On July 3, PBS News Hour reporter Jane Ferguson was in Yemen covering the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. She spoke with Dr. Ali Al Motaa, a Yemeni professor, who told her: “The missiles that kill us, American-made. The planes that kill us, American-made. The tanks, Abrams, American-made. You are saying to me, where is America? America is the whole thing.”
He wasn’t exaggerating. Five weeks later, Saudi planes bombed a school bus full of children heading back to school from a picnic, killing forty children and eleven adults. According to a CNN report, the bomb that hit the bus was made in the US.… Seguir leyendo »
In less than five months, Mexico will have a presidential election that is mostly being described by US and international media commentators as a perilous undertaking. For some, it is part of a “perfect storm” that could wreak havoc on the Mexican economy (together with Trump’s tax reform and threats to NAFTA); for the business press, there is a threat to foreign investment, especially in the state-owned oil industry, which has had an unprecedented opening to such investment since 2013; and for other observers, it is a threat to the “security”—that is, foreign policy—of the United States.
The problem, according to the pundits and the Trump administration, is that the leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (often known by his initials, AMLO) holds a sizable lead in the polls, and could well be Mexico’s next president.… Seguir leyendo »
El Estado de derecho y la independencia del poder judicial son logros frágiles en muchos países; ambos son susceptibles a reveses abruptos.
Brasil, el último país del mundo occidental en abolir la esclavitud, es una democracia bastante joven, pues salió de una dictadura apenas hace tres décadas. En los dos últimos años, lo que pudo haber sido un avance histórico —el gobierno del Partido de los Trabajadores le otorgó autonomía al poder judicial para investigar y procesar la corrupción en el gobierno— se ha convertido en lo contrario. En consecuencia, la democracia de Brasil ahora es más débil que en cualquier otro momento desde el fin del gobierno militar.… Seguir leyendo »
The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary are fragile achievements in many countries — and susceptible to sharp reversals.
Brazil, the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery, is a fairly young democracy, having emerged from dictatorship just three decades ago. In the past two years, what could have been a historic advancement ― the Workers’ Party government granted autonomy to the judiciary to investigate and prosecute official corruption ― has turned into its opposite. As a result, Brazil’s democracy is now weaker than it has been since military rule ended.
This week, that democracy may be further eroded as a three-judge appellate court decides whether the most popular political figure in the country, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party, will be barred from competing in the 2018 presidential election, or even jailed.… Seguir leyendo »
The United States invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 and took it from Spain. Although the residents became United States citizens in 1917, the island’s colonial status has been a locus of political debate and struggle for most of its subsequent history.
Just a few months after gaining citizenship, Puerto Ricans were made subject to a United States military draft. But they have never gotten to elect a voting member of Congress, despite being governed by United States law. The island is officially an “unincorporated territory” of the United States, but since the 1950s, it has preferred to call itself an “estado libre asociado” — free associated state — or a “commonwealth.” If the word “colony” was once judged too harsh, at this moment in Puerto Rico’s history, it looks like an understatement.… Seguir leyendo »
If the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday is now too close to call, that’s partly because of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s last-minute surge in the polls. The media describe him as a populist from the far left, and as he has risen, attacks on him have intensified.
One common criticism is that his economic proposal to jump-start growth in France while reducing mass unemployment and inequality is pie in the sky.
Is it, though?
Mr. Mélenchon would certainly face significant political hurdles if elected, including the need to build political support for his program in Parliament. But the French economy, despite serious problems, could sustain, as well as benefit from, his proposals.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, the United States Supreme Court decided not to review a ruling in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals whose effect is that Argentina must pay “holdout” creditors who refused to participate in debt restructuring agreements that Argentina reached with the majority of bondholders following the 2001 default on its sovereign debt. Argentina’s lawyers warned that the court’s decision created “a serious and imminent risk” that the country would again be forced to default. But the ruling also has profound and disturbing implications for the functioning of the international financial system, and even the United States would most likely be adversely affected.… Seguir leyendo »
On 30 May, Dan Rather, one of America’s best-known journalists, announced that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez would die “in a couple of months at most”. Four months later Chávez is not only alive and campaigning but widely expected to win re-election on Sunday.
