Brexit & Gibraltar

 

 

Following the takeover of  United Kingdom positions, the other 27 states and the European Council, the Euro Chamber has imposed its own conditions and requirements for the Brexit negotiations. A list of conditions including the absence of any reference to Gibraltar. Moreover, the European Union determines that the future status of Gibraltar must be agreed between the UK and Spain. And it is not a coincidence. In the draft of the European Council guidelines, the now famous clause 22 states that “no agreement between the EU and the UK could be applied in the territory of Gibraltar without an agreement between Spain and the UK.” The speech of EU leaders like Manfred Weber has reminded that Spain’s interests are those of the EU, regarding this dispute. The EU have finally admitted a certain fact: The Rock is an English possession overseas and its status is to be negotiated between the colonial power, the UK, and the colonized, Spain.

The Rock was occupied by troops of the UK on August 4th, 1704, when an Anglo-Dutch fleet commanded by Admiral George Rooke, seized Rock. Rooke, aware of the strategic importance of the Gibraltar isthmus, ordered the English flag to be raised. The conquest was ‘legalized’ by the Treaty of Utrecht. The document, signed by Anne Stuart, Queen of England, and Philip V of Spain, states: “The Catholic King, by himself and by all his successors, gives by this treaty to the Crown of Great Britain the full and entire property of the city and castle of Gibraltar, together with its port, and the defences and fortresses that belong to it.

The Treaty of Utrecht makes no reference to any border boundaries or jurisdictional waters. Only granted to England the town of Gibraltar and the Spanish forts built for its defence. The English expelled the local population who took refuge in the vicinity, creating what is now the little village of San Roque. Then, the British authorities repopulated the Rock with people brought from Malta, Cyprus and North Africa. In 1830 England unilaterally granted to Gibraltar the status of a Crown colony. Today, Gibraltar is almost the only colonial symbol of the old British Empire. According to the UN, the colonial situation of Gibraltar destroys the unity and territorial integrity of Spain, and its maintenance is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations. That is why the UN has repeatedly urged the UK to end its presence in the Rock.

I am surprised by the astonishment of the English people by the UE declarations to these facts, including the left-wing daily The Guardian, after the EU decision to recognize something as elementary as Gibraltar is a colony. That is not said by Spain but by the United Kingdom itself, as by Parliament’s Act, the sovereignty of the Rock is in Westminster and its legal status is that of ‘overseas territory’, something similar to other small territories under English sovereignty dispersed by the world, with no other difference than the clause of reversion of Gibraltar to Spain, provided by the Treaty of Utrecht. It is also say by the UN, which puts Gibraltar among the territories to decolonize, which does not happen with Ceuta or Melilla, for example.

The tabloid newspaper ‘The Sun’, showing the xenophobia daughter of the Brexit, has decided to launch its vomiting campaign in defence of Gibraltar, painting the front the Rock with the Union Jack and giving to their readers a bilingual poster where announces “Hands off Our Rock / Our Rock Is Not Touched “. The Sun´ columnist Kelvin Mackenzie, has named the Spaniards “follaburros” (fuck asses), urging to his compatriots to prepare for a good old fight and even dared to suggest the expulsion of those Spaniards currently residing in the UK, (“Say goodbye, Manuel“). “Up yours senors!”, which can be translated as “fuck up, gentlemen” aimed at the “meddlesome leaders” of Spain and EU, about Gibraltar´ legal status for the future. He seems to have forgotten that in Spain are more than 300,000 British citizens as residents. Absolutely unfortunate all, especially coming from a people who think so high and civilized about themselves!

Gibraltar was just one of the many reasons why the UK should not have leave the EU. One might expect from a mature and responsible country that, instead of nourishing the populism, both from Gibraltar and from the public opinion, it should remember these evidences. Gibraltar is a dispute as old as convoluted which has to be resolved by Spanish-British negotiations. It is clear that the Gibraltarians are very nervous, while the old Tory guard redoubled the war´ drums. Their nervousness is understood, like the warmongering of the old Tory guard, who dreams of reviving imperial glories by sending the Navy to Gibraltar, as they did in the Falklands. But Theresa May’s position is weak.

There is no need to invade Gibraltar, not even closing its border. It will suffice to apply its legal rules because, according to the advantages London has negotiated, it is not included in the Schengen Treaty as internal borders within the EU, which has allowed it to have the fourth per capita income in the world and, to be like the rest of the British colonies, real tax havens. The strict application of that treaty would suffice for such advantages to disappear. The UK must accept the evidence about this matter. It should not be difficult in a country which used to have such an immense empire. After all, if UK could return India to its people, could well return Gibraltar to the Spaniards. The people from Gibraltar want to maintain their current status as an English colony forever is understandable, they have in it a privileged standard of living. But that Europe would accept and defend the maintenance of a colonial order on the territory of a member country was unacceptable and offensive.

The Gibraltarians say they want to be British and European. Until now it was possible. Now they must choose. With regards to the English, we know that for them the only thing which counts are their interests, and that is precisely what the Gibraltarians fear the most. From now on their xenophobia, their abject insults, their ridiculous threats, or their alleged superiority to the rest of the world will not do any good. Long live the Brexit!

Coup d’état in Venezuela

The Venezuelan Supreme Court’ decision to call off the Parliament’ powers and as a result, to grant extraordinary powers to Nicolas Maduro, is an unprecedented event which constitutes a real coup d’etat. According to this undemocratic ruling, seven judges appointed by the Chavism will replace the 167 deputies elected by the Venezuela people in the elections of December 2015. In addition, the deputies are withdrawn of any parliamentary immunity.

The PM members of the National Assembly agree in qualifying the Supreme Court statement 156 as a coup which has given the regime of Nicolas Maduro to consolidate the current dictatorship. The Supreme Court of Justice is the Maduro’s legal arm dedicated to boycott all the decisions emanating from the sovereign parliament. It has issued some 46 rulings against all the legislative acts issued by these representatives of people’s sovereignty. In the meantime, those Chavistas supporters shouted in the streets a battle-cry: “And it will fall, and it will fall, this Assembly will fall!“.

