Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Neoliberalism

DECEMBER 26, 2018

Bolsonaro’s Brazil: Chicago Boy-style Neoliberalism

by WOUTER HOENDERDAAL

 

On January 1, 2019, Jair Bolsonaro will begin his four-year term as Brazil’s president. Everyone expects his government to follow a neoliberal path. The only question that seems to remain is how far they can actually go.

When it comes to neoliberal reforms, all eyes are on Paulo Guedes, Brazil’s next minister of the economy, who will head a ‘super-ministry’ that combines finance, industry, trade and planning.

Guedes is a committed neoliberal. He not only earned his PhD at the University of Chicago where he was taught by the extreme right-wing economist Milton Friedman, but he is also a well-known fan of the Chicago boy economists who managed Chile’s economy during the Pinochet dictatorship, turning Chile into the first experiment in neoliberalism in Latin America.

During that time Guedes taught economics at the University of Chile, demonstrating he has no moral objections serving under a right-wing authoritarian, be it General Pinochet of Chile or Brazil’s incoming president Jair Bolsonaro. And when it comes to Brazil, Guedes is set on a “Pinochet-style” fix of the economy: “The Chicago boys saved Chile, fixed Chile, fixed the mess”, he stated in a Financial Times interview. Guedes now has set his sights on ‘fixing’ the Brazilian economy in a similar way.

In the last few weeks, it has become clear that Guedes has surrounded himself with other Chicago graduates. Joaquim Levy, who apparently has no problem shifting his political allegiance in order to get into any position of power, will head the powerful Brazilian Development Bank. Another Chicago graduate, Roberto Castello Branco, will serve as Petrobras chief executive. Several other Chicago trained economists such as Ruben Novaes are also given important positions in finance and trade. Bloomberg refers to this gathering of neoliberal fanatics as “Milton Friedman’s Brazil moment”, and international investors and news outlets such as the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal do not attempt to hide their enthusiasm, because they know what is about to happen.

Guedes wants to implement the usual neoliberal reforms such as privatization, deregulation and the liberalization of trade. One can get an idea about the likely outcomes of such neoliberal policies when looking back at another period of neoliberal reform in Brazil that began in 1990.

The year 1990 ushered in the neoliberal age in Brazil, which made Brazil a relative latecomer compared to other Latin American countries. Among several policies, programs such as privatization, deregulation and the opening up of the economy to foreign trade were core aspects of the neoliberal agenda.

Privatization means selling off State-owned enterprises. Between 1991 and 2005, over 120 State-owned enterprises were auctioned, beginning with mining and steel industries and then followed by petrochemical, fertilizer, aerospace and telecommunication companies plus parts of the power generation and distribution systems, ports and railways. Barriers against the entry of foreign capital were lifted, which allowed foreign, mainly Western, multinationals to get their share of the spoils from privatization and deregulation.

Because the government sold to the highest bidder, the main beneficiaries were giant domestic corporations and foreign multinationals. U.S. and European firms came to own increasingly larger shares of the Brazilian economy, including public utilities, the financial sector and many of Brazil’s most traditional brands.

The way these programs were carried out favored profits over wages, economist Werner Baer writes. They were not designed to benefit working people and may have even worsened the country’s notorious wealth and income inequality.

Besides privatizing large parts of the economy, the 1990’s also witnessed Brazil opening itself up to the global economy. With the stroke of a pen, tariffs and other non-tariff barriers were drastically reduced over a period of only a few years. This was an enormous break with the past, because it marked the end of a four-decade period of protectionism. The result, especially when considered from a long-term historical perspective, was a stunning shift within the economy.

Although Brazil’s State-led industrialization program between the 1950s until the 1980s was not as successful as the ones carried out in Japan or South Korea, it did lead to a relatively well-diversified manufacturing sector. The sudden shift to free trade, something which Japanese and Korean policymakers had always resisted, exposed Brazil’s industry to Western competition. Most of the Brazilian producers were not yet capable of handling this. As a result, many industries collapsed or were taken over by Western capital, including the auto part industry, one of Brazil’s key manufacturing sectors.

