All posts by AlmudenaSeeder

Experienced International Professional. I always liked the Foreign Affairs. At some moment, after a long professional life in Corporate business, I decided to re-invent myself and starting my career in the battle of the opinions. I have the specialisation in International Relations, International Politics, International Law and Governance. Although I am originally from Madrid, Spain, I have decide to write my blog in English as I live in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Oxfamgate

 

The sexual abuses´ cases within the Catholic Church were regrettable, shameful, absolutely repugnant. No doubt about. They provoked and keep provoking very harsh reactions in the society. The angry media treated those also harshly, which was deserved, and the left-wing groups were fiercely stirring up the entire Roman Catholic Church for these despicable acts. Films have been made about these events, and the whole Church and even all the Roman Catholics have been blamed. These are behaviours which are always reprehensible, but even more so when they occur within an organization based on ethical values and principles.

In line with the events which took place within the Roman Catholic Church, it was totally unacceptable for the NGO Oxfam´ members to hire prostitutes and organize orgies in 2011, while they were on a humanitarian mission in Haiti after the terrible earthquake which devastated the island. Several senior officials of the NGO Intermon Oxfam organized sex parties with prostitutes or ‘orgies like those of Caligula,’ as it has been revealed by several witnesses. These doings took place while distributing humanitarian aid in Haiti, following the earthquake of 2010, which killed 220,000 people and injured more than 300,000.

As a result of these despicable events, several leaders of the Haitian mission resigned, among them was the Belgian Roland van Hauwermeiren, who was in charge of the mission and director of Intermon Oxfam in Haiti during that period and who, in the internal investigation, admitted bringing prostitutes to his house there. Furthermore, Oxfam CEO at that time, Dame Barbara Stocking, offered to the Belgian a “gradual and dignified” exit, because  just dismissing him would have, she said, “potentially serious implications” for the reputation of the organization. The fact is especially serious taking into account that van Hauwermeiren already had a similar behaviour in Chad in 2006. The repetition indicates that the internal controls over the ethical conduct of the staff, were weak or just non-existent.

Following these events,  the deputy director of Oxfam UK Penny Lawrence, has also resigned. Lawrence, declared that she was “ashamed” of these events, which occurred when she was the Programs Director. Lawrence admitted that the right measures were not taken and for that, she has apologized “I am deeply sorry for the damage and anguish generated for those who support Oxfam, the entire cooperation sector and most of the vulnerable people they have trusted.”

 The revelation of abuses by different NGOs has not yet stopped. Moreover, The Times pointed out last Sunday that more than 120 workers were accused of sexual abuse during last year. Most of these cases occurred in Oxfam itself (87), and also in Save the Children (31) or the Christian Aid organization (2). In its pages could also be read the warning of a former worker of the Red Cross and the United Nations, Andrew MacLeod, about a lack of response against the ‘institutionalized paedophilia’ among aid workers in the international missions. An affirmation also shared by the former British minister of International Cooperation Priti Patel, who assured that this Oxfam scandal is just the tip of the iceberg of the serious problem of sexual abuses occurring within this organizations.

The statement of a former Oxfam head has added fuel to the fire of this scandal. Helen Evans, who led the organization’s security section between 2012 and 2015, accused the NGO’s officials of ignoring allegations of sexual abuse coming from both outside and within the UK. Evans said that even in the Oxfam stores in Britain, several underage volunteers reported sexual abuse by colleagues and managers. The top leadership looked the other way, without giving any response to the accusations. In an interview on Channel 4, Evans also revealed that a volunteer coerced a woman to have sex with him, in exchange for aid.

There is a said ´misfortune never come alone´. In the case of Oxfam, the said seems to be very accurate, because 24 hours after the resignation of the deputy director of the NGO, Penny Lawrence, the Oxfam’s president, the Guatemalan Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight was arrested. Fuentes Knight used to be the Minister of Finance in his country, Guatemala.

Oxfam has evidenced an absolute lack of moral leadership. Now, after all these despicable events, Oxfam has expressed the will to recover the lost trust and has announced that will apply rigorous and effective internal control measures to prevent such serious events from happening again. This will require a great effort and tons of transparency. There is no other way to recover the credibility of an organization which, like the rest of NGOs, are and will continue to be very necessary. Oxfam has been one of the most belligerent NGOs when it comes to criticizing those liberal economic policies which are bringing economic development all over the world. They should take more concern and attention of their own house, rather than speak out loud and criticize  others´ houses.

Now, I would like (and expect) to see the same harsh criticism of those progressive media, of the cinema and spectacle industry, against the Oxfam and other NGOs sexual abusing, about their proved lack of morals and ethics, about these deeds occurred in those places where they are most needed and where ever such behaviour and abuse was never expected. Let’s wait and see.

