Global interest in this fashionable grain has brought additional income to Andean communities.
The localisation of quinoa production, especially in Peru and Bolivia (together they account for almost 80% of world exports), has given these nations an unexpected strategic value. The high protein component of this pseudocereal makes it attractive to countries where food security is a priority.
▲ Quinoa field in the Bolivian Andes [Michael Hermann-CC].
article / Elisa Teomiro
Quinoa, also known as quinoa (in Latin Chenopodium quinoa), is an ancient grain that is more than 5,000 years old and was originally cultivated by pre-Columbian Andean cultures. After the arrival of the Spaniards in America, it was partly displaced by the cereals brought from the mainland. It does not belong to the grass family but to the family of the chenopodiaceae (spinach, chard or beetroot); therefore it is more correct to consider it as a pseudocereal.
It forms the basis of the diet of the Andean population of South America, especially in the high Andean areas of Bolivia and Peru (between them, these two countries account for approximately 76% of the total volume of quinoa exported in the world, 46% Bolivia and 30% Peru). Nowadays, due to its adaptation to different climates (it survives frost, high temperatures, lack of oxygen in the air, lack of water and high salinity), its production has diversified and more countries are producing it: Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, USA and Canada, in the American continent, as well as Great Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Sweden, Holland, Spain, Australia and the USSR, outside it.
Quinoa has gone from being a complete unknown to the majority of the non-American population to experiencing a spectacular rise in popularity in a very short period of time. One of the reasons for this was the decision by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to declare 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. The FAO wanted to reward the great effort being made by the Andean peoples to preserve the grain in its natural state, as food for current and future generations. The activities carried out during that year made quinoa and its nutritional properties known to the world.
The interest awakened by this grain tripled its price between 2004 and 2013, which curiously generated a discussion about a possible negative impact on the producing populations.article It was claimed that the high demand for this crop in developed countries had turned quinoa into a "luxury product" in producing countries, where it was already costing more than chicken or rice. It was considered that this status could cause malnutrition in the Andean population, as they could not supplement their scarce per diem expenses with quinoa.
A follow-up on this issue subsequently showed that the quinoa boom was actually helping communities at source. A study by the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations based in Geneva, conducted over the period 2014-2015, found that quinoa consumption by developed countries improved the livelihoods of small-scale producers, most of them women.
According to agreement , rising prices between 2004-2013 caused both producers and consumers in the producing regions to benefit financially from trade. Thus, there was a 46% increase in their welfare in this period, as measured by the value of goods and services consumed by households. The report also highlighted how, in contrast, the 40% drop in the price of quinoa grain, suffered towards the end of 2015, caused a decline in rural households' welfare (food consumption fell by 10% and wages by 5%). The study reached two clear conclusions: Peru's sustained decline in quinoa consumption since 2005 was probably due more to changing consumer preferences due to globalisation and increased product supply than to changes in quinoa prices; global quinoa consumption in developed countries undoubtedly contributed to the development of resource-poor communities in the highlands.
Production and trade
There are several reasons why this grain has become so attractive to consumers in Europe and the USA - increasingly also in China and Japan -: its protein content is very high, between 14% and 18%, and they are also proteins of high biological value that would allow it to be a substitute for animal protein (it contains the 10 essential amino acids for the human per diem expenses ). This factor, together with its high iron content, makes it an ideal pseudocereal for vegetarians; it does not contain gluten, so it can also be consumed by coeliacs; it has a low glycaemic content, which allows it to be consumed by diabetics; its fibre and unsaturated fatty acid content (mainly linoleic acid) is high, so all those concerned about their health have an option in quinoa. It is also a source source of vitamin E and B2 (riboflavin) and is high in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron. For all these reasons, the FAO considers that its high nutritional value financial aid helps to eradicate hunger and malnutrition.
The ranking of quinoa-producing countries is headed by Bolivia (its 118,913 hectares of cultivation accounted for 60% of the total area of quinoa sown in the world in 2016), followed by Peru (64,223 hectares, representing 30% of the global area sown) and Ecuador (2,214 hectares) [Table 1]. From 1990 to 2014, the area planted with quinoa increased from 47,585 hectares to 195,342 hectares. The overall value of exports increased from USD 135.5 million in 2012 to USD 321.5 million in 2015.
In terms of export volume in tonnes, Bolivia was the leading country in 2012 (more than 25,000 tonnes), which, together with exports in 2013, represented an income for the country of 80 million dollars. In the same year, Peruvian quinoa exports exceeded 10,000 tons, which represented an income for the country of 38 million dollars. In 2014, Peru took over and dominated the market also in 2015 and 2016 [Table 2].
The USA is the main importer of quinoa in the world, with 40%; it is followed by the European Union, with more than 30% of the total (France, Holland, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Belgium mainly) and then Canada. The average price per kilo of quinoa was 3.2 d���lares in 2012 and US$6.2 in 2014. In 2015 it dropped to US$5. Per capita consumption is logically led by the two main producers: Bolivia consumes 5.2 kilos and Peru 1.8 kilos, followed at a distance by Ecuador, with 332 grams per person.
In non-producing countries, quinoa was first introduced in the organic sector, with consumers concerned with healthier diets, although today it is no longer exclusive to this market. The largest consumer of quinoa per capita worldwide is Canada, with more than 180 grams, closely followed by the Netherlands; France and Australia consume between 120 and 140 grams. In Spain, consumption is still small, at around 30 grams. Global forecasts up to 2025 are that per capita consumption will reach 200 grams (an achievement that Canada is already within reach) and that even countries that traditionally consume rice, such as Japan and South Korea, will also embrace quinoa.
Quinoa production faces future challenges in terms of both the environment and the market, subject . Before its boom in 2013, almost 60 different varieties of the grain were grown in the Andean highlands and almost all quinoa was organic. Today, rampant trade and large-scale production on large farms has reduced biodiversity to fewer than 20 different types.
Forecasts from market research commissioned by the Trade for Development Center in 2016 on current and future markets for quinoa point to a likely doubling of the global market in ten years, especially with conventional quinoa produced not only in Peru, but also in Australia, the United States and Canada. The production of organic quinoa, produced by small farmers in the highlands, will remain relatively stable. The market skill will continue to be fierce, so farmers in the Altiplano will have to look for measures to maintain a niche market with certified organic quinoa, grown using traditional and fair trade methods.
The cancellation of the new CDMX airport, already more than 31% built, sows doubts about the economic success of the new administration.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador arrives to the presidency of Mexico facing the economic world, to which he has put up a fight with his advertisement to paralyze the works of the new airport of the capital, despite the fact that a third of the works have already been carried out. The desire to make clear to the economic power who rules the country and to bury what was to be an emblematic bequest of the PRI -whose historical hegemony he hopes to replace with his own party, Morena- may be behind the controversial decision.
▲ Image of the projected NAICM created by Fernando Romero Enterprise, Foster and Partners.
article / Antonio Navalón
The Mexican PRI returned to the presidency of the country in 2012, led by Enrique Peña Nieto, with the promise of making a major investment in public infrastructure that would put Mexico in the world's showcase. The stellar work chosen was the construction of a new airport, whose project was commissioned to architect Norman Foster and which the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) saw as the inheritance that would always be attributed to it.
This great project was to overshadow any negative bequest of Peña Nieto's term, which has been especially marked by corruption cases and historic record violence figures. Although useful for political marketing, increasing the air traffic capacity of Mexico City (CDMX), whose metropolitan area has 23 million inhabitants, is a necessity for boosting the national Economics .
