Macri: a new Argentina is possible

Mauricio Macri and his political project are getting consolidated. And from my humble window, I congratulate him and Argentina for it. Macri is reinforcing the liberal center-right against the weakened Peronism represented by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who seems exhausted after 12 years in power and several allegations of corruption.

The new Argentina era with Mauricio Macri is managing to reinforce its way with the results of the last legislative elections. The coalition led by Macri ‘Cambiemos’ prevailed in most of the country and overturned Cristina Fernandez’ aspirations of regaining the national leadership. This win far exceeded expectations, winning clearly in 14 of the 24 Argentine provinces, and with an adjusted result in another two of them. The Government’ coalition has significantly increased its presence in Congress and the Senate. The results showed the emotion and feelings of many people, among whom I am.

Mauricio Macri, the last politician to speak on the election night, said “This is just the beginning“, and assured when he knew the results “today the certainty that we can change history forever, has won.” Satisfied, knowing that dawn had cleared his way for the re-election in 2019.  Macri, who already defeated Peronism in 2015, sees thus his power reinforced to undertake the necessary political and economic reforms in the country.

While the officialism’ candidates won in most of the Argentinian provinces, the weakened Peronism has continued to yield territorial power. One of Macri’ main challenges was to beat Cristina Kirchner in the province of Buenos Aires, the populous district with almost 40% of the electoral roll. At the head of ‘Unidad Ciudadana’, the former president has not been able to revalidate her triumph of the primary elections in August. As a senator, Kirchner will enjoy parliamentary immunity from potential court decisions against her. The former president faces several legal cases related to cases of corruption and abuse of power during her tenure.

Macri said “this is a long-term project which seeks to change Argentina forever.” In his victory speech, the president kept the measured line that has always characterized him: “We are just beginning to transform our beloved Argentina.” If something offers Mauricio Macri to the Argentinian people, is the hope of a better future.  And right now, he is in a favourable position to push forward the fundamental reforms which he has not even been able to raise in two years of office. Until now, he was focused on organizing a market economy which only now begins to give some small signs of improvement.

In order to win support from the middle,  upper classes and even from the working classes, Cambiemos (meaning let’s change) has been able to make an electoral connection with its constituents, so that its voters identify the coalition with certain measures very approved by the citizens. In his speech, Macri has made entrepreneurship and volunteering work the core of his values, and when he thinks about what kind of society he would like to have, he thinks in those terms.

Some conservative, radical and Peronist leaders came up to the new center-right ship. But the command post seems to be in the hands of a new class of leaders coming from non-political spheres: professionals, entrepreneurs, members of NGOs,… A new combination of people together with Macri, a former entrepreneur, are working in Cambiemos.

The Argentinian economy is starting to come afloat after a severe recession. At the presidential office are expecting 2018 to be the year of take-off, with the arrival of foreign investment and the generation of employment. This confidence that things will improve in the medium term is what has made, among other factors, that Cambiemos becomes the country’s main electoral brand over the exhausted Peronism. For the first time since taking office, Macri is preparing to announce a major national agreement to move ahead with those reforms the country needs. These include budget approval and tax reform. Macri, once again dismissed a labour reform. “Generating work is the fundamental tool to reduce poverty. Today we have two problems: people who do not have jobs and half of Argentines working in black,” said the head of state.

Since the August’ primaries, when the victory of the ruling party began to take shape, Macri has said, “Argentina begins to go through the best 20 years of the country’s history. We have confirmed our commitment to change. We will go together, because we aspire to more, to live better, to have dreams and to carry them out.

Argentina must occupy again the place that deserves in the world, and for good. This victory confirms that Latin America may have different kind of governments and politicians. For those who believe that there can only be dictatorships like Castro’s, or populist regimes like Maduro, Correa or the Nicaraguan Ortega, Macri is proving that things can be done right, with a government open to the market and the world, where the rule of law and legal security are in place, and most importantly, improving its citizens’ lives. 100 years ago, Argentina was a very rich country, an economic power. It should be again: it has natural wealth and educated population who has suffered too much from their bad choices. Right now, is the time to make it good.

