Viernes, 29 de marzo de 2013

On March 18, a Congolese warlord known as Bosco «the Terminator» Ntaganda surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda. Notorious for his alleged butchering of communities, including a 2008 massacre in which 150 people were killed by machetes, clubs and bullets, Ntaganda will likely face trial at the International Criminal Court for war crimes seven years after his indictment.

On a recent trip to eastern Congo, I met Patrick, a 25-year-old charcoal maker who had survived two attacks allegedly led by Ntaganda.

Four months ago, working on a hot afternoon just south of the equator in Kibumba in eastern Congo, it seemed like a normal day for Patrick.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the United States and South Korea strengthen their defenses amid blood-curdling threats from a North Korea that continues to strengthen its nuclear and missile capability, the truth has to be faced: U.S. policy toward North Korea is not working.

Every time Pyongyang has faced pressure, sanctions and coercion — as opposed to a U.S. willingness to engage — it has responded in precisely the same way: by doing the opposite of whatever the heightened pressure was designed to achieve.

In 2005, Washington imposed financial sanctions on the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, where Pyongyang held dozens of accounts. After its calls for bilateral talks and proposals to find a way to resolve the issue were rebuffed, the North staged a series of missile tests in July 2006.…  Seguir leyendo »

Franklin D. Roosevelt had his Hundred Days.

Papa Francesco has had a little less than a month. Yet, like FDR, he has used bold gestures to alert the world that things in the Catholic Church would not be returning to business as usual.

For Catholics, images conveyed in a genuine way can be symbols of deeper realities. We are a sacramental church. God speaks to us through his word, but that word is often accompanied by ritual, gesture and symbol.

Pope Francis really believes in simplicity. So far, he has waved off any vestige of opulence (gold pectoral crosses and ermine lined mantles), walks rather than rides in a chauffeured limo, and for now at least refuses to live in the Apostolic Palace (a complex oxymoron, what apostle ever lived in a palace?).…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea, under its untested young leader Kim Jong Un, has ratcheted up the threats toward South Korea and the United States to unprecedented levels and with greater intensity than ever before.

A torrent of threats has flowed from North Korean spokesmen, including a promise of preemptive nuclear strikes on the United States and calls to «break the waists of the crazy enemies, totally cut their windpipes and thus clearly show them what a real war is like.»

North Korean brinkmanship, bluff, and bluster are stock elements in its diplomatic toolkit, but why have the threats become so outsized, and how worried should we be?…  Seguir leyendo »

Recent threats from North Korea have led the Obama administration to reverse some of its previous decisions and to build up U.S. missile defenses. Welcome as that course correction is, the North’s recent missile developments and underground nuclear test should cause President Obama to rethink his basic approach to nuclear weapons policy. He should acknowledge that he was unrealistic in making it U.S. policy to achieve “a world without nuclear weapons.”

Whatever good and idealistic intentions may have motivated the initial rhetoric about “nuclear zero,” the practical effects of embracing this slogan are harmful. The goal of minimizing the possibility of nuclear war is not served when the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

This month, a hundred years after the completion of the Panama Canal, China is expected to finish the first phase of its gigantic South-North Water Transfer Project, known in Chinese as Nanshui beidiao gongcheng — literally, “to divert southern water north.” The phrase evokes the suggestion, attributed to Mao, that “since the south has a great deal of water, and the north very little, we should borrow some of it.”

In realizing Mao’s dream of moving huge quantities of water from areas of plenty to those of want, Beijing is building a modern marvel, this century’s equivalent of the Panama Canal.…  Seguir leyendo »

Now that the crisis in Cyprus has been temporarily resolved, the unspoken question is: Who’s next?

Perhaps Malta, which has an even bigger banking sector than Cyprus relative to G.D.P., much of it highly reliant on offshore depositors. Or maybe Latvia, fast becoming the destination of choice for Russian funds flowing out of Cyprus and now on course to join the euro zone.