The US$13.3 billion project was one of the largest investments in the country's history. Named Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de Ciudad de México (NAICM, later simplified as NAIM) and located at area in Texcoco, a little further away than the current facilities in use, the new infrastructure was to be developed in two phases. The first phase consisted of the construction of a large terminal and three runways, which were initially planned to be ready by 2020, but whose entrance in service had been postponed to 2022 due to construction delays. The second phase would see the construction of three additional runways, plus a second terminal, which would be ready for operation from 2035.
Plans called for NAICM to have the capacity to transport between 70 and 135 million passengers annually, thanks to an operating volume of between 115 and 135 slots per hour. These figures gave a long-term deadline potential benefit of more than $32 billion, according to government estimates.
The project sought first of all to solve the serious air saturation problem suffered by the current Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, caused by the low performance capacity of the two runways that operate simultaneously. In addition, the construction of the NAICM was based on the hope of turning CDMX into a world logistics hub, with the potential to multiply the current airport's cargo transport capacity fourfold.
The level of freight transport in this macro project would be able to reach 2 million tons per year, thus becoming, as its promoters assured, the main distribution center in Latin America. NAICM's ambition, therefore, was to become a reference not only in the American continent but also worldwide, both in the transfer of tourists and in the transport of goods.
NAICM construction began in 2015 and to date 31% of the work has been completed. Although this Degree of completion represents a slight delay compared to the original schedule, the foundation and channeling works are already finished and high Structures intended to hold the wide roof can be seen on the surface. However, despite this progress and the investment already made, the country's new president has announced that he is completely burying the project.
Elections and enquiry
The presidential elections of July 1st were won by the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (inaugurated on December 1st). Former leader of the PRI, thanks to which he served as mayor of the capital, over time he drifted to the left: he first joined the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and, after losing two elections for the presidency of the country, he created the National Regeneration Movement (Morena). In July, Morena won a majority in both chambers of congress and also conquered the CDMX government, giving AMLO, as the new president is commonly known, broad powers to carry out his policies. While he fell 17 votes short of a qualified majority in the Senate that could change the Constitution, he could gain allies for that purpose.
During the election campaign, Lopez Obrador defended the cancellation of the new airport project alleging its high cost, and raised the possibility that, as an alternative, some improvements could be made to the current airport and the Santa Lucia airport, a military base in the area of the Mexican capital that could be enabled for international flights. But Morena's candidate assured that he would make a enquiry to know the opinion of the Mexican people and that he would abide by the results.
Without waiting to take office as President, Lopez Obrador had Morena carry out this enquiry, which was not organized by the Government but by a political party, and furthermore did not take place in the whole country but in 538 municipalities out of the 2,463 that exist in Mexico. The ballot boxes, set up between October 25 and 28, voted "no" to NAICM: with a participation of only 1% of the national electoral body, 69% voted for the alternative of Santa Lucia and 29% voted to continue the works in Texcoco. López Obrador announced that, in application of result, he will halt the works for the new airport, despite the investment already made.
Some popular movements and also naturalists calling for the preservation of the natural environment applauded the advertisement, but there were also protest marches against the decision in the streets of downtown CDMX. The private sector has greatly regretted the purpose decision to cancel the NAICM project . Leading businessmen in the country and organizations such as the Confederation of Mexican Industrial Chambers (CONCAMIN), which represents 35% of Mexican GDP and 40% of employment in the country, came out in defense of the original project and asked López Obrador to reconsider his decision. Their argument is that any alternative will fall short of the demands of growing air traffic, weighing down the country's development . They also argue that any decision other than continuing with the construction of the NAICM will be more expensive than completing the planned airport .
For CONCAMIN, "the current airport lacks the infrastructure and any improvement would not fix the fundamental problems it has", and a bet on the Santa Lucia base "would be a waste of time and money, which will create problems rather than solve them", according to the president of this business association , Francisco Cervantes.
José Navalón, of CONCAMIN's Foreign Trade and International Affairs Commission, of which he is a member, warns that López Obrador's decision will be a major blow to Mexico's macroeconomic and financial system. In his words, "it is still too early to assess possible consequences, but it will be necessary to see if Mexico has the appropriate airport infrastructure, in terms of competitiveness and connectivity, for what is the second largest Economics in Latin America". In any case, for the moment "there has been a problem of lack of confidence in the markets, which has been immediately reflected in the fall of the peso and the markets" .
Indeed, while López Obrador was greeted in July with a rise in the markets, because his resounding victory seemed to augur stability for Mexico, his inauguration in December is being accompanied by an "exodus" of investors. The peso has fallen nearly 10% against the dollar in August, the stock market is down 7.6% and in October alone investors sold 2.4 billion dollars in Mexican bonds.
"The main questions that investors are asking today," Navalón continues, "is whether it is safe to invest in Mexico and how often this subject of decisions that do not follow any subject of legality will be taken," as important companies will be affected by the cancellation of a project in progress. He also warns that "the election of Bolsonaro in Brazil, whose profile is a magnet for foreign investment, may directly affect investment in Mexico".
The big question is why López Obrador maintains his decision against the new airport, in spite of the economic penalty it will mean for the Government and the risk of investor flight. We must understand that Mexico has always been a country that has been led by economic power. With its attitude towards NAICM, it aims to clearly mark the line of separation between political and economic power, making it clear that the era of economic power is over. A second reason is that NAICM was going to be the PRI's inheritance and López Obrador probably seeks to destroy any subject of association of this macro project with the party he intends to bury.
 CONCAMIN Document "Airport Proposals" 2018.
 Personal interviews with Francisco Cervantes and José Navalón.
Poland-Germany struggle to gain influence in the European region between the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Black Sea
The latest summit of the Three Seas Initiative (TTI) was attended by the president of the European Commission, which sample was an endorsement from Brussels that did not seem complete until now. German representatives also attended attendance , although Germany is not part of the twelve-nation club of Central and Eastern European countries. Poland, backed by the United States, wants to lead the ongoing effort to reduce the region's energy dependence on Russian gas; in reaction, Germany has announced a timid bid to import liquefied gas from the US.
article / Paula Ulibarrena
On 17-18 September 2018, the third summit of the Three Seas Initiative took place in Bucharest, aiming at the economic development of the area of the European Union (EU) between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas. The meeting was attended by nine heads of state, two presidents of national parliaments, a prime minister and a foreign minister, along with several senior European officials, led by European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker, and a large German representation, as well as US leaders.
The Three Seas Initiative (BABS-Initiative: Baltic, Adriatic, Black Sea) was launched in 2015 and consists of twelve countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
According to the Polish Foreign Affairshigh school , the EU's initial reticence about the MTI seems to have been overcome, as the summit was endorsed by the European Commission and the European Parliament's Commissioner for Regional Policy. This recognises the role of the MTI in cohesion and in strengthening the EU.
The importance of energy supply
One of the main aspects that the ITM deals with is energy. Its goal is to have agile access to energy, but also to ensure supply from various points, so as not to depend on a single provider, and also to try to play a diversifying role in supplying other European regions. At present, its efforts are mainly focused on the so-called project BRUA, which aims to open up the possibility of transporting gas from the Caspian Sea area to Romania's southern border, and from there to Romania's north-western border with Hungary.
BRUA is an acronym for Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, and aims to diversify the natural gas supply system in the region. "We are creating a distribution network ," said Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Change, "it is not just a big classical pipeline but small reverse flow pipelines that allow gas to be sent south, east, west, so the region will have more sources of energy and cheaper energy.