Persecution of Christians

Last week was held in Budapest the International Day on Persecuted Christians, an initiative of the Hungarian Government. There were leaders of the Church of the Middle East, Russia, United States and Europe; victims of the Christian genocide, representatives of NGOs, the president of Hungary and several ministers and parliamentarians, along with other parliamentarians from Canada and Sweden. “The Christianity was born in the Middle East.” This was one of the most heard phrases in the two days of the meeting in Budapest. Some have remembered with tears in their eyes how in 2014 and for the first time in 2000 years, there was not a single Christian celebrated Christmas in the Nineveh’ plain.

The Christian community is the most persecuted in the world. 215 million people in 108 countries survive in a hostile environment, mostly scattered in the Middle East and Africa, without an umbrella to shelter. Four out of five people persecuted and murdered for their religion are Christians. And almost nobody speaks about this.

Many witness were heard, such as that of the young Iraqi, Hussam Banno, describing how the school made a mockery of his Christian faith: “They called us infidels, they insulted us and they attacked us, they made fun of us, there were bombings and terrorist attacks every day. When the Islamic state (Daesh) conquered the plains of Nineveh, we fled to Ankawa, in Kurdistan, we walked miles and miles to save our lives, and now Qaraqosh, my city, is liberated, but our house is a heap of ashes. Despite these painful circumstances people have begun to rebuild their homes, but the situation there is very unstable.

In recent years, we have witnessed a Christian genocide: mass executions, expulsion of hundreds of thousands of people from their homeland, destruction of churches, temples, monasteries and all possible representations of the Cross. Tens of thousands of Middle Eastern Christians were forced to flee their homes in 2016 for reasons of religious hatred. A total of 1,207 died for their faith in terrorist attacks and attacks, according to the report presented this week by the Evangelical NGO ‘Open Doors’.

The drama of the oldest Christian communities which have survived since the 8th century in an always hostile environment, seems to be shocked in the most apocalyptic context of wars, which explains the phenomenon of mass emigration to Europe. But terror by religious hatred has its own physiognomy and less support, especially if it is Christian, than the political or the economic. Only the Vatican and a handful of non-governmental organizations raise their voices and call for concrete action when bomb attacks occur periodically in those humble Christian neighbourhoods in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In the ‘Open Door’ report of the fifty countries with the most persecution of Christians in the world, no one surprises that eight of the ten most hostile are nations with Muslim majority. Of the total of 50 countries supervised, 36 of them have political regimes inspired by the Sharia, the Islamic law.

The aggression against Christians not only come from the jihadist terrorist groups Daesh, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al Shabab, the four most brutal. There is also an atmosphere of intimidation and aggression in many Muslim social environments, which identify their own economic precariousness with a supposed Western neo-colonialism, and look with hatred on their Christian neighbour, often much more indigent than the Muslim. This is the saddest Pakistan case. Being a Christian in Pakistan is at best, condemned to being a second-class citizen. But this religious minority also runs the risk of ending their days in prison if a Muslim decides to accuse them of taking the name of Muhammad in vain, through the ‘Blasphemy Law’, which allows three Muslims to agree to lock up in jail or condemning a Christian to death if they accuse him or her of having insulted Muhammad or the Koran. “More than 1,000 people are in prison in Pakistan for the Law of Blasphemy, which is used unfairly to persecute members of religious minorities. Many of the accused are killed before they are judged,” recalls AIN (Aid to the Church in Need) Director, Javier Menendez Ros. The most well-known victim of this lacerating rule is Asia Bibi, a large family’ mother who has been in prison since 2009, after a court sentenced her to death for a false crime of blasphemy. Four million Christians live in Pakistan, half are Protestants and the other half are Roman Catholics.

In Egypt, for some Muslims’ imaginary, the Coptic Christians are the wealthy businessman who enjoys a fortune of suspicious origin; No one seems to notice those belonging to the garbage collector’ cast, the Zabalin, much more usual in Cairo. The defenestration of the Muslim Brotherhood has hardly changed that perception, and the attacks on the Copts continue to take place under the secular authoritarian regime of Al Sisi. Paul Marshall, of the Hudson Institute’s Religious Liberty Center, said that “the worst pogrom on Christians in Egypt for about 700 years is taking place right there, right now.”