ECUADOR SAID NO

 

QUITO (ECUADOR) Ecuadorian citizen in a polling station in Quito, Ecuador, which opened Sunday, February 4, 2018, guarded by the Ecuadorian military, at 7:00 local time (12:00 GMT), thus beginning the vote of the popular consultation and referendum promoted by the president, Lenín Moreno .. EFE

Ecuador’s President, Lenin Voltaire Moreno, is an unusual politician for more reasons than just his idiosyncratic first name. Moreno is a paraplegic who was shot during a robbery-gone-wrong in 1998. In the course of his convalescence, Moreno turned to laughter therapy, later setting up a foundation to encourage humour and joy. He is likely to need all his reserves of good humour in his position in his country’s governance.

Last Sunday Lenin Moreno achieved an important victory in the referendum where the Ecuadorians were called last Sunday. In this consultation different questions were raised to know about how the Ecuadorians want the country’s institutions to work. The highlight of the popular consultation was that of the indefinite re-election introduced in 2015 by President Rafael Correa, will be eliminated. Otherwise, Correa could have returned to the elections after having governed for a decade. This closes the door to Moreno’s predecessor, although the data suggests that he still has followers among the Ecuadorians.

Moreno’s victory celebrations are likely to be short-lived as the challenges of governance landing on his desk aren’t few. His dilemma will be how to satisfy the demands of his left-wing supporters for continued high spending on Ecuador’s public services. Correa rode Ecuador’s oil boom to international prominence as part of a vanguard of ‘21st century socialism’ in Latin America, but that movement, buoyed by high oil prices and sustained by a fervent anti-Americanism, collapsed long time ago.

Moreno was considered the ideal successor to replace Rafael Correa, a member of ALBA, the Bolivarian alliance created by the late Hugo Chavez. He had held the vice presidency of Ecuador between 2007 and 2013. After, he took a UN position in Geneva. The first part of Correa’s plan worked. Although by a narrow margin of votes and in the second round, Moreno won over the candidate of the right-wing, Guillermo Lasso.  The party ‘Alianza Pais’ stayed in power and Correa’s dolphin got the presidential band on May 24. But after a very short time, Correa’s dream of perpetuation, at the Cuban or Venezuelan style, began to fade. Moreno already warned then that he would not be a political clone of his predecessor. Beyond the gestures, the differences between Correa and Moreno began to emerge immediately: the ex-president was observing, more and more stunned, to the political turn of Moreno who criticized without blush all the vices of the ‘caudillismo’ in Latin America, with the corruption at the top. The final joke would come last October, with the announcement of the call for a referendum which supporters of Correa have described as a ‘coup’: limiting the presidential term to two terms, which will prevent former president Rafael Correa from running again to the government.

The question that sought to repeal the indefinite re-election of president and other authorities reached 64.12% of the voters. The pragmatic ‘dolphin’ has challenged the charismatic Correa in a referendum with a primary objective: the elimination of indefinite re-election. It has been a rejection of the initiative introduced by Correa in the Constitution before leaving power. It is an unprecedented blow to Correa’s citizen’s revolution and an endorsement of the political turnaround undertaken by his successor, Moreno. For Correa and his supporters, the referendum shows Moreno’s alignment with the conservative sectors of the country. Those consider him a traitor to the citizen’s revolution and criticize him for not having proposed this consultation in his electoral program. But the president, who still enjoys a honeymoon with the public opinion after only eight months in power, turns a deaf ear to the criticisms of his detractors and relies on the polls, which are very favourable. “Power is a drug which creates too much addiction,” Moreno reiterated in each of his public appearances.

Ecuador now wonders if the political career of the man who ruled this nation for 10 years is really dead. The same man who incorporated Ecuador to the group of Bolivarian countries, who seemed to be very eager to transform Ecuador, but who changed by his desire to perpetuate himself in power, like Maduro in Venezuela, or the Castro ‘s dynasty in Cuba. An indefinite re-election becomes a dictatorship disguised as democracy. Simon Bolivar (one of the independence from Spain’ leaders and the inspiration for Hugo Chavez) said that there is no worse disgrace for a people than that in which the leader is used to command and the people to obey. Usually it results in dictatorship and corruption.

Mad Men

 

 

I have recently received a copy of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” about the chaotic first year in the White House of the US president, as well as the election campaign which brought him to the presidency. The book has some funny paragraphs, like Ivanka Trump’s description of his father’s hairstyle: indescribable; the fear of being poisoned by Trump, as if he were a Roman emperor, so that of he always prefers cheese burger above all; or, the reaction Trump had when he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who in a meeting approached the president and said: “You are a unique personality, capable of doing the impossible”. Trump replied him: “I love your shoes. Man, those shoes! Man…” Apart from these funny moments, the book is boringly slow, is full of morbid gossip, contributes little to the daily news that the press reveals about the erratic figure of the American president and it has focused to a large extent on the different power struggles within the White House.