Even Spain or Italy could be vulnerable to a similar bailout, now that the Dutch finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is president of the Euro Group of finance ministers, has hinted that Cyprus could provide a model for the resolution of future banking crises.…  Seguir leyendo »

I was honored recently to be asked by South Korean President Park Geun-hye to lead a new wing of the government. She confided to me that although I was a U.S. citizen, I had the right experience and the know-how to launch the Ministry of Science, Information, Communication, Technology and Future Planning. We would be charged with bringing about a paradigm shift in Korea’s economy.

On Feb. 12, I put aside my life and flew to Seoul to accept this challenge.

On March 4, I withdrew my candidacy when it became abundantly clear that the current political and business environment would impede me — an outsider — from carrying out the mission of this ministry.…  Seguir leyendo »

Almost 15 years ago, delegates from more than 100 countries gathered in a crowded conference room in Rome, cheering, chanting and even shedding a few tears. After weeks of tense negotiations, they had drafted a charter for a permanent court tasked with prosecuting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes around the world.

Kofi Annan, then U.N. secretary general, cast the new International Criminal Court in epochal terms: “Until now, when powerful men committed crimes against humanity, they knew that so long as they remained powerful, no earthly court could judge them.”

That earthly court is now rooted. Its glassy headquarters on the outskirts of the Hague houses more than 1,000 lawyers, investigators and staff members from dozens of countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

España está ardiendo. Son momentos históricos repletos de confusión e incertidumbre. El desencanto recorre los caminos del país en forma de torrentera, imparable. Hoy la vida española es caminar por el desierto. Y la proeza, no entregarse al mejor postor. No existe una crisis de la política (que sí), ni de las instituciones (que sí), sino de la persona. En la sociedad actual hemos ido produciendo, fabricando seres humanos cada vez más endebles, frágiles, inestables, resbaladizos sin criterios sólidos. Son tiempos de extravío, masas de gente a la deriva.

Dice un texto clásico: corruptio optimi pessima: la corrupción de los buenos es la peor.…  Seguir leyendo »

A principios de los años cincuenta, todavía adolescente, en mis estancias veraniegas en Inglaterra y Francia —mi padre hizo grandes sacrificios para financiarlas, convencido de que lo más importante para la educación de sus dos hijos era el conocimiento de lenguas y sobre todo la experiencia directa de otras culturas, cuyas diferencias entonces eran mucho más llamativas— nada me sacaba tanto de mis casillas como que a la conmiseración por la situación política y social de mi país se añadiera el comentario de que cada pueblo tiene el gobierno que se merece. ¡Se nos echaba en cara que soportásemos pacientes la dictadura, cuando había surgido con la ayuda directa de Hitler y Mussolini y sobrevivía gracias al apoyo directo de las democracias occidentales!…  Seguir leyendo »

“Hubo desmanes, pero yo no estuve enterado”, (General Efraín Ríos Montt, máximo responsable guatemalteco del genocidio maya en 1982-1983)

Finalmente ocurre lo que durante décadas pareció imposible en un país como Guatemala. Uno de los máximos criminales latinoamericanos —el general Efraín Ríos Montt, cuyas sanguinarias actuaciones le valieron el apelativo de Ríos de Sangre Montt— se sienta finalmente ante sus jueces, aunque todavía goza del escandaloso privilegio del arresto domiciliario. Y aunque todavía las presiones y las amenazas forman parte del precio a pagar por el intento de hacer justicia en aquella sociedad, una de las más desiguales, injustas y desgarradas de América.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hace doscientos años, el 5 de enero de 1813, fallecía en su casa de Vara de Rey (Cuenca) un ilustrado cuya biografía y producción intelectual, apenas conocidas, le sitúan un paso más allá de sus contemporáneos. Su figura, y sobre todo su obra, merecen dedicarle mayor atención.