Juan Miguel Matheus, representative of the party ‘Primero Justicia’, stated, “against the legal and arbitrary fiction of the Supreme Court, there are the people of Venezuela and the National Assembly as the real and only representatives of the nation.” The Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been imprisoned for several years in a farce trial, as it was confirmed by the judge who led the court which tried him, said that what happened is the formalization of the dictatorship, “Today, through an illegal and illegitimate statement, The High Court of Justice formally decreed the dictatorship in Venezuela that we have denounced since 2014.

The Organization of American States (OAS) has begun to intervene in the search for a solution which will reduce the harsh conditions for the Venezuelan people while the Chavism is in agony. Right now, many democratic governments, from the EU, USA, Argentina and Peru, that has even withdrawn its ambassador in Caracas, have condemned the self-coup which constitutes another step of the authoritarian drift that has turned Venezuela into a tyranny. The Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro restated that the fact that the Supreme Court got attributed the functions of the Legislative “is a procedure that does not acknowledge of any of the most basic guarantees of a due process.” Unsurprisingly, Nicolas Maduro’s response was as always, that of attack and insult. And of course, from Cuba are supporting Maduro. Ludicrous.

Maduro’s coup against the Venezuelan parliament is a fact which marks a point of no return of the dictatorship, and requires that the Venezuelan people, the civil society, parties and, above all, the MP’s, to initiate a process of mobilization and a democratic and civic resistance, to face this coup and regain their national sovereignty. If there is no parliament, there is no people’s sovereignty and no a democratic state. Yesterday, those Supreme Court Members decreed the death of the Congress, but in recent months they have already been closing the media, universities, shops, political parties and unions.

The Chavism is living its last moments in the biggest of the tumbles, with the economy paralyzed and the institutional structure devastated by corruption. But during the agony is when a mortally wounded animal becomes more dangerous. Venezuela is a narco-dictatorship system, a criminal organization which oppresses and punishes the Venezuelan people. Its current leader is not prepared either ethically, politically or intellectually to control the reins of the once rich Latin American country. It is a matter of emergency to end with the tyranny, an indecent regime, a political farce which will lead nowhere, except the most devastating catastrophe for Venezuelan people.

What is wrong with the South European countries?

 

One of the characteristics of any politician leading over an intergovernmental body should be the ability to get along with all the country members which such a leader is representing. Something that, to the Euro Group President the Dutch Jeroen Dijsselbloem, has forgotten for the last days. Dijssembloem has an oblivion about the institutional character of his position when, with the greatest seriousness and without any irony’ hint, he pointed out during an interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, about the Southern European countries, “the Northern European countries have had enough solidarity with those countries affected by the crisis of the Euro, while those in the south were spending the money which were given in drinks and women.” Liqueur and women. A comment loaded of stereotypes and prejudices improper of a person in such a position for the Eurozone.

It is not a bad comparison for a citizen of the Netherlands, where marijuana is smoked in the well-known coffee shops and the windows of the brothels in Amsterdam are a famous tourist claim, according to their old harbour tradition. But above all, it is an expressive example of lack of solidarity which is not very appropriate for a Social-Democrat. Dijsselbloem is a member of the PvDA, the Labour Party, which has been blown up in the recent Dutch elections. He is a leftist politician. And he is also responsible for a European institution.

 Dijsselbloem compounded his mistake in the European Parliament the next day, when he refused to apologize for these insulting phrases, as some MEPs demanded. The pressure on the Dutch increased and spread, as it could not be otherwise, to all governments in southern Europe. The former Italian Prime Minister, Mateo Renzi, named his words as “stupid” and called for his immediate resignation. Portugal’s prime minister, Antonio Costa, added to the criticism and called Dijsselbloem words “racist, sexist and xenophobic. Mr. Dijssselbloem must resign of his current position.” Even his common political family, the Social-Democrats, have criticised calling him “a neoliberal Socialist, macho and racist.” The rain of insults took completely unprepared and very touched to one of the politicians with more weight and projection within the EU, an austere and rigorous moralist who since 2013, has taken the realms of the Eurozone.

In his country, The Netherlands, people are surprised by Dijsselbloem’ remarks, but also by the reactions he got. The Dutch believe that the accusations of racist and especially of macho are out of place. They defend him as a very honest person and one of the most genuine and decent politicians, who is used to tell the truth to the face. “I am sorry that anyone was offended by my comment, it was direct and can be explained by the strict Dutch Calvinist culture. I know it is not something which is always understood and appreciated throughout Europe,” he said reluctantly in a forced apology recently.

Such a message and this kind of moral superiority are not something new, surprisingly. I have listened to it and suffered myself several times. Since the beginning of the Euro crisis, the leaders of half a dozen countries, have tattooed on their DNA “The Protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism” of Max Weber, making comparisons and dubious taste joking over the lazy southern neighbours while not working, are spending themselves the money of the hardworking Bavarian or Dutch savers in Fiesta. Although afterwards, these North Europeans do not hesitate to vacation in those lazy Southern countries, fascinated by their culture, art and beautiful nature, climate, their clean and blue seas, their food and way of life. And they occasionally enjoy there in a not very quiet and civilized way, even embarrassing sometimes for the local populations.

The dangerous pressure of the Populism is breaking the cohesion principle and rethinking the traditional European sense of solidarity, by understanding them as issues nowadays. Trump acting in the US with the latino immigration restrictions, and the obligation to those US companies to invest from and inside the US; The Brexit which has officially started; The populist Wilders, who was about to win the recent elections in The Netherlands, promising to the constituents to leave the EU, and redistributing the national income among their nationals of origin, nationals which must be of three or more generations. The populism has also spread to the left South European political parties thought: a false Populist far-left ideology which only admits the redistribution within the limits of its village, or the country. In Italy, Beppe Grillo wants to leave the EU, also Marine Le Pen in France. In Spain, the Catalan independentists claim that of they are tired of financing the subsidies of the Andalusian bums, idler folks, who are spending their lives in the sun and singing flamenco, in their romerias and fairs, as everyone knows.

