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Armenia and Azerbaijan clash in a conflict that has also involved Turkey and Russia.
Monument to the Armenian capture of the city of Shusha in the war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s [Wikipedia].
ANALYSIS / Irene Apesteguía
The region of Nagorno-Karabakh, traditionally inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks, is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. However, its population is Armenian-majority and pro-independence. In Soviet times it became an autonomous region within the Republic of Azerbaijan and it was in the war of the 1990s that, in addition to leaving some 30,000 dead and around a million people displaced, separatist forces captured additional Azeri territory. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, ethnic discrepancies between Azerbaijan and Armenia have deepened. Even a 2015 census of Nagorno-Karabakh reported that no Azeris lived there, whereas in Soviet times Azeris made up more than a fifth of the population. Since the truce between the two former Soviet republics in 1994, there has been a status stalemate, with the failure of several negotiations to reach a permanent peace agreement . The dispute has remained frozen ever since.
On 27 September, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan once again led to a military confrontation. Recent developments go far beyond the usual clashes, with reports of helicopter shoot-downs, use of combat drones and missile attacks. In 2016 there was a violent escalation of the conflict, but Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, was not occupied and no martial law was declared. If one thing is clear, it is that the current escalation is a direct consequence of the freezing of the negotiation process. Moreover, this is the first time that armed outbreaks have occurred at such short intervals, the last escalation of the conflict having taken place last July.
Azerbaijan's Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov on 27 September threatened a "big attack" on Stepanakert if the separatists did not stop shelling its settlements. Nagorno-Karabakh declared that it would respond in a "very painful" way. Armenia, for its part, warned that the confrontation could unleash a "full-scale war in the region".
The leaders of both countries hold each other responsible for this new escalation of violence. According to Azerbaijan, the Armenian Armed Forces constantly provoked the country, firing on the army and on crowds of civilians. Moreover, on multiple local Azerbaijani television channels, President Ilham Aliyev has declared that Armenia is preparing for a new war, concentrating all its forces in Karabakh. Even the Azeri authorities have restricted internet use in the country, mainly limiting access to social media.
In its counter-offensive operation, Azerbaijan mobilised staff and tank units with the support of artillery and missile troops, front-line aviation and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the ministry's press release statement said. Moreover, according to agreement with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a number of Syrians from jihadist groups, from Turkish-backed factions, are fighters in Nagorno-Karabakh. This has been corroborated by Russian and French sources. In any case, it would not be surprising when Turkey sits alongside Azerbaijan.
For its part, Armenia blames Azerbaijan for starting the fighting. Armenian officials announced that the Azerbaijani army had attacked with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and missiles. Armenia has not stopped preparing, as in the weeks leading up to the start of the fighting, multiple shipments of Russian weapons had been detected in the country via heavy transport flights. On the other hand, Armenia's defence minister has accused Turkey of exercising command and control over Azerbaijan's air operations via Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft , as Turkey has four of these planes.
Both powers were on alert because of the July fighting. Since then, they have not abandoned military preparedness at the hands of their external allies. The current events cannot therefore be described as coming out of the blue. After the July outbreak, there has been a lingering sense that the armed confrontation had simply been left at Fail.
Hours after the outbreak of fighting, Armenia declared martial law and general mobilisation. Azerbaijan, on the contrary, declared that such action was not necessary, but eventually the parliament decided to impose martial law in some regions of the country. Not only was martial law decreed, but also the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence declared the liberation of seven villages, the establishment of a curfew in several cities and the recapture of many important heights. It is clear that all occupied territories have crucial strategic value: Azerbaijan has secured visual control of the Vardenis-Aghdara road, which connects to Armenian-occupied Karabakh. The road was completed by Armenia three years ago in order to facilitate rapid military cargo transfers, an indication that this is a strategic position for Armenia.
Drone warfare has also been present in the conflict with Turkish and Israeli drones used by Azerbaijan. Armenia's anti-drone measures are bringing Iran into the picture.
An important factor that may have led to the conflict has been changes in the diplomatic leadership in Baku. Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijan's foreign minister, left his position during the July clashes. He has been replaced by former Education minister Jeyhun Bayramov, who does not have much diplomatic experience. Meanwhile, Hikmet Hajiyev, the Azerbaijani president's foreign policy advisor has seen his role in these areas increase.
But the problem is not so much about new appointments. For the past few years, Mammadyarov was the biggest optimist about the concessions Armenia might be willing to make under Nikol Pashinyan's new government. Indeed, since Armenia's Velvet Revolution, which brought Pashinyan to the post of prime minister in 2018, Azerbaijan had been hopeful that the conflict could be resolved. This hope was shared by many diplomats and experts in the West. Moreover, even within Armenia, Pashinyan's opponents labelled him a traitor because, they claimed, he was selling out Armenia's interests in exchange for Western money. All this hope for Armenia disappeared, as the new Armenian prime minister's position on Nagorno-Karabakh was harsher than ever. He even declared on several occasions that "Karabakh is Armenia". All this led to a strengthening of Azerbaijan's position, which hardened after the July clashes. Baku has never ruled out the use of force to try to solve the problem of its territorial integrity.
In the 2016 conflict there were many efforts to minimise these armed disturbances, mainly by Russian diplomacy. These have been supported by the West, which saw Moscow's mediation as positive. However, negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan have not resumed, and the excuse of the coronavirus pandemic has not been very convincing, according to domestic media.
More points have led to the current escalation, such as increased Turkish involvement. After the July clashes, Turkey and Azerbaijan conducted joint military exercises. Ankara's representatives began to talk about the ineffectiveness of the peace process, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking last month at the UN General Assembly, described Armenia as the biggest obstacle to long-term peace deadline in the South Caucasus. This is not to say that Turkey provoked the new escalation, but it certainly helped push Azerbaijan into a more emboldened attitude. The Turkish president stated on Twitter that 'Turkey, as always, stands with all its brothers and sisters in Azerbaijan'. Moreover, last August, Azerbaijan's defence minister said that, with the Turkish army's financial aid , Azerbaijan would fulfil 'its sacred duty', which can be interpreted as the recovery of lost territories.
In a brief overview of the allies, it is worth mentioning that the Azeris are a majority ethnic Turkic population, with whom Turkey has close ties, although unlike the Turks, most Azeris are Shia Muslims. As for Armenia, Turkey has no relations with Armenia, as the former is a largely Orthodox Christian country that has historically always relied on Russia.
As soon as the hostilities began, several states and international organisations called for a ceasefire. For example, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a telephone conversation with his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, called for an end to the fighting and declared that Moscow would continue its mediation efforts. Meanwhile, as it did after the July clashes, Turkey again expressed through various channels its plenary session of the Executive Council support for Azerbaijan. Turkey's Foreign Ministry assured that Ankara is ready to help Baku in any way it can. The Armenian president, hours before the start of the fire, mentioned that a new conflict could "affect the security and stability not only of the South Caucasus, but also of Europe". US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed serious concerns and called on both sides to stop the fighting.
On the other hand, there is Iran, which is mainly Shia and also has a large ethnic Azeri community in the northwest of the country. However, it has good relations with Russia. Moreover, having borders with both countries, Iran has offered to mediate peace talks. This is the focus of Iran's current problem with the new conflict. Azeri activists called for protests in Iranian Azerbaijan, which is the national territory of Azeris under Iranian sovereignty, against Tehran's support for Armenia. The arrests carried out by the Iranian government have not prevented further protests by this social sector. This response on the streets is an important indicator of the current temperature in northwest Iran.
As for Western countries, France, which has a large Armenian community, called for a ceasefire and the start of dialogue. The US said it had contacted both sides to urge them to "cease hostilities immediately and avoid words and actions of little consequence financial aid".
Russia may have serious concerns about the resumption of full-scale hostilities. It has made it clear on multiple occasions that the important thing is to prevent the conflict from escalating. One reason for this insistence may be that the Kremlin already has open fronts in Ukraine, Syria and Libya, in addition to the current status in Belarus, and the poisoning of Alexei Navalni. Moreover, despite the current attempt by the presidents of Russia and Turkey to show that relations between their countries are going well, the discrepancies between them, such as their views on Syria and Libya, are growing and becoming more diverse. And now Vladimir Putin could not leave Armenia in the hands of Azerbaijan and Turkey.
The Minskgroup of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has as its main mission statement mediation of peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and is co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States. In response to the current conflict, it called for a "return to a ceasefire and resumption of substantive negotiations". Earlier this year, Armenia rejected the Madrid Principles, the main conflict resolution mechanism proposed by group in Minsk. Moreover, this initiative has been made increasingly impossible by the Armenian Defence Ministry's concept of a "new war for new territories", as well as Nikol Pashinyan's idea of Armenia-Karabakh unification. All this has infuriated the Azeri government and citizens, who have increasingly criticised the Minsk group . Azerbaijan has also criticised the group 's passivity in the face of what it sees as Armenia's inflammatory actions, such as the relocation of Karabakh's capital to Susa, a city of great cultural importance for Azerbaijanis, or the illegal settlement of Lebanese and Armenians in occupied Azerbaijani territories.
If any conclusion is to be drawn from this it is that, for many in both Azerbaijan and Armenia, the peace process has been discredited by the past three decades of failed negotiations, prompting increasing warnings that the status quo would lead to a further escalation of the conflict.
There is growing concern among some experts that Western countries do not understand the current status and the consequences that could result from the worst flare-up in the region in years. The director of the South Caucasus Office at the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Stefan Meister, has argued that the fighting between these two regions could go far. In his opinion, "the conflict is underestimated by the EU and the West".
The EU has also taken a stand. It has already order to Armenia and Azerbaijan to de-escalate cross-border tensions, urging them to stop the armed confrontation and to refrain from actions that provoke further tension, and to take steps to prevent further escalation.
The conflict in the Caucasus is of great international importance. There are regular clashes and resurgences of tensions in the area. The relevance is that any escalation of violence could destabilise the global Economics , given that the South Caucasus is a corridor for gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea to world markets, and more specifically to Europe. If Armenia decides that Azerbaijan has escalated too far, it could attack Azerbaijan's South Caucasus Pipeline, which sends gas to Turkey's TANAP, and ends with TAP, which supplies Europe. Another strategic aspect is the control of the city of Ghana'a, as controlling it could connect Russia to Karabakh. In addition, control of the site could cut off gas pipeline connectivity between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Conflicts already took place at area last July, which is why Azerbaijan is prepared to close the region's airspace as a result of the new conflict.
In bright green, territory of Nagorno-Karabakh agreed in 1994; in soft green, territory controlled by Armenia until this summer [Furfur/Wikipedia].
A new war?
There are several possible outcomes for the current status . The most likely is a battle over small and not particularly important areas, allowing for the symbolic declaration of a "victory". The problem centres on the fact that each opponent may have a very different view of things, so that a new strand of confrontation is inevitable, raising the stakes of the conflict, and leading to less chance of understanding between the parties.
Although unlikely, many analysts do not rule out the possibility that the current escalation is part of the preparations for negotiations and is necessary to shore up diplomatic positions and increase pressure on the opponent before talks resume.
Whatever the reasoning behind the armed clashes, one thing is clear: the importance of military force in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process is growing by the day. The absence of talks is becoming critical. If the Karabakh pendulum does not swing from generals to diplomats soon, it may become irreparable. And it will be then that the prospects of another regional war breaking out once again will cease to be a mere scenario described by experts.
