Politics

North Korea: the last frontier

In today’s world, where borders seem to have surrendered to the phenomenon of globalization and communism disappeared with the opening of Cuba and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90s, it remains an isolated Stalinist state.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea occupies the northern portion of the Korean peninsula. It is headed by the only case of a communist dynasty in the history established by the supreme leader and eternal president of Korea, Kim Jong-Il and is rule under the “Juche” ideology whose vocation regulates every aspect of the citizen’s life. It is a totalitarian regime based in the cult of personality of their leaders. After the death of supreme leader in 1994, came to power his son Kim Il-Sung and after his death in 2011, the current ruler Kim Jong-Un.

It is a heavily militarized regime with one of the largest armed forces in the world. This is so because the country is since ever in  state of war as a peace was never signed after the Korean War.

South Korea, a democratic and liberal regime has reached a high level of development is the south of the peninsula with support from the United States and Japan. Meanwhile the North Korean regime has seen its existence compromised with the fall of the Soviet regime and the inclusion of China in the economy and world order. While Beijing remains its mainstay, criticism from its biggest ally do nothing but increase.

It is in this context and with the coming to power of the supreme leader’s grandson, the positions and the rhetoric of the regime have been radicalized. The pursuit of nuclear weapon and the missile development has become a priority for the regime and its existence.

 

Current status

2017 has been a challenge year so far to the international community. North Korea feels its own existence in danger and it shows it with provocations and threats.

In March Koreans conducted a four missiles trail. The missiles traveled nearly a thousand kilometers, three of them reached Japanese waters. It is estimated that the exercise goal were US bases in Japan. China interceded in United Nations to calm down the reaction of the United States, South Korea and Japan. Since then the United States called to end the strategic patience towards the regime and South Korea expressed concern at the progress of North Korean missile program.

Two others missiles test were made, one in late March and another in April. Both of the without success. The issue was addressed at the meeting between President Trump and President Xi Jinping. Koreans threatened an unforgivable reaction to what they saw as an american provocation as the US announced and increasement of its presence in the peninsula.

The North Korean press made threats of nuclear attacks on American soil after the US announcement. Indeed it is estimated that a nuclear test site is operable since April.

In this context the Japanese reported that the North Koreans have the ability to launch warheads with sarin gas. North Korea announced that they will respond to any attack with total war. The regimes showed its potential during a military parade in occasion of the commemoration of the 105th anniversary of the birth of the Supreme Leader.

The Vice President of the United States,Pence, said that all options are on the table regarding the Korean crisis and recommended the regime not to test the determination of President Trump.

Japan meanwhile urged North Korea to refrain from further provocations and claims to the role of China in the conflict.

However, North Korea did another missile test unsuccessfully as it exploded after launched. Pope Francis called for a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis.

In May North Korea announced that it can conduct a nuclear test at any time and call for the immediate suspension of US anti-missile shield.

A new President in South Korea assumed after a political crisis and corruption scandal, saying o be ready to travel to North Korea if the conditions were acceptable. It was the end of 10 years of conservative government in South Korea. Nevertheless North Koreans tested the new South Korean president with another missile test. The White House called for tougher sanctions to the regime. Moscow and Beijing were concerned at the escalation of tension. The European Union considered North Korea as a threat to international peace.

Furthermore the United States and Japan called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council after two missiles tests in less than 15 days. Russia called to stop intimidation to North Korea.

In this context  a massive cyberattack occurred and there were strong versions that It could have been originated in North Korea. At the United Nations, Washington and Beijing prepare a resolution with sanctions against the regime. 18 companies and regime figures were sanctioned. In response North Korea conducted a new missile test. UN called North Korea a threat to international security.

In June the North Koreans again tested a missile showing significant progress. The death of the US extradited prisoner, Otto Warmbier, created new tensions between the administration and the regime Trump. It was first accused of stealing a propaganda poster during his visit to North Korea.

 

An agenda for Korea

The evolution of the first half of the year shows that North Korea feels threatened and it believes that the only solution is the development of technology: a kind of technology that will make extremely dangerous a possible invasion.

The only deterrent will be the nuclear weapon as well as the missiles to reach South Korean, Japanese and even American soil and so neutralize any threat to the regime.
The objective of the North Korean regime is causing a high cost to any military intervention on its territory. And there is not one greater than the nuclear, so it is difficult that they will give up the development of this technology.

The sanctions have not been effective as in the case of Iran, as the North Korean economy is not integrated into the international economy and the North Koreans seem not revealed by harsher condition. The famine between 1995-1997 is a clear example of this.