But behind all these, it lies a major political event, one that explains the late mismatch between President Trump and his former chief strategist, Stephen Bannon: In addition to President Trump disliking the careless appearance of Bannon, Bannon on the other hand, was very irritated about the president, who seems to have abandoned populism. For the Trump candidate, his star topic was immigration, on which he promised a hard and inflexible line, including a border wall and massive deportations. His ‘contract with the American Voter’ was full of populist measures, from hard actions against China to a public infrastructure program worth a trillion dollars. Their economic plans focused on the benefits for the middle classes, from a tax cut of 35% for middle class families to deductions for children and care for the elderly. He called for severe restrictions on lobbying activities and limits on the number of mandates of members of Congress. Trump originally had a hodgepodge of political ideas that did not point in any particular direction. But he began to attend radio programs and address conservative audiences and realized that it was not economic issues but social and cultural ones like immigration that inflamed the masses and Bannon played a key role there.

Bannon told the author of the already famous book, Michael Wolff, that the Trump era would be like the United States in the 1930s, with a massive program of public works which would once again take low-skilled workers to shipyards, mills and mines. Bannon is alt-right, a Tea Party representative but deeply Keynesian. Instead, it seems that US policy has returned to the 1920s, a time of unrestricted capitalism, to the power of markets, a reduced state and an inequality which is growing dramatically. Is that why the Ohio steel worker voted? Early in the 21st century, we have reached a stage in which the latest technology enables the offshoring of many of the manufacturing jobs that had previously been the mainstay of the middle class, or automates them out of existence. And we witness newly extreme concentrations of economic power, which are again making our politics less genuinely democratic.

The same is happening in international politics. Donald Trump has repeatedly emphasized the value of being “unpredictable,” and has established a pattern of firing off ill-conceived threats that do make him appear slightly unhinged. His apparent hope is that this sort of behaviour will persuade both allies and adversaries will do his bidding, for fear that this irrational and impulsive man will fly off the handle and do something terrible. In other words, Trump appears to subscribe to the so-called madman theory of diplomacy. The best-known articulation of this idea was by former president Richard Nixon in the context of the Vietnam War, or that of president Lyndon B. Johnson, before full American involvement, admitting that the Vietnam War could not be won. Johnson’s dilemma is one that presidents fear to face … and to which Trump seems to be heading on his own initiative … in North Korea.

Trump seems to conceive the international relations as he himself reaches agreements in his business: He has to win. But there is a huge difference. In international politics, the other person has also responsibility in national politics. He or she can not appear as defeated either. Trump acts like if he is carrying out a two persons negotiation, believing that it is only him and the other guy, two important figures reaching an agreement. For an international negotiation to be successful, there must be some win-win element for all. Otherwise, the other party will simply be unable to sell the agreement internally in his/her country. Trump seems to believe above all that he must win and the other must lose.

In Mexico, the president was aware that NAFTA had to be renegotiated. To do that, Trump would have to allow the Mexicans to proclaim some kind of victory as well, to receive some concessions. Instead, he started humiliating and making impossible for President Peña Nieto to reach an agreement. After all, no Mexican government could be seen as simply surrendering to Washington. Trump’s way of negotiating may have worked during his previous life, although there, too, many assure that it was not the way to build a great reputation. But he is no longer making real estate deals. The scenario is different, the conditions are much more complex, and the risks are higher.

The Madmen fail because they usually aren’t good at designing effective long-term strategies or managing the large organizations that make up a modern state. Madmen thrive on chaos, internal divisions, intrigue, and other performance-killing pathologies. Comparing the George H.W. Bush White House, a model of disciplined policymaking, with the weird combination of soap opera and court intrigue existing in the Trump administration, it is disturbing to see the handicaps that unpredictable leaders impose. The bottom line is clear: Being unpredictable may make sense in sports or poker, or even on a battlefield, but it’s a losing strategy for a great nation’s foreign policy. All we need to do now is convince the president. Good luck with that!

The country of the organized crime

One of the poorest countries in Latin America, Honduras is now also the region’s most violent and crime-ridden country. This is, in part, due to its role as a strategically important transit nation for the transnational drug trade, as well as macroeconomic shifts, endemic poverty, corruption, and political turmoil. Estimates vary, but between 140 and 300 tons of cocaine are believed to pass through the country each year. In recent years, transnational criminal groups, particularly Mexican cartels, have expanded their presence in Honduras. Colombian drug trafficking gangs changed their routes to Honduras and it is right now the principal handover point for cocaine to Mexican cartels. However, it is a series of powerful local groups, connected to political and economic elites, who manage most of the underworld activities in the country. They have deeply penetrated the Honduran police, which is one of the most corrupt and mistrusted police forces in Latin America.

A large and increasingly sophisticated group of street gangs also plagues this country. Citizens and businesses face the threat of extortion and kidnapping, and Honduras’ investigative capacity is very weak. The Honduran government has increasingly turned to the military to enforce the rule of law, sparking concern from many human rights groups. The judicial system is afflicted by political interference, corruption, and a lack of capacity and transparency.

