As most of the world shelters from the novel coronavirus, tens of thousands of brave protesters have been marching through the streets of Minsk and Bangkok for the past several months, defying water cannons, rubber bullets and the risk of imprisonment — or disease. They are demanding the ouster of their autocratic rulers — Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and Prayuth Chan-ocha of Thailand — and hoping that, like the “people power” movements of dozens of other countries, they will achieve democracy.
Lets hope they do. Sadly, however, the history of the past decade suggests they won’t.
People power, which democratized countries from South Korea and Poland in the 1980s to Georgia and Ukraine in the 2000s and Tunisia in 2010, has been on a losing streak.… Seguir leyendo »
He aquí algunas inesperadas buenas noticias desde el frente de batalla del COVID-19: en muchos de los lugares con más pobreza del planeta, donde las agencias sanitarias se han estado preparando para una embestida demoledora, el coronavirus, hasta el momento, solo ha dado un golpe de refilón.
Consideremos algunas de las zonas más críticas con crisis humanitarias: la provincia de Idlib en Siria, los campamentos de refugiados de rohinyás en Bangladesh, la Franja de Gaza, y Yemen, Somalia y Sudán del Sur, países que han sido azotados por la guerra. Hasta la semana pasada, un conteo de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) señalaba que todos esos lugares habían registrado un total de solo un poco más de 1,800 infecciones de coronavirus y 79 muertos, en una población de casi 60 millones de habitantes.… Seguir leyendo »
Here’s some unexpected good news from the covid-19 front: In many of the world’s most miserable places, where health agencies have been bracing for a devastating onslaught, the coronavirus so far has delivered only a glancing blow.
Consider a half-dozen of the most critical zones of humanitarian crisis: Syria’s Idlib province, the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, war-ravished Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and the Gaza Strip. As of late last week, by the counting of the United Nations, they had recorded a total of just over 1,800 coronavirus infections and 79 deaths, among a population of nearly 60 million. By way of contrast, the District of Columbia, with a population of 700,000, has logged some 8,000 cases and 427 deaths.… Seguir leyendo »
Truth is the first casualty in war, goes the old saying; the corollary might be that journalists are often the collateral damage. That has probably never been more universally true than in the ongoing battle against the coronavirus. Across the world, both autocratic and democratic governments have responded to the epidemic by restricting information, criminalizing independent reporting and harassing reporters — verbally and sometimes physically.
“Call it the covid-19 crackdown,” says Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. His organization has compiled what he says is a partial list of 200 cases of arrests, threats and harassment related to media coverage of the pandemic.… Seguir leyendo »
Una emergencia tiende a revelar el carácter real de los líderes nacionales, junto con el de los sistemas políticos que los crearon. Lo realmente excepcional de la pandemia de coronavirus es que enfrenta simultáneamente a muchos países con el mismo desafío brutal. Como resultado, estamos aprendiendo mucho sobre el estado de la gobernabilidad global.
En una categoría están los populistas democráticos, como el presidente estadounidense Donald Trump, el brasileño Jair Bolsonaro y el mexicano Andrés Manuel López Obrador. La respuesta de estos líderes a la propagación del nuevo coronavirus ha sido arrojar información errónea, minimizar la amenaza y esquivar la responsabilidad.… Seguir leyendo »
An emergency tends to reveal the core character of national leaders, along with that of the political systems that produced them. What’s truly exceptional about the coronavirus pandemic is that it is confronting scores of countries simultaneously with the same awesome challenge. We are learning a lot about the state of global governance as a result.
In one category are the democratic populists, such as President Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Their response to the spread of the novel coronavirus has been to spew misinformation, minimize the threat and dodge accountability. Trump predicted the virus “is going to disappear . … Seguir leyendo »
On the night after the Berlin Wall fell, as I watched crowds of delirious East Germans surge down West Berlin’s broad Kurfürstendamm street, it didn’t occur to me that history was ending. On the contrary, it seemed that in the former captive nations of Eastern Europe, history was making a comeback.
