The success of several reforms is overshadowed by the impulsiveness and personal interests of a president with a tarnished image.
Jair Bolsonaro talks to the press at the beginning of January at the headquarters of the Ministry of Economics [Isac Nóbrega, PR].
ANALYSIS / Túlio Dias de Assis
One year ago, on 1 January 2019, a former Brazilian army captain, Jair Bolsonaro, climbed the steps of the Palácio do Planalto for the inauguration of his presidential mandate. He was the most controversial leader to assume Brazil's head of state and government since the presidency of the no less flamboyant populist Jânio Quadros in the 1960s. The more doomsdayers predicted the imminent end of the world's fourth largest democracy; the more deluded, that Brazil would take off and take its rightful place in the international arena. As was to be expected, neither extreme was right: Brazil continues to maintain the level of democracy of the last 30 years, without any military attempt , as some had feared; nor has Brazil become the world power that many Brazilians believe it deserves because of its exceptional territorial, population, cultural and political characteristics. As is often the case, the reality has been less simple than expected.
Among the most attractive aspects of Bolsonaro's candidacy to the public during the election campaign was the promise of economic recovery under the administration of Chicago Boy minister Paulo Guedes. In order to fulfil this promise purpose, right at the beginning of his mandate, Bolsonaro unified the former ministries of Finance, Planning, development and management, Industry, work and Foreign Trade and Services under the umbrella of the Ministry of Economics, all under the command of the liberal Guedes. Guedes became a sort of "super-minister" manager of the new government's entire economic diary .
From the outset, Guedes made it clear that he would do his utmost to lift the barriers of Brazilian trade protectionism, a doctrine adopted at Degree by every government for more than half a century. In order to deploy his crusade against statism and protectionism, Guedes has this year promoted bilateral trade rapprochement with several strategic allies, which, 'unlike previous governments, will not be chosen on the basis of ideological criteria', according to Bolsonaro. Already in January there was the advertisement of a Novo Brasil at the World Economic Forum in Davos, defined by greater openness, zero tolerance for corruption and the strengthening of Latin America as a regional bloc.
Despite his support for economic openness, Bolsonaro's team has never been overly favourable to trade with Mercosur - his regional multilateral trade bloc - with Guedes even stating that it was a burden for Brazil, as he considered it an ideological rather than an economic alliance. However, this aversion to Mercosur, and mainly to Argentina, seems to have ended after the signature of the Mercosur-EU tradeagreement , given that the potential volume of trade that would be generated by such a pact would be enormously beneficial for Brazilian agricultural and livestock producers. area Similarly, a agreement was also signed with the countries of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), comprising Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Of these two agreements, the most controversial has been the one signed with the European Union, mainly due to the high levels of rejection in some member states such as France, Ireland and Austria, as it is seen as a possible risk to the Common Agricultural Policy. On the other hand, some other countries were critical, citing Bolsonaro's environmental policy, as the agreement was signed during the summer, which coincided with the time of the fires in the Amazon. As a result, several member states have still not ratified the treaty and the Austrian parliament has voted against it.
However, the fact that multilateral trade relations do not seem to have made much progress, due to the obstacles imposed by Europe, has not prevented Brazil from expanding its commercial activity. Contrary to what one might think, due to its ideological closeness to Donald Trump and his foreign policy, the rapprochement in subject economic relations has not been with the US, but with the antagonistic Asian giant. In this process, Bolsonaro's trip to Beijing stands out, where he showed himself to be open to Chinese trade, despite his previous less favourable statements in this regard. agreement During the proposal visit a free trade agreement with China, which has yet to be approved by the Mercosur summit, and several smaller agreements, including one on agricultural trade, came up.
This sudden Chinese interest in increasing agricultural imports from Brazil is due to the increase in demand for meat in China, triggered mainly by the swine fever epidemic that devastated domestic production. This has led to an immediate rise in the price of beef and pork in Brazil, up to 30% in some cuts in little more than a month, which has distorted the domestic market, as meat, mainly beef, is usually very present in the average Brazilian's regular per diem expenses .
With regard to the country's internal accounts, it is worth highlighting the approval of the pension reform(Reforma da Previdência), which initially had a markedly liberal character, with the aim of eliminating privileges and disproportionate pensions for high-level public officials. However, several modifications during its passage through the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate meant that the savings for the public treasury were slightly less than Guedes had envisaged. Still, it is a big step forward considering that the pension system had a deficit of 195 billion reais (about $47 billion) in 2018. This deficit is due to the fact that Brazil had one of the highest benefit systems in the world with the fewest demands, with many people retiring at the age of 55 on 70 per cent of their original salary.
This measure, together with several other adjustments in the public accounts, including the freezing of some ministerial expenditures, reduced the public deficit by 138.218 billion dollars in January (6.67% of GDP) to 97.68 billion dollars in November (5.91% of GDP), the most leave since the economic recession began five years ago. Among other relevant data is the drop in the Central Bank's base interest rate to a historic low of 4.5%, while the unemployment rate fell from 12% to 11.2%.
result As a result, Brazil's GDP has increased by 1.1 per cent, a timid but promising figure considering the huge recession from which Brazil has just emerged. Growth forecasts for 2020 vary between 2.3 and 3 per cent of GDP, depending on the approval of the long-awaited tax reforms and management assistant.
Another reason for the controversial captain of reservation to become president was Brazil's historic crime problem. Just as Bolsonaro came up with a strong name to tackle the economic status , for security he recruited Sergio Moro, a former federal judge known for his indispensable role in Operação Lava Jato, Brazil's biggest anti-corruption operation, which led to the imprisonment of former president Lula himself. With the goal to fight corruption, reduce criminality and dynamite the power of organised crime, Moro was put in charge of a merger of Departments, the new Ministry of Justice and Public Security.
In general, the result has been quite positive, with a B decrease of issue in violent crime. Thus, there has been a 22% reduction in homicides, which is one of the most worrying indicators in Brazil, as it is the country with the highest absolute issue number of homicides in the world per year.
Among the factors that explain this drop in violent crime, the main one is the greater integration between the different institutions of state security forces (federal, state and municipal). The transfer of gang leaders to prisons with a higher level of isolation, thus preventing them from communicating with other members of organised crime, has also played a role. Another element has been the recent"anti-crime pack" C , which consists of a series of laws and reforms to the penal code to give more power to state security forces, as well as stiffer penalties for violent crime, organised crime and corruption.
In contrast to these developments, there has also been an increase in the number of accidental deaths in police operations. Some cases have been echoed in public opinion, such as that of an artist who ended up shot in his car when the police mistook him for a drug trafficker, or those of children killed by stray bullets in shoot-outs between drug gangs and the security forces. This, together with controversial statements by the head of state on the issue, has fuelled criticism from most of civil service examination and several human rights NGOs.
Social policy and infrastructure
In terms of social policies, the past year has been far from the apocalyptic dystopia that was expected (due to Bolsonaro's previous attitude towards homosexuals, Afro-Brazilians and women), although it has not been as remarkable as in the previously mentioned sections. There has been no progress in areas core topic, but neither have there been notable changes in terms of social policy compared to 2018. For example, the emblematic social programme Bolsa Família, created during the Lula government and which greatly helped to reduce extreme poverty, has not been cancelled.
Starting with Education, at the end of 2019 Brazil came out with one of the lowest report PISA scores, a fact that the minister of education, Abraham Weintraub, blamed on the "Education progressive Marxist mood of previous administrations". As result of the failure of the regular public system, and even the lack of security of some centres, the government has openly promoted the construction of new civic-military Education centres by state governments. In such a subject centre, students receive a Education based on military values while the officers themselves provide protection in these public spaces. It should be noted that the existing schools are among the highest ranked in Brazil on subject in terms of educational quality. However, this is not without controversy, as there are many who consider that this is not an adequate solution, as it may end up educating from a militaristic perspective.
On subject health, the most notable event this year was the end of the health cooperation programme with Cuba, Mais Médicos. goal This agreement was launched in 2013, during Dilma Rousseff's term in office, and its aim was to provide a larger and more extensive universal medical service attendance through the contracting of several doctors 'exported' by the Castro government. The programme was criticised because the Cuban doctors only received 25% of the salary provided by the Brazilian government and the remaining 75% was retained by Havana. Bolsonaro broke the agreement, thus causing vacancies in staff health care that could be filled in a short time. Cuban professionals were given the opportunity to remain in Brazil under political asylum if they revalidated their degree program in medicine in the Brazilian system. This incident has not brought about a significant change in the precarious national health system; the only consequence has been the deterioration of relations with Cuba.
Despite not making much progress on the social front, the Bolsonaro administration has made improvements in national logistics infrastructure. Under the command of the military's Tarcisio Gomes de Freitas, the Ministry of Infrastructure has stood out for its ability to complete works not finished by previous governments. This led to a noticeable difference in the issue and quality of operational roads, railways and airports compared to the previous year. Among the sources of financing for new works is the reopening of a pooled fund established in 2017 between Brazilian and Chinese financial institutions, worth US$100 billion.
visit Bolsonaro with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an official visit to New Delhi in late January [Alan Santos, PR] [Alan Santos, PR].
One of the areas most feared to be harmed by Jair Bolsonaro's administration was environmental policy. This concern was heightened by the controversial fires in the Amazon during July and August. To begin with, the Ministry of the Environment, like all the others, was affected by the austerity policies of Paulo Guedes, in order to balance the public accounts, although according to Minister Ricardo Salles himself, it was the one that suffered the least from the budget cuts. As a result, forest protection was compromised at the beginning of the drought period in the Amazon.
Seeing the 278% increase in deforestation in July, Bolsonaro reacted impulsively and fired the director of the high school Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciales (INPE), accusing him of favouring civil service examination and conspiring against him. The status prompted the departure from the Amazon Protection Fund of Germany and Norway, the two largest contributors, which was met with criticism from Bolsonaro, who also accused the NGOs of being the cause of the fires. Finally, under international pressure, Bolsonaro finally reacted and decided to send in the army to fight the flames. goal which he achieved in just under a month, reaching the highest number on record in October leave .