The role of the Chinese and Russian governments is critical to achieving a resolution to the conflict as they have a certain influence in the regime.

Any attitude and demonstration of force will only reinforce the alleged weakness experienced by the regime. It will increase the regime desire of the nuclear weapon.

Only dialogue and multilateral negotiations will find the solution to the Korean problem.

Will the international community give an opportunity to build bridges of trust and to avoid what it looks like a inevitable all-or-nothing confrontation?

The day that politics became part of consumer goods

Are the political party, the electoral platform, the electoral promises, the government objectives and / or the candidate’s experience and training important? Do we consider some of these variables when we have to vote? How much do we empathize with political candidates depending on the words they use, colors, how they communicate or their advertising spots?

Today politics have become a consumer good. It is a product that is created precisely with the goal of being consumed, being elected and meeting certain personal goals or a space. This is not new, but the turning point is when the image becomes more important than the content.

For the image to become relevant, it is necessary to have a team behind it that builds from zero a candidate. Therefore, candidates become mere products of a market that moves according to the demands and perceptions of civil society. This construction takes into account from the physical image, to speeches, verbal and non-verbal language, political discourse, and the actions they perform. Even though they are part of a political party, they seek to avoid being categorized merely in the party and reach as many spaces as possible. The parties are used as mere promotion platforms, losing the sense of belonging to it and generates a collective identity in which we know what to say and how to say it.

To achieve this, polls of public opinion on issues of interest are closely followed. The strategy is no longer based on purely political analysis, but also on marketing. It is important a strategy with a clear and persistent basis, but that also has the capacity to adapt to the fluctuations of everyday life. Precisely, the essence is creativity.

It is often said that brands in industry use marketing not only to meet needs but also to create them. Politics are beginning to use the same conception. Candidates respond to certain needs that civil society evidence, but candidates also through discourse create the imaginary collective of new needs that they and only they are able to satisfy. This becomes a key when people internalize that need. For this, the need must be well thought out, it must be deeply designed.

The media, although they are positioned as actors that objectively report reality, they are not. That is why politics uses them as a mechanism of transmission, not for official campaign advertising, but in daily programs, from news to programs of general interest. Today’s politicians must have the ability to interact with political analysts in the same way that journalists do. Why? Because the politics has become a show. It takes the politicians off the stage in which they develop their work, and they are humanized, but humanized as celebrities where everything they do is news.

A valuable example is Donald Trump, who was criticized and delegitimized in all major US media, while, at the same time, he was on the news every day. His strategy was to hold every day, to make his image the most seen and best known. It was more important to see him than what he really represented and said. Politics ceases to be an idea and a call to action, and becomes an acting role, where civil society plays the role of spectator vis-a-vis candidates and politicians who have the leading roles.

Furthermore, the new technologies of information and communication are being as important, like social networks that allow politicians to have a first-person link with their followers or even with their detractors. Although those who manage the networks are not the politicians themselves, the idea is generated that they are and that is a tool that brings that gap between governors and ruled closer.

Marketing is the central element that structures political campaigns strategies as a consequence of the increasing mediatization of politics. Today, more than ever, we can speak about the press or the media, understood in a broad vision of the concept to be able to be incorporated to the TICs, like the fourth power. That Big Brother who sees and analyzes everything, but with a subjective position.

It is in this way that politics gradually have become a spectacle, a show, a product that citizens consume, whether conscious or not. It will depend on civil society itself, citizens, on how to interpret this new face of politics. Now the question is: as citizens are we aware of this new policy role or do we consume it as if it was any product?

Chechnya: Rethinking the bonds that bind us

Leaving aside the need for subtitles in order to understand Russian, there is nothing keeping us from instantly empathizing with the words of Vyacheslav: one of the victims of the decadent state of the fight for human rights in the Russian Federation. A couple of months ago, hundred of men have been kidnapped, tortured and even murdered by Russian security forces in the Chechen region. All of them men suspects of “homosexual behaviours”. The first ones to report this terrible situation were members of Novaya Gazeta, a Russian organization specialized in human right investigations. A unique and discrete report, that follows the long tradition of censorship towards opinions that oppose the official ones, and particularly the ones calling out on the terrible state of LGBTG+ rights in the Russian Federation, fearing retaliation, kidnaps and more tortures.

