▲ U.S.-Mexico border at Anapra, outside Ciudad Juárez [Dicklyon].
ANALYSIS / Túlio Dias de Assis and Elena López-Doriga
With a vote of 152 countries in favor, five against and twelve abstentions (1), the United Nations General Assembly approved last December 19 the project resolution ratifying the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, agreement signed a few days earlier in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. This is the first international pact, under the auspices of the UN, aimed at addressing migration at the global level. While it is not a binding agreement , it is intended to reiterate important principles on the protection of the human rights of migrants in a universal and unified manner, as it is implemented by the UN General Assembly.
Despite the positive aspect of reaching a broad consensus, many countries abstained from voting or positioned themselves directly against the pact, generating uncertainty as to its effectiveness. Although the long-awaited signature was eventually carried out in Marrakech, in the end there were far fewer signatories than expected during the negotiations. Why this rejection by some countries? And the neutrality or indifference of others? Why the multiple debates that have taken place in various parliamentary chambers around the world in relation to the pact? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this analysis.
Before addressing the covenant itself, it is important to differentiate between the concepts of "migrant" and "refugee". A migrant is defined as a person who arrives in a country or region other than his or her place of origin to settle there temporarily or permanently, often for economic reasons and generally with the goal aim of improving his or her standard of living. While the concept of refugee makes reference letter to people fleeing armed conflict, violence or persecution and are therefore forced to leave their home country to ensure their own safety. The reasons for persecution can be of many different types: ethnic, religious, gender, sexual orientation, among others. In all of them, these causes have given rise to well-founded fears for their lives, which, after due process, make them "refugees" in the eyes of the international community.
It should be noted that this covenant deals only with the rights of migrants, since for refugees there is already the binding historical reference of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 amendmentprotocol , both signed and ratified by a large majority of UN member states. In addition, it should be mentioned that, simultaneously with the elaboration of the migration pact, a similar non-binding pact on refugee issues was also drawn up. This pact was supported by a large majority of States, with only two votes against (USA and Hungary) and three abstentions (Dominican Republic, Libya and Eritrea). Therefore, it could be concluded that at least in subject of refugees most countries do not seem to have any problem; as far as migrants are concerned, the opinion seems to change quite a lot.
The origins of the text date back to the 2016 New York Declaration on the Rights of Migrants and Refugees, which proposed the elaboration of both covenants - on the one hand the one concerning refugees, and on the other hand, the one on migration - as a further initiative of the implementation of the diary 2030. Since then, both documents were gradually elaborated until the text of the one that concerns us was finalized in July 2018.
The document, of a non-binding nature, consists of several parts. The first, commonly referred to as the "Chapeau", is simply a statement of shared values that all States in the international community are supposed to possess. It is followed by a list of 23 objectives, mainly at subject of international cooperation, largely through the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a subsidiary body of the United Nations. Finally, the text explains how the periodic review of the progress of the signatory States with regard to the 23 objectives is to be carried out.
The most controversial part throughout and after the negotiations is the Chapeau, especially for equating the rights of migrants and refugees. The document as a whole is also criticized for not clearly distinguishing the rights of regular migrants from those of irregular migrants. Finally, another highly controversial measure was the call for signatory countries to facilitate a greater issue of visas.
Other important points of the text attracted substantial support agreement, although they were not spared the criticism of the more conservative governments: among them the guarantee of good conditions and care for migrants in cases of deportation, the principle of non-refoulement applied to migrant deportations (the non-refoulement of migrants to conflict zones), the granting of social rights to migrants in the countries where they are, the creation of a better network of international cooperation in subject of migrants under the administration of the IOM, as well as the creation of measures to combat discrimination against migrants.
During the negotiations only two countries explicitly showed an aversion to treaty-making. Sharing the position of Orbán's Hungary was Trump's USA, which did not even bother to participate in the negotiations. The then US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, took a strong stand against the agreement. "The U.S. prides itself on its migratory origins, but it will be the Americans themselves who will decide how to control their borders and who can enter," Haley declared, emphasizing the U.S. interest in making its national sovereignty prevail. The US ended up not signing the document.
In addition to the reasons provided by the Trump Administration, the loss of IOM leadership by the US to Portugal's António Vitorino candidate - and thus the loss of control over the implementation of the pact - may also have played a role. Perhaps not so much in the primary decision not to participate in the negotiations of the pact, as in the final attitude of not signing it. Likewise, it is striking that several countries that at first seemed to support the pact ended up withdrawing, as in the case of Brazil after Jair Bolsonaro's inauguration, or not signing, such as Chile or the Dominican Republic, which had not initially opposed the proposal. This lack of adhesion would be justified, according to some of the negotiators, by the persuasion attempts of US diplomats, although this US effort does not seem to have been limited to the Latin American sphere. Similarly, it is worth mentioning that the decision of the Dominican delegation was also largely influenced by internal pressures from some groups in the legislature.
"Hungary could never accept such a partisan, biased and pro-migration document. Migration is a dangerous phenomenon". So began the speech of Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjaártó during the celebration of the end of the pact negotiations on July 13. Hungary, together with the USA, was one of the few countries that opposed the proposal from the beginning, but the Magyar representation, in contrast to the US, did take part in the negotiations. The fact that the Magyar representation took such a different position from the outset compared to the other EU member states meant that the seat assigned to the European diplomatic corps was empty during the entire negotiations.
However, Hungary was not the only European country to take such a radical position on agreement. It is worth noting that, once the negotiations were over, along with Hungary there were four other countries in the General Assembly opposed to the pact: Poland, the USA, the Czech Republic and Israel. In addition, twelve more abstained, including several EU members, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia and Romania, while Slovakia absented itself from the vote.
In several of these countries there was a bitter parliamentary discussion . In Belgium, which eventually accepted the text, Prime Minister Charles Michel lost his coalition government for having signed the pact, as the New Flemish Alliance, his main ally in the Executive, refused to ratify the document. In the Bundestag there was also some controversy caused by Alternative für Deutschland and some CDU members, although the adoption was finally approved after a vote in which a majority of 372 in favor, against 153 votes against and 141 abstentions, ended up approving the measure. In Latvia, the Riga parliament clearly rejected the agreement, as did the governments of Bulgaria, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Italy and Switzerland did not accept the pact at first, but the Executives of both states have referred the decision to their respective parliaments for final say. In the rest of Europe, the pact was accepted without major problems, despite the fact that in almost all national parliaments, far-right or right-wing conservative parliamentary groups raised objections.
China, Russia and others
The positions of other countries should also be highlighted. Australia was the first to withdraw its support for the pact after the negotiations; it justified its exit by stating that its current system of border protection is totally incompatible with some parts of the pact, a security invocation also used by Israel. China and Russia ended up signing the pact, but reiterated their refusal to comply with several of the objectives. Finally, practically all the countries of Africa and the Middle East supported the initiative, without raising any particular resistance, probably due to the fact that these are regions where the most significant migratory flows originate.
BAD FOR THE EU AND FOR THE UN
At final, the difficulty of a global migration pact lies in the concern with which many migrant-receiving countries view these movements of people. The reluctance of European countries is largely due to the migratory crisis in the Mediterranean, caused by the various conflicts in the Maghreb and the Middle East; in the case of the United States, it would be motivated by the migratory flows to its border with Mexico from Central and South America. In general, all the countries that resisted the adoption of agreement have in recent years been destination points for massive immigration, against which they have established strict border controls; in these societies the civil service examination to such an open-minded proposal as the one promoted by the United Nations, despite not being binding, has been seen as normal.
On the European scene, the different positions taken by the EU member states could be a bad sign for European integration, as once again the European External Action Service seems to have failed to create a common position for the EU. The fact that European representation was not present from the outset, due to Hungary's initial unwillingness to change its position, calls into question the common diplomatic service. Moreover, the initial common position that the other 27 EU states seemed to have, apart from the Magyar position, completely vanished at the end of the process, as several of them ended up dissociating themselves from agreement. This marked a clear division within the EU on migration, an issue on which there are already quite a few open debates in the European institutions.