While the share of medium and high-technology products in Brazil’s manufacturing dropped because domestic producers were unable to compete with foreign corporations, Brazil increasingly imports its high-technology products from abroad. Even Brazil’s pride, the aircraft producer Embraer, imports most of its equipment from the West.

In response to the industrial downturn, Brazil’s economy shifted to areas in which it has a comparative advantage, which unfortunately means agriculture and raw materials, such as soybeans, iron ore and oil. According to the World Trade Organization database, in the years following the neoliberal reforms the share of manufactured products dropped from nearly 60% of exports to under 40% while the share of basic products (agriculture and raw materials) increased from 42% to around 60%.

The neoliberal reforms thus pushed Brazil back towards its traditional colonial service role within the global economy, one in which Brazil produces the low value-added raw materials in exchange for foreign high value-added manufactured goods.

Whereas Korea, the Island of Taiwan and more recently mainland China (who all have resisted the full implementation of neoliberalism) have guided their economies away from primary commodities and towards industrialization, Brazil’s economy under neoliberalism has moved in the opposite direction.

Guedes obsession with privatization and other neoliberal reforms will only reinforce this unfortunate development that began with the embrace of neoliberalism in the 1990s. Ironically, perhaps the only one who can restrain Brazil’s Chicago boy is Bolsonaro himself.

Bolsonaro has never been a true neoliberal. On the contrary, the president-elect feels nostalgia for the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 until 1985. Under military rule, Brazil’s economy was guided by State interventionist policies – the opposite of neoliberalism. But although the economic policies implemented by the Brazilian Generals violated many neoliberal principles, the outcome for the population, as described in detail by the historian Thomas Skidmore, was very much the same in at least one important aspect: economic growth under military dictatorship mainly benefited wealthy elites, and inequality, already very bad in Brazil, actually increased.

So although only Bolsonaro may be in a position to put the brakes on some of the neoliberal reforms his economic team wants to unleash, one should not expect economic policy that benefits working people, but policy that is designed to benefit groups who love neoliberalism and supported Bolsonaro’s campaign for the presidency, such as wealthy landowners and the financial sector. Meanwhile, foreign investors and Western multinationals will also surely reap many of the spoils.

If a new wave of neoliberalism sweeps Brazil, it will almost certainly reduce prospects for meaningful economic development that benefits the majority of people. Events in the past few decades have already demonstrated neoliberalism’s harmful effects on many occasions, including in Brazil itself. Unfortunately, history is on the verge of repeating itself once again.

 

Washington wants to put an end to the war in Yemen

VOLTAIRE NETWORK | 1 NOVEMBER 2018

On 30 October 2018, General James Mattis, the Defense Secretary, spoke at the US Institute of Peace and announced that it was his intention to put an end to the war in Yemen in less than 30 days.

Washington hopes that it will be supported by Martin Griffiths (United Kingdom). He is the Special Representative for the UN, Secretary General, and former director of the European Institute of Peace. The first president of this institution was Steffan de Mistura. He then went on to become the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria. The European Institute for Peace is the sister organization of its US homonym. Ronald Raegan established the US Institute at the same time as NED. The thinking: the US Peace Institute would be a special purpose vehicle for the Pentagon, just as the Ned was for the Pentagon.

Last week Martin Griffiths was received in Washington. He gave a long interview on the Saudi TV Channel, Al-Arabiya . It seems that his mission is to help Saudi Arabia to clamber out of the cesspool a product of its own waste, in which it was drowning in Yemen. Yemen, like Afghanistan, is a country that has always resisted invaders and which has never been able to be occupied.

The words of Jim Mattis were immediately echoed by Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State.

This war is an initiative of Mohamed Ben Salmane who is both the Saudi Crown Prince and Saudi Minister of Defense. Its aim: to enable Saudi to pull the strings of the Yemen government. Why? so Saudi Arabia can exploit the oil reserves to be found in the region between the two countries. It was undertaken with Israel’s help as Israel and Saudi share a joint general staff in Somaliland. It seemed that up until now the Prince’s initiative was integrated into the Pentagon’s general strategy which was to destroy the state structures of the enlarged Middle East (Cebrowski Doctrine).