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (1) and Human Right Watch have manifested their concern towards the situation and have called on the Russian authorities to set in motion investigations and programs to ensure victim’s safety. The level of disinterest and denial of the authorities is unbelievable. Everything comes together while hearing the terrible speech (2) of the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, who not only denied the existence of homosexuals in the Republic but also added that: “If there were, their families would take care of sending them somewhere they would never come back from.” The homophobia in the region reaches tremendous levels, with evidence of the so called honor murders in which the families are the ones who murder the victims, for putting on the tight rope not only their honor but also their most firm ideals.

Vyacheslav and the rest of the Russian citizens, share a culture, a language, and a history. They have lived surrounded by the same smoke. Regardless, an Argentine a thousand kilometers away with whom he doesn’t share almost anything, understands his perspective more clearly than the rest of those Russian citizens, who did not doubt for one second to shoot him, kick him in his ribs or yell at him: “Where are you going fagot?”. How can all the shared history and culture be forgotten only to focus on a much more irrelevant aspect of the identity, such as sexuality, that is currently the only bond binding Vyacheslav to that Argentine a thousand kilometers away.

Two persons, that apparently do not share anything, that live on two different sides of the Earth, that do not share the same language or think in terms of the same culture, can bond over one miniscule portion of their identity. That detail of our identity can be used to find a starting point, a place where we can begin building something together. This detail was more important than what the main pieces of anyone’s identity, like their national identity, their religion, their history or their culture were. How many details such as this can be found in order to build bonds that cross frontiers and challenge the limits settled by the most obvious and traditional pieces of our identity? It is important to take a moment to question and explore each of the things that influence our way of thinking. To go through that drawer full of little bricks, recognizing them and understanding why they are there and which role they play in our upbringing. By doing this we can find points in common with the rest of the people. We just need one shared detail, even though it is lost among thousands of other pieces that seem irreconcilable.

After reading about the situation in Chechnya, a quote I heard in a Ted talk a couple of years ago came back to me.

…because, aren’t you lucky that you don’t live in Uganda (3)

Privilege? Yes. Luck? Yes. But even if I lived in Uganda, Chechnya or Argentina, there are obviously bonds that bind people that go much further than geography, religion of national identity. Even though it is true that I do not live in Chechnya, and that I do not suffer first hand the terrible atrocities that Vyacheslav had to suffer, there is a bond that binds us and that allows me to share the suffering. The suffering that serves as power to make everything better, to fight for a better reality. The suffering that we both share but that the rest of the Russian citizens that perpetuate these atrocities don’t. The suffering that ignores frontiers and that allows us to cooperate regardless of our differences. Once more the national identity is diminished by another not so irrelevant aspect of our identity. Once more it comes to evidence that the traditional frontiers are left behind, that there are new ways of connecting thoughts and perspectives. It is a new way of understanding cooperation and building new starting points.

Elections in France: France is in danger, save it!

 

In 1940 General Charles De Gaulle  called from exile the French to save the nation from falling under the Nazi yoke. Today this call to action is more relevant than ever.

The French will decide the 25 ° President of the French Republic in an international and European context with two very different models: the unionist spirit and the values of democracy and globalization against populism who encourages old fears and it proposes a paradigm shift in terms of integration and exchange..

The truth is that election in France can be only understood in the context of a model of integration and free trade global crisis. Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States and the exit of the United Kingdom of the European Union were the first big breaks of this process that began with the financial crisis of 2008.

In the French case is particularly important the multicultural model crisis product and heritage of an imperial past that is manifested by the lack of integration of ethnic and religious minorities. The wave of attacks that the country experience does nothing but encourage fear and misunderstandings.

So that after Sunday’s elections  two candidates, two models and two visions of the world face each other. And beyond campaigns they are both product of the French establishment.

On one hand Marine Le Pen, candidate of the far right “National Front”. Mediocre student, daughter of the leader and founder of the National Front. Se has been since ever in the political arena. The daughter of the system that it says to face  but it is indeed a product of the most extremist and nationalist sectors of the hexagon.

On the other hand Emmanuel Macron, candidate for “En Marche!”. Outstanding student, representative of the French financial establishment, member of the outgoing President Hollande team as Minister of Economy, Macron is not either a newcomer to the French political arena.

However they are both representatives of nontraditional forces. The crisis also embrace the traditional political parties:the Republicans, who have remained outside the second round with the defeat of its candidate Francois Fillon and the Socialist Party that has had its worst election.

Many French are faced the dichotomy of choosing the lesser evil in a context of widespread disenchantment. The political class has appeared mostly under the principle of “republican pact” so that both the current President Francois Hollande as the right candidate Francois Fillon have openly expressed their support to the candidate Macron.