In general, despite the large issue of signatory countries, taking into account all the civil service examination created and the political crises that occurred in some countries, the initiative on migration could be classified as of doubtful effectiveness, and in some aspects even as a failure on the part of the UN. It is evident that the United Nations seems to have lost some of its ability to promote its global diary , as it used to do until a decade ago. Probably ten years ago, the West would have unanimously accepted the migration proposals of University Secretary; today, however, there is a greater division among Western countries, as well as within their own societies, among which there is skepticism towards the organization itself.
After all, it is clear that among the countries that have opposed a global migration pact, a certain alignment against the idealistic approach is beginning to be noticed at International Office, while at the same time we see an enhancement of the attitude known as realist: just look at Trump's USA, Salvini's Italy, Orbán's Hungary, Bolsonaro's Brazil and Netanyahu's Israel, to cite the most emblematic cases.
In the future, the UN will probably have to adapt its projects to the new international political reality if it hopes to maintain its influence among its member states. Will the UN be able to adapt to this new wave of realist conservatism? Undoubtedly, interesting times await us for the next decade on the international scene...
(1) Against: Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Poland, United States. Abstaining: Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Chile, Italy, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Romania, Singapore and Switzerland.
▲ Buddhist sculpture 'Hands from Hell', from the Watrongkhun White Temple, Thailand [Pixabay].
COMMENTARY / María Martín Andrade
Human trafficking is a global phenomenon affecting the entire planet. However, with 11.7 million victims, Asia-Pacific is currently the main hub of operations for organized crime groups that trade in people. Thanks to favorable conditions - natural disasters and migrant and refugee crises, which have as result a large issue of displacement across the geography of South Asia - criminal groups are in the best status to operate.
Despite ASEAN's efforts to foster international cooperation among its member countries for an effective fight, regional differences and corruption often prevail over other factors. At other times, it is the governments themselves that benefit from migration flows by facilitating forced labor situations, thus contributing to the fact that Southeast Asia continues to have the highest numbers of victims of sexual and labor exploitation. Most migration in ASEAN countries is intra-regional, with Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand being the main destinations for migrants.
Focus on Thailand
In Thailand, 72% of immigration in 2010 was illegal, and is now estimated to exceed 1 million people, with the majority being from Myanmar and other neighboring countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. The explanation for why Thailand has become a major destination for migrants, and therefore a major playground for human trafficking organizations, lies in the combination of slow population growth, compared to other countries in the region, and a high economic development beginning to be experienced from the 1990s onwards. According to the ASEAN PostAccording to the ASEAN Post, Thailand has one of the fastest growing markets among ASEAN members, which has prompted the government to continue working on development its infrastructure, for which immigration is key.
At the beginning of the boom, Thailand recruited immigrants without having legislation to deal with the phenomenon, which resulted in their promoters taking advantage of the status to exploit those who arrived without knowledge of the language and Thai laws. It was not until the arrival of the government of businessman Thaksin Shinowatra that a registration system granting temporary permits was introduced. However, once their validity expired, many of these permits were not renewed, thus exposing thousands of workers to illegality and thus to sexual exploitation and other forced labor class in sectors such as agriculture, fishing, domestic services or industry.
On the other hand, the lack of legal regulation of recruitment agencies, to which the Thai government has not paid particular attention, has allowed these agencies to dispose of migrants at will without suffering any reprisals. status The weak legislation combined with minimal safety conditions for the victims, with only extreme physical abuse being punishable as a criminal offense, creates a situation of almost total helplessness for the exploited, who also feel unable to turn to the authorities for fear of being deported.
Human trafficking: challenges and international cooperation
Organized crime in Southeast Asia cannot be tackled without first confronting corruption in the countries themselves, as many officials benefit from facilitating the crossing of their borders by such organizations and illegal immigrants. In addition, the lack of information and intelligence analysis by the law enforcement agencies themselves, together with the difficulties offered by a complicated orography with vast forested and jungle areas that are very difficult to control, hinder investigations and cause the authorities to operate blindly.
With the intention of establishing a common legal basis, several countries in the region have signed the United Nations International Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, with the aim of eliminating legislative differences and providing a means of combating organized crime, goal . However, although Thailand has signed it, along with Singapore and Brunei, it has not yet ratified it. Other solutions have also been proposed by ASEAN, with the creation of Heads of Specialist Strategic Units, whose intention is to promote partnership and cooperation between countries, exchanging information. In addition, a Regional Support Office has been set up to establish guidelines for the prevention, arrest and protection of victims.
Despite the apparent interest of the international sphere, Asia-Pacific countries prefer to be governed by bilateral relations that allow them to be selective in the rules they choose to apply, and cooperation is not possible if the interests of each state are paramount. They will continue to be willing to sign agreements as long as they are not strictly bound by them because, as in the case of Thailand, the concern coming from outside is greater than that perceived domestically.
The fight against human trafficking in Asia-Pacific has a long way to go. The measures adopted cannot be effective if there is no firm intention on the part of the countries involved to put an end to this problem. Human trafficking is the profitability of a harm, a business from which certain dominant sectors benefit, so in order to achieve fruitful international cooperation, the South Asian states would have to perceive it as the scourge it is for their society.
Kranrattanasuit, N. (2014). ASEAN and Human Trafficking: Case Studies of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. International Studies in Human Rights, Volume:109, 4-104.
Henry, N. (2018). Asylum, Work, and Precarity: Bordering the Asia-Pacific. University of Warwick.
Sansó-Rubert, D. (2011). Transnational Organized Crime in Asia-Pacific: Implications for Regional and International Security. University of Santiago de Compostela-CESEDEN, 159-189.
Disputed ethnicity, British colonial-era grievances and fear of a 'fifth columnist' minority
The humanitarian crisis suffered in Myanmar by the Muslim minority Rohingyas also raises strategic issues. With the country surrounded by Islamic populations, certain ruling groups, especially Buddhist elements, fear that the Rohingyas, who are declared foreigners despite having been on their territory for generations, will act as fifth columnists. Fear of jihadist contamination is also invoked by a government that has not respected the human rights of this minority.
▲ Rohingya refugees [Tasnim News Agency/CC].
article / Alexia Cosmello Guisande
In August 2017, what was known as "the great exodus of the Rohingyas" took place in Myanmar; a year later, in 2018, the humanitarian catastrophe taking place in that country reappeared on the front pages of international newspapers. The international community, automatically, came out in favor of the Rohingya minority group . The media talked about the problem, and continue to do so, using populist language, trying to seek the emotion of the public.
The Rohingya story is little known to the public, who are generally unaware of the origin of the conflict and the Burmese government's motives. Currently, the Rohingyas are considered by the UN as "one of the most persecuted minorities in the world". In order to understand the core of the current problem, it is of great importance to make a brief analysis of the history of Myanmar, of the Rohingyas and of the relations between this minority and the country that hosts them.
The current state of Myanmar is a real mosaic of ethnicities, languages, religions and insurgent movements. There are 135 different ethnic groups recognized, but approximately 90% of the population is of Buddhist religion, so that the remaining denominations are considered as minorities in the country . Specifically, the Rohingyas are of Muslim religion and more than half of the community is concentrated in the Rakhine or Arakan region, one of the poorest in the country. Here the population is roughly divided between: 59.7% Buddhists, 35.6% Muslims and the remaining 4.7% other religions.
The Muslims of Rakhine are divided into two groups, on the one hand, the Kaman, who despite being of another confession, share customs with the Buddhist population and are recognized and guaranteed citizenship in Myanmar by the Government. On the other hand, the Rohingyas, who are a mixture of different ethnic groups such as Arabs, Mughals and Bengalis. This second group, group , has no recognized nationality or citizenship in the State, since, despite the fact that its members have been in the country for generations, they are still considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
It was between 1974, when the Emergency Immigration Law was issued, and 1982, when the Citizenship Law was passed during the dictatorial period of General Ne Win, that the Rohingyas were declared by law illegal immigrants without the right to citizenship in Myanmar. This law, together with the Government's refusal to separate them into identities, is one of the reasons why the conflict between the authorities and the Rohingyas began. To the conflict must be added the involvement of the military, which tends to instigate confrontation in the region between different ethnic groups.
