Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spain, its culture and the Catalan disloyalty

Today, unlike other days, I will write about my country. Recently, the Minister of Arts and Culture of South Africa, Nathi Mthethwa, visited Madrid. The purpose of this visit was to prepare an exhibition of South African artists to be held at the Reina Sofia Museum of Contemporary Art, to meet with the Spanish government, and to participate in a tribute to Nelson Mandela, held in Madrid. Mthethwa asserted, “We want to learn from the Spaniards, who have made their culture a recognizable brand worldwide, Spanish culture is world-renowned and recognized. We would like to achieve the same.

While from outside, our culture and historical heritage is largely admired, in Spain we keep being around the Catalan question. While the cause of the so-called “Process for Independence” has the support of Yoko Ono, what a sad character, who has recently stated so, a significant number of Catalan intellectuals and artists have manifested themselves in recent days about the ´Process´. All of them have had a great influence in the literature, the music or the Spanish theatre of the last decades, and therefore they enjoy a great social influence. It is interesting to know what they say, because it helps to understand the reasons that in Spain is about to trigger a serious institutional and civil crisis. Of all the 15-people interviewed, only the writer Nuria Amat correctly mentions the Nationalism, its manipulation capacity and its lies, and its toxic responsibility in all these. The others shirked their point.

Also, the recognized Catalan actor and playwright, Albert Boadella, has written an interesting article on this issue this week. In his article, he shows how since the 1980s a single decentralization process had begun in Spain, unique in Europe. The Spanish Constitution has structured the State in the form of Autonomies and specifically Catalonia, got transferred most powers of the State: a region which declares the Catalan as the official language of Catalonia, marginalizing the Spanish and the Spanish culture and endowing its own parliament with the attributions of education, police, health, public works, urbanism, radio & television broadcasting, among others. The Catalan nationalist government has used its powers in educational matters to indoctrinate two generations of young people in the hatred of everything related to Spain. Under the distortion of history and the exaltation of Catalan superiority against Spain, the virus of xenophobia has been instilled since childhood. The public money has also been used to subsidize the Catalan private media, to obtain their adhesion to the nationalist cause.

The Nationalism always grows creating a common enemy. Its spread is made by creating a general paranoia, in this case, against Spain. It also does so against the inner dissident who is quickly accused of treason. This persistent policy of confrontation has also provoked the division between the Catalan society itself, in which a part of it despises and marginalize to those who dare to protest against the separatist drift, and which is more than half of the population. Discord between organizations, families or friends has become commonplace in recent times.

It is almost a commonplace of the Catalan constitutionalists and the rest of Spain to accuse the two great Spanish parties, both left and right, for not having faced for years an intellectual and political battle to delegitimize the nationalism. Of course. But what about the ‘intelligentsia’ most directly affected by it? What some of the intellectuals do today is what they have always done: to temporize with a sinister ideology, to justify it in some way. What the great majority of them does not want to notice in the Process is precisely its radical element: a considerable part of the Catalans, led by a morally corrupt government, have chosen the xenophobic path and refuse to live with the rest of the Spaniards. Moreover, it is likely if they dare recognizing the implicit nationalist xenophobia, would oblige them to stop being equidistant with the two parties, as they have been for years.

The former French President, Francois Mitterrand, asserted that Nationalism is war. He described it this way because Europe has known in its own flesh the tragic consequences of instigating this impulse, which encourages lack of solidarity, xenophobia and destruction to the contrary. The European Union was born to avoid in the future the disintegrating shoots which end up leading irreversibly to the confrontation. In recent times, the European extreme right reappears under the ultranationalist incitement which pushes to close the own borders to filter any foreign intrusion of any kind. In this sense, the Catalan nationalism is equated with this emergent extreme right: it is the rich region which does not want the burden of less prosperous Spanish territories. That is the core of its objectives: the separatist unsupportive and disintegrating trying to break and put borders to a democratic Spain, organized under a solid principle of liberties.

Our young Spanish democracy has had to bear the brunt of Basque and Catalan nationalism along its path of progress and freedom. A ballast tinged with blood and pain, and constant pressure to sacrifice the equality of the Spaniards for the sake of false ethnic differences. Although in the background, it always plans the shadow of blackmail for the obtaining of economic privileges: the unique and the whole issue.

Venezuela won´t forget

 

 

The people of Venezuela demonstrated last Sunday to President Nicolas Maduro on a massive basis, that it is not possible to solve the economic and institutional disaster that the country is experiencing, if it is not through a dialogued solution which is bound the respect to the legality. More than 7.5 million people overcome the fear of violence and turned the streets into a demonstration against the regime, it is a clear signal of the moment that is crossed. The opposition to Maduro announced the creation of a parallel government of National Unity and a general strike that is being held today and is paralyzing the country.

Unfortunately, two other fatalities which fell near a polling station by paramilitary squad shots, were counted. These operate usually in the surroundings of the Chavismo. The two-dead people are close to the already 100 dead, since the start of the daily protests Maduro and his government, given their decision to convene elections to create an assembly which, given the system of nomination, would be completely docile to the current rulers and would end in a definitive way with any hint of democracy.