In the end, the annual total ended up 30% higher than the previous year's figure, but still within the average range of the last two decades. However, the damage to the national image was already done. Bolsonaro, thanks to his rivalry with the media, his vehement eagerness to defend "national sovereignty" and his lack of restraint when speaking, had managed to be seen as the culprit of a distorted catastrophe.
Additionally, at the end of the year, yet another controversy hit the Bolsonaro administration: the mysterious oil spill off Brazil's northeast coast. Thousands of kilometres of beaches were affected and to this day there is still no official culprit for the crime. There were several hypotheses on the matter; the most widely accepted, which was also supported by the government, was that the spill came from an illegal shipment of Venezuelan oil attempting to circumvent the trade blockade imposed on Maduro's regime. According to analyses carried out by the Universidade da Bahia, the structure of the oil was indeed very similar to that of crude oil from Venezuelan fields.
In foreign policy Bolsonaro can distinguish himself rhetorically from his predecessors, but not in terms of his actions. Although he would like to apply his ideology in this area, he himself has accepted that this is not possible. In the face of the strength and interests of state institutions, such as the diplomatic tradition of Itamaraty (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Brazilian foreign policy has remained as pragmatic and neutral as in all previous democratic governments, thus avoiding the closing of doors for ideological reasons.
A good example of Brazilian pragmatism is the economic rapprochement with China, despite Bolsonaro's rejection of communist ideology. This does not mean, however, that he has distanced himself from his quasi-natural ally in terms of ideology, Donald Trump. However, the relationship with the US has been of a different nature, as there has been greater proximity in international cooperation and security. The US pushed for Brazil's designation as a strategic NATO partner , reached a agreement for the use of the Alcântara space base, very close to the Equator, and supports Brazil's entrance in the OECD.
In the economic sphere, however, there does not seem to be such closeness, and there have even been some frictions. One of these was Trump's threat to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium from Brazil and Argentina, which he finally withdrew, although the damage to trade relations and the São Paulo and Buenos Aires stock markets had already been done. Some analysts even suggest that the lack of reciprocity from the US on subject , as well as the rejection by some EU members of the agreement with Mercosur, was what pushed Bolsonaro to seek a compensatory relationship with the BRICS, whose 2019 summit took place in Brasilia.
Another peculiar point of Bolsonaro's foreign policy has been his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which once again sample shows the inconsistency between rhetoric and action. During the election campaign Bolsonaro promised on several occasions to move the Brazilian embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, something that has so far not happened and only an economic office has been relocated. Bolsonaro probably feared trade reprisals from Arab countries, to which Brazil exports products, mostly meat, worth almost 12 billion dollars. Prudence on this issue even earned him the signature of several agreements with Persian Gulf countries.
Despite the above, there has been one aspect of foreign policy in which Bolsonaro has managed to impose his ideology against the 'historical pragmatism' of the Itamaraty, and that is the Latin American sphere. Brazil ceased to be the theoretically neutral giant that timidly supported the so-called Socialism of the 21st century during the Lula and Dilma governments, and now coordinates with the governments of the other political side.
Most notable is his enmity with Nicolás Maduro, as well as with former president Evo Morales, whose request to pass through Brazilian territory was openly denied by Bolsonaro. There has also been a distancing from the returning Peronism in Argentina, with the absence of Bolsonaro and any high-ranking Brazilian representative at the inauguration ceremony of Kirchner's Alberto Fernández. In the same context are the approaches to Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Colombia, as well as the new Bolivian government provisional , with which Bolsonaro sees more similarities. With them he has promoted the creation of PROSUR as opposed to the former UNASUR controlled by the Bolivarian left. Even so, despite having adopted a more ideological policy in the region, Brazil continues to maintain diplomatic cordiality since, although its leader takes liberal conservatism to extremes in his rhetoric, his policies in the region hardly differ from those of other right-wing governments.
In general, as has been shown, Bolsonaro's government has achieved positive results in its first year, mainly highlighting its progress in the areas of security and Economics. However, while the work of various ministers has improved perceptions of the administration, Bolsonaro himself does not appear to be making a particularly positive contribution. Throughout the year, he has generated controversy over unimportant issues, which has accentuated his previous enmity with most of the press.
As a result, the president's public image has gradually deteriorated. At the end of 2019 his popularity stood at 30%, compared to the 57.5% he started the year with. This contrasts with the approval rating of members of his government, especially Sergio Moro, who has managed to remain unmoved above 50%. In addition, his son Flavio, who is a senator, has come under investigation for a possible corruption case, in a process that the president has sought to prevent. Bolsonaro also caused a scandal in the middle of the year when he tried to appoint his son Eduardo as ambassador to Washington and was accused of nepotism. In addition to the tensions in his own party, which led to a split, there is little rapport between Bolsonaro and the presidents of both chambers of the fractured congress Nacional, both of whom are under investigation in conveniently stalled anti-corruption operations.
All this chaos caused by the president gives the impression of a Bolsonaro who goes against the tide of his own government. The apparent success of the reforms already carried out ends up being tainted by the impulsiveness and personal interests of the man who once defended the impersonality of the state, which ends up causing the deterioration of his political image. In addition, there is the recent release of former president Lula, which entails the risk of the unification of the civil service examination, depending on how moderate speech is adopted. This being the case, it is possible that Bolsonaro's headless but efficient government will not find it easy to stay in power until the end of its term. It should be remembered that the hand of Brazil's congress does not usually tremble when it comes to impeachments; in little more than three decades there have already been two.
Increasingly distant from the Alliance, Turkey is creating discomfort among its Western partners, but is unlikely to be invited to leave.
Its strategy in the Syrian conflict, its rapprochement with Russia through the acquisition of the S-400 anti-aircraft system and its desire for projection in the eastern Mediterranean, where it is damaging Greek interests, have brought Ankara into ongoing friction with NATO over the past few years. But the Alliance is not in a position to do without Turkey. Not only is its geographic status valuable as a bridge between East and West, but without Turkey NATO would be less able geopolitically to act against terrorism or control refugee movements and its military defence capabilities as an alliance would be diminished.
meeting between the Presidents of Turkey and Russia in Istanbul in January 2020 [Turkish Presidency].
article / Ángel Martos
Relations between the Atlantic Alliance and the Republic of Turkey are at their most tense in recent history. Ankara's foreign policy has been in a state of flux given the instability of its governments since the death of the Father of the Fatherland, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The Kemalist republic projected a very different image of Asia Minor than the one we know today: the secularism and westernisation that characterised its bequest has been replaced by a moderate Islamic-tinged authoritarianism (according to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of the Republic and leader of the training AKP).
This profound evolution has been reflected in the field of International Office, as is to be expected. The doctrine of neo-Ottomanism has gained ground among its foreign policy makers. Turkey now seeks to exploit to the full its position as a bridge between Western and Eastern civilisation, while gaining influence among its adjacent states and emerging as the stabiliser of the Middle East.
In this scenario, the main headache for Western statesmen is the substantial improvement in Anatolia's relations with NATO's arch-enemy Russia. This improvement cannot be understood without recalling a series of events that have led Turkey to distance itself from the European continent: the lukewarm reaction of Western governments to the 2016 coup d'état; the reticence shown towards the continuous requests for extradition of Fetulah Gülen's refugee followers in the EU and the US; Greece's refusal to extradite military refugees after the coup; the European Commission's continuous condemnations of Turkey's domestic politics; and, above all, the truncated dream of Turkey's accession to the EU. This is why Turkey has decided to redefine its diplomacy in its own interests alone, swinging between Russia's financial aid and NATO's . The acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system and its recent operations in Northeast Syria are examples of this.
The purchase of the aforementioned long-range anti-aircraft missile system is the subject of much controversy within NATO. Turkey's urgent need for such a system is obvious as it faces potential ballistic missile threats from neighbouring countries. But the choice of the Russian S-400 system, after several years of negotiations during which it was not possible to reach an agreement on agreement for the acquisition of the US Patriot system, has caused a real earthquake and Turkey's continued participation in the F-35 fifth-generation fighter programme has even been called into question. Political considerations seem to have outweighed technical aspects in the decision, as the two systems are incompatible and, being strategic-level weapon systems, both from an operational and geopolitical point of view, their employment by an Atlantic Alliance country is problematic. The Alliance is concerned about the Kremlin's access to Alliance information through its radar technology.
The other development that raises questions about the future of Ankara's relations with NATO was the recent Turkish military operation in northern Syria. The Turkish military launched an offensive against Kurdish militias (YPG, which it considers terrorists) in northern Syria on 9 October. The attention to the Kurdish people is the major point of contention between the US and Turkey, as they are staunch allies of the superpower, but at the same time a political and security threat to the stability of Anatolia.
Ankara had been pressing the US to establish a 'safe zone' into Syrian territory and had repeatedly threatened to launch unilateral military action if Washington continued to stand in its way. In early October, the US gave the go-ahead for the operation by ordering its military deployed in Syria to withdraw from the border area. The Trump administration thus abandoned the Kurds with whom it was fighting the Islamic State to their fate, giving Turkey the leeway for greater control of its border with Syria.
The next aspect that must be mentioned when describing the complex relations between Ankara and NATO is the ongoing geopolitical struggle between Greece and Turkey. Although both have been NATO members since the 1950s, relations between these two Eastern Mediterranean countries have always been characterised by a permanent perceived tension that has some consequences for supranational military cooperation. The three main disputes that have shaped this bilateral confrontation since the late 19th century are worth mentioning here: the sovereignty of the Dodecanese archipelago, that of present-day Cyprus, and the maritime dispute over the Aegean shelf. Such was the magnitude of the dispute that the Greek government went so far as to decree its withdrawal from NATO in 1974, although it later rejoined.
While this Greek-Turkish conflict was at its height in the second half of the twentieth century, there are many ethnic and historical aspects that make the two countries seem irreconcilable, except in historically specific exceptions. This means that the eastern flank of the Mediterranean, given its proximity to the volatile Middle East area , has been a constant source of concern for NATO leaders. While Greece has managed, following its transition to democracy, to emerge as a stable NATO ally, Turkey has not followed suit. This undoubtedly works against it both in domestic politics and in its aspirations for maritime sovereignty.
