Tuesday. 31/5/2022

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Anastasia Moloney

Opposites attract

It was an outcome that pollsters didn’t expect: leftist Gustavo Petro will face populist businessman Rodolfo Hernández (pictured) in the second round of the Colombian presidential election on 19 June. On Sunday, Colombians voted for a break from decades of rule by the traditional centrist political elite and lurched to the extremes. Both Petro, a former member of the now-defunct M-19 guerrilla group, and 77-year-old conservative Hernández, an engineer and construction magnate, are seen as anti-establishment figures who represent change. The difference is that Hernández, who has successfully cast himself as a political outsider, inspires less fear among the majority of voters than former militant Petro.

This means that despite gaining more than 40 per cent of the first-round vote (nearly 2.5 million more votes than Hernández), Petro isn’t assured victory in the next – and final – round of voting. His rival has the support of right-wing candidate Federico Gutiérrez, who had been tipped to come second but fell short, securing five million votes. The bulk of those will probably go to Hernández in the run-off. It will be a close-fought race. If Petro wins, he would be the first leftist president ever elected in Colombia. His promises include pension reform, free public university, raising taxes on the rich and halting oil exploration.

Image: Alamy

Straight-talking Hernández, who is at times crass and gaffe-prone, has campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket and brands rival politicians as “thieves”. He has opted to reach voters, especially young Colombians, with comical messages on social media, rather than participate in televised debates. It’s proving to be a winning strategy. With so much up in the air, one thing is certain: whoever becomes the new president of Colombia, it will represent a significant change from the past.

Anastasia Moloney is Monocle’s Bogotá correspondent. Read more about Gustavo Petro and the Colombian election in the June issue of Monocle, which is out now.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / France

Winds of change

President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to appoint Pap Ndiaye (pictured) as education minister has drawn the ire of French conservatives. Much of the debate is centred on whether Ndiaye, a specialist in postcolonial history, will uphold laïcité, the constitutional principle of French secularism that many feel is threatened by his promotion of identity politics. Far-right politician Marine Le Pen went as far as to accuse him of planning the “deconstruction” of the country, its values and its future. Ndiaye’s supporters see responses like Le Pen’s as proof that France, which sits at the bottom of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s social mobility index, has struggled to reckon with its colonial past and suffers from structural racism. In some ways, Macron’s move appears to acknowledge this. But it remains to be seen whether the appointment is a true recognition of the changing nature of French identity or a pragmatic attempt to placate left-wing voters.

Image: Getty Images

Crime / New Zealand

Loaded debates

As the US debates greater gun control, New Zealand is seeing a wave of calls to arm its police force. Following a number of gang-related shootings, many citizens are arguing that front-line officers should be given guns. The cover of The New Zealand Herald described the current state of affairs, in which only specially trained police are allowed to carry firearms, as like “taking pepper spray to a gunfight”.

This intensification of the debate comes after the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, received a standing ovation for a speech at Harvard University last week. In it, she explained how New Zealand successfully changed its gun laws following the mass shooting in Christchurch in 2019. Despite the domestic clamour, statistics show that countries with strict gun laws always suffer fewer shootings than ones that arm their police.

Image: Getty Images

Cinema / Japan

Breaking through

Celebrated Japanese film director Hirokazu Koreeda (pictured, on far left) is a Cannes veteran. He has won four awards at the festival, including the coveted Palme d’Or (for Shoplifters) in 2018. Never afraid to stray far from his comfort zone, Koreeda was back this year with Broker, a film shot in South Korea about unwanted babies, featuring a starry cast of actors including Song Kang-ho, star of the 2019 hit Parasite, and K-pop artist Lee Ji-eun. Koreeda, who is not a Korean speaker, admitted that he felt pressure working with such a prestigious cast. That it was filmed at a moment when diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea were in the doldrums due to debates over Second World War-era crimes only heightened the anticipation. Such political strife has never bothered Koreeda; he has nurtured relationships in South Korea and visited the Busan Film Festival in 2019. His courage paid off. On the weekend, Song won the best actor award and warmly thanked his director. Koreeda was thrilled. “For me, Song receiving the award became the most beautiful finish line,” he said.

Image: Shutterstock

Music / Brazil

In harmony

Marisa Monte (pictured) is a legend in Brazil, where her mix of samba and MPB (the acronym for Brazilian popular music) has won her millions of fans. The European leg of her world tour begins in Milan on 16 June. It will promote her most recent album, Portas, her first featuring new music in more than a decade. After Milan the tour moves on to the Salle Pleyel concert hall in Paris and London’s Barbican, followed by stops in Madrid and Porto.

As Monte tells Monocle, the album and tour have an unequivocally optimistic theme. “In Brazil we are living through difficult times; I didn’t want to offer more of that,” she says. “I wanted to share a hopeful feeling with people, to not lose our faith in humanity.” In the same interview, Monte reiterates her aversion to social media. “Music is always the first plan in my relationship with my fans. I don’t believe my personal life is more interesting than anyone else’s.”

To hear the full interview with Marisa Monte, listen to this special episode of ‘The Monocle Weekly’ .

Monocle 24 / Meet the Writers

Sarah Winman

Sarah Winman is an actor-turned-author of several critically acclaimed novels. Her 2011 debut When God Was a Rabbit took the literary world by storm and saw her win new writer of the year at the Galaxy National Book Awards. Since then she has published three novels, most recently Still Life. Spanning more than 40 years, the story transports readers from Florence to London and explores family, truth and love.

Monocle Films / Georgia

Tsinandali tunes

The first edition of a Georgian festival that’s bringing together musicians from the Caucasus to discuss their shared future.

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