The BRUA pipeline would be, to some extent, a replacement for the failed project Nabucco. This project consisted of the development of a natural gas transport capacity between existing interconnection points with the natural gas transport networks of Bulgaria (at Giurgiu) and Hungary (Csanadpalota), through the construction of a new pipeline with a total length of 550 km, on the route Giurgiu-Podisor-Corbu-Hurezani-Hateg-Recas-Horia, and three compressor stations located along its route (at Corbu, Hateg and Horia). It planned to reach a gas flow of 4.4 million cubic metres per year in the direction of Hungary, and 1.5 million cubic metres to Bulgaria.
The BRUA pipeline will only account for a third of the flow that Nabucco would have provided, thus minimising the risk of market loss for Russia. The route, which crosses Romania from east to west and from north to south, is estimated to cost a total of €560 million. Romania anticipates that the Black Sea exploration activities of OMV Petrom ExxonMobil could lead to the finding of new natural gas fields. To this end, it is envisaged to extend the BRUA pipeline by a further 300 kilometres from Giurgiu to the Black Sea perimeters.
Germany sent its foreign minister to the summit as an observer. Germany's interest is to strengthen its economic presence in the eastern region of the EU in order to prevent the growing weight of China, secure its energy supply and play an important role in the network gas distribution within Europe, in a context of conflict over Russian gas supplies, and the dependence that this entails for European countries. The construction of the second North European pipeline, known as project NS2 (Nord Stream 2), which will carry liquefied gas from Vyborg (western Russia) to Greifswald on the Baltic coast of Germany, is currently being finalised. civil service examination This project has always been opposed by the United States, which dislikes the EU's energy dependence on Russia, which is why the US is inclined to promote the ITM as area of development and entrance of energy sources that are not dependent on Russia.
BRUA pipeline, marked in blue, and TANAP (Turkey) and TAP (connection to Greece) pipelines, both in black, on an image taken from Google Maps.
Poland comes into play
Poland is aligning itself with the US and trying to reduce Eastern European countries' economic and energy dependence on Russia. But it is also trying to reduce Germany's weight in the region; this is reminiscent of the Intermarium that Poland promoted in the years between the two world wars. Poland's aim is to become a new gas distribution hub for the EU, where its ports would be used for the unloading of liquefied natural gas of US origin. These ports would be connected to the project BRUA, replacing Ukraine as entrance of gas to the EU and in turn replacing Russian gas with US gas (9).
Precisely this project of the ITM, together with pressure from the US president, has provoked a reaction from Berlin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel counterattacked in October with the advertisement that Germany is once again opening the door to US gas by deciding to co-finance the construction of a 500 million euro liquefied natural gas ship terminal in the north of the country. This would strengthen Germany's alliance with the US, but could also reduce its dependence on nuclear energy and greenhouse gas emissions.
The TTI projects are financed by a financial fund provided by six of the member states (Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Latvia), but open to the participation of all the countries that make up the group. Its goal is to provide financial support for the development of trans-national infrastructures in which at least three ITM member states participate. The institutional contribution exceeds 5 billion euros, and aims to attract external investment, from private funds, to strengthen the fund itself. With a thirty-year perspective, the aim is to exceed 100 billion euros.
After breaking off relations with Taipei, the Salvadoran government could give Beijing the management of a strategic port in the region.
Until a few years ago, China had no interest in Central America, basically due to the lack of raw materials. The region's quasi-bloc diplomatic relationship with Taiwan also diverted its attention. But the dynamics have changed. Encouraged by Chinese promises, in August El Salvador joined other neighbouring countries that have been closing their embassies in Taipei. Why is China now interested in Central America? The Salvadoran case points to a desire to gain weight in a area of historic US influence.
article / Jimena Villacorta
"After this careful analysis, advertisement that my government has taken the decision to break the so-called diplomatic relations maintained until today between the Republic of El Salvador and Taiwan and to establish diplomatic relations between the Republic of El Salvador and the People's Republic of China". This is how Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén announced the establishment of diplomatic ties with Beijing on 20 August. The decision followed those taken in May by the Dominican Republic and in 2017 by Panama, breaking the Central American countries' support for Taiwan.
Taiwan responded to this advertisement by asserting that the government of El Salvador had demanded an "astronomical sum" of money to finance the Salvadoran port of La Unión and the 2019 presidential election campaign of the government party, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), which the Salvadoran government denied. The Taiwanese foreign minister, Joseph Wu, presented the rupture of relations as a decision by Taipei, due to its refusal to yield to these pressures, even though everything indicates that the initiative was Salvadoran.
The internship of hidden payments is, of course, nothing new in the links between Taiwan and Central America, as it has been demonstrated that submission cheques have been given to leaders of El Salvador and other countries to maintain diplomatic recognition that is so convenient for the Asian island. In any case, this is a margin of corruption that, sometimes in the form of commissions, has also accompanied China's disembarkation in various countries.
The Salvadoran government's move was criticised by civil service examination. The mayor of San Salvador, Ernesto Muyshondt of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), described the decision as "terrible" and regretted that the FMLN leaders not only support "the repressive and murderous dictatorships of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua", but also that "now they are breaking with a democratic country to establish relations with another dictatorship".
partner The civil service examination criticised the government for being motivated by partisan interests and leaving in the air the treaties and agreements signed with Taiwan, which has been a strategic partner for the country for 85 years and one of its main cooperating partners in the areas of technology, health, agriculture and Education. Thus, there has been a loss of cooperation projects, financial resources and other aid, such as the scholarship scheme for Salvadoran students in Taiwan.
The change of partner is expected to mean the replacement of Taiwanese programmes with Chinese investment projects. In recent years, El Salvador has imported much more from China (804 million dollars in 2016) than from Taiwan (135 million dollars), but has exported similarly to both countries (around 50 million dollars to each). It is likely that Taiwan will now stop favouring the purchase of Salvadoran products, which it used to prioritise, and that China will compensate for the new relationship with investment in infrastructure.
This is where the possibility that China could take over the concession for the port of La Unión Centroamericana, in the south-eastern corner of El Salvador, in the Gulf of Fonseca, comes in. The government has acknowledged Chinese interest in the port, while civil service examination criticises the lack of information in the negotiations. The US Embassy has even raised suspicions about the risk that, given the lack of transparency in the negotiations, China could use the facilities as a military base. Ambassador Jean Manes stated that "China's strategy of expansion in the region, not only economically but also militarily, is alarming". In fact, Washington has been warning for some time about China's increased presence in Central America, as in the case of the Panama Canal, in principle with civilian projects but which in certain circumstances could call into question US security.
The US Embassy has also indicated Chinese interest in buying Perico Island, located next to the port of La Unión. Last October, Ezequiel Milla, mayor of La Unión, declared that he had met with Bo Yang, a Chinese businessman and vice-president of the China-El Salvador Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the sale of the island to build hotels. For his part, the businessman admitted to having discussed purchase intentions with the owners of the private part of the island, where several families reside, who must be willing to vacate their homes. The island contains an important flora and fauna reservation .
The port of La Unión is strategically located on the Gulf of Fonseca, where El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras meet (it is Honduras' only access to the Pacific). In addition, it can connect in a matter of a few kilometres to the dry canal that Honduras is about to complete by widening the road linking its facilities at Puerto Cortés on the Atlantic to the Gulf of Fonseca. Honduras' coastline in the Gulf is not suitable for a deep-water port, so the natural outlet for its goods to the Pacific would be La Unión.
The project construction of the port started in 1994, under the presidency of Armando Calderón Sol, with the goal aim of becoming the future "hub of the Americas", so that ships larger than the Panama Canal could dock there. Thanks to a loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), the project was launched. The port was built between 2005 and 2008 and inaugurated in 2010.