Dr. Newitol Is Here To Add To Your Confusion: (21-30)

Posted On September 19, 2018

  1. Curious from Hmeret Kelboy asks, ” why did Eritrea and Ethiopia sign their peace agreements 3 times?

Dr. Newitol: One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now, go, cat, go. The one signed in Eritrea was for the money (from UAE to Ethiopia.) The one signed in Abu-Dhabi was for the show: bling, bling. And the one in Jeddah was clearly because Saudi Arabia sits on the Human Rights Council and is an authority on human rights.  Now go, cat, go. (See also question 25.)

  1. Even more confused in Nazreth, Ethiopia: So, how did Lemma Megersa become a bad guy overnight?

Dr. Newitol: His police commissioner said, “I couldn’t catch the criminals in Burayu because they are hiding from me.”  He also told his wife, “I couldn’t buy the groceries because I lost the grocery list you gave me.” The birr stops with the regional president even in an inflationary market.

  1. Khelifa from Omdurman, Sudan asks, “why wasn’t my country invited to the Peace & Friendship Agreement in Saudi Arabia! Everyone know we Sudanese are very peacy and friendy!  

Dr. Newitol: Door # 1 has Iran, Door # 2 has Qatar, Door # 3 has Turkey, Door # 4 has Saudi Arabia and UAE.  You guys chose the wrong door. The Saudis and Emiratis do not like the Muslim Brotherhood and they are looking for a Sudanese to sisi Omar Albashir on his friendly ass. Also because Isaias Afwerki has to have at least one enemy at a time.

  1. Shengeb from Halib Mentel asks, “do you have any information on the arrest of Berhane Abrehe and do you expect any reaction from Eritreans?”

Dr. Newitol: My notes say he was under house arrest for a month until they gathered enough evidence about him. Then, when they did,  he was able to proudly walk to his car in his dignified clothes and he was presented with an arrest warrant. Remember, this is for a man who is accused of being responsible for heinous human rights violations involving hyenas and lions and burning 7 churches and…

 

wait, I think I have my files confused. I confused civilized Ethiopia with backward Eritrea. I was telling you about Ethio Somalia regional president Abdi Omar Mohammed. You are asking me about the Eritrean? He was having breakfast with his son at a public place, security officers hauled him to their car and nobody said or did anything. The country appears to be in a state of permanent trauma.  The Eritrean opposition is discussing what took him so long to speak up (they would tell a prisoner of war why didn’t you surrender earlier.)

  1. Andom from Adi Keyh (College of Arts and Social Sciences) asks: Abraham Isaias Afwerki (AiA) was my classmate and he had a 0.2 matriculation. What is he doing in Zalambesa and Jeddah and what exactly is his title?

Dr. Newitol: His title is “President-in-waiting.” I don’t know why this is a big deal. For the last 17 years he was being trained to be a successor and now it’s the citizens turn to be trained about him. His title, for now, is Chairman of the High-Level Joint Committee which will guide and oversee the implementation of the Agreement. This is very important for the peace and friendship of Eritrea and Ethiopia because the last time the two countries had a high-level joint committee, the Eritreans (hard-core EPLF) didn’t like the Ethiopians (hard-core TPLF), and vice-versa  and they had a bloody war. President Isaias Afwerki, a man of peace,  is wisely placing a highly qualified man in the position: someone who has no hostility to Ethiopia and, working from the President’s office, can overcome bottlenecks.  Sounds very efficient and peaceful and friendly to me.

  1. “Still say whati!ing” from Washington, DC asks, “I was attending a public seminar conducted by Eritrea’s Charge d’affaires Berhane G Solomon and he said those in prison in Eritrea are better off than those who are not in prison. Can you please explain what he meant?

Dr. Newitol: Why is everything politicized? He is talking science! The challenge in Africa is food, medicine, shelter.  And free from fear of government that will arrest you. Those in prison never have to worry about that. Out in Asmara, at a restaurant you have to pay 2 Nakfas for a cup of water. You can also do a lot of reading in prison. So, really, what is there to argue with his logic? Families are a nuisance anyway.

  1. Zrefom from Asmara asks, “I work for Red Sea Trading Corporation. Do you have any recommendation where we should base our office in Ethiopia?”

