In the Shadow of the Arab Spring

Saharawi troops, near Tifariti (Western Sahara). Photo: Saharauiak. wikimediaTHE CONFLICT IN WESTERN SAHARA

In the light of the Arab Spring, or rather in the shadow of it, the conflict over the issue of Western Sahara still remains unresolved. While other citizens in the Arab world have gained their independence during the Arab Spring, there is an increasing frustration among the Sahrawi population over their situation . The international community seems to be reluctant in their support for either side, while the findings of natural resources in the region are an increasing source of conflict.

Refugees in Egypt

Protests against Mubarak. Alexandria, January 25th 2011. Photo: antonello_mangano. flickr The Arab spring has given hope to millions of people in the Middle East, for the end of dictatorship and corruption. But at the same time, as revolution brings with it increased insecurity and lawlessness, those at the fringes of society suffer. In Egypt, a transit country for refugees moving from Sudan and Sub-Saharan Africa, the migrants are among those who have paid a high price for the revolution.

The country has one of the biggest refugee populations in the world, with estimates from half a million to three million. Aside from the granting of asylum – where refugees are given the right not to be deported – Egypt has opted out of the rest of the responsibilities, such as health care, right to education and employment, of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Raúl Castro’s Reforms

Cuban President Raul Castro. Photo: flickrCHANGING THE COURSE OF CUBA

When the infamous Fidel Castro was replaced as president of Cuba by his brother Raúl in February 2008, the new president inherited a country in trouble. With a stagnant economy, an increasing national debt, and a steadily deteriorating standard of living in the communist state, Raúl Castro was faced with the unenviable task of turning the country’s fortunes around. The four years that have passed since Raúl became president have seen slow but steady changes in Cuba’s domestic and foreign policies that are beginning to benefit the Cuban population.

Building Belo Monte

Brazilian President Dilma Vana Rousseff. Photo: Pablo Manriquez. flickr– One of the Amazon’s most controversial development projects  

The Brazilian government is moving ahead with plans to build what will be the world’s third largest hydroelectric project – the Belo Monte Dam. The Belo Monte project is highly controversial, and has been challenged by indigenous groups and environmental organisations for more than twenty years. Nevertheless, it is now one of President Dilma Rousseff’s most prestigious projects – but what are the costs for the region and its inhabitants?

The original plans for the Belo Monte project date back to the 1980’s, when Brazil was ruled by the military. Ever since, the following governments have unsuccessfully tried to speed up the project by creating various types of national investment programs. However, the project has begun to move forward more rapidly over the past two years.

The Belo Monte project as a whole includes the building of two dams, two canals, two reservoirs and an extensive system of dikes along the Xingu River, located in the northern state of Pará. With an estimated cost of over 16 billion USD, proponents of the Belo Monte project call it the most competitive alternative for generating electric energy and present it as a clean, modern way of addressing climate change.

Daniel Ortega

Daniel Ortega. Photo: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador. flickr– From Revolutionary Idealist to Cunning Capitalist  

In November of last year, Daniel Ortega was re-elected President of Nicaragua for a third term in office.  With a landslide victory, Ortega expanded his powerful grip on Latin America’s poorest country. Ortega began his political career over thirty years ago as a leftist revolutionary helping to overthrow the brutal Somoza dictatorship. However, his current regime has now more in common with the dictators of Nicaragua’s dark past than he would like to admit.

Daniel Ortega was once the hero of aspiring revolutionaries, left-leaning students and anti-American supporters worldwide. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, Ortega was a symbol of victory over tyranny. His Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) took part in a brutal guerrilla war against the US-backed Somoza dictatorship, fighting for democracy and a more equal society. After overthrowing Somoza in 1979, the FSLN then took on the might of the US. The CIA began financing the Contras, an anti-Sandinista paramilitary group. Despite the Sandinistas winning democratic elections in 1984, fighting continued until 1989. During this time, Ortega was seen as an anti-imperialist revolutionary and was adored by huge numbers around the world. However, since then, the world’s love affair with Ortega has soured.