Historically, it is worth noting Turkey's growing role as an inter-regional mediator between the Middle East and the West. Perhaps in response to a strategy designed by Ahmet Davutoglu, who was foreign minister under the AKP government, Turkey sought to distance itself from the US under Bush Jr. Its refusal to collaborate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq won it some sympathy in the region, which it has been able to use in countries as diverse as Iraq, Israel and Iran. However, over the years the Islamist government has repeatedly spoken out against Zionism and the threat it poses to the stability of the region.
Its estrangement from the EU and its rapprochement with Russia at subject has also marked the Turkish administration's image in the Alliance. Relations with Russia, despite having been marked by political disputes such as those over Kurdish and Chechen self-determination (antagonistically supported by both countries), are kept afloat by the hydrocarbon trade. The picture is thus more favourable to the Russian axis than the American-Israeli one in the region. This logically undermines NATO's confidence in this "hinge" country, which is no longer sample interested in acting as such but as an independent and sovereign power pursuing its own interests, seeking support from the Alliance or the East as it sees fit.
This shift away from NATO's roadmap by the Turkish government, coupled with a rapprochement in some respects with the Kremlin and the authoritarian drift of the country's presidency, has prompted analysts and international leaders to open up discussion about a possible expulsion of the Asian Minor Republic from the Alliance. However, it is unlikely that the allies will decide to ignore Turkey's strategic importance. Its geographic status makes it a bridge country between East and West. Without Turkey, NATO would be less able geopolitically to act, for example, in terms of counter-terrorism or controlling refugee movements. Moreover, Turkey has the second largest military of all NATO states: exclusion would severely affect its military defence capabilities as an alliance. On the other hand, Turkey's representations in NATO, while critical of NATO as the Trump administration has repeatedly been, have not expressed a clear desire to leave unilaterally.
[Jim Sciutto, The Shadow War: Inside Russia's and China's Secret Operations to Defeat America. Hasper-Collins. New York, 2019. 308 p.]
review / Álvaro de Lecea
With the end of the Cold War, which pitted the former Soviet Union against the victorious United States of America, the international system shifted from bipolar to a hegemony led by the latter. With the United States in the lead, the West focused on the spread of democracy and commercial globalisation, and if anything the geo-strategic preoccupation of the West was focused on the Al-Qaeda attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11, so the focus of attention shifted and today's Russia was pushed into the background. However, Russia continued to slowly reconstitute itself in the shadow of its old enemy, which no longer showed much interest. Russia was joined by China, which began to grow by leaps and bounds. At this point, the United States began to realise that it had two major powers on its heels and that it was engaged in a war it did not even know existed: the Shadow War.
This is the term used by Jim Sciutto, CNN's chief national security correspondent, to describe what he describes in detail throughout his book and what has largely come to be known as hybrid or grey zone warfare. Sciutto prefers to speak of Shadow War, which could be translated as war in the shadows, because this better denotes its character of invisibility under the radar of open or conventional warfare.
This new war was started by Russia and China, not as allies, but as powers with a common enemy: the United States. It is a hybrid war subject and therefore contains both military and non-military methods. On the other hand, it does not envisage a direct military confrontation between the two blocs. In The Shadow War: Inside Russia's and China's Secret Operations to Defeat America, Sciutto explains seven situations in which the strategies being pursued by China and Russia to defeat the United States in order to become the world's major powers and impose their own international norms can be clearly observed.
First, it is important to note that Russia and China, while pursuing similar strategies, are different types of adversaries: on the one hand, China is a rising power, while Russia is more of a declining power that is trying to return to its former self. Nevertheless, both share a number of similarities. First, both seek to expand their influence in their own regions. Second, both are suffering from a crisis of legitimacy within their borders. Third, both seek to right the wrongs of history and restore what they perceive as their countries' legitimate positions as world leaders. And finally, they possess great national unity, so that the majority of their populations would do whatever is necessary for their nation.
In the shadow war, thanks to the rules established by Russia and China, any major actor can win, regardless of its power or influence over other international actors. Following the theories of International Office, these rules could be considered to follow a very realistic patron saint , since, in a way, anything goes to win. The power of lies and deception is the order of the day, and lines that were thought unthinkable are crossed. Examples of this, as the book explains and elaborates, are the militarisation of the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea when Xi Jinping himself had promised not to do so, or the hacking of the Democratic Party's computer system in the 2016 US election campaign by Russian hackers, which may have helped Donald Trump emerge victorious.
To all this must be added an essential part of what is happening in this context of non-traditional warfare: the particularly mistaken idea that the United States has about everything that is happening. To begin with, the first mistake the US made, as Sciutto explains, was to neglect Russia as a relevant focus in the international arena. It believed that, having defeated it in the Cold War, the country would no longer re-emerge as a power, and so failed to see the clear clues that it was slowly growing, led by President Vladimir Putin. Similarly, it failed to understand the Chinese government's true intentions in situations such as the South China Sea or the degree program submarines. All of this can be summed up as the US believing that all international actors would play by the rules established by Washington after the Cold War, without imagining that they would create a new scenario. In conclusion, the US did not understand its opponents.
In his latest chapter, Sciutto makes it clear that the US is currently losing the war. Its biggest mistake was not realising status until it was in front of it and it now finds itself playing on a disadvantaged stage. It is true that the US remains the world leader in many respects, but Russia and China are overtaking it in others, following the new rules they themselves have set. However, a change of attitude in US policies could turn the tide. The author proposes a number of solutions that could help the US get back in the lead.
The solutions he proposes focus, in the first place, on the total knowledge of the enemy and its strategy. This has always been his great disadvantage and would be the first step to begin to control status. Similarly, it recommends greater unity within the Allied bloc, as well as an improvement of its own defences. He also recommends a better understanding of the new scenario in which the whole conflict is taking place, and therefore a series of international treaties regulating these new spaces, such as cyberspace, would be of great help financial aid. Further on, he proposes setting clear limits on enemy actions, raising the costs and consequences of such actions. Finally, it encourages the US to exercise clear leadership.
In conclusion, Sciutto's thesis is that the United States finds itself fighting a war whose existence it has only just discovered. It is a subject war that it is not used to and with a set of rules that are alien to what it preaches. While it is still the leader of the current international system, it finds itself losing the game because China and Russia have been able to discover its rival's weaknesses and use them to its advantage. America's biggest mistake was to ignore all the signs of this shadow war and do nothing about it. New scenarios have been introduced and the rules of the game have been changed, so the US, if it wants to turn status around and once again emerge as the victor, the author argues, will have to unite more than ever internally as a nation and strengthen its alliances, and know its enemies and their intentions better than ever before.
In terms of a evaluation of the book, it can be said that it succeeds in concisely and clearly conveying the most relevant points of this new contest. It manages to make clear the strengths and weaknesses of each actor and to take stock of the current status . However, the author does not manage to be too goal judgemental. While admitting the failings of the US, he gives a negative picture of its rivals, taking for granted who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Objectivity is lacking in some cases, as the good guys are not always so good and the bad guys are not always so bad. That said, Sciutto provides a great analysis of the current international status in which the world's major powers find themselves.
Will success in parts of the Vision 2030's diary -like diversifying the economy- have a parallel opening up to religious moderation?
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in a recent Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Chairs Cabinet's Session [Saudi Press Agency] [Saudi Press Agency].
ANALYSIS / Marina García Reina
Since King Salman first envisioned the need of a reform of Saudi Arabia towards a less dependent economy on petroleum, gradual changes have been done upon the aim of progress, and, in a more precise way, not to be left behind in the world race led by western countries and the booming Asian giants. The crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud has positioned himself as the leader of the shift towards a religiously moderate Saudi Arabia within the frame of the Vision 2030 initiative. Predictably, however, the reforms held in the country have been subject to numerous criticisms and double readings.
A succinct contextualization
It is convenient to recall the year 1979, when Shiite militants overthrew the secular Shah of Iran and Sunni fundamentalists besieged the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) in Mecca. That same year, the country's Shiite minority started a revolt in Al-Hasa province, resulting in numerous deaths. The Saudi monarchy responded to those mishaps by moving closer to the Wahhabi (an extremely conservative conception of Islam) religious establishment and restoring many of its hardline stances. As a result, for instance, the government shut down the few cinemas that existed in the kingdom. It was not till 2015 (or 2014, depending on which reforms to base on) when King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud -along with Mohammed bin Salman (popularly known as MBS), who he promoted to crown prince-, proclaimed reforms in Saudi Arabia towards a more moderate political scenario, opening up a new era of Saudi politics. The two expressed their will to limit the authority of the religious police to arrest citizens. They allowed the first cinemas and music concerts since decades of prohibitions, condemned religious incitement, and gradually granted women several rights.
First conceived by King Salman, Vision 2030 is meant to be the decisive plan to transform the country by a sweep in economy and society, and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman himself has positioned as its spearhead. It is basically the headline upon which all the modernization changes are framed. The plan aims to face the three major challenges that Saudi Arabia has nowadays: unemployment, diversification, and privatisation.
It is worth mentioning that in contrast to the great majority of western countries, Saudi Arabia has a growing youthful population. Approximately, 70% of Saudi population is under 30 and the 29% of Saudis between 16 and 29 are unemployed. Vision 2030 includes greater investments in education to train future Saudi leaders, which seems quite unnecessary when noticing that Saudi citizens pay no taxes and receive free education (making up 25% of the total budget), free health care and subsidies for most utilities.
Economy is something that has been worrying most Saudis, since the country's economy is almost entirely based on petroleum and recently the price of a barrel of oil has ranged between about $46 and $64 in 2019, much lower that what it has ranked for years. Diversifying the economy is crucial for the progress of Saudi Arabia. All in all, Vision 2030 will rely on earnings coming from the Aramco's IPO (initial public offering), which will be placed in a sovereign wealth fund -also sourced by Saudi fiscal assets and the sale of state-owned real estate and other government assets-, expectedly resulting into an investment-driven economy rather than a petroleum-based one as it has been for decades. It has also cast serious doubts the nature of the measures that are being developing to modernize the country, especially because the social aspects have been left apart by, for instance, the construction of Neom, a planned futuristic city in the middle of the desert, which is meant to be the great achievement of the crown prince MBS.