Dr. Newitol: You will need two offices. One is in the Eritrean embassy where diplomatic pouches are still untouchable, confederation or not. There is a large diplomatic community in Addis Abeba and someone has to provide the cocaine, amirite? The other is at Assosa, which has a huge farmland for cash crops (weed, khat) and it also happens to be very close to the Sudanese border.

  1. Aradom Abkeyom from Mekele asks, “in one of his first addresses to Ethiopian parliament, PM Abiye said that the Ethiopian people are entitled to hour-by-hour, day-by-day updates of EPRDF meetings. I know EPRDF had a meeting last week. Where is the report?”

Dr. Newitol: It takes a lot of time to edit out the parts that are not good for the public to hear. He is just looking out for the interest of the people. What are you, people-hater? All his talk was before his frequent visits with Isaias Afwerki, anyway, who has told him to introduce “bego adraginet” to the restless youth. And Gnbot-7, Arbegnoch, ETV all say Eritrean National Service is great so, huh, huh, huh?

  1. Semhar from Senafe says: “Man, my town is just flooded with people coming and going. My question is: are all these Eritreans going to Ethiopia coming back?”

Dr. Newitol: Coming back from what to what? It is all one big country. I don’t understand your question: are you against free movement of people?

  1. Simon from Atlanta, GA: What is going on in these pictures? I am from the South and I went home to Ethiopia and this look like something I am familiar with in Atlanta but I am trying to be culturally sensitive?

Dr. Newito: Just some youth went to a church to pray and got lost. And the nice lawman was escorting them out. In the courtyard, they lost

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” George Carlin

This covers a lot. Enough said.

Mekonen Haddis, Professor.

JULY 10, 2018

Keeping Your Refugees: Macron, Francafrique and Euro-African Relations

Ties between Europe and Africa have never been rosy. A relationship based on predatory conquest and the exploitation of resources (slave flesh, minerals, and such assortments) is only ever going to lend itself to farce and display rather than sincerity.  The late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, whose death must be placed squarely at the feat of the Franco-Anglo-American intervention in the Libyan conflict of 2011, typified the cruelly distorted relationship, a man who morphed from erratic, third way statesman of revolution to terrorist inspired “Mad Dog”; then to a modern, if cartoonish figure capable of rehabilitating a state from pariah to flattered guest.

A neat expression of Euro-African ties was captured in the 2007 Dakar address by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  Like the current French President Emmanuel Macron, Sarkozy wanted to make an impression on those in what had been formerly characterised as the Dark Continent.  The leaders of the Maghreb and West Africa had been led to believe that promise was wafting in the air, that France would have a grand update on its relationship with former colonies on the continent. The system of Francafrique, larded with neo-colonial connotation, would be scrapped.  Sweet sensible equality would come to be.

An impression he did make, albeit in spectacularly negative, sizzling fashion.  “The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history… They have never really launched themselves into the future.”

Sarkozy’s speech seemed a cribbed version of texts produced at a time when European officials were falling over each in other in acquiring, and renting portions of the continent.  But in 2007, a French leader could still be found speculating about the limited world view of African agrarianism, its peasantry cocooned from enlightenment.  “The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words.”  This, for the French President, was a “realm of fancy – there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress.”

The impact of the speech was such as to prompt Senegal’s foremost scribe Boubacar Boris Diop to suggest a cognitive confusion of some scale.  “Maybe he does not realise to what extent we felt insulted.”  Defences were offered in France, one coming from Jean-Marie Bockel. The speech, he concluded, had one thread through it: “the future of Africa belongs firstly to the Africans.”

And so now, in 2018, where history has again become an issue, throwing up its human cargo of suffering from conflict, poverty and strong shades of neo-colonialism, France, fashioned as a European leader, again finds itself considering how to respond to relations with the southern continent.

For various African states, the signs are not good. Historical condescension and the sneer seemingly persists.  Macron, in an effort to steady the refugee control effort in the European Union, has gone into full school teacher mode.  The EU, he has iterated, cannot take decisions on behalf of African states, though he does suggest that, “Helping Africa to succeed is good for Europe and France.”

