[Geoffry Sloan, Geopolitics, Geography and Strategic History. Routledge. New York, 2017. 251 p.]
review / Emili J. Blasco
Today we are witnessing a frequent use of the term geopolitics that is often empty of content. After decades of the word being stigmatized, given the contamination it suffered in the first third of the 20th century by elaborations such as Lebensraum, its employment has become more widespread in recent years as China and Russia have begun to take positions in the new post-unipolar world order. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon to speak of geopolitics as a mere synonym for International Office, without a specific meaning.
To recall the strict value of the concept, stripping it of trivializations or misunderstandings, is the purpose of Geoffrey Sloan, a British academic specializing in Halford Mackinder, one of the great names in geopolitics. Sloan understands geopolitics as a "tripartite construction" of geography, strategy and history, elements that give rise to the degree scroll of his book.
The author places the dawn of geopolitics in a "first wave" of thinkers distant in time and in their philosophical conceptions, such as Aristotle, Machiavelli and Montesquieu, but it will not be until the "second wave", at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, when discipline adopts this name and defines its contours by Ratzel, Mahan, Mackinder, Haushofer... After a long period of ostracism, because it was considered that some totalitarianisms had fed on the ravings of certain schools, at the beginning of the 21st century the term geopolitics is making a comeback. However, in Sloan's opinion, it is affected by a triple problem: its lack of definition, its lack of scientific bibliography and its confusion with realpolitik.
Today we have begun to speak of geopolitics so habitually that it has come to lose its proper meaning. "The term geopolitics has enjoyed a ghostly afterlife, becoming something used everywhere while being drained of substantive theoretical content, and is used in so many ways that it has become meaningless, if not further specified," warns a quotation by S. R. Gokmen.
As opposed to its generic use, assimilated to that of international politics, Sloan vindicates its original meaning, absolutely attached to geography. "Although the whole policy of a state does not derive from its geography," say the 1938 words of Nicholas Spykman - another classic of geopolitics - that open the book, "the state cannot escape that geography. Size, shape, location, topography and climate set conditions from which there is no escape, no matter how qualified the Foreign Office or how well resourced the General Staff may be".
The temporal break in geopolitical thought -Sloan notes that no book on geopolitics was published in English between 1945 and 1977- may explain why many have lost the notion of the strict geographical content of the term today. But even among those who seem to want to give it a specific meaning, there is the confusion of assimilating geopolitics with the realist theory of International Office. According to Sloan, "perhaps the most common mistaken assumption about geopolitical theory is its symbiotic relationship with the realist approach. It holds that all thinking about International Office should begin with the recognition of the primacy of power and that geographic factors are a vital part of the evaluation of power." The author warns that in geopolitics there is also room for an idealistic approach, as it is neither tied to the administrative state nor exclusively identified with conservative political ideologies.
Sloan proposes a "trinity structure" of geopolitics, in a diagram where the relationship between geography and strategy generates geostrategy, the relationship between geography and history gives rise to historical geography, and the relationship between history and strategy derives in diplomatic history.
The approach of the work is theoretical in its first part, and then gives way to certain historical concretions, mostly in the light of concepts elaborated by Mackinder.
COMMENTARY / Daniel Andrés Llonch
Cyberspace has established itself as a new domain in which the security of states and their citizens is decided. On the one hand, attacks no longer have to involve the employment of weaponry; on the other, non-warlike actions, such as certain operations to interfere in the affairs of other countries, can be particularly effective given the access to millions of people that information technologies allow.
These capabilities have contributed to a climate of growing distrust among world powers, characterized by mutual accusations, cover-ups and stealth, since cyberspace allows the origin of aggressions to be largely hidden. This hampers the State's mission statement to protect national interests and complicates its management of individual freedoms (the tension between security and privacy).
From the West, the governments of Russia and China have frequently been singled out as sponsors of cyber-attacks aimed at damaging sensitive computer networks and stealing confidential data of both individuals and companies, and of operations aimed at influencing world opinion. In the Chinese case, the activities of secret units under the People's Liberation Army have been pointed to; in the Russian case, organizations such as Fancy Bear are mentioned, behind which many see the Kremlin's hand directly.
Russian cyber-attacks or actions of interference in Europe and the United States are attributed to these last agents, whose goal is to destabilize these powers and subtract their capacity of world influence. Several sources suggest that these organizations have intervened in processes such as Brexit, the U.S. presidential elections or the separatist process in Catalonia. This activity of influence, radicalization and mobilization would have been carried out through the management of social networks and also possibly through the use of the Dark Web and the Deep Web.
One of the most prominent organizations in this activity is Fancy Bear, also known as APT28 and linked by various media to the Russian military intelligence agency. The group serves the interests of the Russian government, with activities that include support for certain candidates and personalities in foreign countries, as was the case in the last White House elections. It often operates through what is called Advanced Persistent Threat or APT, which consists of continuous hacks of a given system through hacking.
Although an APT usually targets private organizations or states, either for commercial reasons or for political interests, it can also have as goal citizens who are perceived as enemies of the Kremlin. Behind such actions is not a lone hacker or a small group of individuals, but a whole organization, of very vast dimensions.
Fancy Bear and other similar groups have been linked to the dissemination of confidential information stolen from global banks, the World Anti-Doping Agency, NATO and the electoral process in France and Germany. They were also attributed with an action against the German government'snetwork , involving the theft of data from the government and extensive spying over a long period of time.
The European Union has been one of the first international players to announce measures in this regard, consisting of a considerable increase in budget to strengthen cybersecurity and increase research by technicians and specialists in this field. The new figure of the Data Protection Officer (DPO) is also being created, who is the person in charge of overseeing all issues related to the protection of data and its privacy.
The sophistication of the Internet and at the same time its vulnerability have also given rise to a status of insecurity on the network. Anonymity makes it possible to perpetrate criminal activities that know no borders, neither physical nor virtual: this is cybercrime. It could be seen on May 12, 2017 with the virus. Wannacryvirus, which affected millions of people worldwide.
The reality, then, warns us of the dimension that the problem has acquired: it speaks of a real risk. Society is increasingly connected to the network, which, along with the advantages of all kinds that this entails, also means a constant exhibition to cybercrime. Hackers can use our personal data and the information we share for their own purposes: sometimes as a means of blackmail or a key to access areas of the subject's privacy; other times this private content is sold. The fact is that the magnitudes to which this problem can reach are overwhelming. If one of the main security agencies in the world, the National Security Agency of the United States, has result hacked, what should simple users, who in their innocence and ignorance are vulnerable and usable subjects, expect?
Added to the problem is the progressive improvement of the techniques and methods used: identities are impersonated and viruses are created for cell phones, computer systems, programs, emails and downloads. In other words, there are few areas within the cyber world that are not considered susceptible to hacking or that do not have some weak point that represents an opportunity for threat and intrusion for any person or organization with illicit purposes.
Central Asian republics dispute scarce water resources in the Aral Sea Basin
The lack of effective cooperation between the republics through which the two main rivers of Central Asia, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, which have historically fed the Aral Sea, flow, is hindering the resolution of the region's water problems. Short-term objectives deadline, such as hydroelectric exploitation or oil exploration, hinder understanding, although recent initiatives point in the right direction.
▲Satellite image of the Aral Sea, with north below [NASA].
article / Roberto Ramírez Millán
source of life, food for crops, means of navigation... There are many functions that water fulfills as a human resource . It is indispensable and necessary for the maintenance and development of any nation. Today this resource is being depleted due to the great industrial expansion of the last centuries, mass population growth and climate change. The dispute over freshwater, given its economic, geopolitical and geostrategic importance, is triggering conflicts between different countries, known as "water wars". This is happening in the Asia-Pacificarea and particularly in the case of the Central Asian region, in the Aral Sea Basin.