Within the territories controlled by Daesh in Iraq and Syria, it has been repeated the literal theses of the Quran on dealing with other religions. Christians thus belong to the group of “Book Persons”, so they are being offered three paths: flight, conversion to Islam, or vassalage, which involves the tax payment to the ‘caliphate’ among other easements. However, the vassalage that the Christians of Pakistan already live did not save them from dying under terrorist bombs in the last months. Weeks before the attack in Lahore, a jihadist commando in Yemen carried out a massacre of a group of Mother Theresa of Calcutta’ nuns, in a nursing home. Despite this, the Missionaries of Charity continue to work with the poorest of other twelve Muslim majority countries, which are among the 130 where they work.

Throughout the Middle East, the Christian minorities have been the target those conflicts arising from what were supposed to be transitions to democracy. The latest report by the NGO Open Doors on religious freedom highlights again, according to the editor of International Francisco de Andres, that Christianity is the most persecuted confession in the world. In 2015, more than 7,000 Christians died victims of hatred for their religion, in attacks that the media did not give publicity, because it happened in the Middle East and black Africa.

Some Western leaders like Pope Franciscus and Prince Charles of Wales, have expressed much concern about the threat to the Christians in the region that gave rise to their faith. And yet, in the United States, it has attracted relatively little attention, outside of some Christian groups or legislators. They are too self-absorbed. But it seems that, from a time to this part, there is some hope shyly appearing again in the life of persecuted Christians. Since they do not have too much notoriety, interest of the Western media, or defence, I trust that it remains so.

Columbus day

On last Sunday October 8th, we saw to the Spanish-Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, a, Hispanity prince, defending the democracy and the constitutional unity of Spain against those who deny it and want to break it. It is a well-known fact and widely used for propaganda, that a lie repeated hundreds, thousands of times, even if it is still a lie, in the collective imagination becomes true. These days we are attending the spectacle of how two of those lies which hurt us so much, are reaching our heart, these two new invented truths are: ‘Spain is robbing us’ cradled by the Catalan secessionist and, ‘The Spaniards who came with Columbus to America are genocidal.

Saving the well-known names and individualities of science and arts, what has Spain contributed as a political identity to the becoming of the world?

Saving the infinity of painters like El Greco, Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbaran, Goya, Sorolla, Picasso, Gray, Dali or Miro; writers such as Cervantes, Garcilaso de la Vega, Lope de Vega, Gongora, Becquer, Garcia Lorca, Machado, Unamuno, Baroja, Perez Galdos, Jiménez, Delibes, Valle Inclan, Rosalia de Castro, Calderon de la Barca, Ortega y Gasset, Espronceda, Zorrilla, Cela and many and many more; or of men of science like Ramon y Cajal, Marañon or Severo Ochoa …

In Spain concretely Castile, was where were created for the very first time in history, those organs of representation of the three estates, seed of the parliamentarianism. Something which was done long before the Commons were constituted in England, because here the three states were already in the Cortes (Parliament) of Castile from 1188 and, later, in the other Hispanic kingdoms. Those would not arrive to England until 1258. Another key contribution of the Spaniards in the Middle Ages was their own miscegenation with Muslims and Jews, who brought different versions of Hellenism and Eastern wisdom from the East.

There was no phonetic writing In America before 1492. That is why it is so important to remember that in 1492, the grammar of Antonio de Nebrija, the first European grammar since the Romans, was completed, which would serve as a model for other languages and marked a milestone in the maturation of the Spanish language. The Spanish universities were the first of the American continent, many years before than the Anglo-Saxon universities which boast of antiquity and solemn reputation. It is still debated today on which one of them was officially the first, whether the National Major University of San Marcos in Peru or the University of Santo Tomas de Aquino in Santo Domingo: Both were created in the first half of the sixteenth century.

In 1700, the Hispano-American Empire had more than eight million inhabitants, mostly all in the census. All were in: native, mestizo and peninsular. At that particular time, the British colonies barely exceed 200,000 inhabitants. Any attempt to compare them is a forgery. The miscegenation was spectacular. Hugh Thomas, an English historian, writer, diplomat and member of the House of Lords until his death in May 2017, pointed out: “The miscegenation was the greatest work of art achieved by the Spaniards in the New World, a mixture of European and those of Indians. To those who think that is an obvious statement, I would ask you to consider how rare was this state of affairs between the Anglo-Saxons and the Indians of North America.” It was not rare, but non-existent. Or with the aboriginals of Australia, who were, like the Indians of North America, simply exterminated almost in their entirety.