African states also suffered from a distinct problem of fecundity: unplanned population growth threatened further northward migration. Immigrant processing centres in North Africa designed to halt the flow into Europe’s south, he suggests, “can fly, just if some African governments decide to organise it”.

This is something Macron has been onto for a time, and it replicates a broader formula adopted by wealthier states to more impoverished ones.  No doubt eyeing such ghoulish experiments as Australia’s Pacific Solution, which shifts the burden of processing and assessing refugee claims to small, low-income Nauru and unstable Papua New Guinea, Macron suggested in 2017 that states such as Libya carry the can, a suggestion as absurd as it is venal.

In August that year, he ventured, with agreement from German, Spanish and Italian counterparts, to focus on the setting up of migrant processing centres in Libya, Chad and Niger.  These would involve European resources to help create and sustain them.  The gaping flaw of this suggestion, one carried over into the EU negotiations last week, ignores the shattered status of Libya, a state in all but name.

Such plans, in the assessment of Left MEP Malin Björk, were “tainted by structural racism towards the African population”. In the opinion of the Swedish MEP, “Europe has not right to criminalise mobility of movement especially not in third countries.”  Such views are coming across as marginally quaint in the hard nosed and distinctly inhumane line of EU politics.

The value of Macron’s schooling is also compounded by manifold problems on what Europe actually intends to do.  The EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan that came into force on March 20, 2016 was meant to be a holy of holies, stemming the flow of refugees into frontline Greece.  It came with the natural consequence of shifting the routes of movement towards the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean.  Like aqueous matter, human flows will find a way.

Macron is only speaking for Europe in one respect: regaining control of borders and putting the refugee genie as far as possible back into the bottle.  Disagreement reigns over the method.  During negotiations in Brussels, EU leaders agreed, for instance, that “regional embarkation platforms” established outside the zone would be implemented to target the people-smuggling process.  In principle, it was also agreed that there would be secure migrant processing centres set up in EU countries.

On this point, member states remain deafeningly silent, though Macron has insisted on the traditional formula that states who first receive the migrants should have those centres. The current Italian government hardly sees the point of why; other EU states are more than fit to also conduct such processes.

As such squabbling to the richer North takes place, the impecunious South will simply continue to be a massive conduit of dangerous, often deadly travel.  This, along with Francafrique notions and various lacings of European suspicion towards African states, will continue with headstrong stubbornness.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Top of Form

 

By Grant T. Harris June 6 at 6:00 AM

Grant T. Harris is CEO of Harris Africa Partners. He was senior director for Africa at the White House from 2011 to 2015.
Small shops at a market in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, display imported used clothing, known locally as chagua. (Jacques Nkinzingabo for The Washington Post)

Rwandans would like to wean themselves from American hand-me-downs, and the United States wants to punish them for it. Last week, the Trump administration suspended duty-free access to U.S. markets for Rwandan clothing. This may sound like inconsequential news, compared with the prospect of a trade war with China, the European Union or our Canadian neighbors, but the move follows a dangerous trend of disregard for Africa. And it’s not just Africans who will suffer: Neglecting the continent will foreclose trade opportunities, harm U.S. companies and, ultimately, cost U.S. jobs.

Rwanda and several of its neighbors recently introduced tariffs on used clothing in an attempt to bolster the local apparel industry. In response, a U.S. trade group filed a complaint, claiming that the new tariffs violate the terms of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which requires participating countries to reduce trade barriers for U.S. goods. Unlike its neighbors, Rwanda stayed the course. The administration has every right to retaliate under the terms of the act — but the move is inconsistent and shortsighted.

For a start, the administration can hardly claim to be acting on principle. More than 100 countries benefit from U.S. trade preference programs without returning the favor. Florie Liser, former assistant U.S. trade representative for Africa, notes that countries like India and Brazil, which are major exporters to the United States under the program known as the Generalized System of Preferences, “ship a lot more to us than Rwanda, yet have significant barriers to U.S. trade.” The selective decision to retaliate against Rwanda not only adds to the general trade turmoil damaging U.S. standing overseas but also is seen as a particular snub of Africa, where President Trump’s derogatory comments about its countries have not been forgotten.