Macron represents the continuity of a central France in Europe with the principles of secularism and respect for minorities as flags. Also marks an encouraging profile for entrepreneurs and businesses to boost job creation.

Many of the disadvantaged by the globalization, as those formerly industrial areas in the north support Marine Le Pen. Lack of opportunities and fear of differences and the wave of Islamic extremism leads to endanger the French Republic

There are times where one should stop being warm and run aside the pretended objectivity because the danger is too great and will imply costly consequences.

We must speak openly against Marine Le Pen, for being xenophobic, contrary to the republican and democratic values, anti-European and destructive.

Despair and disenchantment has already led  Europe to fatal elections that have cost millions of lives.

For the good of France, of Europe and of all humanity, Marine Le Pen is not an option.

The technological revolution: freedom or servitude?

We live today a period of acceleration of time and complexity of the space. The moment when a new type of society is born. This is reflected in the constant transformations, both from the macro point of view, at the state level and the global order as well as in the micro level: attitudes or way of doing things in everyday life.

The application of technological advancement holds many advantages but also many challenges. Within the first thing we can list advances that have been simplified, improved and even prolonged human life. On the other hand the risks of this fourth revolution are not only challenging but also dangerous.

The application of the technological revolution to the labor market represents a serious challenge to the quality of life of millions of workers. It is a global risk the concentration of wealth in hands of a global minority. Today we live in a structurally unequal world, where a group of hundred people concentrate the same percentage of wealth that half of humanity, 3.5 billion people.

Technological developments and their profits concentrated in few hands will only lead to the end of society as we know since such conditions can not sustained in the medium and long term. Technology has increased the gap substantively. It has left many out of the benefits from the technological revolution and  it has concentrated the fruits in a few hands.

The concentration of wealth and high levels of inequality are contrary to liberal democratic state. But this is not the only thing that affects the state as we know

The real challenge of this new revolution is considering the human being in the heart of it. Scientific progress and technology development is meaningless if it is not serving humanity.

It is therefore essential the role of governance, both local and international, to guide the changes in benefits of all and thus enable sustainable development in the medium and long term. It depends on this a successful and fair transformation of our world.

Finally doing an analysis of our current situation, we are not very encouraging in the short term as global structures and effectiveness of state for allocating resources does not work properly. Perhaps the complexity of today’s world and the resurgence of anti-establishment and extremist elements can be understood from a model that does not answer to the needs of the human being.

In the policies adopted at regional and global levels we will see if the challenges become or not a opportunity to live in not only a more efficient but also more fair world. The fruits of innovation belong to humanity.

MERCOSUR is dead

With more than 1 million square kilometers, with a GDP of more than 4 trillion dollars and with a population of approximately 275 million inhabitants, MERCOSUR is characterized by a history of impulses and stagnation. After being born as a process that was disruptive for the time, and especially, to mark the end of the confrontation thesis between the two biggest countries of South America, MERCOSUR has been losing its impulse.

During the month of March 2016, MERCOSUR had its 25th anniversary, an event that was little promoted, which happened almost unnoticed for civil society and to which governments did not give much importance. The media, although they did not refer to this anniversary as an event of transcendence, recalled it in their publications with titles that reflect a pessimistic perspective: “25 years of MERCOSUR and very little to celebrate” (La Nación, Argentina https://goo.gl/s2ju3R), “A sad regional birthday” (El Observador, Uruguay https://goo.gl/ENlIOL), “MERCOSUR will celebrate 25 years of creation and will be without pain or glory” (ABC , Paraguay https://goo.gl/VxSKNE) or even Globo (Brazil https://goo.gl/YrL3E7) detailed that: “… the anniversary comes amid the political crisis in Brazil and the wear and tear of the bloc”. However, there were two optimistic headlines: “MERCOSUR, 25 years of success” (La Razón https://goo.gl/3oomlE) in Bolivia, which is currently in the process of joining, and Telesur (https://goo.gl/fNrXXI): “MERCOSUR celebrates 25 years betting on economic integration” highlighting the progress in social and cultural issues.

However, the current situation shows that there is a crisis and an opportunity for the process of integration. There are two possible ways, self-criticism and call to action, or resignation. The international system up to 2016 demonstrated the importance of every State to belong to broad integration processes and to large trade blocs, since it increases the possibilities of commercial transactions, with enormous political and economic opportunities. But last year was a turning point in the history of integration. The Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency who withdrew the country from the brand new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) shows an uncertainty in the economic, geopolitical and also social area, especially after a time when diplomacy and international negotiations had created a conducive environment for the trade blocs, from the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself to the Pacific Alliance, in an attempt to focus the world economy on Asia-Pacific, which is interpreted as the engine of the international economy in the next years.