Under the presidency of Antonio Saca, there were two decrees for its concession. The first, in 2008, was a master concession formula, i.e. there would only be one operator managing the port for 25 years; however, it was not possible to reach an agreement in the Legislative Assembly, agreement . In 2009, the second decree was presented, proposing a company composed of the state-owned Autonomous Port Executive Commission (CEPA) and an international operator, with a 10% and 90% shareholding, respectively. But due to the change of government and other internal complications it was not approved either.
In June 2010, with Mauricio Funes as president, the port of La Unión was inaugurated under state administration, in the hope that a concession could be agreed that same year. In the end, it was decided to apply the master concession. In September, the Assembly approved decree 834, containing the port concession law. Due to the lack of approval of the instructions tender and the contract by other institutions, the port concession was postponed for a couple of years, during which time the interested companies dropped out of the talks.
The bidding process was finally launched in 2014, but the tender was declared void in 2015 because there were no bids to operate the infrastructure. In 2017, some laws were amended to attract investors, given the urgency of operating the port, which has cost the country almost $20 million to maintain over the past decade.
Port of La Unión, in the Gulf of Fonseca, in the Central American Pacific [ECA].
Special Economic Zone
If the facilities have so far attracted so little interest from investors, what benefit could China see in La Unión? ARENA deputy Mauricio Vargas does not believe that Beijing has any economic interest in the port, but rather that it is pursuing strategic objectives, as the Gulf of Fonseca provides access to three Central American countries and is part of the area which the US considers important for its own security.
To make the option of La Unión more attractive, in July 2018 the FMLN government presented the Special Economic Zone Law for the South Eastern Region of El Salvador, area corresponding to La Unión and a score of neighbouring municipalities. Thanks to tax advantages, China could turn this Pacific point into a distribution centre for its products in the Central American Northern Triangle and Nicaragua. The connection through the Honduran dry canal would facilitate connections with the Atlantic.
The civil service examination believes that the creation of this special economic zone, which in case of a massive influx of Chinese products could negatively affect local manufacturing, has been agreed in advance with China. The ECA president, however, denies any obscurantism in the process. "We have nothing to hide. The process we are going through is transparent; we have entered a stage of enquiry. The interest of our administration is that the port of La Unión is operated and we must see it as project of the country". He assured that there are companies interested in the concession also from Europe and America, not only from Asia.
Against a backdrop of growing populism, the battle between Brussels and Rome is decisive for the future of the EU.
In a measure without parallel in the history of the Union, the European Commission has rejected the national budgets presented by the populist Italian government for not meeting the deficit targets set. Neither Brussels nor Rome seem to have the intention of abandoning their positions, so that an institutional confrontation threatens the European horizon.
▲ Giuseppe Conte, President of the Italian Government, with Vice Presidents Luigi di Maio (left), leader of the 5 Star Movement, and Mateo Salvini (right), leader of the Northern League. [Gov. of Italy]
article / Manuel Lamela
After seven months in government, the coalition formed by the 5 Star Movement and the Northern League have fulfilled their promises and started, with the presentation of the budget of the Italian Republic, a process of confrontation and defiance with the European Union (EU). The Brussels authorities accuse Italy of breaking, with its irresponsibilities, the bonds of trust that forge and give meaning to the European project .
On October 16, Giuseppe Conte's executive presented a budget with a deficit forecast of 2.4%; although it is true that the figure is below the 3% limit set by the European rules and regulations , it is three times what was previously agreed between Rome and the EU. Moreover, if Italy's public debt is 131% of GDP, which makes it the second highest in the monetary Union, only surpassed by Greece, the new budget will only increase it, as it intends to significantly increase the public expense .
The increase of expense seems to obey the populist interests of the Northern League leader and Minister of the Interior, Mateo Salvini, who has made no secret of his intention to seek support from the most fractured sectors of Italian society. Cultivating victimhood vis-à-vis Europe may give a certain political gain, but the example of Greece sample shows us that such attitudes subject usually end in tragedy, weakening the State in the face of another possible debt crisis.
The European Commission rejected at the end of October the Italian budget draft -refund the budget of a Member State was an unprecedented act -and urged Rome to send a revised version in a maximum of three weeks deadline . The decision does not close the doors to dialogue and negotiations, as stated in his explanation of what happened by the Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Pierre Moscovici; "The opinion adopted today should not surprise anyone, as the project of budget of the Italian government represents a clear and intentional deviation from the commitments made by Italy last July. However, our door is not closed. We want to continue our constructive dialogue with the Italian authorities. I welcome Finance Minister Giovanni Tria's commitment to this end and we must move forward in this spirit in the coming weeks."
But Conte's government assures that there is no plan B and that there is no possibility that Italy will take a step back. Both Mateo Salvini and the leader of the 5 Star Movement, Luigi di Maio, both Vice-Presidents of the Government, defended the Italian position and attacked Brussels, claiming that it is normal for Brussels to be unhappy, since it is the first time that Italy is free from the clutches of the Eurogroup when it comes to deciding its economic policy. They also stated that, with its response, the high school of Commissioners is directly attacking the Italian people. And they accused Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker of "only talking to inebriated people", something that certainly sample little respect for the institutions.
The tactic of feigning strength and determinism, which both Italian political formations used during the election campaign, is being matched by the rest of the European leaders with an exercise of real power. The request of the Italian Minister of Finance, Giovanni Tria, for Italy to enjoy the same opportunity that Portugal had in the past, when Brussels accepted that the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, did not apply the volume of cuts desired by the Commission, will be drowned out by the reckless ways used by the political leaders of the Italian Republic.
If Italy refuses to follow the recommendations given by the EU, the Commission may consider imposing fines, up to 0.2% of GDP, for non-compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact. But apart from the sanctions, the EU does not have the right to veto nor does it have any other skill to prevent the entrance of the Italian budget from coming into force. As several experts indicate, it will be the pressure of the markets that will make the Italian measure be corrected, thus avoiding a direct confrontation between Rome and Brussels, which would damage both parties equally. Goldman Sachs analysts predict that "Italian debt must worsen to exert adequate pressure and force the government to opt for a different rhetoric".
Even if the European Commission manages to avoid a confrontation with Italy, it may be exposed to the campaign of victimhood of the Italian populist groups, a tactic they successfully employed in the last elections. This is a tactic that is not of Italian creation, as since the crisis of 2008 various groupings and parties have emerged with a clearly anti-Brussels stance, accusing the EU institutions of all the ills suffered by European societies. There are several examples; perhaps Brexit is the most resounding given its relevance at European and international level, but we should not forget the rise of formations such as the National Front in France, the Freedom Party in Austria or Podemos in Spain, the latter party having had its great public launch following the European Parliament elections of 2015.
So far, Europe has not been able to find a way to avoid or neutralize the demagogy campaigns that proliferate in today's Europe. Although some progress is being made in terms of the EU's communicative power, it is incomprehensible that Brussels has not been able to effectively explain the European project to the citizens of the Union. This is a deficiency that the European project has been dragging along since its birth and that has been the cause of many of the ills that have affected regional unity in recent decades. In this case Europe has to provide data that are easy to understand for the average Italian citizen and that make him/her see that the measures adopted by his/her government will be harmful for the Italian society in the near future, even if they are sweetened by messages that respond to empty promises and messianic policies.
Another factor of concern within the Commission is the risk of contagion of the virus generated within the EU's third Economics (already discounting the UK). At first it may seem possible that other member states will be attracted to follow in Italy's footsteps; however, European authorities say they firmly believe that their tough response to Rome will strengthen monetary union and even increase integrity in areas such as banking unity. Externally, the decision will show that EU budgetary rigor is being enforced, generating confidence and security in the markets, and finally demonstrating that there is no respite for populist formations within Europe.
