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Tras las elecciones fraudulentas del 9 de agosto es posible que el gobierno autoritario del presidente bielorruso Aleksandr Lukashenko llegue pronto a su fin. Las protestas masivas se extienden por el país y los trabajadores de muchos sectores críticos están en huelga. Si cae Lukashenko, las probabilidades de que Bielorrusia establezca una economía de mercado normal son sorprendentemente favorables.

Con Lukashenko, Bielorrusia mantuvo una economía dominada por el estado al estilo soviético y estancada desde 2012. A lo único que se dedicó Lukashenko —en el poder desde 1994— fue a mantenerse en el puesto y permitir que su familia y los amigotes de su círculo íntimo se enriquecieran.…  Seguir leyendo »

En algún momento, todos los dictadores empiezan a creer en sus propias mentiras. El presidente bielorruso Aleksandr Lukashenko es un buen ejemplo: hoy en día se está comportando como si realmente hubiera ganado el 80% de los votos en una elección que, según sus propias palabras, estuvo amañada.

En medio de protestas pacíficas que arrasan ciudades y pueblos de Bielorrusia, Lukashenko, el 17 de agosto, visitó la Planta de Tractocamiones de Minsk (MZKT) y la Planta de Automóviles de Minsk (MAZ). Cada fábrica desempeña un papel vital no sólo en la economía del país sino también en su identidad nacional, y ambas han servido desde hace mucho tiempo como base de poder para Lukashenko.…  Seguir leyendo »

Europe’s two remaining dictators, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and Vladimir Putin of Russia, have always had an uneasy relationship. Yet despite their personal animosity, their regimes have depended on each other in important ways. Over the years Minsk has received support from Russia in the form of cheap energy and export markets, while the Kremlin has used Belarus as a model for its own authoritarian consolidation.

Lukashenko had a five-year head start. After coming to power in a free election in the mid-1990s, he succeeded in dismantling democracy by the end of that decade. His government silenced independent media outlets and cleansed the opposition from parliament.…  Seguir leyendo »

Belarusian opposition supporters protest in front of the government building Tuesday at Independence Square in Minsk. (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

Belarus is in turmoil after the Aug. 9 election, when the country’s 65-year-old leader Alexander Lukashenko, president for the past 26 years, claimed to have won with more than 80 percent of the vote. Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 37, contested the election results and thousands of Belarusians have protested the disputed election. The European Union and the United States have also stated their concerns that the elections were “not free and fair.”

Police and security forces cracked down on the protesters, arresting and beating thousands of people. But rather than snuffing out protest, the government’s violent response only intensified opposition. An anti-Lukashenko rally on Aug.…  Seguir leyendo »

It rained all Tuesday night in Minsk, but people still came out the next morning to support striking factory workers. They weren’t alone: President Alexander Lukashenko’s most loyal and most brutal police force was out in full force, too, seeking to intimidate and arrest — or worse — the strikers and their supporters.

But the wave of strikes in Belarus, which began last week to protest our stolen election and the police brutality that followed, has continued. In support we Belarusians sing folk songs, hand out food, raise funds and stand in solidarity with factory workers doing what was unthinkable months ago: standing up to the man who has been our country’s president since 1994.…  Seguir leyendo »

A mass rally in Grodno, Belarus where factory workers went on strike in protest against the election results and actions of law enforcement officers. Photo by Viktor Drachev\TASS via Getty Images.

Having failed to swiftly translate popular support into tangible political achievements, there are signs the protests against the fraudulent presidential election in Belarus may be losing momentum in the face of the state’s resilience and still-confident security and enforcement apparatus.

Attempts to blame the unrest on the West have focused on groups Lukashenka and Russia can both call enemies. And now Aliaksandr Lukashenka is not only inventing anti-Russian policies supposedly held by the opposition, such as suppressing the Russian language and closing the border with Russia, but also a supposed military threat from NATO.

Border movements

Increased military activity inside Belarus does give Lukashenka a wider range of options.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mi nombre es Vladimir. Vivo actualmente en Minsk, donde ahora estamos luchando contra un gobierno dictador. No puedo callar más. Viví muchos años en España, y estuve acreditado como periodista deportivo. Y veo que ahí falta información.

Tras el séptimo día de protestas puedo decir que jamás ocurrió esto en 26 años de poder de Lukashenko. Y está todo en juego. Es sorprendente que, por primera vez, se anuncie ahora una "manifestación de apoyo" al presidente, que ya no es legítimo. Pero ya sabemos por qué. Llegan a nuestro país los representantes de la UE. Y quieren hacer lo típico del comunismo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Belarusian army vehicles at an undisclosed location in Belarus on Sept. 11, 2017. (AP)

Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus, is facing the biggest threat of his 26-year reign. An extraordinary popular revolt has brought his regime to the brink of collapse — something that Vladimir Putin, mortally afraid of democratic contagion from a “color revolution” in his western neighbor, can hardly countenance.