Descendiente de varias generaciones de letrados, estudió leyes en Salamanca y, junto a Meléndez Valdés, frecuentó la tertulia en la que Cadalso, con su poder de seducción, les atrajo irremisiblemente hacia la poesía. Por ella abandonó los estudios, y gracias a las rentas de unas propiedades legadas por su madre, se instaló en el parnaso madrileño asistiendo a las tertulias de Estala y de las hijas del doctor Piquer, médico de la casa real, con una de las cuales se casó.…  Seguir leyendo »

On March 14, China completed the transition of its new leader, Xi Jinping, with his assumption of the presidency. His main power comes as the leader of the Communist Party and as chairman of its Central Military Commission. While trying to project his image as a “man of the people,” his various speeches on “the China Dream” have a definite military overtone, even though he professes to continue the peaceful development policies of his predecessor. He has launched a well-planned campaign to enhance the military force of the People’s Liberation Army in order to give China the capability to “fight and win wars.” Such statements undercut the theme that China’s military buildup is only for defensive purposes.…  Seguir leyendo »

A hunger strike is spreading at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp. The main reason, as the military has acknowledged, is the growing sense of frustration and despair among the detainees. As Gen. John Kelly, the head of U.S. Southern Command, explained to the House Armed Services Committee last week, detainees “had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed. They were devastated . . . when the president backed off. . . . He said nothing about it in his inauguration speech. . . . He said nothing about it in his State of the Union speech. . . . He’s not restaffing the office that . …  Seguir leyendo »

The United States has problems in Afghanistan, with the Taliban, Pakistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Obama administration is making them worse by dilatory decision-making about how many U.S. troops will remain there after 2014.

While recent news has focused on the latest spats with Karzai, there are some bright spots. The Afghan police are denying the Taliban passage in parts of the south where coalition troops have fought for seven years without this progress. Afghans are showing an increased willingness toward self-defense, perhaps partially in reaction to a heavy assassination campaign by the Taliban. This month, I heard accounts in eastern and southern Afghanistan of the Afghan army, national police and local police forces mutually supporting one another in ways that used to be all too rare.…  Seguir leyendo »

«We have made Italy, now we must make Italians,» goes the old saying. Today we have made the euro, and the crisis of the euro is unmaking Europeans. People who felt enthusiastically European 10 years ago are reverting to angry national stereotypes.

«Hitler-Merkel» read a banner carried by young Cypriot protesters this week. Next to those words was an image of the European flag, its yellow stars on a blue background crossed out in red. Sweeping negative generalizations are heard about «North» and «South» Europeans. As parts of Europe became more anti-German, so parts of Germany became more anti-European. A vicious spiral looms into view, like a twister in the American Midwest.…  Seguir leyendo »

Peng Liyuan, celebrity folk singer and wife of President Xi Jinping, has a chic, elegant and decidedly local look. Since March 22, when she appeared at a Moscow airport arm in arm with her smiling husband on his first international trip as China’s new head of state, talk of her has spread across newspapers and blogs. Especially as compared with her all-but-invisible predecessors, Peng is a vision of modern Chinese times, and modern Chinese people seem to be embracing her.

«Peng Liyuan’s debut trip is remarkable. For a very long time, (Chinese Communist) Party leaders, and especially their wives, left dowdy impressions,» tweeted a retired academic in Shandong province via the Sina Weibo microblogging service.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aún recuerdo el mes de junio de 2003, cuando el presidente Clerides regresó a Nicosia del Consejo Europeo con la decisión unánime de la UE de admitir a Chipre como nuevo Estado miembro. Las banderas europeas y chipriotas se desplegaron y multiplicaron en Markarios Avenue, el estruendo de miles de cláxones sonó durante horas y la givania chipriota corrió en todos los espacios públicos y cafés de la isla, que celebraron con alegría y satisfacción el reconocimiento de Chipre como territorio europeo. Diez años más tarde esas calles son testigo de manifestaciones en las que se enarbolan pancartas que piden la salida de Europa y critican ferozmente a Bruselas.…  Seguir leyendo »

EL Viernes Santo la Iglesia enmudece todos los años ante la Cruz del Señor. Hoy la liturgia se centra en el símbolo por excelencia de la pasión y muerte de Jesús, el Hijo eterno de Dios. En la adoración de la Cruz, seguida de la comunión, converge, en nuestros templos, la proclamación dialogada de la pasión según San Juan y la oración universal de la Iglesia por el mundo entero. La piedad popular vibra también hoy por toda España en las silenciosas procesiones que acompañan por las calles de pueblos y ciudades las imponentes tallas de los Crucificados de Gregorio Fernández, Juan Martínez Montañés o de otras muchas gubias más recientes y de nuestros días.…  Seguir leyendo »