Category Archives: Latin America

Relieving the Disaster: Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean

 

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Airport in the British Virgin Islands trashed – Taken by 70sqd offloading Royal Marines

By William Reynolds, a third year War Studies undergraduate. From a British Armed Forces background, William follows the military capabilities of the West and the security issues in the Middle East with great interest, placing special emphasis on COIN and the experiences of individuals on the ground. William has worked as a Research Fellow for Dr Whetham in the Centre of Military Ethics and is a spammer of many articles on the King’s Middle East and North Africa Forum.

Intro

 With Hurricane Irma now departing the Caribbean and making landfall at Florida, it is time to take stock of the situation and analyse the responses. At least in the UK the news cycles continue to be dominated by the topic and a tale of two narratives are developing. On the one hand, a tale of a rapid and effective response by the UK government in dealing with the situation. On the other, of an ineffective and uncaring Britain leaving it to the last minute before mustering any sort of response.

 This article hopes to put much of this debate to rest and deliver an analysis of the situation, resources and response of the UK government to the disaster. Furthermore, this case offers an excellent example of explaining more on how disaster relief, the government and the military works in the UK- otherwise known as ‘Military Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Response’ (HADR). Apologies if this article is rather UK-centric. My knowledge of the French and Dutch response is limited and this is not meant to be seen in anyway as an ‘us vs them’ argument.

 The last vestiges of Empire

 Currently the UK response is being compared mainly alongside France and the Netherlands. On face value this comparison makes sense. All three states still have territories in the area, they all possess somewhat similar capabilities and they all are of a similar distance away from the region.

 However, the logic stops there. For France and the Netherlands, these territories form an integral part of their ‘homeland’. Politically these territories enjoy entirely different relationships with their European capitals than those possessed by the British. They have parliamentary representation, or at the least equivalent of, and are enshrined in their separate constitutions. By contrast, the UK governs their islands via defence and external affairs with some bespoke differences between the islands and varying degrees of assistance (for example, some islands rely on the UK for legal assistance). Other than that, most affairs are governed by local administrations.

 The key difference however is in geography and populations. The Dutch Antilles has a population of 300,000 spread over a small number of islands in close proximity to each other and the French West Indies has a population of around 850,000 on 7 islands, again in close proximity. By contrast, the UK governs 5 island groups; the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat – all of which are spread out across the entire Caribbean and housing a population of around 100,000 between them. This is very much a product of Empire and de-colonisation. Whilst France and the Netherlands pursued integration, the UK eventually opted for granting independence. Many of these islands in fact separated from their established ‘colonial administrations’ in order to remain affiliated to the UK rather than follow their administrations into independence (such as Anguilla). This is a very simplified explanation, but it shall suffice for the context of explaining the HADR response.

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An example of just jaw spreads out the islands are. Compared Turks & Caicos + British Virgin Islands with the French West Indies.

 The UK response – too slow?

 The initial response to the incoming Hurricane Irma was already on station. RFA (Royal Fleet Auxillary – a separate organisation from the Royal Navy) Mount Bays was in the vicinity for Hurricane season. As an auxiliary landing ship dock (LSD(A)), she is fully kitted out for working from the sea onto land. Rather than carrying the equipment necessary for an amphibious landing, this bay-class LSD(A) has been fitted out for humanitarian relief, carrying a Wildcat helicopter (capable of underslung loads), 40 Royal Marines and a contingent from the Royal Logistics Corps (RLC).

RFA Mount Bay in the Caribbean

 This singular ship is currently being compared to the French and Dutch response by the media. The French have an infantry regiment based in Martinique, coupled with a small contingent of corvette (and possibly one frigate) sized ships in a small naval facility. The Dutch maintain a support ship and escort in the region with a further detachment (of around 1,000) personnel at an airfield which doubles up as a US Air Force forward operating base. Naturally, all of these resources were available instantly during the hurricane. Yet, it is also worth noting that they were also exposed to said hurricane.

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It is natural therefore to state that the British initial effort is poor in comparison. A singular ship vs the low thousands deployment of French and Dutch. However, this does not accurately reflect the defence posture of either group. The British islands, as mentioned, are spread out across the entire theatre. Some islands only number in the low thousands unlike the heavily concentrated, both geographically and population wise, French and Dutch groupings. There is no point in the UK having a military garrison in the region for security purposes. Thus, the deployment of a specialised vessel by the UK made sense. It could sit in the middle of the British islands and prioritise the most heavily affected regions.

 Following the initial devastation, HMS Ocean a Landing Platform Helicopter amphibious assault ship (LPH), was re-tasked from acting NATO flagship in the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. This became the crux of the next false accusation levelled at the UK government, that the response was too slow. Ocean will arrive in the disaster zone in roughly two weeks. Many have called this unacceptably too slow. Unfortunately, the Mercator projection (a nautical cylinder like map highlighting distances and courses) is revealed bare for all to see here. The Atlantic is huge. Any relief effort via ship will take a while.

 So why not focus by air? The Caribbean has very few airfields, and even fewer rated for the larger aircraft the size of C-17’s, and many of these will have been wrecked by the hurricane that transited through. Even then, with the islands spread out so far, this forces the relief effort on singular islands with little capacity to airlift it to the smaller islands, something that would require helicopters. The Turks & Caicos islands for example have 8 main islands and 299 smaller ones housing 31,500 people. Thus, a maritime response is the most efficient in this area of the world

There is an issue, at least in this commentator’s mind, of instant gratification here. With 24hr news, instant messaging and Hollywood many believe that responses, especially military ones, are rapid and fast (just look at the Game of Thrones cast teleporting around Westeros). One newspaper ran with the headline of a British couple complaining they were stranded for 72hrs before a rescue came. Even the military suffers from this portrayal. Both Gulf Wars were conducted at a rapid pace with the media witnessing action and reaction in a matter of hours. There was little to convey that it took half a year to get all of these assets in the region. Thus, when a response takes more than a couple of days to a major natural disaster, it is criticised and ridiculed. This goes without even mentioning that there was only a 48hr window between the first warning of an incoming major hurricane and it making landfall.

 A case study in disaster Response

 Now for some positivity. Little has been said on just how amazing the response has been from the UK. Let’s be honest we’re not a major power anymore. Yet in little under 3 days the UK has gone from identifying a ‘bad hurricane’, identified the relief on sight is not enough and then airlifted hundreds of personnel, their equipment and supplies into a devastated region half way across the globe. It’s incredibly hard to explain how impressive, purely from a logistical and planning sense, this is.

 The military, an organisation whose modus operandi is not disaster relief, has conducted a truly joint effort enterprise. Again, this is hard to put into words how impressive it is. The ability for separate organisations (the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Royal Air Force) to work together in such a joint enterprise takes much professionalism and training to conduct. Just for an example, RAF chinooks will deploy army RLC personnel from a Royal Navy platform to conduct disaster relief. Furthermore, this occurs whilst continuing to coordinate British forces in Eastern Europe, the Black Sea, patrolling the Med, conducting operations over Iraq and Syria, working across the Middle East, delivering support from Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT) in Afghanistan and continuing to garrison sites across the world. This is truly a joined-up collaboration and is not the mark of a minor military power.

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RLC deploy via amphibious barge from RFA Mount Bay to Anguilla

 The UK government should also get a pat on the back for their response. Between last weekend (written on 10/09/17) and Wednesday, a significant amount of planning, preparation and getting folks up to the line of departure occurred. This may be a statement of the bleedin’ obvious, but it’s a remarkable example of joined up government. The government was able to get the Cabinet Office, FCO, DFID, Home Office and the MOD to all work together to conduct the planning and implementation of disaster response. Not only do all of these organisations have their own quirks and rank structure, but they also all vie for funding from the Treasury on a regular basis and thus it would be understandable if teamwork was not in their nature. Yet these military and civil offices worked rapidly and efficiently to oversee the Operation. One great example was from DFID. “It had to work with charities to identify what emergency response was needed, to pull coherent asks together and get the supplies ready to move and sort out a £32 million shopping list of items required to get moving…[all of this] happened in 72 hours.”[1] Even the 72hr waiting couple, mentioned previously, were found and rescued in 72 hours. The FCO were able to realise there were British citizens there, track them down, notify a local responder and rescue them from a country which has essentially been damaged by something with the strength of a nuclear bomb, in 72 hours.

 Whilst not a perfect case study by any stretch of the imagination, the initial preparation and response is a great example on how effective disaster response is done. For those of us interested in the relationship between the military and civil government, it further provides a clear example of how impressive a well oiled civil service at work is.

 Conclusion

 There should always be analysis of the response of a government to an out-of-the-blue situation such as a natural disaster. Holding such actions to account is equally important and is clearly in the purview of the media. However, these recent news cycles highlight that sometimes the media does get it wrong. Judgements are given without context and headlines are formulated in a ‘click-bait’ish manner (such as the 72hr couple). This is somewhat excusable as they’re not expected to generate military, political and civil experts on the matter. But it can still be avoided. What is not excusable is the politicisation of such things. Many an MP has already taken to Twitter and question PM’s time to deliver a ‘stinging rebuke’ to the ‘inadequacy’ of the government’s handling of the situation. This is truly inexcusable. It offers further fuel to the media fire and galvanises and misinforms their followers on twitter, deepening divides along party lines or ideology. More importantly, it begins to offer confirmation bias to misinformed pundits.