According to many analysts, nowadays MERCOSUR is the moment of the ‘Black Swan’. This theory develops the possibility that unexpected situations lead to a rebirth of the bloc after a long hibernation in an unpredictable and uncertain international political and economic context. Among other things, this new impulse is brought about the emergence in Latin America of a new integration process, the Pacific Alliance, which calls itself as an innovative process which follows the patterns of the new international system focus on the new center of geopolitics and world economy. In contrast to MERCOSUR that was born in 1991 inspired by neoliberal ideas, after the change of political climate there were only advances in the social, cultural and, in some cases, political areas.

MERCOSUR needs to adapt to the new regional and international situation. Since it was born in the 1990s in a neoliberal context, it developed in the 2000s in a political climate framed in the ‘turn to the left‘ and is now in a different regional climate with the so-called ‘turn to the right‘ (1), into an international environment where it seems that the status quo is going to have an unpredictably change. This is precisely one of the weaknesses of the MERCOSUR project; it depends almost exclusively on ideological complementarity, extreme inter-presidentialism and pro-tempore presidencies pendulums. However, it should not be forgotten that this harmony between governments and presidential diplomacy is the success factor of the bloc (2), a bloc that does not fit the models of classical integration, because there is neither a significant institution nor a supranational level. We could say that MERCOSUR follows its own model (3) which is precisely the cause of its progress but also of its obstacles. There is no single model for the integration and cooperation processes, because each one is adjusted to its member’s reality (4). MERCOSUR was born with the deficiency that it followed the priorities and objectives of the governments of turn, reason why before each political change, MERCOSUR is stalled.

If we see the present, it is possible understand that after the first phase of economic complementation the bloc did not have more advances in that field, but it did cross with strength the 2008 crisis that was originated in the developed countries, the congruence of the politics of the ‘Turn to the Left’ made it advance in the social and cultural level, and the leadership of Brazil, on the one hand at regional level, on the second hand as an emergent power (5), gave some dynamics to the process but that could not cross political climate changes.

Nowadays, MERCOSUR is immersed in a crisis, but it is not the only integration process that is on crisis, even the European Union (EU) which is considered the deepest process of integration and the example to follow, is in its greatest crisis (6), or the Trans-Pacific Agreement which few months after seeing the light, goes through its first moment of darkness. However, MERCOSUR is marked by a change of political conjuncture of the ‘turn to the right‘, the strongest partner, Brazil is in a social, political and economic crisis, Argentina is politically divided but in a stable situation, Uruguay is in a cautious mode, Paraguay is expectant of the Bolivian incorporation to be able to increase the commercial flows and thus to leave the mutual geostrategic prison, and the most problematic partner, Venezuela, that after Chávez’s death, the country entered a political-social crisis that divides the country and makes the member be suspended from the bloc, but having the pro tempore presidency, a big deprivation.

That is why MERCOSUR is dead, because the bloc is experiencing a credibility and survival crisis. It was unable to adapt to the new era, to the new international and regional reality, and neither was there political efforts to have an economic deepening. It is necessary that the projects transcend political administrations and be guided by the wishes of the people, which at first are forgotten. Furthermore is needed a common external agenda, because that was built for the majority partners (Brazil and Argentina) for the benefit of their own interests, which sometimes are not complementary and even hurt the smaller partners. A common agenda would give the bloc the tool to go on new international negotiations, deepen current alliances and having a voice in international forums. With Brazil immersed in its internal sphere, it would seem the moment for Argentina to be the leader of the process, but for that to happen it must prioritize the interest of the bloc to the national interest, and generate instances that allow a better complementation after the changes of the administrations.

Between the 20 and the 24 of March, the XXVII Round of the Committee of Bi-regional Negotiations between MERCOSUR and the European Union will be held in Argentina to promote stalled trade negotiations. But the bloc also has several open fronts, negotiations with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and the rapprochement with Korea, China and Japan. In a Multiplex World, all actors have the potential to increase their international insertion, if they maintain a clear strategy (8). It is time to see if MERCOSUR can achieve this strategy.

 

(1) Carné, Jonatán. “¿América Latina da un Giro a la Derecha?”, SABF Blog, 2016, http://blog.sabf.org.ar/2016/04/06/america-latina-da-un-giro-a-la-derecha/

(2) Malamud, Andrés. “La diplomacia presidencial y los pilares institucionales del MERCOSUR: un examen empírico”, Revista electrónica “Relaciones Internacionales”, 2010.

