Tag Archives: human rights

South & Central Americas: an Egyptian-Styled “Arab Spring”

All eyes are glued to the Mid-East; to the Iranian deal, to the ominous rumblings in Turkey and sitting here in NYC, I learn that the threat index from ISIS is high in the United States. My eyes are glued for the occasional bombings in France as I plan a trip to Paris, and the arrest of some young persons in the US running off to marry an ISIS member. The focus is almost hypnotic.

On my daily trips to view the hot spots of the world, I have just begun to be aware of red lights faintly flashing in South and Central America with a new short-hand term slowly coming into common use: “South American Spring. ” For those of you who have short memories, let me remind you of the Arab Spring that began with a revolution popular uprising in Egypt that was greeted with roars of approval and the end of tyranny, but which has morphed steadily into deadly and horrific violence and unfathomed levels of despair in the entire Middle East. A three year old child lying dead in the sand along a beach that was to bring him to safety from the violence of his home conveys horror to us in vivid detail.

In South and Central America, fed-up with corruption and harsh dictators and after decades of brutal oppression, those countries had their moment to achieve modern democracy through elections. But something has gone terribly wrong in the process. If we in the United States, we and our government, solely focus our attention to the Middle East, we will find ourselves on the boarder of very troublesome places in our own hemisphere.

The people there are more than merely unhappy notwithstanding their democratic elections. In place of venting their anger in the voting polls, they are moving into the streets. Enough is enough is the focused chant.

Guatemala and Honduras: Frustration over widespread corruption in Guatemala and Honduras may have finally triggered the protests and ire in countries long accustomed to political corruption and dishonor. Guatemala and Honduras have long been linked by their corrupt and bloody past, some of the world’s highest homicide rates, unescapable poverty, gang violence, and organized crime.

Years of living under the thumb of a dictatorial military rule has also left their middle classes fearful of political involvement. Honduras’s attorney general revealed that a network led by the former social security board director defrauded the government of some $120 million from 2010 to 2014. What was rumored became fact.

The Guatemalans have been taking to the streets to demand dramatic change – an unusual sight in Central America, where corruption for years has been the norm. As Sibylla Brodzinsky wrote from Honduras:” It is a scene (seeing hundreds of protesters in the street) that has been repeated every Friday evening for nearly three months, since the government party was linked to a fraud and graft scheme that nearly bled the national health service dry. . at the same time, crushing poverty and rampant violence have driven tens of thousands to attempt to migrate to the United States.” In weekly marches, held on Saturdays in the Guatemalan capital’s Constitution Square, protesters have called for the impeachment or resignation of their President.” Enough is enough” is the constant cry of the population of both countries.

Brazil: In the case of Brazil, whose influence over the region is apparent, what is in issue is the ability of any new government to reinvent itself. The economy in Brazil has dropped precipitously as multibillion dollar corruption scandals have become public knowledge. This information has caused the outcry that erupted in many Brazilian cities during June 2013 and it continues.

Argentina: The Argentinians are calling for change amid their frustration and anger with one of the world’s highest inflation rates, government currency and trade controls and wide-spread corruption allegations that have pierced deep into the Government’s inner political circle.

Mexico: The recourse to massacre, which Mexico seems to either to condone or set an example, sets in motion the extent to which terror has returned to the continent as a means to manage social conflict and political control. Parading fear prevents any collective attempt to practice a new form of political structure.

Venezuela: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who sounds very much like our Donald Trump, has over the past two weeks forcefully deported 1,000 Colombian migrants back to their homeland, producing a flood of harrowing visual images. Their personal belongings seized along with indiscriminate physical violence. Venezuelan National Guardsmen have even taken to spray painting the homes of the soon-to be-banished, marking their dwellings with an “R” for reviewed, or a “D” for demolition.

Nearly 5,000 other Colombians in Venezuela, hoping to rescue some of their dignity and property and avoid the same brutal treatment as their countrymen, have fled preemptively, wading across the shallow river marking the porous border between the two countries with whatever possessions they can carry. To top off the oppression, the Venezuelan opposition leader was sentenced to nearly 14 years of prison. The opposition leader had already been in a military prison for the past 18 months. He was convicted of inciting violence in last year’s antigovernment protests.

We must be as attentive to the ills in the Americas as we are to those in Middle East before they become mirror images. Our media must take a more active role in focusing on the Americas as that part of the world forms our national security network and the Government provides little information. Without the media our unbiased channel of information is at risk.

I have an acquaintance in Guatemala. He wrote to me last week when I enquired of his wellbeing, and he responded: “Everything is fine here, now that we were listened as a nation, we are waiting for justice to do their part.”

I hope his optimism becomes his reality. I have grave doubts.