While Russia continues to insist that there is no other option but a peaceful way forward, the contact line between the two sides in Nagorno-Karabakh has become the most militarised area in Europe. Many experts have repeatedly suggested as a possible scenario that Azerbaijan might decide to launch a military operation to regain its lost territory. source The country, whose main source of income is its Caspian Sea oil wealth, has spent billions of dollars on new weaponry. Moreover, it is Azerbaijan that has replaced Russia as the largest carrier of natural gas to Turkey.
A major consequence of the conflict centres on potential losses for Russia and Iran. A further casualty of the conflict may be Russia's position as Eurasia's leader. Another argument is based on the Turkish committee , which has demanded Armenia's withdrawal from Azerbaijani lands. The problem is that the members of committee, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, are also members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), led by Russia together with Armenia. On the other hand, Iran sample also panics over Turkey's total solidarity with Azerbaijan, as more Azeris live in Iranian Azerbaijan than in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
This is one of the many conflicts that exemplify the new and current "style" of warfare, where major powers place themselves at the back of small conflicts. However, the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh may be small in size, but not in importance, as in addition to contributing to the continued destabilisation of the Caucasus area , it may affect neighbouring powers and even Europe. The West should give it the importance it deserves, because if it continues along the same lines, the door is open to a more violent, extensive and prolonged armed conflict.
Nicolás Maduro during a broadcasted speech [Gov. of Venezuela] ▲ Nicolás Maduro during a broadcasted speech [Gov. of Venezuela].
ESSAY / Isabelle León Graticola
It is no secret to anyone that Venezuela is going through the most convoluted economic and social crisis in its history, a crisis in which the creators have manipulated the existence of the people, degrading its integrity, and extinguishing everything that once characterized Venezuela.
The country holds a key geopolitical location that serves as a route for North America and the Caribbean to the rest of South America. Likewise, the country is endowed with abundant natural resources like natural gas, iron ore, diamonds, gold, and oil.1 Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, with 302 billion barrels in January 2018, emanating an extremely rich country with astonishing potential.2 However, this crisis has not only hindered people's lives but has ironically dissipated the country's resources to consolidate the pillars of the regime to such an extent that today the government of Nicolás Maduro is importing oil from Iran. Inadequate policies that have weakened the society's sense of responsibility and nationalism, decreased foreign investment out of lack of trust, and annihilated the state-led oil production, therefore reinforcing the country's economic downfall and hyperinflation.
The Venezuelan government, headed by Nicolás Maduro, has managed its way to continue holding power despite accusations of corruption, crimes against humanity, and even drugs trafficking involvement. The perplexing partner-economic and political crisis has created an unsustainable and violent context in which poorly informed people are manipulated by the government through speeches that take big significance on how society perceives the actual situation, as well as other countries' statements on the crisis. Up to this point, it has become difficult to understand what keeps bolstering this regime, but if the situation is analysed from the nucleus, the well-orchestrated rhetoric of Chávez and his successor, Maduro, has contributed to support the ends and sustainment of the regime.
Since Maduro reached power, poverty motivated violence has been rampant in Venezuela and insecurity has become a significant part of society's dynamics. Consequently, many protests against the government demanding for freedom and better living standards have taken place. Maduro's regime has been forced to employ tools such as fake news and hateful rhetoric to soften the anger of the people by manipulating them and brainwashing the armed forces to avoid uprisings.
This article aims to analyse how Maduro's rhetoric has maintained a minority in the wrong side of history and a majority in constant battle by making erroneous accusations to third parties to justify the perturbed situation, while the government keeps enriching its wallet at the cost of the people and its smudged operations. Such feverish society gave rise to pure uncertainty, to a place where disinformation takes the form of a lethal weapon for the dangerous context in which it exists.
The background: Chávez's indoctrinated society
First, it is necessary to clarify that the focus of this article is merely on the rhetorical aspect as a pillar of the regime. However, when it comes to the background that has sustained Maduro's administration up to this day, there is a more complex reality, full of crime, death, manipulation, and corruption. Venezuela is an almost abnormal reality because, after more than twenty years, it is still tied to a group of people who have taken absolutely everything from it. From a man that portrayed nothing but hope for the poor, to one who has managed his way sticking to policies damaging to the very people they mean to help, and which, sooner or later, will make the regime collapse.
Hugo Chávez's presidency was characterized by a tremendous and persuasive oratory; he knew how to get to the people. Chávez's measures and campaigns were based on a psychological strategy that won him the admiration of the most impoverished classes of the country. Chávez arrived and gave importance and attention to the big mass of the population that previous governments had systematically neglected. People felt the time had come for them to have what they never had before. Filled with charisma and political mastery, his speeches always contained jokes, dances, and colloquial phrases that were considered indecent by the country's highest class and often misunderstood abroad.
Chávez always built a drastic separation between the ideals of the United States and Venezuela and looked for ways to antagonize the former with his rhetoric. He began to refer to George W. Bush as "Mr. Danger", an imperial literary character of one of the most famous Venezuelan novels, Doña Bárbara.3
Hugo Chávez is one of the most revolutionary characters in Venezuelan history, one who brought the convoluted situation that today perpetuates in the country. Chávez persecuted journalists and political opponents, expropriated lands, nationalized Venezuela's key industries such as telecommunications, electricity, and the refining processes of heavy crudes, and slowly degraded the society as the exercise of power was directed to hold complete control of Venezuela's internal dynamics.4
Chávez extended education and medical assistance to the least favoured classes and improved the living conditions of the needy. This policy did nothing but create among these classes a culture of dependence on the government. Chávez's supporters or Chavistas were the pillars that buttressed the government, while the wealthy were catalogued as "squealing pigs" and "vampires. "5 The Chavistas admired Chavez's charismatic character and his constant gifts; he gave them fridges and TVs, gadgets that they could never afford on their own. He also constructed buildings, under the "mission statement Vivienda" initiative, to give people living in slums a 'proper' home. All of this was possible because the oil prices at the time were skyrocketing; he used the oil income to buy his support. The general standard of life, however, continued to be poor. The government knew what to give and how to manipulate to stay in power, and that is precisely what made Hugo Chávez so powerful and almost impossible to defeat despite strong opposition.
Historically, the United States has opposed left-wing governments in Latin America, so Chávez condemned the US, by referring to them as an imperialist power, or the "Empire". He disgraced US leaders and actions and transferred that anti-imperialistic and anti-capitalist approach to the population, part of which supported him and was blindly loyal to the cause. Chávez's alliance with Cuba under Fidel Castro led to the supply of oil at cut-rate prices, all related to the desire of reducing US economic influence in South America. Chávez's populist initiatives were the tenets of his administration and controversial foreign policy. These, along with his rhetoric and opposition from the Venezuelan wealthy class, deeply polarized the society and gave rise to what Venezuela has today: a divided society that has suffered from the lack of basic necessities, disinformation, and integrity.
Currently, the spokesmen of the Government of Nicolás Maduro address citizens at all hours from public channels and social networks to stir up the disgruntlement of the population toward the external enemy.6 Despite the poorly prepared speeches, the lack of vocabulary, and the improper formulation of sentences, Maduro has kept the colloquial and unformal rhetoric that characterised Chávez, but has failed to draw the connection that the late president enjoyed. The anti-imperialist strategy has been maintained, and, as the justification of the crisis, it has become the epicenter of the regime's speech. Nicolás Maduro's rhetoric revolves around two words: the US and the "Patria", a word frequently used by Chávez.
The base of Maduro's rhetoric: the love for Chávez
Shortly before dying in March 2013, Hugo Chávez appointed Vice President Nicolás Maduro as his successor. Chávez's charisma and legacy are what somehow ensured him that Maduro would provide a smooth transition. After Chávez's passing, Maduro took advantage of the momentum and sentiment that the Chavistas revealed and ensured that if picked, he would follow the steps of his predecessor and would continue to strengthen the 'Bolivarian Revolution'. Along with the continuity with Chávez's legacy, the defence of Venezuelan sovereignty in front of the US, and the social equality became the key messages of his administration.7 Nevertheless, Maduro had little support from the elites and inherited a country that was already economically weak due to the downfall of the oil prices and corruption.
In Chávez's wake, Maduro appealed to the emotion of the audience. He strongly claimed that the people were there for the 'Comandante' and said that "his soul and his spirit was so strong that his body could not stand it anymore, and he was released and now through this universe expanding filling us with blessings and love". He knew what this meant for the people and a crying audience exclaimed "Chávez lives, the fight goes on".
Maduro filled his rhetoric with the love for Chávez. He acknowledged that the Chavistas worshipped him as if he was God and that for ideological reasons, support for Maduro was guaranteed. Nevertheless, others recognised that the situation in the country was not favourable and questioned Maduro's ability to fill the void left by Chávez. When Maduro took power, the country entered a period of reinforced economic decline accompanied by hyperinflation that nowadays exceeds 10 million percent.8 As it was previously stated, the conditions of poverty surpass anything seen before in the country, which is now on the brink of collapse.
Furthermore, Venezuela went through two rounds of mass protests, in 2014 and 2018, that demanded freedom and change. Unfortunately, and as was expected from the government, thousands of violations of human rights were part of the demonstration's dynamics as brutal repression and the unjust imprisonment of demonstrators took place all along. Simultaneously, Maduro managed to call for rallies on the days of the major opposition's marches and retained the populist speech based on ideological arguments and emotional appeals among the minority of supporters to consolidate his power in Venezuela. Last year, in a regime rally on February 23rd, he condemned the elites as he explained that he was certain that from the bottom of his Chavista sentiment of loyalty to this battle, he was never going to be part of one. He stated that Venezuela will continue to be Patria for more many years to come.
The ongoing crisis has forced many to survive rather than to live, but despite all, Maduro remains in control. Maduro has kept Chávez's anti-imperialist policy and has rejected any minimum support from the United States. The government takes advantage of the hunger and the vulnerable situation of its people and makes sure that it remains as the only source of food. It does not take responsibility and instead, blames the crisis on the 'economic war' that the US has imposed on Venezuela.9 When Juan Guaidó sworn himself the legitimate president, Maduro's supporters started raising firms in a campaign called "Hands off Venezuela", while the US was trying to get humanitarian assistance into Venezuela through the Colombian border in the name of Guaidó.
In this sense, he explained in the same concentration speech that they were defending the national territory and the right to live freely and independently. Although it may seem ironic, because the government has killed hundreds of people with its police brutality and torture, this rhetoric is what has kept him the support of the hardcore revolutionary followers. The "Hands off Venezuela", was shouted and accompanied by the worst English pronunciation -that characterizes Maduro-, and followed with insults to Guaidó.
As Maduro yelled "puppet, clown, and beggar of imperialism and Donald Trump. If he is the President, where are the economic and social measures that he has applied for the people? It is a game to deceive and manipulate, it is a game that has failed, the coup d'état has failed" as the network audience shouted, "jail him, jail him!". He drew his speech to a hardcore anti-imperialist audience and firmly stated that the US intended to invade Venezuela and enslave it. Maduro finalized his speech by shouting "wave up the flag, up the Patria, for the people in defense of the Revolution".
Recently, the US State Department released a price for the capture of Maduro and his cabinet, not only for the crimes committed against the Venezuelan population, but also because of their involvement in a huge drug-trafficking network. With this, the regime's position has become more vulnerable and simultaneously pragmatic, but as tough actions were taken against possible threats and opposing figures, Maduro's rhetoric remains to deny its status and manipulating those that still support him. In another public speech, he stated that "Donald Trump's government, in an extravagant and extreme, vulgar, miserable action, launched a set of false accusations and like a racist cowboy of the 21st century, put a price on the heads of revolutionaries that are still willing to fight them". He one more time accused the US of being the main cause of the economic crisis of Venezuela.