Such is the state of misrepresentation of Venezuela – it is probably the most lied-about country in the world – that a journalist can say almost anything about Chávez or his government and it is unlikely to be challenged, so long as it is negative. Even worse, Rather referred to Chávez as “the dictator” – a term that few, if any, political scientists familiar with the country would countenance.… Seguir leyendo »
If ever there were an election preordained as a result of economic performance, it would be Mexico’s election on Sunday. The ruling National Action Party, or PAN, was destined to lose because it had presided over profound economic failure for 11 years. Almost any government in world would have lost under such circumstances.
Commentators, focused on the six-year-old drug war, have largely neglected to note the depth of Mexico’s economic problems. Let’s start with the basics: Since 2000, when the PAN was first elected, income per person in Mexico has grown by just 0.9 percent annually. This is terrible for a developing country, and less than half the rate of growth of the Latin American region during this period — which was itself not stellar.… Seguir leyendo »
Like the rally led by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central that brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of Washington, DC on Saturday, Brazil’s election on Sunday was a contest of “Restore Sanity” versus “Keep Fear Alive” – but with the fate of millions of Brazilians seriously at stake.
Dilma Rousseff of the governing Workers’ party coasted to victory against the opposition candidate José Serra, with a comfortable margin of 56 to 44%. It had been a bitter and ugly campaign, marked by allegations of corruption and malfeasance on both sides, ending with Serra’s wife calling Dilma a “baby-killer.”
Religious groups and leaders mobilised for the Serra campaign and accused Dilma of wanting to legalise abortion, ban religious symbols, being “anti-Christian”, and a “terrorist” for her resistance to the military dictatorship during the late 1960s.… Seguir leyendo »
In March I wrote about the Obama administration’s contribution to the election campaign under way in Venezuela, where voters will choose a new national assembly in September. I predicted that certain things would happen before September, among them some new “discoveries” that Venezuela supports terrorism. Venezuela has had 13 elections or referenda since Hugo Chávez was first elected in 1998, and in the run-up to most of them, Washington has usually done something to influence the political and media climate.
The intentions were already clear on March 11, when General Douglas Fraser, the head of the US Southern Command was testifying to the US Senate.… Seguir leyendo »
In the film Guantanamera, the last by renowned Cuban director Tomás Gutierrez Alea, the Yoruba creation myth is presented as a metaphor for the difficulties of bringing about change. In this myth, humans were at first immortal, but the result was that the old suffocated the young, and so death had to be created.
Here in Washington, it is often only death and retirement that allows for the possibility of change – and yet the institutions remain immortal and often immutable. Nowhere is this more true than in the foreign policy establishment here.
In the last few weeks I have visited five countries and participated in numerous events surrounding a recently released documentary – like Guantanamera, South of the Border is also a road movie – which Oliver Stone directed and I wrote with Tariq Ali.… Seguir leyendo »
As of today the idea that Greece might be better off leaving the euro and renegotiating its debt is considered by many to be unthinkable. Instead, the country is embarking upon a programme of “internal devaluation” – in which it keeps the euro and lowers its real exchange rate by creating enough unemployment to drive down the country’s wages and prices.
Let’s compare this process to two other countries that have tried it – one which abandoned it after three and a half years – Argentina – and one that is continuing it – Latvia.
First, Greece. Figure 1 shows the IMF’s April 2010 projections for real (inflation-adjusted) GDP.… Seguir leyendo »
Denis MacShane attacks the British left for defending Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president, against an onslaught from the media, “new cold warriors”, and rightwing demagogues throughout the world. His rhetorical trick is to tar the left with a new media law currently being debated in the Venezuelan congress, which he says “would impose prison sentences of up to four years for journalists whose writings might divulge information against ‘the stability of the institutions of the state’.”
Of course this is a bad law. There are a number of bad laws on the books in Venezuela, and in fact numerous countries in the region have desacato (pdf) laws that make it a crime to insult the president.… Seguir leyendo »