Because they are stateless, which is in itself a violation of human rights, they lack recognition of other basic rights such as access to work, Education or health care, as well as freedom of movement within their own country. The conflict with this minority community goes beyond religion, as it also affects the political-economic aspects of group. They are being culturally discriminated against, economically exploited and politically marginalized.
Rakhine region on the coast of Myanmar, adjacent to Bangladesh.
To understand the Myanmar government's arguments for denying them citizenship, one must understand the history of the community. In itself, their origin is unclear, which makes their status more complex and controversial. They themselves claim to be indigenous people originally from the region they now inhabit, Rakhine. History does not contradict this, but neither does it confirm it; there is historical evidence that they have been living there for generations. On the one hand, a version of their origin, collected by historian Jasmine Chia, dates the first Muslim settlements in Arakan (former name of Rakhine) during the seventh century; these settlers continued to live in the region until the ninth century, but it was not until the fifteenth century when they settled definitively and formed a community. Versions of local historians contradict the previous version and date the first Rohingya settlements in the nineteenth century when the place was under the colonization of the British Empire, along with India and Bangladesh, so they argue that they were actually settled in Chittagong and with the transit of people and internal exodus migrated to Rakhine. Finally, French historian Jacques P. Leider states that the first time the term "Rohingya" was used was by a British doctor in the 18th century, so even though they were not yet settled in the area at that time, the ethnic group already existed.
The Second World War is considered to be the origin of the current problem. Japan wanted to invade Burma, so the British Empire decided to arm the Rohingyas to fight against the Japanese. But the group used the weapons given by the authorities, as well as the techniques learned, to defend the country against them. They burned lands and temples of other ethnic groups, mainly Buddhists. In 1944 they pushed the Japanese back, for which the British, who were still in control of the area, praised them .
In 1948 Burma gained independence from the British Empire, which gave several minorities representing 40% of today's Myanmar the opportunity to arm themselves and rebel against the new political system. Even today parts of the country are still controlled by these groups. Prior to independence, the country's Muslims formed the Muslim Liberation Organization (MLO), which after 1948 was renamed the Mujahid Party. This group is on the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) list of terrorist groups. The Government allowed the removal from the country's terrorist list of those groups that had signed a ceasefire with the State. This implies that the Government allows their free development and investment in these areas in need after years of isolation. In other words, these groups can now move freely around the country and participate in politics. This is not the case of the Rohingyas, who are still considered a group of foreigners and a vehicle for the expansion of jihad, from agreement with the point of view of the Myanmar Government and the Buddhists. In the recent period, the Islamic State has been expanding the Islamic religion narrative internationally, for this reason Buddhist monks (Ashin Wirathu) have called Islam a religion that directly threatens the Myanmar state and warn that it is through the Muslim minority that such violent ideas can more easily permeate the country due to the contact of elements of that minority with international terrorist groups.
The Burmese government justifies its actions against the Rohingyas on the grounds that the conflict between the two religions since the period of British colonization may lead to further conflicts. On the other hand, there is fear on the part of the Government, Buddhists and other minorities towards the Rohingyas because of their organizations such as the Arakan Rohingha National Organization or the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, which have an almost direct connection with leaders and/or members of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
Buddhists view with concern the rapid population growth of Muslims, which will possibly lead in the not too distant future to Muslims being in a position to outnumber the Buddhist community at issue , thus ceasing to be a minority. Linked to this fear is the fact that the country is surrounded by nations of Muslim religion, and according to Buddhists, if there were an unexpected invasion of Myanmar by some of these countries, the Rohingyas would fight in favor of the invaders, as they do not feel part of the country .
While this fear on the part of Buddhists and the government itself is understandable, the human rights violations, some of which have led to real humanitarian crises, are not justifiable. In fact, behind the anti-Rohingya attitude, beyond the arguments officially invoked before the international community, there seems to be a historical resentment towards this minority for the burning of temples and land during the colonial era and a fear of open confrontation.
Clearly, a country's history marks its present and its future, and those events of decades ago explain part of what is happening in Myanmar today. While past grievances cannot be forgotten, dragging the desire for revenge from generation to generation is the best recipe for failure as a society or even tragedy. The abused Rohingya children are growing up hating the country in which they reside, which is counterproductive to the government's objectives and feeds back into the fear of one to the reaction of the other.
 FARZANA, Kazi Fahmida. Memories of Burmese Rohingya Refugees: Contested Identity and Belonging. "Introduction" (p. 1-40).
 ROGERS, Benedict. Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads. Rider Books, 2015
 FARZANA, K. F. op. cit. "The Refugee Problem from an Official Account" (p. 59-86).
ANALYSIS / Nerea Álvarez
Relations between Japan and Korea are not easy. The Japanese annexation of the peninsula in 1910 is still very much present in the Korean report . For its part, Japan has a distorted sense of history, the result of having assumed its guilt in the war in a forced way, forced by the punishment suffered in World War II and the US occupation, and not as a consequence of a process of voluntary assumption of responsibility. All this has led Japan to resist revising its history, especially that of its imperialist era.
One element core topic that hinders a sincere reconciliation between Japan and the neighboring countries that were invaded by the Japanese in the first half of the 20th century are the comfort women. This group of women, coming from China, the Philippines, Myanmar, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Korea (about 80% came from the latter country), are a consequence of Japan's expansion beginning in 1910. During this period, Japanese soldiers took approximately 70,000 to 200,000 women to comfort stations where they were sexually abused. These stations continued to operate in Japan until the late 1940s. According to the testimonies of the surviving women, Japanese soldiers took them away in various ways: kidnapping, deception and extortion are just a few examples.
According to the testimony of Kim Bok-Dong, one of the surviving women, the Japanese soldiers claimed that they had to take her to work in a uniform factory because they did not have enough staff. She was 14 years old at the time. The soldiers promised her mother to return her when she was old enough to marry, and threatened the whole family with exile if her parents did not allow her to leave. She was transported by ferry from Busan to Shimonoseki (Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan), along with thirty other women. They then took another boat to Taiwan and then to Guangdong province. There they were met by officials, who escorted them into a building where doctors were waiting for them. They examined their bodies and escorted them to their rooms. The women were repeatedly assaulted and raped. After several weeks, many contemplated suicide: "We were much better off dead" (Kim Bok-Dong, 2018). Many died due to the conditions they were subjected to, from disease, killed by Japanese soldiers in the last years of the war, or, if they had the opportunity, by committing suicide. It is estimated that about a quarter to a third of the women survived.
After the war and despite the facts being known, this dramatic past was relegated to history, without the necessary attention being paid to it. South Korea was not prepared to help these women (and North Korea had gone into absolute isolation). During the 1960s, relations between the ROK and Japan worsened due to the anti-Japanese policies of South Korean political leaders. In 1965, Tokyo and Seoul signed the Normalization Treaty, but it became clear that economic issues were the priority. Bridges of cooperation were built between the two countries, but the emotional conflict prevented and continues to prevent further relations in fields other than economics. Japan continues to claim that the Treaty of Normalization contains the arguments to rule out that these women have the right of standing before international tribunals, even though the text does not mention them.
Things began to change in the 1970s, when the Asian Women's association was formed in Japan, which began to shed light on this aspect of recent history. At first, even the Korean government ignored the problem. The main reason was the lack of evidence that the events had occurred, as the Japanese government had ordered the destruction of the compromising documents in 1945. In addition, Japan prevented the South Korean government from claiming additional reparations for damages incurred during the colonial period based on the 1965 treaty.
Southeast Asian culture played an important role in concealing the events that took place. The value of keeping up appearances in the oriental culture took precedence over denouncing situations such as those experienced by these women, who had to remain silent for decades in order not to be repudiated by their families.