Meanwhile, it has been a relieve to acknowledge that a hundred Colombian and Colombian congressmen have presented this week before the International Criminal Court based in The Hague, a complaint against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Hague Court judges’ crimes which affect the international community: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The brief, directed to the prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, is based on reports from international organizations, including United Nations agencies, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, reports of several NGOs and official information from Venezuela itself. This report provides evidence which accuse Hugo Chavez’s successor of being a participant in serious violations of international law already since 2008, when Maduro was Foreign Affairs Minister of the Chavez government. It is also crediting more specific crimes against the International Law since it was elected in 2013. The initiative has been supported by representatives of all political backgrounds and colours, and seeks to have The Hague Prosecutor’s Office first opening an observation in Venezuela. Venezuela signed the Rome Statute in 1998 and therefore accepts the jurisdiction of the ICC.

There are eight accusations made by the complaint: First, the crime of murder by direct and indirect instigation: “Between the years 2013 and 2017, people have been killed in Venezuela who expresses themselves in concrete situations, or through the exercise of their human rights, against policies, measures or omissions, attributable to the Venezuelan government.” Secondly, the complainants charge him with “an imposition of certain conditions of life, including deprivation of access to food or medicine, with the intention of causing the destruction of part of a population.” A crime which qualifies as extermination, and that they understand as “closely related to the genocide, since both are directed against a large number of people.”

 Thirdly, deportation or forced transfer of population, coming to use physical force or through threats. The other charges included in the 56-page brief, without including the probationary documents provided for the trial, are incarceration of opponents; Torture; Persecution of a group or collective with own identity, about the critics with the Chavismo; Forced disappearance of persons and even the crime of apartheid, i.e. inhuman acts committed in the context of an institutionalized system of oppression against a part of the population.

The institutional and humanitarian crisis that Venezuela is undergoing, was intensified when the Supreme Court of Justice suspended at the end of March, arbitrarily and in a dictatorship style, which is what practically Venezuela currently is, the powers of Parliament, ruled by the opposition majority. That parliament was the result of the last occasion in which the real democracy was exercised in Venezuela. The decision sparked a wave of protests which has not yet stopped. In the last three and a half months, about one hundred people have died, the pressure from the international community has increased, the Chavismo is divided, the once Chavista Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, has become a symbol of the resistance to the government. But Maduro is not willing to give up the elections for a National Constituent Assembly, convened for July 30th with arbitrary rules of the game which, previously devised and organized by the Cuban intelligence, favour the government. Everything happening in Venezuela has origin and intelligence in Havana. And Venezuela will become another Cuba if Maduro is not stopped.

Because of the curse of the events currently happening in Venezuela, I also hope that they will force the Prosecutor of the ICC to put Venezuela under observation. The second objective is for the prosecution to open a formal investigation into Nicolas Maduro. The governments of Latin America have remained in multilateral forms of condemnation, but none have taken any action to end the situation, in fact some countries have supported Maduro, see Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Argentina during the government of the Kirchner, or Ecuador.

The world must let Maduro know that if he continues, his regime will suffer international sanctions. The Venezuelan people should not be the only ones who pay for the broken dishes. As the singer and politician Ruben Blades recently said in Madrid, Venezuela will never forget!

The crack is enlarging

The meeting held in June 2016 by Donald Trump’s eldest son with a Russian lawyer, who promised him toxic information about Hillary Clinton, came marked directly from the Kremlin. The eldest son of the then, Republican candidate, was informed by email that the material which she was going to provide was part of a Russian government effort to support Trump. The disclosure, advanced by the New York Times and supported by three other sources, further narrows the suspicion of collusion between the Republican election team, and Moscow.

This alleged collusion is the investigation’ cornerstone led by the FBI and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Its base is the report prepared by the three major US intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI and NSA), which states that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to his secret service to interfere in the US elections, to damage Clinton’s image and facilitate Trump’s triumph. The attack was the plundering of the Democrats’ computers and the mails of Clinton’s campaign chief. The material was later leaked to WikiLeaks. And we know the rest of the story.

The meeting with the Russian lawyer was held five months before the election, right in the heyday of Russian attack. Trump Jr. maintains that his father was never informed of the meeting, despite of the fact that his eldest son, son-in-law, and campaign manager attended it during the middle of the election battle. It also raises suspicions the ease with which they decided to receive toxic information from the Kremlin against a rival. Trump Jr. has tried to salvage this stumbling block by pointing out that he acted like any politician would act during a political campaign.

Meanwhile, during the G-20 summit last week, the particular summit held between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G-20, made the same economic sense that if the US president had met during two hours and 16 minutes with the president of Bolivia. None. A military superpower with a Third World economy. That is Russia. And its economic prospects are very bad because its economic structure is that of a Third World country. Russia exports oil, natural gas and other raw materials, and imports everything else. The only thing which might break down is the foreign sales of military equipment, largely inherited from the former Soviet Union industry, which means that it has fewer and less dependable buyers who are interested in these antiques. Now they sell a lot in Nicaragua, for example.

That a country with the life expectancy of Bolivia and the Per Capita wealth of Greece, play the role of Russia in the world, should be the subject of several PhD theses. The international community surprisingly continues accepting Russia as a great power, as the heir to the Soviet Union. The influence of Moscow is due precisely to that heritage of the USSR. An inheritance which includes a formidable defence, espionage and security apparatus, in which Vladimir Putin made his whole career and is an expert. Other than that, is practically nothing. Without this militarization of the economy, Russia is ethereal, like the natural gas it exports. Russia is today a country in development, armed ‘to the teeth’, and with a government of ultranationalist ideology. A country with 7,000 atomic bombs which combines political hyper-nationalism and a third-ranking from the economic point of view, is clearly a danger. And it is because the three factors feedback each other. Without nationalism, the economic status quo and militarism make no sense. But nevertheless, Trump gives a lot of importance to Putin, to Russia, which does not have it.

The meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, which was going to take half an hour, lasted two hours and 16 minutes. There were no American complaints about Russian intervention in the November election. As it was expected. It is important the ceasefire agreement in Syria, which the other G20 members do not know what it is about, since they were not informed.  Also, they have decided to create a sort of protective cloud in cyberspace which will give to Putin a huge political triumph, in front of the European G20 leaders’ puzzlement. In the final declaration about the environmental agreement, the vote was 19 to one: they all differed from the US regarding global warming. In trade matters, Trump was the most protectionist of all the other participants. And, as the G20 plenary met, Trump rose up from the table again and again, and his place was not filled by the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, but by his daughter Ivanka, who has any function of government representativeness: it was rude and a lack of diplomatic, political and respect for the other participants.

For the time being, there are not any sophisticated analysis of what the Trump administration is, his particular way to make policy and politics. We do not understand it, nor we don’t understand the interests behind it. We could sense that Trump’s provocations and tweets are serving his internal agenda, to adjust personal matters and to hide their true policies. To be guided by the tweets and verbiage seems to me a mistake and is, paradoxically, what best suits the interests that took him to the White House.

I still do not understand what happens between Trump and Putin, and what we so far know, does not smell good. The meeting among Trump’s eldest son, the rest of the election team and the Russian lawyer, the long meeting with Putin last week, further narrows the suspicion of collusion between the Trump’s electoral team and Moscow. The crack widens, as it does the scandal.

Meeting between Friends

 

 

When the British decided to support the Brexit and turn their back on the European project on June 23rd 2016, Donald Trump saw his protectionist project backed at the most convenient time during his election campaign. In the midst of the euphoria, the first anti-establishment candidate in the recent American history predicted that other European countries would follow in the wake of the United Kingdom. In his view, we were witnessing the process of disintegration of the European Union. Identical feelings he shares with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump may have confused his own desire with reality, but four and a half months after, when arriving at the White House, the United States President turned the traditional North American foreign policy by gradually trying to unravel the main transatlantic ties. Pure continuity of what was proposed in the campaign. First, it was the punch at the NATO table: he questioned its current meaning and demanded the Allies to fulfil their obligation to contribute 2% of their GDP to military spending. Until there is nothing unusual, and he even might be right about it.

The US’ neo-nationalism, fuelled by the extremist digital journal Breitbart News, owned by Trump’s adviser and man of his trust, Stephen Bannon, has backed the European populist options which could have helped put the established order upside down, supporting the populists French Marine Le Pen and the Dutch Geert Wilders. Like his friend Putin, who has even supported them economically.

Then came the shelve negotiations for the free trade agreement between the US and the EU, which happened in an almost natural way. Finally, with the output of Climate Paris Agreement, Trump ratified the withdrawal of any multinational collaboration. The Paris agreement, or COP21, was signed in December 2015 after decades of negotiations. Technically it is not a binding treaty, precisely because of the closed opposition of the US government (among others) to be enforced: according to the agreement the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions are established by each country independently. Under the signed stipulations only the process of leaving the agreement could start in November 2019 and the process includes a year of delay, so the exit will not be effective before 2020.

Trump has sought from the outset, to replace the major transnational agreements in which the USA participates, through bilateral agreements, with the aim of reaping the greatest benefit to each of them. He has already chased it with Theresa May, and even proposed it to Merkel, who rejected it, which earned her some odd expletive.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will hold a bilateral meeting this week during the G-20 summit in Hamburg. Finally, the friends will see each other face to face. The moment had to come: They seem to share many interests and have many things in common. There will be plenty of time for conversation and discussion. They never have meet before and between them flows an unusual electricity, almost a mutual fascination.

An encounter that in any other case would enter into the diplomatic normality, but the meeting among the two-alpha-male of world politics, acquires disturbing airs. The face-to-face with Putin has been discouraged by the Trump’ advisors. The powerful military sector of the White House distrusts openly of Russia. And the intelligence services consider without any doubt that the Kremlin is a hostile enemy who orchestrated a smear campaign against Hillary Clinton during the past presidential election. An intervention intended to favour Trump’s interest, which feeds up until now a great scandal in Washington: the Russian plot. Trump, euphoric, showed already that weakness, telling the Russian foreign minister about some secret terrorism’ information during his visit to the White house in May. The slip has not been forgotten, and the White House fears the thorny Russian scandal.

The neuralgic point of this meeting for President Trump should be Syria and the fight against Daesh’s terrorism. He hopes to make some progress there. The Russian seeks a stable dialogue and insisting that the US sanctions against Russia must be withdrawn, including those imposed by Obama for electoral interference. It’s not something Trump could promise after the Senate’s nearly unanimous decision to armour them. But there is no doubt that Putin would have access to a leader who has publicly expressed his admiration towards him. A leader, who in the middle of the election campaign, asked to Putin for continuing to check his rival’s mails. In Hamburg, face to face, they might amusingly remember it.