Due to the drought that characterizes this area, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers are under particular stress as the main suppliers of fresh water to the countries of Central Asia. Since the collapse of the USSR, along with its organizations for negotiating the waters of this basin, and the independence of the countries located in this region, the lack of an effective international organization to regulate the use of this resource among the States has led to a series of international conflicts due to inequalities in access to water.
In 1993 the Kyrgyz Republic began to use the Naryn waterfall as a hydroelectric power source , with the intention of making up for the lack of organic fuel. With this new use of infrastructure, which entailed high water retention during the summer, the Kyrgyz Republic took the opportunity to sell electricity at exorbitant prices in exchange for gas and coal, which it lacks, to countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The states' pursuit of their own profit and the lack of cooperation between them made it impossible to reach any agreement.
Furthermore, in 1997, Kyrgyzstan declared that the Syr Darya River would no longer be a common good for legal purposes. To this end, it remodeled and restricted the right to its use and demanded from the States benefiting from this basin a financial financial aid to maintain the freshwater reserves available on its territory. Not content with this, it remarked that, if Uzbekistan did not pay, it would sell a large part of this water to China, thus damaging attempts to reach a agreement between the two.
These events have not been the only ones that have hindered cooperation between these countries, but also the sharp global drop in prices for irrigated agriculture, Uzbek cotton crops that require large amounts of water, and the problems resulting from climate change, among others.
In addition, there is also the current status situation of the Aral Sea. Once one of the four largest lakes in the world and providing economic sustainability to the region, the Aral Sea has been in a state of continuous drought since 1960. Due to the aforementioned operations on the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers, the Aral Sea was divided into two parts, the northern and southern lakes, with the eastern part of the southern lake completely evaporating. In the past, the Aral Sea provided between 20,000 and 40,000 tons of fish per year; however, it can now supply only about 1,000 tons.
To deal with drought problems Kazakhstan developed the project "Regulation of the Darya river bed and preservation of the northern part of the Aral Sea". This included the construction of the Kokaral dam on the southern shore of the northern lake, thanks to the support of the World Bank. The dam ensured the growth of the lake by 20%. The project also provided the Building of a fish hatchery, which fostered a production of 10,000 to 12,000 tons of fish per year.
Map of Central Asia
However, these measures in favor of the Aral Sea development are at the same time being counteracted by Uzbekistan's actions. If previously the Uzbek part of the Aral Sea was damaged by high irrigation of cotton crops, it is now oil extraction that is damaging the southern lake. Soil drilling in the Amu Darya River delta and at the bottom of the Aral Sea plays a negative role. In the dilemma between the development of the oil and gas industry and saving its part of the Aral, Uzbekistan is demonstrating which is its priority, given the benefits of hydrocarbon development .
Researchers and experts in the region are aware that cooperation among the six countries is indispensable for their development; this is why the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia (CAREC), a non-governmental organization charged with addressing environmental and sustainability challenges in Central Asia and Afghanistan, was created in 2001. This organization has denounced that the region is losing $4.5 billion annually due to "the lack of effective mutual cooperation between the countries," as indicated by its executive director , Iskandar Abdullayev.
For this reason, last June 8, CAREC hosted the launching ceremony of the Innovation and Scientific Cluster research in the field of water management , the first in Central Asia, whose goal is "to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the projects of development". These and similar initiatives are the first steps towards creating a prosperous and sustainable future, avoiding retaliation and preventing possible "water wars".
Bernauer, T., & Siegfried, T. (2012). Climate change and international water conflict in Central Asia. Journal of Peace Research, 49(1), 227-239.
Dukhovny, V. A., & Sokolov, V. (2003). Lessons on cooperation building to manage water conflicts in the Aral Sea Basin. Paris: Unesco, 7-16
Karaev, Z. (2005). Water Diplomacy in Central Asia. Middle East Review of International Affairs, 9(1), 63-69.
Sievers, E. W. (2001). Water, conflict, and regional security in Central Asia. NYU Envtl. LJ, 10, 356.
Swain, A. (2004). Managing water conflict: Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Routledge.
Tishkov, V. (1997). Ethnicity, nationalism and conflict in and after the Soviet Union: the mind aflame (Vol. 15). Sage.
ESSAY / Elena López-Dóriga
The European Union's aim is to promote democracy, unity, integration and cooperation between its members. However, in the last years it is not only dealing with economic crises in many countries, but also with a humanitarian one, due to the exponential number of migrants who run away from war or poverty situations.
When referring to the humanitarian crises the EU had to go through (and still has to) it is about the refugee migration coming mainly from Syria. Since 2011, the civil war in Syria killed more than 470,000 people, mostly civilians. Millions of people were displaced, and nearly five million Syrians fled, creating the biggest refugee crisis since the World War II. When the European Union leaders accorded in assembly to establish quotas to distribute the refugees that had arrived in Europe, many responses were manifested in respect. On the one hand, some Central and Eastern countries rejected the proposal, putting in evidence the philosophy of agreement and cooperation of the EU claiming the quotas were not fair. Dissatisfaction was also felt in Western Europe too with the United Kingdom's shock Brexit vote from the EU and Austria's near election of a far right-wing leader attributed in part to the convulsions that the migrant crisis stirred. On the other hand, several countries promised they were going to accept a certain number of refugees and turned out taking even less than half of what they promised. In this note it is going to be exposed the issue that occurred and the current situation, due to what happened threatened many aspects that revive tensions in the European Union nowadays.
The response of the EU leaders to the crisis
The greatest burden of receiving Syria's refugees fell on Syria's neighbors: Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. In 2015 the number of refugees raised up and their destination changed to Europe. The refugee camps in the neighbor countries were full, the conditions were not good at all and the conflict was not coming to an end as the refugees expected. Therefore, refugees decided to emigrate to countries such as Germany, Austria or Norway looking for a better life. It was not until refugees appeared in the streets of Europe that European leaders realised that they could no longer ignore the problem. Furthermore, flows of migrants and asylum seekers were used by terrorist organisations such as ISIS to infiltrate terrorists to European countries. Facing this humanitarian crisis, European Union ministers approved a plan on September 2015 to share the burden of relocating up to 120,000 people from the so called "Frontline States" of Greece, Italy and Hungary to elsewhere within the EU. The plan assigned each member state quotas: a number of people to receive based on its economic strength, population and unemployment. Nevertheless, the quotas were rejected by a group of Central European countries also known as the Visegrad Group, that share many interests and try to reach common agreements.
Why the Visegrad Group rejected the quotas
The Visegrad Group (also known as the Visegrad Four or simply V4) reflects the efforts of the countries of the Central European region to work together in many fields of common interest within the all-European integration. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have shared cultural background, intellectual values and common roots in diverse religious traditions, which they wish to preserve and strengthen. After the disintegration of the Eastern Block, all the V4 countries aspired to become members of the European Union. They perceived their integration in the EU as another step forward in the process of overcoming artificial dividing lines in Europe through mutual support. Although they negotiated their accession separately, they all reached this aim in 2004 (1st May) when they became members of the EU.
