It’s one of the trippiest things that’s happened to me in a long time: last night at 8 p.m. the unmistakable tin-tin-tin of a cacerolazo started to ring out all over my nice, sleepy, Montreal neighborhood.
For a second there I thought I was having a PTSD flashback – then I realized “no, wait, of course: the tuition fee protests!”
If you haven’t heard about it, Quebec has been on Paro Cívico mode for the last 101 days now following a proposal to nearly double tuition fees at the province’s universities. It’s gotten pretty rowdy. My latest over at the IHT Blog goes through the outlines of what’s happened. (Or you can read a more pro-protests account here.)
The whole thing has been déjà vu-ish to the max: in vintage January, 2003 fashion, the protest movement has ended up stranded on an island of maximalist positions amid incredibly overheated, ni un paso atrás, no-compromises posturing that makes it impossible for them to negotiate.
Sensing that the general disorder the chaos on the streets was bound to piss off the silent majority here, Québec’s premier, Jean Charest, has been doing a Chávez – just goading the kids into over-reaching more and more, then stepping in to collect the political rewards.
Venezuelans are only too familiar with this kind of stunning political cynicism. It’s been amazing to see it play out in this context. Sheer Machiavellianism.
Gallingly, it might just work: Charest’s misnamed Liberal Party of Quebec (it’s actually the more conservative party here) has come back from the polling dead and is now almost even with the left-wing Parti Québecois. Amazing!
Es que el paro se les fue de las manos, chico…