For the time being, it seems like the wishes about the European target are not being achieved, even though Trump has succeeded in convincing a most of his voters that the EU is something negative for the US interests. Behind the anti-European aspirations of US President Donald Trump, who is defying decades of alliance and faithful collaboration arising from the status quo after World War II, the strategy and ideology have always been present: the president wants to run the country as a company, and for this he applies the same yardstick in politics as in the culmination of good business: weakening and dividing, and then winning. The same view as his friend Putin.

REGREXIT

It’s all fire around Theresa May. Jeremy Corbyn has increased the pressure on the UK Premier at a particularly critical moment, during the start of the Brexit negotiations. On the other hand, Gerry Adams, the historic Sinn Féin leader, recently visited Downing Street for the first time in a decade and directly accused May of violating the Good Friday Agreement. According to Adams, the possibility of a governing covenant among the Conservative Party and the DUP (Unionist Party of Northern Ireland) to achieve a majority in the British Parliament, is a rupture of the British Government’ role as guarantor of North Ireland’ peace process. That is not to mention the British Police’s performance on the terrorist attacks, or the recent fire at the Grenfell tower which has been considered by a Labour MP as a ‘criminal negligence.’ After two terrorist attacks in less than three months, the British capital revived the nightmare with the Grenfell tower terrifying fire in the middle of the night.

Last June 22nd was a year later of the Brexit‘s triumph, which won the referendum with only a 3.7% lead. Since then, the wound opened about the EU debate in the United Kingdom is far from being over. This was acknowledged recently by the highest religious authority of the Church of England, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury since 2013. Welby acknowledges that the political situation created after the last elections, without an absolute majority of Government, “has created an understandable temptation to turn every difference into a question of confidence.” Welby urges British politicians to seek unity and avoiding “the temptation to take domestic advantage at the cost of these events.” He has proposed to the PM to sponsor a commission under the Parliament’ umbrella, in which all parties are willing to achieve a common position before the Brexit negotiations. It would be presided over by a veteran and prestigious politician and away from the current partisan struggles. Some Labour MPs had already advocated a commission like the one proposed by Archbishop Welby. However, it is doubtful whether his idea might please the hard Brexiters inside the Conservative Party.

The fact is that, once the negotiations to carry out Brexit have started, a new word is being recently heard in England: ‘Regretxit‘, which links the term Brexit with ‘Regret’. The polling company YouGov, which was very accurate in its projection of seats that May would lose in the past election, has made a satisfaction survey on Brexit, and the ‘Regrexit‘ is already leading. It must be remembered that in the referendum on this UE leaving issue, the pro-leaving was 51.8%, compared with 48.1% (17.4 million votes against 16.1). One year later, 45% of those surveyed, believe that EU exit will be a historic mistake, exceeding the 44% who still believe that Brexit was successful: 40% believe that the country will be worse after leaving its partners since 1973, and only 25% foresee a better perspective.

The main reason the Brexit was voted was to regain sovereignty, that British decisions are taken by the British. The second reason is the control of immigration. YouGov’s survey made for ‘The Times’ reveals that the economics are right now more crucial than immigration: 58% say that in negotiations with the EU, the European free market must prevail.

The reality is that already now, British households have lost purchasing power; The political crisis is palpable with a very weak government after the last elections; The British negotiating position is very fragile and confusing and, a wave of companies offshoring is expected as the breakthrough progresses. Brexit‘s hyper nationalistic adventure is already punishing the UK. In addition, British society is politically divided in two, divided as never were before. May wanted to celebrate elections to consolidate her power; She failed and lost the absolute majority which had bequeathed from Cameron. She is right now in a fragile minority and highly questioned by her own party. The British Government has never finished defining a clear strategy for Brexit, probably because it does not have it. The Premier outlined her intentions for a tough exit last January: abandonment of the single market and the Customs Union, control of borders and end of EU citizens’ free movement. So, tough exit.

But everything will depend on the pain caused by the Brexit to the UK citizens. The English, despite their pretensions of superiority over the rest of Europe, are usually a practical kind of people, who thinks a lot with their pockets. If the Brexit adventure seriously worsens their lives, they will recant, with a dignified tone and pretending like they have won, but they will step back in the end. If the damages are bearable, an agreement will be sought which will give good access to the EU market and generous quotas of EU citizens arrivals. But since the official start of negotiations in Brussels for Britain’s exit from the EU, the British negotiating chief David Davis, the EU’s exit appointed minister, was thrashed by his EU counterpart Michel Barnier, who has imposed a timetable, schedule and negotiation model. Right now, things don’t look right for Britain. And the rest of the EU will not allow it either.

Policy tightening towards Cuba

 

 

We are going to empower the Cuban people and make accountable their regime,” Trump wrote on Twitter, just hours before giving a speech in Little Havana, the neighbourhood where the Cuban exile is concentrated. During the Presidential race, Trump has altered course on Cuba. Last year, during the primary campaign, Trump said that he supportedgovernment efforts to restore relations with the island. Then, at a Miami rally two weeks ago, Trump claimed that Obama should have secured better terms in negotiations with Cuba, and that “unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” he would reverse Obama’s executive orders.