Soviet-imposed communism, I wrote that night in an article for The Post, had suppressed the politics that drove events in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other East Bloc states before World War II. As the wall fell, those currents were suddenly reappearing, as if awakened from a long sleep. Poland’s Solidarity movement was splintering into liberal and nationalist factions that resembled prewar parties.… Seguir leyendo »
By now it’s old news that the world is living through a retreat of democracy. For a dozen consecutive years, the number of countries where liberty has declined has exceeded those where it has expanded, according to Freedom House. Autocrats are stepping up repression; populist movements are rising in Europe and the United States. China and Russia are offering new models of high-tech dictatorship.
The drift augurs ill for human governance in the 21st century. That’s why it’s encouraging that an unexpected and underreported counter-trend has appeared in the summer of 2019. Mass movements of people resisting the new authoritarianism have been popping up across the world.… Seguir leyendo »
On June 7, the U.N. Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration announced that the number of Venezuelans who had fled the country had surpassed 4 million. One million people of the fewer than 30 million remaining in what was once Latin America’s richest country had poured across its borders in just seven months. “The pace of the outflow from Venezuela,” said a statement by the two agencies, “has been staggering.”
The news didn’t get much attention in Washington. Following a failed attempt by the Venezuelan opposition to provoke a military uprising on April 30, President Trump chewed out his advisers, stopped talking about the country and moved on to his next “maximum pressure” target, Iran.… Seguir leyendo »
When asked to explain why their efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro have fallen short, Trump administration officials typically cite the sinister influence of Cuba and Russia, which they say has stiffened the regime’s resistance. What they don’t speak about so much is a possibly more important factor: the Cartel of the Suns .
That colorful term refers to the drug-trafficking network that each year flies hundreds of tons of Colombian cocaine from Venezuelan airfields to Central America and the Caribbean for eventual distribution in the United States and Europe — and that includes some of the most senior officials in the Maduro regime.… Seguir leyendo »
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but as the United States has retreated from international leadership in the past decade, several toxic global trends have gained momentum. Democracy is steadily retreating, according to Freedom House, whose annual study documents a decline for the 12th consecutive year. Famine is threatening more people than ever: Tens of millions are at risk of starvation in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia.
Worst of all, it’s getting easier for regimes to commit — and get away with — crimes against humanity, including genocide. The tragedy of Syria, with its gassed children and bombed hospitals, is headed into its eighth year.… Seguir leyendo »
«Mom!» my 12-year-old yelled from the kitchen. «President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize!»
I told her she had to be mistaken.
This is ridiculous — embarrassing, even. I admire President Obama. I like President Obama. I voted for President Obama. But the peace prize? This is supposed to be for doing, not being — and it’s no disrespect to the president to suggest he hasn’t done much yet. Certainly not enough to justify this prize.
«Extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples?» «Captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future?» Please. This turns the award into something like pee-wee soccer: Everybody wins for trying.… Seguir leyendo »
As the Obama administration and a host of Latin American governments campaigned to reverse the coup in Honduras, another democratically elected Latin leader embarked on a lonely effort to draw attention to the double standard that has lately governed violations of political and human rights in the region.
Venezuelan Antonio Ledezma is no gadfly or dissident; as the mayor of Caracas, he received almost as many votes in last November’s election (700,000) as Manuel Zelaya (915,000) did when he won the presidency of Honduras in 2005. Yet while the Organization of American States has been united in demanding Zelaya’s return to his post, and in suspending Honduras for violating the Inter-American Democratic Charter, it has studiously ignored the case of Ledezma — who, since his election, has been illegally driven from his office by a mob, stripped of most of his powers and budget, and subjected to criminal investigation by the regime of Hugo Chávez.… Seguir leyendo »
The upheaval in Iran offers the Obama administration a host of fresh foreign policy opportunities. Not the least of them is a chance to creep away from the corner into which it has painted itself in the Arab-Israeli peace process.