Continuing with this issue, in the United States today there are approximately 2.5 million of its Indian descendants, 0.8% of the US population, living in reservations. But, oh! we Spanish genocides have left a mark on South America impossible to erase: Bolivia, with an indigenous population of 72% and 27% mestizo, mostly bilingual, who speaks Quechua or Aymara in addition to Spanish; Peru, in an 1876 census, some thirty years after their independence, had an Indian population of 59%, which has gradually diminished during the Republic. In 2012, the population of different ethnic groups in Mexico was 15 million, most of whom speak Nahuatl, the Mexica language and the most widespread, but also up to 65 different ethnic minority languages.

In parallel to the conquest of the American territories, a debate on human rights was held, until then untold: Facing the abuse of some conquerors, many Spanish missionaries denounced the excessive violence, and worked to enforce more fair laws against the Encomienda’s, a type of covert slavery. Their efforts were materialized in the ‘New Laws of 1542’, which recognized the Indians as free citizens of the Spanish Crown, and opened an unpublished debate on human rights in the sixteenth century. Despite their shortcomings, these laws were precursors of the International Law and represented the avant-garde legislation for their time. Francisco de Vitoria, father of the International Law, posthumously lit the so-called ‘controversy of Valladolid’, held between 1550 and 1551, where was argued that the Indians had the same rights as any Christian, a thesis defended by the Spanish historian, social reformer and Dominican friar Bartolome de las Casas, who was the first Bishop in Chiapas.

But Spain lost the battle of propaganda so far. The Spaniards never made good communication about their actions, their merits or their conquests. This is due to a minority complex developed over the years, especially since the Disaster of 98, with the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. Another cause is the existence of a left wing who denigrates the Hispano-American politics, who were speaking badly about the conquest and the civilizing work overseas of Spain. In Latin America, after the independence the children were taught in schools that a monstrous genocide had been carried out and many Indians had been killed by Spain. This statement is completely false, there is no trace of truth in that theory. The civilizing history of Spain is almost totally unknown even for the Spanish themselves. Research should be done to reorient the youth and make the Spanish population proud again. Not only of being Spanish, but that of magnificent empire extended to the whole world, which offered education to many people, who founded hospitals, colleges … Which neither the English, nor the Portuguese, nor the Dutch ever did in their colonial possessions.

It is imperative to know our past accurately, although today there is scarcely the political will to make a great community of united Hispanic nations. The institutional weight we would have in the world in GDP would be very important. Unlike England creating the Commonwealth, in the Hispanic America was cultivated hatred towards Spain. It was sponsored by the great revolutionaries like Bolivar or San Martin, supported by England, that thus took its revenge against Spain. One of the first actions carried out in New Granada by the ‘liberators’ was the expropriation of the Indians lands which were protected by Spanish laws. As a new egalitarian republic, the Indians could not have privileges. It was the great Creole oligarchs who expropriated those Indians lands, which originated the indigenous poverty. Lacking the land, they found it necessary to serve as cheap labour in conditions very close to slavery.

It is necessary the Renaissance for the Hispanic nations, and I include today’s Spain. We need to embrace the empire which engendered us, in both sides of the Atlantic. Doing it will do the same that Europe did with Rome in the fifteenth century: be proud of our origins and learn from it.

The Catalan post-truth (II)

 

After more than 40 years of democracy in Spain and with a recent history of which we have much to learn, it is unbelievable that we have experience a day like that of last October 1st. The cause was a secessionist process which has broken all the rules of the game. A deep reflection should be made: the Catalan society, an entrepreneurial society which has much contributed to our common Spanish history over the centuries, has been immersed in a process that, beyond claiming legitimate aspirations for political and economic improvement, has been driven by the path of radicalism and rupture.

