Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category


The Return of the Mexican Dinosaur

Written on July 3, 2012 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Americas, Culture & Society, Democracy & Human Rights

Mexico’s pretty-boy president is more dangerous than he looks.

By John M. Ackerman

Mexico has apparently decided to turn back the clock. Widespread frustration with 12 years of uneven political progress and stunted economic growth under the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) has driven part of the Mexican electorate to desperately call the old-guard Institutional Revolutionary (PRI) back to power. Meanwhile, in a repeat of the country’s last presidential race in 2006, the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) has once again finished a close second.

According to the most recent LatinBarometer study, a whopping 73 percent of the Mexican population is dissatisfied with the performance of democracy (Mexico is tied with Guatemala for last place in Latin America in this category.) Such an attitude can be healthy for political development if it pushes citizens to work on improving the political system. But it can also produce a dangerous social malaise, which is the perfect breeding ground for the retrenchment of authoritarianism.

Last November, for instance, Guatemala voted in retired General Otto Pérez Molina as its new president in a worrisome embrace of the past. Pérez Molina has been implicated by civil society groups in systematic violations of human rights during the civil war that wreaked havoc in the country between 1960 and 1996. Activists have even filed a formal report with the U.N. special rapporteur on torture accusing Pérez Molina of war crimes for his direct role in the protracted conflict, which left more than 200,000 people dead and tens of thousands “disappeared.”

Mexico has now followed Guatemala’s lead. Instead of trying something new and joining the “pink tide” of progressive social democratic politics that has swept through Latin American in recent years, a plurality of Mexicans has apparently succumbed to frustration and turned back to the past.

One of the clearest messages from yesterday’s election is that Mexicans are fed up with sitting President Felipe Calderón. They bitterly punished the PAN’s candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, by relegating her to a distant third place with only 25 percent of the vote. This should come as no surprise after five years of non-stop violence, with more than 50,000 violent deaths due to the failed “drug war” during the Calderón administration alone. Read more…

John M. Ackerman is a professor at the Institute for Legal Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), editor-in-chief of the Mexican Law Review and a columnist for Proceso magazine and La Jornada newspaper.

As published in on July 2, 2012.


Shifting economic and political fortunes lead us to ask what makes a nation grow powerful enough to impose its will on others.

By Moisés Naím

It was one of those turning points that just go unnoticed in the media. According to the Australian Treasury Department, on March 28 of this year the economies of the world’s less developed countries, taken as a whole, surpassed in size those of the richer ones. “We can now see it for what it was — a historical aberration that lasted about 1½ centuries,” wrote the Australian columnist Peter Hartcher, referring to the fact that, until 1840, China had been the world’s largest economy. “The Chinese look at this and they say, ‘We just had a couple of bad centuries’,” wryly remarked Ken Courtiss, a renowned expert also quoted by Hartcher. Courtiss adds: “In the blink of a generation, global power has shifted. Over time, this will not just be an economic and financial shift but a political, cultural and ideological one.”

Will this be so? Taken together the comments of Hartcher’s readers inadvertently offer a revealing synthesis of a debate that is consuming politicians, generals and academics everywhere: Which nation will dominate the 21st century? Derek, for example, in Canberra, says: “I don’t think we’ve got much to worry about… On paper China and India are power-houses, but most of their citizens don’t even have access to sewerage or electricity. They are still basically third-world countries…” Another reader, who identifies himself as Barfiller, adds: “And let’s not forget other ‘emerging economy’ considerations: border conflicts; water and resources rights; patents and other intellectual property; ethnic, religious and ideological differences; cultural diversity; historical arguments and wars; etc, etc. It won’t be all sweetness and light for the newly developed nations.” Another reader, David, stresses the need to consider the “distribution of wealth within the populations of these countries. The difference between the ‘wealth’ of the average Chinese and their privileged comrades in the party is, in my opinion, an un-fillable gap (as per India). In China that’s due to a deeply controlled corruption and in India, an indelibly, culturally/religiously controlled class division.” Thus, according to these opinions, China and India are countries too weakened by their poverty, their divisions and other internal problems to become the world’s leading powers.

But the problems of these rising countries are no longer exclusively their own. They affect others. Caledonia, a reader writing from Sydney, believes that the other readers fail to notice the danger that looms: “If China’s economy comes crashing down, you will find yourself in an unemployment queue and feel lucky if you can get a job as toilet cleaner.” Read more…

Moisés Naím is an internationally renowned columnist and commentator on globalization, international politics and economics whose columns are published every Sunday by Spain’s El País, Italy’s La Repubblica and Brazil’s Folha de São Paulo and reprinted by more than forty leading newspapers worldwide.

As published in on July 1, 2012.


Beijing, a Boon for Africa

By Dambisa Moyo

In June 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a speech in Zambia warning of a “new colonialism” threatening the African continent. “We saw that during colonial times, it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave,” she said, in a thinly veiled swipe at China.

In 2009, China became Africa’s single largest trading partner, surpassing the United States. And China’s foreign direct investment in Africa has skyrocketed from under $100 million in 2003 to more than $12 billion in 2011.

Since China began seriously investing in Africa in 2005, it has been routinely cast as a stealthy imperialist with a voracious appetite for commodities and no qualms about exploiting Africans to get them. It is no wonder that the American government is lashing out at its new competitor — while China has made huge investments in Africa, the United States has stood on the sidelines and watched its influence on the continent fade.