The tensions between the Visegrad Group and the EU started in 2015, when the EU approved the quotas of relocation of the refugees only after the dissenting votes of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia were overruled. In asking the court to annul the deal, Hungary and Slovakia argued at the Court of Justice that there were procedural mistakes, and that quotas were not a suitable response to the crisis. Besides, the politic leaders said the problem was not their making, and the policy exposed them to a risk of Islamist terrorism that represented a threat to their homogenous societies. Their case was supported by Polish right-wing government of the party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice) which came to power in 2015 and claimed that the quotes were not comprehensive.
Regarding Poland's rejection to the quotas, it should be taken into account that is a country of 38 million people and already home to an exponential number of Ukrainian immigrants. Most of them decided to emigrate after military conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine in 2014, when the currency value of the Ukrainian hryvnia plummeted and prices rose. This could be a reason why after having received all these immigration from Ukraine, the Polish government believed that they were not ready to take any more refugees, and in that case from a different culture. They also claimed that the relocation methods would only attract more waves of immigration to Europe.
The Slovak and Hungarian representatives at the EU court stressed that they found the Council of the EU's decision rather political, as it was not achieved unanimously, but only by a qualified majority. The Slovak delegation labelled this decision "inadequate and inefficient". Both the Slovak and Hungarian delegations pointed to the fact that the target the EU followed by asserting national quotas failed to address the core of the refugee crisis and could have been achieved in a different way, for example by better protecting the EU's external border or with a more efficient return policy in case of migrants who fail to meet the criteria for being granted asylum.
The Czech prime minister at that time, Bohuslav Sobotka, claimed the commission was "blindly insisting on pushing ahead with dysfunctional quotas which decreased citizens' trust in EU abilities and pushed back working and conceptual solutions to the migration crisis".
Moreover, there are other reasons that run deeper about why 'new Europe' (these recently integrated countries in the EU) resisted the quotas which should be taken into consideration. On the one hand, their just recovered sovereignty makes them especially resistant to delegating power. On the other, their years behind the iron curtain left them outside the cultural shifts taking place elsewhere in Europe, and with a legacy of social conservatism. Furthermore, one can observe a rise in skeptical attitudes towards immigration, as public opinion polls have shown.
* As of September 2017. Own work based on this article
The temporary solution: The Turkey Deal
The accomplishment of the quotas was to be expired in 2017, but because of those countries that rejected the quotas and the slow process of introducing the refugees in those countries that had accepted them, the EU reached a new and polemic solution, known as the Turkey Deal.
Turkey is a country that has had the aspiration of becoming a European Union member since many years, mainly to improve their democracy and to have better connections and relations with Western Europe. The EU needed a quick solution to the refugee crisis to limit the mass influx of irregular migrants entering in, so knowing that Turkey is Syria's neighbor country (where most refugees came from) and somehow could take even more refugees, the EU and Turkey made a deal on the 18th of March 2016. Following the signing of the EU-Turkey deal: those arriving in the Greek Islands would be returned to Turkey, and for each Syrian sent back from Greece to Turkey one Syrian could be sent from a Turkish camp to the EU. In exchange, the EU paid 3 billion euros to Turkey for the maintenance of the refugees, eased the EU visa restrictions for Turkish citizens and paid great lip-service to the idea of Turkey becoming a member state.
The Turkey Deal is another issue that should be analysed separately, since it has not been defended by many organisations which have labelled the deal as shameless. Instead, the current relationship between both sides, the EU and V4 is going to be analysed, as well as possible new solutions.
Current relationship between the UE and V4
In terms of actual relations, on the one hand critics of the Central European countries' stance over refugees claim that they are willing to accept the economic benefits of the EU, including access to the single market, but have shown a disregard for the humanitarian and political responsibilities. On the other hand, the Visegrad Four complains that Western European countries treat them like second-class members, meddling in domestic issues by Brussels and attempting to impose EU-wide solutions against their will, as typified by migrant quotas. One Visegrad minister told the Financial Times, "We don't like it when the policy is defined elsewhere and then we are told to implement it." From their point of view, Europe has lost its global role and has become a regional player. Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said "the EU is unable to protect its own citizens, to protect its external borders and to keep the community together, as Britain has just left".
Mr Avramopolus, who is Greece's European commissioner, claimed that if no action was taken by them, the Commission would not hesitate to make use of its powers under the treaties and to open infringement procedures.
At this time, no official sanctions have been imposed to these countries yet. Despite of the threats from the EU for not taking them, Mariusz Blaszczak, Poland's former Interior minister, claimed that accepting migrants would have certainly been worse for the country for security reasons than facing EU action. Moreover, the new Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki proposes to implement programs of aid addressed to Lebanese and Jordanian entities on site, in view of the fact that Lebanon and Jordan had admitted a huge number of Syrian refugees, and to undertake further initiatives aimed at helping the refugees affected by war hostilities.
To sum up, facing this refugee crisis a fracture in the European Union between Western and Eastern members has shown up. Since the European Union has been expanding its boarders from west to east integrating new countries as member states, it should also take into account that this new member countries have had a different past (in the case of the Eastern countries, they were under the iron curtain) and nowadays, despite of the wish to collaborate all together, the different ideologies and the different priorities of each country make it difficult when it comes to reach an agreement. Therefore, while old Europe expects new Europe to accept its responsibilities, along with the financial and security benefits of the EU, this is going to take time. As a matter of fact, it is understandable that the EU Commission wants to sanction the countries that rejected the quotas, but the majority of the countries that did accept to relocate the refugees in the end have not even accepted half of what they promised, and apparently they find themselves under no threats of sanction. Moreover, the latest news coming from Austria since December 2017 claim that the country has bluntly told the EU that it does not want to accept any more refugees, arguing that it has already taken in enough. Therefore, it joins the Visegrad Four countries to refuse the entrance of more refugees.
In conclusion, the future of Europe and a solution to this problem is not known yet, but what is clear is that there is a breach between the Western and Central-Eastern countries of the EU, so an efficient and fair solution which is implemented in common agreement will expect a long time to come yet.
J. Juncker (2015). A call for Collective Courage. 2018, from European Commission Website.
EC (2018). Asylum statistics. 2018, from European Commission Website.
International Visegrad Fund (2006). Official Statements and communiqués. 2018, from Visegrad Group Website.
Jacopo Barigazzi (2017). Brussels takes on Visegrad Group over refugees. 2018, from POLITICO Website.
Zuzana Stevulova (2017). "Visegrad Four and refugees. 2018, from Confrontations Europe (European Think Tank) Website.
Nicole Gnesotto (2015). Refugees are an internal manifestation of an unresolved external crisis. 2018, from Confrontations Europe (European Think Tank) Website.
▲signature of agreement of peace in Cartagena, in September 2016, before the referendum that rejected it and led to some modifications of the text [Government of Chile].
ANALYSIS / Camila Oliveros
The agreement Peace Agreement signed on November 26, 2016 between the Colombian Government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) is one of the most decisive issues in the elections of this June 17, in its second round, and of the next presidential term.
After lengthy negotiations between the Government and the FARC in Havana, and the introduction of modifications to the initially agreed text, following the triumph of the "no" vote in the plebiscite called, the peace agreement was finally signed in November 2016. The long duration of the negotiations and the result of the plebiscite demonstrate that the peace agreement is something especially controversial in Colombia, where this 52-year conflict involved the death of 220,000 people and the forced displacement of almost 6 million, in addition to 25,000 disappeared and almost 30,000 kidnapped.
Clearly, all Colombians long for a lasting peace, but while some believe that what was drafted in Havana is the solution to achieve that peace, others consider that there are still several modifications that can be made to the text. The decision on this and on the speed of implementation of agreement remains in the hands of the next president.