Dijsselbloem has his current position in jeopardy already for a while, although he has held on it very good, supported by the difficult equilibrium of the ‘Brussels partitocracy‘. In this community environment, which is in fact an important ideological lobby, his mentality and approach has many supporters.  But it has not helped enough, because seventy MEPs, mainly from the European People’s Party, have sent a letter calling for his resignation due to his biased, racist and sexist comments. Dijsselbloem should not remain for another day leading the Eurogroup. He has justified his words by the “Dutch direct speech“, while those MEPs consider that of “Calvinist culture has nothing to do with disparaging other people. Unbiased and having respect for values ​​such as equality, must be the first obligation of any European leader. ” Certainly, the Dutch are very direct, but that does not mean that they are offensive. In fact, they tend to be very tolerant and politically correct, perhaps too much, and perhaps with whom they should not be ….

Venezuela: The Chavismo, or dying by killing

 

The current political regime in Venezuela, the Chavismo, is in its last stage. But while it is agonizing, it is jeopardizing the health and even the lives of many of its citizens. At the end of 2013, the Venezuelans began to experience the scarcity and the shortage of the basic products, with the consequent queuing at the supermarket’ entrances to get food. The issue has already exploded today. According to one of the main Hugo Chavez advisers in economic affairs and Chavismo’ ideologue, Heinz Dieterich Steffan, “The economic crisis has become a terminal political crisis for Maduro. In less than two years, a troika of inept and overbearing people has squandered the popular struggle’ heritage, discrediting Socialism of the 21st century’ alternative.” Dieterich was the creator this concept, ‘Socialism of the 21st century’, concept which Hugo Chávez used for his political ground.

The recent French agency AFP report is reflecting the desperation of an increasing number of Venezuelans to bring something to their mouths, having to dig in the garbage to eat. Thousands of people, assessed in 10% of the population, have found in the trash their pantry to fight hunger and misery. 81.8% of Venezuelan households live in poverty and 51.5% do so in extreme poverty, according to the findings of the National Academy of Economic Sciences, based on the surveys of several prestigious universities. Venezuela has become one he most miserable economies on the planet, according to the Bloomberg ranking. And the one of greater inflation and recession, so pronounced that of 93% of the Venezuelans can’t buy the food they need with their salaries.

The ‘Bolivarian’ bureaucrats are pointing a different view about the country: “There is more money available, it is a democratization of the consumption. That is the reason of the shortages, now people have more means to consume.” The Chavismo uses this argument, surprising and shocking many Venezuelans: the official deputy Mario Arias affirmed that the serious general shortage which the country is suffering is because “there is a greater demand, it is evident. If a person is queuing to buy is because has money in his pocket. As a result, there is more demand because there are more resources available. While there are queues in the supermarkets and in the stores, it is because people have more money and, consequently, there is an increase in demand.” Simply incredible.

Denying the situation, the Bolivarian regime of Nicolas Maduro, far from changing the situation, is aggravating it. It maintains strict price controls, the nationalization of companies and productive sectors, as well as the intervention and rationing of food, whose application is further aggravating the scarcity issues, creating hyperinflation and falling in the production. The Venezuelan administration is using this chaos to implement new measures of social control, such as the new ‘Patriotic Card’, a food supply card with which aspires to identify the population who supports the regime, as some opposition leaders have claimed. The control over the citizens, forced to buy according to their identification number, is a modern version of the famous Cuban supply card. According to Dieterich, economic affairs’ Chávez ideologue and a person well known for his leftist positions, “By forcing Venezuelan citizens to present these identity documents, undergo in biometric checks, violating their civil rights, the regime is humiliating the citizens, and exhibiting the state’ police face.”

These images of children, youth or parents digging in trash bags thrown in the streets of Caracas, looking for something to eat is what illustrates the best the economic legacy after almost two decades of the Chavista regime. The continued violation of human and civil rights in Venezuela, which I have denounced so many times, has been linked to hunger lately. It is a great drama which is already affecting to thousands of Venezuelans while the Government of Maduro tries to rest importance, and even making jokes in public about the food scarcity.

The case of Venezuela is not the only state with an immensely rich’ land by its natural resources, which has a high level of poverty and a very low per capita income. But earlier, Venezuela did not have that poverty among most of the population, in fact, the country received many immigrants. Beyond any logic, the Chavista regime has taken Venezuela to this extreme situation, in a country where there was a broad middle class. Now, the food shortage has claimed dozens of children lives so far, already this 2017 year.

Maduro’s government has tried to hide this information abroad by all means, as well as silence the press. But Venezuelan citizens while using the social networks, have been protecting those Venezuelan journalists who are trying hard to inform about it. The work they do, besides respect, deserves to be projected inside and outside the country. The joint effort of journalism’ professionals as well as that of these citizen reporters has made to the world to be aware, awake and conscious about the Venezuelan crisis.

The History judges by their facts to all the regimes. In the political arena, the imprisonment with which the Chavista regime punishes his opponents, as well as the permanent violation of Venezuelans civil rights, embodies the absence of freedom. And in the economic field, the malnutrition of children and photographs which show the famine of the population, speak for themselves. The   is a tyranny already in the terminal phase. But it is intolerable and beyond all bearing that, in its delirious going forward, the regime keeps punishing to all Venezuelan people. The world must know it.