Additionally, the initiative has been configured as the political rebirth of the crown prince in the eyes of the international sphere, since it means diminishing the role of government by selling Aramco's 5% of shares to investors, even so, the enterprise still is under tight control of the royal family. Without going any further, Khaled Al-Falih, the chairman of Aramco, is also the new minister of Energy, Industry, and Natural Resources, which once again brings to light the relation between these two.
The stated target is to increase the private sector's contribution to GDP from 40% today to 65% by 2030. Much of this private sector growth will come through public-private partnerships, as said before, high-positioned Saudis will have been directly or indirectly pressured to invest in the IPO. The Saudi government has been criticised on several occasions for being corrupted and showing a lack of transparency over its acts. In this area, Vision 2030 hopes to ensure the law and the obligation of honestly reporting every business activities. Under proposal of MBS a follow-up department, headed by a ministerial rank official, has been set up to follow the implementation by government ministries of projects that have been approved.
Anti-terrorist positioning and extremist ideologies
Mohammed bin Salman has severely expressed his aim of not only dealing with extremist ideologies, but also of destroying them. As part of this determination, some clerics, which are meant to form part of the extremist ideology that the leader seems to condemn, have been targeted.
Nevertheless, organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists have demonstrated that these presumed extremist clerics have long records of advocating the type of reform and religious moderation MBS asserts to support. For instance, in September 2017, numerous clerics, journalists and scholars known for their reluctance to MBS policy, which they consider as half-measured and not going straight to the point, were arrested by Saudi security forces. On the other hand, certain state clerics continue unpunished despite publicly criticizing the reforms and inciting hatred against the Shia minority. In particular, two members of the Council of Senior Scholars -the highest religious body in the country, whose role is to advise the King on religious matters by issuing fatwas (judicial advice provided by a religious specialist)- have been in the spotlight for years. These are Saleh al-Fawzan and Samm leh al-Lohaidan, both close to bin Salman. These two scholars are owners of broadcasting channels funded and promoted by the Saudi government from which they divulge their ultra-conservative view of Islam and condemn with the death penalty whatever they consider as violations of religious and moral rules contrary to Islam. An example of such are the declarations made saying that Shiites are not Muslims or that Muslims are not allowed to protest or even publicly criticize rulers as this would lead to rebellion that would in turn justify rulers' violent response, like those held in 2017.
Together with these personalities, there are others who also hold high-rank positions in the country's politics and government. Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, for example, is the grand mufti (muslim religious who has the authority to interpret Sharia) of Saudi Arabia. In that capacity, he has issued numerous fatwas and statements preaching the virtues of obedience to existing authorities and submitting to their policies without question. This, once again, raises the question of whether or not Saudi Arabia is actually cleansing extremist ideologies. Some, as Abdullah Almalki -a religious academic-, argue that the sovereignty and free choice of the people must have precedence over any desire to implement Sharia and that justice and free choice must be the pillars of any political community.
Almalki's father, Salman Alodah, like himself, advocates religious tolerance against calls of jihad in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, calling for a democratic change, supporting the empowerment of women, fighting against discrimination, and respecting the religious minorities who are marginalized in the Kingdom. Both Almalki and Alodah were also arrested in the 2017 detentions and referred the following year to court for a secret trial -something that has become common when the accused are moderate voices, feminists and intellectuals-, facing death penalty for their extra-progressive views. Besides these cases, probably the best known one was that of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
In contrast to some of these powerful men characterised by their severe religious stances, the Saudi society as a whole holds a somewhat more nuanced view of Islam and does not completely identify with them. On this, it is worth recalling the attack on the Shia mosques carried out by Daesh in May 2015. The event was followed by mass funerals in the Saudi streets, which exposed the unity of the Saudi people above sectarian lines.
Al Qaida was apparently eradicated from the country and, as a result of that, it moved its operations to Yemen, where Saudi Arabia's military force together partnered with the UAE -with limited US support, it must be said- and the Yemeni government forces have been doing efforts to combat it, achieving, for instance, the liberation of Mukalla. Specifically, Saudi Arabia blames the failing states of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen as the reason why Al Qaida has not yet been definitively eradicated.
The Iraqi government broke down after the US invasion in 2003, which led to a sectarian and corrupt government. In Syria, Bashar al Assad led the military uprising and breakdown of authority, providing al Qaida refuge, although he continuously expressed he was combating terrorists, actually al Qaida freely operated in both sides of the border. Saudi Arabia claims that further efforts must be made to remove Assad as an essential part of the battle against terrorism in the region. It also advocates efforts at the international level to stop with the use by terrorists of pro-Palestine propaganda to recruit young members.
Aramco and the oil crisis
Petroleum prices have dropped considerably in recent years, exacerbating the need of a side Saudi economy which does not revolve around oil. This has become a rough task, taking into account that the petroleum sector employs around 70% of the population in Saudi Arabia. Aramco's IPO, which promises to sell shares to investors, has become the centre of the Vision 2030 initiative for Mohammed bin Salman.
The reasons behind the IPO are two: money -Saudi Arabia needs greater money inputs in order to accomplish the reform plans and finance the war in Yemen- and the political rehabilitation of the crown prince (MBS) under the consent of the international sphere, portraying, in a way, that the IPO may not be motivated that much because of an economic interest (which of course it is) but more deeply because of a political benefit of claiming that Saudis are opened to the world by selling part of Aramco to foreigners.
The tremendous expectation raised around the IPO can be interpreted as a way of starting attention of the incidents of 2017 and Khashoggi's murder mentioned before. Aramco's initial public offering, which started this last December in Tadawul (Saudi Arabia's domestic stock market), went resoundingly bad after the US attack in Baghdad resulting in the death of the Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani as well as the Iraqi-Iranian deputy chief of the armed organisation Popular Mobilization Committee. Shares of the State petroleum company have dropped in a 1.7%. However, in spite of this event, Aramco's IPO went reasonably well and the company managed to be valued at $2 billion, which is not surprising considering that the Saudi government has actively encouraged Saudis to invest, meaning that there are investors (people within the orbit of the royal court and big business) who have no choice in the matter because their livelihoods and stature are dependent on proving they support Mohammed bin Salman's program and retail investors who will invest because of all the hoopla and nationalist sentiment whipped up around the offering.
Women and the guardianship rule
Undoubtedly, changes have been done within the Saudi State to overcome the lack of involvement of women in everyday life. As an example of it, the permission to drive automobiles extended to women has found a significant echo globally. Women make up half of the population in Saudi Arabia. As part of the Saudi transformation of its economy plan, there is a need beyond the sole fact of integrating women in society, namely that of integrating this half of the Saudi population into the labor force.
Women conform nowadays just the 7% of the work force. After the implementation of the Vision 2030 plan, the number is expected to rise up to a 30% by that year. Following a worldwide tendency, more women than men graduate from universities in all disciplines. Furthermore, thanks to efforts attributed to the crown prince and to King Abdullah before him, women can be members of the Consultative Assembly since 2014. Currently, they occupy 20% of its seats. In September 2011, King Abdullah granted women the right to vote, a right they exercised in 2015 for the first time.
Further changes have been done within the country in favour of integrating women, which have gone unnoticed by the public eye. Princess Reema bin Bandar al Saud is an example of that. As president of the Saudi Federation for Community Sport, she has developed different initiatives, together with other ministries, to promote women; for instance, by creating football leagues. Moreover, opening women access to the armed forces has also been a huge step forward considering the impact in the shift of gender perspective. It cannot be omitted that Saudi Arabia has been for decades an extremely conservative country and that what may be seen as basic things for westerners in the 21st century, supposes a top-down reform within their principles, especially considering that they are being introduced in a considerably short time.
Saudi Arabia is facing -and will face in the following years- great challenges to redirect the country's economy into one less dependent on oil, and to reeducate a youth that has been raised up with almost everything being granted by the government. Finally, there is also the challenge of making bin Salman's vision more translatable to the western public, which, as said, see the reforms with some skepticism, notwithstanding official energetic and ambitious proclamations. As a summary, society, diversification of economy and governance and bylaws are crucial for the Saudi progress. What is true is that, regardless the reticence of Westerners, MBS has gained huge support among his compatriots and is thought to be the reformer he repeatedly self-proclaims to be. This may lead us, Westerners, to consider whether an Islamic conception of renovation of Islam in appliance to govern is similar, and if so, to which extent, to our own conception of it.
[Barbara Demick, Dear Leader. Living in North Korea. Turner. Madrid, 2011. 382 pages]
review / Isabel López
All dictatorships are the same to a certain extent. Regimes such as Stalin, Mao, Ceaucescu or Saddam Hussein shared having installed statues of these leaders in the main squares and their portraits in every corner... However, Kim Il-sung took the cult of personality even further in North Korea. What distinguished him from the rest was his ability to exploit the power of faith. That is, he understood the power of religion very well. He used faith to attribute supernatural powers to himself that served for his glorification staff, as if he were a God.
So it looks in Dear Leader. Living in North Korea, by journalist Barbara Demick, who worked as a Los Angeles Times correspondent in Seoul. The book chronicles the lives of six North Koreans from the city of Chongjin, located in the far north of the country. Through these six profiles, from people belonging to the most class leave , called beuhun, to the most privileged class , Demick exposes the different stages that have marked the history of North Korea.
Until the conquest and occupation of Japan in the 1905 war, the Korean Empire ruled. During the rule of the neighboring country, Koreans were forced to pay high tribute and young men were taken with the Japanese army to fight in the Pacific war. After the withdrawal of Japanese troops in 1945, a new problem arose as the Soviet Union had occupied part of northern Korea. This led the United States to become involved in order to stop the Russian advance. As a result, the territory was divided into two zones: the southern part occupied by the United States and the northern part occupied by the Soviet Union. In 1950 both factions were involved in the Korean War, which ended in 1953.