 It was with this in mind that I hoped to at least offer the facts, the context and then my own opinion on the topic. Even if my opinion is wrong, I hope that my offering of the facts and context allows you to develop your own opinions which you can at least claim are informed by evidence.

 Bibliography

[1] https://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/is-uk-still-failing-in-west-indies-part.html – Thin Pinstriped line – ‘Is the UK still failing in the West Indies (Part Two) – summarised perfectly.

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What Interventionists get wrong about Venezuela

Venezuela IR Today Photo

Carly Greenfield is a third year International Relations student with an interest in non-wartime violence, gender theory, and organized crime, especially in Latin America.

The ongoing crisis in Venezuela has received mass media attention across the West, particularly in the United States (US). The crisis began following a Supreme Court attempt in March to dissolve the legislative branch and the subsequent protests against this decision. This event is seen as the origin of the crisis, with the death toll for the following five months amounting to around 130 people. The death toll, human rights violations, and lack of access to basic commodities has caused outcry from countries in the Americas and Europe and supranational organizations like the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN). Some human rights advocates have even gone so far as to call for humanitarian intervention, or for the UN to invoke Responsibility to Protect (R2P). US President Donald Trump, in particular, has not shied away from the possibility of military intervention, even while others in the administration show a level of caution. This brash language shows a misunderstanding of R2P, a misunderstanding of the crisis and of the political landscape in Venezuela.

R2P

R2P relies on three pillars, the first being that the state holds the primary responsibility to protect its population from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. For pillars two or three to be fulfilled, one of these crimes would have to be occurring. Analyzing these four atrocities, it is clear that the violence in Venezuela has not reached the threshold to move past the first pillar. War crimes require the state to be in a time of war, which Venezuela is not. Acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing both require the targeting of a specific population, with ethnic cleansing specifically requiring the targeting of an ethnic or religious group, which has not been documented in Venezuela. While some may argue that a particular political group is under threat, political affiliation or orientation is not a ‘protected’ status under the 1948 Genocide Convention. The only crime which R2P advocates may utilize as evidence of a breach of Pillar One, then, is crimes against humanity, but crimes against humanity have a less established definition than the three other crimes. To prove that crimes against humanity should not be the defining term used for the violence in the Venezuelan crisis, it is important to understand the cases where it already has been used.

Officials have been prosecuted for crimes against humanity in multiple trials, starting with the infamous Nuremburg Trials. The definition of the crimes has shifted over time, particularly following the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and has therein reached a broad definition under customary international law. Crimes against humanity span murder, rape, enslavement, imprisonment, disappearance, persecution, and other heinous crimes. The requirement that has been repeated across all three trials was that the crimes were systematic and widespread. This is the main problem with defining the violence, specifically state-led violence, as crimes against humanity. While murder, disappearance, and imprisonment have all been utilized by the Venezuelan government, these crimes have not occurred in the past five months at a widespread level. The 130 deaths include pro-government protesters and police officers, not only counter protesters killed by their government. Although the majority of the deaths are citizens, it does not constitute a level that could be conceived as widespread. Given the bulk of killings committed yearly by government forces across the globe, particularly in this region, it seems odd for Venezuela to be such an outstanding case of crimes that it merits intervention. While this should not be a case of what-about-ism, finite resources should bring into question which countries are worth intervening in and where the largest human rights abuses are occurring. Is Venezuela the worst current global humanitarian crisis?

It is important to note that the lack of existence of crimes against humanity does not make these deaths any more bearable by the deads’ loved ones or by the citizens of Venezuela. Criticism and protest of this government should be expected when governmental use of force is excessive and violence fills the streets. What it does show, instead, is that these murders do not constitute any crime that R2P is based upon. Intervention based on R2P, therefore, seems a moot point.

Some sources have seen evidence of widespread and systematic violations of human rights. For instance, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein lambasted the Maduro regime with accusations of torture, arbitrary detention, and the responsibility of at least 70 murders during the crisis.

Yet even if the international community were to decide that there is proof of crimes against humanity in Venezuela, collective use of force would be unlikely to succeed—the general crime rate, separate from the government’s crackdown, has skyrocketed over the last two years, making it difficult for forces to adequately enforce a peace between the government and its citizens. Indeed, Caracas was named the most violent city in the world outside of a warzone in both 2015 and 2016. The inability to predict a successful intervention should cause pause for those advocating intervention as a stoppage to the violence.

US Intervention in Latin America

While the US is unlikely to intervene in Venezuela unilaterally, the history of US intervention in Latin America does not bode well for a positive response to intervention by the Venezuelan public or by other countries in the region. Since the US sits on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as one of the permanent five (P5) members, the US would explicitly vote in favor or against military action in Venezuela, most likely voting in favor. This would send a clear message to US allies and non-allies alike in the region that the US is not done meddling in regional affairs. For context: the US has supported, financially, militarily, and with clandestine intelligence, paramilitary groups and governments that have been accused and, in specific cases, convicted of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial murders, massacres, and political persecution. This includes, but is not limited to, the Dirty Wars under Argentina’s military regime, the murderous Pinochet regime in Chile, the genocidal military counterinsurgency mission in the Guatemalan Civil War, and countless other exposed covert operations. This pattern has made Latin American governments, particularly Leftist ones, hostile to US involvement in their countries.

On the 13th of August US Vice President Mike Pence traveled to the region to meet with Latin American leaders. President Trump’s commentary on intervention in Venezuela loomed large. The response could not be clearer. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, a regional ally, candidly said:

“Since friends have to tell them the truth, I’ve told Vice President Pence the possibility of military intervention shouldn’t even be considered. The Latin American continent, every country in Latin America, would not favor any form of military intervention and that is why we are saying we are intent on looking into other measures some of which are already underway and others to be implemented in the future.”

A US-associated intervention would begin at a deficit in popularity with the local population and regional governments, making the future for peace even more arduous. The current administration’s stance on the crisis is unlikely to create any real change, either.

Divisive Venezuelan Society

One of the main barriers to understanding the crisis is the current narrative, which propagates a bifurcated choice between the Maduro regime and the innocent population. The Maduro regime has made steps to consolidate power socially and politically. It has shut down independent press organizations, most recently two Colombian news channels, and with its newly founded Constituent Assembly has begun stripping the Opposition-controlled legislature of its powers. Earlier this month, Mercosur suspended Venezuela indefinitely on charges of breaching democratic norms and the deepening crisis. The ongoing food and medicine shortages have caused crises within hospitals and multi-hour queues at state-run grocery stores. Basic commodities, like bread, are difficult to find. Corruption charges continue. Neighboring countries Colombia and Brazil have seen large migration flows, Colombia seeing hundreds of thousands in the last two years.

And yet three million people still voted in the constituent assembly election for pro-regime candidates. A lack of support for Maduro is not a lack of support for socialism, nor a condemnation of Chavismo. This is the main sticking point. Much like young Cubans fleeing Cuba in search of opportunities in the US, the majority of Venezuelans are not fleeing oppression but rather fleeing hunger. The lack of food and the radical levels of inflation, leaving the bolivar worthless, are the primary reasons for migration and discontent. As Opposition lawmaker Gaby Arrellano has recognized, missteps by the political class, both Left and Right, has not given the Venezuelan population much choice.

While the Opposition gained a majority in the legislative branch in 2016, the first time in 16 years, it was swept in on anti-regime sentiments, not necessarily pro-Opposition ones. This distinction means that an intervention that would replace the Maduro regime with an Opposition controlled regime would not be inherently more popular. The Opposition has not stayed fully unified throughout the crisis, either: the group fractured over whether to take part in the constituent assembly. In the end, they held their own unofficial plebiscite, but still did not take part in the Constituent Assembly. The ongoing political crisis is not simply a difference between the Maduro regime and the Opposition’s governing decisions.

So?

The crisis in Venezuela has not bettered through the battering of the Venezuelan economy. The Maduro regime has only further dug in its heels, making cries of US imperialism and threats to Venezuela’s sovereignty to the public. An intervention that seems almost inherently based in regime change would not be welcome by the Venezuelan population nor by countries in the region. The focus should be on mitigating widespread suffering, primarily on medical cases and cases of starvation.

The Venezuelan-Colombian border is already very porous. While the Maduro regime will not accept aid from the United States nor make any major economic shifts, regional leaders and the UN could assist by creating food banks on the Colombian side of the border so that Venezuelans could have access to necessary goods without paying for them. Furthermore, medical camps in neighboring countries could also begin to help the sick. Concerns of the expanding crisis could be further mitigated by financially supporting neighboring states so they are better able to handle the influx of Venezuelans looking to temporarily migrate or access the market.

The upcoming October election should also be a focal point: the UN and regional leaders should look to negotiate with the Venezuelan government so as to support a free and open election that could see the possibility of peaceful and democratic regime change. There is much more that can be done to support those suffering from the crisis without the cost of intervention.

 

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Venezuela and Democratic Authoritarianism

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By Victoria Noya, a Venezuelan 3rd year International Development student, currently studying abroad in East Asia.

On December 2015 many Venezuelans gained new hope and optimism for their country, as the Opposition party secured three fifths of seats at the National Assembly, the legislative branch of Venezuela’s government. This was arguably a democratic victory that countered the government’s long standing authoritarian behaviour. However, as many expected, that optimism was short-lived. The Supreme Court, which abides by every whim and fancy of the central government, would go on to prohibit the legislature from naming a handful of members of the electoral council. Nevertheless, since the Venezuelan government has been playing a hybrid regime of authoritarian action with democratic facade and discourse, it came as a huge surprise when on March 29th, under the pretence of the National Assembly’s “contempt”, the Supreme Court decided to usurp the National Assembly[1], ruling that all the National Assembly’s powers would go to the Supreme Court. This has been interpreted by many as a “self-inflicted coup d’état”[2], since what was once a political body that kept the authoritarian regime in check, would no longer continue to do so.