Degree of implementation
For now, after more than a year of the signature of theagreement Final for the Termination of the Conflict, it is possible to highlight both negative and positive elements in the implementation of what was agreed in Havana. According to the Observatory for Monitoring the Implementation of the agreement of Peace, at the beginning of 2018, before the country entered the long electoral process in which it finds itself, only 18.3% of the agreement had been fulfilled. This is a relatively leave figure, which in part may be due to insufficient economic and human resources to implement the agreements quickly and effectively, and not so much to a lack of commitment on the part of the Government.
However, compared to this low percentage of what has already been implemented, there are other figures that show that agreement is having some positive results. This is the case of the decrease in the homicide rate in Colombia. This became one of the lowest in thirty years, with 24 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. In addition, the issue of displaced persons was reduced by almost half, from 91,045 displaced persons in 2016 to 48,335 in 2017, according to the Victims Unit. The issue of displaced persons had already been decreasing significantly the previous years, even at a faster pace: in 2002 the figure had been 757,240 people; in the following 14 years there was a decrease of 47,598 people on average per year, including the 8 years of presidency of Álvaro Uribe, who has been the great opponent to the terms of the peace agreement .
Also, the issue of landmine casualties has been reduced: it went from 72 in 2016 to 58 in 2017, which has helped generate a climate of greater confidence in rural communities.
It is important to highlight that in the areas that had been most affected by the armed conflict, from agreement as established by the peace agreement , it has been possible to form new companies that benefit from the mechanisms foreseen for the "zones most affected by the armed conflict" or Zomac. However, these companies are facing a complicated environment, since although FARC has completed the various phases of its demobilization, such as the submission of weapons and the return of recruited minors, FARC dissidents and other groups dedicated to drug trafficking continue to operate in several areas.
Although there has been some progress, the implementation of most of agreement still lies ahead. How are the two presidential candidates, Iván Duque and Gustavo Petro, dealing with it?
Duque or Petro
Iván Duque is a lawyer and politician who has been senator of the Republic for the Centro Democrático, a party headed by former president Uribe, a great opponent of the agreement peace agreement. This has led many to think that if Duque becomes president, he will leave the Havana agreement on paper, without implementing it during his four years in office. His government proposal is aimed at improving the Economics, reducing taxes for large companies, financing youth entrepreneurship and favoring investment. In addition, he promotes a major reform of the Colombian justice system.
Gustavo Petro is an economist and politician, but also demobilized from the M-19 guerrilla. He belongs to the center-left Progressive Movement political party. Petro proposes an economic model with socialist tones that focuses on "changing the extractivist model " and promoting agricultural policies. The central axes of his government proposal are in the public sphere, fully guaranteeing the rights to health, to "quality, pluralistic, universal and free" Education .
Colombia has never elected a leftist candidate to be president of the Republic, perhaps because the left is identified with communism and that associates it with the FARC. In any case, Petro has not been against the Havana agreements, and that makes him attractive to many Colombians who wish to preserve what was agreed in 2016, in the hope of ending the armed conflict experienced by the country.
The truth is that it is difficult to legally reverse the peace agreement , since a constitutional reform established that the next three governments are obliged to comply with the agreement. If Duque wins, the peace agreement may be subject to further changes, but in no way Duque is synonymous with war and Petro with peace.
As Duque has expressed, making certain modifications to the agreements is not the same as ending them. The candidate of the Democratic Center maintains that the agreement must have certain adjustments that allow reaching a "credible, sustainable and based on justice" peace. From agreement with his proposals, the main changes he would promote would be the following two:
Special Jurisdiction and political participation
The first has to do with the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), since Iván Duque in his government plan seeks to simplify the Colombian justice system, going from the current six courts to only one, with the purpose to achieve greater speed and efficiency in judicial processes. However, with this change power may be highly concentrated and centralized. A modification of the JEP foreseen in the peace agreement may cause some uncertainty among former guerrillas, with whom some leniency had been agreed.
On the other hand, the big change Duque could make has to do with political participation. He believes that former FARC members who have been responsible for crimes against humanity cannot go to congress without having served a sentence. Duque assures that he does not seek to do away with point 2 of the peace agreement , which talks about the political participation of former guerrillas in the congress. If a member of the congress is ratified for a conviction for a crime of this subject, he should leave his seat and be replaced by someone from the same group who does not have any crime against humanity.
Although in the event of winning the elections, Gustavo Petro will not propose special modifications to the agreements, whoever the next president is, he will face serious challenges in relation to the peace process.
Party in Tolima in memory of the victims of the conflict [Unidad de Víctimas].
Most important challenges in the next presidential mandate
The presence of FARC dissidents in border areas of the country is one of the challenges facing the next president; not only for security reasons, but also because of their links to drug production, which has increased by 52%. The government is aware that around 10% of the FARC's fighting force has remained in the armed struggle, amounting to at least 700 individuals, although other entities even double that figure. This dissidence operates in fifteen different groups, which have been concentrated in areas of the country such as Nariño, Norte de Santander and Cauca. In addition, another armed group, the ELN (National Liberation Army), has begun to increase its presence in certain border areas, such as Norte de Santander. This not only poses a threat to Colombian security but may also trigger a war between guerrilla and organized crime groups for control of the illegal coca production and drug trafficking business.
In view of the continued presence of armed groups in part of the Colombian territory, both candidates defend the increase of military troops in conflict zones. However, regarding the eradication of illegal crops, Iván Duque advocates the use of glyphosate, a strong herbicide whose employment is rejected by Gustavo Petro alleging its environmental effects. The use of this chemical, somewhat controversial in Colombia, could be assumed as an effective way to end illicit crops if its contamination is counteracted, for example, by planting new trees in the areas where coca production is eradicated. In any case, some environmentalists have used the negative image of glyphosate to ask for Petro's vote in the second round of elections.
Another of the great challenges that the next president will face is the topic of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. The JEP is a body in charge of judging former guerrillas. It has judicial powers and "represents the backbone of the signed agreements". It is composed of five bodies, each one in charge of the fulfillment of essential parts of the agreement: "the conference room for the Recognition of Truth and Responsibility, the conference room for Amnesty and Pardon, the conference room for the Definition of Legal Situations, the Unit for research and accusation, and the Peace Tribunal". The JEP is a complex body on which the progress of the peace process depends. In fact, one of the reasons for the great delays suffered by the implementation of agreement has been the slowness in the constitution of this institution, which did not begin to function until last January. However, the obstacles suffered by the JEP have not only had to do with lack of activity, but also with issues such as the case of Jesús Santrich.
Santrich, one of the guerrilla leaders, who was a negotiator in Havana for the FARC and received one of the posts assigned to the new party at congress, was arrested in April, accused of participating in a plan to bring 10 tons of cocaine to the United States. Based on a research from the DEA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. judicial authorities requested his arrest and are now awaiting his extradition. However, taking into account that all FARC members must be tried by the JEP, and that this body does not provide for extradition, Jesús Santrich could not be handed over to the United States. In addition, there is currently no evidence as to when the alleged drug trafficking crimes were committed, so for now it has not been possible to determine whether they occurred before or after the creation of the JEP. The former guerrilla is being held in a Bogotá prison and the FARC is insisting that he be released. The next president will have to determine how to proceed with the case. This is also a sample that there are loopholes in the agreement, which generates a lot of uncertainty and gives room for the next president to take various courses of action.