The dispute over the election results in the last presidential election, have led to riots and curfew. It is not another example of irreconcilable political strife, but the prove of the state’ deterioration which is succumbing to its most terrible reality: Honduras is for years the big “hub” of the Central American drug trafficking routes. It is because of the entrance of Venezuela, a real ‘narco-state’, into the cocaine business: the airplanes are taking off from Venezuelan soil with Colombian drugs, are landing in Honduras, in the uninhabited area of the Mosquitia jungle, and from there the cargoes are moving by land or by sea to Mexico, to be later introduced into the United States, their final destination.

Honduras is located between Colombia, the world’s main centre of cocaine production, and Mexico, the gateway to the large drug consumer market: the USA. Honduras has become a decaying, failed country. For years it has been feared that the cartels of cocaine production, Medellin and Cali cartels, then the narco-guerrillas of the FARC and the ELN, turned Colombia into a failed state, and that the same would happen in Mexico because of the powerful narcotics distribution cartels: Sinaloa, Zetas, Gulf, Juarez. But where it has been a greater systemic pressure has been in the land located between Colombia and Mexico: in the chain of small Central American nations linking the passage between South America and North America.

Looking carefully at the maps produced by the USA Southern Command with the trace of irregular flights over the Caribbean, a clear evolution can be seen: Until the middle of the last decade, most of the narco-airplanes operated from Colombian soil. When the ‘Plan Colombia’, the cooperation project in security and anti-narcotics agreed in 2000 by Bogota and Washington, began to consolidate, Hugo Chavez opened the Venezuelan territory for the drug shipment of the narco-guerrillas. Since then, San Pedro Sula, a city in the north-western part of the country, has also overtaken Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez as the world’s most violent city.

From Honduras were the links that the nephews of the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, used to bring drugs into the US. These Maduro nephews, now imprisoned in the US, were arrested in Haiti in 2015 and they will probably be convicted in a court of law. Manhattan. This is one of the causes why the second city of Honduras, San Pedro Sula, located next to the Caribbean coast and directly connected to that drug corridor, became the most dangerous city in the world, only recently surpassed by Caracas itself. The Honduran boom as a hub of drug trafficking, hand in hand with the former Venezuelan President Chavez, also had its links to politics. The deceased Venezuelan leader managed to attract to his interests the former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, elected in 2006 elected under the conservative- Liberal Party, although he later joined the Bolivarian alliance, and tried to call a plebiscite to call a constituent assembly, something for which he was dismissed in 2009. Today Zelaya, exiled in Costa Rica, has returned to dispute the power as a strong man into the presidential candidacy of Salvador Nasralla, someone with a certain popular acceptance, but without political weight. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal finally gave yesterday as the winner to the current president, the conservative-liberal Juan Hernández.

As I have been repeating all over the article, the final destination for all these drugs is the USA. It is the economic inequality and lack of opportunity for young people which have contributed to the spread of criminality, drug trafficking and street gangs, which are the primary drivers of violence. Like Guatemala and El Salvador, Honduras is home to thousands of street gang members which have more power and exert influence over entire neighbourhoods, imposing their own order, demanding extortion payments from businesses and residents, and running local drug trafficking and kidnapping rings.

I believe that it is a must to apply strong sanctions to Venezuela for having become a narco-state, and furthermore, removing Maduro from the Venezuelan presidency, given the damage that he is causing to his country, misery, and total absence of civil, political and even human rights for the members of the opposition.

It is also imperative a new ‘Plan Colombia’ like for the region, to eradicate this fatal violence, the uncontrolled immigration into the hands of people’ mafias and the drug trafficking to the US. I see this perspective even more complex right now because of the new policy ‘America First’, but well looked at and given the good results produced in Colombia, it would be a great benefit also for the United States.

A plan for the West?

 

Vladimir Putin might have a plan for destroying the West, and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.

Russia has been boosted right-wing populists across Europe for the past years and elections. It loaned money to Marine Le Pen in France, sending transfusions of cash to make her win the last presidential campaign. Such largesse also wended its way to the Dutch candidate Geert Wilders and Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader who has disappeared after Brexit, except for some meetings with Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks boss, another key pawn of this plan.

There’s a clear pattern. Putin runs stealth efforts on behalf of politicians who rail against the European Union and want to push away from NATO. Joe Biden already warned about these efforts several years ago: “President Putin sees such political forces as useful tools to be manipulated, to create cracks in the European body politic which he can then exploit”, like the Brexit, whose campaign Russia’s many propaganda’ organs profusely promoted.

The destruction of Europe is a grandiose objective; so is the weakening of the United States. Until recently, Putin has only focused his attention on American elections. Then, the Republican nominee came along. Donald Trump was like the Kremlin’s favoured candidates, only more so: He celebrated the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. He denounces NATO with emotion. And he is also a great admirer of Vladimir Putin. Trump’s devotion to the Russian president has been portrayed as great enthusiasm for a fellow macho strongman. Trump’s statements of praise amount to something closer to devotion: In 2007, he praised Putin for “rebuilding Russia.” A year later he said, “He does his work well. Much better than our Bush…. At least he’s a leader…. I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A.”