The Netherlands, that fascist country

 

Europe is at jeopardy during this election year. A year full of electoral appointments which might alter the EU roadmap, in a key moment to decide its future. The first election will be in The Netherlands, next Wednesday, March 15th. Two days before this election, any gesture which could be interpreted by the population as a cession, would have a serious election cost for the Prime Minister Mark Rutte (Liberal Party, VVD), the only candidate who can keep the fight with the populist Geert Wilders. The Dutch parties have shown firmness against the absurd endeavour of the Turkish government to hold a series of rallies in Dutch territory, which, due to security problems between supporters and detractors of the Erdogan´ authoritarian government, the government of the Netherlands had previously denied the authorization. The Dutch government said to have asked Ankara for limiting their plans to a meeting at the Turkish consulate and their response was to threaten with sanctions. The Netherlands ruled out of any understanding and warned that it would not even allow the landing of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu´ official aircraft. The episode ended with the Turkish Minister of Family and Social Affairs, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya´ expulsion of Dutch territory.

Rutte has already in the past months shown positions of firmness and even satiety, towards those Turkish sectors which stand out for their insatiable pretensions. For a growing number of Dutch, the limits of tolerance have already been overcome on several occasions. For the Dutch PM, right now there is even more pressure from his constituents on maintaining a calming position with Turkey than the threats and blackmail coming from the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has himself self-invited to add fuel to the already delicate debate within the Dutch campaign about the national identity and over the coexistence with the immigrants which is taking place.

President Erdogan has caused a serious diplomatic incident by accusing the Dutch of Nazis and fascists. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also lashed out to the Dutch authorities for the entrance´ veto of the two Turkish ministers to campaign for Erdogan in the referendum to be held in Turkey in April, referendum which main purpose is giving Erdogan almost total power. Yildrim said “there will be heavy retaliation against the Netherlands, as this episode is a major diplomatic scandal.” The Turkish foreign minister has gone further, naming the Dutch authorities´actions “as the same as fascism.” He wrote on his Twitter account, “Fascism has awakened in Holland and has taken over the stage. All true democrats in the world must react to this, intolerable in a free world. The Dutch prime minister has become a spokesman for a dark and racist mentality that led to World War II.” Continuing the escalation, the Turkish European Affairs Minister, Omer Celik, proposes to reconsider the Migration Agreement signed between Turkey and the EU, whereby Turkey keeps migrants out of Europe.

Meanwhile, and taking advantage of the situation, the Dutch populist candidate Wilders has tried to accentuate the tension, demonstrating in front of the Turkish Consulate and asking for the ambassador of Ankara to be expelled ipso facto, due to  interference in the Dutch politics. “In these election, the debate is pointing out about the immigrants´ integration and the Dutch national identity. We want the Turkish origin’ Dutch to participate in the elections in Dutch key, and not about Turkish politics. ” For Wilders´ opinion, this crisis with an Islamist government, has come to restore his public prominence, reduced by his refusal to participate in debates and interviews during the election campaign. This crisis according to Wilders, has confirmed to the constituents his anti-Islamist and anti-migratory theories. The fact that thousands of Dutch people of Turkish origin demonstrated in Rotterdam in favour of the president of Turkey rather than in favour of the Dutch sovereignty, has given him the right to say in the end that the 400,000 Dutch-Turkish do not belong to the Dutch society.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte assured that if Ankara insists on escalating the tension, the Netherlands will respond with the appropriate measures: “We are not giving up to blackmail. I spoke eight times over the phone with my Turkish counterpart to find a common dialogue and it was impossible”, lamented Rutte. The Netherlands, invaded by the Third Reich Germany, is an extremely sensitive country about the Second World War and the Holocaust question, which remember with special great pain. This episode is not going to let it go easily.

Most of Mark Rutte’s European counterparts have also decided to show firmness against the current Turkish administration. Denmark joined the solidarity´ front with the Netherlands in the face of Erdogan’s provocations, and announced the suspension of the Turkish Prime Minister’s trip to Copenhagen. According to the Danish head of government, Lars Rasmussen, although Denmark wants to cooperate with Turkey, this is not possible at the moment given his attitude and attacks to Holland. Austria and Switzerland had adopted very similar positions to that of The Netherlands.

Merkel has had a much more appealing stance. So much that she has received serious critics, although according to polls, most the Germans prefer to avoid the frontal collision with Erdogan. In Germany, there are many politicians who also demand the strongest forcefulness for Erdogan. And although there was no reaction on the matter, it seems like in several Dutch sectors, it was displeased that France allowed to the Turkish Foreign Minister to hold a rally in the city of Metz, to have a new tribune to lash out his insults towards The Netherlands. Calling the Dutch ´Nazis Fascists´ will definitely not help Turkey in its aspirations to get the EU to grant visa exemption for its citizens.

Meanwhile, both Wilders in Holland, and Erdogan in Turkey, are trying to get electoral returns from the crisis. Wilders has not benefited greatly from PM Rutte´ position. To Erdogan, it serves to accentuate the nationalistic feeling that of all Turks have to fur of skin, to obtain his desire to become the omnipotent President of Turkey. But after all, it is inevitable that, the situation in Turkey since the continuous auto-authoritarian coup which followed the military attempt, will end up weighing also on the election temperature in the country.

The Netherlands has for centuries been an example of political freedom and civil rights within Europe and for the world, while Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan is gradually becoming an Islamist tyranny, and particularly since the so-called coup, where he has taken advantage in order to carry out an unprecedented purge in the civil, academic, police and media institutions, in the state administration, accusing thousands of people of coup plotters without providing a single proof. Erdogan is accustomed to doing his will in Turkey, but he has not the right to fulfill his wishes in the rest of the world. Erdogan government accusing the Netherlands and Europe, of being fascist and Nazi, it is an infamy and causes shame, embarrassment, opprobrium, disgrace, ignominy, and blush.