For about 15 years Venezuelans have been living under a de facto dictatorship. At least in the sense that all democratic activity is in some way either restricted or influenced by the government. For example, freedom of speech, a right that goes hand in hand with democracy. Although the government has never spoken against it, it just so happened that throughout the past 15 years, news agencies that are anti-Chavez have been bought up one by one, by entities with Chavista agendas. This type of corruption seeps into essentially every industry that Venezuela has left. Additionally, it is the vox populi that elections are rigged. The subtlety of the government’s totalitarianism was key to establishing Venezuela’s government as a hybrid regime, and it allowed the president and his party to legitimately remain in power. March 29th wouldn’t be the first time the Supreme Court had abused its power, but it would be the first time that their grasp for power was so blunt.

Since March 29th, many peaceful protests led by the opposition have  turned violent, an occurrence that for the past couple of years, is no longer unusual. The blunt decision sparked outrage, since Venezuelans have never actively, perhaps not even knowingly, supported the government’s authoritarianism. This is why the interpretation of “self-inflicted coup d’etat” isn’t quite accurate, it’s more like the government was being honest about what they are: an authoritarian dictatorship. Whether it be because of international or internal pressure, President Maduro later urged the Supreme Court to reverse their decision[3], which only means that the government is back to being dishonest, and that nothing is going to change in the future.

Before I go on, it is important to expand where Venezuela finds itself now. With the progression of Chavez’s presidency, so grew a new political ideology: Chavismo. This populist anti-US ideology gained much popularity among the lower classes, who were told that the government would support them and that their hardships were at the hand of the upper classes as well as US “imperialism”. This repeated discourse over more than 15 years created a social divide that had never existed before. The divide is exemplified in political elections, where Chavistas are extremely loyal to Chavez and his legacy, and society is divided by an intense hostility between die-hard Chavistas and Opposition followers. After Chavez’s death, his legacy remained. The government has targeted the passionate loyalty of Chavistas to ensure power, which means that even under Maduro, a widely unpopular president, Chavistas are unlikely to turn to the Opposition. Insanely high crime rates add to the heightened tensions and fear that has become part of Venezuelan’s daily life, to the point that all new cars being bought are bulletproof – that is, if there even are cars to sell and enough money to buy them, given that inflation is at 800%[4]. Venezuela’s chaotic wasteland of an economy depends on oil exports. The 2014 drop in oil prices had a drastic effect on the economy, but only because decades of high oil revenue with mass deprivatization and virtually no investment in industry or infrastructure, meant the country was not equipped to deal with a sudden drop in government revenue. Today, shortages and scarcity has become the norm in Venezuela: there is no food and no medicine, and prolonged water and electricity cuts are more likely than not. Protests are a regular occurrence, most often for food and medicine shortages, and most recently expressing their disappointment at the Supreme Court.

Given the state of Venezuela today, it is easy to see why the Supreme Court chose to solidify the government’s power. The government likely felt they were losing their grasp on the country due to the economic and social turmoil it faces. That being said, I fear that President Maduro’s demand that the Supreme Court reverse its decision means that any change in the social or political sphere of the country is very unlikely. Firstly, the Venezuelan people may interpret the National Assembly’s regained control as a victory, even though it is not. While the National Assembly was and is able to keep the central government in check to some extent, the Supreme Court and central government have always had more power and could play the National Assembly like a chessboard. Secondly, since it was President Maduro who publicly stated his disapproval of the Supreme Court’s actions, the “blame” is shifted from the central government to the Supreme Court, thus shedding the government in a false democratic light, and solidifying its popularity among voters. Furthermore, banning the leader of the Opposition[5], Henrique Capriles, from candidacy in the upcoming 2018 elections is the same behaviour displayed by the central government since the Opposition began gaining recognition, long before Chavez’s passing. It is with a heavy heart that I give a pessimistic prediction of Venezuela’s future, regardless of any external factor, the core problem is the central government’s reluctance to give up power no matter the cost to society.

Bibliography:

[1] The Economist, Venezuela leaps towards dictatorship, March 2017

[2] Luis Almagro, secretary-general of OAS, The Economist March 2017

[3] The Economist, The Venezuelan Government’s Abortive Power Grab, April 2017

[4] Reuters, CNBC, Venezuela 2016 inflation hits 800 percent, GDP shrinks 19 percent: Document, Jan 2017

[5] Ulmer and Ellsworth, Leading Venezuela Opposition figure barred from office 15 years, April 2017

PHOTO: JUAN BARRETO / AFP

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A violent peace: El Salvador 25 years on

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Carly Greenfield is a second year International Relations student with an interest in non-wartime violence, gender theory, and organized crime, especially in Latin America.

El Salvador, a state of little more than 6 million people, often falls below the radar in the 21st century. However, 25 years ago, El Salvador was ending a 12-year civil war that had ushered it into a violent Cold War paradigm and brought global media attention along with it. Today, El Salvador is the battleground for deadly gang warfare and a hardened state presence. While the peace deal of 1992 ensured an end to the conflict, Salvadorans have not been able to cultivate a peaceful society. In 2015, San Salvador hosted the third highest murder rate in the world: with its population hovering around 1.7 million, almost a third of all Salvadorans have been forced to make this a part of their daily lives. The peace deal failed to create a peaceful state due to an inability to remedy the conflict’s roots of inequality and injustice, failure to persecute military members following the deal, and a failure to address the trauma experienced by local communities. Along with a lack of political will, El Salvador has faced the same abject poverty as its neighbor states and extreme levels of emigration towards the United States (US), leading to an excess in crime rates.

The civil war was fought between the Government of El Salvador and Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), but its roots lay much further back in El Salvador’s history. Like most of Latin America, Spain dominated El Salvador for over 300 years until its full independence in 1838. This laid down a system built around natural goods such as indigo and sugarcane and the need for a peasant population to farm it. Following independence, as in the colonial period, a group of elites held almost all of the wealth in the country. In the 19th century, they amassed control of the economy through the farming of a new crop: coffee. Economic disparity grew and in the 20th century, peasant revolts became increasingly common, leading to brutal crackdowns by the government. As El Salvador swung from one military dictatorship to the next and social mobility stayed practically impossible, the growth of leftist guerrilla movements was expected. Like in neighboring states Nicaragua and Guatemala, the 1970s and 1980s became ground zero for revolutionary politics.

El Salvador’s civil war lasted from 1980 to 1992, leaving over 75,000 people dead and thousands more displaced from their homes. It was notorious for death squads, the use of child soldiers, and various other human rights violations. Thousands had fled to neighboring countries, chief among them the United States. The US, who had backed the Salvadoran government during the war, would play a key part in both the peace deal and its ensuing breakdown. Following the 1989 Jesuit massacre, and the US no longer supplying the government with weapons but rather calling for an end to the conflict, the government and FMLN brokered a peace deal. Although the peace deal succeeded in ending the violent civil war and incorporating FMLN into the political system, economic goals of the peace agreement were less successful. Along with this, a lack of funding for government programs reincorporating child soldiers or supporting communities most affected by the atrocities kept areas from healing.

Within the peace accord, several agreements have been breached or not followed closely— Chapter 1, Armed Forces, facing the most challenges. Point 5, End to Impunity, gave the Commission on the Truth power to end impunity for armed actors involved in human rights abuses. However, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed an amnesty law that protected all military and guerrilla forces from prosecution in 1993, undercutting the Commission on the Truth, leaving many victims without anyone to hold to account. To this end, the entrance of the FMLN into the president’s office in 2009 led to the removal of the blanket amnesty law, yet still few cases have been prosecuted. Now, at the 25th anniversary, prosecutions are becoming less and less likely, meaning the justice side of the conflict remains unfulfilled, keeping the country from experiencing total peace. With Point 6 of Chapter 1, Public Security Forces, the government has loosened the regulations set out in the peace accord. While the peace accord set about creating a police force controlled by civilian authorities, rather than allowing the military to conduct the policing within El Salvador, the government has instead militarized its police. Though the primary role of the national civil police was shaped around safeguarding peace, anti-gang policies have been more offensive than defensive in nature. In the first decade of the 2000s, El Salvador’s leadership developed the manu duro policy (iron fist). President Antonio Saca brought more force to the program and labeled it super mano duro. These policies led to increased police presence in El Salvador along with heavier weapons and the legal ability to take harsh methods against suspected gang members, therein beginning to blur the line carefully set out by the peace accords. In 2015, the government labeled street gangs as terrorist organization— a step that proponents said was fitting, given how the gangs terrorize the local population and seek to undermine the government. What this decision also does, however, is expand police rights to round up any person with a gang-related tattoo, as being a member of a gang is now illegal. Searches and raids rose and stories began to crop up of police abuse and overzealousness, but few arrests were made inside the police force. The government’s ability to seek justice as it sees fit is reminiscent of the civil war, making some civil society activists uncomfortable. As many gangs are most active in poor neighborhoods, it is those people who are most affected by gang violence and extortion and government abuse, rekindling the divide between the poor and the heavily armed police.