A year and three months after Obama’s visit to Cuba, Trump has visited Miami, the capital of the Cuban diaspora, to reiterate to an exile sector that he will satisfy the campaign promise which he made to the Bay of Pigs war’ veterans, who risked their lives in an incursion to the island in 1961, encouraged and funded by the Government of John F. Kennedy. The president announced in Miami a policy’ tightening towards the island, dismantling a part of the legacy of his predecessor: “Now that I am President I will expose the crimes of the Castro’s, because for the United States a continent is better where there is freedom, in Cuba, in Venezuela, so that people can live their dreams.” The president said that one of his functions is changing the bad treaties, and recalled that of Iran, and that of Cuba: ” The previous government has alleviated the restrictions of travel and commerce and that does not help the Cuban people, it only enriches the Castro regime. We will not remain silent in the face of communist oppression.

 However, the ‘backward’ is just partial, not as the hardest Cuban exile would have liked. The president, despite his anti-Castro speech, keeps up with many of the Obama’s policies toward Cuba. The Obama-era decrees marked a significant difference about the US Companies provision of services increase in Cuba: telecommunications, internet, hotels. Companies like Airbnb announced their new presence on the island. Also, it is particularly visible in these two and a half years the presence of the big airlines and US cruise ships, which started arriving in Cuba in 2016. Trump, who seems to follow the directives of Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, two of the most influential politicians in the Cuban-American community, says what successive administrations of one sign or another have promised in Miami: that sooner rather than later Cuba will be free; That the objective is to promote the autonomy of civil society and to undermine the dictatorship; And that it is urgent to denounce the violation of human rights in Cuba. Nothing new.

On the island side, Raul Castro’s government responded in a message issued in all the Cuban media, “Any strategy aimed to change the political, economic and social system in Cuba, whether it is to achieve it through pressures or using more subtle methods, will be doomed to failure. The necessary changes in Cuba such as those now underway, are part of the island’s economic and socialist model’ update, which the Cuban people will continue to decide sovereignly.” Cuba has also protested yesterday over the US president shamelessness, as last Friday he surrounded himself with terrorists in Miami, when announcing the tightening of his country’s policy toward the island, in a ‘such a grotesque spectacle coming out of the Cold War.’

But any exile is monolithic and the Cuban is not an exception. After 59 years of exile, today more than ever, Cuban-Americans are divided about which is the best way to drive a transition. According to a Florida International University’ survey published in 2016, 63%, in Miami Dade County were against the embargo, and 57% supported the expanding trade relations with Cuba. And a new poll released yesterday by ‘Engage Cuba Coalition’ dismantle the stereotype that of Republicans are opposed to Obama’s policies in relation to the island. In fact, most of the Republican voters want to keep them. But the scope of the new measures is not clear, partly because of the lack of transparency of the Cuban economy. Some experts have criticized the tightening of US policy towards Cuba as a counterproductive one. For Jason Marczack, an expert at the Think Tank Atlantic Council, stated that “the Cuban system has already demonstrated its resistance to US attempts to isolate itself over the past five decades.”

 There will be no change until the Cubans on the island take some action. At least as the Venezuelan people are doing. Nothing which outsiders might decide as Trump now, or Obama before, is going to have a real impact on the Cuban people ‘lives. What does it take for the people of Cuba to wake up, have faith in themselves, and be able to reverse their history? What needs to happen in Cuba for Cubans to show their identity, their self-esteem and take off all their strength forces to make their way to the future? What is needed to say among them, those ordinary Cubans, from all ages and from all parts of the island to rise from the long lethargy in which they are submerged, asleep, hypnotized, paralyzed, and put their proven wit and muscle to work?

Fifty-eight years are gone and the result is apathy, languishment and disinterest over a better life. A decrepit country, people abandoned to their fate, without encouragement, without the will to fight, without goals, encouragement, without blood, dignity and desire. Eleven million of Cubans would wish to leave the island, flee to other lands where they could achieve a more human, more dignified, more possible life. Run away. Go far from the impossible. Sad reality. Cuba, an island which does not produce, full of people who do not work and do not participate. A miserable entelechy product of an abject revolution dedicated to demolishing everything assembled before. The Cuban people must react and fight against the regime that has stolen everything, even their dignity!

The advisers of Venezuelan Chavismo

Every story has a beginning. Every dictatorship has an inspirer. The Venezuelan Chavismo found its origins in Alberto Fujimori, president of Peru during the 90’s, being each other so apparently opposite and very distant ideologically. In April 1992, the Peruvians awoke with the news that there was no longer a Parliament: Fujimori had given a coup, and according to him ‘supported’ by more than 80% of the Peruvian population. Under his regime, Fujimori intervened in all the powers of the State: he placed judges and prosecutors at his whim. All these events were a source of inspiration for Hugo Chávez: to build a model based on the same system.

The relationship between Alberto Fujimori and Hugo Chávez started in 1992 when the Peruvian government offered asylum to the 93 Venezuelan military who participated in the failed coup against then-Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez. At that time, Fujimori politically aligned himself with the Chavez’s cause against Carlos Andrés Pérez, and facilitated that coup makers were living comfortably in Lima for almost two years. Fujimori considered himself as a good friend to Chávez, and perhaps that mutual admiration led them to develop great similarities in their way of governing. Both regimes organized the power under an apparent and unreal democracy. Both arranged their political constitutions. Both organized periodic elections which were a farce, just with the purpose of hiding the true authoritarian nature of their governments. Chavez, being President, defended Fujimori after the election results of 2000, even when those were strongly questioned by the OAS and the United States. Caracas, being Chavez and president, gave protection to a fugitive Vladimiro Montesinos until the situation became unfeasible and he had to be handed over to the Peruvian authorities to judge him and condemn him.