When the Republic of Korea became democratic in 1987, the South Korean government began to attach importance to this issue. In 1990, President Roh Tae Woo asked the Japanese government for a list of the women's names, but the response from Tokyo was that the information did not exist because the documents had been destroyed. Socialist leader Motooka Shoji, a member of the Upper House of Japan's per diem expenses , called for an investigation, but Parliament claimed that the problem had already been resolved by the 1965 Normalization Treaty. In 1991, Kim Hak-Sun, one of the women who survived sexual exploitation, filed the first lawsuit and became the first victim to speak out about her experience. This marked the beginning of the struggle of a group of more than fifty Korean women who demanded an acknowledgement of the facts and an official apology from the Japanese government. Since January 8, 1992, "every Wednesday at 12 noon, the victims together with members of committee Korean and other social groups march in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. The march consists of raising posters demanding justice and forgiveness and expressing their grievances in public".
The Tokyo government denied any involvement in the establishment, recruitment and structuring of the comfort women system from the beginning. However, an apology had to be issued in 1992 from the Cabinet's administrative office , although it was vague and too generic, addressed to all women for acts committed during the war. It was not until that year that the Japanese Government acknowledged its involvement in the administration and supervision of these stations. The UNHRC then determined that the Japanese government's actions represented a crime against humanity that violated the human rights of Asian women.
In 1993, Japan admitted to having coercively recruited Korean women. Coercion was the word core topic to disprove previous statements that these women were engaged in prostitution voluntarily. Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono stated that "the Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations, and in the transfer of comfort women .... who, in many cases, were recruited against their own will." The Government of Japan offered its apology, regretting what had happened, but there was no compensation to the victims. In 1994, the International Commission of Jurists recommended that Japan pay $40,000 to each survivor. The Government wanted to structure a plan to pay the women with non-governmental funds, but the Korean committee for women abducted by Japan as sex slaves, founded in 1990 and composed of 37 institutions, did not allow it.
In 1995, Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi set up instructions of the Asian Women's Fund, which would serve to protect women's rights in Japan and around the world. In international eyes, this organization was seen as an excuse to escape the required legal responsibilities, since public money was raised, making the government's involvement almost imperceptible. In addition, a growing minority opinion of citizens sympathetic to the Japanese right-wing began to make itself heard, calling comfort women 'prostitutes', who did not need to be compensated in any way.
However, monetary compensation is one of the issues that has mattered least to this group of women. Their priority first and foremost is to restore their dignity. That the Japanese government has not become directly involved and does not silence opinions such as those of the right-wing minority is probably what affects them most. Above all, these women are fighting for Tokyo to publicly acknowledge the facts and offer an official apology for what happened.
The UN has continued to take on the role of mediator over the years. We find in several documents belonging to the UNHRC statements urging Japan to resolve the problem. In a document reviewing the organization' s first complaint (February 2, 1996) at committee on Human Rights, we find Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's response: "the issue of reparations was settled by peace treaties and the government will never pay compensation to the victims.
In the document in question, comfort stations are classified as military slavery. Japan responded by denying any subject legal liability, given the inability to retroactively apply international law at the time, the vagueness of the definition of comfort stations, the non-existence of anti-slavery laws during World War II, and the failure of international law to prohibit violations in situations of international conflict. In addition, he argued that the laws existing during the war could only apply to conduct committed by the Japanese military against citizens of a belligerent state, but not against citizens of Korea, since Korea was annexed and was part of Japanese territory.
In 1998, American attorney Gay J. McDougall submitted to the UNHRC a document concluding that the actions taken by the Japanese Armed Forces were crimes against humanity. Later that year, the UN adopted the text and changed the previous definition to rape stations.
Bronze statue of a "comfort woman" in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul [Wikipedia].
Understanding that does not come
Over the years, the problem has only grown and Japanese policy has moved away from a possible path of improving diplomatic relations with its neighbors. This problem of revising history is the basis of the political movements we have seen in Japan since 1945. The reforms imposed by the U.S. occupation and the Tokyo courts played a major role, as did the San Francisco Treaty, signed in 1948. All this has established in the Japanese population a passive acceptance of past history and its responsibilities.
Having been judged in the 1948 courts, the responsibility and guilt that the Japanese bore was believed to have been absolved. On the other hand, the US occupation of the archipelago, taking military control, affected the pride of the citizens. The transformation of the Economics, politics, defense and, above all, the Education also had its repercussions. Since Japan's democratic beginnings, policy has focused on passive defense, an anti-nationalist Education and foreign relations aligned with the interests of American power.
However, following the election of Shinzo Abe, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), as Prime Minister in 2012, numerous changes have been introduced in the country's foreign and domestic policy, with reforms in fields ranging from Economics to Education and defense. Regarding the latter, Abe has focused largely on reintroducing military force in Japan through an amendment to article 9 of the 1945 Constitution. This shift is due to the party's own ideology, which wants to give Japan a greater weight in international politics. One of the points core topic in his government is precisely the position towards the controversial topic of comfort women.
In 2015, Shinzo Abe and the President of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye, signed a treaty setting out three goals to be achieved: Japan's official apology, the donation of one billion yen to a South Korean foundation for the benefit of these women, and the removal of the statue in memory of the comfort women erected in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. This treaty was the greatest achievement in the long process of the conflict, and was received as the solution to so many years of dispute. The first two objectives were achieved, but the controversial statue was not removed from its place. The arrival of President Moon Jae-in in 2017 complicated the full implementation of agreement. That year, Moon openly criticized the treaty as sidelining the victims and the Korean people in general. His presidency has varied certain of South Korea's strategic approaches and it is unknown exactly what he wants to achieve with Japan.
What can be concluded is that delaying the solution is not beneficial to either side. Leaving the problem open-ended is frustrating all countries involved, especially Japan. A case in point is the recent breakdown of brotherhood between the cities of San Francisco and Osaka in 2018 due to a statue in the U.S. town depicting victims of this conflict. It features three girls, a Chinese girl, a Korean girl and a Filipino girl, holding hands. Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura and his predecessor, Toru Hashimoto, had written letters to their twin city since the resolution to build the memorial was drafted. Also, within the LDP itself, Yoshitaka Sakurada, called this group of women 'prostitutes' in 2016; shortly after establishing the 2015 treaty on this topic. That has provoked a negative response to the treaty, as it is believed that Japan does not actually seek reconciliation, but to forget the topic without accepting the responsibility that comes with it.
The problem lies in how these countries deal with the dispute. The Republic of Korea, under President Moon, seeks to heal past wounds with new agreements, but Japan only aims to close the issue as soon as possible. Renegotiating a treaty is not the best option for Japan: even if it seeks the best solution for both sides, it would lose out. Should President Moon succeed in reaching a new agreement with Prime Minister Abe to solve the problems of the previous treaty, it would prove that the previous negotiations and the measures taken by Japan in 2015 have failed.
No matter how many apologies the Government of Japan has issued over the years, it has never accepted legal responsibility for its actions regarding comfort women. Until this happens, future scenarios where the discussion is settled cannot be projected. President Moon will renegotiate the treaty with Japan, but the chances of it working out are slim. All indications are that Japan has no intention of renegotiating the treaty or becoming position legally. If they do not reach a solution, relations between the two countries may deteriorate due to the emotional burden of the issue.
The root of the tensions lies in the historical past and its acceptance. Both Moon Jae-in and Shinzo Abe must reevaluate the status with critical eyes in relation to their own countries. Japan must begin to engage with past actions and the ROK must maintain a steady position and decide what its priorities are regarding comfort women. Only this can allow them to move forward in the search for the best treaty for both.