Point 11 called for the suspension of forcible recruitment: children disappeared throughout the conflict and many were coerced or forced into fighting, leaving a generation with few skills outside of war. While the government has taken steps to protect children, the gangs recruit boys as young as 10 to serve as lookouts and informants throughout the country. Recruitment into a street gang should be treated as a similar crime to that named in the peace accord since most of the gang members are young and die early. The government’s inability to protect its youth shows that the peace accord has not been implemented in its entire scope, made more acute due to a lack of finances.

The El Salvador peace deal, like many other peace deals, focused on resolving the conflict at hand and less with the structural issues going on inside El Salvador. Still, Chapter 5 sought to answer “the agrarian problem.” Land reform occurred to give workers more access to the wealth being gained from the earth they till and more peasants were able to buy land. Still, wages did not rise substantially, and an elite few continue to amass a critical amount of the wealth. The space left between peace accords and truth commissions following conflict leaves substantial room for economic structures to remain in place even while they are often a focal point of the conflict. The failure of the government to set significant reforms in place means that many Salvadorans face similar economic pressures as those prior to the civil war.

It would be incorrect to claim, however, that El Salvador is wholly responsible for its homicide rate or gang epidemic. The role of the US in Salvadoran politics was a main hindrance to peace within the state during the civil war, and its support of the original peace deal was mainly in pursuit of its own national interest. Now, as the international community looks to how El Salvador can lower its homicide rate, it should really be analyzing US immigration policy. The practices that gangs employ have their origins in Los Angeles, not in Soyapongo.

Thousands of Salvadorans escaped the country during the civil war, particularly young men avoiding being brought in to fight. Many fled to the US, albeit without the proper documentation, and settled in Los Angeles. The adolescents noticed the street culture already prevalent in the city at the time, particularly the gang rivalry between the Bloods and the Crips. This gave birth to la Mara Salvatrucha, commonly known as MS-13, and one of the main gangs in El Salvador today. While the gang was formed in Los Angeles, it ended up back in El Salvador: the US government, cracking down on illegal immigration, deported thousands of Salvadorans back to El Salvador following the peace accord. Since the US prioritizes deporting those with criminal records, gang members were the perfect example of what the government wanted to get out of the country. So although the young men were raised in American streets, the US took no responsibility for their behavior, and gang culture was exported to El Salvador along with the people. Since most of these men had little connection to El Salvador, they were difficult to integrate, notwithstanding all of the other issues that the country was facing. US foreign policy towards El Salvador, laden with hypocrisy for decades, has only furthered the destabilization of the small country. By only understanding the civil war through the Cold War, it supported brutal government tactics and furthered the endless bloodshed. The deportation of young gang members and the separation of families across borders continue to put Salvadorans at risk. Furthermore, when the US saw an increase in unaccompanied minors entering the US in 2014, they were careful not to label them refugees, even though they were escaping the deadliest region outside of a warzone. As El Salvador continues to grapple with its rival gangs, the US continues its deadly deportation policy.

What does this all mean, in the context of a 25 year-old peace deal? Small states do not have full agency in their policymaking if they are not afforded it by larger states, such as in the US-El Salvador relationship. The violence in El Salvador should also serve as a reminder of the importance of financial power to put in place post-conflict programs that emphasize reintegration, community building, and job opportunities. Impunity serves no one but those who committed the crimes, even if it is being done in the name of healing and moving on. Furthermore, governments must conduct their own commissions to reform long-established obstacles: while truth commissions may bring victims’ voices to light, and peace accords disarm the opposition, there continues to be no exact model for addressing the long-term grievances of oppressed groups, especially in postcolonial states. The peace accord may have ended the civil war, but it was unable to provide stability or lead to civil society involvement that could have created a peace that meant more than simply the absence of war.

 

Sources:

http://www.seguridadjusticiaypaz.org.mx/biblioteca/prensa/send/6-prensa/230-caracas-venezuela-es-la-ciudad-mas-violenta-del-mundo 

http://www.blog.rielcano.org/ciudades-violentas-sin-necesidad-de-guerras/#comments 

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/es.html 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/29/el-salvador-police-arrest-77-raids-powerful-ms13-gang 

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/sep/04/adam-hinton-el-salvador-ms-13-gangs-prison-portraits 

http://cja.org/where-we-work/el-salvador/ 

http://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/SV_920116_ChapultepecAgreement.pdf 

http://www.usip.org/publications/truth-commission-el-salvador 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/18/nayib-bukele-san-salvador-mayor-save-worlds-most-violent-city 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGG7lRJJkJk 

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/11/arts/television/11bull.html 

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1920741,00.html 

http://www.csmonitor.com/1996/1105/110596.intl.intl.1.html 

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2012/0425/Building-on-success-How-El-Salvador-is-trying-to-keep-gang-violence-down

 

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Remembering Fidel Castro

Sofia Lesmes is a 1st year international relations and history student at King’s College London.

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October 25, 2012. I check my school email to get a notification from the principal: “as rumors continue to circulate on Fidel Castro’s health, I would like to inform you of our school’s plan” meaning that if Castro’s death was announced while school was not in session, it would be cancelled the next day. If school was going on, parents would be allowed to take children home if they wished. As anxiety mounted on this cloudy day, uncertainty loomed in my freshman World History class- as the smallest minority in my old high school was non-Cubans.

With Cubans accounting for 57% of the Latin American population in Miami and 34% (Miami-Dade County 2011) of the total population, it is safe to say that the city’s energy is at the mercy of the Cuban people. There was perhaps no stronger evidence than November 25, 2016 to support this claim. The streets filled with joyous celebration for days on end as the majority of Cuban exiles celebrated not the death of an individual, but a symbolic end. Fidel Castro was responsible for the death, exile, and separation of countless families in Cuba. Born and raised in Miami, Fidel Castro is a taboo name for me, even if I am not Cuban, I know everything he has done and why he is called “the father of modern Miami”. If it would not be for Fidel Castro, I probably wouldn’t know half the people I do because they would likely still be in their home country. Forced to flee, or rather swim and float in makeshift rafts for 90 miles, I am used to hearing stories of how people were saved by the “wet-foot dry-foot policy” and were able to start a new life away from an oppressive system that denied political freedom.

The death of Fidel Castro was met with mixed reaction across the world. “Hasta siempre Comandante” was met with equal amounts of “this is Cuba’s Berlin Wall moment”. However, all of his regime’s glorified political moves and socialist policies mean nothing with his countless human rights violations and disregard for his own people. “The progress on economic, social, and cultural rights was never matched in terms of respect for civil and political rights” (Human Rights Watch 2016). One look at the previously vibrant and moved Havana and all that remains is the crumbled infrastructure of pre-Revolution. For the past 55 years, freedom of expression has basically been unheard of on the island. Anyone who spoke out against Fidel Castro was unquestionably thrown in prison at the very least. Over the past half-century there have been 10,794 deaths by execution and 78,000 have died trying to flee the country (Jeff Goertzen 2016). “For my great-grandmother, who you arrested 12 times for her anti-revolutionary actions and vandalized her house weekly in the search for a hidden weapons cache. For my great Uncle, who you executed for arresting a drunken government official and forced his mother and two sisters to clean up his bloody remains from the execution wall”. People who, like 18 year old David Gonzalez, have never been to their own country, know enough about its history because their daily lives are affected by Castro’s regime.

Personally, I will remember him as someone who put politics and power before his own people. One of the most celebrated cultures of Latin America suppressed by a power hungry extremist. Fidel Castro was one of the leaders of the Cuban revolution against the U.S. backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, but for the Cuban people, the aftermath of this revolution brought about nothing except more pain and suffering. There is the fact that many inhabitants of Cuba support Castro’s regime, and the opinion that only capitalists and/or right wing supporters denounce Fidel Castro because there is little to no free market economy. Or that exiles from Cuba were affluent and only represent those who would not have benefited from socialist policies, unlike its present citizens. However, the question of Castro’s legacy lies in his repressive methods to bring about his goals for the country. So, on November 25th I asked myself, if the eyes of the world were on the largest Cuban community outside of Cuba, shouldn’t that say something? People should look to Cubans who can voice their opinion for a bleak opinion on the Castros’ impact. My hope is that history will do the same.

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The Colombian Peace Process: Understanding the “NO” Vote

by Sofia Liemann Escobar, a second year War Studies student from Colombia. She is currently the treasurer of the KCL Latin American Society. Her main interests include security, Latin America and organised crime.

 

 

“True peace is not merely the absence of war; it is the presence of justice”

– Jane Addams, 1931 Nobel prize winner

 

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“Without justice, there is no peace”

 

On the 2nd of October, Colombians will be deciding if they support the agreement that has been reached between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government. To many outsiders it is hard to understand why anyone could reject the agreements that as President Santos has proclaimed, will bring “a sustainable and durable peace” to Colombia. However, if they were to look closer to what is being agreed upon they might begin to understand why many Colombians are skeptical and against the proposed 297-page long agreement.

 

The FARC are a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla that have been involved in a conflict with the Colombian government since 1964. Whist their aim has been to topple the government to impose a communist regime, their means to accomplish this, including its financing, has made them criminals. They are responsible for 70% of Colombia’s cocaine production, which amounts to 40% of the world’s production [1]. In addition, they have been using other criminal methods such as kidnappings, extortions and illegal mining to finance their operations. The methods that they have used against soldiers, government officials and civilians have labelled them as terrorists. They have used bombs and mines to kill and terrorize innocent civilians. They are also responsible for the forced recruitment and use of child soldiers in the conflict, and have committed sexual crimes against women and young girls who were forcibly taken away from their homes. Despite the amount of harm, which they have brought to Colombia, they only represent around 0.03% [2] of the population.

