed by a night of replacing damaged posters.
Police intercepted a truck full of stolen posters.
On another incident, TV caught a large bonfire of posters.
Some of the poster vandals are very skilled, they cut a perfectly round hole where the candidate’s face was.
All political activity stops two days prior to Election Day.
On Election Day everything except polls close, no gatherings are allowed. Foreigners with permanent residency permits may vote. For citizens voting is mandatory. Polls close at six in the afternoon, with 10% of votes counted, initial results are released at seven in the evening. Usually, by eleven at night official results are released.
If no candidate receives 50% of the vote plus one, there will be another poster war for the runoff a month later.