[Josep Piqué. The world that is coming. Challenges, challenges and expectations of the 21st century: a post-western world with western values? Deusto. Barcelona, 2018. 254 pp]
review / Ignacio Yárnoz
Europe may lose relative economic weight or, even worse, demographic weight and competitiveness, jeopardizing the sustainability of its welfare state. It may become less and less relevant on the global geopolitical stage and move away from the planet's new center of gravity. However, it remains an undisputed pole of attraction for the rest of humanity due to its peace, democracy, freedom, gender equality and opportunities, tolerance and respect. This is what the author Josep Piqué wishes to convey in El mundo que nos viene. We are talking about an economist, businessman and political leader - head of several ministries, including Foreign Affairs, during the government of José María Aznar - who has experienced firsthand the transition from a Eurocentric world to one that looks more to a thriving Asia.
The book is a good geopolitical analysis of the world, highlighting a fragmented European Union, a very strong China, a Russia nostalgic for its imperial past, a Middle East divided in wars between irreconcilable factions and an Anglo-Saxon world withdrawn into itself. Divided into different chapters depending on the geographical area , the book analyzes in depth each and every one of the topics.
First of all, the author emphasizes the status that the Anglo-Saxon world is experiencing, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, countries that have renounced their world hegemony for the sake of a retreat into themselves. In the case of the United Kingdom we speak of the divorce with the European Union and in the case of the United States we speak of the policies of President Donald Trump, such as the withdrawal of the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) with Japan, Chile, Canada, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Mexico, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. Paradoxically, in the face of the attitude of these two actors, there is the rise as a power of a China that no longer conceals its actions, that no longer wants to be the silent power that Deng Xiaoping formulated.
Russia and its actions abroad are also analyzed from different perspectives, but mainly taking into account Russia's obsession with its security. As the author argues, it is a state that is very sensitive to its borders and tries to keep the enemy poles as far away as possible, which implies a policy of influence on the states adjacent to its border. This explains its reactions to the change of side of the Eastern European countries and their gradual incorporation into the European Union or NATO. Nor can we forget the gas topic , the implications of the melting of the Arctic ice, the oil fields in the Caspian Sea or other issues that the author reviews.
If we look at the situation in the Middle East, the status does not seem to be leading to a lasting peace. Neither in the panorama of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, nor in the different proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia, without forgetting the failure of the different Arab Springs. This status leads the author to analyze in historical perspective how all this has happened. On the other hand, he analyzes the complexity of the different cross interests between Turkey, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran that complete the chessboard that represents the Middle East.
Finally, we should not forget the chapter that Josep Piqué reservation for his main thesis formulated at the beginning of this article: the future of the European Union. As he himself points out, Europe represents the neo-Western synthesis in a post-Western world. However, it must realize this potential and benefit from it. As Piqué argues, the attractiveness of the European Union both as an integrator project and for the liberal and democratic values it represents should be a card that the EU should play more in its favor. However, it also faces challenges such as the rise of nationalism and anti-Europeanism, Russian interference in internal affairs or the lack of credibility of European institutions. All this in the framework of the strong economic recession of 2007 that the author also analyzes as a good economist of degree program. Finally, we should not forget some final notes dedicated to the implications of new technologies, Latin America and the opportunities that Spain has.
All this together represents a complete journey through the world of geostrategy - in the review of the regions of the planet only a accredited specialization to Africa is missing -, in which all the keys that a person with an interest in the International Office should take into account when analyzing the current situation are detailed.
Geopolitical misgivings about perceived foreign interests should not distract beneficiary countries from implementing sustainable use.
The Guaraní Aquifer has given rise to more political than scientific literature in South America, denouncing the supposed interest of great powers (formerly the United States, now China) in taking away the water that naturally belongs to the countries of the region. These crusades often distract from a more indisputable fact: the risk comes not so much from outside as from uncontrolled practices and the lack of clear legislation in the aquifer countries themselves. This article reviews the results of some recent programs of study on the characteristics and state of the Guaraní Aquifer.
▲ source: UC Irvine/NASA/JPL-Caltech
article / Albert Vidal
About one third of the large groundwater aquifers are at a critical status . Current technology does not allow us to predict exactly how much water we have left on the planet, and precisely because of this uncertainty, accelerated groundwater extraction is too great a risk and not worth taking.
The map above shows the 37 largest aquifers in the world, which have been studied by a NASA satellitemission statement known as the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). This mission statement has attempted to measure the water levels in the aquifers, in order to check the water stress to which they are subjected, as well as their level of renewal. Of these, there are 21 whose extraction is not sustainable, and they are losing water very rapidly. Among these, there are 13 whose status is particularly critical (darkest red), and threatens regional water security. There are 16 other aquifers that enjoy sufficient recharge to not lose water or even gain water; these are marked in blue.
This NASA research , the results of which are analysed in a study by Water Resources Research, divides aquifer water stress into 4 different types, from highest to lowest intensity: extreme stress, variable stress, human-dominated variable stress and no stress. Let us now look at another map, taken from this study, which shows sample the spatial distribution of groundwater abstraction in the world:
source: Water Resouces Research
The colour of the dots indicates the intensity of abstraction, measured in millimetres per year. Thus, this statistic sample is the sum of withdrawals for industrial, agricultural and domestic use. At first glance, it can be seen that the countries that suffer the most accelerated extraction are India, Pakistan, China, Egypt and the United States. In the case of the Guarani Aquifer, the extraction points are located in Paraguayan territory and near Sao Paulo, with an extraction of between 0 and 5 millimetres per year.
financial aid The research has produced other maps that can be useful for a deeper understanding of the problem. In this case, the following map sample gives an average of the annual recharge of aquifers in the world.
source: Water Resouces Research
The yellow colour represents negative recharge, i.e. systems that are losing water. The blue colour, on the other hand, marks those aquifers that have a positive recharge (the more intense the blue colour, the greater the recharge). The Guaraní aquifer, in particular, has a recharge of 225 millimetres per year.
Finally, we will look at two maps referring to the water stress of aquifers.
source: Water Resouces Research
The countries listed above (a) suffer from extreme water stress, i.e. natural recharge is negative, and there is intense human use. This particularly affects the African continent, the United States, the Middle East and the heart of Asia.
Here we show (b) those aquifers with a variable stress level. This means that they have a positive natural recharge, but at the same time there is human use that could be detrimental. The Guaraní Aquifer falls into the latter category group.
The Guarani Aquifer
Making reference letter to a famous phrase from one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech - "with great power comes great responsibility" - we can say that the countries that enjoy access to the Guarani Aquifer System (GAS) must assume the responsibility that comes with having been endowed with this important natural resource . They know that these riches often bring competition, unrest and even problems such as internal instability and tensions between some large companies and governments.
The SAG is a transboundary aquifer that extends below the surface across 1.2 million km2 between Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. According to the most recent research, it is the third largest groundwater aquifer in the world reservationin terms of surface area, and contains about 45,000 km3. Low recharge capacity is the most common problem in our planet's aquifers, as it is often not enough to cover the amount extracted, thus jeopardising their sustainable use. This system is particularly important because of its very high renewal capacity (between 160 and 250 km3 per year), which takes place thanks to the abundant rainfall that feeds it.
Challenges posed by
Let us begin, then, with a brief historical contextualisation. There have been several moments that will help us understand the current state of interests and challenges surrounding the SAG. In 1969, the La Plata Basin Treaty was signed, to carry out a series of programs of study on the hydrological basin of La Plata (which includes the Guarani Aquifer). Three decades later, in 2001, the agreement framework on the Environment of Mercosur was ratified, which highlighted the importance of the environment and proposed the creation of a legal framework to conserve it. Between 2003 and 2009, the project for the Environmental Protection and Sustainable development of the Guarani Aquifer System(PSAG) was developed thanks to the impulse of the four countries of the Rio de la Plata basin, to prepare a framework of management of the SAG with criteria of environmental sustainability (and to anticipate future problems). Finally, in 2010, the Treaty of San Juan was signed; a much broader treaty of cooperation, but not ratified by all states parties. Also known as agreement of the Guarani Aquifer, it was influenced by many supranational bodies and transnational companies. So where are the problems?
sourceOwn elaboration from various sources programs of study
First of all, Argentina and Uruguay ratified the Guaraní Aquifer agreement in 2012, which provided for a series of restrictions on water extraction in order to manage the aquifer's resources in a more sustainable way. What happened is that neither Brazil nor Paraguay ratified it at the time, and their signatures are necessary for the agreement to enter into force. Surprisingly, Paraguay stepped forward in 2018 and ratified the agreement, showing signs of wanting more cooperation. Brazil depends heavily on the water extracted from the SAG (especially its southern provinces), so it wants to renegotiate the agreement of the Guarani Aquifer, in order to obtain more favourable conditions.