“Being frustrated about inequality and injustice was not enough”

Cecilia Malmström. Photo: Hans Doverholm. wikicommons

Interview with Cecilia Malmström

One year since the Arab spring the European Union is facing a great challenge in handling the stream of refugees trying to get across its borders. On Friday the 27th of January the Association of Foreign Affairs in Lund invited European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström to give a lecture about the current situation and the aim for a common European migration policy. The crowded lecture hall proved that these are hot topics and the Commissioner had to tackle several questions from vocal students.

Migration is a controversial matter. Today the stakes are even higher with six Union members receiving 75 percent of all migrants. An unsustainable situation according to the Commissioner who claims that a joint solution regarding migration is urgent.

The Awakening of a New Iran?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photo: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador. FlickrThere has been much controversy recently on the position of Iran in international relations. Potential nuclear war aside, many Iranian people are suffering in this moment. Therefore, as the new year begins and Iranian elections draw increasingly closer, it is a good time to reflect on the country’s very recent internal events.

The last Iranian elections took place on 12th June 2009.

Cast your memory back to the following day. The results have just been announced with a 65% vote in favour of Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Soon, the streets of Tehran echo with shouts of “Death to the dictators!”. Police and Islamist militias charge in to control the uproar and the protestors for the crime of demanding an answer to the question “Where is my vote?” Violence ensues. Iranian government figures stand at 20 as to the numbers murdered by officials, though opposition and Green Movement figures estimates numbers dead to be within the hundreds.

Occupy Wall Street Calls for End to Corporate Personhood

Occupy Wall Street protesters. Photo: S51438.wikimedia commonA little over four months has passed since protesters began gathering in Zuccotti Park, New York in a movement now known globally as Occupy Wall Street (OWS). What began as just a few hundred people gathered in a park in lower Manhattan protesting against political disenfranchisement and social and economic inequality has spread to over a hundred cities across the United States and to over a thousand cities worldwide. Opponents say this is a group of left-wing liberal extremists seeking to divide the United States through class warfare. Advocates say they are expressing their rights to free assembly and free speech against institutions they feel are corrupt and have failed them. Despite having no clear leadership and lacking a clearly articulated agenda, this amorphous group is gaining support and changing the tone of political discourse in America. One of the issues OWS has been most vocal about is the corruption they see in America’s political system and how it is responsible for the growing wealth disparity in the United States.

Obama’s Guantanamo

Barack Obama at his desk. Photo: White House (Pete Souza)During his presidential campaign Barack Obama was a harsh critic of the Guantanamo Bay detention center. An indeed, in January 2009, he signed an executive order for the closure of Guantanamo by January 2010. However, this did not happen and the latest development, following the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2012 that was passed recently, makes for an increasingly complicated situation.

The NDAA is that bill authorizes funding for the United States Departement of Defense. But in the massive text of the NDAA for 2012 a few provisions concerning the handling of suspected terrorists have been inserted. The act states that a person who is a part of, or supports, forces engaged in hostilities against the U.S. can be detained under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities.

Even though military detentions without trial has been used frequently by the U.S. this last decade, the act still represents a turning point. While the legality of the Bush administrations use of military detentions could have been questioned in the past, the NDAA codifies the practice into U.S. law.

“They throw good money after bad money”

Johan Norberg is a Swedish classical liberal thinker and a freelance writer as well as the author of several books. Recently, he has been active in the debate over Europe’s economic crisis. Utrikesperspektiv met him to ask about the crisis in Europe and the banking system.

What is the biggest problem in terms of Eurocrisis today?

The problem is that three countries are bankrupt and two can’t borrow and the Southern European banking system has collapsed. Everybody is on life-support from other governments and the European Central Banks. And in the long run that will not work. The only result is that they throw good money after bad money and undermine their own financial situation. And now we are all in this together. The governments are in a bad situation, and then, so are then banks, because they lent the money. And then governments look even worse, because they might have to support those bankrupt banks, and so on. It’s a very negative spiral.