After the armistice, there was a prisoner release exchange whereby the communist forces released thousands of people, more than half of whom were South Koreans. However, thousands of others never returned home. The released prisoners were put into wagons leaving Pyongyang station with the presumed intention of returning them to their place of origin in the South, but in reality they were taken to the coal mines in North Korea, on the border with China. As a result of the war, the population had become mixed and it was no longer possible to distinguish between North and South Koreans.
At the end of the war, Kim Il-sung, leader of the Workers' Party, began to purge all those who could endanger his leadership, based on a criterion of political reliability. Between 1960 and 1970, a regime was established which the author describes as one of terror and chaos. The background of each citizen was subjected to eight checks and a classification was established based on the past of their relatives, becoming a caste system as rigid as that of India. This structure was largely based on the Confucian system, although the less friendly elements of it were adopted. Finally, the social categories were grouped into three classes: the main, the wavering, and the hostile. In the latter were the soothsayers, artists and prisoners of war, among others.
Those belonging to the class more leave had no right to live in the capital or in the most fertile areas and were closely watched by their neighbors. In addition, the so-called inminban were created, a term that reference letter refers to the cooperatives formed by about twenty families who managed their respective neighborhoods and were responsible for transmitting any suspicions to the authorities. It was impossible to rise through the ranks, which was passed on from generation to generation.
Children were taught respect for the party and hatred for Americans. The Education was compulsory until the age of 15. Thereafter only children belonging to the higher classes were admitted to Education high school. The most intelligent and beautiful girls were taken to work for Kim Il-sung.
Until the end of the 1960s North Korea seemed much stronger than South Korea. This caused public opinion in Japan to align into two camps, those who supported South Korea and those who sympathized with the North, called Chosen Soren. Thousands of people succumbed to the propaganda. The Japanese who emigrated to North Korea lived in a different world from the North Koreans since they received money and gifts from their families, although they had to give some of the money to the regime. However, they were considered part of the hostile class , since the regime did not trust anyone wealthy who did not belong to the party. Their power depended on their ability to totally isolate the citizens.
The book covers Japan's relationship with North Korea and its influence on the North Korean economy development . When at the beginning of the 20th century Japan decided to build an empire, it occupied Manchuria and seized the iron and coal deposits near Musan. The city of Chongjin was chosen as a strategic port for transporting the spoils. Between 1910 and 1950, the Japanese built huge steel mills and founded the city of Nanam, where large buildings were constructed: the real development of North Korea began. Kim Il-sung displayed industrial power by taking credit for it and did not give any credit to Japan. The North Korean authorities took control of industry and then installed missiles aimed at Japan.
The author also describes the lives of the women factory workers who supported the country's economic development . Factories depended on women because of the lack of male labor. The routine of a female factory worker, which was considered a privileged position, consisted of eight hours a day, seven days a week, plus the added hours to continue her ideological training . Also, assemblies such as that of the socialist women and self-criticism sessions were organized.
On the other hand, it emphasizes the fact to what extent people were molded, who were regenerated to see Kim Il-sung as a great father and protector. In his purpose to remake human nature Kim Il-sung developed a new philosophical system based on Marxist and Leninist thesis called Juche, which translates as self-confidence. He made the Korean people see that they were special and had been the chosen people. This thought captivated a community that had been trampled on by its neighbors for centuries. He taught that the strength of human beings came from the ability to submit their individual will to the collective will and that collectivity was to be ruled by an absolute leader, Kim Il-sung.
However, this idea was not enough for the leader, who also wanted to be loved. The author states that "he did not want to be seen as Stalin but as Santa Claus": he was to be regarded as a father in the Confucian style. Indoctrination started from infancy in kindergartens. During the following years they would not listen to any song, they would not read any article that was not deifying the figure of Kim Il-sung. They were given lapel pins with his face on them, which they were obliged to wear on the left side, over the heart, and his portrait had to be in every house. Everything was distributed free of charge by the Workers' Party.
▲ A demonstration in Beirut as part of 2019 protests [Wikimedia Commons].
ESSAY / David España Font
A shared feeling has been rising across the globe for the last three years, but with special strength during the last six months. The demonstrations since February in Algeria, since September in Egypt, Indonesia, Peru or Haiti, and in Chile, Iraq or Lebanon since October are just some manifestations of this feeling. The primary objective of this essay will not be to find a correlation among all demonstrations but rather to focus on the Lebanese governmental collapse. The collapse of the Lebanese government is one example of the widespread failure most politicians in the Middle East have to meet public needs.[i]
Regarding the protests that have been taking place in Egypt and the Levant, it is key to differentiate these uprisings from the so-called Arab Spring that took place in 2011, and which caused a scene of chaos all over the region, leading to the collapse of many regimes. [ii] The revolutionary wave from 2011, became a spark that precipitated into many civil wars such as those in Libya, Yemen or Syria. It is important to note that, the uprisings that are taking place at the moment are happening in the countries that did not fall into civil war when the Arab Spring of 2011 took place.
This essay will put the focus on the issue of whether the political power in Lebanon is legitimate, or it should be changed. Are the Lebanese aiming at a change in leadership or rather at a systemic change in their political system? This essay id divided into four different parts. First, a brief introduction summarizes the development of the October demonstrations. Second, it throws a quick overview into recent political history, starting from the formation of the Lebanese state. Third, it will approach the core question, namely which type of change is required. Finally, a brief conclusion sums up the key ideas.
2. October 2019
On Thursday October 17th, thousands of people jumped into the streets of Beirut to protest against political corruption, the nepotism of the public sector and the entrenched political class. There hadn't been a manifestation of public discontent as big as this one since the end of the civil war in 1990. The demonstration was sparked by the introduction of a package of new taxes, one of which aimed at WhatsApp calls. [iii] Roads were blocked for ten days in a row while citizens kept demanding for the entire political class to resign. Although, apparently, the demands were the same as those forwarded in 2011, the protests might have been looking more for a change in the whole political system than for mere changes in leadership.
It must not be forgotten the fact that Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, warned that such protests could lead to another civil war and that the right to demonstrate had to be abolished as soon as possible. He literally stated: "I'm not threatening anyone, I'm describing the situation. We are not afraid for the resistance; we are afraid for the country."[iv] Certainly, a change in the political power could make such a power notably stronger, Hezbollah is now enjoying the weakness of the Lebanese political power and prefers to maintain the status quo.
This arising conflict must be analysed bearing in mind the very complicated governmental structure which seems to be very effective towards conflict avoidance, but not towards development and progress. The country is governed by a power-sharing system aimed at guaranteeing political representation for all the country's 18 sects. [v] Lebanon's government is designed to provide political representation of all Lebanese religious groups, the largest ones being the Maronites, the Shiite and the Sunni. The numbers of seats in the Parliament is allotted among the different denominations within each religion. The President must always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the Speaker of Parliament as Shiite.[vi]
Therefore, it goes without saying that the structure of the political power is designed for survival rather than for coexistence. Each representative is inclined to use his position in favour of the interest of the sects that he belongs to instead of that of the national, common interest. There is no chance for common policies to be agreed as long as any of these interfere with the preferences of any one of the sects.
3. A quick overview into recent history
Since the end of the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire managed to control all the region today known as Levant and Egypt. However, the area known as Mount Lebanon remained out of its direct influence[vii]. The region became a self-governed area controlled by powerful Christian Maronite families. Because the Ottoman Empire did not allow European Christians to settle in the territory and benefit from trading activities, the Europeans used the Lebanese Maronites as their commercial representatives. [viii] This was one of the main ways how the European legacy penetrated the region, and one of the reasons that explains why Christians in Lebanon and Syria had a good command of French even before the arrival of the French mandate, and why they became, and still are, richer than the Muslims.
Following World War I, the League of Nations awarded France the mandate over the northern portion of the former Ottoman province of Syria, which included the region of the Mount Lebanon. This was a consequence of the signature in 1916 of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, by which the British and the French divided the Middle East into two areas put under their control. The British would control the South, and the French the North.[ix]
In 1920 the French carved out the region of Lebanon from their mandated area. The region would later be granted the independence in 1943. The means of such demarcation had as primary objective the guarantee and protection of the Christian's free and independent existence in the Muslim Arab world, not even the protection of their rights but rather the recognition of their existence. Since the very first moment of Lebanon's establishment as a separate territory from Syria, Sunni Muslims rejected the very idea of a Lebanese state which was perceived as an act of French colonialism with the objective of dividing and weakening what was perceived to be the united Arab Nation.[x]
Because the preservation of the greater Lebanon was the primary objective for the Christians and they were not going to give up that objective for the sake of a united Arab Nation, a gap between the Maronite and the Sunni communities opened that had to be closed. The legal agreement that came up from efforts in this sense came to be known as the National Pact of 1943 "al-Mithaq al-Watani."[xi] At the heart of the negotiations was on the one hand the Christians' fear of being overwhelmed by the Arab countries, and on the other hand the Muslims' fear of Western hegemony. In return for the Christian to accept Lebanon's "Arab face," the Muslim side agreed to recognize the independence and legitimacy of the Lebanese state in its 1920 boundaries and to renounce aspirations for union with Syria.[xii]
With hindsight, the pact may be assessed as the least bad political option that could be reached at this time. However, as mentioned earlier, this pact has led to a development of the governmental structure that doesn't lead to political construction and development but rather to mere survival.
4. Change in leadership or systemic change?
The issue at stake is very much related to the legitimacy that could be given to the Lebanese political power. In order to tackle this issue, a basic approach to these terms is a must.
The concept of political power is very vague and might be difficult to find a set definition for it; the basic approach could be "a power exercised in a political community for the attainment of the ends that pertain to the community."[xiii] In order to be political, power inherently requires legitimacy. When the power is fully adapted to the community, only then this power can be considered a political power and therefore, a legitimate power. [xiv ] While it is possible to legitimize a power that is divided into a wide variety of sects, it cannot be denied that such power is not fully adapted to the community, but simply divided between the different communities.