Of course, Brazil is not alone in having problems with the current status . Paraguay, for example, did not ratify the agreement until 2018, alleging a violation of national sovereignty (something totally understandable, if we take into account that Paraguay owns the area aquifer recharge with the largest extension). As an example of all this, Miguel Giraut, from Argentina's Ministry of Mines and Energy, commented in 2016 that coordination was non-existent.
In addition to these regional tensions, there are other subject problems related to interference from outside powers, international organisations and transnational corporations. Again, a reservation such as the SAG is particularly attractive to companies and some countries that need to secure their water supply. However, these dangers are relatively innocuous compared to others that could lead to aquifer contamination or irreversible change in the ecosystem.
If we approach this question with some realism, intentional contamination of the aquifer (by chemical attack, for example) is unlikely to occur, as it would not be in anyone's interest. Certainly, there is a danger of accidental contamination by spillage of toxic substances from agriculture. In Brazil, in particular, there is a lot of agribusiness being developed over the aquifer (especially for soybean cultivation). It so happens that pesticides, residues and agro-toxins can also enter through the same cracks through which the water that recharges the aquifer passes. In addition, the recent introduction of hydraulic fracturing techniques (known as fracking) is another potential source of contamination.
Another possible risk comes from accelerated extraction by transnational companies or governments themselves, which would exceed the level of recharge and produce irreversible changes in the ecosystem. Deforestation brings another risk factor: water infiltration capacity is reduced when trees are felled, and the soil is exposed to erosion and pollutants as it loses nutrients (especially in recharge areas). Population pressure and economic growth add further variables to the uncertain future.
Uncertain but hopeful future
In sum, while these challenges may evolve negatively, there are many reasons to be hopeful. After all, the water in the aquifer is highly prized for its medicinal purposes, its usefulness for the coffee industry and its use in geothermal energy production. That is why the owners of this precious resource are primarily interested in conserving and managing it in a sustainable manner, and they are fully aware that cooperation is crucial to this end.
Moreover, the SAG could increase the geopolitical and geo-economic importance of the region, which until now has been considered a peripheral region on the international stage. It is obvious that water is gaining importance as a natural resource given its scarcity and growing demand. Although the region is unlikely to become a major player, given its geographical location and integration difficulties, it could provide an opportunity for the four Southern Cone countries to take leading positions in areas related to the sustainable extraction and fair distribution of water in the future. To seize this opportunity, it is necessary to adopt exemplary attitudes right now. If this happens, not only will they be seen as exemplary countries, but they will surely attract investment in new and more efficient extraction methods. development All of this will also boost the socio-economic development of the population living above the aquifer, which, if it can be maintained, will mark the future of South America.
COMMENT / Naiara Goñi
The dazzle of a few years ago by the enormous possibilities of big data, when the mainstream media echoed its extreme usefulness for the provision of services in a democratic society, provided it was in good hands, has given way in a short time to a generalized pessimism, fueled by the increase in cyber-attacks on companies and States and a greater threat to the privacy and freedoms of citizens.
In 2010, The Economist magazine published a special feature graduate "Data, data everywhere" welcoming the era of a new revolution, this time not based on steam or chip, but on data. "The effect is being felt everywhere, from business to science, from governments to the arts. Scientists and computer engineers have coined a new term for the phenomenon: 'big data'."
The dangers to privacy and freedoms posed by the storage of huge amounts of information on each individual in a society had already been pointed out, but at that time the possibilities that were opening up weighed more heavily. In the field of cybersecurity, which has had a parallel development to that of big data, with which it is closely related, Henry Kissinger already warned at that time of optimism that the future would not be placid.
In his book World Order (2014)1, the experienced American politician and diplomat pointed to the risk that the development of this new technology posed to international stability. Although he was not the only voice to be raised early on this issue, Kissinger's authority in the field of diplomacy allows us to use him here as reference letter. If Zhou Enlai said that diplomacy is a war continued by other means, today we can say the same about cyberwarfare.
In the chapter graduate "Technology, Balance and Human Consciousness", Kissinger notes that the backbone of the concept of cybersecurity is technology. He emphasizes the fact that in the past, cyber was an element that could not be controlled in its entirety, and therefore became an adjunct in war situations. Today, however, it has become a factor to be taken into account, thus altering the capabilities of the actors involved in the world order. Kissinger states that greater or lesser world stability will depend on who develops this technology and for what purposes.
It is therefore appropriate to inquire about the theoretical and ethical limits concerning this technological development . In fact, Kissinger affirms that "the penetration of communications in network in the social, financial, industrial and military sectors (...) anticipating most rules and regulations (...) has created that state of nature with which the philosophers speculated".
Kissinger takes a closer look at the notion of cybersecurity, mentioning that the technological revolution has brought about two different types of response. On the one hand, democratic countries allow this revolution. On the other hand, countries with totalitarian regimes tend to dominate or impose themselves on it.
Although, as has been said, access to data was welcomed with optimism, Kissinger's words are somewhat alarming and cause for concern, which has only recently become more pronounced. In recent months, there have been numerous international examples of disruptive hacking, cyber-espionage of companies or political formations and cyber-interference in electoral campaigns.
In its 2018 edition, the National Cryptologic Center's (CNN) report Cyber Threats and Trends states that "state actors - analogous to criminal organizations - are in a permanent search for new methods that allow them to infiltrate networks undetected."
There are many cases of attempted cyber espionage by non-democratic governments. In China, for example, a new online search engine is being developed: "Dragonfly". This tool will allow the Chinese government to exercise greater censorship and control, as stated by a publishing house of The New York Times.
However, the CCN notes that the prognosis in democratic countries is not much more hopeful: "During the coming period, experts expect a growth in cyberespionage due to geopolitical triggers or economic sanctions, but also, due to the strategic objectives of nations."
The only possible way to control this phenomenon is clear and strict legislation, both internationally and in each State. However, it should be noted that this is a reality that is advancing at a much faster rate than legislation, and that it does so regardless of consensus and definitions.
Kissinger, H. (2014). World Order. New York: Penguin Press.
The risk of military use of the facility, fuelled by confidentiality clauses, fuels discussion in Argentina and suspicion in Washington.
China's arrival on the far side of the moon has put the spotlight on Chinese space developments. For this new degree program, Beijing has a tracking and observation station in Patagonia, the first on its own territory. In Argentina, there has been an extensive discussion about possible unacknowledged purposes of these facilities and alleged secret clauses negotiated at the time by the Kirchner administration. The government of Mauricio Macri guarantees the peaceful uses of the station, but the controversy has not ceased.
Chinese space station in the Argentinean province of Neuquén [Casa Rosada] ▲ Chinese space station in the Argentinean province of Neuquén [Casa Rosada].
article / Naomi Moreno Cosgrove
After years of gradual economic penetration, which has led it to become the leading commercial partner in several South American countries and a major lender and investor throughout the region, China's incursion into Latin America is no longer silent. The influence it has achieved in various nations - for example, it acquires almost 90% of Ecuador's oil exports and its credits have been essential for the subsistence of Venezuela and certain Brazilian public companies - means that China's activities are attracting special attention and its expansion is becoming increasingly clear.
China's growing power in Latin America is especially noted by the United States, although its own neglect of the region, sometimes presented as a consequence of its pivot towards Asia, has contributed to national governments' attempts to meet its needs by seeking other partners from reference letter.