Nicolás Maduro's speech has always been directed to the hardcore revolutionaries, those that worship Chávez since the beginning and who firmly believe in the socialist cause. Maduro has maintained his rhetoric despite the changes in the internal situation of the country; he has held an enduring method for antagonizing the opposition, the Venezuelan upper class, and the United States. On the other hand, regarding the strategic foreign allies, the regime openly gives declarations to support them, but again to somehow antagonize the United States. Indeed, this was the case of the US assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian top commander, in which government representatives attended the Iranian embassy to give the condolences in the name of the regime and swore to avenge Soleimani's death. The administration of Nicolás Maduro has no gray areas, everything is either black or white; the opposition, the upper class, the US, and the US-influenced countries are the enemies, and the rhetoric rarely leans toward a conciliatory message, rather has always revolved around these conflicting parties.
What is left
Twenty years have passed since the Chavismo arrived in the country. Nowadays, a passionate minority of the population keeps supporting Maduro. His regime continues to train armed groups to combat discontent headed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó. The Chavismo keeps being strong, but it has been fragmented by those who believe that the revolution ended at the moment Chávez died, and the ones that are convinced that supporting Maduro means being loyal to Chávez. In the case of Juan Guaidó, he keeps doing his efforts. He still has relative support and keeps being a source of hope. Nevertheless, many criticize the fact that he let again the people cool down. A close change is expected, but no one knows what the movements behind are. Meanwhile, the people will continue suffering and trying to survive.
Upon reflection, it can be noticed that Maduro's entire argumentation revolves around a confrontational rhetoric: the US and capitalism against Venezuela; Guaidó against the Patria; the elites against the Revolution.10 Far from recognising the reality that the country faces and taking actions to improve it, this confrontational approach simply places the blame on those who have tried to bring a change in the internal dynamics of Venezuela. The regime has managed to construct a national united front against a common foreign enemy and to demonize the opposition.
Chávez and Maduro's rhetoric has followed a tangible objective: the Revolution. Maduro's regime up to this point is searching for a way to consolidate its power and sustain itself as the best way to elude a rather somber future in jail. This never-ending nightmare should have long ago collapsed due to the economic catastrophe, hyperinflation, political repression, human rights violations, and the lack of direction for Venezuela. Behind what maintains this structure there is nothing but the exercise of power and the almost absolute control of society. The Patria that they constantly speak of is running out of fuel to keep going. Nonetheless, the rhetorical deceptions of the Bolivarian revolution, which for two decades have appealed to the popular classes, settled in the collective mindset of the Chavismo and brought space for support in the Venezuelan society.
Chávez and Maduro's presidencies have been based on educating and changing the mindset of the population as they wanted; a population that is content with one box of food a month and which, unfortunately, hunts for the easy means to achieve its goals instead of fighting to improve its lot.
Today, the regime is fed on the memory of Hugo Chávez, on his promises, on his battle. As long as it keeps generating an illusion on the supporters, Maduro will appeal to it as a pillar of his administration and of the Revolution.
1. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Venezuela facts and figures. 2019, https://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/about_us/171.htm. Accessed 28 Nov. 2019.
2. US Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis. Venezuela. Jan. 2019, https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis.php?iso=VEN. Accessed 28 Nov. 2019.
3. Livingstone, G. (2013, March 10). The secret of Hugo Chavez's hold on his people. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the-secret-of-hugo-chavezs-hold-on-his-people-8527832.html
4. El País. (2007, January 08). Chávez anuncia la nacionalización del servicio eléctrico y las telecomunicaciones. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://elpais.com/internacional/2007/01/08/actualidad/1168210811_850215.html
5. The Guardian (2012, October 08). Hugo Chávez: A victory of enduring charisma and political mastery. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/08/hugo-chavez-victory-political-venezuela
6. Twitter, F., & Miraflores, P. (2017, July 23). Maduro, his ministers and the corruption of language. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/07/22/opinion/1500746848_239358.html
7. Grainger, S. Hugo Chávez and Venezuela Confront his Succession. Dec. 2012. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-20678634. Accessed 29 Nov. 2019.
8. Sánchez, V. Venezuela hyperinflation hits 10 million percent. 'Shock therapy' may be only chance to undo economic damage. Aug. 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/02/venezuela-inflation-at-10-million-percent-its-time-for-shock-therapy.html. Accessed 29 Nov. 2019.
9. TVVenezuela. The CLAP boxes no longer have anything to feed Venezuelans. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MelhZDbiFQQ. Sept. 2019. Accessed 30 Nov. 2019.
10. Delgado, A., & Herrero, J. (2019, February 12). Venezuela rhetorics on Twitter: Guaidó vs. Maduro. Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://beersandpolitics.com/retoricas-de-venezuela-en-twitter-guaido-vs-maduro
Faced with the biggest economic crisis since World War II, the EU itself has decided to borrow to help its member states.
▲ Commission President Von der Layen and the President of the European committee Charles Michel after announcing the agreement in July [committee European]
ANALYSIS / Pablo Gurbindo Palomo
"Deal!". With this "tweet" at 5:30 a.m. on 21 July last, the president of the European committee , Charles Michel, announced the achievement of a agreement after the longest meeting in its history (more than 90 hours of negotiations).
framework After the failed summit in February, European countries were aware of the importance of reaching an agreement on agreement, but some countries saw it as more urgent than others to conclude the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the next seven years. But as with everything else, the Covid-19 pandemic has overturned this lack of urgency, and has even forced member states to negotiate, in addition to the budget, aid to alleviate the effects of the pandemic on the 27.
The agreement consists of an MFF of 1.074 trillion euros. This is lower than the figure demanded in February by the so-called friends of cohesion (a conglomerate of southern and eastern European countries) and the Commission itself, but also higher than the figure that the frugals (the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden) were prepared to accept. But it is not this figure that has been the focus of the discussion, but how much and how the post-pandemic recovery fund to help the countries most affected by the pandemic was to be set up. The Fund was agreed at 750 billion, divided into 390 billion to be given to member states in the form of grants, and the remaining 360 billion to be given in the form of a 70 per cent disbursable loan between 2021 and 2022.
The figures are staggering, and based on the February negotiations, where one part of the membership preferred something more austere, one might ask: How did we arrive at this agreement?
The Hamilton moment
With the arrival of Covid-19 in Europe and a considerable paralysis of all the world's economies, the European capitals quickly realised that the blow was going to be significant and that a strong response was going to be necessary to mitigate the blow. Proposals at the European level were not long in coming. For example, the European Parliament proposed a recovery package on 15 May of 2 trillion euros, and to include this in the MFF 2021-2027.
The most prominentproposal was presented on 18 May by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And not only because it was promoted by the two main economies of the Union, but also because of its historic content.
There has been talk of Hamilton momentHamilton moment, referring to Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States and the first Secretary of the Treasury of the newly founded republic. In 1790 the thirteen states that made up the young American nation were heavily indebted due to the war effort of the Revolutionary War, which had ended only seven years earlier. To solve this problem, Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, succeeded in convincing the federal government to assume the states' debt by "mutualising" it. This event marked the strengthening of the American federal government and served to create the instructions of the US national identity.
It seems that with the Franco-German proposal the Hamilton moment has arrived. The proposal is based on four pillars:
European health strategy, which could include a joint reservation of medical equipment and supplies, coordination in the purchase of vaccines and treatments. In turn, epidemic prevention plans shared among the 27 and common methods for registering the sick.
A boost to the modernisation of European industry, supported by an acceleration of the green and digital transition.
Strengthening the European industrial sector, supporting production on the Old Continent and the diversification of supply chains to reduce global dependence on the European Economics .
500 billion reconstruction fund for the regions most affected by the pandemic on the basis of EU budget programmes.
It is this fourth pillar that we can call "Hamiltonian" and which is historic as it would for the first time in history allow the EU itself to issue debt to finance this fund. This proposal has broken years of a German stance against any collective borrowing subject . "We are experiencing the biggest crisis in our history... Because of the unusual nature of the crisis we are choosing unusual solutions," Merkel said in the joint video conference with Macron.
According to this proposal the funds would not be reimbursed directly by the countries but through the Community funds in the long term deadline, either through its usual resources or through new sources of income. It should also be noted that the proposal spoke of the submission of this fund in the form of subsidies, i.e. without any subject interest for the recipient countries.
Among the reactions to proposal were those of the frugal, who rejected that the funds should be given in the form of grants. "We will continue to show solidarity and support for the countries most affected by the coronavirus crisis, but this must be in the form of loans and not subsidies," said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The frugal proposal is that the financial aid raised on the debt markets should be submit to states at low interest rates, i.e. as a loan, and conditional on a reform programme.
On 27 May the Commission announced its proposalThe EU's new, very similar to the Franco-German one, but enlarged. The proposal is composed of a 1.1 trillion euro MFF and a 750 billion euro recovery plan called Next Generation EU. This recovery plan is based on three pillars financed by new instruments but within pre-existing headings:
The first pillar covers 80% of the recovery plan. It is about supporting Member States in their investments and reforms in line with the Commission's recommendations. To this end, the pillar has these instruments:
Recovery and Resilience Mechanism (the most important part of proposal): financial support for investments and reforms by states, especially those related to the green and digital transition and the resilience of national economies, linking them to EU priorities. This mechanism would be made up of 310 billion in grants and 250 billion in loans.
React-EU Fund under cohesion policy with 55 billion.
Increase in the Just Transition Fund: this fund is intended to support states in undertaking the energy and ecological transition, to move towards a climate-neutral policy. It would be increased to 40 billion.
Increase of the European Agricultural Fund development Rural: to support rural areas to comply with the European Green agreement . It would be increased by 15 billion.
The second pillar covers 15% of the plan. It focuses on boosting private investment, and its funds would be managed by the European Investment Bank (EIB):
31 billion Solvency Support Instrument
EU-Invest programme increased to $15.3 billion
New Strategic Investment Fund to promote investment in European strategic sectors
The third pillar covers the remaining 5%. It includes investments in areas that have result been key to the coronavirus crisis:
EU4Health programme to strengthen health cooperation. With an budget of 9.4 billion.
Reinforcement of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPF) by 2 billion.
project Horizon Europe for the promotion of research and innovation worth 94.4 billion.
Support to the external humanitarian financial aid worth 16.5 billion.
To raise the funding, the Commission would issue its own debt on the market and introduce new taxes of its own, such as a border carbon tax, emission allowances, a digital tax or a tax on large corporations.
It should also be noted that both access to MFF and Next Generation EU aid would be conditional on compliance with the rule of law. This was not to the liking of countries such as Hungary and Poland, which, among others, consider it to be unclear and a form of interference by the EU in their internal affairs.
Negotiation at the European Summit
With this proposal on the table, the heads of state and government of the 27 met on 17 July in Brussels amid great uncertainty. They did not know how long the summit would last and were pessimistic that it would be possible to reach an agreement agreement.
The main sticking points in the negotiations were the amount and form of the reconstruction fund. Countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal wanted the aid to come in the form of subsidies in full and without any subject conditionality. On the other hand, the frugals, led during the summit by Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, wanted the reconstruction fund to be reduced as much as possible, and in any case to be given in the form of loans to refund and as an "absolute precondition". "Any financial aid from the North means reforms in the South. There is no other option", Rutte said at a press conference in The Hague.