(3) Bizzozero, Lincoln. “Los primeros 20 años del Mercosur: del Programa de Liberalización Comercial al Plan Estratégico de Acción Social”, Revista Densidades, 2011.

(4) Peña, Felix. “Los 25 años del Mercosur y opciones en el camino de su evolución futura”, Newsletter, 2016.

(5) Carné, Jonatán. “¿Qué pasó con las potencias emergentes? El Caso de los BRICS.”, SABF Blog, 2016, http://blog.sabf.org.ar/2016/07/06/que-paso-con-las-potencias-emergentes-el-caso-de-los-brics/

(6) Domínguez, Emiliano. “La encrucijada europea: ampliación y Brexit”, SABF Blog, 2017, http://blog.sabf.org.ar/2017/01/30/la-encrucijada-europea-ampliacion-y-brexit/

(7) Acharya, Amitav. “From the Unipolar moment to a Multiplex World”, YaleGlobal Univertisty, 2014.

European crossroads: enlargement and Brexit

The process of incorporating a State to the European Union is complex and lengthy. The exit is equally complex although there is no precedent. Admission requires the application of the Copenhagen criteria summarized in stable democratic institutions, rule of law, market economy and acceptance of European law, such requirements do not seem easily met by many of the candidates. As obvious as it may seem the admission of a new state requires that it be European. An example of this is the failed application of the Kingdom of Morocco in 1987 to the European Community.

In the current universe of candidates, to access as members, we must make a difference between the official candidates who are under negotiation or awaiting launch, as is Turkey (which meets few of the requirements of the commitment and that is why his candidature moves at glacial pace since 2005. Given the current political situation we do not see a change in the short or medium term), Montenegro (since 2005), Serbia (since 2012), Macedonia (since 2005) and Albania (from 2003) and potential candidates with or without formal request presented as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

The European Union has had a long and complex path, from the European Union of Coal and Steel in the 50s to the Lisbon treaty, creating strict and necessary regulations for its continued expansion. But this should not be the only thing to consider.

We should not miss the funding values of the Union whose bases constitute the real soul of Europe today. The European Union was conceived beyond economic integration from a moral criterion and from the ashes of two world wars that changed history and shaped the world. They are the humanist and democratic principles of Konrad Adenaeur, Jean Monnet, Alcide de Gasperini, Robert Schuman among many others that should guide the future of the Union.

The European Union represents a unique case of integration in world history that has established peace and prosperity in a continent that took the blows of dominance and hegemony over the last 500 years.

Brexit is also a new opportunity to advance towards fuller integration and a more comprehensive concept of Europe. The mission of the Union should not be limited against the criteria of incorporation of members nor diminished in terms of objectives based on the lack of commitment of present or potential members.

The European Union is open to European states entity but it does not have an ecumenical mission in the old continent. Those who can commit to the funding values of the Union and want to run the risk of full integration will be those who enjoy the benefits and virtues that 50 years of integration have harvested.

Europe’s future depends on it. The EU should not be lost before the paradigm of believing that more is better but those who can commit willingly with the European principles and values are those to be called part of the European integration.

What was a utopia today is a reality. Its future depends on the integrity within the principles of its funding spirit, those sown in the ashes of World War II, and present in the minds of all Europeans long before.

A day will come when there will be no battlefields, but markets opening to commerce and minds opening to ideas. A day will come when the bullets and bombs are replaced by votes, by universal suffrage, by the venerable arbitration of a great supreme senate which will be to Europe what Parliament is to England, the Diet to Germany, and the Legislative Assembly to France.

A day will come when a cannon will be a museum-piece, as instruments of torture are today. And we will be amazed to think that these things once existed!

A day will come when we shall see those two immense groups, the United States of America and the United States of Europe, facing one another, stretching out their hands across the sea, exchanging their products, their arts, their works of genius, clearing up the globe, making deserts fruitful, ameliorating creation under the eyes of the Creator, and joining together, to reap the well-being of all, these two infinite forces, the fraternity of men and the power of God.”

Victor Hugo. Discours d’ouverture, congrès de la paix, [Opening address, Peace Congress], Paris (21 August 1849)

Superficial Social Progress

What if all of our progress in the last decades regarding human rights, racism, gender equality and homophobia was a big filthy lie. Why do I say this? Well it occurs to me that maybe it is. I always considered myself as a guy who sees the glass half full, which always saw our race in constant progress for the better. That may be right, but on a very superficial level.