 

This agreement that has been under negotiation for over 4 years in Havana has generated hope for peace amongst many Colombians, whilst creating serious concerns to others. For many people abroad the news of an agreement being reached on the 25th of August created great anticipation, thus making it hard to understand why anyone would have issues with it. When taking a closer look, the huge concessions that were made in favour of FARC become evident, and the much-awaited peace becomes questionable. Each Colombian has their own concern regarding the agreement depending on their values and fears. People with low incomes are generally upset that the government will pay FARC to demobilise, when they haven’t received any support from the government despite them being honest citizens. Others are concerned that those who have committed serious crimes will be eligible for appointment in public service. Whilst others are frustrated that the Colombian government will be imposing taxes to implement the agreements, whereas FARC are not required to give up their criminally earned fortune. There are many more issues with the agreement, but there is one in particular that has been very controversial: justice, or the lack thereof, especially in the cases of crimes against humanity.

 

Even though it is expected that in peace processes there is a more lenient approach to justice, it does not mean that the perpetrators of serious crimes should not go to jail, even for a reduced sentence. The government has claimed that there will be no amnesty and pardon for those who committed crimes against humanity. According to the agreements, if the perpetrators confess the crime, they get an “alternative sentence”. The agreement is ambiguous with what the sentence is, but clarifies that under no circumstance would it be jail or prison. However, if they don’t tell the truth, they go to jail for 20 years, and if they speak up at the last minute they get 8 years (article 60)[3]. The problem with this approach is that the “alternative sentence” is not a proportional punishment for the crimes they have committed. The danger in this agreement is that those who are actually innocent can end up going to jail if they don’t “tell the truth”, and those who are guilty of massacres, bombings, kidnappings, child-soldier recruitment, rape and extortion will get to confess their crimes and get awarded essentially a jail-free card. Human Rights Watch has highlighted that this agreement will “guarantee impunity for those responsible of crimes against humanity”[4]. Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch has denounced that allowing “confessed and convicted war criminals to be ‘punished’ by no more than orders for community service is grotesquely insufficient” [5]. It is interesting that in a recent opinion poll analysis by Fundacion Ideas Para la Paz, it paradoxically showed that whilst on average 40% of Colombians would be willing to sacrifice justice for peace, only around 11% would accept FARC members not going to jail[6].

 

Another dimension into the problem of justice is that it provides amnesty to drug trafficking. It will be the biggest money laundering operation that the world will have seen, as the government has accepted that drug trafficking is a related offence to political crimes (article 39)[7]. There is no mention in the 297 pages of FARC having to use their fortune to restore their victims.  The FARC are the third richest terrorist organization in the world[8]. Most of that money has been gained through the cocaine business. If the government is unable to bring the biggest drug cartel to justice, how will they have the authority to prosecute other cartels and drug traffickers in the country?

 

Just as worrying as the many other dubious and deceiving clauses in the agreement, is the inappropriate use of democratic mechanisms to disguise the imposition of the agreement. The congress, which is controlled by the President, approved the Legislative Act for Peace. A modification to the constitution to give “security and legal stability” to the process [9] by shielding the agreements so future governments will be unable to change them. It will also be elevated to special status under the Geneva conventions, therefore treating it as an international agreement despite FARC being a non-state actor. Furthermore, it grants special powers to the president so he can expedite decrees that will fast-track the implementation of new laws and the changes in the constitution. A process that normally requires 8 debates in congress, will be reduced to 4. In addition, the proposals brought by the president can not be modified without his consent, and as a result the congress will lose its raison d’être. In order to put this in effect, Colombians must support the plebiscite,  which is polemic in itself as the threshold has been lowered from 50% to 13%. It is astonishing to see how the government slowly changes the constitution to suit a terrorist group.

 

It is a misconception that the peace process under the agreed terms will stop the conflict in Colombia. The reality is that even if FARC are gone, violence is very likely to continue as long as the drug trafficking business continues. The agreement will not bring an end to this trade [10]. There are already signs that other organised crime groups are moving into old FARC territory and taking over their criminal economies. In the past few weeks ELN, Colombia’s 2nd largest guerrilla force, has increased their kidnapping and extortion activities. They also announced that they would be having an armed strike in six departments of Colombia [11]. Many have argued that in saying “yes” to this agreement, an opportunity is given to those who have suffered the most to live in peace. The sad reality is that many of these people will not see that peace because soon they will be overrun by other criminal groups that will be extorting, kidnapping and killing. Unfortunately, the agreement fails to properly deal with the issue of drug trafficking. President Santos claims that the FARC will help to eradicate coca crops, but it is hard to see this happening when taking into account the fact that during the negotiating of the peace process, Colombia once again gained the status as the major cocaine producer in the world [12]. In fact, last week President Barack Obama highlighted Colombia’s 42% increase in coca crop cultivations between 2014 and 2015 [13].

 

Colombians that are voting NO, are not warmongers. They are concerned citizens who see the risks of the agreement, and want a renegotiation on some of the critical aspects of the agreement. Santos has said this is impossible, and threatened that war would prevail if the outcome is a no. If that is the case, then it is proof that FARC were not in it to end the conflict in the first place. As the counterinsurgency academic, David Spencer, puts it: these “peace negotiations are part of a plan [for the FARC] to take power: they are not a means to end the conflict but rather to transform it” [14]. Spencer also points out that FARC’s petitions do not resemble those of an organization that wants to reintegrate back into society, “but rather those of one attempting to dictate at the negotiating table the terms of a peace that it was unable to win on the battlefield” [15]. This agreement opens the door for the populist left that have put fellow Latin American countries like Cuba and Venezuela in complete chaos.

 

All Colombians want peace- but is it worth sacrificing justice and democracy for this distorted version? Would other countries be happy agreeing to the same terms with the terrorists that harmed and terrorized them?

 

[1] McDermott, Jeremy (2016, August 24) What Does Colombia Peace Mean for Cocaine Trade? <http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/what-does-colombia-peace-deal-mean-for-cocaine-trade> [accessed 17 September 2016].

 

[2] Latest FARC numbers (15,700) / Colombian Population (48,814,452) x 100= 0.03%. Information obtained from http://www.noticiasrcn.com/nacional-pais/guerrilla-las-farc-contaria-15700-hombres & http://countrymeters.info/es/Colombia

 

[3] Acuerdo Final Para la Terminacion del Conflicto y la Construccion de una Paz Estable y Duradera: http://www.altocomisionadoparalapaz.gov.co/Documents/informes-especiales/abc-del-proceso-de-paz/acuerdo-general-proceso-paz.html

 

[4] Human Rights Watch (2016, August 25) Colombia: Peace Pact a Key Opportunity to Curb Abuses< https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/08/25/colombia-peace-pact-key-opportunity-curb-abuses> [accessed 17 September 2016].

 

[5] Human Rights Watch (2016, August 25) Colombia: Peace Pact a Key Opportunity to CurbAbuses<https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/08/25/colombia-peace-pact-key-opportunity-curb-abuses> [accessed 17 September 2016].

 

[6] Fundacion Ideas Para La Paz (2016) El Termometro de la Paz <http://www.ideaspaz.org/especiales/termometro/#p3> [accessed 17 September 2016].

 

[7] Acuerdo Final Para la Terminacion del Conflicto y la Construccion de una Paz Estable y Duradera: http://www.altocomisionadoparalapaz.gov.co/Documents/informes-especiales/abc-del-proceso-de-paz/acuerdo-general-proceso-paz.html

 

[8] Forbes International (2014, December 12) The World’s 10 Richest Terrorist Organizations <http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesinternational/2014/12/12/the-worlds-10-richest-terrorist-organizations/#9dee35e2ffae> [accessed 17 September 2016].

[9] CNN Español (2016, Junio 2) Congreso de Colombia aprueba reforma constitucional para blindar acuerdo de paz en La Habana < http://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2016/06/02/congreso-aprueba-reforma-constitucional-para-blindar-acuerdo-de-paz-en-la-habana/> [accessed 17 September 2016].

[10] McDermott, Jeremy (2016, August 24) What Does Colombia Peace Mean for Cocaine Trade? <http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/what-does-colombia-peace-deal-mean-for-cocaine-trade> [accessed 17 September 2016].

[11] Noticias RCN (2016, September 11) ELN anunció paro armado de 72 horas en seis departamentos < http://www.noticiasrcn.com/nacional-pais/eln-anuncio-paro-armado-72-horas-seis-departamentos>[accessed 17 September 2016].

[12]Miroff, Nick (2015, November 10) Colombia is again the World’s Top Coca Producer.Here’s why that’s a blow to the US. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/in-a-blow-to-us-policy-colombia-is-again-the-worlds-top-producer-of-coca/2015/11/10/316d2f66-7bf0-11e5-bfb6-65300a5ff562_story.html> [accessed 17 September 2016].

[13] News Room America Feeds (2016, September 12) Presidential Determination—Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2017 <http://www.newsroomamerica.com/story/595587.html> [accessed 17 September 2016].

[14] Davies, Dickie; Kilcullen, David; Mills, Greg; Spencer, David (2016) A Great Perhaps? Colombia: Conflict and Convergence (London: Hurst Publishers) p.g 137.