Already suspicious of China's growing presence in the Americas, any activity in strategic fields such as security arouses particular suspicion in Washington. This has also been the case with moves made by Moscow, such as the siting of a station for the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema or GLONASS) in Managua (Nicaragua). The secrecy surrounding the operation of the facility has caused mistrust among the population itself, raising suspicions as to whether its use is intended solely to provide a higher quality of the Russian navigation system or whether there is the possibility of strategic exploitation by Russian aerospace defence forces.
Suspicions about the so-called Far Space Station, the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) station in Patagonia, in the province of Neuquén, stem from entrance from the fact that it was negotiated at a time of particular disadvantage for Argentina, due to the financial weakness of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's government and its need for urgent credit. When Argentina was out of the international credit markets for having defaulted on nearly 100 billion dollars in bonds, the Asian country was a blessing for the then president.
In 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis, China sent representatives to Latin America to discuss an issue that had little to do with currency fluctuations: Beijing's space interests. This was due to China's desire to have a centre in the other hemisphere of the globe that could support its space activity, such as the expedition to the far side of the moon.
After months of negotiation under great secrecy, the Chinese government and the government of the province of Neuquén signed a agreement in November 2012, giving China the right to use the land - rent-free - for fifty years. The technical agreement was signed by the Chinese state-owned business Launching Security and Control Satellite (CLTC) and the Argentinean National Commission for Space Activities (CONAE).
Enormous in size, the larger of the two circular antennas - it is twelve stories high, weighs 450 tons and has a large diameter - and visible from a great distance due to its location in the middle of a desert plain, the station soon became an ideal target for controversy and suspicion. Fears that, in addition to its declared civilian use, it might also have a military purpose and be used to gather information by intercepting communications in that part of South America, fuelled the controversy.
After becoming Argentine president in 2015, Mauricio Macri entrusted the then foreign minister Susana Malcorra and the Argentine ambassador in Beijing, Diego Guelar, with the task of negotiating that agreement should include the specification that the station would only be used for peaceful purposes, which the Chinese accepted.
In spite of everything, the discussion about the risks and benefits of the Chinese base is still alive in Argentine public opinion. Politicians from civil service examination in Neuquén consider that "it is shameful to renounce sovereignty in your own country", as Congresswoman Betty Kreitman said when provincial legislators heard about project.
Beyond Argentina's borders, White House officials have called project a 'Trojan Horse', reflecting US concerns about the initiative, according to sources quoted by The New York Times. Even apart from any strategic dispute with the United States, some Latin American leaders have doubts and regrets about established ties with China, worrying that previous governments have subjected their countries to excessive dependence on the Asian power.
The main questioning of the Chinese base, then, has to do with its possible military use and the possible existence of secret clauses. The latter have been the main cause of international suspicion, as Macri himself came to validate the existence of these clauses when they became a weapon against the Kirchner government, and promised to reveal them when he became president, something he has not done. However, the Argentine space authorities themselves deny any section secrecy.
Perhaps the misunderstanding can be found in the fact that the contract signed between the Chinese CLTC and the Argentinean CONAE states that "both parties will maintain confidentiality regarding the technology, activities and monitoring, control and acquisition programmes of data". Although confidentiality regarding third parties in relation to technology is a common internship , in this case it contributes to public mistrust.
Given that the CLTC reports to the Chinese People's Army, it is difficult to deny that the data it obtains will come under the domain of the Defence hierarchy and may end up being put to military use, although not necessarily for military purposes. Experts also say that antennas and other equipment used to support space missions, similar to those the Chinese have in Patagonia, are likely to increase China's intelligence-gathering capabilities. "A giant antenna is like a huge hoover. It sucks up signals, information, all subject of things," Dean Cheng, an expert on China's national security policy, was quoted as saying in the NYT.
[Roberto Valencia, Letter from Zacatraz. Libros del K.O. Madrid, 2018. 384 pp]
review / Jimena Villacorta
The story of El Directo - a young Salvadoran who at the age of 17 was attributed with 17 murders, was in and out of jail and was finally sentenced by his fellow gang members - serves as a canvas for an even bigger picture: the serious social problem posed by violent gangs in Central America, particularly in El Salvador.
Roberto Valencia, a Spanish journalist who has been living in the Central American country for almost twenty years, has dedicated time and effort to tackle this problem in depth as a reporter for "El Faro", portal , a Salvadoran news outlet that has won awards for its investigations. Letter from Zacatraz (as the local media call the maximum security prison of Zacateoluca) is a journalistic account that, through a concrete story, exposes the broader picture of a truly complex reality.
September 11, 2012 was the first time Valencia sat down to talk with Gustavo Adolfo Parada Morales, alias El Directo, someone who for years had captured the attention of the media, despite the existence of thousands of other young people involved in gangs. That contact staff encouraged the journalist to look for other testimonies, until fill in a book that gathers the direct voice of Parada and that of people who knew him, from interviews with those who loved him, such as his mother or his wife, and with those who confronted him, such as some judges.
The result of an unwanted pregnancy, El Directo was born on January 25, 1982 in the city of San Miguel. Barely two decades later, he was already the most dangerous and feared man in El Salvador, or at least that is how the media portrayed him. A member of the Pana di Locos, a clique of the Mara Salvatrucha, he became the main public enemy. From the age of 17, accused of as many murders (of which he only admitted to six) and various other crimes, El Directo was in three juvenile detention centers and nine prisons. He had the opportunity to start a new life in Costa Rica, but he blew it. He did not make it to the United States. He was free for several months, but it wasn't long before the police recaptured him.
Through Parada's life, the author projects the phenomenon of gangs in El Salvador. He emphasizes how this phenomenon affects mainly the lower classes, while the rest of society does not realize the full magnitude of the problem and, therefore, is not interested in seeking a solution. How is it possible, Valencia asks, that a society like the Salvadoran one, with 6.5 million inhabitants, tolerates an average of 10 homicides per day, not to mention numerous other crimes, in a country where 1% of the population are gang members.
The repressive measures applied by the right-wing (ARENA) and left-wing (FMLN) governments have not improved the gang problem. Gangs have been growing, both outside and inside detention centers, many of which are in a deplorable state. Precisely the condition of the prisons aggravates the status: the infrastructure is damaged, there is great insalubrity and overcrowding is extreme. In most of the prisons, gang leaders have a large part of the control and from there they dominate their respective organizations. "El Salvador's prison system is the most overcrowded in the hemisphere, a statement certified by the Organization of American States," says Valencia.
El Directo was imprisoned several times, where he was seriously wounded on multiple occasions, sometimes by the Mara Salvatrucha, who declared him a traitor and threatened to kill him, and other times by police and prison employees. After a few months in jail, he decided to reform and renounce his activity in the MS. This brought him various opportunities, but he returned to prison. He was finally killed in 2013, at the age of 31, by members of his new gang, La Mirada Locos, because he had been accused of ordering the murder of someone in the organization whose wife he had been having an affair with.
It is interesting to note how in a country where a large number of crimes are registered, for at least ten years the case of El Directo had absolute priority in the media, which often exaggerated Parada's criminal record. "We live in a country where big murderers have been granted amnesty. Drugs circulate with relative freedom and, in spite of the fact that police officials have said that there are important names from the business, the state apparatus and the army involved in drug trafficking, we have not seen any arrest at that level", declares to Valencia the President of the Central American University, José María Tojeira. And he adds: "Income tax evasion is a widespread vice among the wealthiest sectors. The police is still managed with a significant corruption Degree . Deputies are pardoned or investigated for acts in which the life or honor of other citizens have been severely threatened". For his part, Fernando Sáenz Lacalle, Archbishop Emeritus of San Salvador, regrets that journalists, commentators, analysts and politicians repeat over and over again, "like a church choir, the false refrain of 17 years, 17 murders". In his opinion, "perhaps they went too far in exhibition and arrogance", according to Valencia.
Roberto Valencia concludes that the problem with the media is that at first they were benevolent towards the gangs, and then they magnified the phenomenon, without talking about the repressive measures and policies used to combat them.