Next June 17, in the presidential runoff between Iván Duque and Gustavo Petro, the future of Colombia will be decided. Although many Colombians believe that it is a choice between war or peace, this is wrong. As has been discussed before, the peace agreement is very difficult to roll back legally. The substance of the agreement must be respected by the next three governments. Even if it is true that with the candidate of the Democratic Center in power the agreement may undergo more modifications than those that the candidate of the Progressive Movement would apply, the possibility of consolidating peace remains open with either of the two. Beyond peace, the economic and social model of Colombian society is also at stake. Even if peace is one of the most important issues, the next president should not leave behind other relevant elements such as corruption, security, trade and Economics in the 2018-2022 presidential term of the Republic of Colombia. The candidates' position on these issues should also influence voters.
Trump has maintained several of the measures passed by Obama, but has conditioned their implementation
Donald Trump has not closed the embassy opened by Barack Obama in Havana and has kept to the letter of the rules allowing only certain travel by Americans to the island. However, his imposition of not establishing commercial or financial relations with companies controlled by the Cuban military-police apparatus has affected the volume of exchanges. But it has been above all his anti-Castro rhetoric that has brought the relationship almost back to the Cold War.
▲Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, at the baseball game they attended during the U.S. president's 2016 visit to Cuba [Pete Souza/White House].
article / Valeria Vásquez
For more than half a century, relations between the United States and Cuba were marked by political tensions. The last years of Barack Obama's presidency marked a significant change with the historic reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the approval of certain measures of U.S. openness toward Cuba. The White House then hoped that the climate of growing cooperation would boost the modest economic reforms that Havana had begun to implement earlier and that all this would eventually bring political transformations to the island.
The Cuban government's lack of concessions on subject regarding freedoms and human rights, however, was used by Donald Trump to reverse, upon his arrival to power, several of the measures approved by his predecessor, although it has been above all his anti-Castro rhetoric that has created a new hostile environment between Washington and Havana.
Obama era: détente
In his second term, Barack Obama began secret negotiations with Cuba that culminated with the advertisement in December 2014 of a agreement for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The respective embassies were reopened in July 2015, thus overcoming an anomaly dating back to 1961, when the Eisenhower Administration decided to break relations with the West Indian neighbor in view of the communist orientation of the Cuban Revolution. In March 2016, Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Cuba in 88 years.
Beyond the diplomatic sphere, Obama also sought an economic opening towards the island. Given that lifting the embargo established by the US for decades required the approval of the congress, where he faced a Republican majority, Obama introduced certain liberalizing measures by means of presidential decrees. Thus, he eased travel restrictions (he hardly changed the letter of the law, but he did relax his internship) and authorized an increase in the volume of purchases that Americans could make in Cuba.
For Obama, the economic embargo was a failed policy, as it had not achieved its purpose goal of ending the Cuban dictatorship and, consequently, had prolonged it. For this reason, he was betting on a change of strategy, in the hope that the normalization of relations -diplomatic and, progressively, economic- would help to improve Cuba's social status and contribute, in the medium or long term deadline, to the change that the economic embargo had failed to bring about. According to Obama, the embargo had had a negative impact, since issues such as the limitation of tourism or the lack of foreign direct investment had affected the Cuban people more than the Castro nomenklatura.
A new economic relationship
Faced with the impossibility of lifting the economic embargo on Cuba, Obama opted for presidential decrees that opened up trade relations between the two countries. Several measures were aimed at facilitating better access to the Internet for Cubans, which should help to promote democratizing demands in the country. Thus, Washington authorized U.S. telecommunications companies to establish business in Cuba.
In the financial field, the United States allowed its banks to open accounts in Cuba, which facilitated transactions. In addition, Cuban citizens residing on the island could receive payments in the U.S. and send them back to their country.
Another of the measures adopted was the lifting of some of the travel restrictions. As required by U.S. legislation, Obama maintained the restriction that Americans can only travel to Cuba under various circumstances, all linked to certain missions: academic, humanitarian, religious support trips.... Although purely tourist trips were still excluded, the lack of control that the U.S. authorities deliberately stopped applying meant a considerable opening of the hand.
In addition to authorizing banking transactions related to such travel, to meet the anticipated increase in tourists, it was announced that several U.S. carriers such as JetBlue and American Airlines had received approval to fly to Cuba. For the first time in 50 years, in late November 2016 a U.S. commercial aircraft landed in Havana.
The U.S. president also eliminated the limit of expense that U.S. visitors had on the purchase of products for use staff (particularly cigars and rum). Likewise, he promoted the partnership in the medical research and approved the importation of medicines produced in Cuba.
In addition, Obama repealed the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, whereby Cubans arriving on U.S. soil were automatically granted political asylum, while only those intercepted by Cuba at sea were returned to the island.
Since his electoral campaign, Donald Trump showed clear signals about the direction his relations with Cuba would take if he became president. Trump announced that he would reverse the opening towards Cuba carried out by Obama, and as soon as he arrived at the White House he began to strengthen the anti-Castro speech in Washington. The new president said he was willing to negotiate a "better agreement" with the island, but on the condition that the Cuban government showed concrete progress towards the democratization of the country and respect for human rights. Trump raised the prospect of free elections and the release of political prisoners, knowing that the Cuban regime would not accede to these requests. In the absence of a response from Havana, Trump insisted on his previous proposals: maintenance of the embargo (which in any case the Republican majority in the congress is not willing to lift) and reversal of some of Obama's decisions.
In reality, Trump has formally maintained several of his predecessor' s measures, although the ban on doing business with companies controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), which dominate a good part of Cuban economic life, and the respect for the letter in travel restrictions have reduced the contact between the US and Cuba that had begun to occur at the end of the Obama era.
Trump has ratified the repeal of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy decided by Obama and has maintained the diplomatic relations reestablished by Obama (although he has paralyzed the appointment of an ambassador). It has also respected the timid commercial and financial opening operated by the Democratic president, but as long as the economic transactions do not take place with companies linked to the Cuban Army, intelligence and security services. In this regard, the department of the Treasury published on November 8, 2017 a list of companies in those sectors with which no subject of contact US fits.
Regarding travel, the restricted assumptions for American travel to the island are maintained, but in contrast to the blind eye adopted by the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration requires that Americans who want to go to Cuba must do so on tours conducted by American companies, accompanied by a representative of the group sponsor and with the obligation to communicate the details of their activities. The Treasury's rules and regulations requires that stays be in private hostels (casas particulares), meals in restaurants run by individuals (paladares) and shopping in stores run by citizens (cuentapropistas), with the purpose to "channel funds" away from the Cuban army and weaken communist policy.
Reduced tourist expectations led already at the end of 2017 to the fact that several US airlines had cancelled all their flights to the Caribbean island. The Cuban Economics had counted on a large increase in US tourists and yet now had to face, without higher revenues, the serious problem of falling shipments of cheap oil from Venezuela.
Future of diplomatic relations
The greatest tension between Washington and Havana, however, has not been in the commercial or economic sphere, but in the diplomatic sphere. Following a series of apparent "sonic attacks" on U.S. diplomats in Cuba, the U.S. recalled much of its staff in Cuba and expelled 15 diplomats from the Cuban embassy in Washington. In addition, the department of State made a recommendation not to travel to the island. Although the origin of these alleged attacks, which the Cuban authorities deny having carried out, has not been clarified, it could be the accidental side effect of an espionage attempt, which would have eventually caused brain damage to the people being monitored.