As with all negotiations, the positions were gradually loosening. It was already clear that neither position was going to remain unscathed and that a mixed solution with both subsidies and loans was going to be the solution. But in what percentage? And with reform conditionality?
For Spain, Italy and Portugal the subsidies could not be less than 400 billion, which was already a concession from the initial 500 billion. For the frugal, who were joined by Finland, this figure could not exceed 350 billion, which would reduce the total Fund to 700 billion. This was a major concession by the frugals, who went from talking about zero subsidies to accepting them as 50% of the amount. Michel's final proposal was 390 billion in subsidies and 360 billion in loans to try to convince all sides.
The big stumbling block apart from the percentage was the conditionality of reforms for the submission aid that the frugal advocated. The spectre of the Troika imposed after the 2008 crisis was beginning to appear, to the disgrace of countries such as Spain and Italy. Rutte demanded that the national plans that countries had to present to the Commission in order to receive the Fund should also pass through committee of the 27 and that unanimous approval was necessary. This formula basically allowed any country to veto the national plans. Germany did not go as far as the required unanimity, but did ask for some control by the committee.
Rutte's stance angered many countries that saw proposal as a way of forcing reforms that have nothing to do with economic recovery.
The president of the committee presented a proposal to bring the parties closer together: the "emergency brake". According to Michel's proposal countries will have to send their reform plan to committee and it will have to be C by qualified majority. deadline After its approval, any country is allowed to submit its doubts about the fulfilment of the plans presented by a state to the committee ; in this case, the committee would have a maximum of three months to make a pronouncement. As long as the country does not receive a decision, it would not receive the aid.
For those who may be surprised by the large concessions made by the frugal, it is worth mentioning the figure of the "rebates" or compensatory cheques. These are rebates on a country's contribution to budget and were introduced in 1984 for the United Kingdom. The British were one of the main net contributors to the European budget , but they hardly benefited from its aid, 70% of which went to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Cohesion Fund. It was therefore agreed that the British would have their contribution discounted on a permanent basis. Since then, other net contributor countries have been receiving these cheques. However, in these cases they had to be negotiated with each MFF and were partial on a specific area.
It is a very controversial figure for many countries, and an attempt was already made to remove it in 2005. But what is undeniable is that it is a great bargaining chip. From the outset, the frugal countries have wanted to keep it, and even strengthen it. And given the difficulties in negotiating, the rest of the member states have seen that it is an "affordable" and not very far-fetched way of convincing the "hawks of the north". After some initial posturing, they ended up increasing it: Denmark will receive 377 million (considerably more than the initial 222 million); Austria will double its initial amount to 565 million; Sweden will receive 1.069 billion (up from the initial 823 million); and the Netherlands will receive 1.575 billion. Notably, Germany, as the largest net contributor, will receive 3.671 billion.
The last important negotiation point to be addressed is the conditionality of compliance with the rule of law in order to receive the different funds and aid. Hungary and Poland, for example, have an open transcript for possible violation of article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which allows a member state to be sanctioned for violating basic EU values such as respect for human rights or the rule of law. Many countries have pressed the issue, but in the face of difficult negotiations and a possible risk of a veto of agreement depending on the vocabulary used by Hungarian President Viktor Orban, this clause has come to nothing.
To recapitulate, and as stated at the beginning of article, the agreement ended up with an MFF of 1.074 trillion euros; and a post-pandemic reconstruction fund, the Next Generation EU, of 750 billion, divided into 390 billion in the form of subsidies and 360 billion in the form of loans. To this must be added Michel's "emergency brake" for the submission of aid and the significant sum of "rebates".
Yes, there have been. Apart from the aforementioned rule of law clause, there have been several cuts in several of the items proposed by the Commission. Firstly, there has been a significant cut in the Just Transition Fund, which has been reduced from the initial 40 billion at proposal to 10 billion, to the anger of Poland in particular. Secondly, the funds for the rural development are reduced from 15 billion to 7 billion. Thirdly, both the 16.5 billion external humanitarian support fund financial aid , the 31 billion solvency support instrument (on its proposal by the Commission) and the 9.4 billion EU4Health programme have come to nothing. And finally, the project Horizon Europe would drop from the 94.4 billion proposed by the Commission to a mere 5 billion.
Winners and losers?
It is difficult to speak of winners and losers in a negotiation where all parties have given quite a lot in order to achieve agreement. Although it remains to be seen whether the countries' positions were truly immovable from the outset or whether they were simply used as an instrument of pressure in the negotiation.
The countries most affected by the pandemic, such as Italy and Spain, can be happy because they will receive a very large sum in the form of subsidies, as they wanted. But this conditionality that they were not going to accept in any way, in a way, is going to come to them softened in the form of Michel's "emergency brake". And the reforms they did not want to be forced to make, they will have to carry out from agreement with the recovery plan they send to committee, which if they are not sufficient may be rejected by the latter.
The frugal have succeeded in getting conditional aid, but more than half of it will be in the form of subsidies. And as a rule, the monetary limits they advocated have been exceeded.
Countries such as Poland or Hungary have succeeded in making the conditionality of the rule of law ineffective in the end, but on the other hand they have received considerable cuts in funds, such as the Just Transition fund, which are important especially in Central Europe for the energy transition.
But, on final, every head of state and government has returned home claiming victory and assuring that he or she has fulfilled his or her goal, which is what a politician must do (or appear to do) at the end of the day.
For both the MFF 2021-2027 and Next Generation EU to go ahead, the European Parliament still needs to ratify it. Although the Parliament has always advocated a more ambitious package than agreed, there is no fear that it will block it.
As I have said, this agreement can be described as historic for several reasons. Apart from the obvious extension of the European committee or the Covid-19 pandemic itself, it is historic because of the Hamilton moment that seems to be about to take place.
Member states seem to have learned that the post-crisis formula of 2008 did not work, that crises affect the whole of the Union and that no one can be left behind. Cases such as Brexit and the rise of Eurosceptic movements across the continent set a dangerous precedent and could even endanger the continuity of project.
The "mutualisation" of debt will allow states that are already heavily indebted, and which due to their high risk premium would have problems financing themselves, to get out of the crisis sooner and better. This decision will obviously cause problems that remain to be seen, but it shows that the 27 have realised that a joint financial aid was necessary and that they cannot go to war on their own. As Merkel said when presenting her post-pandemic plan together with Macron: "This is the worst crisis in European history", adding that to emerge "stronger", it is necessary to cooperate.
This move towards a certain fiscal unity can be seen as a rapprochement to a Federal Europe, at least in the Eurozone, which has been discussed for decades now. Whether this is a path with or without return remains to be seen.
[Richard Haas, The World. A Brief Introduction (New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2020), 378 p].
review / Salvador Sánchez Tapia
During a fishing workshop on Nantucket with a friend and his son, then a computer engineering student at the prestigious Stanford University, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, engaged the young man in conversation about his programs of study, and asked him what subjects he had taken, apart from the strictly technical ones. To his surprise, Haass realised how limited issue of these he had taken were. No Economics, no history, no politics.
Richard Haass uses this anecdote, which he refers to in the introduction to The World. Education A Brief Introduction , to illustrate the general state of higher education in the United States - which is, we might add, not very different from that of other countries - and which can be summed up in this reality: many students in the country that has the best universities in the world, and which is also the most powerful and influential on the planet, which means that its interests are global, can finish their university-level training without a minimal knowledge - let alone understanding - of the world around them, and of its dynamics and workings.
The World. A Brief Introduction is a direct consequence of the author's concern about the seriousness of this important gap for a nation like the United States, and in today's world, where what he calls the "Las Vegas rule" - what happens in the country stays in the country - does not work, given the interconnectedness that results from an omnipresent globalisation that cannot be ignored.
The book is conceived as a basic guide intended to educate readers - hopefully including at least some of the plethora of uneducated students - of different backgrounds and levels of knowledge, on the basic issues and concepts commonly used in the field of International Office.
By the very nature of the work, informed readers should not expect to find in this book any great discoveries, revolutionary theories or novel approaches to contemplate the international order from a new perspective. Instead, what it offers is a systematic presentation of the essential concepts of this field of knowledge that straddles history, political science, sociology, law and geography.
The book avoids any theoretical approach. On the contrary, its goal is eminently practical, and its aim is none other than to present in an orderly and systematic way the information that the average reader needs to know about the world in order to form a criterion of how it works and how it is articulated. It is, in final, to make him or her more "globally educated".
From his vantage point as president of one of the world's leading global think-tanks, and with the experience gained from his years of service as part of the security establishment of the two Bush presidents, Richard Haass has made numerous important contributions to the field of International Office. In the case of the present book, the author's merit lies in the effort he has made to simplify the complexity inherent in International Office. In a simple and attractive prose, accessible to readers of all subject, Richard Haass, demonstrating a great understanding of each of the subjects he deals with, has managed to distil their essence and capture it in the twenty-six chapters of this brief compendium, each of which would justify, on its own, an enormous literary production.
Although each chapter can be read independently, the book is divided into four parts in which the author approaches status the current world and relations between states from different angles. In the first part, Haass introduces the minimum historical framework necessary to understand the configuration of the current international system, focusing in particular on the milestones of the Peace of Westphalia, the two World Wars, the Cold War, and the post-Cold War world.
The second part of the book devotes chapters to different regions of the world, which are briefly analysed from a geopolitical point of view. For each region, the book describes its status, and analyses the main challenges it faces, concluding with a look at its future. The chapter is comprehensive, although the regional division it employs for the analysis is somewhat questionable, and although it inexplicably omits any reference letter to the Arctic as a region with its own geopolitical identity and set to play a growing role in the globalised world to which the book constantly alludes.
The third part of the book is devoted to globalisation as a defining and inescapable phenomenon of the current era with an enormous impact on the stability of the international order. In several chapters, it reviews the multiple manifestations of globalisation - terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, migration, cyberspace, health, international trade, monetary issues, and development- describing in each case its causes and consequences, as well as the options available at all levels to deal with them in a way that is favourable to the stability of the world order.
Finally, the last section deals with world order - the most basic concept in International Office- which it considers indispensable given that its absence translates into loss of life and resources, and threats to freedom and prosperity at the global level. Building on the idea that, at any historical moment, and at any level, forces that promote stable order operate alongside forces that tend towards chaos, the chapter looks at the main sources of stability, analysing their contribution to international order - or disorder - and concluding with what this means for the international era we live in. Aspects such as sovereignty, the balance of power, alliances and war are dealt with in the different chapters that comprise this fourth and final part.
Of particular interest to those who wish to delve deeper into these matters is the coda of the book, entitled Where to Go for More. This final chapter offers the reader a well-balanced and authoritative compendium of journalistic, digital and literary references whose frequent use, highly recommended, will undoubtedly contribute to the educational goal proposed by the author.
It is an informative book, written to improve the training of the American and, beyond that, the global public on issues related to the world order. This didactic nature does not, however, prevent Haass, at times, and despite his promise to provide independent, non-partisan criteria that will make the reader less manipulable, from tinginging these issues with his staff vision of the world order and how it should be, or from criticising - somewhat veiled, it must be said - the current occupant of the White House's international policy, which is not very globalist. Nevertheless, The World. A Brief Introduction offers a simple and complete introduction to the world of International Office, and is almost obligatory reading for anyone who wants to get started in the knowledge of the world order and the mechanisms that regulate it.
COMMENTARY / Luis Ángel Díaz Robredo*.