That’s a highly-abridged sampling of Trump’s odes to Putin. Why wouldn’t the Russians offer him the same furtive assistance when they’ve lavished on Le Pen, Berlusconi, Farage and the rest? Indeed, using its RT (Russia Today) apparatus to thrash Hillary Clinton and hail the courage of Trump’s foreign policy. And though it may be a mere coincidence, Trump’s inner circle is populated with advisers and operatives who have long careers advancing the interests of the Kremlin.

Donald Trump’s interest in Russia dates to Soviet times. In fact, there’s extraordinary footage of him shaking hands with Mikhail Gorbachev. It comes from 1988, when the peak of perestroika and Gorbachev’s efforts to charm the American public. A year earlier, Trump had travelled to Russia at the invitation of the Soviets. They wanted Trump to develop luxury hotels in Moscow and Leningrad to feed the regime’s new appetite for Western taste. It was merely the first instance of Trump with Russian power in the hopes of securing business. Those Soviet hotel projects never went anywhere. But over the years, Trump has returned to the idea of building in Russia again and again. An article in the Moscow Times described Trump as the city’s first grand builder since Stalin.

The nature of the Donald Trump campaign is its fundamental blurring of his political and business interests, on display when he praised the Brexit vote as a boon for his golf courses. One finance expert told the New York Times, “Historically, candidates would separate themselves from their business interests when running for office. Trump has done the opposite by promoting his businesses while running for office.” Such mercantilist motives likely undergird Trump’s ornate praise of Putin, too. Having a friend in the Kremlin would help Trump fulfil his long-time dream of planting his name in the Moscow skyline “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” In 2007, he told Larry King, “Look at Putin what he’s doing with Russia, I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done, whether you like him or not, he’s doing a great job.”

While Putin and the Russians have cultivated Washington, hiring fancy firms to craft strategy, donating money to Think Tanks, building a small coterie of wonks sympathetic to their leader’s view of the world. The Trump presidency was the unlikely culmination of this effort, since so many of these advisers have profited from proxies of the Russian state. One of Trump’s vulnerabilities is that he doesn’t always vet his people, whether it’s business partners, his advisors, or the foreign leaders who show up at his door.

Was Putin meddling in the last presidential campaign? In his chilly way, he has signalled his rooting interest. He praised Trump as “very talented.” He is effusive. Foreign intelligence agencies often go fishing for information on American political campaigns. But the Russians have made an art of publicizing the material they have filched to injure their adversaries. We can only speculate about the documents the Russians have in their possession and how they might use them. He is not the only one sitting on a pile of damaging material. Julian Assange in Russia Today, already warned, “We have emails relating to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication.”

Trump has been widely criticized after saying Vladimir Putin had been insulted by the allegations of Russian interference. Mr. Trump clarified that he supported US intelligence agencies, who have long concluded that Russia tried to sway the 2016 poll in his favour. Questions surrounding Russia’s role in last year’s US elections and allegations of collusion involving Donald Trump’s campaign team have dogged his presidency. Legal action has already been taken against several of his former aides as part of a justice department inquiry. Until now, President Trump has refused to acknowledge intelligence agency findings that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

Which are the allegations against Russia?: The CIA and other intelligence agencies have already concluded that Russia was behind the Democratic National Committee hack during last-year election. The contents of the emails, passed to WikiLeaks and posted online, were embarrassing to the Democrats and shook up the presidential campaign, which ended in defeat for Hillary Clinton. Two top former U.S. intelligence officials said that President Trump is being “played” by President Vladi­mir Putin on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and accused him of being susceptible to foreign leaders who stroke his ego. In addition to the justice department inquiry, led by special investigator Robert Mueller, congressional committees have been set up to carry out their own investigations. While Russian hackers are widely suspected of involvement, there has been no conclusive link to the Kremlin. Yet.

This is very upsetting, at least to me.

 

The fool

The last appearance of the dismissed Catalan government president, Carles Puigdemont, was to announce the call for a referendum on the belonging or not to the European Union of a hypothetically independent Catalonia. The same thesis as any party of the European far-right in any of their respective countries. It seems like  Puigdemont has installed himself very comfortably in Belgium with his right-wing Flemish new friends. He has also has defined the EU as “a club of decadent, obsolescent countries, in which a few are in charge, and are linked to increasingly questionable economic interests.

Puigdemont had to arrive in Brussels to realize that his vision of democracy clashes head-on with the EU’s. He assures to be there in Brussels to save the democracy, although so far only 75 Catalan secessionist mayors have followed him, mayors who, by the way, will pay their excursions to the Belgian capital with the money of the Spanish taxpayers. Puigdemont has also accused the EU of “connivance with the Spanish fascism.” He criticizes the EU very harshly, saying that “EU is in very bad hands right now, with the risk of becoming an empty shell.” But it is not the only one: A MEP from ERC, a left-wing Catalan separatist party, has said mockingly that “Juncker comes from a country smaller than some Catalan cities:  Luxembourg should merge with Germany.”