The 24 partner countries are seeking greater South-South partnership from both shores, but progress is slow.
If in the North Atlantic there is NATO, in the South Atlantic there is ZOPACAS (Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic). Without repeating the model of NATO's military club, ZOPACAS has as goal the cooperation in subject of security and defense, but also the partnership for the development endogenous of the region. Created in 1986, the organization is an interesting forum for addressing common problems, but lacks mechanisms for further engagement.
▲ Countries that are part of the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic [Wikimedia].
article / Alejandro Palacios
In recent decades, the proliferation of South-South cooperation forums has revealed the desire of many countries in the world to seek their development and regional partnership without the tutelage or interference historically exercised by the more industrialized countries. The goal has been the articulation of new forms of regional association that guarantee the independence of the South in its relations with the North and promote a true development, without incurring in the old imbalances.
In this context, the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic (ZOPACAS, also known as ZPCAS) was created in 1986 at the initiative of Brazil. It is a transcontinental consultative organization, made up of 24 countries on both sides of the Atlantic1 and supported by the United Nations Assembly through resolution 41/11.
The organization was formed at the end of the Cold War, a period during which some countries sought ways to cooperate outside the bipolar power sharing between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was also born at a time when Angola and Brazil were becoming important regional players due to the high presence of hydrocarbons in their territories. This gave rise to the need to create greater security conditions in the area so that economic operations by sea could be carried out with as little uncertainty as possible.
Nevertheless, the growth and development of ZOPACAS was progressive, both institutionally and in terms of membership. It is worth mentioning the case of South Africa, a country that did not join the organization until it put an end to its apartheid policy. The incorporation of South Africa at the Brasilia summit in 1994 increased the organization's prestige and marked the end of its constitution process.
Even so, ZOPACAS still lacked maturity at the institutional level. At meeting in Montevideo in 2013, its members agreed to meet annually on the margins of the UN General Assembly and to create a group of contact which, in addition to implementing the decisions adopted at the meetings, also coordinates issues relevant to the area related to peace and cooperation.
In the short deadline, ZOPACAS achieved important advances in favor of peace and security in the South Atlantic. signature One of the most noteworthy is the 1996 Pelindaba Treaty (African Treaty for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone training ), which made Africa, after South Africa's accession2 , the third nuclear-free zone in the world. This followed the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco, which made Latin America and the Caribbean the first nuclear-free region.
Despite its remarkable achievements in subject peace and security, ZOPACAS is currently in a status lack of momentum. While it is true that some analysts speak of re-emergence, others claim that in order for the organization to re-emerge, it must first undergo institutional restructuring to better face the threats and challenges posed by the new geopolitical realities.
As mentioned above, the aspirations for the organization's revival are based on the increased importance of maritime trade, the exploitation of Brazil's new deepwater oil fields (pre-salt layer), and the need to protect maritime transport from piracy, among other issues. For the director of the South American School of Defense, Antonio Jorge Ramalho, all this is increasing the geopolitical importance of the South Atlantic region, which would make ZOPACAS a "tool ready to be used in case there is a perceived threat in the area" that puts at risk the extraction and trade of the region's raw materials.
However, risks associated with a possible re-emergence of ZOPACAS are also noted. These have to do, paradoxically, with greater interference by countries in the Northern Hemisphere, some of which have expressed the intention of extending their zone of action to the South Atlantic. France has purpose to extend its influence from French Guyana, while Russia has already received approval from Equatorial Guinea to use the country's main port.
It is clear that the zone of peace and cooperation has the capacity to counteract this influence, primarily by increasing partnership among the South Atlantic states. For this to happen, the area has two defining characteristics: being a fairly peaceful zone per se and the fact that most of the countries involved have economies based on natural resources and raw material exports. These factors may encourage much-needed cooperation to ward off alleged Western interference.
Although, therefore, the capacity of development of ZOPACAS is clear, it should be kept in mind that the organization does not currently have an institutional structure capable of promote these synergies and cooperative practices in an effective manner. In fact, some analysts argue that, contrary to what should be happening, countries are increasingly less interested in project, as evidenced by the frequent absence of country presidents from the organization's meetings.
Thus, it can be concluded that both because of the lack of material resources and the consultative nature of the organization, ZOPACAS has not been able to project sufficient influence to become an international reference letter organization. It has been more successful in the short term deadline, at subject peace and security, but is finding it difficult to establish long-term economic cooperation deadline. Therefore, a greater commitment is required on the part of the member states in order to solidify a project necessary not only for peace and security in the region, but also for the political, economic and energy independence of the South Atlantic states.
(1) Such are: Angola, Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo and Uruguay.
(2) The South African case is interesting, as it is the first and only country to date that, after having developed the nuclear bomb, decreed the complete dismantling of its nuclear program after signature of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991.
Limiting attention with China and controlling the arrival of Venezuelan refugees, among the measures promoted by the winner in the first round.
With a support of more than 46% of the voters, the right-wing Jair Bolsonaro won a wide victory in the presidential elections of October 7, which will nevertheless require a second round at the end of the month. His direct opponent, Fernando Haddad, of the Workers' Party, barely reached 29% of the votes, which complicates that in three weeks the correlation of forces could be turned around. A Bolsonaro presidency, therefore, is possible, and this makes it advisable to examine what foreign policy the new stage will bring.
▲ Jair Bolsonaro, at an electoral campaign rally [PSL].
article / Túlio Dias de Assis
One of the best known sayings Brazilians have about their own country is that "O Brasil não é um país para principiantes" (Brazil is not a country for beginners ). Of course, such a saying would be very apt when describing the country's current status . The Latin American giant is reeling from the instability caused by a truly unprecedented electoral campaign and the possibility of the victory of a divisive candidate .
The electoral campaign has been anything but "conventional", with one candidate trying to promote the vote from his cell in the federal prison of Curitiba, in Paraná, and another being stabbed in plenary session of the Executive Council political act in the streets of Juíz de Fora, in Minas Gerais. The first, former president Luís Inácio "Lula" da Silva, finally had to cede the post to another leader of his party, Fernando Haddad, due to his criminal status ; the second, Jair Bolsonaro, was favored electorally by the stabbing and the greater dispersion of the vote due to the forced withdrawal of Lula.
The elections had a motley group of candidates representing the most disparate types of ideologies. In this Sunday's vote, as predicted by the polls, the race was reduced to two presidential candidates, located at the antipodes of the political spectrum: Bolsonaro and Haddad, candidates of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) and the Workers' Party (PT), respectively.
Thus, Bolsonaro obtained more than 46% of the votes, far exceeding the polls' forecasts, while Haddad received the support of 29% of the voters. As neither candidate surpassed 50% of the votes on October 7, the two most voted presidential candidates will go to a second round, which will take place on October 28.
Jair Messias Bolsonaro, the "Brazilian Trump".
Bolsonaro is undoubtedly the biggest surprise of these elections, since his positions, very reactionary in some issues, are completely out of the mostly socialist political spectrum to which Brazil had become accustomed since the beginning of the century. He is a military man in the reservation who for the last decades served as federal deputy for the state of Rio de Janeiro. During his work in the Chamber leave, many of his statements, often homophobic, racist and sexist, went viral. Much of the Brazilian press has labeled him as extreme right-wing and has carried out a harsh campaign against him, similar to what happened with Donald Trump in the USA.
The controversy has benefited Bolsonaro, expanding his electoral base. After the attack in Minas Gerais, he saw his popularity increase(rising in the polls from 22% to 32%) and somewhat mitigating the rejection he provokes among part of the population.