Yet as startling as it might seem, the turbulence in Belarus also gives Russia’s president an opportunity — one he could seize with a high-stakes display of brazen military aggression that could go beyond merely cracking down in Belarus. Perhaps the most frightening scenario: an invasion of Lithuania. The Baltic republic, which shares a 420-mile border with Belarus, is a member of both the European Union and NATO.…  Seguir leyendo »

People take part in a protest against the presidential election results demanding the resignation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and the release of political prisoners, in Minsk, Belarus on 16 August 2020. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

As protests and strikes in Belarus enter their second week, Moscow, Brussels and many other European capitals have struggled to respond. The politics that brought Belarusians to the streets of their villages, towns and cities are local: they are angry that their president of 26 years has tried to steal yet another election. But if the crisis in Belarus is at its core anything but an East-West standoff, it is happening at a time when hasty responses by either Russia or Western states could turn it into just that. Because such a showdown would serve no one’s interests, all stakeholders should take care to consult with each other and coordinate their policies, even as they do what they can to help Belarus and Belarusians.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women, many of them dressed in white in solidarity with the Belarusian people, protest outside the Belarusian embassy in Moscow on Saturday. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, thousands of women in white are streaming down the main avenue in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, protesting against police violence and the disputed results of the Aug. 9 presidential election. These same women are the leading force in demonstrations across the country. This new movement was born spontaneously and calls itself “the Women in White.” Like the Cuban dissident group Damas de Blanco, they are demanding the release of prisoners and an end to the excessive violence that has traumatized this country of 9.5 million in the past week.

For the first time since the country gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, protesters have a real chance of pushing out a long-ruling strongman, and it’s all because of women.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarus president Aliaksandr Lukashenka skiing in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. Photo by SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP via Getty Images.

Amid outrage and revulsion at Belarus’s fraudulent election and the subsequent savage repression of protests, Western responses must be planned with half an eye on Russia. Not just for what is often described as the risk of ‘driving Belarus into Russia’s arms’ but also for the danger of unilateral Russian action, with or without Belarusian acquiescence.

In the past six years, there have been endless discussions of what might prompt another Russian military intervention in Europe after Ukraine. In many of these scenarios, it is precisely the situation currently unfolding in Belarus that has been top of the list, with all the wide-ranging implications for security of the continent as a whole that would follow.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women take part in an event in support of detained and injured participants in mass protests against the results of the 2020 Belarusian presidential election. Photo by Natalia Fedosenko\TASS via Getty Images.

Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s 26-year rule — one of the world’s longest — is itself testament to his regime’s unwillingness to change. Most of Belarus’s immediate neighbours — particularly Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland — are far more prosperous. Now, with the farce of last week’s vote and the subsequent renewed violence that Minsk is willing to use on its citizens, Belarus finds itself at the very bottom of the post-Soviet legitimacy league table. But others share a portion of blame for this saga. The West — and the EU in particular — have failed the people of Belarus.

Russia — as ever in its relationships with the Soviet Union’s other successor states — has much to answer for.…  Seguir leyendo »

People protest at a rally of solidarity with political prisoners in Belarus. Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Belarusian president Aliaksandr Lukashenka deserves sanctions. This election campaign in Belarus, which culminated in a vote on Sunday is the most brutal and dirty in its history. But, so far, the EU, the UK and the US have only issued familiar-sounding and futile appeals to the Belarusian authorities condemning their actions. Not imposing sanctions is a de facto licence to continue with repression.

Despite all this, the West is unlikely to impose significant sanctions afterwards. There are several questionable reasons for this. First, Western policymakers fear sanctions against Lukashenko will make him more likely to genuflect to Russia. However, relations with Russia have already deteriorated as Belarus accuses Russia of trying to interfere with its domestic affairs.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Belarusan opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya attend a rally in Minsk on Thursday ahead of the election on Aug. 9. (Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA-EFE)

Suddenly, something is stirring in Belarus. After 26 years of rule, “Europe’s last dictator,” Alexander Lukashenko, is facing protests and resistance by young people from all over the country who hope that this Sunday’s election will bring real change.

What they hope is what Lukashenko fears.

He has prevented the most obvious opposition alternatives to him from standing in the elections by arresting them; he has detained hundreds of opposition activists; and recently he has tried to ride nationalist sentiments by playing up real or invented Russian attempts to destabilize the country.