The capitalization of the discontent

 

Few terms have been more repeated for the past months within Europe and across the Atlantic. ‘Populism’ has become one of the most used terms by the citizens and the political class. Although there is no an exact definition of it, most scholars’ literature agrees in pointing out to a group of common characteristics: it is not a matter of political dichotomy among left or right wings; it offers simple solutions to complex problems; it requires a charismatic leadership; it creates a division between ‘the people ‘ or the political class; and it grows on those countries tired of the ‘political establishment’. It is precisely the political capitalization of this discontent which allows to these populist movements to obtain their electoral benefits which open to them the political institutions’ doors, during those periods when a democratic system coexists and widespread the society’ discontent for a relatively long time.

The neo-Marxist, interventionist, or simply populist postulates, have spread over the last few years. This is a very disturbing factor, because it has shaped the idea in a large percentage of the world population that of capitalism and globalization have been a serious mistake. In addition to these disenchantment, the economic decline of the middle classes, the xenophobia, the technological revolution and the welfare state’ crisis, are the triggers in this ideological boom. The growth which these ideas are globally experiencing, is a sign that the system might be failing. As a result, the support for these populist formations is growing in Europe and the US. Another factor must do with the tension generated in our western societies by the increasing migratory flows, and the economic crisis suffered in recent years. The discontent and inefficiency of the traditional actors in proposing and introducing solutions to the 2008 economic crisis, and the continuous migratory flows in Europe from Middle East during the last two years, has opened the window of opportunity for the growth of these new leadership styles.

Is Populism really the solution to the Western democracies’ crises? There are certain realities which are inherent to populism: it arises in democratic systems; it responds to the interests of a political minority; it is a global phenomenon and finds accommodation both on the right and on the left. In fact, the rhetorical strategy is a resource nowadays used by almost every political party, whatever the spectrum in which it moves, and it is used as a discursive strategy aimed at convincing and obtaining electoral revenue. It is a new form of demagoguery, and not just for those populist parties. Different issue and a tragedy for society is moving from words to facts: the creation of a proper populist regime, halfway between a democracy and an authoritarian political system.

Another characteristic which underpins the populism is the dichotomy between so-called ‘the people’ and those who are not the people. Cas Mudde, a Dutch political scientist, university professor and one of the greatest scholar and experts in the field, says that “populism is an ‘ideology’ that divides society into two antagonistic groups: on the one hand, ‘the pure people’ and, for another, ‘the corrupt elites”. It seems appropriate to ask the following question: Who are the people? The Populism is intolerant because it decides who the people are and who does not: For example, for the National Front in France, the people are the French born in France, nobody else.

Another feature of populism is the economic protectionism which often has serious consequences and entails deep geopolitical risks. Most troubling is the nationalist and protectionist drift which underlies political discourse, as is happening right now in the US, giving the measures taken by the President Trump. For the time being, the markets have positively reacted to the lower taxes, less regulation and a huge fiscal stimulus, but let’s see the impact of those in the future. The economic protectionism has no winners only losers, lower economic growth and higher inflation are some of its deadly consequences in the medium term.

When last June the United Kingdom voted in favour of “Brexit” although with a slight difference of votes, something staggered in the Old Continent. Although many polls pointed to a victory of “Stay”, finally 52% of voters chose to leave the ‘Community Club’. The common project seemed to begin to break. Matteo Renzi’s failed referendum in Italy, or the escalation in polls of these populist parties in France, the Netherlands, Austria and Spain, are for many analysts the first effects of this nationalist and anti-establishment sentiment which begins to settle throughout all the western countries.

Some yet argue that the emergence of these policy options could be beneficial. For Mudde, a point in favour of Populism is “It could serve as an incentive to include in the political agenda issues which are of interest for the electorate, but often dodged due to their controversial character, such as immigration or austerity plans.” According to Mudde research: “Populism could allow the participation of people who were previously excluded and had no voice,” citing the example of indigenous people in Latin America. “It can also serve for the re-moralization of public life.

Populism has an old tradition which comes back in a cyclical way, although it never reached the present extended magnitude. One of the greatest difficulties to combat it, is its appealing to the most exacerbated instincts of the human beings, the tribal spirit, distrust and fear of the other, to that of different race, language or religion, xenophobia, and ignorance, as it has pointed out the Spanish-Peruvian literature Nobel award Mario Vargas-Llosa. When we wake up to the reality, we will see the failure of those irresponsible policies, which will not have solved any of the social and economic issues of the unsuspecting countries that surrendered to the populist’ spell.

Is Venezuela a narco state?

 

 

At the present time, Venezuela is experiencing a terminal crisis; Crisis of government, regime and crisis of the state at the same time. “Organic crisis”, which the Political scientists would recall, in the neo-Marxist language. It affects to the institutions which are currently supporting the political and legal order. Not necessarily the society is in permanent mobilization, as it happened in 2014 and in 2016, but the crisis is equally unstoppable. It spreads from the very bowels of power. For this reason, it evokes the implosion of the socialist countries of the late 1980s in Eastern Europe, albeit in a different and worse degree of decomposition, with a more corrupt and criminal nomenclature than was that of Eastern Europe.

Before the Chavez’s administration, those Venezuelan institutions were governed by separations of powers and democratic means. But the regime of liberties and democracy which Venezuelans enjoyed for more than 50 years, was left to the history after the Major Commander Hugo Chavez seized power in 1999. During Chavez first 16 years his hegemony reigned in the National Assembly until his party lost in the legislative elections of December 2015. The popular vote punished President Maduro for leading the country to the deepest economic crisis, with shortages of food and medicines that the country has ever known. The increase of poverty and misery, violence and crime, are the most visible signs of Chavez’ failed model of the ‘Socialism for the 21st Century’. The year 2016 was a terrible and dark year for Venezuela, closing with an economic contraction of 18% and the inflation of 800%, according to unofficial figures from the Central Bank disclosed by Reuters. But for the parliament, currently dominated by opposition to the regime, it was a year of light, hope and combativeness to recover the lost democracy.

The situation is completely out of control due to the irresponsibility of the Maduro government: the collapse of oil revenues, and the opposition to the Bolivarian oligarchy in order to cut state spending, have ended up triggering the country’s public deficit to levels close to 25% GDP.