President Obama began with a broad strategy of simultaneously pressing Israel, the Palestinians and Arab states to take concrete steps toward peace. By the time Iranians took to the streets, it had allowed that broad front to be narrowed to a single point: a standoff with the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu over whether «natural growth» would be allowed in Jewish settlements outside Israel’s 1967 borders.… Seguir leyendo »
Mahmoud Abbas says there is nothing for him to do.
True, the Palestinian president walked into his meeting with Barack Obama yesterday as the pivotal player in any Middle East peace process. If there is to be a deal, Abbas must (1) agree on all the details of a two-state settlement with the new Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu, which hasn’t yet accepted Palestinian statehood, and (2) somehow overcome the huge split in Palestinian governance between his Fatah movement, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza and hasn’t yet accepted Israel’s right to exist.
Yet on Wednesday afternoon, as he prepared for the White House meeting in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, Abbas insisted that his only role was to wait.… Seguir leyendo »
President Obama pointed out last week that while the «typical president» has to handle two or three big problems at once, he has had to juggle «seven or eight.» Still, the new administration is managing to generate an impressive amount of energy and activism across that broad field. In foreign affairs, that raises a compelling question: Do the levers of American influence still work?
The question can be asked about the Middle East, Iran and North Korea, where the administration’s special envoys and initiatives so far are showing few results. But it is coming to a head in Pakistan, where the Obama team has focused much of its attention and diplomacy the past two weeks.… Seguir leyendo »
Though the president has yet to formally spell out his strategy, the Obama administration’s attempt to turn around a failing war is already beginning here, at a dusty crossroads 25 miles southwest of Kabul.
Thanks to a late decision by the Bush administration, U.S. forces based here and in surrounding Wardak province have just increased by a factor of 10. Consequently, the counterinsurgency strategy that rescued the U.S. mission in Iraq — and that President Obama is betting on in Afghanistan — is being fully applied for the first time in this bigger, poorer and increasingly violent country.
Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade are moving into outposts along a road leading west from Kabul toward Iran, and patrols have begun along the crucial southern highway to Kandahar, which also branches from the junction here.… Seguir leyendo »
Normally sour Russian officials are almost jaunty in describing their first engagements with the Obama administration. «We are excited,» says one at the Foreign Ministry.
It’s not just Vice President Biden’s recent promise of a «reset» in U.S.-Russian relations that prompts this outward cheer from the government of Vladimir Putin. A first visit by a senior U.S. delegation here 10 days ago quickly produced agreement on an agenda that begins with a new nuclear arms control treaty to replace the START agreement, which expires at the end of the year. There is discussion of re-creating bilateral cooperation committees, and of U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
The past four Israeli elections have been won by a candidate who promised to end Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Tomorrow, for the first time in decades, Israelis may choose a prime minister who is promising to wage war.
«We must smash the Hamas power in Gaza,» Likud party leader Binyamin («Bibi») Netanyahu said at one rally last week. «There will be no escape from toppling the Hamas regime,» he said at a security conference the next day. «I’m sorry to say we haven’t gotten the job done,» he said of Israel’s recent Gaza offensive in a radio interview. «The next government will have no choice but to finish the job and uproot .… Seguir leyendo »
«Israelis and Palestinians are staring into an abyss, facing the prospect of a future marked by years of bloody conflict, political instability and economic stagnation.»
«Along with taking immediate action to end the violence, the parties need to rebuild mutual confidence.»
So declared former senator George J. Mitchell — not yesterday, when President Obama named him a special envoy to the Middle East, but in May 2001 as he concluded a similar mission for presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The 75-year-old Arab American’s return to duty was a reminder that much of what the new administration is facing in the region isn’t new — and neither is the initial strategy Obama has adopted.… Seguir leyendo »