The Chavismo had from the beginning a totalitarian DNA. It was guaranteed by the ballot box, but soon eliminated the separation of powers and institutional counterweights (check & balances). It was never an integration project, but it fostered the social confrontation. Chávez could win elections while he was popular, when the oil prices were high; Then he made I through electoral fraud. Now the fraud was not enough, that’s why the elections are simply eliminated.

The advice of the Cuban regime is behind all the strategic decisions made during the Chavismo. The envoys of Fidel Castro provided Hugo Chávez with the engineering necessary to camouflage fraud. Electoral fraud is what Cubans have developed for systems of political participation, but when fraud is insufficient, as happened in the parliamentarians of 2015 because of the avalanche of opposition vote, they have no more prescription than that of Castrism in Cuba: the pure repression. The defencelessness of the citizen; the sadism as their government’ style; the international cynicism, are the facts which appear for years in the news, dialogue or interview which is addressing this tragic everyday’ life.

In a different country, these massive daily citizen’s demonstrations would lead to the fall of the government: the president would leave conscious of having lost the popular support, while is eager to avoid any responsibility for the dead who are falling on the streets because of the confrontations during the demonstrations. There are images which show Maduro dancing salsa, while in behind him you it is possible to see by his window a big demonstration in the Caracas’ streets. His cynicism is unbearable.

But in Venezuela, the game is not just politics. Many of those currently in power are not politicians but criminals: a drug cartel which has stolen huge amounts of public money. It explains why the current regime is willing to violate any human rights to remain in power and not providing any accountability in from of any national and international court of justice.

Death, hunger, absolute shortage of food or vital medicaments… 2015 closed with 28,000 dead because of the violence sowed by Hugo Chávez and whose harvest is that of hate and blood. The Castro-Chavismo sums hundreds of dead to their sinister inventory. Assassinations of so many dissidents whose only fault was to confront the regime.

Those were the origins of the regime which smashes Venezuela and Venezuelan people today. The current situation is stubborn and what was foreseen, is already happening: Maduro has announced that there will be no more elections in Venezuela. The country officially enters the dictatorship which was already de facto being for a long time ago. Nicolas Maduro boldly confirms that his country is basically a dictatorship where there is no separation of powers, and freedoms are seriously restricted. There will be no longer any voting with which to achieve the political change which most of the Venezuelans are claiming in the streets, even with their lives. Only the force can be now the solution. The next few days will be essential to see if Venezuela’s pressure cooker finally explodes.

Are the Populist parties (whether far-right or far-left) alike?

Against all odds, a year ago the British voted for a small minority, to leave the European Union. The fundamental reason, the fear of what comes from outside. A few months later, and against all the forecasts and polls, the Americans elected as President to Donald Trump, who won with a populist message shaking the spectre of fear. He was supported by the European far-right. Finally, next May 7th in the second round of the French presidential election, Le Pen will be the candidate against Macron, having shown that the National Front (FN) has a large electoral base and a structure that could lead her to win in the coming legislative election.

At present, the far-right populist parties are ruling in Hungary and Poland. In other European countries, like The Netherlands and Denmark the populist have been able to achieve a great influence in the political arena. Although this is not a new phenomena, the economic crisis, the Islamist terrorism and the waves of refugees, have been in recent years some key elements which have decisively energized these movements in central and northern Europe .

But the radical-left is ruling as well: The social-democratic traditional parties have been heavily punished in all the past European elections, attacked from those radical-left populist postulates that have achieved positions of government in Greece and Portugal. It is also not a new phenomenon: Juan Domingo Peron invented it in the 1940s in Argentina, and it is now dramatically present in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador. Cuba is a different situation, it is a communist tyranny. Every few years, when certain economic conditions are met, the populism returns in one shape or another, since both are very similar.

The extreme-right populism is rooted in the richest and most developed societies, and precisely among those outcast popular classes who feel discriminated by the system. This populism is basically based on three concepts: nation, race and religion. According to a recent survey by the Chatham House, the prestigious UK based Institute of International Affairs, 55% of Europeans do not wish any immigration from Muslim countries, being more pronounced in Poland (71%), followed by Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom. In any European country, the percentage has dropped from 32%. The study also shows that the opposition to Muslim migration is particularly intense among older people. It is also divided by educational level: Among those with only secondary education (59% opposition) while those who support policies to curb Muslim immigration, is among University graduates (40%). Far-right populism seeks to protect us from everything foreign to our nation, our race or our religion, and the enemies to beat are the country elites who are responsible of the social and economic changes produced in the last decades and who are represented by the traditional political forces.

Far-left populism arises within the most traditional Marxism: Protecting to those dispossessed by the economic elites, who had manipulated the economy and politics to satisfy their own interests. This is the populism’ phenomenon in Latin America and the movements like ‘SYRIZA’ in Greece and ‘Podemos’ in Spain. But also in France, where the presidential candidate Marine Le Pen accused his adversary Macron: “You are the France of submission,” Le Pen said with scorn; Mr. Macron was merely a heartless banker, in her view, “We’ve seen the choice you’ve made, the cynical choices, that reveal the coldness of the investment banker you have never ceased being.” Such a message could perfectly come from a Chavista party, without going any further.