[15] Davies, Dickie; Kilcullen, David; Mills, Greg; Spencer, David (2016) A Great Perhaps? Colombia: Conflict and Convergence (London: Hurst Publishers) p.g 147

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Impeachment for Dummies: Will Justice Trump Politics in Brazil for Once?

By Carina Minami Uchida a 1st year International Relations student from Brazil and Japan. She is interested in corruption and civil conflict of developing nations.

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Source:http://www.dw.com/en/brazils-president-dilma-rousseff-avoids-impeachment-for-now/a-18925844

This week the Brazilian lower house has overwhelmingly voted in favor of processing the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff to the senate, with 367 in favor, 137 against and 7 absentees. The process was long and tensions were high for all 42 hours with speeches alluding to the dictatorship, communism and even fascism. 17th of April 2016 will forever remain in Brazil’s history books. The question now stands, what happens now? To our crippling political stability, the ever failing economy and most of all, to the Brazilian people who are supposedly finally experiencing the revolution they so craved for decades.

In Brazil, since the military dictatorship came to an end in 1985, corruption has echoed through the streets of its people, a constant underlying commonality that thrived in national politics and governmental leaders. People complain about their politicians during happy hour, at the gym and at every social gathering because it has become so common, normal and almost adequate. It seemed that those powerful in Brazil were untouchable, despite how blatantly they cheated their way through politics and the economy, running the nation into the deepest recession since 1901 whilst embezzling millions to offshore accounts in Switzerland. And so through the widening social gap, unattended environmental crisis and general untrustworthiness in democracy, Brazil had had enough by June 2013.

All it took was a 10-cent raise on bus fares to inflame the sparks of a revolution that spread quickly like wildfire. Millions of people, from all social upbringings, race and backgrounds took it to the streets in protest against the injustice of the Brazilian government, specifically the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores – PT) which President Dilma Rousseff leads with.

Fast-forward to December 2nd 2015 when Dilma’s impeachment process was accepted by the senate and Brazil once again emerged in the masses. She has been accused of administrative misconduct and disregarding the federal budget, as well as suspected corruption in Petrobras, a state-owned oil company where numerous executives accepted bribes in return for rewarding contracts to construction firms at inflated prices. Although there is yet no concrete evidence regarding her specifically, she was the head of the board for Petrobras when most of the transactions have allegedly taken place, so 1 + 1 = 2?

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Source:http://www.bbc.com/portuguese/noticias/2016/04/160419_impeachment_revela_congresso_rm

With the congress voting in favor of impeachment, it is now for the senate to vote for formal dismissal of Rousseff from her presidential role for up to 180 days whilst investigations occur. According to major polls, majority of the senate seem to be pro-impeachment, which leaves Dilma’s probability of political survival close to nil. With her vacancy, vice president Michel Temer, leader of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (Partido do Movimento Democratico Brasileiro – PMDB), takes on as president until the general elections in 2018. After the 180 days, the senate shall vote again and require a two third majority (54 out of 81) for a permanent impeachment to ensue. Dilma’s downfall so far seems to be rather picturesque, the story of the triumph of the judicial system over decades of backroom corruption and how the people’s voices have finally been heard through the cracks of political shadiness. However, nothing is perfect and this is not a Steven Spielberg movie. Although it symbolizes that for once, the judicial system is foregoing action against corruption which has been silenced for decades, the unglamorous reality is that the political game of oppositional parties is currently thriving for power and using justice as an excuse. They are succeeding in overthrowing a democratically elected leader who although currently tremendously unpopular, has not been proven to break the law but that does not seem to matter anymore. No wonder she is even turning to the United Nations to cry for help and naming the impeachment a coup.

Rousseff’s impeachment and the major corruption investigation called Operation Car Wash (Operação Lava Jato) involving over R$10 billion Brazilian reais (around £2 billion) moved through money laundering has been the centre of attention throughout the media and the Brazilian people. The impeachment seems to be the tip of the corruption iceberg, through Operation Car Wash, the judicial system has opened over 150 corruption cases involving approximately 500 firms and individuals. Just recently, Odebrecht, a conglomerate of businesses involved in the corruption scandal was forced to release their documents citing over 200 politicians involved in money laundering and embezzlement (yes you read that right, 2 double 0). Just because Madame President is taken away from her role, hundreds of corrupt governmental leaders, policy makers and powerful executives are still leading the country or even worse, being the ones rooting and scolding Dilma for her inadequacies.

The plot twist is that alongside the presidential impeachment, the Superior Electoral Tribunal Court has four cases submitted by the PT opposing Brazilian Social Democratic Party (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira – PSDB) accusing the entire presidential winning ticket of the last election of electoral corruption. This would signify that both Temer and Rousseff would have to step down and new elections would be called in 90 days and probably voted upon sometime next year. The next in line after vice president Temer is Eduardo Cunha, president of the senate who initially approved the impeachment process back in December 2015. He is also currently being investigated by Operation Car Wash and the House Ethics Commission for corruption schemes with Petrobras, and there is evidence that he obtains various offshore bank accounts in Switzerland. In case he does become the interim president, it becomes exponentially harder to investigate his corruption allegations due to increased parliamentary immunity. In a government where the corrupt are attempting to reveal others of their own corruption for individual gains, in Cunha’s case to save himself from jail, the hypocrisy is very real indeed.

The problem of corruption will not perish so easily as ousting the president because political deception and fraud is so deeply rooted within the Brazilian government. Through data discovered through Operation Car Wash, it has become clear that all parties across the political spectrum are somehow involved in money laundering and backroom transactions. One prime example is Aecio Neves, president of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) and until recently, the strongest candidate for presidency in 2018 as he lost in 2014 to Rouseff by only 3%. He is now being investigated by Operation Car Wash for allegedly receiving bribes through a scheme involving Furnas, a subsidiary of state-run power utility Eletrobras. If there is a new election, there seems to be no viable candidate or party that will establish the economical and political turnaround that the nation so desperately needs.  Recent polls have shown that if an election was to be held on the present day, candidates would only score up to 20% of votes, not nearly enough to cast a majority and become president. Not to mention that until election day sometime next year, there will be “more than enough time for the complete meltdown of the country, leaving little hope for stabilisation” (Costa 2016). No wonder The Guardian has stated that Brazil is going through an “identity crisis” (Brum 2016).

To make this even more chaotic, ex-president Lula da Silva (PT), who led the country into miraculous economic growth during which Brazil became one of the fastest developing nations in the world early 2000s, is highly considering running for office once more in 2018. However ex-president Lula is also being thoroughly investigated by Operation Car Wash, being taken into custody last month and questioned. As President of Petrobras when most of the embezzlement occurred, investigators believe he accepted political favors from companies and also over £5.5 million in donations disguised as charity for his Institute Lula non-profit. Between being investigated by the Supreme Court and officials uncovering his vault filled with over 130 pieces of rare jewellery and art (including sculptures that went missing from parliament when he left office), no wonder he is desperate. Lula has taken up rather ludicrous measures in fear of being arrested, such as asking for asylum in Italy. Most recently, he has pushed for new elections to occur by this year, in hopes of getting elected before arrest or being unable to run for office depending what investigations uncover.

If not even Dilma’s closest ally Lula is on her side, the pro-impeachment opposition is acting with full force to get her out of office. Right-wing parties during the congressional speeches did not hesitate to acknowledge their “yes” votes to family members, the church and even anti-abortion movements. Speeches completely ignored the accounts that Rousseff has been charged with for impeachment which ironically does not include personal money laundering as opposed to those shouting in the chambers. One notable speech was by homophobic deputy Jair Bolsonaro who dedicated his vote to military officials who tortured Rousseff during the dictatorship in the 1970s, the word insensitive for the congressional voting is indeed an understatement.  Moreover, numerous deputies supposedly allying with the Rousseff government “backstabbed” and voted “yes” after receiving promises from opposition parties for future governmental endeavors. At this point it has become clear that rather than an impeachment of a leader who has broken the law, it is a political game where the opposition parties are doing it all to coup Dilma Rousseff from presidency and delegitimize her political party.

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Source:http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/20/the-fallout-from-dilma-rousseffs-impeachment-in-brazil-will-be-global

Perhaps now is a great time to include democracy in the chaos. Although throughout Rousseff’s leadership the nation has reached the worst economic crisis in 25 years and the dollar has risen exponentially, she was still elected democratically in 2010 and 2014. On the other hand, if Michel Temer becomes the interim president until 2018, not only is he also undergoing corruption scandals but he has not been chosen by the Brazilian people to lead a nation about to crumble into pieces. Polls have shown that around 2%- 3% of Brazilians would vote for him for office, a stark realization that the impeachment will mostly lead to general domestic dissatisfaction and increasing chaos within the international sphere. Yes, the dollar has gone down since the impeachment process and stock markets are gradually improving but it is not through political turnovers that a nation recovers. Political stability is key if Brazil is to climb over the heaps of chaos. Perhaps allowing democracy to play its course and in 2018 allow the people to choose wouldn’t be so bad after all?

It is undeniable that Rousseff’s impeachment is a symbol that for once, the justice system cares about corruption and that finally action is being taken through the voices on the streets. However this is not the story of the triumph of justice, but a story of the triumph of change. The question now stands, are the Brazilian people willing to accept this change and sacrifice the cores of fair democracy for it? It is not about justice but about individual gains in the political ladder, and the game is full of dirty players. Chaos rings loud throughout politics, the economy and amongst the entire nation. Instead of focusing on political reforms with aims of eradicating corruption and ensuring stability, politicians and policymakers are too busy pointing fingers to deviate from their own scandals. Instead of closing the social gap, instituting better education and avoiding economical meltdown, bills have been barred from the Senate until impeachment proceedings are over. So before we pop the champagne and call this a day, remember that corruption lives on and that the country is still going to be led by hypocritical, homophobic and sexist individuals. Social inequality reigns, the rich and powerful will continue to get their way through well, anything.