But problems never come alone. The US Treasury’s indictment of drug trafficking against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, along with his frontman Samark López, may be contagious. The inclusion of El Aissami in this drug trafficking ignominy list, is added with a dozen people linked to the power in Venezuela, all of which supporting the accusation that Venezuela might be a ‘narco-state’. The Wall Street Journal had already quoted in May 2015 sources from the US Department of Justice, who accused El Aissami of receiving bribes to facilitate drug trafficking over Venezuelan territory.

Moreover, a document from the Prosecutor’s Office of the Southern District of New York, reveals that the convicts Efrain Campo Flores and Francisco Flores De Freitas, the narco-nephews of the Venezuelan presidential couple, negotiated the liberation of Hermagoras González, one of the heads of the La Guajira’ cartel. The same name also appears related to El Aissami, according to the US Treasury.

Maduro’s government in Venezuela would do anything to stop the world media analysing this narco-trafficking scandal, which plagues the country’s vice president, after the US has imposed sanctions on them because of their link with drug trafficking. Maduro would have wished that Washington had not known the place of Venezuela on the globe. It began with CNN’s investigative report on passport and visa trafficking, according to which a criminal network based in the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad, sold ID documents. The same ID’s which arrived at the terrorist and drug traffickers’ hands.

All these news were broadcasted at the very same time when the visit to DC of Mitzy Ledezma and Lilian Tintori, the wives of political prisoners and opponents of the Chavista regime, Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo López, respectively. Both ladies held meetings in the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House. After the meetings, Trump demanded to the Venezuelan government the immediate releasing these political prisoners on Twitter, as he is used to. Cornered by the events, Maduro responded by censuring CNN throughout Venezuela, and later expelled them of the country, due to a new reportage involving El Aissami with the issuance of fake passports for Islamic terrorists.

Maduro with his usual awkwardness, also censored the Mexican TV Azteca.  A full invitation to Peña Nieto to harden his position against Venezuela. Maduro is doing a favour to the Mexican president: he is giving the chance to Peña Nieto of a common cause together with Trump. If it used well, it could serve both to find the space for a more cooperative relationship, rather than the current one.

But whatever the situation is, Maduro does not want to antagonize Trump: he claims the Treasury Department and the CNN network, want to “impose” an agenda against Venezuela, which they are predisposing against to President Trump. While the Republican president has expressed his concern for Venezuela when speaking with the presidents of Peru, Colombia and Argentina, and last week also demanded from the oval office the freedom and the release from prison of the Chavista regime’ opponent, Leopoldo Lopez, while he was accompanied by his wife, Lilian Tintori.

Despite this, Maduro does not want to displease the new American President and treats him with a white glove because he considers him to be like him, hating both the media which dare to criticize them.

Election fraud in Ecuador?

 

 

After ten years of being Rafael Correa the President of Ecuador, it will be difficult to exercise the power like him, in a way which could well be defined as omnipresent. In the decade of 2007-2017, the current president became involved in almost every issue which generated interest in the country, whether political, social, economic, religious or sports, personally or through Twitter, his favourite social network. Correa created a very personalist movement, instead of generating a socialist party with an ideological content, and its policy has been social dismantling: combating the trade unionism by denying them any social representation, atomizing the indigenous movement and crashing over many groups, such as healthcare and Armed Forces.

For Correa’ critics, those representatives of the old politics, bankers of the “long neoliberal night“, journalists “ink’ hitmen“, as Correa uses to denominate them, or those who were disenchanted during the way, his omnipresence became Omnipotence. After too much accumulated power, the Ecuadoreans from the coast or from the Sierra, from Quito or Guayaquil, are just right now pro-Correa or against-Correa, or what is the same, fully polarized.

Neither the presidential candidate, Lenin Moreno nor his great rival, Guillermo Lasso have obtained for time being, the necessary votes to be proclaimed president without resorting to the ballotage. In a count which continues maintaining the Ecuadorians’ excitement as well as their breath, Correa’s candidate Moreno has failed to overcome the barrier of 40% of votes needed to win in the first round. At the moment, stands at the doors of the Government Palace with a 39.11% support. Lasso, leader of CREO-SUMA with 28.31% of votes, still hopes to achieve his goal, to reach the second round on April 2nd.

For the very last ten years, the Ecuadorians had grown living the elections without great uncertainties. The name of the person sitting in the presidential chair was a sure bet. But after a decade with Rafael Correa, the question is not only about who will be the next president, but how the economic crisis in the country will be solved. The Ecuadorians had to decide amongst the change, or four more years of revolution.

Guillermo Lasso from ‘Alianza PAIS‘ is the opposition candidate. He lost already the 2013 election against Rafael Correa. He promises that his presidency will be the required change which Ecuador is needing, to end with the revolutionary project of Correa: belonging to the ALBA Alliance, founded by Hugo Chavez and called ‘Socialism of the 21st Century.’ Lasso is a self-made man. At age of 15, he got his first job to contribute to the family’ economy. There he began his career in the banking sector. Without having any university degree, he became the CEO of the Bank of Guayaquil, of which he is still one of its main shareholders.

Lenin Moreno, the official candidate of ‘Alliance PAIS’ represents the continuity of Correa’ s legacy, although he says he will do it with his own style. Moreno refuses the confrontation and bets on dialogue to make politics in a more dignified way. Teacher and son of teachers, he left the classrooms to create his company of tourist promotion. In 1998, a robbery changed his life: A shot at the exit of a bakery left him with no mobility in his legs. From his wheelchair, he decided to become a professional Coach using humour as a tool, a vision which he has developed in eight books. His leap into public life was as Correa’ vice president between 2007 and 2013. The visibility of disabilities and the social policies in Ecuador took the UN to appoint him as the Special Envoy of the Secretary General on Disability and Accessibility.