Despite all the scaremongering, China’s motives for investing in Africa are actually quite pure. To satisfy China’s population and prevent a crisis of legitimacy for their rule, leaders in Beijing need to keep economic growth rates high and continue to bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. And to do so, China needs arable land, oil and minerals. Pursuing imperial or colonial ambitions with masses of impoverished people at home would be wholly irrational and out of sync with China’s current strategic thinking.

Moreover, the evidence does not support a claim that Africans themselves feel exploited. To the contrary, China’s role is broadly welcomed across the continent. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of 10 sub-Saharan African countries found that Africans overwhelmingly viewed Chinese economic growth as beneficial. In virtually all countries surveyed, China’s involvement was viewed in a much more positive light than America’s; in Senegal, 86 percent said China’s role in their country helped make things better, compared with 56 percent who felt that way about America’s role. In Kenya, 91 percent of respondents said they believed China’s influence was positive, versus only 74 percent for the United States. Read more…

Dambisa Moyo, an economist, is the author of “Winner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World.”

As published in on June 27, 2012 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 28, 2012, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Beijing, A Boon For Africa).


La presidencia de un civil, y además islamista, a través de unas elecciones competitivas es una novedad en su historia. Los próximos retos serán la redacción de la Constitución y la elección de un nuevo Parlamento.

Por Haizam Amirah Fernández, Profesor Asociado de IE School of Arts & Humanities.

Si no se pone fin a la confusión política y a la división social que han marcado los últimos 16 meses en Egipto, el país se encamina hacia un enfrentamiento interno que podría hacerlo ingobernable. Durante las últimas semanas, los egipcios han presenciado atónitos las sucesivas maniobras de la Junta Militar y del régimen al que representa para acumular poder mediante la manipulación política y polémicas decisiones judiciales.

En febrero de 2011, los egipcios aceptaron el autogolpe militar “amable” que derrocó al presidente Mubarak y se creyeron la promesa del Consejo Supremo de las Fuerzas Armadas (la misma Junta Militar que dejó el dictador) de que lideraría una transición que desembocaría en el traspaso de poder a instituciones civiles democráticamente elegidas. Sin embargo, el pasado 17 de junio, los generales recordaron quién manda en el país emitiendo de forma unilateral una declaración constitucional que les otorga enormes poderes legislativos y competencias presupuestarias, al tiempo que limita de forma considerable las prerrogativas del próximo presidente.

La Junta Militar daba así un paso más en su autogolpe, haciéndose con el poder ejecutivo y legislativo, y provocando el rechazo de amplios sectores sociales y de la oposición política, incluidos los Hermanos Musulmanes. Además, los militares reinstauraban unos días antes la ley marcial que les permite detener y encarcelar a civiles sin las mínimas garantías procesales. Seguir leyendo…

Haizam Amirah Fernández es investigador principal de Mediterráneo y Mundo Árabe en el Real Instituto Elcano.

Publicado por El País el 26 de junio de 2012.


Burmese parliamentarian and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi capped off her world tour with a historic address in the U.K. Parliament. But for all the accolades she has received abroad, she knows how much more of a struggle there is at home.

By Hannah Beech

Aung San Suu Kyi addresses a joint session of U.K. Parliament inside Westminster Hall in London on June 21, 2012.

She has charmed the world. In London, on June 21, Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi melted one of the toughest audiences of all, drawing applause from journalists gathered at 10 Downing Street for her press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Later she addressed a joint session of the Houses of Parliament, making her one of only four foreign dignitaries to be given this privilege since World War II and only the second woman to do so (Queen Elizabeth II was the other). Such a welcome might have induced euphoria, but Suu Kyi used her platform to warn against assuming that her freedom to travel signaled an end to Burma’s problems. “So many hills remain to be climbed, chasms to be bridged, obstacles to be reached,” she said.

The historic speech capped a week of high-profile globetrotting by Suu Kyi, who until May had not left Burma for 24 years, spending most of the intervening time under house arrest at the behest of the country’s ruling junta. After traveling to Thailand in May to attend an economic conference and meet with Burmese refugees and migrants, Suu Kyi visited Oslo to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize she was unable to collect when it was awarded to her 21 years ago. In Ireland, she hobnobbed with socially conscious rock star Bono, who looked gleeful just to share a stage with such an adored activist. On June 19, in London, Suu Kyi met with fellow Nobel Peace laureate, the Dalai Lama, who is one of the few other untainted exemplars of nonviolent resistance in our times. Described as a private meeting, the confab between the two famous Buddhists was a summit of dazzling smiles that left millions across the globe enchanted.

The next day, which happened to be her 67th birthday, Suu Kyi visited Oxford, where she was granted an honorary degree. The trip was bittersweet: Suu Kyi was revisiting the place where she had lived with her British academic husband and their two children before she embarked on her unexpected career as a Burmese democratic hero. It was only upon returning to Burma to care for her sick mother in 1988 that Suu Kyi, the daughter of independence hero Aung San, was suddenly thrust into politics and cast in a new role as the voice for one of the world’s most oppressed populaces. When her husband was dying of cancer in 1999, he was rejected for a visa to visit her in Burma, where she was between spells of house arrest. Suu Kyi dared not leave Burma for fear that the military regime would not allow her back home. She missed much of her sons’ childhoods and has told me on two occasions that they paid a “sacrifice” for their mother’s political activism. Read more…

Hannah Beech is TIME’s East Asia Correspondent and China Bureau Chief.

As publilshed in on June 21, 2012.

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