Real change is not made on what we see, and express. Real change is something more complicated, is not measurable by statistics made by NGOs or private or governmental entities. Real progress is something intangible.. Real progress is only measurable in our own consciousness, is our inner voice who tells us what is right or wrong. It is what we truly believe, is that inner voice that really makes us accept or love a person of a different race, gender or sexual preference no matter what, because they are a human being just like yourself.

This is why our progress is superficial in a big degree. I don’t say that real progress hasn’t been made, of course it has. But certain events show us the degree of shallowness. These events show us how we only changed the ethics on our societies, the code of ethics that says what is right or wrong on a superficial level. If you are racist, people will look down on you, if you hit your wife or you sexually harass your secretary you will go to jail for it. But that is not real change, the mindsets are not changed, only the idea of what is right or wrong for society changed, and that is the big issue.

So Donald Trump won. Yes a racist, misogynist, homophobic, and probably a guy with lack of critical thinking because of denying climate change. Not only this, the Brexit happened, the neo nazi party entered the parliament in Greece and in Austria, and Le Pen is the favourite candidate on France. These events happened because of the geniality of the people behind them that understood what I explained before and used that in their advantage. They attacked the big crowds which only changed and progressed on a superficial level in their minds. This people made the unethical, ethical again.

All the people who believed in something but couldn’t express it because of our superficial progress, could rise their voice again thanks to this characters. So racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia and xenophobia flooded our societies and streets again.

My mother once told me that there is a famous phrase which says “ People get the government leaders they deserve”; but she corrected it and told me “People get the government leaders they look alike”. And she was right. Brexit and Donald Trump showed us that a big percentage of our current societies never stopped discriminating and is still full of hatred towards others. All this events shows us how nationalism is still a great way to win elections, how hate is such a powerful tool to move big crowds.

Another issue that feeds the idea of far right extremists having such an amount of power all around the globe is the apolitical crowd. For example, in the US 43℅ of the voting population decided not to vote. In the UK 28℅ of voters also chose not to vote. This can be analyzed as having a huge amount of adults not caring about their country’s future. The huge differential of 15℅ between the UK and the US it’s because as it is said the US suffered the phenomenon of voting “between the lesser of two evils”, making a bigger margin of non voters. So how can this happen in the 21st century? Where we have internet and information at our fingertips, we can easily search which candidate aligns better with our interests and model of thought. We can see their statements, their political agenda, their political team, even what they have stated 10 years ago and how they changed their point of view and why.

It is known as a fact by many statistics entities that the rates of discrimination at schools, and messages of hate towards muslim and LGBT communities peaked during Trump’s campaign. Yes, during the campaign, before he won. This shows the great impact a candidate and even more a president has with his speech over the population. The economic instability and recession takes some political leaders to create escape goats. This escape goats are an illusion, an imaginary answer to very complicated problems. This is not monday’s new’s, populist speakers around the twentieth century generated hate in many countries creating imaginary enemies which the people could hate to forget about other real problems. Hitler had the jews, Chavez had the US. So why Trump couldn’t have muslims, mexicans and China? Who wouldn’t love that all of our most complicated problems would be solved by these easy solutions these populist speakers bring to the table? But the world doesn’t work that way sadly.

Only 492,306 from 3,806,471 of people between 18 and 24 years old voted for the EU referendum for the Brexit. That’s only a 36%! Ideas are crucial for making a real change, but execution is the key aspect. People between 18 and 29 cover a 20% of all the amount of votes, that’s a big number in the spectrum.  We should definitely use our power to vote. We were raised in a more advanced society, with less xenophobia, racism and homophobia. Youngsters need to understand how they can make a change by only showing up. So why lose this big 20% who can fight against all these negative aspects, we just can’t keep sitting around.

So are we doomed? Should we surrender our ideals of real progress, and embrace this wave of hate that is crashing in to our foreheads? Absolutely not. This is the best moment, more than ever before, to remind ourselves of a key thought. No presidential candidate, no newspaper, no anti immigration law, no far right extremist party can really determine the way we live our lives. They do not represent us as a whole, these are just laws and people who got voted, on a fraudulent system, that in no matter of years will change. We live in a representative way of government which is often confused with the real democratic system which was stated 2500 years ago in ancient greece, but that will be a subject for another time. This Hate is only reflected on our daily lives if we let it pass through, if we choose to neglect it when it’s around us. So remember you can always chose, to embrace what is thrown to us, or to fight it with empathy.