It was not a casual drift, but a process induced from the regional Government of Catalonia and the secessionist parties, some very radical ones, who have violated the law, the Constitution, the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia itself, and the resolutions of the courts of justice, to achieve its objectives. Being illegal and serious this behaviour, it is even more disturbing because it has encouraged the confrontation between Spaniards, the rupture of the pacific coexistence, and it has created a climate of collective tension with consequences difficult to predict. On October 1st, the exacerbated, supremacist nationalism which Catalonia is suffering, gave rise to a full day of confrontations which made necessary the intervention of the law enforcement bodies of the State, to comply with the judiciary decisions, and avoiding a plainly illegal and unconstitutional action.

In many media out of Spain was shown strong criticism and outraged over the use of police force to comply with the judiciary decisions. Twitter was on fire. Two days later, the harassment to the police which is taking place in Reus, Barcelona, Lerida, to the Police Headquarters of Barcelona and other Catalan towns, has not been mentioned by those same media at all. “In many places are being harassed and insulted, are receiving threats, coercion, some have reported that even have been thrown acid,” confirmed the police unions spokesman. They are being bullied not only the Civil Guards and Police who have temporarily moved to Catalonia but also those who always lived there, who are Catalans, born in Catalonia and with family in Catalonia. Who is behind systematic and organized harassment?

Yesterday, more than fifty roads connecting the Catalan cities were closed by strikers who placed burning tires as a barrier. In some cases, before the presence of the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police). Groups of people who cut the streets at their will, carrying independence flags, shouting that the own streets, and commanding to the few business which remain open, to close in protest for the police charges of last Sunday, when this strike was called long before those events. They are surrounding the police stations, the headquarters of the constitutionalist parties. Most of the demonstrators are young, high school students and university students. But there are also middle-aged people and children. “They are turning the schools into a kind of concentration camp where they put a Star of David on the arm of our children.” This is what some non-nationalist parents say about the treatment of their children in schools, if they don’t follow the teachers’ instructions.

Finally seems like some media out of Spain begin to see things with more objectivity: “Given the low participation and the indisputable illegality, there is no justification for the declaration of independence in Catalonia.” The printed edition of the Financial Times printed this yesterday, criticizing in its editorial the action of the Catalan regional government in the secessionist crisis. On the other hand, the French newspaper Le Monde said that the referendum “is manifestly against to the 1978 Constitution and o the rule of law, and does not respect the consultation rules which are admitted in a member country of the European Union…. This serious situation has plunged Spain into a deep political crisis.” Both Le Monde and the Financial Times come to the same conclusion regarding Sunday’s consultation and its low turnout.

While the spokesman for the Catalan regional government announced to the world that the “Yes” in favour of independence got 90.09% of the votes, based on a total of poll 2,262,424 ballots, there is another perspective: 42% of the census is a figure too small to legitimize any decision. About the counting I won’t speak: The examples of polls in which voting was repeated are infinite. In the small village of Palol de Rebardit of 470 inhabitants, the “Yes” casted 1,002 votes. A minor detail which does not seem to stop the unilateral statement. The Financial Times also believes that “the results of the October 1st referendum should be taken with caution, since there are many reasons to doubt the accuracy of the percentages and the number of votes presented by the Catalan government.” The complaint filed in which were seen images of several people voting twice in different schools, or ballot boxes which came to the polling stations with ballots inside, are just some of serious irregularities.

Those who have provoked this situation, who forced to the opposition parties to leave the Catalan Parliament before the political and legal outrage which took place on September 6th and 7th, who have despised the mandates of the Constitutional Court, who have used without restraint the regional police as their political police, who have committed this unforgivable crime of breaking social peace … they are now putting their hands to their heads because on October 1st were clashes with the law enforcement forces. But to those who are looking for a culprit here and there, I remind them that we all know clearly which institutions, political parties, names and surnames who have originated the “cause of the cause.”

The Executive guidelines and strategy to avoid the referendum do not seem to have worked, and the illegal and unconstitutional behaviour of the Catalan government has been somehow covered by the manipulated report about the police intervention, oversized, if not distorted, by the media terminals of the seditious, inside and outside Spain. Instead, those responsible for this crisis are still free outside there, denouncing and threatening the State and denigrating the Spanish democracy, at no cost. And the rest of the Spaniards continue to endure this denigration daily. This must end and there is only one way: by suspending Catalonia’s self-government as long as it takes, in order to return to the legal normality of institutions.