Institutionality is for penguins

Penguin football

Much cuter than a power plant or a football club president. Stolen from The Telegraph, click for original.

When Chilean President Sebastian Piñera came to an agreement with GDF Suez to change the site of a planned fossil-fueled power plant on the grounds that the approved location threatened penguin habitat, Chile’s elite made all sorts of tut-tutting noises about the lack of institutionality. Give the mic to administrative law professor Luis Cordero Vega:

Seen with good sense, the presidential decision can only create worries and risks, not just for the businessmen but for the entire general public. What was shown yesterday is that it takes only presidential will to decide a project’s fate.

Oh, the humanity! How can it be that the president walks in and revokes permits already granted comes to a mutual voluntary agreement with a private company? Never mind that the endangered species protection obviously failed, and that the public never had a chance to voice opinions during the permitting process. Institutionality is what’s important. It’s the key to attracting foreign investment and maintaining our democratic freedoms.

Two weeks ago, the professional soccer association voted out its president, the soccer professional Harold Mayne-Nicholls, in favor of private-schooling empresario Jorge Segovia. Segovia is owner of the Union Española team and according to my highly scientific polling of doormen, cab drivers and bartenders, I think it’s fair to say he’s widely hated by fans. More importantly, his election was opposed by Marcelo Bielsa, the coach who turned around a moribund Chilean national team and made it one of the surprise success stories of this year’s World Cup. Bielsa never said exactly why he didn’t approve of Segovia, but among other issues, people have mentioned that Bielsa is a leftist and has little patience for right-wing oligarchs like Segovia (or President Sebastian Piñera, to whom he had supposedly been rude at a pre-World Cup appearance). Bielsa also may have really liked working with Mayne-Nicholls.

Among the team shareholders that got to influence the vote were Piñera, who owns 12.5% of Colo Colo, and Finance Minister Joaquin Larrain, a shareholder in the Universidad Católica team (which despite its name is a professional team). Sports undersecretary Gabriel Ruiz-Tagle didn’t get to vote — a few months ago, he reluctantly sold his 25% of Colo Colo to a Piñera family member after another part of the government declared it would be improper for him to own shares in a company he regulated. (Institutionality!) Fans, who apparently have better things to do with their money than buy soccer teams, didn’t get to vote.

After the election, the press raised questions about whether Segovia was qualified to run in the first place, as the bylaws of the professional soccer association specifically excluded team owners from holding the position. So last night there was a little internal trial within the soccer association. In a decision that shocked no one, Segovia was affirmed as president. This time, don’t expect Chile’s law professors to spend Sunday on the talk show circuit condemning the breakdown of institutionality.

UPDATE
: Now the national police are threatening to arrest anyone who takes part in a planned mass protest against Bielsa’s departure at a game today between Chile and Uruguay. Protestors plan to show their asses. The cops say that they don’t want to “dirty” the game.

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One thought on “Institutionality is for penguins

  1. Matt

    Brilliant! Any article that links penguins to football is genius, one which intelligently points out the contradictions of the corporate elite is simply fantastic!

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