The future of relations between the two countries will depend on the direction taken by Trump's policies and the pace of reforms that the new Cuban president may establish. Given that not many changes are foreseen in Miguel Díaz-Canel's management , at least as long as Raúl Castro lives, Havana's immobility in the political and economic fields would probably continue to run up against Trump's anti-revolutionary rhetoric.
[Gabriel Tortella, Capitalismo y revolución. A essay of contemporary economic and social history. Gadir. Madrid, 2017. 550 pages]
review / Manuel Lamela Gallego
The main goal of this book is to offer an extensive vision of contemporary history, in order to enable us to understand the marvelous, and at the same time overwhelming, complexity of the world in which we currently live. In order to accomplish this task, the book has a real approach multidisciplinary , with economic history as a point of meeting and reference letter for the rest of the social sciences. Consequently, the book offers an accurate economic and social analysis, but without ever forgetting the political aspect, a factor that the author considers essential for a true understanding of past events.
With this look at the past in order to, in the final chapters, observe with greater lucidity and clarity the near future, Gabriel Tortella completes, improves and nourishes with a greater issue of reflections and thoughts his previous work, "The origins of the twentieth century" (2005). Economic historian of B academic life and of international recognition, the author presents us with an enjoyable study that will undoubtedly awaken the reader's interest in the study of contemporary history.
To do so, the author takes us by the hand to what he calls the first World Revolution (actually, the author goes back to more remote times to explain, in a brilliant chapter, the triumph of Europe and how it will lead and spearhead this process). This historical development is made up of the so-called Atlantic revolutions or bourgeois revolutions, led by England (XVII) and Holland (XVI-XVII) and followed by the rest of Europe and the American continent during the last decades of the XVIII century and almost all of the XIX century. Finally, the Industrial Revolution initiated in the British Isles during the 18th century will bring this First World Revolution to a close.
Already here, the author sample us his sharpness as a historical analyst to discern between bourgeois revolution and industrial revolution, concluding that an evolutionary process is followed: first it is necessary a revolution of political character that results in advances both socially and economically, as was the case in England, with increased maritime trade, development of parliamentarism, changes in agriculture .... The latter will finally lead to an Industrial Revolution where progress and improvement will be total and will cover all areas of human society. This reflection explains and crystallizes the status lived in Europe during the 18th century, where we found societies like the English, practically submerged in its industrialization, and at the same time societies like the French, still submerged in its bourgeois revolution.
The author marks another turning point in the evolution of history at the end of the Belle Époque and the beginning of World War I, in 1914. As he did before, he will name the process, initiated in the first part of the twentieth century and culminating in its second half, as the Second World Revolution. When the author speaks of revolution, he is in no way referring to the Russian revolution or Bolshevik revolution that took place in 1917, nor to the series of totalitarianisms that arose during the interwar period. For Gabriel Tortella these events are nothing more than monstrous experiences destined to remain silent in the dustbin of history. When the author speaks here of revolution he is referring to the consolidation of the social-democratic State supported by the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes.
The author then makes a historical-economic review, up to the economic recession of 2008. The author concludes by explaining the reason for the triumph of capitalism: a capitalism undoubtedly renewed and shaped by the different crises that have occurred since 1945. Conclusion that we can synthesize in the phrase, almost prophetic, used by the author of: "Tomorrow Capitalism" (p. 498).
Tortella devotes the last pages of his book to reflect on the present and the time to come. In a balance of the last 250 years and far from dark futures, he tells us sample how humanity, after several decades of an unprecedented development , is at its maximum splendor in terms of living standards and conditions. Despite this well-founded optimism, the author also warns us of serious problems that humanity will have to face in order to move forward in its progress. The overpopulation and the demographic decontrol existing in third world countries is considered by the author as the great problem of our time.
The EU has backed down on the project, but Germany still gives support to the Russian initiative
The project of a second set of gas pipelines through the Baltic Sea, in order to transport Russian gas to the European Union without crossing Ukraine, has divided the EU governments. Some Eastern and Central European countries, backed by the United States, argue against any dependency on Russian gas supplies, but Germany keeps its support to the Russian plans.
▲The routes of the Nord Stream and the planned Nord Stream 2 pipelines from Russia to Germany [Gazprom].
ARTICLE / Ane Gil Elorri
The natural gas consumption for nowadays is essential to have basic necessities covered. Therefore, it's imperative for everyday life. Nevertheless, it goes through a laborious process before it reaches the consumers. The gas needs to be extracted from the land or sea subsurface, and transported, before it reaches its destiny, being pipelines the most common via of transportation.
The EU's domestic gas production has been declining and the reserves in the North Sea depleted. Therefore, in order to meet demands, the EU has turned to other suppliers; being the most important Russia, Saudi Arabia and Norway. In fact, a lot of countries in the European Union are heavily dependent on Russian imports, especially of natural gas, which often go through transit countries such as Ukraine and Belarus. The decisions are all make through the EU-Russia Energy Dialogue. Russia has the largest gas reserves in the world. With 44,600 billion cubic meters, Russia has 23.9 percent of the world's currently known gas reserves, followed by Iran (15.8 percent), Qatar (13.5 percent), the United States, and Turkmenistan (4.3 percent each).
The most prominent European energy supply is the Nord Stream Pipelines. Nord Stream are a twin set of pipelines that provide gas transportation capacity for the natural gas, which comes from the Western Russia (Vyborg) into Lubmin, Germany, for the distribution into the European gas grid. This system is composed by a set of 1,224-kilometre pipelines through the Baltic Sea, and each hold the capacity to transport 27.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year. Line 1 became operational in November 2011 and by October 8, 2012 the system was fully operational, having taken the construction of these pipelines 30 months.
The desire of a grand-scale gas transport between Russia and the western Europe goes back to the 1970's, to the contract between a German company (Ruhrgas AG) and Gazprom (national Russian gas company) to supply natural gas. In 2000 the European Commission recognized the need for a pipeline in the Baltic Sea. In December 2005, the North European Gas Pipeline Company was established and by October 4, 2006, the North European Gas Pipeline was ofﬁcially renamed Nord Stream. It was finally completed and functional in October 2012.
The Nord Stream project was very ambitious. Nevertheless, it was completed on time, on budget, and without permanently impacting the environment. The Nord Stream Pipeline system is fully operational and capable of transporting up to 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas every year to Europe.
Now, a new project is developing based on the success of the Nord Stream Pipelines: Nord Stream 2. This project will benefit from the experience of the previous pipeline, which has set a new high for the environmental, technical and safety standards throughout its planning, construction and operation. The idea is to add a new set of twin pipelines along the Baltic Sea route to increase the capacity of gas transportation in order to meet the demands of Europe. In fact, this new pipeline will create a direct link between Gazprom and the European consumers.
The Nord Stream 2 project is implemented by the Nord Stream 2 AG project company, where Gazprom is the sole shareholder. In October 2012, the shareholders of the Nord stream project examined the possibility of constructing a third and fourth pipeline and came to the conclusion that it was economically and technically attainable. In April 2017, Nord Stream 2 AG signed the financing agreements for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with ENGIE, OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, Uniper, and Wintershall. These five European energy companies will provide long-term financing for 50 per cent of the total cost of the project.
The entry point into the Baltic Sea of the twin pipeline will be the Ust-Luga area of the Leningrad Region. Then the pipeline will stretch across the Baltic Sea. Its exit point in Germany will be in the Greifswald area close to the exit point of the original Nord Stream. The route covers over 1,200 kilometres.
The total capacity of the second twin set of pipelines is 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year. Therefore, the sum with the prior pipelines would give an outstanding number of 110 billion cubic metres of gas per year. Nord Stream 2 will be operational before late 2019.