Brazil’s current situation certainly feels like a House of Cards episode. With such national disorder, who even has the time to think about the Olympics?

 

Bibliography:

 

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-04/brazil-analysts-ring-in-new-year-with-deeper-recession-forecast (Recession since 1901)

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/brazil/2016-04-14/brazils-next-president

 

http://noticias.uol.com.br/cotidiano/ultimas-noticias/2013/06/20/em-dia-de-maior-mobilizacao-protestos-levam-centenas-de-milhares-as-ruas-no-brasil.htm

http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2016/04/1759342-lula-e-marina-lideram-corrida-para-2018-tucanos-despencam.shtml

http://m.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2016/03/1750108-aecio-recebeu-propina-de-furnas-diz-delcidio-em-delacao.shtml

http://revistapiaui.estadao.com.br/lupa/2016/04/11/marina-silva-muda-de-posicao-sobre-impeachment/ (Marina changing policy position)

 

http://www.correiobraziliense.com.br/app/noticia/politica/2016/04/09/internas_polbraeco,526568/lula-e-marina-silva-lideram-disputa-para-a-presidencia-aponta-datafol.shtml (Marina e Lula lidera 2018)

 

http://noticias.uol.com.br/ultimas-noticias/agencia-estado/2016/03/09/senador-apresenta-pec-que-institui-parlamentarismo-no-brasil.htm (Semiparliamentarismo)

 

http://fernandorodrigues.blogosfera.uol.com.br/2016/03/23/documentos-da-odebrecht-listam-mais-de-200-politicos-e-valores-recebidos/ (Odebrecht)

 

http://g1.globo.com/politica/operacao-lava-jato/noticia/2015/10/veja-acusacoes-contra-eduardo-cunha.html (Eduardo Cunha Lava Jato)

 

http://politica.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,maioria-do-senado-apoia-afastamento,10000025895 (polls senado)

 

http://www.bbc.com/portuguese/noticias/2016/02/160223_tse_impeachment_dilma (Temer-Dilma TSE)

 

 

http://josiasdesouza.blogosfera.uol.com.br/2015/11/19/se-nao-tivesse-imunidade-cunha-estaria-preso/ (Cunha imunidade parliamentar)

 

http://eleicoes.uol.com.br/2014/noticias/2014/10/26/dilma-cresce-na-reta-final-e-reeleita-e-emplaca-quarto-mandato-do-pt.htm (Aecio Dilma 2014 eleicao)

 

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/18/brazil-impeachment-identity-crisis-dilma-rouseff-workers-party (identity crisis)

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/r-brazil-money-launderer-testifies-former-presidential-candidate-took-bribe-2015-8?IR=T (Aecio bribes)

 

http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2016/03/1750221-apos-delacao-de-delcidio-aecio-deve-ser-investigado-na-lava-jato.shtml (Aecio lava jato)

 

https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexandreorrico/proximos-passos-do-impeachment#.doPxNW73b6 (o que acontece agora)

 

http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/world/who-stands-to-gain-from-dilma-rousseffs-impeachment (Lula comeback)

 

http://time.com/4261712/lula-brazil-petrobras-scandal/ (lula petrobras)

 

http://veja.abril.com.br/noticia/brasil/pf-encontra-cofre-de-lula-com-joias-e-obras-de-arte (Lula cofre)

 

http://www.jornaldamidia.com.br/2016/04/19/com-medo-da-lava-jato-lula-quer-antecipar-eleicoes-gerais/#.Vxejk4SYTww (lula new elections)

 

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/04/dilma-rousseff-impeachment-coup-temer-bolsonaro/ (Bolsonaro)

 

http://veja.abril.com.br/blog/reinaldo/geral/dilma-na-onu-nao-se-trata-apenas-de-um-equivoco-trata-se-de-um-crime/ (Dilma UN)

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-35831833 (Brasil House of Cards)

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Zika and the price of valuing our religion more than our women

Carly Greenfield is a first year International Relations student in the War Studies department at King’s College London. Her main interests center around conflict resolution and corruption, with a special focus on the Americas.

ss-160114-zika-birth-defect-brazil-02_c057f3fd811e1839d1d8e8cb24ebdc46.nbcnews-fp-1200-800

The Zika virus, if it had suddenly spread in a region with responsible reproductive laws and more access to contraception, would never have become an international crisis. The World Health Organization naming it a public health emergency is directly linked to the fact that countries in Latin America are unwilling, and unable, to combat the virus.[1] No deaths have ever been reported due to Zika, which makes an interesting case for why this has been raised to the level of an international health emergency. The real worry is microcephaly, which is a birth defect that leaves the brain below regular development levels and can cause other physical issues like seizures and paralysis.[2] There is a possible connection between a pregnant woman contracting the Zika virus and her child, then, being born with abnormalities— this is the main concern of government and health officials.[3] Latin America’s social and cultural make up have a large part to play in the spread of Zika.

map

The image above, created by the Center for Reproductive Rights, shows the level of restriction on abortion across the globe. If we focus on the region afflicted with Zika, we see a high level of restrictions:

sfkjjaf

The region’s laws are backed by the strength of the Roman Catholic Church. Latin America is the biggest Catholic region in the globe and the church holds a great deal of political legitimacy.[4] This is coupled by high levels of poverty across the region, especially in Central America. Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras all have poverty levels around or above 30%,[5] and at least 30% of people live in rural areas.[6] The ruralness of the region makes the lack of reproductive rights and education even more acute: there is a lack of access to contraceptives, like condoms and birth control, along with the improbability of a safe and legal abortion. Even now, the Catholic Church does not approve of the use of condoms to prevent pregnancy and only dropped their official ban in 2010.[7]

The silence of the Catholic Church is especially striking and shows that the region is unlikely to adapt its laws to the current crisis.[8] Pope Francis, being from the region, albeit from a country that has not been afflicted with the virus, is in a special position to address Latin America’s laws and yet has chosen not to do so. Even heavily Catholic nations that are developed, however, do not always have full access to abortion— the Republic of Ireland only allows abortion when the woman’s life is at risk.[9] If the church has not wavered in developed regions, it is unlikely to change a serious pillar of its institution for a single crisis. Along with this, the child is unlikely to die if his or her mother contracts Zika: the church would likely rebuke any idea that supports the abortion of a pregnancy simply because the child would be born with disabilities. This would run directly against mainstream Christian values.

Zika has the chance of becoming an epidemic if women are unable to access safe abortions. Currently, it is estimated that as many as 1.5 million people in Brazil are infected, and symptoms are not always apt to be detected quickly.[10] In El Salvador, a country of 6 million with at least 6,000 infections and counting, there has been the suggestion by the Deputy Health Minister that women should try and not get pregnant for the next two years.[11] This advice is misled and does nothing to solve the issue: women are already pregnant and in contact with the virus and there is no sign of it lessening. Even though the calling for a lift on restrictions has gained some momentum,[12] the heavily religious region is too tied to its Catholic institutions and cultural traditions to react quickly enough or with enough vigor to combat the Zika virus in full. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has even called for a lift on the restrictions, saying

“[…] The advice of some governments to women to delay getting pregnant, ignores the reality that many women and girls simply cannot exercise control over whether or when or under what circumstances they become pregnant, especially in an environment where sexual violence is so common.”[13]

The Zika virus sheds light on the sociocultural issues that already exist and threaten women in Latin America. While the focus is not on sexual violence, the public’s inability to access adequate health services, or huge flaws in sanitation systems, the virus compounds all of these concerns, making it more threatening than it ever should have been.

[1] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2016/emergency-committee-zika-microcephaly/en/

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/21/zika-virus-cdc-symptoms-mosquitos-united-states-pregnant-women-microcephaly

[3] Ibid

[4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-21443313

[5] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.RUR.TOTL.ZS

[6] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.NAHC

[7] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/the-pope/8148944/The-Pope-drops-Catholic-ban-on-condoms-in-historic-shift.html

[8] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/04/concern-grows-over-catholic-churchs-silence-over-zika-virus-crisis-abortion-contraception

[9] https://www.mariestopes.org.uk/overseas-clients-abortion/irish/abortion-and-law/abortion-law-republic-ireland

[10] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/zika-prompts-urgent-debate-about-abortion-in-latin-america/2016/02/07/b4f3a718-cc6b-11e5-b9ab-26591104bb19_story.html

[11] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-35455871

[12] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/zika-prompts-urgent-debate-about-abortion-in-latin-america/2016/02/07/b4f3a718-cc6b-11e5-b9ab-26591104bb19_story.html

[13]http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17014&LangID=E#sthash.1fAUC7E6.dpuf

 

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Brazil and Israel: from friends to enemies?

By Tulio Konstantinovitch, a Brazilian second year student reading BA International Relations at the War Studies Department of King’s College London.

