Until Snowden we lived in the illusion that the social networks gave us unlimited capacity for action

By José Ignacio Torreblanca, Associate Professor at IE School of International Relations


Is the internet a tool of liberation or oppression? Until Edward Snowden came along we seem to have lived in the happy illusion that the internet and the social networks gave us an unlimited capacity for organization and action. The social networks, we were told, not only empowered us socially but also provided us with a potent political tool. Twitter and Facebook, together with Google’s capacity for disseminating an incredible volume of information in real time, had become a new weapon for citizen supervision of the government, and of resistance to tyranny. Like the press, radio and television before it, the internet now offered the citizen a way out from authoritarian monopolies on information. This is what we might call the horizontal or libertarian view of technology. And though sometimes exaggerated, as in the supposed revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt (which were far from such), this vision did foster a reasonable hope that technology and democracy might be solid allies.

But since Snowden we have had to concede greater weight to the other vision, that we might call authoritarian or vertical. Because, however much we suspected it — remember the Echelon revelations — we now know that while millions of citizens blithely use the internet and social networks, a number of states have the capacity for vertical control of the net and its content.

The US authorities’ line of defense is centered on, first, the claim that their listening capacity is confined to so-called metadata — that is, there is no scrutiny of content but only of flows; two, that there is only exceptional access, under strict judicial control, to the complete content, as is traditional in telephone taps; and three (not applicable to the rest of us), that the objects of such surveillance have never been US citizens within the United States.

But this sugar-coated version seems to have little truth to it. Snowden’s revelations to the magazine Cryptome note that intelligence service access to undersea cables carrying internet data allows it complete access to all the content traveling along them, the only problem being storage and processing capacity, which is now around 72 hours, after which they are erased. Keeping in mind the speed at which these things progress, it stands to reason that the 72-hour limit will soon stretch further. So that, if you know what you are looking for, access will be complete. Which covers everything to do with the individual in question: medical reports, the works. Read more…

As published in www.elpais.com on July 22, 2013.


Cuba After Communism

Written on July 22, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Americas, Culture & Society, Democracy & Human Rights, Foreign Policy, Political Economy

The Economic Reforms That Are Transforming the Island

Julia E. Sweig and Michael J. Bustamante


At first glance, Cuba’s basic political and economic structures appear as durable as the midcentury American cars still roaming its streets. The Communist Party remains in power, the state dominates the economy, and murals depicting the face of the long-dead revolutionary Che Guevara still appear on city walls. Predictions that the island would undergo a rapid transformation in the manner of China or Vietnam, let alone the former Soviet bloc, have routinely proved to be bunk. But Cuba does look much different today than it did ten or 20 years ago, or even as recently as 2006, when severe illness compelled Fidel Castro, the country’s longtime president, to step aside. Far from treading water, Cuba has entered a new era, the features of which defy easy classification or comparison to transitions elsewhere.

Three years ago, Castro caused a media firestorm by quipping to an American journalist that “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” Tacitly embracing this assessment, Fidel’s brother Raúl Castro, the current president, is leading a gradual but, for Cuba, ultimately radical overhaul of the relationship between the state, the individual, and society, all without cutting the socialist umbilical cord. So far, this unsettled state of affairs lacks complete definition or a convincing label. “Actualization of the Cuban social and economic model,” the Communist Party’s preferred euphemism, oversells the degree of ideological cohesion while smoothing over the implications for society and politics. For now, the emerging Cuba might best be characterized as a public-private hybrid in which multiple forms of production, property ownership, and investment, in addition to a slimmer welfare state and greater personal freedom, will coexist with military-run state companies in strategic sectors of the economy and continued one-party rule.

A new migration law, taking effect this year, provides a telling example of Cuba’s ongoing reforms. Until recently, the Cuban government required its citizens to request official permission before traveling abroad, and doctors, scientists, athletes, and other professionals faced additional obstacles. The state still regulates the exit and entry of professional athletes and security officials and reserves the right to deny anyone a passport for reasons of national security. But the new migration law eliminates the need for “white cards,” as the expensive and unpopular exit permits were known; gives those who left the country illegally, such as defectors and rafters, permission to visit or possibly repatriate; and expands from 11 months to two years the period of time Cubans can legally reside abroad without the risk of losing their bank accounts, homes, and businesses on the island. Read more…

As published by Foreign Affairs (July/August 2013 Edition).