Carta desde Zacatraz is not a condescending book, but the critique does not stifle all hope. It warns that Salvadorans have become accustomed to living with this problem. Today it is more common to avoid certain places that are known to be dangerous than to try to fight for the betterment of the country. But he encourages confidence that shattered lives like El Directo's will serve to make new generations want something better for themselves.
Washington alerts on the increase of violent, transnational gangs and estimates that MS-13 has reached an all-time high with 10,000 members
The Trump Administration has reported on the increase of violent, transnational gangs within the United States, specifically on Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, which also keeps a connection to the organization in Central America's Northern Triangle. Even though United States' President Donald Trump has addressed this issue demagogically, criminalizing immigration and overlooking the fact that said organization originated in Los Angeles, California, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asserts such organizations are recruiting more youths than ever and demanding more violent behavior from its members. American authorities estimate these gangs are partially controlled from El Salvador, although this hierarchy is not as clear.
▲ Mara Salvatrucha graffiti [Wikimedia Commons].
ARTICLE / Lisa Cubías[English version] [Spanish version].
Never has probably an utterance of the word "animal" caused as much controversy in the US as President Donald Trump's reference to MS-13 gang members on May 16th, 2018. Initially, it seemed as a reference to all undocumented immigrants, thus provoking immediate and widespread rejection; it was then clarified that the address referred to gang members illegally entering the United States to commit acts of violence. Trump placed his already declared war on gangs within the frame of his zero tolerance immigration policies and reinforcement of national bodies, such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in order to reduce immigration flows from Latin America to the United States.
The description of the phenomenon of gangs conformed by Latin American youths as a migratory issue had already surfaced on President Trump's State of the Union address on January 28th, 2018. Before the US Congress, he shared the story of two American teenagers, Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, who were brutally murdered by six MS-13 gang members on their way home. He asserted that the perpetrators took advantage of loopholes in immigration legislation and reiterated his stance that the US Congress must address and fill in such loopholes in order to prevent gang members from entering the United States through them.
Despite Trump's demagogical simplification of the issue at hand, truth is that such organizations were born in the US. They are, as The Washington Post said, "as American-made as Google." They originated in Los Angeles, California, first due to Mexican immigration and furthered by the arrival of immigrants and refugees from the armed conflicts taking place in Central America. El Salvador saw the rise and fall of long twelve years of civil war between the government and left-wing guerrilla groups during the 1980s. The extent and brutality of the conflict, along with the political and economic instability the country was undergoing propelled an exodus of Salvadorans towards the United States. The flow of youths from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala propelled the rise of Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, and the 18th Street gang, both related to the already existing Mexican Mafia (The M).
When peace arrived in Central America during the 90s, various of such youths returned to their home countries, either following their families or expelled by American authorities due to their ongoing criminal activity. In this way it was that gangs began their criminal activity in the Northern Triangle, where to this date they continue constituting a critical social problem.
According to the US Department of Justice, there are around 33,000 violent street gangs, with a total of 1.4 million members. MS-13, with around 10,000 enlisted youths, represents 1% from the total figure and in 2017 only 17 members were indicted, and still deserves the White House's complete attention. At the margin of possible political interests on behalf of the Trump administration, truth is that US authorities have emphasized its increase and danger, besides stating certain commands are given all the way from El Salvador. Such transnationality is viewed in an alarming light.
The United States does not recognize MS-13 as a terrorist organization, as it is not included in their National Strategy for Counterterrorism, released during October 2018. It is instead catalogued as a transnational criminal organization, as mentioned by a document issued by the US Department of Justice on April 2017. According to the report, several of its leaders are imprisoned in El Salvador and are sending representatives to cross into the United States illegally to unify the gangs operating on US territory, while forcing US based MS-13 gangs to send their illegal profits back to gang leaders in El Salvador and motivating them to exert more control and violence over their territories.
According to the FBI, MS-13 and 18th Street "continue to expand their influence in the US." These transnational gangs "are present in almost every state and continue to grow their memberships, now targeting younger recruits more than ever before." The US Attorney General warned in 2017 that they numbers are "up significantly from just a few years ago." "Transnational criminal organizations like MS-13 represent one of the gravest threats to American safety," he said.
Stephen Richardson, assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division, told Congress in January 2018 that the mass arrests and imprisonment of MS-13 members and mid-level leaders over the past year in the US have frustrated MS-13 leaders in El Salvador. "They're very much interested in sending younger, more violent offenders up through their channels into this country in order to be enforcers for the gang," he told the House Committee on Homeland Security.
The transnational character of MS-13 is contested by expert Roberto Valencia, author of articles and books on the maras. He works as a journalist in El Faro, a leading investigative reporting digital average outlet in El Salvador; his latest book, titled Carta desde Zacatraz (Letter from Zacatraz), was just published some months ago.
"At first, gangs in Los Angeles served as moral guides over those who migrated back to El Salvador during the 90s. Some of the veteran leaders living now in El Salvador grew up in Los Angeles and they have kept staff and emotional ties with the gang structures where they were enrolled," Valencia tells Global Affairs. "Notwithstanding," he says, "that doesn't imply an international connection: everyone, regardless of where they live, believe they are the gang's essence and are not subordinated to another's country organization." "They share a deeply staff relationship and that is not as easily dissolved, but the link as organization broke time ago," he sums up.
Valencia strongly rejects any interference by the MS-13 chapter in the United States into the one in El Salvador. Instead, he admits there could be some type of influence going the other way around, as Salvadoran gang members in the United States "can be deported to El Salvador and end up in Salvadoran jails, where they can be punished by the jail mafias."
Migrants: cause or consequence?
Roberto Valencia also addresses President Trump and his references to gangs: "Trump speaks about MS-13 in order to win votes under the premise of migration policy that ends up criminalizing every single immigrant. It is outrageous Trump presents them as the cause, when gangs actually started in the US. In fact, the vast majority of the Northern Triangle's emigrants arrive in the United States escaping from gangs."
In Central America, the control gangs exert over low-income territory ranges from the request of "rent" for businesses located within their areas, to forcing and threatening old women to take care of unregistered newly born children and "requesting" young girls to act as the gang's head girlfriend or otherwise be killed along with her family. The request for young girls is an extremely common cause for migration, which also denotes the misogynistic culture in Latin American countries' rural areas.
The majority of President Trump's remarks have depicted MS-13 as a threat to public safety and stability of American communities. Nevertheless, the Center for Immigration Studies, prominent independent and non-profit research organization, conducted a research on MS-13 impact in the United States and the immigration measures the administration should take to control their presence. It catalogues MS-13 and other gangs as a threat to public safety, sharing President Trump's point of view. Notwithstanding, its view is not influenced by the political landscape, and it specifically refers to gangs alone; no mention of regular immigrants or those traveling the recent caravans is made and tied with criminal activity of said impact.
Greg Hunter, American criminal defense attorney and former member from the Arlington County cafeteria Association Board of Directors from 2002 until 2006 and active member at the Criminal Justice Act Panel for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia since 2001 until the present day, has closely worked with gang-related criminal cases and affirms how cases related to shoplifting and illegal migration are far more frequent than those that are catalogued as threats to public safety or to the "American community," such as drug trafficking and murders. He also alluded to the fact that these organizations are not centralized and operate under the same identity and yet don't follow the same orders. Efforts have been made to centralize operations but have proven ineffective.
It is crucial to consider statistical trends on the influx of immigrants in the face of the recent immigrant caravans departing from the Northern Triangle, which have proven to be a focal and recent point of discussion in the gang discussion. Upon the news of their departure towards the United States, President Trump catalogued the entirety of the immigrants composing caravans as "stone cold criminals," essentially contradicting previous US Customs and Border Protection records. In its Security Report for 2017, it depicts a total of 526,901 illegal immigrants with denied entry, from which 310,531 where apprehended and 31,039 arrested. Among the arrested immigrants there were only 228 MS-13 members (there were 61 members of the 18th Street gang as well). Instead, caravans are composed from various citizens fleeing the violence caused by MS-13 in the Northern Triangle, rather than gang members seeking to take their criminal activities towards the United States.