It may seem sarcastic to some, and even cruel, to hear that these circumstances of a global pandemic by COVID-19 are interesting times for social and individual psychology. And it may be even stranger to take these difficult times into account when establishing relations with the security and defence of states.
First of all, we must point out the obvious: the current circumstances are exceptional, as we have never before known a threat to health that has transcended such diverse and decisive areas as the global Economics , international politics, geo-strategy, industry, demography... Individuals and institutions were not prepared a few months ago and, even today, we are dealing with them with a certain degree of improvisation. The fees mortality and contagion rates have skyrocketed and the resources mobilised by the public administration are unknown to date. Without going any further, the Balmis operation -mission statement of support against the pandemic, organised and executed by the Ministry of Defence - has deployed 20,000 interventions, during 98 days of state of alarm and with a total of 188,713 military personnel mobilised.
In addition to the health work of disinfection, logistics and health support, there have been other tasks more typical of social control, such as the presence of the military in the streets and at critical points or reinforcement at borders. This work, which some people may find disconcerting due to its unusual nature of authority over the population itself, is justified by atypical group behaviour that we have observed since the beginning of the pandemic. Suffice it to cite a few Spanish examples that reflect how at certain times there has been behaviour that is not very logical for social imitation, such as the accumulation of basic necessities (food) or not so basic necessities (toilet paper) that emptied supermarket shelves for a few hours.
There have also been moments of lack of solidarity and even some social tension due to the fear of contagion against vulnerable groups, such as elderly people with COVID-19 who were transferred from one town to another and were booed by the neighbourhood that received them and had to be escorted by the police. Also, infrequently but equally negative and unsupportive, there have been cases in which some health workers suffered fear and rejection by their neighbours. And lately, the sanctioning and arrest of people who did not respect the rules of social distance and individual protection has been another common action of the authorities and State Security Forces and Corps. These events, which fortunately have been limited and dealt with quickly by the authorities, have been far outweighed by many other positive social behaviours of solidarity, altruism and generosity among citizens.
However, since national security must consider not only ideal scenarios but also situations with shortcomings or potential risks, these social variables must be taken into account when establishing a strategy.
Secondly, the flow of information has been a veritable tsunami of forces and interests that have overwhelmed the information capacities of entire societies, business groups and even individuals. Official media, private media, social networks and even anonymous groups with destabilising interests have competed in this game for citizens' attention. If this status has shown anything, it is that too much information can be as disabling as too little information, and that even the use of false, incomplete or somehow manipulated information makes us more susceptible to influence by the public.
This poses clear dangers to social stability, the operation of health services, the facilitation of organised crime and even the mental health of the population.
Thirdly and finally, we cannot forget that society and our institutions - including those related to security and defence - have their greatest weakness and strength based on the people who make them up. If there is one thing that the pandemic is putting at test it is the psychological strength of individuals due to the circumstance of uncertainty about the present and future, management fear of illness and death, and an innate need for attachment to social relationships. Our ability to cope with this new VUCA (Vulnerability, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) scenario that affects each and every social and professional
social and professional environments requires a strong leadership style, adapted to this demanding status , authentic and based on group values. There is no unilateral solution today, except through the efforts of many. It is not empty words to affirm that the resilience of a society, of an Armed Forces or of a human group , is based on working together, fighting together, suffering together, with a cohesion and a team work properly trained.
That said, we can understand that psychological variables - at the individual and grouplevels - are at play in this pandemic status and that we can and should use the knowledge provided by Psychology as a serious science, adapted to real needs and in a constructive spirit, to plan the tactics and strategy of the current and future scenarios arising from Covid-19.
Undoubtedly, these are interesting times for psychology.
* Luis Ángel Díaz Robredo is a professor at Schoolof Educationand Psychology at the University of Navarra.
[Parag Khanna, The Future is Asian. Simon & Schuster. New York, 2019. 433 p.]
review / Emili J. Blasco
Parag Khanna's book can be greeted with suspicion from entrance because of the apparent axiomatic character of his degree scroll. However, the blunt assertion on the cover is softened when one begins to read the pages inside. The thesis of the work is that the world is in a process of asianisationnot of chinisationMoreover, this process is presented as another coat of paint on the planet, not as a colour that will be clearly predominant or definitive.
It is possible that the discussion over whether the US is in decline and will be replaced by China as the pre-eminent superpower obscures other parallel developments. Those watching Beijing's rise in the world order, writes Khanna, "have often been paralysed by two views: either China will devour the world or it is on the verge of collapse. Neither is correct. "The future is Asian, even for China," he asserts.
Khanna believes that the world is moving towards a multipolar order, which is also the case in Asia, even if China's size often dazzles.
The author's Indian background and also his time living in the United States may have influenced this judgement, but he offers figures to support his words. Of the 5 billion people living in Asia, 3.5 billion are non-Chinese (70%): China thus has only a third of Asia's population; it also accounts for slightly less than half of Asia's GDP. Other data: half of outward investment from the continent is non-Chinese, and more than half of outward investment goes to Asian countries other than China. Asia is therefore "more than China plus".
It is not just a question of size, but of wills. "A China-led Asia is no more acceptable to most Asians than the notion of a US-led West is to Europeans," says Khanna. He rejects the idea that, because of China's power, Asia is heading towards a kind of tributary system like the one ruled in other centuries from Beijing. He points out that such a system did not extend beyond the Far East and was based primarily on trade.
The author reassures those who fear Chinese expansionism: "China has never been an indestructible superpower presiding over all of Asia like a colossus". He warns that while Europe's geographical characteristics have historically led many countries to fear the hegemony of a single power, Asia's geography makes it "inherently multipolar", as natural barriers absorb friction. Indeed, clashes between China and India, China and Vietnam or India and Pakistan have ended in stalemates. "Whereas in Europe wars have occurred when there is a convergence in power between rivals, in Asia wars have occurred when there is a perceived advantage over rivals. So the more powerful China's neighbours like Japan, India or Russia are, the less likely they are to conflict with each other.
For Khanna, Asia will always be a region of distinct and autonomous civilisations, especially now that we are witnessing a revival of old empires. Asia's geopolitical future will not be led by the US or China: "Japan, South Korea, India, Russia, Indonesia, Australia, Iran and Saudi Arabia will never come together under a hegemonic umbrella or unite into a single pole of power".
There will not be, then, a Chineseisation of the world, according to the author, and the Asianisation that is taking place - a shift of the world's weight towards the Indo-Pacific - need not be seen as a threat to those who live elsewhere. Just as there was a Europeanisation of the world in the 19th century, and an Americanisation in the 20th century, we are witnessing an Asianisation in the 21st century. Khanna sees this as "the most recent substratum of sedimentation in the geology of global civilisation", and as a "layer" it does not imply that the world Withdrawal to what came before. "Being more Asian does not necessarily mean being less American or European," he says.
The book analyses the weight and fit of different Asian countries on the continent. Of Russia, he argues that it is strategically closer to China today than at any time since its communist pact in the 1950s. Khanna believes that geography leads to this understanding, as it invites Canada to maintain good relations with the United States; he predicts that climate change will further open up the lands of Siberia, which will integrate them more with the rest of the Asian continent.
As for India and China's relationship, Khanna believes that both countries will have to accept each other as powers more normally. For example, despite India's reluctance towards China's Silk Road and India's own regional connectivity projects, in the end the two countries' preferred corridors will "overlap and even reinforce each other", ensuring that products from inland Asia reach the Indian Ocean. "Geopolitical rivalries will only accelerate the Asianisation of Asia," says Khanna.
In assessing the importance of Asia, the book includes Middle Eastern oil. Technically, the region is part of the continent, but it is such a separate chapter with its own dynamics that it is difficult to see it as Asian territory. The same is true when label is used to refer to Israel or Lebanon. It can give the impression that the author is lumping everything together in order to make the figures more impressive. He argues that the Middle East is becoming less and less dependent on Europe and the United States and is looking more to the East.
Khanna is in a position to reasonably defend himself against most of the objections to his text. Most controversial, however, is his near-defensive justification of technocracy as a system of government. Beyond the descriptive attitude of a model that in some countries has received an important economic and social development , Khanna even seems to endorse its moral superiority.
▲ Members of Colombia's National Liberation Army [Voces de Colombia] [Voices of Colombia].
ESSAY / Angel Martos
Terrorism and transnational organised crime are some of the most relevant topics nowadays in international security. The former represents a traditional threat that has been present during most our recent history, especially since the second half of the twentieth century. International organised crime, on the other hand, has taken place throughout history in multiple ways. Examples can be found even in the pre-industrial era: In rural and coastal areas, where law enforcement was weaker, bandits and pirates all over the world made considerable profit from hijacking vehicles along trade routes and roads, demanding a payment or simply looting the goods that the merchants carried. The phenomenon has evolved into complex sets of interconnected criminal networks that operate globally and in organised way, sometimes even with the help of the authorities.
In this paper, the author will analyze the close interaction between terrorism and organized crime often dubbed the "crime-terror continuum". After explaining the main tenets of this theory, a case study will be presented. It is the network of relations that exists in Latin America which links terrorist groups with drug cartels. The evolution of some of these organisations into a hybrid comprising terrorist and criminal activity will also be studied.
The crime-terror nexus is agreed to have been consolidated in the post-Cold War era. After the 9/11 attacks, the academic community began to analyze more deeply and thoroughly the threat that terrorism represented for international security. However, there is one specific topic that was not paid much attention until some years later: the financing of terrorist activity. Due to the decline of state sponsorship for terrorism, these groups have managed to look for funding by partnering with organised criminal groups or engaging in illicit activities themselves. Starting in the 1980s with what later came to be known as narco-terrorism, the use of organised crime by terrorist groups became mainstream in the 1990s. Taxing drug trade and credit-card fraud are the two most common sources of revenues for these groups (Makarenko, 2010).
The basic level of relationship that exists between two groups of such different nature is an alliance. Terrorists may look for different objectives when allying with organised crime groups. For example, they may seek expert knowledge (money-laundering, counterfeiting, bomb-making, etc.) or access to smuggling routes. Even if the alliances may seem to be only beneficial for terrorist groups, criminal networks benefit from the destabilizing effect terrorism has over political institutions, and from the additional effort law enforcement agencies need to do to combat terrorism, investing resources that will not be available to fight other crimes. Theirs is a symbiotic relation in which both actors win. A popular example in the international realm is the protection that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) offered to drug traders that smuggle cocaine from South America through West and North Africa towards Europe. During the last decade, the terrorist organisation charged a fee on the shipments in exchange for its protection along the route (Vardy, 2009).
The convergence of organisations
Both types of organisations can converge into one up to the point that the resulting group can change its motives and objectives from one side to the other of the continuum, constituting a hybrid organisation whose defining points and objectives blur. An organisation of this nature could be both a criminal group with political motivations, and a terrorist group interested in criminal profits. The first one may for example be interested in getting involved in political processes and institutions or may use violence to gain a monopolized control over a lucrative economic sector.
Criminal and terrorist groups mutate to be able to carry out by themselves a wider range of activities (political and financial) while avoiding competitiveness, misunderstandings and threats to their internal security. This phenomenon was popularized after the 1990s, when criminal groups sought to manipulate the operational conditions of weak states, while terrorist groups sought to find new financial sources other than the declining state sponsors. A clear example of this can be found in the Italian Mafia during the 1990s. A series of deliberate bombing attacks were reported in key locations such as the Uffizi Galleries in Florence and the church of St. John Lateran in Rome. The target was not a specific enemy, but rather the public opinion and political authorities (the Anti-Mafia Commission) who received a warning for having passed legislation unfavorable to the interests of the criminal group. Another example far away from Europe and its traditional criminal groups can be found in Brazil. In the early 2000s, a newly elected government carried out a crackdown on several criminal organizations like the Red Commandthe Amigos dos Amigos, and the group Third Commandwhich reacted violently by unleashing brutal terrorist attacks on governmental buildings and police officers. These attacks gave the Administration no other choice but to give those groups back the immunity with which they had always operated in Rio de Janeiro.