Perhaps, the issue in this case is that there cannot be such a thing as "a community" for the different sects that conform the Lebanese society. Perry Anderson[xv] states that in 2005, the Saudi Crown reintroduced the millionaire Rafik Hariri into the Lebanese politics getting him to become prime minister. In return, Hariri had to allow the Salafists to preach in Sunni villages and cities, up to the point that his son, Saad, does not manage to control the Sunni community any longer. How is it possible to avoid such a widespread division of sects in a region where politics of influence are played by every minimally significant power?
Furthermore, in order to be legitimate, power must safeguard the political community. However, going deeper into the matter, it is essential that a legitimate power transcends the simple function of safeguarding and assumes the responsibility of maintaining the development of the community. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, in this case there might be no such thing as a community; therefore, the capacity of the political power in this specific case, legitimacy might be link to the idea of leading the idea of building and developing such idea of community under one united political entity. Possibly, the key to achieve a sense of community might be the abolition of confession-based politics however...is it possible?
Additionally, another reason for which I do not believe that there is a full politicisation of the state is because it has still not transitioned from power, understood as force, into power understood as order. The mere presence of an Iranian backed militia in the country which does have a B degree of influence on the political decisions doesn't allow for such an important change to happen. In the theory, the state should recover the full control of military power however, the reality is that Lebanon does need the military efforts of the Shiite militia.
Finally, a last way to understand the legitimacy of the power can be through acceptance. Legitimacy consists on the consent given to the power, which implies the disposition to obey of the community, and the acceptance of the capacity to force, of the power[xvi]. Until now there has been acceptance. However, being these protests the biggest ones seen since the end of the civil war, it is an important factor to bear in mind. It might be that these protests delegitimize the political power, or they might simply reflect the euphoric hit that many of these events tend to cause before disappearing.
After three months since the beginning of the protests, it seems that steps have been taken backwards rather than forwards. Could Hariri's resignation mean a step forward towards the construction of the community and the abolition of the sectarian division?
The key idea is the nature of the 1943 agreement. The Pact's core idea was to help overcome any philosophical divisions between the two main communities, the Christian and the Sunni. The Christians were not willing to accept a united Arab Nation with Syria, and the Muslims were not willing to be fully ruled by the Christians. However, 80 years later, the importance of confessionalism in the political structure is still there, it has not diminished.To sum up, there are two additional ideas to be emphasised. One is that Lebanon was created in order to remain a non-Muslim state in an Arab world, the second one is that the principal reason for stating that the political powers in the Arab world have so little legitimacy is because of the intrusion of other regional powers in the nation's construction of a community and the persistent war that is being fought between the Sunni and the Shiite in the region in
[CIA ( 2019). World Factbook (p. Lebanese government). USA.
[vi] CIA (2019). World Factbook (p. Lebanese government). USA.
[vii] Hourani, A. (2013). A history of the Arab peoples (p.). London: Faber and Faber.
[viii] el-Khazen, F. (1991). The Communal Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact [Ebook] (1st ed., pp. 7, 13, 14, 49, 52,). Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford. Retrieved from
[ix] Taber, A. (2016). The lines that bind (1st ed.). Washington: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
[x] el-Khazen, F. (1991). The Communal Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact [Ebook] (1st ed., pp. 7, 13, 14, 49, 52,). Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford. Retrieved from
[xi] el-Khazen, F. (1991). The Communal Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact [Ebook] (1st ed., pp. 7, 13, 14, 49, 52,). Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford. Retrieved from
[xii] Thomas Collelo, ed. Lebanon: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1987.
[xiii] Zemsky, B. (2019). 2000 [Blog].
[xiv] Cruz Prados, A. (2000). Ethos y Polis ( 2nd ed., pp. 377-400). Pamplona: EUNSA.
[xv] Mourad, S. The Mosaic of Islam: A Conversation with Perry Anderson (1st ed., pp. 81-82). Madrid: Siglo XXI de España Editores, S. A., 2018.
[xvi] Jarvis Thomson, J. (1990). The Realm of Rights (1st ed., p. 359). Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
▲ US border patrol vehicle near the fence with Mexico [Wikimedia Commons].
ESSAY / Gabriel de Lange
I. Current issues in the Northern Triangle
In recent years, the relationship between the Northern Triangle Countries (NTC) -Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador- and it's northern neighbours Mexico and the United States has been marked in mainstream average for their surging migration patterns. As of 2019, a total of 977,509 individuals have been apprehended at the Southwest border of the US (the border with Mexico) as compared to 521,093 the previous year (years in terms of US fiscal years). Of this number, an estimated 75% have come from the NTC. These individuals are typically divided into three categories: single adults, family units, and unaccompanied alien children (UAC).
As the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reports, over 65% of the population of the NTC are below 29 years of age. This is why it is rather alarming to see an increasing number of the youth population from these countries leaving their homes and becoming UAC at the border.
Why are these youths migrating? Many studies normally associate this to "push factors. The first factor being an increase in insecurity and violence, particularly from transnational organised crime, gangs, and narco-trafficking. It is calculated that six children flee to the US for every ten homicides in the Northern Triangle. The second significant factor is weak governance and corruption; this undermines public trust in the system, worsens the effects of criminal activity, and diverts funds meant to improve infrastructure and social service systems. The third factor is poverty and lack of economic development; for example in Guatemala and Honduras, roughly 60% of people live below the poverty line.
The other perspective to explain migration is through what are called "pull factors." An example would be the lure of economic possibilities abroad, like the high US demand for low-skilled workers, a service that citizens of NTC can provide and be better paid for that in their home countries. Another pull factor worth mentioning is lax immigration laws, if the consequences for illegal entry into a country are light, then individuals are more likely to migrate for the chance attaining better work, educational, and healthcare opportunities.
II. US administrations' strategies
A. The Obama administration (2008-2015)
The Obama administration for the most part used the carrot and soft power approach in its engagement with the NTC. Its main goals in the region being to "improve security, strengthen governance, and promote economic prosperity in the region", it saw these developments in the NTC as being in the best interest of US national security.
In 2014, in the wake of the massive surge of migrants, especially UACs, the administration launched the reform initiative titled the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity (A4P). The plan expanded across Central America but with special focus on the NTC. This was a five year plan to address these "push factors" that cause people to migrate. The four main ways that the initiative aims to accomplish this is by promoting the following: first, by fostering the productivity sector to address the region's economic instability; second, by developing human capital to increase the quality of life, which improves education, healthcare and social services; third, improving citizen security and access to justices to address the insecurity and violence threat, and lastly, strengthening institutions and improving transparency to address the concerns for weak governance and corruption.
This initiative would receive direct technical support and financing from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). In addition, major funding was to be provided by the US, which for the fiscal years of 2015-2018 committed $2.6 billion split for bilateral assistance, Regional Security Strategy (RSS), and other regional services. The NTC governments themselves were major financiers of the initiative, committing approximately $8.6 billion between 2016-2018.
The administration even launched programs with the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The principle one being the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), with a heavy focus on the NTC and it's security issues, which allotted a budget of $1.2 billion in 2008. This would later evolve into the larger framework of US Strategy for Engagement in Central America in 2016.
The Obama administration also launched in 2015 the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which currently allows individuals who were brought to the US as children, and have unlawful statuses to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. It is a policy that the Trump administration has been fighting to remove these last few years.
Although the Obama administration was quite diplomatic and optimistic in its approach, that didn't mean it didn't make efforts to lessen the migration factors in more aggressive ways too. In fact, the administration reportedly deported over three million illegal immigrants through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the highest amount of deportations taking place in the fiscal year of 2012 reaching 409,849 which was higher than any single one of the Trump administration's reported fiscal years to date.
In addition, the Obama administration used educational campaigns to discourage individuals from trying to cross into the US illegally. In 2014 they also launched a Central American Minors (CAM) camp targeting children from the NTC and providing a "safe, legal and orderly alternative to US migration". This however was later scrapped by the Trump Administration, along with any sense of reassessment brought about by Obama's carrot approach.
Number of apprehensions and inadmissibles on the US border with Mexico [Source: CBP].
B. The Trump administration (2016-present)
The Trump administration's strategy in the region has undoubtedly gone with the stick approach. The infamous "zero tolerance policy" which took place from April-June 2018 is a testimony to this idea, resulting in the separation of thousands of children from their parents and being reclassified as UAC. This was in an attempt to discourage individuals in the NTC from illegally entering the US and address these lax immigration laws.
From early on Trump campaigned based on the idea of placing America's interests first, and as a result has reevaluated many international treaties and policies. In 2016 the administration proposed scaling back funds for the NTC through the A4P, however this was blocked in Congress and the funds went through albeit in a decreasing value starting with $754 million in 2016 to only $535 million in 2019.
Another significant difference between the two administrations is that while Obama's focused on large multi-lateral initiatives like the A4P, the Trump administration has elected to focus on a more bilateral approach, one that goes back and forth between cooperation and threats, to compliment the existing strategy.
Towards the end of 2018 the US and Mexico had announced the concept of a "Marshal Plan" for Central America with both countries proposing large sums of money to be given annually to help improve the economic and security conditions in the NTC. However in this last year it has become more apparent that there will be difficulties raising funds, especially due to their reliance on private investment organisations and lack of executive cooperation. Just last May, Trump threatened to place tariffs on Mexico due to its inability to decrease immigration flow. President López Obrador responded by deploying the National Guard to Mexico's border with Guatemala, resulting in a decrease of border apprehensions by 56% on the US Southwest border. This shows that the stick method can achieve results, but that real cooperation cannot be achieved if leaders don't see eye to eye and follow through on commitments. If large amount of funding where to be put in vague unclear programs and goals in the NTC, it is likely to end up in the wrong hands due to corruption.
In terms of bilateral agreements with NTC countries, Trump has been successful in negotiating with Guatemala and Honduras in signing asylum cooperative agreements, which has many similarities with a safe third country agreement, though not exactly worded as such. Trump struck a similar deal with El Salvador, though sweetened it by granting a solution for over 200,000 Salvadorans living in US under a Temporary Protection Status (TPS).