Brazil3

Brazil is a peaceful State and is well known for its respect for other nations. It is also one of the 11 countries in the world that has diplomatic relations with all members of the United Nations. Nevertheless, a controversial case in the last months, which attracted a lot of attention in the media and in the international community, showed that its practices sometimes are more aggressive. The decision of not recognising Dani Dayan as the new Israeli ambassador in Brazil, brought up discussions on the role of Brazil in the international community and confirmed the idea that, in diplomacy, it stands up for what it believes it is right. However, disagreements with Israel are not entirely new to the country.

Since 2014, a diplomatic conflict against Israel has been in place. The animosity originated when the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, published a note of repudiation regarding the “disproportionate use of force” by Israelis against Palestinians, “which resulted in high numbers of civilian casualties, including women and children”. Also, Brazil announced a calling for ‘consultation’ of the Brazilian ambassador in Israel, Henrique da Silveira Sardinha Pinto, taking him off charge for a certain period. In diplomatic language, the convening of an ambassador is considered an act of protest.

In this situation, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yigal Palmor, affirmed that Brazil is an “irrelevant” diplomatic partner. He added, “This is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf”. The usage of the term “diplomatic dwarf” in reference to Brazil perpetuated in the world media, with some condemning Palmor and some agreeing with him.

Nowadays, another conflict has deepened diplomatic understanding between the two. With the indication of Dani Dayan as the ambassador of Israel in Brazil, a diplomatic crisis emerged. This is because Brazil is one the countries that supports a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and recognises Palestine as a State, position confirmed in 2010. Dayan, on the other hand, has been a supporter of Israeli settlements, being a political leader inside the lands that were conquered during the six-day war in 1967.

The Brazilian government criticised the way in which Israel announced the appointment of Dayan – in a post by Netanyahu on Twitter – even before Brasilia had been informed and had agreed to the nomination, injuring diplomatic rules. In fact, this goes against the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, in which Article 4 reads: “1.The sending State must make certain that the agreement of the receiving State has been given for the person it proposes to accredit as head of the mission to that State and 2.The receiving State is not obliged to give reasons to the sending State for a refusal of agreement.”

This does not mean, however, that Brazil does not support the state of Israel, as some could argue. Brazil played a significant role in the creation of the State of Israel. It was the Brazilian diplomat Oswaldo Aranha -by then president of the UN General Assembly- who in 1948 had the decisive vote, enabling and approving a nation of the Jews. The same resolution also sought the establishment of a Palestinian State.

Hence, historically, Brazil never believed in the necessity of war. It tried to show support for the two sides, speaking for reconciliation and the end of the conflict. Economically, whilst Palestine is irrelevant for Brazil regarding trade, Israel is one of Brazil’s leading partners. There is a significant bilateral trade of more than US$1 billion per year. Brazil imports from Israel critical components for the aviation industry and security and mainly exports food. An example of the former was the purchase of a security system from Israel for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which will take place in August 2016. Israel is the only country outside South America that Mercosur has a free trade agreement with, in force since 2010. In the same year, President Lula became the first Brazilian head of state to visit Israel.

Brazil2

Concerning the Dayan crisis, the Brazilian government has quietly made a series of diplomatic initiatives trying to convince Israel to change her appointment but had no success. Accepting him, who denies the Palestinians sovereignty over any land, carries a problematic symbolism because it goes against the Brazilian diplomacy of promotion of peace and respect for international law, as well as contradicting the efforts of the international community to work towards peace, something previous Israeli governments tried to do.

The former Israeli ambassador in Brasilia was Reda Mansour, an Arabic-Israeli, who is fluent in Portuguese and had great respect for diplomacy between the two parties. So why replace a respected diplomat at a difficult moment in bilateral relations by such a controversial figure as Dayan? The answer concerns the priorities of the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who looks for achieving international acceptance and legitimacy to the 1967 territories. It is noteworthy that he seeks this goal in a hard way, via Brazil, due to its political importance, instead of trying to assign Dayan as ambassador to a smaller country. On the other hand, Dayan argues that this could set a precedent that will prevent residents of settlements – politicians or not – to represent Israel abroad because they will be considered unrightful. The result of this diplomatic crisis is uncertain, but since there is a mutual dependence of the two countries and because Israel is not well seen in regard to its diplomacy, probably it will end up assigning a new ambassador, rather than Brazil conforming to Israel’s current nominee. This will, however, only be seen in the following months.

 

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November marks Argentina’s elections – will it also mark an end to Kirchnerism? What implications could this have on the country itself but also the entire region?

By an Argentinian student in London.

Certain elections command international attention as a result of the corresponding country’s preponderance in global affairs. Certain elections command a sporadic spotlight as a result of the corresponding country’s “news headline” status. Certain elections, however, happen in the dark, with the world hardly noticing outside the country’s own borders and neighbors. On October 25th of 2015, Argentina held its presidential elections, and for the first time in thirty-two years of a democratic regime, the elections should be more than just a side note on page 8 of global newspapers—the elections should command international attention.

The Argentinian electoral system, of proportional representation for the legislature, is a two-round system for the president. Being a presidential system with generous powers held by the presidential office, the elections for the president are seemingly all-important. For a candidate to win outright, they must hold 45% or more of the vote. Otherwise, if they more than 40% of the vote and a 10% difference with the runner-up in the election, they will win outright. If neither of these occurs, a ‘ballotage’, or second round, happens in which the first is pitted against the second placed candidate. The ‘ballotage’ has always been a distant possibility for the electorate—no election since the fall of the third and last military junta in 1983 has gone past the first round. October 25th marked an important date: for the first time, a ‘ballotage’ is imminent, and will be held on November 22nd.

For anyone familiar with Argentinian politics of the 21st century, the name Kirchner will only seem redundant—the story of a husband and wife that have held office ever since 2003, compounded with the tragic death of husband Nestor Kirchner in 2010. Cristina Kirchner, the current president, has already served her two four-year terms and is constitutionally barred from running again. Teenagers in Buenos Aires may only recall the name Kirchner as the country’s leader, and for the first time, a new name must appear. Kirchner’s successor and current vice-president and Buenos Aires Province Governor, Daniel Scioli, was favored to win the elections outright, with 65% of people of a survey believing he would be the next president. Election day came, and Scioli attained 36.86% of the votes, insufficient for a first-round victory. Runner-up Mauricio Macri, ex-Boca Juniors president and current Governor of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, collected a surprising 34.33% of the votes. Meanwhile, third-placed Sergio Massa picked up a substantial 21.34% of the votes, with the remaining votes held by Del Caño, Stolbizer, and Rodríguez Saá. On November 22nd, Macri will head into a ‘ballotage’ against Scioli.

Interestingly, 55% of people of a survey now believe that Macri will obtain office. Part of this belief is grounded on Macri’s party, Cambiemos, and its success in the Buenos Aires provincial elections, where for the first time since 1987 the Partido Justicialista, ie. that of the Kirchners and past political heavyweights such as Carlos Menem and most importantly, Juan Domingo Perón, has lost. Eugenia María Vidal won by 4%, and Scioli’s political footing has been at risk since then. The question really is, why does this matter, and why would anyone outside of the football, meat, and mate loving country care?

The answer lies in political change. Some may say that both Nestor and Cristina Kirchner were democratically elected in their offices, but some may argue that the simple reality of a country spending twelve years under the same family can be assimilated to a non-democratic system. Furthermore, some may say that the fact that only two presidencies since the introduction of democracy in 1983, the first under Raúl Alfonsín and the latter under Fernando de la Rúa that led to the default of the Argentinian economy in 2001, have been held by a party other than the Peronist Partido Justicialista means that a change in ruling party might mean much more than a simple exchange of power between Gordon Brown and David Cameron. As Macri’s party name suggests, “Cambiemos”, which literally translates to “let’s change”, political change could follow if Scioli were to lose the presidency. That is not to say that political change could not occur if Scioli were to become a president—it is just a more doubtfully skeptic claim, knowing his close ties to Kirchner and the Partido Justicialista.

And how does this matter to the outside world? Argentina is neither a member of BRICS nor the newly named MINT, yet a member of the G20. When its name appears on the news, chances are it is most likely related to Lionel Messi and football or potentially the Pumas and rugby. But we must remember two key events in the past year that did reach the page 1 headlines, namely the Argentinian economic technical default to US hedge funds stemming from the 2001 crisis bonds given out and the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman in the investigation of the more than controversial bombing of AMIA, one of Argentina’s largest Jewish institutions, in 1994 that could have effectively resulted in Kirchner’s impeachment. These two events led Kirchner’s popularity to decrease nationwide, but it also led people to question the government internationally. And yet, Scioli, her direct successor, was predicted to win the elections without any preoccupations about fellow candidates Macri and Massa. It seems that something important is happening in this Latin American nation, and it seems that the world should not just simply turn a blind eye. Latin America is more than an exotic land of historic empires and natural beauties; it poses great economic possibilities in every one of its corners. Dare we mention that Argentina is rich with natural resources and is also the second largest Latin American nation after Brazil?

The Argentinian economy is one that could bring great economic prosperity to global powers, and maybe American political scientists Acemoglu and Robinson’s famous denunciation that Argentina is not developed as a result of its exclusive political and economic institutions can be modified with political change. Political scientists love experiments, and maybe Argentina will take a central role in one. The degree of change is for the Argentinian people to decide on November 22nd—will it be a simply inevitable change of presidential last name from Kirchner to Scioli? Or will it be an eradication of the Peronist ideals that have grasped Argentinian politics since Perón’s accession to power in 1946 with Macri in the Casa Rosada? Whatever it is, change will come, and the world must watch.

Our message to the world: “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.”

http://www.lanacion.com.ar/

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