Facing currently the second round of the French presidential elections, the similarities between Le Pen and the defeated Mélenchon (a tracing of the Spanish party ‘Podemos’, party founded with money coming from the Chavez regime), are also overwhelming: a very significant part of their programs are coincident, both in the background and in the forms. These are not merely casual and anecdotal similarities, but rather coherent programs in their break with a moderately individualistic and internationalist social order: Both aim to submit those individual freedoms to the collective will of the ‘People’; To delegate to the State the future of citizens’ administration and finally, to protect their country from economic threats or external cultural influences.

Certainly, there are a few key elements which make then different. But there are also other equally key elements that objectively bring them closer to Le Pen than to Macron. That is why their relationship is so conflicting: they hate each other, but at the same time their coincidences are too obvious to obviate them.

Today, populism is related with both the radical-left and the far-right. The latter has never masked its intentions: flaunting his anti-immigration convictions, anti-liberal economic system and in defence of traditional values. In that part they differ, absolutely. But both are enemies of the open societies that liberalism has always defended: enemies of private property, universal equality, social self-regulation, globalization, individual freedom and responsibility. None of them defends a broad conception of individual freedom, which constitutes an impassable frontier to the State, in both civil and economic spheres. On the contrary, both promote the primacy of the collective, versus the individual person autonomy, if necessary, using violence. This populism also is strongly popular in the Islamic world where a radical discourse is being made today and is ruling the great majority of those Muslim states.

Both extremism bring the same type of leadership and transgressive language as an essential tool to differentiate themselves from the elites: The populist leaders are political style and language transgressors and they show it, since it is an asset reporting much popularity among their audience. These characteristics lead to consider populism not an ideology but a way of identifying and addressing the political discourse, against those supposed elites unable to represent the so-called ‘people’. Therefore, Populism must be combated intellectually and politically.

And the next is France

Marine Le Pen has two weeks left to try her miracle. The polls predict a defeat against Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the French presidential election in May 7th. The different polls are showing a clear victory of her rival, around 62% against 38%. Macron seems bounded to be the next president of France without even being politically defined. He has no political party to speak of and has never held elected office, but he is one of the front-runners for the French presidency. There is something wondrous about Macron. Nothing important of what is known about him seems strictly aligned in the life’ symmetry. Both candidates are outside the traditional French political paradigm for the first time since World War II. They do not belong to the traditional parties which have formed government since then, neither are Republicans nor Social-Democrats. The Social-Democrat withdrawal is another worrying issue to be analysed at another moment and not only in France, but throughout Europe.

Marine Le Pen is a woman with many edges: to get a glimpse about her, I must refer to a statement she made before the elections, 12 days before the first round, about the Velodrome raid, known in all the history books as ‘La Rafle du Vél d’Hiv’, and which have been very poorly matched by French public opinion but above all, outside France: she denied the responsibility of France, its rulers, its police, its diplomacy and security services in the most famous of the raids of Jews to be deported in the Second World War, one of the most unearthing sinister national ghosts. To understand these statements, it is necessary to place them in a very French context, the difficulty with which France has managed the idealization of the French Resistance, the omission of the collaborationism and, ultimately, all the events derived from the Nazi occupation, from Vichy and De Gaulle’s appeal of June 18th, when France split into two halves which disputed the official legitimacy. The fact was that most of the population were indifferent, or collaborating with the Vichy regime. These are old stories, truly. In fact, Le Pen’s reflection, although dishonest, is typically Gaullist, characteristic of the foundational Gaullism, when the General, forced by the task of building a new republic over the rubble, resentments and defeats of the previous one, exaggerated the narrative about the good resistant French people and attributed them the moral purity necessary to enhance the pride of belonging. Le Pen’s reflection is an anachronism without historical foundation or justification in which a hypothetical France is invented and did not exist, but she would recreate if she finally wins the Presidency.

On the other hand, it is her recent visit to the Kremlin: when the Russian President Vladimir Putin sat at the table with the French right-wing candidate, and he broke the Slav antifascist icon’ suit. What the Cold War divided, is being united by the jihadist attacks, as well as the yearning of Putin and Le Pen to see a divided Europe. Le Pen has officially become the favourite candidate for the Kremlin. Her party FN received a $9 million loan from the Moscow-based First Czech-Russian Bank, while all the European entities turned their backs on her. The National Front (FN) always opposed those sanctions against Russia for its interference in Ukraine. Moscow regrets the ills that affect the EU, but the side effects of the NF are the best ones for Russia. Le Pen is sceptical about NATO and has promised a referendum on France’s presence inside the EU. The same as all populist proposal, nothing new. A ‘Frexit’ would disrupt the political power of the EU. Perhaps that is why the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, defined Le Pen as “realistic, or anti-globalist” a compliment extended to Donald Trump, and to all the club members as well. Anti-EU, anti-Euro, anti-NATO, against the elites, against the finances world, pro- nationalizations, against the international trade liberalization agreements… Looking to paragraphs of the populist formations programs, many voters would not be able to differentiate them or which country are these referring to.

Marine Le Pen has fifteen days left to capture all those pissed off French. She already has the slogan for the second round: “I am the candidate of the people“. Nothing original and typically populist. She also knows that she must go all out and intensify her attacks against Macron: ‘the people’s candidate’ against the favourite of finance, banks, CAC 40, the press, the ‘establishment’ … The head of the FN cannot surrender yet without trying another ‘Trump effect’. The FN has won more than seven million votes in the first round. It is the party that has the strongest voters base. Volatility is not a disease which might affect to Le Pen.