Richard Allan.
The Editor

It’s an ugly world

First let me apologize for not writing for the longest time. I had to deal with a health issue, but that is now history. More important is today’s history. What I am assuming you would want, if there is an international holiday on your agenda during the upcoming fall season, is a place you could travel to and feel secure. You want to find yourself ultimately in a safety zone; also, a zone that does not appear to be seething with trouble. A place that you can enjoy without thought of anything other than the sight in your line of vision. And a plane ride without anxiety.

If you are a Francophile and thought: Paris, there you should worry about those sections of Paris that are truly off limits to a Caucasians. In general, I am not worried about the common pickpocket, and there are plenty of them abound wherever you go (and I have been a victim more than once when I thought I was being careful). I am not worried that my luggage may go “intentionally” astray, and that has happened to me in Germany.

What I worry about is bombs, kidnapping and bedbugs. Without the insight of a local resident, I am worried about the simmering rages that seem to be lingering in the streets of a particular section of a city. I am worried about peaceful protests when the fuse of the initial impetus for the protest can unexpectedly, for a stranger, turn ugly and violent.

I am worried about cities with a shocking financially depressed population and the frustration that must be brewing in their homes. I am worried about visiting a country where you dare not ask a political question of a local due to the fear of putting that person in danger of arrest by the authorities. In Singapore, I was told by an art gallery owner that a question I had posed to him was “inappropriate”. Later he volunteer to answer that same question when we met by accident in a transit air terminal in Japan.

I was appalled when a friend said in passing that the world was ugly. He was not referring to its visual characteristic, but the ugliness of the behavior of its population. And I do not mean politeness or courtesy or even grace. We live in a world whose atmosphere is littered with overhanging hostility at every turn. An Egyptian cartoonist poked fun at the United States during the riots in Ferguson after the death of a young man by an overzealous local police officer. The American press had been critical of the continuing political turmoil in Egypt and, how dare we be so critical when the political and social upheaval in the United States are no panacea.

The National Geographic Channel has taught me that animals only attack other animals for the purpose of food. Many years ago a Russian diplomat told a group of us that a town in Poland, which had been removed from the Soviet orbit several hundred years ago, still “belonged” to the “mother country” and could be “retaken” legitimately . When I responded in amazement, his sharp retort was: “that’s the trouble with you Americans; you have no sense of history.”

Could “our lack of a sense of history” be the cause of our international paralysis or some knee jerk reaction to the political and sectarian genocide across so much of the globe? Where are we as a nation when scores are being slaughtered? It appears we either simply ignore that particular “ugliness” or we send in troops because of our alleged feelings for the “humanitarian claim”.

Or is the real truth that we view all foreign incidents thru a political prism. It seems that our first consideration circles around the question: Is the area engulfed in violence a place that is “necessary” to our wellbeing? Our wellbeing–not the pain of those suffering. And wellbeing is defined for us as either or both the safekeeping of the nation’s financial health or our national security.

We are being faced by those who are certifiable egomaniacs with massive persona who control all those within the sound of their voice. These individuals appear to have a control of human behavior that is by all reasonable standards beyond the pale of decent human conduct. How do you behead a person for world-wide viewing? How do you have people, seemingly rational people, line up asking for the next assignment to assassinate a stranger; and what possesses an individual to volunteer to end their own life, not because of some internal pain, but to kill as many other people as possible in the process. Who are these people? They are barbaric. Why do we tolerate this ugliness?

If you take your eye off the news from Washington for a moment, you will become confused when our supposed allies change sides. Are we really talking to the Syrian government for a “fly-over” so that we may bomb the ISIS troops at the same moment the UAE and Egypt carry out airstrikes against that very same Government? And then in the morning news you read that more than 260 migrants died in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Italy seeking what or more important escaping what? While Germany is outraged that the United States has spied upon it, we learn that Germany has spied on Turkey its ally for decades.

And last, at this writing, reports from all the major news sources –our nations and the world press—herald the news that Hamas and Israel have agreed to an extended Gaza cease-fire. That’s the “Good” news; but we also learn from an exhaustive investigative report by Forbes Magazine how that same universal press and electronic media, especially the NY Times ––the sources we all rely upon each day for all our information –has been terribly and intentionally distorting the facts in favor of the Palestinians.

Whom can we trust in this ugly, not very safe world? Some of us turn to isolation and attempt to ignore the world, and believe we will be safe. During a recent police investigation of police brutality an alleged witness said he was fearfully of the hail of bullets being fired by the police and hid behind a car. Yet in minute detail, with his head hidden, he was able to describe the shooting. How?

A friend once said, and this must have been said countless times by others: “You deal with the hand you have been dealt. “ It’s an ugly world; but let’s deal with it all. And what that entails is that this nation, with our without consultation with its allies, evolves contingency plans for future events well before the need for their implementation. That is what responsible governments do. The potential for horrific events must be anticipated and met head on. That’s what top executives do. We must stop the slaughtering of innocent individuals; the victims cannot wait for endless consultations by the responsible world governments. How can a world leader, with untold resources, publicly admit that his government has no strategic plan in this very violent world?

Richard Allan, The Editor