While a new trio of powerful female leaders, with presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at the center — “miserable little girls,” according to Lukashenko — have energized many tens of thousands of people at their huge outdoor rallies, Lukashenko hasn’t been seen outside of a hall of well-behaved bureaucrats.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman votes during preterm balloting at a polling station in Minsk, Belarus, on Friday. The presidential elections in Belarus will be held Sunday. (Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Sunday’s presidential election in Belarus seems unlikely to bring any surprises — despite an unstable economy and a wave of discontent over the government’s poor handing of the coronavirus pandemic. Longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko downplayed the virus, advising Belarusans to visit the sauna and drink vodka to avoid falling ill.

Here’s why Belarus’s president since 1994 will probably be elected for a sixth term — and what this tells us about the survival of autocratic regimes.

Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime faces internal pressure

One thing is different in 2020: For the first time in the history of independent Belarus, there are signs of citizens becoming politicized from below.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanouskaya attend an election campaign rally in Minsk, Belarus, on July 30. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)

A week before Belarus’ Aug. 9 presidential election, tens of thousands of people gathered in the capital, Minsk, and across the country in support of opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. President Aliaksandr Lukashenka, meanwhile, visited military training sites. State-run TV commentary affirmed the regime’s willingness to disperse future crowds of protesters to prevent a violent upheaval.

Official state media maintain that 70 percent of the population support Lukashenka, who has run the country for the past 26 years. Several nonrepresentative online polls put Tsikhanouskaya’s popularity at 50 percent and more. But what about the political views of young Belarusians?

A recent survey conducted by the Berlin-based Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) offers some key insights.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya attend her campaign rally in the town of Maladzechna, about 40 miles northwest of Minsk, on Friday. (Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images)

Suddenly facing an invigorated opposition in the run-up to presidential elections on Aug. 9, Belarus’s longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko needed to pull a rabbit out of his hat. How convenient that he has just uncovered a “conspiracy” against him and the country, this one coming from Russia.

On Wednesday, Belarusan authorities announced a criminal investigation against 33 employees of Wagner PMC, a Russian security contractor involved in nefarious activities in places such as Ukraine, Syria and Libya. A unit of the Belarusan KGB — yes, they still call it the KGB — arrested the Russians in a sanatorium near Minsk, the Belarusan capital.…  Seguir leyendo »

Activists gather citizens' signatures in support of Nikolai Kozlov's candidacy in the 2020 Belarusian presidential election. Photo by Natalia Fedosenko\TASS via Getty Images.

An essentially sham presidential election in Belarus will take place on August 9 but, despite the expected extension of Lukashenka’s already 26-year rule, what is becoming clear is that this electoral campaign is significantly different from previous ones. The three major pillars of support that Lukashenka depends on to rule are feeling unprecedented strain.

The first pillar is public support. Lukashenka, in power since 1994, would actually have won every election he has been involved in regardless of whether they were fair or not. But now his popularity among the people appears to have plummeted as not a single publicly available opinion poll indicates significant support for him.…  Seguir leyendo »

FC Neman players come out before playing a soccer match in Neman Stadium, in Grodno, Belarus, on April 10. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

President Alexander Lukashenka is a covid-19 holdout. Despite nearly 5,000 confirmed cases and over 40 coronavirus deaths, Belarus remains the only country in Europe denying the coronavirus danger. The president has made his position clear — there is no sense in declaring total quarantine, and the fear of coronavirus is a “psychosis” that wise Belarusian people should ignore.

Minsk city authorities introduced some mandatory coronavirus measures on April 7. These measures apply only in the capital, and require everyone to regularly wash hands in churches and monasteries, disinfect public transportation and places of public gatherings, wear masks in beauty salons, place tables in food service facilities no closer than 1.5 meters, and stop visiting nursing homes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Playing accordion in front of dummy football fans in Brest, Belarus as the country's championship continues despite the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo by SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images.

Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, few countries have chosen to ignore social distancing recommendations. But, even among those states which have, the Belarusian official response to its epidemic remains unique.

President Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s statements that vodka, sauna and tractors are protecting Belarusians from coronavirus attracted amused attention in international media. Lukashenka also described other societies’ response to COVID-19 as ‘a massive psychosis’.

Although Lukashenka is notorious for his awkward style of public communication, the fact that Belarus is refusing to impose comprehensive confinement measures is of concern. Belarusians continue to work, play football and socialise.

Lukashenka, himself playing ice hockey in front of state cameras, claims it is the best way to stay healthy.…  Seguir leyendo »