Moreno, the official candidate nominated by Correa, came to the election as the best positioned.  Right now it seems like the whole election intrigue is not about who will be the winner anymore, but whether there will be a second round. Some are predicting that Correa will continue to rule in the shadows if his candidate wins, while others speculate that he will return stronger in some years if the opposition finally wins. There are people who fear that in his absence, all the social achievements during his presidency will disappear, but also those who only wish him a sad and lonely end. But no one after his 10-year presidency has been indifferent to Rafael Correa’s fate, which is his omnipresence’ legacy.

While Ecuador still has no president, it already has its National Assembly. And the clear majority which Correa’s party enjoyed has been drastically reduced in these election: Alianza PAIS (AP), which had 100 of the 137 chamber seats, has fallen to about 67 seats, compared to 64 for the opposition, according to the ‘Citizen Participation’ platform. The distortion of the circumscriptions would explain that AP has half of the seats, while in the votes counting, the official Lenin Moreno provisionally obtained a 39.1%, compared to 51.4% percent got for the three main opposition candidates.

The slowness counting and offering the results by the National Electoral Council, was interpreted as an attempt to wait for Moreno seizing the 40% required to avoid a second round. Whether he loses the presidency, AP will no longer have the clear majority which had enjoyed since 2009, and allowed Rafael Correa to effectively control the judiciary and the electoral administration, as well as the dismantling of any independent media, according to the Bolivarian model of the so-called ‘Socialism of the 21st Century’. The ‘Socialism of the 21st Century’ already lost two of its allies with the change of government in Argentina and the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. It may lose a third party.

In any case, the Ecuadorian people are in the streets defending their votes. The last news about Ecuador is that National Electoral Council is removing all the volunteers’ credentials of the opposition parties, so that of they cannot witness the latest piece of the voting count. I might be wrong, but something starts to stink badly.

Cuba, the Geostrategic pearl of the Caribbean

The geopolitical importance of Cuba is not due to the strategic cunning of Fidel Castro, who was certainly a great connoisseur of the international relations during the 20th century, but to the geographical location of the island. With or without the Castro, Cuba is the fundamental piece which gives entry to the Greater Caribbean, as it is usually called the union of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, since Cuba as Mexico, are part of North America.

This central location explains why Cuba was the logistic centre of the Spanish Empire from the Sixteenth century to the beginning of the Nineteenth century. Columbus first arrived in The Bahamas and made a first fort in La Hispaniola, (today Dominican Republic and Haiti). But the Spanish Crown decided to set its operations’ centre in Cuba. From there, the conquerors took their expeditions to the north, to Florida; to the west, to New Spain, today Mexico; to the south, to New Granada, today Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and, through Panama, to Peru. All the galleons passed by Havana before making their return jump to the Peninsula. It remained like this until 1898, when the last Spanish overseas’ possessions, Cuba, together with Puerto Rico, Philippines and Guam, partly because its insular character isolated it from the independence movements, but mainly by the particular, affective and strategic consideration which always attributed to Cuba from the Metropolis, became independent after Spain losing the war vs. the United States. Only the great importance of the South American colonial territory articulated from the Rio de la Plata, was at the same level of the Cuban centre of gravity.

Cuba was also an essential element for the consolidation of the United States as a power in its hemisphere, between the end of the Nineteenth century and the beginning of the Twentieth century. To be a great power before World War I, the United States needed to control Cuba. To take Spain out of there was mandatory. That is the reason why the USA invented a pretext to declare the war to Spain: taking advantage of an internal explosion in the battleship Maine, anchored at that moment in the port of Havana, accused to Spain of having bombarded it, which was proved false once revealed the classified US documents about it, and which confirmed what the Spanish government had always maintained. Cuba has the geopolitical capacity of influencing in a large number of neighbouring countries, since all of Central America is its natural environment. When the US became the world superpower, it was to endure a communist Cuba in the Soviet orbit, because the US had control of the rest of the region.

Cuba has been for its geopolitical situation, the anti-American rebellion’ centre from 1960 until today. When analysing the geographical distribution of the communist guerrillas in Latin America, a circumference which has Cuba as the equidistant centre is observed, from the subversive attempts of the early 1960s in Venezuela to the Zapatista rebellion in Mexico in the 1990s; Guerrillas in Guatemala, El Salvador, and the Nicaraguan Sandinista regime of the 1980s. It is also necessary to include the support to the Colombian FARC and the control of the Chavismo. The Chavismo has already been something bigger apart, engineered and controlled from Cuban’ intelligentsia almost absolutely. Outside of that geographical area, Cuba has hardly had any influence: the disastrous adventure in Bolivia was a Che Guevara’ stubbornness, and the terrorist Peruvian’ Sendero Luminoso was of Maoist inspiration.

Castro was the creator of his own marketing: he led the far-left US and European intellectuals to believe that his revolution placed the culture, education and health above material values, which was what these intellectuals wanted to hear. He was a master of his own propaganda. Until recently, the visitors to Havana were shown a hospital, a school and a bookstore. I had myself the privilege of visiting these places. The hospital, reserved for the country’ leaders, was the jewel of the Exhibition. The bookstore was dedicated to the written works of Castro. And that’s it. The school improved the educational levels of Cubans, although before the revolution were already the highest in Latin America, but it is right to say that with the Revolution, the education was spread and mandatory to the entire Cuban population.

As for the immediate future, once the new diplomatic relations with Cuba have been re-established by the former Administration, the new US Trump’ Administration policy for Cuba, will not mean condescending treatment of the island. Although these are my own speculations, it seems that Trump will probably accept the decision already taken by Obama, but it is predictable that, to facilitate economic interaction, the US will demand some actions from the Castristas. Thus, the US embargo would remain in place if there are no signs of a certain economic opening, and if the Cuban state carry on with keeping in the pocket those business dollars, and not the private initiative of the citizens, which, right now except for a very few exceptions, it remains like that.

