Wednesday. 15/12/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Lucinda Elliott

Votes of confidence

Chile faces a conundrum this month. It has only been a matter of weeks since marriage between same-sex couples was approved in this historically Catholic country but citizens might also choose to elect as president an ultra-conservative father of nine who dismisses gay rights and opposes abortion. It’s a sign of broader ongoing tensions: while this Latin American nation has made significant strides socially and culturally in recent years, those changes are framed inside a political structure and economy that favours an old conservative elite. Many believe that the system is broken and has failed to keep up.

On Sunday, Chileans head to the polls in a decisive presidential runoff. On the right is former congressman José Antonio Kast. He has campaigned on a platform of cracking down on crime and illegal immigration, while maintaining traditional values. On the left is former student activist Gabriel Boric (pictured, on left, with Kast), who first shot to fame 10 years ago during protests against inequality in education. If elected, Boric would become the youngest Chilean president in more than 200 years and has vowed to bury the country’s “neoliberal” past of market-oriented policies that have failed to narrow social divisions. While Kast and Boric present entirely different visions for the country, they represent a renewal of Chile’s political class: both are running as independents and neither has made it this far in a race before.

On the streets of Santiago this week, there is a sense that the progress Boric represents might well prevail. Lawmakers are talking to indigenous leaders outside congress in lively debates, as part of operations by the 155-member body that is charged with writing a new constitution to replace the one imposed under General Augusto Pinochet. Students have been gathering outside bars dressed in rainbow colours to celebrate the gay marriage bill. A few blocks up, groups of demonstrators stand outside parliament to demand justice for political prisoners. “Despite everything, we’re still a long way from Pinochet,” one 65-year-old protester tells me.

Lucinda Elliott is Monocle’s Latin America Affairs correspondent.

Diplomacy / EU

On the right lines

The EU’s Eastern Partnership summit kicks off today: leaders from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will meet with the EU’s Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen. The sixth summit of its kind arrives at a crucial moment for the bloc, since its primary concern remains the security of its eastern border. The talks hope to confirm the shared values (notably rule of law and human rights) between the EU and countries in the region – Belarus, unsurprisingly, will not be present. Efforts to find common ground have also been taking place within the union this week: Emmanuel Macron has been in Budapest to discuss Viktor Orbán’s blatant disregard for EU values but conceded that it’s unlikely that any progress will be made until Orbán’s re-election efforts in April. With such clear dissent occurring within the bloc, the importance of a successful Eastern Partnership summit – and with it some semblance of unity – should not be underestimated.

For more on the summit with our regular contributor Mark Galeotti, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Music / USA

Pay it loud

The song-acquisition market shows no sign of cooling as US publishing company Primary Wave announced its purchase of the James Brown estate on Monday for a reported $90m (€80m). Since 2020, legacy artists from Bob Dylan to Stevie Nicks have signed away their catalogues as buyers seek to take advantage of low interest rates and make largely recession-proof investments.

The estate of James Brown (pictured), who died aged 73 on Christmas Day in 2006, had long been mired in legal wrangling; the singer had instructed the executors of his will to use the bulk of his wealth to establish scholarships for underprivileged children in South Carolina and Georgia, leaving little to his family. Now money from the sale will be released to fund the scholarships at last, while Primary Wave will also reportedly contribute percentages of earnings from any future deals. The sale hopefully brings closer to a resolution the widely publicised disputes over the legacy of the Godfather of Soul.

Image: Getty Images

Health / Norway

Last orders

Norway is taking some unique steps to manage the latest coronavirus outbreak: in addition to stricter rules in schools, the closure of gyms and swimming pools, and a boosted vaccination effort, prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre has announced a ban on sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants for at least four weeks. It comes as health chiefs warn of a significant surge of new coronavirus cases. Norway has reported the largest Omicron outbreak in continental Europe and is predicting up to 300,000 cases and 200 hospital admissions a day if nothing is done – a large number for a country of 5.4 million. But it’s also bad news for the Scandinavian nation’s hospitality and cultural industries, which are warning of the devastating effect the latest restrictions will have on business. The rest of the world will be keeping a close eye on Oslo, hoping for valuable lessons on what it takes to get the new variant under control.

Image: Flash Coffee

Business / Indonesia

Full of beans

Flash Coffee has gone from having one shop to more than 100 in, well, a flash. After starting out in Jakarta at the beginning of last year, the company’s distinctive pink lightning bolt and bright-yellow shopfronts can already be found everywhere from Bangkok to Singapore, where it is now headquartered. Founders David Brunier and Sebastian Hannecker (pictured, on left, with Brunier) have plans to enter Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines in 2022 and they expect to have more than 300 locations by the end of that year. Brunier often cites Luckin Coffee’s business model (rather than its infamous accounting fraud) as inspiration. The Chinese coffee chain expanded rapidly across the mainland by selling branded cups of joe to a rapidly growing middle class, cheaper and more quickly than Starbucks. But while Luckin is focused solely on China, Flash has expanded to Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan in recent months alone. Retailers and investors across the region will be watching closely to see whether the brand’s cheap and cheerful concept works just as well on the discerning streets of Gangnam and Omotesando.

Monocle 24 / Monocle on Culture

Ghost stories at Christmas

Why do we love a ghost story at Christmas? Robert Bound puts this question to writer Andrew Male and the British Library’s Tanya Kirk as we get festive and frightened in equal measure.

Monocle Films / Global

Japanese gift-wrapping: Lesson 3

No other country has refined the ritual of gift-giving as much as Japan. Get inspired with our nifty wrapping tricks to deliver ‘The Monocle Book of Japan’ in style. This beautiful tome unpacks the nation in a multitude of ways: from design and hospitality to transport and business. Find your perfect gift at The Monocle Shop.

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