This project is defended with the argument that it supposed a diversification of the routs transporting natural gas to Europe and to elevate the energetic security due to the instability of the transit of gas through Ukraine. For now, a lot of the natural gas consumed by Europe comes from Russia through Ukraine. Nevertheless, if this project goes through, Ukraine will lose 2,000 million dollars for the transit of natural gas, and even the proportion of gas will decrease (which is also for staff use) leading to the collapse and finalization of the transit of natural gas through Ukraine. Furthermore, if Hungary, Slovakia and Poland receive natural gas through the Nord Stream 2 pipelines instead of through Ukraine, it will be very difficult that Ukraine receives gas from the west, seeing as Gazprom along with others controls EUGAL (European Gas Pipeline Link) can reduce the supply of gas to those companies that provide gas to Ukraine.
The cost of 1,000 cubic meters in 100 kilometres through Nord Stream 2 would cost 2.1 million dollars while through Ukraine it costs 2.5 million dollars. The tariff of transportation of natural gas through Nord Stream is 20% lower than through Ukraine.
The main Russian gas pipelines to Eastern and Central Europe [Samuel Bailey/CC].
Only half of the European Union members approve the negotiations between the EU and Russia over the Nord Stream 2 Project. It is true that the natural gas demand of Europe is growing each year but some countries such as the Baltics are against anything that has to do with Russia. Besides the US, thanks to fracking, has become the biggest producer of gas, and is now looking to substitute Russia as the main gas supplier of the EU.
But other countries are in favour of this project. In January 31 this year, Germany gave its permission to begin the construction of the pipelines of Nord Stream 2 in their territorial waters. Berlin also authorized the construction of the section of 55 kilometres that will go through the terrestrial part situated in Lubmin. In April this year, Finland has also given the two permissions needed to begin the construction.
Nevertheless, Gazprom will be facing a few difficulties in order to pull through with this project. The company still needs that other countries, such as Norway, Denmark and Russia, give authorizations and permissions to construct the pipelines in their exclusive economic zone. There is a risk that Denmark doesn't authorize these new pipelines. The Danish Agency of Energy and the Foreign Office both have to give their approval but can deny the permit if Nord Stream 2 represents a danger for the environment. Another problem is purely political: the European Commission is trying to make the implementation of the project fit with the EU legislation. In November 2017, the European Commission prepared a list of amendments to its energy legislation, known as the Third Energy Package, which will pursue gas pipelines that come from the markets of countries that have the Brussels standards. Because of this, Gazprom won't be able to be the only shareholder of the Nord Stream 2 project and the pipelines will have to carry gas of other companies that have nothing to do with Gazprom.
Although, as previously mentioned, Nord Stream 2 has already received the two permits necessary in Germany and Finland in order to begin the construction, it seems that not many European countries are in favour of this project. In fact, since this April, the EU and the European Commission have withdrawn their support claiming that Nord Stream 2 does not encourage the diversification of gas supply, and they give more significance to the gas pipelines going through the Ukrainian territory in context of diversification of supply routes.
Other EU countries and of the region, such as Ukraine, Denmark, the Baltic States and Poland, have continuously spoken against Nord Stream 2, claiming that the project will increase Europe's dependence on imported Russian gas. Nevertheless, German Chancellor Angela Merkel supports this project, considering it to be an economic project which does not pose a threat to EU energy security, has is expected, seeing as the Nord Stream 2 is a joint venture between Russia's Gazprom, France's Engie, Austria's OMV AG, the Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell, and Uniper and Wintershall, both German.
Nevertheless, the most vocally active countries against this project are the US and Ukraine. On one side, the United States believes that this project would undermine Europe's overall energy security and stability. It would also provide Russia other ways to pressure European countries, especially Ukraine. The US even threatened the EU firms to be subjected to Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). On the other side, Ukraine's efforts to prevent the implementation of Nord Stream appears to be futile. They openly stated that this would conclude on the Russian monopoly on the world gas market, which would lead in Europe to an energy crisis and to an economic and political destabilization, and called for the international community to step in. Unfortunately, Germany is as headstrong as ever, stating that underwater pipeline to bring gas from Russia could not go forward without Ukrainian involvement in overland transit.
As the recent expulsion of European diplomats in Moscow shows, the global political relations have worsened considerably in the last few years. In fact, some would say that it the worst condition since the Cold War. This new political situation has had consequences on the Nord Stream 2, causing European countries to oppose to this project. The ultimate defender left standing of the programme is Germany, even the EU has backed down after Ukraine's protest. Ukraine has every right to oppose to this project, seeing as Russia has had nothing more but cold moves towards this country(cut off gas supplies in the middle of winter, Crimea), and is not outrageous to think that this project would ultimately affect the country, especially economically. Therefore, this project does not diversify the sources of natural gas, the first Nord Stream already reached this objective. The second Nord Stream, however, would grant Russia a monopoly of natural gas, which is not recommendable seeing as it would create Europe's dependence on Russia, and Russia could take advantage of it. Unfortunately, Russia will not give up this project, even with mostly everybody turns against it.
Opportunities and challenges in Sino-Panamanian relations, one year after the establishment of diplomatic relations
In June 2016, Panama inaugurated the expansion of its Canal. In June 2017, the Panamanian government decided to establish diplomatic relations with China (Central America has been a traditional ally of Taiwan), thus giving rise to the flow of new Chinese investments in a Canal revitalized with the expansion. On the one-year anniversary of the establishment of relations, here is a review of the opportunities and challenges posed by the increased Chinese presence in the isthmus.
▲Container ship of the Chinese shipping company COSCO, making transit issue 2,000 in the expanded Canal, in September 2017 [Panama Canal].
article / Ximena Barria
In the last decade, the People's Republic of China has made efforts to increase its presence in different regions of the world. China's projection as a global power has meant that no region is alien to it and there are hardly any countries that do not actively seek commercial exchange with the Asian giant. Therefore, it is not surprising that China has wanted to increase its activity around the Panama Canal, and that this Central American country has established diplomatic relations with Beijing, breaking the traditional relationship with Taiwan.
Panama's privileged geography and its rapid economic growth in the region are two important aspects taken into account by China. The Panama Canal offers advantageous access to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and about 6% of global maritime trade passes through it. At times there has been talk of Chinese interest in building a canal in Nicaragua, something that was never really on Beijing's diary . China sees Panama as an important geostrategic point from which to project its foreign policy in Latin America, which undoubtedly unsettles Washington.
On June 13, 2017, the Republic of Panama and the People's Republic of China announced the establishment of diplomatic relations. With this, Panama recognized the government of Beijing as the legitimate Chinese government and broke the previous diplomatic relations established with Taipei. The new Sino-Panamanian relations gave way to 19 agreements in various areas.
Chinese projects in the isthmus
In a country as open to trade and transactions of all subject as Panama is, the population of Chinese origin has always had a relative presence. The Chinese community in Panama is made up of some 135,000 people, which represents 4% of its 4 million inhabitants.
Since 1911, Panama had maintained diplomatic relations with China. However, after the defeat of the Chinese Nationalist Party and the victory of Mao Zedong's communism, the Panamanian State decided to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, due to its capitalist stance, during the Cold War. Since 1949, Panama remained one of Taiwan's major allies until its rupture in 2017.
Despite the recognition of Taipei, trade relations between Panama and the People's Republic of China have been increasing in recent years, generating a larger volume of exchange than that recorded between the Central American country and Taiwan.