However, Trump has not been the only interested party in the NTC and Mexico. The United Nations' ECLAC launched last year its "El Salvador-Guatemala-Honduras-Mexico Comprehensive Development Program", which aims to target the root causes of migration in the NTC. It does this by promoting policies that relate to the UN 2030 diary and the 17 sustainable development goals. The four pillars of this initiative being: economic development, social well-being, environmental sustainability, and comprehensive management of migratory patters. However the financing behind this initiative remains ambiguous and the goals behind it seem redundant. They reflect the same goals established by the A4P, just simply under a different entity.
The main difference between the Obama and Trump administrations is that the A4P takes a slow approach aiming to address the fundamental issues triggering migration patterns, the results of which will likely take 10-15 years and steady multi-lateral investment to see real progress. Meanwhile the Trump administration aims to get quick results by creating bilateral agreements with these NTC in order to distribute the negative effects of migration among them and lifting the immediate burden. Separately, neither strategy appears wholesome and convincing enough to rally congressional and public support. However, the combination of all initiatives -investing effort both in the long and short run, along with additional initiatives like ECLAC's program to reinforce the region's goals- could perhaps be the most effective mechanism to combat insecurity, weak governance, and economic hardships in the NTC.
 Nowrasteh, Alex. "1.3 Percent of All Central Americans in the Northern Triangle Were Apprehended by Border Patrol This Fiscal Year - So Far". Cato at Library. June 7, 2019. Accessed November 8, 2019.
 N/A. "Northern Triangle: Building Trust, Creating Opportunities." Inter-American Development Bank. Accessed November 5, 2019.
 Orozco, Manuel. "Central American Migration: Current Changes and Development Implications." The Dialogue. November 2018. Accessed November 2019.
 Arthur, R. Andrew. "Unaccompanied Alien Children and the Crisis at the Border." Center for Immigration Studies. April 1, 2019. Accessed November 9, 2019.
 Members and Committees of Congress. "U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America: Policy Issues for Congress." Congressional Research Service. Updated November 12, 2019. November 13, 2019.
 N/A. "Budgetary Resources Allocated for the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity." Inter-American Development Bank. N/A. Accessed November 10, 2019.
 Schneider, L. Mark. Matera, A. Michael. "Where Are the Northern Triangle Countries Headed? And What Is U.S. Policy?" Centre for Strategic and International Studies. August 20, 2019. Accessed November 11, 2019.
 Nagovitch, Paola. "Explainer: U.S. Immigration Deals with Northern Triangle Countries and Mexico." American Society/Council of Americans. October 3, 2019. Accessed November 10, 2019.
 Nagovitch, Paola. "Explainer: U.S. Immigration Deals with Northern Triangle Countries and Mexico." American Society/Council of Americans. October 3, 2019. Accessed November 10, 2019.
 Press Release. "El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico Reaffirm their Commitment to the Comprehensive Development Plan." ECLAC. September 19,2019. Accessed November 11, 2019.
US agreements with the Northern Triangle may have had a deterrent effect before entering into force
In the first month following the extension of the Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACA) to the three Northern Triangle countries, apprehensions at the US border have fallen below the levels of recent years. The actual reduction in migrant inflows that this evidences has to do with Mexico's increased control over its border with Guatemala, but may also be due to the deterrent effect of advertisement of the agreements, whose implementation has not yet fully begun and therefore has yet to demonstrate whether they will be directly effective.
▲ Honduran migrants held by Guatemalan border guards, October 2018 [Wikimedia Commons].
article / María del Pilar Cazali
Attempts to entrance attempt to enter the United States through its border with Mexico have not only returned to the levels of the beginning of the year, before the number of migrants soared and each month set a new record high, reaching 144,116 apprehensions and inadmissions in May( USBorder Guard figures that provide an indirect assessment of migration trends), but have continued to fall to below several previous years.
In October (the first month of the US fiscal year 2020), there were 45,250 apprehensions and inadmissions at the US southern border, down from October 2018, 2015 and 2016 (but not 2017). This suggests that the total number of apprehensions and inadmissions in the new fiscal year will be well below the record of 977,509 recorded in 2019. This boom had to do with the caravans of migrants that began at the end of 2018 in the Central American Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala), following a migratory flow that, with different intensities, began in the 1980s due to political and economic instabilities in those countries.
This migration crisis led President Trump's US administration to implement tougher deportation policies, including changing conditions for expedited deportations. In addition, the White House pressured Mexico with the threat of tariffs on its products if it did not help reduce the flow of migrants crossing Mexican soil, prompting President López Obrador to deploy the newly created National Guard to the border with Guatemala. Trump combined these measures with the negotiation of Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACAs) with the Northern Triangle countries, which were initially improperly referred to as "safe third countries", adding to the controversy they generated.
agreement with Guatemala
Due to US threats to impose tariffs on Guatemala if it failed to reduce the issue of migrants from or through Guatemala on their way to the US, the Guatemalan government accepted the terms of a attention announced by Trump on 26 July 2019. The agreement foresees that those who apply for asylum in the US but have previously passed through Guatemala will be brought back to the US so that they can remain there as asylum seekers if they qualify. The US sees this as a safe third country agreement .
A safe third countryagreement is an international mechanism that makes it possible to host in one country those seeking asylum in another. The agreement signed in July prevents asylum seekers from receiving US protection if they passed through Guatemala and did not first apply for asylum there. The US goal is intended to prevent migrants from Honduras and El Salvador from seeking asylum in the US. Responsibility for processing protection claims will fall to Washington in only three cases: unaccompanied minors, persons with a US-issued visa or document Admissions Office , or persons who are not required to obtain a visa. Those who do not comply with requirements will be sent to Guatemala to await the resolution of their case, which could take years. On the other hand, the agreement does not prevent Guatemalan and Mexican applicants from seeking asylum in the US.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales had previously announced that a similar agreement could become part of the migration negotiations with the US. In Guatemala, after advertisement of what had been agreed, multiple criticisms arose, because the security conditions in both countries are incomparable. This was compounded by rumours about the true content of the agreement that Morales had signed, as it was not immediately revealed to the public. Faced with this uncertainty, Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart declared that the agreement was only for Hondurans and Salvadorans, not for nationals of other Latin American countries, and that the text did not explicitly mention the term "safe third country".
In the week following the advertisement, three appeals for amparo against the agreement were lodged with Guatemala's Constitutional Court, arguing that the country is not in a position to provide the protection it supposedly offers and that the resulting expense would undermine the economic status of the population itself. However, Degenhart defended agreement by saying that the economic repercussions would have been worse if the pact with Washington had not been reached, because with the US tariffs, half of Guatemala's exports and the jobs that accompany these sectors would be at risk.
These criticisms came not only from Guatemalan citizens, but also from public figures such as Guatemala's Human Rights Ombudsman, Jordán Rodas, citing a lack of transparency on the part of the government. Rodas insisted that Guatemala is not fit to be a safe third country because of its low indicators of production, Education, public health and security. Similar ideas have also been expressed by organisations such as Amnesty International, for whom Guatemala is not safe and cannot be considered a safe haven.
In its pronouncement, Guatemala's Constitutional Court affirmed that the Guatemalan government needs to submit the agreement to congress for it to become effective. This has been rejected by the government, which considers that international policy is skill directly the responsibility of the country's president and will therefore begin to implement what has been decided with Washington without further delay.
Apprehensions and inadmissibilities by US Border Guard, broken down by month over the last fiscal years (FY) [Taken from CBP].
Also with El Salvador and Honduras
Despite all the controversy generated since July as a result of the pact with Guatemala, the US developed similar efforts with El Salvador and Honduras. On 20 September 2019, El Salvador's president, Nayib Bukele, signed a agreement similar to the safe third country figure, although it was not explicitly called that either. It commits El Salvador to receive asylum seekers who cannot yet enter the US, similar to the agreement with Guatemala. El Salvador's agreement has the same three assumptions in which the US will have to make position of migrant protection.
The Salvadoran government has received similar criticism, including a lack of transparency in the negotiation and denial of the reality that the country is unsafe. Bukele justified signature by saying it would mean the extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the more than 190,000 Salvadorans living in the US. In October 2019, the Salvadoran Foreign Ministry said that this agreement is not a safe third country because El Salvador is not in the serious migratory situations in which Guatemala and Honduras are in terms of the flow of people, so it is only a agreement of non-violation of rights to minimise the number of migrants.
On 21 September 2019 the Honduran government also made public the advertisement of a agreement very similar to the one accepted by its two neighbours. It states that the US will be able to deport to Honduras asylum seekers who have passed through Honduras. Like the other two countries, the Honduran government was criticised as not being a safe destination for migrants as it is one of the countries with fees highest homicide rates in the world.
Despite criticism of the three agreements, in late October 2019 the Trump administration announced that it was in final preparations to begin sending asylum seekers to Guatemala. However, by the end of November, no non-Guatemalan asylum seekers had yet been sent. The inauguration in early January of President-elect Alejandro Giammattei, who announced his desire to rescind certain terms of agreement, may introduce some variation, though perhaps his purpose will be to wring some more concessions from Trump, in addition to the agricultural visas that Morales negotiated for Guatemalan seasonal workers.
With the agreement reached between the EU and Johnson and the polls favouring Johnson in the 12 December elections, a possible end to Brexit is in sight.
▲ Installation against Brexit, during a protest in Manchester in 2017 [Robert Mandel, Wikimedia Commons].
COMMENTARY / Pablo Gurbindo
Since 23 June 2016, when the referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union was held, the British exit has overshadowed every other topic, such as the momentous last European elections, and has caused the British political spectrum to split between Remainers and Leavers.
Brexit has also taken two prime ministers with it: David Cameron, after the referendum, and his successor, Theresa May, who left position after failing to get her agreement reached with the EU to C through the British Parliament. And it may be her successor, Boris Johnson, the controversial former mayor of London who campaigned for the vote to leave the Union, who manages to lead his country out of more than three years of uncertainty.
Johnson's arrival at 10 Downing Street caused much concern in European capitals. From the outset, he stated that he would get his country out of the European Union, with or without agreement , before 31 October. And, in September, he did not hesitate to temporarily close the Parliament fail so that civil service examination could not veto a possible exit without agreement. This closure was declared illegal by the Supreme Court and civil service examination ensured that the hypothetical exit without agreement could only be agreed by Parliament. Despite all this, negotiations in Brussels did not stop and, on 17 October, it was announced that an agreement had been reached on a possible exit without . agreement.