By Fareed Zakaria


Does authoritarian capitalism work? For the past few decades, the Chinese economy’s meteoric rise, faster than any large economy in human history, has dazzled the world. It has made many wonder if China’s model of a pro-growth dictatorship is the best path for developing countries. Some have questioned whether Western democracies — with their dysfunctions and paralysis — can compete with China’s long-range planning. Now, as its growth slows to almost half its pace in 2007, the Chinese system faces its most significant test. The outcome will have huge economic consequences for the world and huge political consequences for China and its ruling Communist Party.

Over three decades, China’s growth has averaged 10 percent a year. Beijing managed that because it systematically opened up its economy to trade and investment while investing massively in infrastructure to facilitate manufacturing and exports. Crucially, China had the ability not to pander to its people to gain votes or approval. Unlike most developing nations, China spends little subsidizing current consumption (fuel and food, for example). It spends its money on export-free zones, highways, rail systems and airports. It is investing in education and soon will turn to health care. No developing democracy has been able to ignore short-term political pressures and execute a disciplined growth strategy with such success.

But the model is no longer working that well. Partly, this is the product of success. China has become the world’s second-largest economy; its per capita income is that of a middle-income country. It cannot grow at the pace it did when it was much poorer.

But growth has dropped faster and deeper than many had predicted. This month, the International Monetary Fund forecast China’s annual growth around 7.75 percent for the next two years. But it could slow further because, the truth is, China’s authoritarian system has made significant mistakes in recent years. Read more…

As published in www.washingtonpost.com on July 18, 2013.


By Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, IE Master in International Relations Alumnus

Arg GDP_InflationFrom 1975 to 1988, average inflation in Argentina had a yearly average of more than 200 per cent. The situation worsened in the following years: by 1990, inflation even surpassed the 20.000% mark. This led to the set-up of a currency board which began a monetary experiment based on a one-to-one exchange rate between the peso and the dollar.

Known as the “convertibility plan”, the mechanism lasted one decade. Over the next ten years, such regime did succeed in defeating inflation. Prices were no longer rising like they did before, and achieved near-zero levels by 1996.

The following graph shows annual rates of GDP growth and inflation for the 1970-2000 period.Arg Ingreso per Capita

By abandoning the years of recurrent inflation problems, Argentina enjoyed a much greater level of economic stability, leaving behind the times when every “boom” period was followed by times of diminished growth and monetary instability.

The following graph shows the steady growth of income per capita between 1990 and 1998, an increase of almost 40%:

This progress was by no means guaranteed, though. According to economists Pedro Schwartz, Juan Castañeda and Francisco Cabrillo, if the “convertibility plan” was to survive, three conditions had to be met: the local currency should be fully convertible, government spending should not be monetized and central bank reserves should be able to cover the monetary base as measured by M0.

Although the first and third points were more or less followed throughout the 90s, the central bank did end up printing money to bail out national and provincial government debts. Argentinian politicians should have been tied by a budget stability law when the “convertibility plan” first began. Failure to do so obviously ended up in a catastrophic scenario:  the public sector’s unfunded liabilities went from 2% in 1995 to more than 6% in 1998.

The second part of this article will be published next week.

Diego Sánchez de la Cruz is an analyst at Libertad Digital. His work on international economics has been published in different media outlets.


Mr. Joaquin Almunia, Vice President of the Eurpean Comission and European Comissioner for Competition, is interviewed by Dr. Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, on EU’s financial policy, as well as on EU and US negotiations on trade and investment agreement.

YouTube Preview Image
1 67 68 69 70 71 199

We use both our own and third-party cookies to enhance our services and to offer you the content that most suits your preferences by analysing your browsing habits. Your continued use of the site means that you accept these cookies. You may change your settings and obtain more information here. Accept