I am under the impression that the Catalan separatists are making many friends in the European capital. For the Spaniards, this attitude is not unknown: those pro-independence Catalans have always acted with the same arrogance against anyone who was critical about their delusions. In Europe, these populist temptations and lack of respect for the law are very well-known. The Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban has boycotted some plans made by the European Commission like installing borders among countries again. On occasions, he has threatened to reinstate the death penalty in Hungary, although so far, he has been prevented by EU rules. Europe is built based on weights and balances to avoid these populist characters. It may seem boring, but it has been the success key of our peaceful coexistence during the past decades. In Spain and throughout the EU everyone could defend any idea, but it must be done without breaking the law. Europe is not the Far West.

The excluding nationalism is an ideology shared by the two extremes of the ideological arch, as the radical left populisms are extremely anti-Europeist as well. For these radical groups, the so-called ‘anti-system’ groups, the Europe of the EU is manipulated by unscrupulous bankers, bureaucrats at the service of the most sinister lodges, and dominated by Jewish capital, since they are deeply anti-Semitic. The EU is equally hated by far-right and left extremists, since both are similar, almost the same thing.

It is not illogical at all that someone like the radicalized separatists, abominate of a democratic supra-state framework. Because they are not democrats. They don’t respect their country’ laws at all, why should they respect the EU’s? They have been masters in lying, in distorting reality, in selling smoke. Their values ​​are totalitarian and disregarding any rule linked to decency and democratic normalcy. They fear in the light of truth, because that light reveals their hoaxes, their miseries and their enormous mistakes.

They portrayed themselves as freedom fighters, democrats, honest people, but the reality is that they represent one of the most corrupt parties in the history of Europe and the most corrosive totalitarianism. They are pure fascism and now, abominating the EU, they confirm it once again. They do not care about anything or anyone who might think that they are mistaken. That’s why Puigdemont never wanted to go to the Spanish Senate to explain himself and debate with others. That is why he cut off the opposition by modifying the regulations and laws to prevent them from debating in the regional parliament. His thing is tweeting, granting interviews with agreed-upon questionnaires, and to be cheered and praised as a leader.

I see at the horizon a glimpse of the embrace among the Catalan independence rebels and the anti-EU populists: Puigdemont has submerged himself in this mud, demonstrating against the only institution which has kept Europe without an armed conflict since the damn World War II. It is a dangerous place where this ‘enlightened leader’ is heading, because the road he points, it can only end supporting a discourse of strong states, with hard laws, ruled with an iron hand or even totalitarian. This is how it is right now in Hungary, and so believes the National Front of Le Pen, Alternative for Germany, the PVV of Wilders in the Netherlands, the Greek neo-Nazi party ‘Golden Dawn’, or even the British UKIP, which has managed to lead the UK to an epic mess with the Brexit, the most unfortunate situation for the United Kingdom in decades.

Puigdemont is completely installed in the most absolute radicalism. He should also know, if he is not yet aware, that across the political pace he is going through, he must deal with some of the most dangerous political wolves in the future. His speech against the EU is an anti-parliamentary, anti-democratic discourse against all the values that sustains our western life system. It also breaks with the Catalan tradition, always very pro-European. Puigdemont has aligned himself with the most radical reactionary movements. And those don’t like freedom. The Catalans must be happy: they already got their far-right leader. Although in the future, rather than a leader, I see him playing a freak in Late Night Show.

Hybrid war

In  21st century’ wars, the media, internet and virtual environments are as important as the traditional weapons. In a world addicted to information, the ability to create alternative truths, the so-called ‘post-truth’, and the reality denial, are becoming a very powerful weapon. Unlike other countries, Russia already entered full-time on it. Since the overthrow of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, Russia has begun its strategy of ‘asymmetric response’ which is a strategy of erosion, through all means at its disposal, spies, irregular military means, false news, ‘trolls’, ‘hackers’, financing of radical political parties or independence movements. These actions are taking place in countries that Russia considers hostile, mainly those belonging to the EU and NATO.

From the Russian perspective, what is happening today is a counterattack. “The Russians see the act of war in a complex way. They do not understand it only as armed combat: they also use political, economic and any other means to achieve their objectives,” explained Janis Berzins, director of the Riga’s Centre for Security and Strategic Research, attached to the Ministry of Defence of Latvia. “Russia has political objectives which wants to achieve in Europe, and it does everything possible, within certain strategic limitations. I cannot imagine Russia attacking France or Germany, it does not make sense. But we might see Russia trying to influence political outcomes, elections, people, the goal is to use our democracies against us,” Berzins said.