Panama's most important economic engine is the Canal, which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and constitutes one of the most important routes for world trade. Canal revenues generate one third of Panama's Gross Domestic Product. Over the years, China has become an important customer of the Canal, becoming its second largest customer Username after the United States. The first ship to cross the expanded Canal, at the inauguration held in June 2016, was a vessel of the Chinese shipping company COSCO, which was awarded the honor by lottery.
China is the largest provider of the Colon Free Zone (CFZ), located on the Caribbean coast of Panama, next to the northern mouth of the Canal. It is the most important free zone in the Americas and the second largest in the world, with an annual volume of imports and re-exports of $16.16 billion. In the first semester of 2017, the FTZ imported $1.344 billion worth of goods from China. Likewise, important Chinese companies have sought to establish themselves in the FTZ taking advantage of the strategic advantages it offers.
China has also announced the construction of a container port at area in Colon, which will have facilities for receiving liquefied natural gas. The planned construction is estimated to cost $900 million. The construction will result in the first container terminal designed to handle Neopanamax ships, which have the maximum dimensions to transit the canal.
In the area of communications, the People's Republic of China expressed its interest in building a railway infrastructure connecting the capital of Panama and the province of Chiriqui, covering a distance of 400 kilometers. As for air transportation, the Air China airline committed to operate the Panama City-Beijing route twice a week. Panama has the most important air hub in Latin America and having a direct flight to Beijing represents an important opportunity to bring Asian markets closer to Latin America.
In addition, Panama has an important and diversified financial center that is attractive to Chinese banks as a strategic gateway to establish themselves in the region. The presence of Bank of China, with more than 30 years in the country, and future establishments of other entities such as Banco Industrial y Comercial, Exim Bank and China Development Bank will contribute to increase the flow of Chinese capital to Panama. This, in turn, will diversify and make Panama's banking sector increasingly dynamic.
The Panamanian challenge to take advantage of the opportunity
Ensuring that this increased relationship with China and the Asian market structurally benefits Panama and does not degenerate into a future status of dependence presents important challenges for a country that is in the process of development. Panama will have to increase productivity in sectors such as agriculture and industry, train more staff and create a transparent framework of financial institutions.
The agricultural sector presents marketing difficulties and a lack of agricultural policies to produce and sell crops at fair prices. In recent years, there has been a shortage of land for crop marketing purposes as a result of droughts and floods. Another challenge is food imports, since many imported foreign products are cheaper and this causes a drop in the prices of domestic products, which makes their production unprofitable for the farmer.
The increase in industrial productivity goes hand in hand with the effort of training of a better human capital. Currently, in the Panamanian republic there is a lack of preparation of people who can manage important companies. In 2015, the issue of enrolled in universities reached only a meager issue of 160,000 students. The Panamanian government should promote technical training projects and scholarships to increase this issue so that in the long term deadline there will be more staff trained for the new companies that will arrive.
The Panamanian financial structure should also be prepared to create new legislation that will contribute to legal certainty. In order to harmonize the financial sector with international anti-money laundering conventions, the Panamanian government should establish tax reforms that promote fiscal transparency. The entry of foreign banks should be regulated more effectively. The discussion to consider classifying tax evasion as a tax crime will present an important challenge for the country to consider.
essay / Alejandro Palacios
The violent revolts in Nicaragua, the war in Syria or the status in Yemen are examples of some of the most bloody episodes that are being experienced around the world. Such episodes are, for the most part, aggravated by the disintegrative mentality that prevails in a large part of the world's societies. The promotion of an inclusive culture of peace is one of the challenges posed by the Norwegian sociologist and mathematician Johan Galtung.
Johan Galtung is considered, due to his long trajectory and wide academic experience, as one of the best experts in the topic of alternative conflict resolution. In addition, he has been the founder of two of the most renowned institutions in the field of conflict resolution, such as the high school International Peace research in Oslo (1959) and the Journal of research on Peace (1964). As a result, his books and essays have been widely echoed in the community of experts in this subject. Here we will focus especially on his work "After Violence, 3Rs: Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Resolution", published in 1999 and still very relevant today, as it sheds light on the causes of the conflict and its possible solutions.
His main thesis is that conflict is innate in society as there are limited resources and overlapping interests, but whether these lead to violence depends on the will of the individual. In his own words: "Violence is not like eating or sexual relations, which are found all over the world with slight variations". That is why the author rejects Hobbes' thesis in the famous sentence "Homo homini lupus", i.e. that man, in his state of nature, tends to his extinction. From this point Galtung provides a series of aspects that the peace worker must take into account for the correct resolution of a conflict.
Galtung emphasizes the need for a deep analysis of the conflict in order to understand its multidimensionality. Otherwise, the peace worker may misdiagnose the conflict. He puts it this way: "One of the problems is not understanding that conflict has a broader dimension. Therefore, sometimes it may not be given the right treatment (as if the doctor says that an ankle inflammation is an ankle disease and not a heart dysfunction // or hunger as insufficient food intake and not a social problem)".
To make this task somewhat simpler, Galtung provides us with two triangles of violence, which are related to each other. The first is the ABC triangle: Attitudes adopted towards conflict or peace-making; behaviors adopted or peace-keeping; and contradiction underlying the (root) conflict or peace-building. The second triangle indicates that there are two types of violence: the visible and the invisible. The visible is direct violence and the invisible is cultural violence (which causes or feeds direct violence) and structural violence. This is why the author insists on the importance of promoting a culture of peace in which peaceful mechanisms to resolve a conflict without resorting to violence predominate, i.e. a culture based on non-violence, empathy and creativity (to go beyond the mental Structures of the parties to a conflict). Thus, the so-called golden rule "Don't do to others what you wouldn't want them to do to you," he says, is a good way to start forging such a culture. Although this, he says, has one problem: that tastes differ.
Politics, according to Galtung, can help create this culture, which he considers essential to avoid violence as much as possible. Galtung considers democracy to be the best system for creating what he calls a "culture of peace". However, he himself makes a number of criticisms of this political system. First of all, he claims that democracy is equivalent to the dictatorship of the 51% against the rest. This is something that, however, is mitigated thanks to human rights, as he himself acknowledges. Secondly, the author asserts that the sum of all democracies is not universal democracy. An action that affects other states does not have legitimacy just because it has been adopted democratically (something mitigated by international organizations, but which can lead to the status described in the first place). The conclusion to be drawn from all this is that democracy entails a certain Degree of structural violence, but less than with other systems of government.
Finally, Galtung makes a comparison between the Western and Eastern ways of resolving a dispute from the perspective of the temporal dimension of a conflict. While the Western one makes use of a diachronic approach of time, i.e. over time, the Eastern one makes use of a synchronic approach of time, i.e. at the same time. At summary, the Eastern perspective works in the three areas of resolution, reconciliation and reconstruction (the 3Rs) successively and not one after the other, as does the Western world.
Experts on subject of conflicts make a clear distinction between three types of conflicts. On the one hand we have direct violence staff (verbal or physical); indirect structural violence (political and economic exploitation); finally, there is cultural violence. In particular, the English economist Kenneth Boulding criticizes Galtung's analysis on the grounds that it analyzes conflicts from a purely structuralist perspective. In this way, he criticizes, on the one hand, that the method used is very taxonomic, since, according to Boulding, "taxonomy is a convenience of the human mind rather than a description of reality". On the other hand, Galtung's emphasis on equality, as opposed to hierarchies, for conflict mitigation is criticized, since, according to the Briton, Galtung does not take into account that such equality has negative consequences in terms of quality of life and freedom.