On the other side of the relationship, terrorist organisations have also engaged in criminal activities, most notably illicit drug trade, in what has been a common pattern since the 1970s. Groups like the FARC, ETA, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), or Shining Path are among them. The PKK, for example, made most of its finances using its advantageous geographic location as well as the Balkan routes of entry into Europe to smuggle heroin from Asia into Europe. In yet another example, Hezbollah is said to protect heroin and cocaine laboratories in the Bekaa Valley, in Lebanon.
Drug trafficking is not the only activity used by terrorist groups. Other criminal activities serve the same purpose. For example, wholesale credit-card fraud all around Europe is used by Al Qaeda to gain profits (US$ 1 million a month). Furthermore, counterfeit products smuggling has been extensively used by paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland and Albanian extremist groups to finance their activities.
Sometimes, the fusion of both activities reaches a point where the political cause that once motivated the terrorist activity of a group ends or weakens, and instead of disbanding, it drifts toward the criminal side and morphs into an organised criminal association with no political motivations) that the convergence thesis identifies is the one of terrorist organisations that have ultimately maintained their political façade for legitimation purposes but that their real motivations and objectives have mutated into those of a criminal group. They are thus able to attract recruits via 2 sources, their political and their financial one. Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and FARC are illustrative of this. Abu Sayyaf, originally founded to establish an Islamic republic in the territory comprising Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago (Philippines), is now dedicated exclusively to kidnapping and marijuana plantations. The former granted them US$ 20 million only in 2000. Colombian FARC, since the 1990s, has followed the same path: according to Paul Wilkinson, they have evolved from a revolutionary group that had state-wide support into a criminal guerrilla involved in protection of crops and laboratories, also acting as "middlemen" between farmers and cartels; kidnapping, and extortion. By the beginning of our century, they controlled 40 per cent of Colombia's territory and received an annual revenue of US$ 500 million (McDermott, 2003).
"Black hole states
The ultimate danger the convergence between criminal and terrorist groups may present is a situation where a weak or failed state becomes a safe haven for the operations of hybrid organisations like those described before. This is known as the "black hole" syndrome. Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Angola, Sierra Leone and North Korea are examples of states falling into this category. Other regions, such as the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, and others in Indonesia and Thailand in which the government presence is weak can also be considered as such.
Afghanistan has been considered a "black hole state" since at least the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989. Since the beginning of the civil war, the groups involved in it have sought to survive, oftentimes renouncing to their ideological foundations, by engaging in criminal activity such as the production and trafficking of opiates, arms or commodities across the border with Pakistan, together with warlords. The chaos that reigns in the country is a threat not only to the nation itself and its immediate neighbors, but also to the entire world.
The People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is, on the other hand, considered a criminal state. This is because it has engaged in transnational criminal activities since the 1970s, with its "Bureau 39", a government department that manages the whole criminal activity for creating hard currency (drug trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, privacy, etc.). This was proved when the Norwegian government expelled officials of the North Korean embassy in 1976 alleging that they were engaged in the smuggling of narcotics and unlicensed goods (Galeotti, 2001).
Another situation may arise where criminal and terrorist groups deliberately foster regional instability for their own economic benefits. In civil wars, these groups may run the tasks that a state's government would be supposed to run. It is the natural evolution of a territory in which a political criminal organisation or a commercial terrorist group delegitimizes the state and replaces its activity. Examples of this situation are found in the Balkans, Caucasus, southern Thailand and Sierra Leone (Bangura, 1997).
In Sierra Leone, for example, it is now evident that the violence suffered in the 1990s during the rebellion of the Revolutionary United Forces (RUF) had nothing to do with politics or ideals - it was rather a struggle between the guerrilla and the government to crack down on the other party and reap the profits of illicit trade in diamonds. There was no appeal to the population or political discourse whatsoever. The "black hole" thesis illustrates how civil wars in our times are for the most part a legitimisation for the private enrichment of the criminal parties involved and at the same time product of the desire of these parties for the war to never end.
The end of the Cold War saw a shift in the study of the nexus between crime and terrorism. During the previous period, it was a phenomenon only present in Latin America between insurgent groups and drug cartels. It was not until the emergence of Al Qaeda's highly networked and globally interconnected cells that governments realised the level of threat to international security that non-state actors could pose. As long as weak or failed states exist, the crime-terror nexus will be further enhanced. Moreover, the activity of these groups will be buttressed by effects of globalisation such as the increase of open borders policies, immigration flows, international transportation infrastructure, and technological development. Policymakers do not pay enough attention to the criminal activities of both types of organisations. Rather than dealing with the political motivations of a group, what really makes the difference is to focus on its funding resources - credit-card frauds, smuggling, money laundering, etc.
The following section focuses on the crime-terror continuum that exists between illegal drug trade and terrorist networks. This phenomenon has emerged in many regions all around the world, but the case of Latin America, or the Andean region more specifically, represents the paradigm of the characteristics, dangers and opportunities of these situations.
NARCO-TERRORISM CASE STUDY:
When drug trafficking meets political violence
The concept of narco-terrorism was born in recent years as a result of the understanding of illicit drug trade and terrorism as two interconnected phenomena. Traditionally linked with Latin America, the concept can now be found in other parts of the world like, for example, the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan), or the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar).
There is no consensus on the convenience and accuracy of the term "narco-terrorism," if only because it may refer to different realities. One can think of narco-terrorism as the use of terrorist attacks by criminal organisations such as the Colombian Medellin Cartel to attain an immediate political goal. Or, from a different point of view, one can think of a terrorist organisation engaging in illicit drug trade to raise funds for its activity. Briefly, according to Tamara Makarenko's Crime-Terror Continuum construct all organisations, no matter the type, could at some point move along this continuum depending on their activities and motivations; from the one extreme of a purely criminal organisation, to the other of a purely political one, or even constituting a hybrid in the middle (Makarenko, 2010).
There is a general perception of a usual interaction between drug-trafficking and terrorist organisations. Here, it is necessary to distinguish between the cooperation of two organisations of each nature, and an organisation carrying out activities under both domains. There are common similarities between the different organisations that can be highlighted to help policymaking more effective.
Both type of organisations cohabit in the same underground domain of society and share the common interest of remaining undiscovered by law enforcement authorities. Also, their transnational operations follow similar patterns. Their structure is vertical in the highest levels of the organisation and turns horizontal in the lowest. Finally, the most sophisticated among them use a cell structure to reduce information sharing to the bare minimum to reduce the risk of the organisation being unveiled if some of its members are arrested.
The main incentive for organisations to cooperate are tangible resources. Revenues from narcotics trafficking might be very helpful for terrorist organisations, while access to explosive material may benefit drug trade organisations. As an example, according to the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2004, an estimated US$ 2.3 billion of the total revenue of global drug trade end up in the hands of organisations like Al Qaeda. Another example is the illegal market of weapons emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, field of interest of both types of networks. On the other hand, intangible resources are similar to tangible in usefulness but different in essence. Intangible resources that drug trafficking organisations possess and can be in the interests of terrorist ones are the expertise on methods and routes of transports, which could be used for terrorist to smuggle goods or people - drug corridors such as the Balkan route or the Northern route. On the other way around, terrorists can share the military tactics, know-how and skills to perpetrate attacks. Some common resources that can be used by both in their benefit are the extended networks and contacts (connections with corrupt officials, safe havens, money laundering facilities, etc.) A good example of the latter can be found in the hiring of ELN members by Pablo Escobar to construct car bombs.
The organisations are, as we have seen, often dependent on the same resources, communications, and even suppliers. This does not lead to cooperation, but rather to competition, even to conflict. Examples can be traced back to the 1980s in Peru when clashes erupted between drug traffickers and the terrorist Shining Pathand in Colombia when drug cartels and the FARC clashed for territorial matters. Even the protection of crops terrorists offer to drug traffickers is one of the main drivers of conflict, even if they do find common grounds of understanding most of the time; for example, in terms of government, revenue-motivated organisations are a threat to the state as they fight to weaken some parts of it such as law enforcement or jurisdiction, while politically-motivated ones wish not only to undermine the state but to radically change its structures to fit their ideological vision (state-run economy, religious-based society, etc.).
The terrorism and drug connection in the Andean Region
Nowhere has the use of illicit drug trade as a source of funds for terrorism been so developed as in the Andean Region (Steinitz, 2002). Leftist groups such as FARC and Peruvian Shining Pathas well as right-wing paramilitary organisations such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) are involved in this activity. At the beginning, the engagement between terrorists and drug traffickers was limited only to fees imposed by the former on the latter in exchange for the protection of crops, labs and shipments. Later, FARC and AUC have further expanded this engagement and are now involved in the early stages of the traffic itself - the main substance being cocaine, and the main reward money and arms from the drug syndicates. The terrorist cells can be therefore considered a hybrid of political and criminal groups. The following paragraphs will further analyze each case.
Peru's Shining Path
Shining Path (SL) started to operate in the Huallaga Valley, a strong Peruvian coca region, several years after its foundation, in 1980. Peru was at the time the world's first producer of coca leaf. The plant was then processed into coca paste and transported to Colombian laboratories by traffickers. Arguably, the desire for profit from the coca business rather than for political influence was the ultimate motive for Shining Path's expansion into the region. SL protected the crops and taxed the production and transportation of coca paste: the 1991 document "Economic Balance of the Shining Path" shows that the group charged US$ 3,000-7,000 per flight leaving Huallaga. Taxes were also levied in exchange for a service that the group provided the cocaleros: negotiating favourable prices with the traffickers. In the late 1980s, SL's annual income from the business was estimated at US$ 15-100 million (McClintock, 1998).
The Peruvian government's fight against SL represents a milestone in the fight against the terrorism-crime nexus. Lima set up a political-military command which focused on combating terrorism while ignoring drugs, because a reasonable percentage of the Peruvian population eked out a living by working in the coca fields. The government also avoided using the police as they were seen as highly corruptible. They succeeded in gaining the support of peasant growers and traffickers of Huallaga Valley, a valuable source of intelligence to use against SL. The latter finally left the Valley.
But it was not a final victory. Due to the vacuum SL left, the now more powerful traffickers reduced the prices paid for the coca leaf. SL was no longer there to act as an intermediary in defence of peasants and minor traffickers, so thanks to the new lower prices, the cocaine market experienced a boom. The military deployed in the area started to accept bribes in exchange for their laissez-faire attitude, becoming increasingly corrupted. President Fujimori in 1996 carried out a strategy of interdiction of the flights that departed from the Valley carrying coca paste to Colombia, causing the traffickers and farmers to flee and the coca leaf price to fall notably. However, this environment did not last long, and the country is experiencing a rise in drug trade and terrorist subversive activities.