Russia has many means and uses them all simultaneously. There is a narrative which they want to spread out and they do it through media such as RT and Sputnik,“, pointed Dace Kundrate, an expert from the NATO’ Department of Doctrine, Concepts and Experimentation of the Strategic Communications Centre in Riga. These media develop the message and the social networks and trolls amplify it.

Now, the investigation of the Russian plot in the United States is being carried out, which seeks to clarify if there was connivance between the Donald Trump’ campaign team and Moscow. Many questions about the possible interference of the Kremlin in the United Kingdom, where the triumph of Brexit in last year’s historic referendum shaken the pillars of the European Union (EU), are also being produced right now. The controversy over how Russia seems to have influenced the past US elections is increasing, and some of the Facebook representatives recently admitted to US congressional investigators that from Russia have been generating and organizing thousands of fake Facebook profiles to influence the users. The infrastructure of fake accounts is not limited to Facebook, but a whole network of Twitter bots has been used as well.

Weakening both the EU and NATO has always been part of Moscow’ strategic plan. In this sense, the problem also affects Spain, where Russian seems to have been part of the communications regarding the secessionist movement in Catalonia. “There are indications to think that the pattern of digital disruption detected in digital debates about the elections in the United States or the Brexit, has also occurred in Catalonia and the actors of this disruption seems to be identical,” says Javier Lesaca, researcher visitor at the School of Media and Public Affairs of the George Washington University. Once again, the Kremlin, RT and Sputnik media used a very high number of social media accounts coming from the Chavismo and Venezuela spheres, to propagate a negative image of Spain in the days before and after the illegal referendum on October 1st, according to a detailed analysis of more than five million messages made by the George Washington University. The report warns of serious damage to the reputation, political and economic of Spain and the EU.

Following on the same line, the different European elections held in 2017 in France, The Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, have been a perfect testing ground for these purposes. Although the Russian interference, according to some observers and analysts, is more a symptom than a cause: “Even without Russian interference, Donald Trump probably would have won anyway, because of the dissatisfaction and the satiety of the people. And that is exactly what Russia can exploit. As it is happening in Europe with the radical parties of the extreme right or extreme left’ growth.” Another account which defends the Kremlin’s interests very aggressively is ‘Voice of Europe’ (@V_of_Europe): Voice of Europe looks like a newspaper, but it has only one channel on Twitter and another on Facebook where shares content from other media, clearly false information: “British public schools force four-year-old girls to wear a veil” or “The Dutch police lacks powers before criminal immigrants.” The anonymity offered by the networks would therefore fit perfectly with the new strategy of the Kremlin.

The Russian perception of the threat derived from the EU and NATO has remained unchanged since the Cold War. Lately Russia has tried to combat it in a different way, more subtly, where its participation is not clearly shown, but pushing and interfering in any conflict or internal EU matter. The objective is to weaken the EU cohesion and to question its own foundations. Internally, the Russian government also uses this strategy to show an image of strength and stability as opposed to the “chaos” that Western democracies show.

These are new times. When the media started to speak not long ago of hybrid wars, nobody even imagined about battlefields far from the scenarios where things happen, and cross border attacks without leaving a trace. Or they not leaving clear traces but allowing to track their origin. So, the idea of a Russian interference in Western democracies was something like the conspiracy theory, i.e., a boutade.

It would be necessary to analyse more thoroughly the figure of Nigel Farage, Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning, the transsexual soldier who was the source of the Cablegate leaks. Nigel Farage, once the leader and soul of the Eurosceptic Ukip party, which played a vital role in the Brexit campaign, has been involved with Assange, whom he has even visiting in his self-imprisonment. Farage assures that it was a journalistic meeting for his radio program on LBC, but to date no material referring to this meeting has come out on the air. Assange, an Australian hacker with an anarchist ideology, persecuted by the FBI, has been taking refuge at the embassy of Ecuador since June 2012. Ecuador is a member country of ALBA, the Bolivarian alliance founded by Hugo Chávez. Julian Assange is responsible for WikiLeaks, whose website published thousands of emails harmful to Clinton which, according to the US intelligence services, were part of the plan to achieve Trump’s victory. The director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said that “WikiLeaks was a hostile intelligence service often instigated by state actors like Russia.” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, exchanged messages with WikiLeaks during his father’s White House campaign, as he himself would have acknowledged. The communications made through internal messages on Twitter occurred at the same time when WikiLeaks leaked hacked documents from the Democratic Party. In these messages, WikiLeaks urges the president’s son to disseminate the hacked documents and proposes some ideas such as not recognizing the results of the elections, if the Clinton Democrat would have win.

Every day seems more plausible that Assange does dirty work for Russia, as a part of geopolitical strategy to destabilize the European democracies and the US. With regards to Spain, Assange has been very much in favour of the seditious movement of Catalonia, insulting in the media to the PM and the King of Spain. The concern has reached such a level that companies like Google are putting into operation a series of cybersecurity tools to protect democratic electoral processes against foreign interference. The combination of intelligence operations, disinformation, post-truth, unconventional media and computer attacks which some experts define as ‘hybrid warfare’ has not stopped gaining prominence until today. And we are the enemy. It is worrying.