The day when Cuba gets rid of Castrism and the Castrism disappears, Cuba will keep up having the continental leadership, because it is where it is located. Cuba will be able to take advantage of the enormous possibilities which offers the fact of being at the centre of the immense Atlantic gulf of the American continent, formed by the coast line that goes from New York to Caracas. A democratic and economic liberalism could contribute to a communion of interests with the United States. Only a friendly and convinced relationship with the great northern neighbour could accelerate the development of the entire southern region of North America, including Colombia and Venezuela. Geopolitics proves that Washington will never cease to consider this area as its own security space; While not seeing certain risks, the US should contribute to a sincere promotion of its neighbours. By its privileged location, Cuba is called to be the great ally of the US in the Caribbean, in a mutual respect basis, and thus, becoming a hub for air and maritime communications of this ‘super gulf’ of the beautiful Caribbean Sea.

And now is the turn of France

 

The United States is not the only Western country in which Russia influenced prominently in the elections. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, Russia is also a hot topic in the French presidential campaign. In the lead up to the election in spring 2017, nearly all the opposition parties, whether on the right, far right, or far left, have bemoaned the degradation of ties with Russia under the government of President François Hollande, arguing that it breaks with France’s tradition of diplomatic engagement and political dialogue with Moscow and that it is detrimental to French economic interests. Some politicians from these parties have also expressed, on international issues such as Ukraine or Syria, views sympathetic to the Kremlin.

This week we have seen the decline of the polls leadership of Francois Fillón, leader of the French centre-right (UMP); as a result, it was the poll´s rise of the leftist independent Macròn, while he was accused of cheating his wife with a member of his team, a man. All these events are positioning Mrs. Le Pen, leader of the populist far-right in France, who wants to leave the EU and abandon the Euro, a new Frexit! The pro-Russian stances of France’s populist or extremist parties do not really come as a surprise: In the US and Europe, from Republican President Donald Trump to British Nigel Farage or Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, have voiced their admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Putin is underestimating the concern that Russian involvement in attacking the American electoral system has engendered across the American political spectrum, about the concern over the Russian role in the American election. But Washington is not Putin only target. Germany is investigating a series of sophisticated hacking attacks on political parties, fearing that Russia might be trying to influence the outcome of this year’s elections. The offices of several MPs inside Germany’s parliament were targeted in the attacks, as well as regional offices of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and rival parties. The German government agency in charge of cyber security believes the attacks originated from Russia and may be linked to the hacking of private emails from Clinton´s campaign team in the US earlier this year. The attacks particularly targeted party offices in the tiny German state of Saarland, which is not much influential but which is due to hold the country’s next regional elections in March. National elections in Germany are due to follow in the autumn.

Kasparov, the well-known Russian dissident, president of the Human Rights Foundation and former world chess champion, was asked about Putin’s motives to help Trump win the election. Kasparov gave several possible reasons. First, he said, Russia is going through a bad economic time, and Putin needs to project an image of strength, as a world leader capable of challenging the US and even influencing its choices. Second, for geopolitical reasons, Trump is the perfect American president for Putin, Kasparov said. Trump has criticized NATO, the European Union and other organizations defending security and democracy in its area of ​​influence, and opposed the Russian invasion of the Crimea in 2014. “Putin realizes that, for his imperialist agenda, organizations like NATO and the European Union are an obstacle; Putin wants to undermine and destroy them, and Trump was the perfect candidate to weaken them.”

This year we will see elections in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and perhaps in Italy. By not responding to US sanctions with an eye-for-eye, Putin undoubtedly hopes to sway opinion in Europe, convincing voters that he is not a threat. His first goal of course is the removal of European and US sanctions on Russia, imposed for its actions in Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea.

The sophistication and capacity of Russian cyber-warfare operations have been revolutionised in recent years by a decision to co-opt the country’s impressive IT industry, said Andrei Soldatov, author of ´The Red Web´ and the foremost expert in Russian cyber espionage. “There used to be a view of Russia’s cyber espionage and hacking based on the idea of criminal mercenary gangs working for a proxy, such as pro-Kremlin youth groups. But what we’re seeing now is quite new: the idea now is not to use criminals but to use the industry. We have maybe the biggest engineer community in the world, and lots of great specialists. They are not criminals; they are professionals and they are not bothered or afraid to refuse requests from government agencies.”

And Putin’s fingerprints are everywhere in Brexit’s vote, and in Italy’s referendum in support of the “No” vote against Prime Minister Renzi. My opinion: I would not be surprised if Putin tries to help choose authoritarian populist leaders in Germany, France and even Mexico. His motives may be very simple: if Trump turns out to be an authoritarian president, as many already fear, and Germany and France choose authoritarian populist leaders in the upcoming elections, none of them will have the moral authority to criticize Putin for being an autocrat. While I might understand Putin rationales, I don´t understand Trump´s. Why Trump would wish to get rid of the European Union and the NATO?

The exercise of political power seems different today. Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford, has described the past decade as a period of “democratic recession.” Within many of the remaining democracies, the quality of governance has deteriorated. Meanwhile, social media circulate ever-wilder rumours. Some people believe them; others don’t. It’s hard work to ascertain what is true. James Russell Lowell, the founder of “Atlantic´s” foreign affairs magazine, challenged the happy assumption that the Constitution was a “machine that would go of itself.” Lowell was right. Checks and balances is a metaphor, not a mechanism. No society, not even one as rich and fortunate as the US has been, is guaranteed a successful future. When early Americans wrote things like “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” they did not do so to provide bromides for future bumper stickers. They lived in a world in which authoritarian rule was the norm, in which rulers habitually claimed the powers and assets of the state as their own personal property.

Former President Obama waited too long to warn the world about the cybernetic threat of Russia. Unless President Trump begins to take it seriously and uphold the principles of democracy and human rights, as most Democratic and Republican predecessors have done, Russia might try to use cyber espionage and false news to influence voting in those various elections coming, putting the Western democracies at risk.