The Colombian nexus expands
The collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic crisis in Cuba diminished the amount of aid that the FARC could receive. After the government's crackdown, with the help of Washington, of the Medellin and Cali cartels, the drug business in Colombia was seized by numerous smaller networks. There was not any significant reduction of the cocaine flow into the United States. The FARC benefited greatly from the neighbouring states' actions, gaining privileged access to drug money. Peru under Fujimori had cracked down on the coca paste transports, and Bolivia's government had also put under strict surveillance its domestic drug cultivation. This elimination of competitors caused a doubling of coca production in Colombia between 1995 and 2000. Moreover, opium poppy cultivation also grew significantly and gained relevance in the US' East-coast market. The FARC also benefited from this opportunity.
According to the Colombian government, in 1998 the terrorist groups earned US$ 551 million from drug, US$ 311 million from extortion, and US$ 236 million from kidnapping. So much so that the organization has been able to pay higher salaries to its recruits than the Colombian army pays its soldiers. By 2000, the FARC had an estimated 15,000-20,000 recruits in more than 70 fronts, de facto controlling 1/3 of the nation's territory. Most of the criminal-derived money in the country comes nowadays from taxation and protection of the drug business. According to the Colombian Military, more than half both the FARC's fronts were involved in the collection of funds by the beginning of the 2000s decade, compared to 40% approx. of AUC fronts (Rebasa and Chalk, 1999).
The situation that was created in both scenarios required created a chaos in which the drug cartels, the cultivation syndicates and the terrorist organisations were the strongest actors. This makes it a very unstable environment for the peoples that lived in the territories under criminal/terrorist control. The tactics of law enforcement agents and government, in these cases, need to be carefully planned, so that multilateral counter-drug/counter-terrorist strategies can satisfactorily address threats existing at multiple dimensions. In the following section, the author will review some key aspects of the policies carried out by the US government in this domain.
The "War on Drugs" and the "War on Terror".
Since 9/11, policies considering both threats as being intertwined have become more and more popular. The separation of counter terrorism and counter-narcotics has faded significantly. Although in the Tashkent Conferences of 1999-2000 the necessary link between both was already mentioned, the milestone of cooperative policies is the Resolution 1373 of the UN Security Council (Björnehed, 2006). In it, emphasis is given to the close connection between terrorism and all kinds of organised crime, and therefore coordination at national, regional and global level is said to be necessary. War on drugs and war on terror should no longer be two separate plans of action.
The effectiveness of a policy that wishes to undermine the threat of illicit drug trade and terrorism is to a high degree dependent on successful intelligence gathering. Information about networks, suspects, shipments, projects, etc. benefits agencies fighting drug trafficking as well as those fighting terrorism, since the resources are most of the times shared. Narco-terrorism nexus is also present in legal acts, with the aim of blocking loopholes in law enforcement efforts. Examples are the Victory Act and the Patriot Act, passed in the US. Recognizing the natural link and cooperation between drug trade and terrorism leads to security analysts developing more holistic theories for policymakers to implement more accurate and useful measures.
However, there are many aspects in which illicit drug trade and terrorist activity differ, and so do the measures that should be taken against them. An example of a failure to understand this point can be found in Afghanistan, where the Taliban in 2000 set a ban on poppy cultivation which resulted in a strong increase of its price, this being a victory for traffickers since the trade did not stop. Another idea to have in mind is that strategies of a war on drugs differ greatly depending on the nature of the country: whether it is solely a consumer like the UK or a producer and consumer like Tajikistan. In regard to terrorism, the measures adopted to undermine it (diplomacy, foreign aid, democratization, etc.) may have minimal effect on the fight against drug trade.
Sometimes, the risk of unifying counter-policies is leaving some areas in which cooperation is not present unattended. Certain areas are suitable for a comprehensive approach such as intelligence gathering, law enforcement and security devices, while others such as drug rehabilitation are not mutually beneficial. Not distinguishing the different motivations and goals among organisations can lead to a failed homogenous policy.
Multilevel threats demand multilevel solutions
Terrorism has traditionally been considered a threat to national and international security, while illicit drug trade a threat to human security. This perception derives from the effects of drugs in a consumer country, although war on drugs policies are usually aimed at supplier ones. Although it was already constituting a threat to regional stability during the twentieth century, it was not considered a crucial political issue until 9/11 attacks, when the cooperative link between criminal and terrorist organisations became evident. An example of unequal attention paid to both threats can be found in US's Plan Colombia in 2000: one of the main advocators of the legislation stated that the primary focus was on counter-drug, so the United States would not engage with Colombian counterinsurgency efforts (Vaicius, Ingrid and Isacson, 2003).The same type of failure was also seen in Afghanistan but in the opposite way, when the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) completely neglected any action against drug traffickers, the trade or the production itself.
The merging of drug trafficking and terrorism as two overlapping threats have encouraged authorities to develop common policies of intelligence gathering and law enforcement. The similarities between organisations engaged in each activity are the main reason for this. However, the differences between them are also relevant, and should be taken into consideration for the counter policies to be accurate enough.
Evidence of a substantial link between terrorists and criminals has been proved all along our recent history. Around the world, leaders of mafias and terrorist commanders have oftentimes worked together when they felt that their objectives were close, if not similar. When cohabitating in the outlaw world, groups tend to offer each other help, usually in exchange for something. This is part of human behaviour. Added to the phenomenon of globalisation, lines tend to be blurred for international security authorities, and thus for the survival of organisations acting transnationally.
The consequences can be noticed especially in Latin America, and more specifically in organisations such as the FARC. We can no longer tell what are the specific objectives and the motivations that pushed youngsters to flee towards the mountains to learn to shoot and fabricate bombs. Is it a political aspiration? Or is it rather an economic necessity? The reason why we cannot answer this question without leaving aside a substantial part of the explanation is the evolution of the once terrorist organisation into a hybrid group that moves all along the crime-terror continuum.
The ideas of Makarenko, Björnehed and Steinitz have helped the international community in its duty to protect its societies. It cannot be expected for affected societies to live in peace if the competent authorities try to tackle its structural security issues only through the counter-terrorist approach or through the organised crime lens. The hybrid threats that the world is suffering in the twenty-first century demand hybrid solutions.
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France and Germany move closer to Poland as the third hard core country, rather than adding Italy or Spain.
Leaving aside criticism of Polish judicial reforms in recent years, Paris and Berlin are seeking a special cooperation Degree with Poland so that it does not act as the European gateway to Washington's influence that the UK used to be. For the French and Germans, Poland seems a more reliable partner than Italy and Spain, whose political instability complicates the elaboration of medium- and long-term security and defence strategies deadline.
Macron with the Polish President and Prime Minister during his visit in Warsaw in February 2020 [Elysée Palace].
article / Jokin de Carlos Sola
The European committee is perhaps the most important body in the EU. It is in charge of setting objectives, it sets the diary to the Parliament and the Commission. It is in this body that the states are represented as such and where issues such as the weight of each country's population and Economics take on particular importance.
France and Germany thus achieve their high profile on the European committee , where their ideological influence over other European governments also translates into unofficial leadership of the Union. Both countries have sought to establish a special cooperation Degree with Poland in order to gain influence over one of the countries with the next largest population and thereby reduce the presence of the United States in Europe. This three-way partnership is embodied in the Weimar Triangle.
On the other hand, Brexit has opened an unofficial degree program to find out who will be the third most influential country in the European Union. All this at a time when politicians such as Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen are calling for the strengthening of a common foreign policy. The Netherlands, under Mark Rutte, has sought such a position through alliances with ideologically like-minded countries in the so-called New Hanseatic League. However, Poland also seems to have supporters for the post. Two of the larger countries, Italy and Spain, seem to have fallen out of the degree program .
Recovering a forgotten idea
The Weimar Triangle was born in 1991, with the aim of helping Poland to emerge from communism. goal . In that year a meeting was held between the foreign ministers of the three countries: Roland Dumas, Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Krzysztof Skubiszewski. With this meeting, Poland managed to get France and Germany to give it special consideration among the European countries that had been on the other side of the Iron Curtain and were soon to join NATO and later the EU (Poland joined the Atlantic Alliance in 1999 and the EU in 2004).
Since then, representatives of the three governments have met relatively frequently. By 2016 there had been eight summits of heads of state, as well as 23 meetings of foreign ministers and two meetings of defence ministers. In 2013 the three countries decided to form a battalion under EU command (one of 18), under the name group Combat Weimar or Weimar Battalion, composed of officers and soldiers from the three countries.
Since 2015, however, relations began to cool as Poland's more Atlanticist and less tolerant Law and Justice party came to power. In 2016 Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski went so far as to declare that the Weimar Triangle was of no great importance to his country. In the same year there was an attempt to revive tripartite cooperation with a meeting of the three foreign ministers to address issues such as Brexit or the refugee crisis, but without much success.
Over the next three years, cooperation declined and there was French and German criticism of the Polish government. The replacement of Waszczykowski moderated the demonstrations in Warsaw, but relations were not as smooth as they had been at the beginning. Poland's unease towards Berlin was mainly due to the construction of Nord Stream 2 (the doubling of the gas pipeline directly linking Germany and Russia); the distrust of Paris was due to its apparent sympathy with Moscow. For its part, especially after Macron's arrival at the Elysée, France began to distrust Poland because of its close relationship with Washington.
From 2019 onwards, however, a new rapprochement began to emerge. France came to believe that it was better to keep Poland close and thus keep the US at arm's length, while Poland felt that it could actually make its proximity to France and Germany compatible with US military support to defend itself against Russia. In February 2020 Macron visited Warsaw and met with President Duda and Prime Minister Morawiecki to improve relations between the two countries and revive the Triangle idea.
Marginalisation of Spain and Italy
It may come as a surprise that Germany and France look to Poland rather than wanting to rely more on Italy or Spain, countries not only with larger populations but also larger economies. But the reasons are clear. Despite the divergences in foreign policy between France and Poland, it is undeniable that the Slavic country is able to offer something that neither Spain nor Italy can provide: stability. Since 2016, the two Mediterranean countries have been experiencing one domestic political crisis after another, forcing their governments to keep foreign policy issues on the back burner.
In Spain, no government has had an absolute majority in Parliament since 2015, and that is not likely to change. Between 2015 and 2019 there have been four general elections and two prime ministers. This status makes it difficult to pass laws, including the fundamental budget, without which no foreign policy compromise can be expected.
In Italy the beginning of the tornado began with the fall of Matteo Renzi at the end of 2016. Since then the country has seen two prime ministers and three governments. This may not be surprising in the Italian case, but certainly the perceived instability is now greater. Moreover, there is distrust from other European partners over Italy's dealings with China over the New Silk Road, something that is generally more worrying than Poland's flirtations with the US. In geopolitical terms, the possibility of a political crisis making Salvini, who has not been subtle in his admiration for Putin's Russia, prime minister is also a cause for concern.
In contrast, despite a change of prime minister and cabinet in 2018, Poland has shown a clear foreign policy line since Law and Justice came to power, as well as steady economic growth. After the victory in the 2019 elections, everything seems to indicate that Mateusz Morawiecki will remain prime minister until at least 2023. Such policy durability makes Poland a more attractive ally, despite tensions over Poland's controversial judicial reforms.
Moreover, coordination with Poland offers Paris and Berlin a way to further integrate the former Soviet bloc countries into EU decision-making.
However, the desire to create a cooperative body within the Weimar Triangle is a real challenge challenge, as each country represents, in one way or another, one of three of the foreign policy agendas that divide Europe.
At one end of the spectrum is French Gaullism, which advocates an independent Europe and is wary of a US presence in Europe, remembering that France already has a strong military. Paris abandoned this perspective for an Atlanticist one in 2007 under Sarkozy, but it has been regained by Macron. This means that Macron's rhetoric could lead to clashes with the Americans, while he also seeks to mark profile himself against Moscow and Beijing.