On domestic political issues, the PSL's candidate is characterized by controversial statements in favor of the revocation of the disarmament statute (issued during the Lula administration), a reduction of the state bureaucratic apparatus, the liberalization of the Economics, the privatization of public companies and agencies, the reduction of the age of criminal majority, the establishment of higher and harsher penalties for serious crimes and the militarization of the police in their confrontations against the criminal gangs dominant in the favelas. In addition, it flatly rejects, among other issues, gender ideology, gender and racial quotas -in all subject of public agencies- and political movements of Marxist ideology.
Foreign policy. In terms of international policy, Bolsonaro has mentioned that he intends to strengthen Brazil's relations with the US -given his sympathy towards President Trump's policies-, the EU and democratic countries in Latin America; while he has radically positioned himself against rapprochement with countries with dictatorial regimes, among which he has included China, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba. He defends Israel's policies and has promised to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem, as President Trump did almost a year ago. Finally, he rejects the uncontrolled flow of Venezuelan immigrants entering Brazil through the state of Roraima, and has warned that he would take drastic measures to control it, since the number of migrants from Venezuela already exceeds 50,000.
Fernando Haddad, the heir of Lula's bequest
Haddad has been mayor of the city of São Paulo and minister of Education during Lula's government. He initially opted for the post of vice-president, accompanying Lula in the PT candidacy. But when Lula saw his options closed final by the Supreme Electoral Court, as he was imprisoned under a 12-year sentence for corruption, he designated Haddad as presidential candidate, well into the electoral campaign.
Before the annulment of his candidacy, Lula was clearly leading in the polls and could even win in the first ballot. This support was mainly among the population that benefited from his highly successful socialist policies during his two terms in office (2003-2006 and 2007-2010), including the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program, which aimed to end hunger in Brazil; Primeiro Emprego (First employment), a program focused on eliminating youth unemployment; and the better known Bolsa Família, a continuation of Fome Zero in the form of family benefits, which successfully lifted several million Brazilians out of poverty.
This social success, which mainly affected the North and Northeast regions of Brazil, where there is a larger population below the poverty line, gave the PT a solid electoral base, although linked to Lula's leadership. With the change of candidate, the PT's popularity declined and its voting intentions were distributed among the other presidential candidates. As candidate, Lula surpassed 37% in the first polls; however, Haddad did not reach 30% in the first round.
Foreign policy. The PT is a left-wing party that is quite aligned with the Latin American political doctrine of the so-called Socialism of the 21st Century. Its program in international politics is to maintain good relations with the members of the BRICS -especially the cooperation with China- and MERCOSUR, and to continue actively participating in the UN, specifically in bodies such as the committee of Human Rights (HRC) or the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), today presided over by Lula's former minister manager of the Fome Zero program, José Graziano da Silva. Haddad has not taken a specific position on the Venezuelan regime, unlike Bolsonaro; however, he has mentioned the need to help in the mediation for the resolution of internal conflicts in the neighboring country, without condemning the Chavista government at any time.
The Brazilian scenario is undoubtedly very peculiar and there is an awareness that these elections could define the course of the tropical giant for some time to come. Bolsonaro starts with a decisive advantage for the second round on October 28. Haddad will probably be able to count on the support of several of the trailing candidates, such as Ciro Gomes, from PDT, or Marina Silva, from REDE (both former ministers of Lula's government), due to the radical difference of Bolsonaro's policies with the "conventional" candidates.
The possibility of a final victory of the military man in the reservation may mobilize part of the electorate, increasing the participation among those who want to prevent his entrance in Brasília. The vote of fear of Bolsonaro that the PT will promote and the "normality" with which the controversial candidate will want to accentuate his candidacy will decide this final stretch.
Miloš Zeman and Andrej Babiš share the limelight in a political system not designed for two personalities
The Czech Republic has a president (Miloš Zeman), reelected in January for a second term, whose party has no presence in Parliament, and a prime minister (Andrej Babiš) who was out of position between January and May due to lack of sufficient support among legislators. Zeman and Babiš have backed each other and share criticisms of Brussels - for example, they reject the European Union's refugee quotas - but their strong personalism and fickle positions are causing friction.
▲ Andrej Babiš (left) and Miloš Zeman (right) during the inauguration of the former as prime minister, January 2018 [Czech Gov.]
article / Jokin de Carlos Sola
The political climate in the Czech Republic has not sedimented after the last electoral cycle. The legislative elections of October 20 and 21, 2017, called after a government crisis, saw a breakdown of the traditional parties and the arrival of many new faces in Parliament, giving rise to a political fractioning that has taken its toll.
Amid a hung Parliament, Andrej Babiš, leader of the best-performing party, ANO 2011, moved in December to form a minority Executive, becoming the first head of government in the history of the Czech Republic to come from neither the Civic Democrats nor the Social Democrats. In January, however, Babiš had to resign after losing a question of confidence; in May he succeeded in forming a new government, this time in coalition with the Social Democrats and, for the first time since the fall of the Iron Curtain, with the support of the Communists.
Against this backdrop of political disputes, presidential elections took place on January 12 and 13, 2018. The second round was contested by outgoing President Miloš Zeman, who was reelected, and Jirí Drahoš, in a contest that polarized the electorate between traditional economic protectionism and a critical stance towards the European Union (Zeman) and more open positions towards NATO and the EU (Drahoš).
In the end, Babiš and Zeman - former participants in the Velvet Revolution that put an end to the communist regime, after which both have had several ideological ups and downs, becoming controversial figures - have to share an institutional and political protagonism that is certainly complex. The Czech Republic has a parliamentary system, in which the president of the country is directly elected by the citizens and has the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister, as well as to dissolve the bicameral parliament.
In the 2017 Czech parliamentary elections, the ANO 2011 party won, whose name includes the year it was created and the acronym for Action of Dissatisfied Citizens, which together give rise in Czech to the word Yes. The election marked a parliamentary collapse of many of the old parties, including the Social Democrats of the ČSSD (from being the ruling party it dropped to sixth place), the Communists of the KSČM (they came in fifth place), the Christian Democrats of the KDU-ČSL (they were seventh) and the Liberals of TOP 09 (they finished eighth). The only old party to survive with relative strength were the conservatives of Civic Democracy (ODS), who finished second. Several new parties, on the other hand, gained relevance: this was the case, in addition to ANO itself, of the Pirate Party and the conservative and strongly nationalist Liberty and Direct Democracy (SPD), led by Tomio Okamura.
Andrej Babiš is called the Czech Donald Trump, not so much because of his ideology, but because of his flamboyant personality and his great fortune (he is the second richest man in the country). His statement of core values has been very fickle. Of communist origin, he founded his own political party in 2011, which he christened ANO 2011. It is a party with generally centrist views and a certain syncretism. It is also described as "populist" for its changes of speech, especially in relation to the European Union: before the general elections the party held Eurosceptic positions, to then develop a rather pro-EU policy from the Government.
Babiš was deputy prime minister and finance minister in the previous government led by Buhoslav Sobotka's Social Democrats. He is the owner of group media MFRA, which publishes two of the country's leading newspapers, Lidové noviny and Mladá fronta DNES, and operates the Óčko television company.
He is a controversial figure, not only because of some of his political stances, such as the rejection of the immigrant quotas established by the EU, but also because of several past scandals. He was accused of having collaborated with the secret police of the communist regime, of having fraudulently used EU subsidies and of participating in bribes for the sale of the state company Unipetrol, whose privatization was managed by Miloš Zeman, someone close to Babiš himself, when he was prime minister.
Apportionment of seats in the Chamber leave of the Czech Parliament [Wilkipedia].