Nationalism, supremacism and sedition.

For the last 40 years, we haven’t known in Spain anything different in our democracy than being bastardized and weakened by the nationalist cancer. It’s being the kidnapping too long. The nationalism is a perverse tendency which thrives only in division, generating an enemy and cultivating it with care. There is no use the appeasement and the covenant. It is insatiable and pollutes. It thrives because it feeds the worst of the human being. It is as simple as dividing the world into good and bad ones, and pointing the finger at the bad guys. It is a geographical populism, and it is nourished exactly in the same way: promoting dissatisfaction and supremacy of some over the others. Its own internal mechanism repels intelligence and decency, and therefore easily put together to all those who wish to prosper and touch power and do not know how to do it in a constructive way.

The Catalan nationalism, which in the end has led to independentism, has in common all these characteristics with other nationalisms: this superiority feeling of the Catalan independence movement compared to the rest of the Spanish regions. It is made of a narcissistic type which is characterized, among other traits, by its immunity to any self-criticism; by a grandiose sense of its own importance, which makes it believe itself superior to all others; by an exaggerated perception of its own rights, refusing to admit having participated in the creation of problems, always attributed those to external circumstances, and, above all, losing all contact with the reality. The same characteristics of individual narcissism are reproduced in the collective, which is at the origin of all the nationalistic movements.

The Catalan nationalism’ narcissism has already turned into a megalomania: it is enough to point out that on several occasions, the pro-independence politicians have compared themselves to Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, personalities who, due to their mythical heroism and integrity, have become an example for the Humanity. From the Institut Catalá de Nova Història, it has been asserted that Da Vinci, Colón and Cervantes were real Catalans. The former President Artur Mas already said that of, an independent Catalonia would become “the Denmark of the Mediterranean”, which would entail quality employment, high salaries and a robust and sustainable welfare state. This statement that is not without its grace, as it is pronounced by a politician whose party has exercised a systemic corruption to the point of having to change the name of the party, and being Denmark the least corrupt country in the world. Mr. Mas does not explain how such an amazing transformation could be achieved.

The Catalan secessionists have declared the Catalonian independence illegally, of course. They say they are leaving, but all the Spaniards know that it is not the reality. They are just devising a more perfect form of extortion. Or is it that someone has taken this Catalan pantomime seriously? Where are they going to go where they can continue enjoying so many privileges? Not wanting to be Spaniards has been transformed into such a profitable business which those nationalist gentlemen are not going to give it up.

But the problem is not only in Catalonia. It lives, grows and has always prospered in Madrid. All the Prime Ministers of Spain have paid the ‘Catalonian toll’, with the joy, always after payment, of the Catalonian nationalist oligarchies. And they have bought their mandates undermining the bond of solidarity which must unite the nations, by granting to some regions privileges that others are denied. We are going to say it clearly: nationalism steals from us since long time ago. The territorial inequalities which are present for centuries in Spain have no other origin.

There is no sacred duty or historical blame, no original sin in being Spaniards which forces us to endure these infamies. We, Spaniards, are fed up with insults and belittles on the part of an oligarchy who only seeks to get more privileges. According to them, one can be a Catalan with pride, but not Spaniard. I refuse this discourse. We must free ourselves from this disease. And then we with big hope must start to improve Spain, because we are many, many millions. We must recover the public space for the Spaniards, most the inhabitants of these lands, who have lived in semi-underground conditions for years. It is urgent to clear this fog of abuse and noise. We are the ones who must decide if we want Catalonia to remain Spanish, not them. Those of us who want to be Spaniards are entitled to say something about the matter, if those who do not want to be, pretend to be entitled.

This regarding Spain and our rights and self-esteem as Spaniards. I would like to make a brief final reflection on the traveling companions who the seditious Catalans have sought; also about their destructive wave threatening within the EU territories: The Belgian racists of the New Alliance party are the ones who have welcomed and protected Puigdemont, the President who declared the Catalonia independence and fled away. Puigdemont belongs to the category of those who escape from Spain to destroy and curse it. Historically we have suffered this traitors’ kind more than once. Bart De Wever, president of the party filonazi New Alliance, and Jan Jambon, the current Flemish Inner Affaires’ minister, have made several critics about the impartiality of Spanish justice because of Judiciary statement to send these seditious to prison. The Flemish separatists who collaborated with the Nazis during Belgium’ occupation. The same Jambon who defends Puigdemont, a year ago caused a scandal because he defended the Nazi collaborators. The independentists are not aware about the black wolves are getting together in bed: Le Pen, Farage, Wilders, Jambon… all those which Putin has subsidize and secretly support, just like he did to the Catalan secessionists, because what he and they seek is the destruction of Europe, and specifically of the EU, as we know it.

Let all remember, and specifically those who has been sympathetic with the separatists, that nationalism is war.

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.