For Marine, as she likes to be called, the confrontation with Macron will oppose with well-differentiated arguments: nation against European Union; Protection against liberalism; Patriotism against internationalism; Identity versus diversity; ‘The people’ against the elites. Like Donald Trump, the leader of the National Front (FN) has found the perfect channel to reach the public, to transmit her messages and political slogans and, at the same time, to avoid the criticisms and attacks from many newspapers and TV channels. Her secret weapon are the social networks. The traditional media, also in the very civic and cultured France, face a growing discredit.

The traditional right and left old and mangy, of Fillon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, this time have remained outside. They have been sharing the representation of a melancholic citizenship who denies the risk, the doubt and the frictions of an open society. Le Pen thinks she’s something else, something fresh and new. Those disenchanted, pouting voters, is what FN can aspire to. But Marine Le Pen may have exhausted the adhesion voting in the first round. Neither the ‘Trump effect’ nor Putin’s moral help, seems sufficient to defeat Emmanuel Macron. The destruction of the old political paradigm has just begun and, of course, renewal will not be easy.

Turkey: The Coup has been completed

 

 

The US President, Donald Trump called to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulated for his “Pyrrhic victory” during the last Sunday’s referendum, despite the big criticism coming from the international observers. The Turks approved on Sunday in a minor victory a constitutional reform promoted by Erdogan which will allow him to extend his mandate until 2034, and replace the parliamentary system which has characterized the Turkish democracy, by a presidential system. Large cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, Bursa and Izmir strongly rejected such a reform, but it has been largely supported in rural areas where ‘a strong leadership’ was preferred.

President Erdogan was looking for this wished election date for years; it was for him the possibility of seizing such a great an unknown power in Turkey since the times of the mythical founder of the Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Erdogan arranged everything in his favour not only to get the approval of his constitutional amend, but also to achieve it with a big great result. The seriousness of his face during the first public intervention after knowing the first election results, left no room for doubt. “The referendum has been won, but no victory has been achieved,” Abdulkadir Selvi, a columnist close to the Islamist AKP (Justice and Development Party and Erdogan’s) government, wrote in the daily newspaper ‘Hürriyet’. And It didn’t happen because of a lack of resources: Erdogan has well exploited the last attempted coup: the massive subsequent purges, with about 50,000 imprisoned, seemed to pave the way for his absolute victory.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP),of social-democratic ideology and main opposition party in Turkey, announced on that it will call for the cancellation of Sunday’s referendum. The Turkish political analyst Semih Idiz stated, “In the end, Erdogan has gotten his way and got the system he wanted, but it is not the victory he was hoping for. Erdogan asked for at least 60% of  people’ support during the campaign, which would have given real legitimacy to his executive presidency.” Finally, it has remained at 51.41%.The opposition has not acknowledged these results and announced that they will be impugn them at the Constitutional Court.

The referendum on Constitutional reform in Turkey has also triggered a reactions’ wave across Europe. The idea that Erdogan is walking in the opposite direction of the European values, ​​is the most repeated thesis, and although in this reform does not appear anything referring to the re-establishment of the death penalty, which is the limit that all EU countries and institutions have designated as insurmountable, the way in which this referendum has been carried out and the political consequences arising from the outcome, are viewed in Europe with much scepticism and as a bad affair. The most obvious symptom has been the OSCE and Council of Europe election observers’ conclusions, who have formally pointed out that the referendum which has decided to reinforce the powers of President Erdogan, has not taken place under conditions of the required democratic impartiality. It is not often that a mission of election observers makes such a drastic statement about an election process, especially being Turkey a member of the Council of Europe.

From countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, warnings have already been made to Erdogan about the use he might make of the election’ result, and they are analysing the possibility of limiting the maintenance of Turkish nationality to those migrants who have acquired as well that of their country of residence: they must either renounce to their Turkish nationality or lose the acquired nationality, i.e., Belgian or Dutch.

If it were not enough, Erdogan referred to the possibility of calling a new referendum, this time on Turkey’s accession to the EU, with the clear intention of asking the Turks to vote against it. In addition, another vote on the re-instatement of the death penalty.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan removed his democratic ruler’ mask long time ago. From the failed ‘coup’ or better, ‘self-coup’, we have witnessed the spectacle of an autocratic and threatening Turkey. It began by the blackmailing to the EU with the refugee crisis, while he was embracing with other autocratic leaders or dictators in front of the spotlights. Thousands of people have since been arrested, detained and expelled from their jobs for their alleged involvement in the coup, without a single evidence. A whole purge to strengthen Erdogan’s power. The red alarm’ lights have long been lit around Erdogan, especially after those incidents with the Dutch and German authorities during last March.

With this new authority’ twist, the president of Turkey has consummated the betrayal of those who elected him through the ballot box and to the thousands of citizens who went into the streets to preserve the democratic order.

Erdogan plans to dismantle the democratic regime and all the political plurality which had been reached by the transcontinental nation, minimizing or just finishing with his political opposition. He wants an Islamist Turkey just for him: a country which he can handle like that Ottoman empire he has been dreaming his whole life. Bye-bye Atatürk!