The presidential election was held in January 2018. It was the second time that the president was elected by direct universal suffrage. Miloš Zeman, who was seeking reelection, and Jiri Drahoš, president of the Academy of Sciences, went to the second round. There were those who compared this electoral battle with the one between Macron and Le Pen in France, but the ideological comparison is not complete. Drahoš described himself as pro-European and pro-NATO, and advocated that the Czech Republic should assume a greater role in the European Union, but he was critical of the EU's policy of welcoming immigrants, both Muslim and African, and rejected refugee quotas.
In the end, Zeman won with 52% support, while Drahoš got 48%, a somewhat tighter result than in the previous presidential election. ANO 2011's support in the runoff was decisive for Zeman's victory. The districts of Prague, Brno and other liberal areas with larger urban populations voted for Drahoš, while the countryside and border areas voted for Zeman.
Miloš Zeman was a member of the Communist Party until 1970 and switched to the Social Democratic Party in 1992, whose leadership he held between 1993 and 2001, years in which he served as Czech prime minister. He left that party in 2007 and two years later created his own, baptized as the Civil Rights Party: an electoral platform for his presidential candidacies, which does not have deputies or senators. In this personalist training , traditional right-wing and left-wing positions are mixed. On the one hand, the party believes in a mixed Economics , with a preference for public services and a high state expense , in a protectionist conception of the Economics. On the other hand, it promotes a cultural conservatism that avoids multiculturalism and the arrival of immigrants. This has made the party very popular in rural areas close to the borders.
Zeman became president of the Czech Republic in 2013. Zeman's first presidential term was highly controversial inside and outside the country. With him in Prague Castle came the entrance in the European Union, but he has subsequently been one of the main opponents of EU quotas for immigrants and has supported both Poland and Russia in their disputes with the authorities in Brussels. Zeman's closeness to Putin sets him apart from most leaders of the Visegrad countries, who take an anti-Russian stance.
From the presidency, Miloš Zeman has maintained the lines already marked in his first term. If in European affairs his rejection of refugee quotas has put him at odds with the EU leadership, his closeness to Israel, Russia and China in international politics has also result annoyed Brussels.
Zeman was the only European leader to support Trump when he decided to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the latter city as the capital of Israel. This was not a surprise, as Zeman has always shown his support for the Jewish state: on April 25 he celebrated Israel's Independence Day at his residency program . However, the Czech Republic has not moved its embassy to Jerusalem since the decision must be made by the government, and the government has not agreed to do so. On other Middle East issues, Zeman has given support to Russia, condemning the actions of the United States and its allies in Syria.
Zeman has also aligned himself with Beijing, opening the country to important Chinese investments, such as that of the energy company CEFC, whose headquarters in Shanghai were visited in March by several of his advisors. The opening to foreign investment has caused some concern in Brussels about the lack of control mechanisms to monitor the takeover of strategic sectors. In the framework of his promised "economic diplomacy" Zeman has defended China's project New Silk Road.
If Zeman and Babiš started from good relations, the last few months have led to several frictions. In the last weeks of his first term, Zeman put Babiš in charge of forming a government after his party became the most voted party in a very divided Parliament. Having just assumed the position as prime minister, Babiš offered Zeman the support of his ANO 2011 in the second round of the presidential election. Zeman has then made efforts to consolidate Babiš' position in Parliament. However, the latter's difficulties in having a stable majority have led to disagreements between the president and the prime minister over which parties should build the government majority. The open anti-Europeanism or anti-NATO stance of some of the potential partners made it difficult for Babiš, who in May formed the government again after having had to resign in January for lack of parliamentary support.
Events have shown that both Zeman and Babiš have strong personalities and that both seem determined to assert their political position, which may generate tension in the Czech Republic's institutional development . At the same time, both have shown an ease in changing speech according to what they think is the majority sentiment of Czechs, which has contributed to giving them a populist profile .
The days of the Velvet Revolution, when Zeman and Babiš shared a foxhole, are too far away, but it is worth remembering the words of Vaclav Havel, the main leader of that revolt and later president of the country: "Ideology is a deceptive way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of identity, dignity and morality, while at the same time making it easier for them to detach themselves from these principles".
The Fleet was restored in 2008 due to Venezuela's geopolitical alliances.
Of the U.S. naval forces, the Sixth and Seventh Fleets - based in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, respectively - are the ones that have traditionally been most in the news. The Fourth Fleet usually goes unnoticed. In fact, it barely has staff, and when it needs ships it must borrow them from other units. However, its restoration in 2008, after having been deactivated in 1950, indicates that Washington does not want to neglect security in the Caribbean in the face of Russia and China's moves.
▲The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower arriving in 2010 at Mayport, Florida [US Navy].
article / Dania del Carmen[English version].
The Fourth Fleet is part of the U.S. Southern Command. It is located in Mayport, Florida, and its area of operations are the waters off Central and South America. The ships based in Mayport do not strictly belong to the base and none are currently deployed in the waters of the region. The staff stationed in the fleet is approximately 160 people, including military, federal civilians and contractors. They work out of the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO) headquarters. The Southern Command commander is also commander of the Fourth Fleet, currently Rear Admiral Sean S. Buck.
It was originally established in 1943, during World War II, to protect the U.S. from German naval actions, both surface attacks, blockade operations and submarine raids. After the war ended in 1945, the FOURTHFLT remained active until 1950. At that time, its area of operations was turned over to the Second Fleet, which had just been established to support the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The FOURTHFLT's operations were then transferred to the Second Fleet.
The Fourth Fleet was reactivated in 2008, during George W. Bush's presidency, as a reaction to possible threats stemming from anti-U.S. sentiment promoted by then Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. During that time, Venezuela received loans from Russia for the purchase of arms and for the Venezuelan military development . In 2008 Venezuela conducted a joint naval exercise with Russia in the Caribbean as a way of supporting Russian intentions to increase its geopolitical presence, as a counterweight to the power of the United States.
The fact that Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador had an ideology similar to that of Venezuela reinforced Washington's conviction to reactivate the fleet, as a reminder that the US maintained its interest in being the only military power in the Western Hemisphere. Although US territory could hardly be threatened, preventing any status risk to the free access to the Panama Canal has been a permanent task for the Southern Command. In recent years, Russia has sought to expand its military presence in the Americas, through particular relations with Cuba and Nicaragua, while China has increased its investments in the Panama Canal area .
As stated on the USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT website at its section of "mission statement", the Fourth Fleet "employs maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and establish enduring partnerships that advance regional security in the area of USSOUTHCOM's responsibility." As mentioned, when ships and other equipment are assigned to SOUTHCOM and the Fourth Fleet, they are provided by other U.S. Navy commands with broader geographic responsibilities based in other parts of the world.
The FOURTHFLT has three main lines of action: maritime security operations, security cooperation activities and contingency operations.
-In terms of its maritime security operations, it currently provides maritime forces to Interagency Task Force South(JIATF South) in support of Operation HAMMER. JIATF South "conducts detection and monitoring (D&M) operations throughout its joint operational area to facilitate interdiction of illicit trafficking in support of national and partner nation security." It utilizes the resources of the Fourth Fleet or temporarily employs other assets, such as the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group or individual ships from other fleets such as Norfolk, VA Fleet Forces Command or the Third Fleet, based in San Diego, California. Operation MARTILLO is primarily aimed at combating international drug trafficking, improving regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in Central and South America. As part of Operation MARTILLO, in a joint operation with the U.S. Coast Guard, the USS Vandegrift stopped a suspicious vessel off the coast of Central America in 2014. The staff security found nearly two thousand pounds of cocaine. More recently, in January 2015, the USS Gary and the U.S. Coast Guard seized more than 1.6 tons of cocaine from a fast vessel. However, the absence of dedicated Fourth Fleet assets demonstrates that its counternarcotics missions are a lower priority for the U.S. Navy, even though they are significantly less demanding, operationally.
