La idea de que la abundancia de petróleo puede ser una maldición es vieja, y casi no hace falta explicarla. Cada tantas décadas, los precios de la energía se van por las nubes y lanzan una carrera en busca de nuevas fuentes de petróleo. En algún momento la oferta supera a la demanda y los precios vuelven a caer. Cuanto más dura y abrupta la caída, mayor el impacto social y geopolítico.
El último gran derrumbe del petróleo se produjo en los ochenta, y cambió el mundo. En 1980 yo trabajaba en la industria petrolera tejana y vi el crudo de referencia estadounidense trepar a 45 dólares por barril, equivalente a 138 dólares de hoy.… Seguir leyendo »
We often think of history as somehow inevitable, the culmination of great, grinding geotectonic forces. What to make, then, of Günter Schabowski, who died this week at age 86. Few people will mark the passing of this improbable man of destiny, who made Cold War history with a shrug.
It was the evening of Nov. 9, 1989. A few weeks earlier a band of Communist Party reformers ousted the hard-line boss of the German Democratic Republic, as the eastern part of Germany behind the Iron Curtain was then known. Faced with mass protests in Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin, they sought to project a new face of change.… Seguir leyendo »
Is Kenya losing its luster as the star of a rising Africa? The short answer is, no. But from afar it certainly looks that way.
Consider a modest sampling of recent events:
•A member of Parliament is assassinated in the heart of downtown Nairobi. A few weeks later, a prominent businessman is shot 15 times in a gangland execution.
•Students at an aviation school here stage a raucous rally after media reports reveal that many won their certificates by allegedly bribing administrators. Think about that: Aspiring aviation technicians who will one day be working on complicated machines that fly through the air carrying large numbers of people are graduating in some cases without attending classes.… Seguir leyendo »
Will he or won’t he? That is the question Kenyans have been asking in recent weeks. The International Criminal Court has ordered President Uhuru Kenyatta to appear, in person, before the tribunal on Wednesday for alleged crimes against humanity. Will he comply, or will he follow the urging of the African Union and refuse — sending a signal that a court biased against Africa has no right to judge a sitting African head of state?
The president’s legal team has advised him to go to The Hague, if only to avoid an international outcry and a possible Interpol arrest warrant. Either way, it will be a punctuation point in the I.C.C.’s checkered history.… Seguir leyendo »
Now that Russia has occupied the Crimea Peninsula, the blame game has begun. US President Barack Obama has allowed yet another “red line” to be crossed, critics say. And everywhere there is loose talk of a “new Cold War” and the “price” to be paid by the Russian aggressors. But, in this fraught environment, we would do well to recall two historical precedents.
Twenty-five years ago, this month, Hungarian Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth traveled to Moscow to seek Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s blessing for a radical experiment. Nemeth, barely 40, had been appointed by the ruling Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party only four months earlier.… Seguir leyendo »
On Thursday, Kenya celebrates the 50th anniversary of independence. A public holiday has been declared. Banks, businesses and schools will be closed. Balloons and fireworks will go up. Buried and long-forgotten are the words of Prince Philip, standing next to the country’s new leader, Jomo Kenyatta, as the British flag was lowered for the last time: “Are you sure you want to go through with this?”
Today, Kenya is the jewel of a rising Africa. Bankers and dealmakers flock to Nairobi. Housing prices are more typical of New York or London. Instead of a dark continent of poverty, disease and war, Africa increasingly means business.… Seguir leyendo »
Se dice que las familias atrapadas en los combates en Siria comen “ensaladas” hechas de hojas y pasto para paliar el hambre. Según la agencia de refugiados de las Naciones Unidas, más de dos millones de sirios huyeron a los países vecinos. En su país, muchos más enfrentan un invierno brutal sin alimentos, medicinas o refugios adecuados. Y, como si las condiciones no pudieran ser peores, el país enfrenta un brote de polio.
La respuesta internacional a la crisis de Siria ha sido poco menos que desastrosa. De hecho, Siria parece ser la representación del fracaso de las Naciones Unidas. El Consejo de Seguridad está paralizado.… Seguir leyendo »
Nine months is not a long time. Yet within that brief span, fundamental principles of democracy and press freedom have twice been tested in Kenya.
In January, at the midnight hour of its final session before a general election, the nation’s Parliament awarded its members an offensively golden farewell handshake. In a country where the average worker makes $5 a day, Kenya’s lawmakers granted themselves a $107,000 retirement bonus plus perks — an armed guard for life, a diplomatic passport, guaranteed access to airport V.I.P. lounges and (with an eye to the future) a state funeral.
A nation-wide furor erupted, led by the country’s robustly independent media — prompting then-President Mwai Kibaki to veto the bill as “unaffordable and unconstitutional.” Chalk up a win for press freedom.… Seguir leyendo »
Helicopters hovered overhead. Ambulances raced through crowded streets to hospitals around the city. As late as Sunday evening, more than 24 hours after the initial attack, bursts of gunfire echoed through the mall in central Nairobi where Somali terrorists killed 59 people and hold about 30 hostages. Their demand: that Kenya withdraw the forces it deployed to Somalia two years ago as part of an international effort to drive Islamist extremists known as Al Shabab out of Mogadishu and other major cities, and return the country to government rule and a semblance of normal life.
That demand was rejected, out of hand, at a press conference on Sunday by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who said he himself had lost loved ones in the heinous attack.… Seguir leyendo »
It went almost unnoticed on a day of brinkmanship and geopolitical pyrotechnics. At the United Nations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rolled out his demand for full statehood. Israel responded predictably, backed by the United States and others. Diplomats scuttled hurriedly to and fro, seeking compromises and middle ground – anything to do a deal that would keep the matter from coming to a vote in the Security Council or General Assembly.
Meanwhile, famine in the Horn of Africa continues. A new UN mission began to deploy in Libya – the vanguard of the international community’s effort to help a newly liberated and, one hopes, democratizing country emerge from conflict and 42 years of despotic rule.… Seguir leyendo »
On the high-speed train from Beijing northeast to Harbin, passengers around me munch sweet popcorn and read books titled “Currency Wars,” “The Collapse of the Eurosystem,” and “The Upside of Irrationality.” Despite the raft of anti-inflationary measures introduced by the Chinese government in November, the lead article in the morning New Capital News announces that the price of gasoline is at a record high of $4.91 a gallon. Another article says that a popular Chinese online forum voted “zhang” — rapid price increase — 2010’s “character of the year.” It outpolled the runner-up, “resentment,” nearly six to one.
As the train glides silently past snow-covered cornfields, I ask my seatmates, people of varied ages and professions, about zhang.… Seguir leyendo »
Ask an average American how the Cold War ended and often as not he or she has a ready answer. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” said Ronald Reagan. And lo, as if word were deed, it was so.
Everyone remembers that immortal line. A generation of speechwriters wish they had crafted it. A generation of statesmen wish they had uttered it. And for a generation of Americans, particularly on the political right, it has become shorthand for an entire geopolitical worldview.
Like the Gipper, we have only to stand tall against tyrants. Hollow at the core, they will fall. Their downtrodden people will rise up, triumphant, like the multitudes of captive East Europeans of yore.… Seguir leyendo »