It is now more than ever that we should push our minds for a real conscious change in order to achieve real progress. We should fight against this past of facism and hate that is coming to haunts us once again. I think that human history is not cyclical as many may think, and this wave of hate can be left behind as old news well buried, for a more prosperous and bright future. A famous psychologist, Steven Pinker, wrote a book called “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”. This book studies that the greatest variable that marked our success as a race was collaboration between ourselves. The human mind found out thousands of years ago, that it was easier to understand, to collaborate, to love than to hate and discriminate. So… why bother ourselves in this nonsense?

Democracy in Argentina

2015 is a year of elections. The Argentines vote to choose the destiny of our country and of other forty million people.

These elections are the expression of a democratic system, the election of the governors by the governed, as it happens with many other countries in the occidental world and some other countries outside of it.

 

What is considered as democracy?

 

Is the term that gave its origin equally applicable to the system we know today?

 

We can start by saying that partly it is not. The Greek democracy, or the government of the people, did not correspond to the current definition of popular government. For example, in ancient Hellas not every inhabitant were considered citizens (with political rights) and most of the population was slave. On the other hand, those who had political rights should assume them as their duty in the agora or in the political arena.

 

Today, according to the theory of the American political scientist Robert Dahl, we  must say that what we call democracy represents an open, inclusive and competitive political system. This system is based on citizen participation and the control of the citizens over the government.

But, beyond the dogmas and without wanting to hurt susceptibilities, we will analyze if the current Argentine system correspond completely or partially to a modern democracy.

 

How democratic is Argentina today?

 

 

 

  • Free, periodic and competitive elections.

 

We can’t doubt that at a national level we live in a country where, since the return to democracy, a system exists in which the officers are elected by vote in clean elections that are carried out regularly and in which coaction is rare and alternatives from the current government can compete freely. It is a different story at a province level in which periodicity is not affected, but competitiveness is partially affected.

 

 

  • Inclusive vote.

 

Practically every adult can periodically participate in the elections. There are no privileges or qualified votes, nor the exclusion of certain groups or sectors.

 

 

  • Right to hold public office.

 

In theory, any Argentine citizen can run for office representing a political party. In practice, it is not as easy for an “outsider” of the traditional political circle to access it, but it is not restricted by any anti-competitive requisite.

 

 

  • Freedom of speech.

 

It may be one of the most controversial characteristics of the Argentina of today.

The citizens have the right to express themselves, without putting themselves in danger of receiving severe punishments, about political issues included criticizing public officers, the government, the regime, the socio-economic system or the prevalent ideology, among others.

There is no doubt that in Argentina we currently live fully the “freedom of speech”. However, this doesn’t omit the attacks from the party currently in government to certain media and journalists, creating and adverse environment but without affecting the democratic principle.

We must take into account that every media responds to particular interests that can crush with those of the government of the time. The serious thing would be that for the communication channel to be silenced. In Argentina, apart from the adverse environment and certain critics there is no evidence of the violation of this principle. In case of any violation by the media, it is the responsibility of justice and not of the government to judge it.

 

 

  • Variety of information sources

 

Citizens have the right to use different sources of information which do not only exist but are also protected by law.

Even though it’s true that the new media law encourages this variety of sources, it doesn’t differentiate between those close to the government or not. Anyway, we must say that in Argentina there is currently a broad variety of sources of information.

 

 

  • Associative autonomy

 

The citizens, to ensure the defense of their rights and interests, can build organizations and associations relatively independent, including political parties and interest groups.

 

Thus, we can say that in Argentina we currently live in a full democratic system. However, this doesn’t mean that certain characteristics, as freedom of speech, are more likely to be damaged than other. But nobody can doubt that from a formal point of view we live as a country under a full democratic system.

Maybe going deeper of the formal content of democracy, we may ask ourselves what have we accomplished as a society and how much is missing.

There is no doubt that to leave in a full and healthy democracy we must heal the social debt. That one that leaves millions of Argentines out of the system and makes us vulnerable regarding the democratic quality and its future.

It’s us, the citizens, the responsibles for strengthening democracy and for including everybody and assuring its benefits for the whole population.

Let’s celebrate democracy, but we know it is not enough. The challenge is the inclusion.

Israel-Palestine: Kill or die?

What would you do if from the front building a couple of guys were shooting against your house, where your family (wife or husband, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, nieces and nephews, etc.) lives?

For those who think it is key to live in peace, respecting life and the other’s decision, this question confront us with a very strong ethical dilemma. If I don’t do anything, not only do I die, but I let my children die. If I do answer, I would go against my principles -which I consider universal-, since, as Ghandi said,”Mankind has to get out of violence only through nonviolence”. What do I do then, protect my family or be true to my ideals?

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