-In terms of security cooperation activities, the two main events of participation with other nations are the UNITAS and PANAMAX exercises. UNITAS was conceived in 1959 and was first conducted in 1960. It is an annual exercise whose purpose is to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the region and to maintaining strong relationships with its partners. PANAMAX dates back to 2003 and has become one of the largest multinational training exercises in the world. It is primarily focused on securing the defense of the Panama Canal, one of the world's most strategic and economically important infrastructure assets.
Finally, the Fleet is always ready to conduct contingency operations: basically attendance humanitarian and financial aid disaster relief. The U.S. Navy hospital ship regularly travels throughout the area Caribbean and Central America to provide humanitarian support. In the framework of the Continuing Promise 2015 program, the Comfort visited a total of 11 countries, from Guatemala to Dominica, performing procedures such as general surgery, ophthalmic surgery, veterinary services and training in public health. The ship previously participated in the 2007, 2009 and 2011 programs.
Objectives met at reasonable cost
As an integrated part of Southern Command, the Fourth Fleet has been active in major humanitarian operations, such as the response to the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. FOURTHFLT had naval command in Operation Unified Response, which was the largest contingency response in attendance humanitarian and financial aid disasters.
The budget for those missions does not rely solely on the Navy, as a Southern Command spokesperson stated, but there is also a contribution of resources from "other U.S. entities, such as the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection, which also provide platforms and forces, both maritime and air, which are core topic in support of those missions. So, we are looking for a good counterbalance of expense-reward."
purpose In addition to developing effective humanitarian actions, at a limited economic cost, the Fourth Fleet also fulfills the purpose of ensuring that the United States has a significant military presence in the Western Hemisphere in the eyes of the Latin American and Caribbean states, as well as superpowers such as Russia and China.
1. The Second Fleet was deactivated in 2011 and reestablished in 2018.
REICH, Simon and DOMBROWSKI, Peter. The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Operations In the 21st Century. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY, 2017. p. 144.
After centuries of Caribbean orientation, the enclave accentuates its relationship with its neighbors on the mainland.
Two years ago, Suriname and Guyana became part of the South American soccer federation, leaving the North, Central American and Caribbean federation to which they belonged. It is a clear symbol of the change in geographical orientation that is taking place in this northeastern corner of South America, which, as in the case of soccer, sees the potential for a closer relationship with its southern neighbors.
article / Alba Redondo
As vestiges of the colonial past of the great European naval powers of the 17th century -England, Holland and France- we find in the northeast of South America the three Guianas: Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. In addition to the natural barriers that isolate the region and hinder its connection with the rest of the South American continent - it has a closer relationship with the Caribbean, although its Atlantic coast is outside that sea - there are also social, cultural and idiomatic barriers that complicate its integration into the continent.
Located in the northeast of the South American continent, the region was called Guayana or "land of many waters" by its original inhabitants, the Arawaks. The area borders Venezuela to the west and Brazil to the south, countries that also include lands that are part of the Guiana natural region. The humid terrain and coastline, dense with mangrove swamps and marshes, combine with the tropical climate of the interior, which is characterized by virgin forests, high plateaus and large mountain ranges such as the Guiana Shield. Its population, ranging from indigenous people to European descendants, is located in the coastal area and in the river valleys.
The Guianas are spoken of jointly not only because they form a common territory for the natives, but also because they were left out of the continental distribution made by the two great empires of the Iberian Peninsula. Being a territory not easily accessible from the rest of the continent, the lack of Spanish and Portuguese presence led other European powers of the time to seek to set foot there, in exploration campaigns carried out during the seventeenth century. British Guiana gained independence in 1970 and Dutch Guiana in 1975. French Guiana remains a department and an overseas region of France and, consequently, an outermost territory of the European Union in South America.
The three unknown
To the west of the region lies Guyana, officially known as the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. The country has a population of around 773,000 inhabitants, mostly located in Georgetown, its capital. Its official language is English, bequest from its colonial past. The Guyanese political-social reality is marked by the conflictive coexistence between the two great ethnic groups: the Afro-Guyanese and the Indo-Guyanese. Its internal politics is characterized by the bipartisanship between the PNC (People's National Congress) formed by the Afro-descendants concentrated in the urban centers; and the PPP (People Progressive Party), with greater influence in the rural zone, constituted by descendants of immigrants from India who arrived during the British Empire and who work in the sugar plantations.
Despite a recent increase in foreign investment, Guyana is the poorest country with the highest crime, violence and suicide rates on the continent. In addition, its international image is conditioned by its perception as area reference in the international distribution of cocaine and its high rate of corruption. However, the country's future points to its entry into the world's major oil powers after the finding of one of the largest oil and gas fields discovered in our decade.
Like Guyana, the political life of the Republic of Suriname is subject to a great ethno-cultural mosaic. The former Dutch colony, with its capital in Paramaribo, is the smallest and least populated country in South America, with only 163,821 inhabitants. After its independence in 1975, more than a third of the population emigrated to the metropolis (the Netherlands). This produced a major structural crisis due to the lack of human capital in the country. Suriname is made up of descendants from almost all continents: Africans, Indians, Chinese and Javanese, aborigines and Europeans. Its domestic policy is marked by the influence of Desiré Bouterse and by the democratic aspirations of the society. Regarding its foreign policy, Suriname is committed to a better control of its resource exports, mainly aluminum, and to a progressive integration in the regional and international sphere, in most cases, together with its neighboring country, Guyana.
Unlike the other two Guianas, French Guiana is not an independent country, but an overseas region of France, which is located more than 7,000 km from France. The capital of this territory is Cayenne. For a long time it was used by France as a penal colony. It has the highest homicide rate in the entire French-speaking territory and is known for its high level of crime. As a Gallic department , it is part of the European Union and home to the French Guiana Space Center, housing one of Europe's main satellite launching stations in Kourou. French Guiana is facing growing unemployment, lack of resources for Education and dissatisfaction among its population which has led to numerous protests.
Change of orientation
Due to the strong historical relationship with their respective metropolises and their late independence, there has traditionally been a significant barrier between the Guianas and South America. Geographically, they are cornered on the northern coast of South America, with difficulty in developing contacts to the south, due to the orography of the Guiana massif and the Amazon rainforest. But there have also been cultural and linguistic reasons that contributed to a rapprochement between this region and the western Caribbean, where England, Holland and France had -and still have in some cases- island possessions.
However, after a long period of relative isolation, with hardly any relations with their southern neighbors, the republics of Suriname and Guyana have begun to join the dynamics of economic and political integration in South America.
Traditionally, the two States have had a closer relationship with the Caribbean: both are full members of CARICOM, Georgetown being the headquarters of this community of Caribbean countries, and are part of the association of Caribbean States (ACS), with the peculiarity of the presence of French Guiana as an associate. In recent years, Suriname and Guyana have begun to look more towards the continent itself: they have participated in the creation of Unasur and are observer countries of Mercosur. Symbolic of this change of orientation was the entry in 2016 of these two countries into Conmebol, the South American soccer federation, leaving the North, Central American and Caribbean federation to which they belonged.
This closer relationship with its continental neighbors and participation in the South American integration process should serve to resolve some pending border issues, such as the dispute between Venezuela and Guyana: Caracas has historically claimed the territory between its border and the Essequibo River, which flows through the middle of Guyana. However, as other Latin American territorial disputes are being resolved in international courts, the Essequibo dispute threatens to perpetuate itself for the time being.