In the middle is German pragmatism: Germany does not want to increase conflict and prefers to focus on its Economics. On the one hand it is negotiating with the Russians to receive gas for its industrial activity, and on the other it wants US troops to remain on its territory, as their departure would force it to increase its security expense . In Europe's plans for recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, Germany has clearly been more absent, with Macron taking the lead.
Finally, we find Polish Atlanticism. Poland is perhaps the most Atlanticist country in the EU. Even under the Trump Administration there has been a high level of pro-Americanism among the population and the political class . The government has pushed for the hosting of a US base and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak has enthusiastically praised the role of the US as a defender of the free world. This is nothing new, as the 2003 invasion of Iraq was supported by Poland in the face of French and German rejection. Poland continues to see Russia as its greatest threat and the US and NATO as guarantors of protection.
The Triangle returns
Its geographical status explains Poland's position and it will not stop wanting NATO's instructions on its territory. However, it understands that it needs close allies with greater internal stability - hence its rapprochement with Germany and France - than that offered by the Trump Administration, whose international image is badly damaged, or a United Kingdom more occupied with managing Brexit than security issues.
On the other hand, Macron wants to avoid Poland replacing the UK as the representative of US policy in Europe, so he has changed his strategy to avoid alienating it by criticising its judicial reforms. Macron did not mention them in his visit to Warsaw in February this year and only encouraged 'respect for European values'. Somehow Macron understands that after Brexit he will need Poland to advance his European foreign policy plans, and that is why it is important to bring it to the conference room helm. Macron went so far as to say in Warsaw that Poland, Germany and France should lead the Union post-Brexit. He also announced the dispatch of 600 more men to Poland, which will bring the number of French soldiers in the country to 5,100.
At meeting, both leaders agreed to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, although the limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have slowed down some contacts, while also waiting for Economics to begin to recover. The newly inaugurated German presidency of committee , moreover, discourages Berlin from appearing overly aligned with a certain European vector. The Weimar Triangle may therefore hibernate temporarily; in any case, although this is a risky formula, if coordinated with the Parliament and the Commission, its consolidation could represent a step forward in European cohesion and governance.
[Bruno Maçães, History Has Begun. The Birth of a New America. Hurst and Co. London, 2020. 203 p.]
review / Emili J. Blasco
What if the United States were not in decline, but quite the opposite? The United States could actually be in its infancy as a great power. This is what Bruno Maçães argues in his new book, whose degree scroll -History Has Begun- In a certain sense, he refutes Fukuyama's end of history, which saw the democratisation of the world at the end of the 20th century as the culmination of the West. Precisely, the hypothesis of the Portuguese-born internationalist is that the US is developing its own original civilisation, separate from what until now has been understood as Western civilisation, in a world in which the very concept of the West is losing strength.
Maçães' work follows three lines of attention: the progressive separation of the US from Europe, the characteristics that identify the specific American civilisation, and the struggle between the US and China for the new world order. The author had already developed aspects of these themes in his two immediately preceding works, already reviewed here: The Dawn of Eurasia y Belt and RoadThe focus is now on the US. The three titles are basically a sequence: the progressive dissolution of the European peninsula into the Eurasian continent as a whole, the emergence of China as the superpower of this great continental mass, and Washington's remaining role on the planet.
As to whether the US is rising or not leave, Maçães writes in the book's introduction: "Conventional wisdom suggests that the United States has already reached its peak. But what if it is only now beginning to forge its own path forward? The volume is written before the coronavirus crisis and the deep unease in US society today, but even before that some signs of US domestic unrest, such as political polarisation or divergences over the direction of its foreign policy, were already evident. "The present moment in the history of the United States is both a moment of destruction and a moment of creation", says Maçães, who considers that the country is going through "convulsions" characteristic of this process of destructive creation. In his opinion, in any case, they are "the birth pangs of a new culture rather than the death throes of an old civilisation".
One might think that the United States is simply evolving towards a mixed culture as a result of globalisation, so that the influence of some European countries in shaping US society over the last few centuries is now being joined by Asian immigration. Indeed, by mid-century, immigrants from across the Pacific are expected to outnumber those arriving from Mexico and Central America, which, although steeped in indigenous cultures, largely follow the Western paradigm. Between the first European and the new Asian heritage, a 'hybrid Eurasian' culture could develop in the US.
Indeed, at one point in the book, Maçães asserts that the US is 'no longer a European nation', but 'in fundamental respects now seems more similar to countries like India or Russia or even the Republic of Iran'. However, he disagrees with this hybrid Eurasian perspective and argues instead for the development of a new, indigenous American society, separate from modern Western civilisation, rooted in new sentiments and thoughts.
In describing this different way of being, Maçães focuses on a few manifestations, from which he deduces deeper aspects. "Why do Americans speak so loudly?" he asks, referring to one such symptom. His theory is that American life emphasises its own artificiality as a way of reminding its participants that they are, at bottom, experiencing a story. "The American way of life is consciously about language, storytelling, plot and form, and is meant to draw attention to its status as fiction." An entire chapter, for example, is devoted to analysing the importance of television in the US. In the midst of these considerations, the reader might think that the reasoning has been drifting towards a cultural essay and out of the realm of International Office, but in the conclusion of the book the ends are conveniently tied up.
With that loose end out of the way, the book moves on to analyse the tug of war between Washington and Beijing. It recalls that since its rise as a world power around 1900, the US's permanent strategic goal has been to prevent a single power from controlling the whole of Eurasia. Previous threats in this regard were Germany and the USSR, and today it is China. employee Normally, Washington would resort to a balance of power, using Europe, Russia and India against China (using a game historically played by Britain for the goal to prevent a single country from controlling the European continent), but for the moment the US has focused on directly confronting China. Maçães sees the Trump administration's policy as confusing. "If the US wants to adopt a strategy of maximum pressure against Beijing, it needs to be clearer about the end game": is it to constrain Chinese economic power or to convert China to the West's model ?, he asks. He intuits that the ultimate goal is to "decouple" the Western world from China, creating two separate economic spheres.
Maçães believes that China will hardly manage to dominate the supercontinent, since "the unification of the whole of Eurasia under a single power is so far from inevitable that in fact it has never been achieved". In any case, he believes that, because of its interest as a superpower, the US may end up playing not so much the role of "great balancer" (given China's weight, it is difficult for any of its neighbours to exercise a counterweight) as that of "great creator" of the new order. "China must be trimmed down in size and other pieces must be accumulated, if a balance is to be the final product," he asserts.
It is here that the US character as a story and narrative builder finally comes back into the picture, with a somewhat flimsy argument. Maçães can see the US succeeding in this task of "great maker" if it treats its allies with autonomy. As in a novel, his role as narrator "is to bring all the characters together and preserve their own individual spheres"; "the narrator has learned not to impose a single truth on the whole, and at the same time no character will be allowed to replace him". "For the United States," Maçães concludes, "the age of nation-building is over. The age of world building has begun".
Pandemic reinforces value of production centres in the same sub-regions
Free trade zones in Central America and the Caribbean have been an important engine for the region's economies. Favoured by the increasing globalisation of recent decades, they could now be boosted by a phenomenon in the opposite direction: "glocalisation", the desirability of having production centres in the same sub-region, close to major markets, in order to avoid the problems in distant supply chains seen during this Covid-19 crisis that has affected transport and communications so much. The two leading Latin American free trade zone countries, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, offer affordable and sufficiently skilled labour at the doorstep of the United States.
One of the free trade zones of the Dominican Republic [CNZFE] ▲ One of the free trade zones of the Dominican Republic [CNZFE].
article / Paola Rosenberg
The so-called free trade zones, also known in some countries as free zones, are strategic areas within a national territory that have certain tax and customs benefits. In these zones, commercial and industrial activities are carried out under special export and import rules. It is a way of boosting investment and employment, as well as production and exports, thus achieving the economic development of a part of the country or of the country as a whole.
Free trade zones are important in Latin America, and in the case of the smaller economies they are the main production and export hubs. According to agreement with the association of Free Trade Zones of the Americas (AZFA), there are some 3,500 free trade zones in the world, of which 400 are in Latin America, representing 11.4% of the total. Within this region, they are particularly important in the countries of Central America and the rest of the Caribbean basin. They are particularly important in the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, as well as in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia and Uruguay (also in Puerto Rico).
These countries benefit from having abundant (especially trained in the Costa Rican case) and low-cost labour (especially in the Nicaraguan case), and this close to the United States. For manufacturers wishing to enter the US market, it may be interesting to invest in these free trade zones, taking advantage of tax benefits and labour conditions, while their production will be geographically very close to their destination.
The latter is gaining ground in a post-Covid-19 world. The trend towards sub-regionalisation, in the face of the fractured dynamics of globalisation, has been highlighted for other areas of the American continent, as in the case of the Andean Community, but it also makes a great deal of sense for greater integration between the United States and the Greater Caribbean. Insofar as the US moves towards a certain decoupling from China, the free trade zones of this geographic area may also become more relevant.
Reproduced from report graphic of the association Free Trade Zones of the Americas (AZFA), 2018
Export processing zones
Free zones can be export-oriented (external market), import substitution-oriented (internal market) or both. The former may have a high industrial component, either seeking diversification or relying on maquilas, or emphasising logistics services (in the case of Panama's free zones).
Free zones for exporting products have been particularly successful in the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. As the AZFA indicates, of the 31,208 million dollars exported from Latin American free zones in 2018, the first place went to the Dominican Republic, with 5,695 million, and the second to Costa Rica, with 4,729 million (the third place went to Puerto Rico, with 3,000 million). Exports from the Dominican Republic's free trade zones accounted for 56% of all exports from that country; in the case of Costa Rica it was 48% (third in the ranking was Nicaragua, with 44%).
The Dominican Republic is the country with the largest issue number of free zones (71 multi-company zones) and its 665 companies generated the largest number of direct jobs (165,724). Costa Rica has 48 free zones (in third position, after Nicaragua), and its 343 companies generated 93,496 direct work jobs (in fifth position).
In terms of the profitability for the country of this economic modality , for every dollar exempted between 2010 and 2015, Costa Rica's free trade zones generated an average of 6.2 dollars and those of the Dominican Republic 5 dollars (El Salvador ranked second with 6 dollars).
As regards Costa Rica specifically, a late 2019report by the Costa Rican foreign trade promotion agency, Procomer, put the contribution of free trade zones at 7.9% of GDP, generating a total of 172,602 jobs work, both direct and indirect, with an annual growth of issue jobs averaging 10% per year between 2014 and 2018. These areas account for 12% of the country's formal private sector employment . An important fact about the contribution to development of the local Economics is that 47% of the purchases made by firms located in free trade zones were from national companies. An important social dimension is that the zones contributed 508 million dollars to the Costa Rican Social Security Fund in 2018.
The Dominican Republic's free trade zone regime is particularly applauded by the World Bank, which describes the country as a pioneer in this subject instrument of productive and commercial promotion, presenting it as "the best known success story in the western hemisphere". agreement According to the statistics of the committee National Free Trade Zones Export Zones (CNZFE), these have contributed 3.3% of GDP in recent years, thereby contributing to the significant growth of the country's Economics in recent years (one of the highest fees in the region, with an average of over 6% until the onset of the current global crisis). The geographical proximity to the United States makes its free trade zones ideal for US companies (almost 40% of investment comes from the US) or for companies from other countries that want to export to the large North American market (34% of exports go to the US).