The agreement reached is, to a large extent, similar to the one reached with Theresa May. The main change has been the Irish "safeguard", the section most criticised at the time by the civil service examination and by the most hardline wing of the "Tories". This measure implied that, if the European Union and the United Kingdom did not reach an agreement on agreement by 2020, Northern Ireland would remain in the single market and the customs union, while the rest of the United Kingdom would leave.
This system provoked a huge backlash, especially from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). May and Johnson depended and still depend on this Northern Irish Unionist party to be able to approve the agreement in the British Parliament. This concern over the new border between the two Irelands responds to the risk it poses to the Good Friday Agreements. These agreements brought peace back to Northern Ireland, which has been at loggerheads for the past century between Catholic groups, who advocated unification with Ireland, and Protestant Unionists, who advocated maintaining ties with the UK. The breakdown of these agreements could lead to a return to violence on the island.
This new agreement on Northern Ireland, proposed by Johnson, is based on three main elements, according to the EU's Brexit negotiator, the Frenchman Michel Barnier:
(1) Northern Ireland will continue to comply with certain EU customs rules, especially those relating to goods and products. However, in order to avoid any subject border with Ireland, checks will only be carried out on goods arriving at Northern Irish ports. These checks will be carried out by the British in compliance with EU rules.
(2) However, it will continue to be part of the British Customs Union, so any trade agreement that the UK achieves after Brexit will include Northern Ireland. The problem is that these two elements conflict: Northern Ireland would be part of both the British and EU customs unions. To solve the problem that could be caused by this "customs bicephaly", products from third countries - which do not subsequently move to another country in the common market - will be taxed at UK rates. But if the products are at risk of moving to the common market, the UK authorities will apply EU tariffs.
(3) Finally, the agreement with Johnson will be a permanent agreement unless the Northern Ireland Assembly decides otherwise. The agreement enables the Northern Ireland Assembly to vote on whether to maintain or abandon the agreed status after four years have elapsed since the protocol comes into force. In the event that they ratify the agreement it will be extended by four or eight years, depending on whether it is a simple majority or has majority support (with the support of the Protestant and Catholic communities). Otherwise, European laws will continue to apply for a further two years, during which time the EU and the UK will have to reach a new agreement.
The prorogation and calling of elections
After the advertisement of the agreement reached, the most complicated part remained: ratifying it in the British Parliament, and in record time, as the deadline was 31 October. Johnson was forced by Parliament to ask Brussels for an extension until 31 January 2020, contrary to his wishes to keep his promise to leave on 31 October. This request was not without controversy as Johnson sent two letters: one requesting the extension, which he did not sign, and another signed in which he said he would see the extension as a "mistake" and that it would be "deeply corrosive" to his country.
On 29 October, the European committee accepted the extension to 31 January 2020 to allow time for the ratification of agreement Exit. The United Kingdom could leave the Union earlier, on 1 December 2019 (a date that has already passed) or on 1 January 2020 in the event that both parties ratify the support. This extension was unanimously approved by the EU-27, despite France's reluctance. France argued that this long extension should only be granted if there was certainty that there would be elections in the UK; otherwise, they argued for a shorter technical extension, so that there would be time to ratify agreement Exit.
To carry out Brexit, Johnson, faced with "parliamentary obstructionism", called for early elections to change the arithmetic of Parliament and to be able to approve the agreement reached with the EU. This call was rejected twice by Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, the main party of the civil service examination. But after learning that the European committee accepted the extension, it supported the call.
With elections scheduled for 12 December, the wind seems to be blowing in Johnson's favour. The polls favour him with 40% of the vote. Far behind, Labour, with 29%, would lose support to Jo Swinson's Liberal Democrat Party, which would rise to 15% (from 7.4% in the previous election). This rise of the Lib Dems is mainly due to their strong support for remaining in the EU, unlike Corbyn, who has maintained a neutral position despite the fact that 70% of Labour voters support remaining in the EU. On the other hand, the Conservative majority would allow the Tories to stop relying on the DUP to achieve sufficient parliamentary majorities.
As if that were not enough, the leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, has announced that in order to facilitate a Conservative majority, his party will not stand in the constituencies where the Conservative Party won in the previous elections. In order to ensure the UK's exit from the Union and avoid a new referendum.
If these polls come true, Johnson would obtain his long-awaited majority to be able to approve the exit.
After more than three years a plausible end to Brexit is in sight.
The flood of unaccompanied foreign minors suffered by the Obama Administration in 2014 has been surpassed in a 2019 with a new migration peak.
In the summer of 2014, the United States suffered a migration crisis due to an unexpected increase in the issue of unaccompanied foreign minors, mostly Central American, arriving at its border with Mexico. What has happened since then? Although fluctuating, the volume of this immigration subject dropped, but in 2019 a new record has been set, with the caravan˝crisis˝ driving up total apprehensions at the border once again.
▲ US border agents search unaccompanied minors at the Texas-Mexico border in 2014 [Hector Silva, USCBP-Wikimedia Commons].
article / Marcelina Kropiwnicka [English version].
The United States hosts more immigrants than any other country in the world, with more than one million people arriving each year, whether as legal permanent residents, asylum seekers and refugees, or in other immigration categories. While there is no exact figure for how many people cross the border illegally, US Customs and Border Control authorities measure changes in illegal immigration by the number of apprehensions made at the border; these apprehensions serve as an indicator of the total number of attempts to enter the country illegally issue . As for data, it can be concluded that there have been notable changes in the demographics of illegal migration at the border with Mexico (southwest border, in official US terms) in recent years.
The peak of apprehensions at the Mexican border was during 2000, when 1.64 million people were apprehended trying to enter the United States illegally. Numbers have generally declined since then. In recent years there have been more apprehensions of non-Mexicans than Mexicans at the border with the neighbouring country, reflecting a decrease in the issue of unauthorised Mexican immigrants arriving in the United States in the last decade. The increase, in fact, was largely due to those fleeing violence, gang activity and poverty in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the region known as the Central American Northern Triangle.
The nations included in the Northern Triangle are among the poorest in Latin America - a high percentage of the population still lives on less than $2 a day (the international poverty line is $1.90) - and there has been little progress in poverty reduction in recent years. Within Latin America and the Caribbean, Honduras has the second highest percentage of the population living below the poverty line (17%), after Haiti, according to the World Bank's latest data .
Unaccompanied foreign minors
While fewer adults, unaccompanied by family, have attempted to cross the border without authorisation in the last decade, there has instead been a surge of unaccompanied alien minors (UACM) attempting to enter the United States from Mexico. The migration of minors without accompanying adults is not new; what is new now is its volume and the need to implement policies in response to this problem. The increase in apprehensions of MENAs in FY2014 caused alarm and prompted both intense media scrutiny and policy responses; attention was sustained even as the phenomenon declined. Numbers fell again to just under 40,000 apprehensions of minors the following year.
The international community defines an unaccompanied migrant minor as a person, "who is under the age of eighteen" and who is "separated from both parents and is not being cared for by an adult who by law or custom has the responsibility to do so". Many of these unaccompanied minors immediately present themselves to US border security, while others enter the country unnoticed and undocumented. Not only this, but the children have no parents or legal guardians available to provide care or physical custody, which quickly overwhelms the services of local border patrols.
In 2014 many of the unaccompanied children claimed that they were under the false impression that the Obama administration was granting "permits" to children who had relatives in the US, as long as they arrived by June at the latest. These false beliefs and propagated hoaxes have become even more potent in the past year, especially as President Trump continues to reinforce the idea of restricting migrants' access to the US. The cartels have continued to transport an ever-increasing issue of Central American migrants from their home countries to the US.
Critical moments in 2014 and 2019
In 2014, during Obama's second term, total apprehensions along the border with Mexico reached 569,237 (this figure includes "non-admissible" persons), a record only surpassed now. While the increase over the previous year was 13%, the increase was much more B in terms of apprehensions of MENAs; these went from 38,759 in FY 2013 to 68,541 in FY 2014 (in the US the fiscal year runs from October of one year to September of the next), an increase of almost 80%, more than four times those recorded in FY 2011. In the case of minors from Honduras, the figure rose in one year from 6,747 to 18,244; those from Guatemala rose from 8,068 to 17,057, and those from El Salvador from 5,990 to 16,404 (those from Mexico, on the other hand, fell from 17,240 to 15,634). The highest issue of apprehensions occurred in May, when arrests of MENAs accounted for 17% of the total number of apprehensions.
Since 2014, apprehensions of unaccompanied minors, although fluctuating, decreased at issue. But 2019 has seen a new record of 76,020 apprehensions, with a peak in May. However, they accounted for only 9% of total apprehensions that month, as this time it was not a crisis of MENAs per se, but was inserted into a B peak in total apprehensions. While overall apprehensions dropped significantly during the first six months of Trump's presidency, they then rose, reaching a total of 851,508 in 2019 (with "non-admissible" the figure reached 977,509), more than doubling compared to 2018. The issue of total apprehensions increased by 72% from 2014 to 2019 (in the case of MENAs the increase was 11%).
Apprehensions of unaccompanied alien minors at the US-Mexico border, between 2012 and 2019 (figure 1), and comparison of 2014 and 2019 by month (figure 2). source US Customs and Border Patrol.
The US had a number of domestic policies aimed at addressing the massive increase in immigration. However, with the overwhelming spike in 2014, Obama requested funding for a programme to "repatriate and reintegrate migrants to Central American countries and to address the root causes of migration from these countries". While funding for the programme has been fairly consistent in recent years, President Trump 's proposed budget for 2018 reduced the financial aid to these countries by approximately 30 per cent.
The Trump Administration has made progress in implementing its diary on immigration, from beginning construction of the wall on the border with Mexico to launching new programmes, but the hard line already promised by Trump on his degree program to the White House has proven ineffective in stopping thousands of Central American families from crossing the southwest border into the United States. With extreme gang violence being rampant and technicalities in the US immigration system, the motivation for migrants to leave their countries will remain.