The administration can’t claim to be protecting a vital American industry, either. The complaints of the used-clothing association — that Rwandan tariffs would have a negative impact on up to 40,000 U.S. jobs — are unsubstantiated. Rwanda, a country of approximately 12.5 million people, imported $17 million in used clothing in 2016, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. The clothes are primarily donations to organizations like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, bought by members of the trade group that lodged the complaint, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, and resold in Africa. Rwandan vendors sell them in market stalls.

[African nations are fed up with the West’s hand-me-downs]

Rwanda’s motivations are as much about dignity as they are about economics. Just as China recently banned imports of “foreign garbage” that it used to buy and recycle, Rwanda is taking a stand against the perceived indignity of buying clothes that others have worn and discarded. It would be a different story if Rwandans were rejecting icons of American ingenuity and enterprise, like cutting-edge medical devices or mobile technologies. But they’re not; they’re rejecting our hand-me-downs. The White House fails to grasp that, as well as the bigger picture for the United States. It’s not just Rwanda — the president is picking fights with trading partners old and new over relatively small amounts of U.S. imports and exports and with little regard for the long-term consequences. As relationships fray — even longtime allies feel under duress — the price to the United States rises; the country will pay not just in self-inflicted economic harm but also in diminished global leadership and reduced support for its national security priorities.

Banning used clothes is not enough to build Rwanda’s domestic textile and apparel industry, especially given competition from cheap Chinese imports of ready-made clothing. But there is a certain irony in Trump punishing Rwanda for protecting domestic manufacturing in what really is a Rwandan version of “America First.” More to the point, the United States ought to be supporting countries that pursue economic growth and development plans — not just because it is the right thing to do but also because the vitality of the U.S. economy depends on whether we have markets for our goods and services.

Until recently, supporting African economic growth was a key piece of U.S.-Africa policy. For instance, building on the African Growth and Opportunity Act’s strong legacy of bipartisan support, President Barack Obama launched the Trade Africa initiative to support regional economic integration and work toward a more reciprocal trade relationship. But the suspension of access for Rwandan apparel reinforces the sad truth that the Trump administration has no vision for trade with Africa. And there is no question that U.S. businesses will suffer as a result. Africa represents the last frontier for America’s export-driven economy, with consumer and business spending predicted to reach $6.7 trillion by 2030. A U.S. government report released last week cited motor vehicles, poultry and refined petroleum products among various sectors, as well as a range of services, with the potential for greater American exports to sub-Saharan Africa.

The United States misses a larger opportunity by engaging in petty trade squabbles and generally neglecting the continent. While it is true that the Trump administration maintains that it supports more reciprocal trade relationships with African states and has been studying trade and investment potential in certain African markets, advancing a strategic economic partnership with Africa requires more than talk. Actions — like threatening the funding of government agencies that support U.S. companies investing in Africa, leaving key ambassadorships vacant and deprioritizing trade programs — speak louder than words.

Meanwhile, other economies are making aggressive commercial plays in Africa. China has been Africa’s leading trade partner for the last nine years; trade scuffles like this one with Rwanda can only further drive African states into China’s open arms. Nor is it just China — the European Union has been actively traveling the region, signing two-way trade agreements that will disadvantage American companies far more than any tariffs on secondhand clothing.

It would be misguided to dismiss this row with Rwanda as a small issue with a small country. The larger economic picture is much more worrying.

 

Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires

History will be made this week with the summit meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. With a second summit between Kim and President Donald Trump looming in four to six weeks or so, it’s tempting to look past this first summit, but that would be a mistake. This inter-Korean summit could well be the more important of the two. Should North and South Korea continue to make solid progress toward peace and reconciliation, and there is every reason to think they will, agreements made at this first summit will set the stage for subsequent negotiations, including the Trump-Kim summit.

Recent media reports are full of speculation about U.S., Chinese and Japanese interests and influences over the North-South Korea talks. This is understandable, but the real story here is about Koreans making peace.

It’s remarkable how far we’ve come since just the beginning of the year, when the opening created by the Olympic Truce greased the wheels for smart diplomacy by the governments of both South and North Korea, leading to an astonishing thaw in relations.

Even before the two summits begin, North Korea has agreed to freeze its nuclear weapons and missile tests, agreed to discuss denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and voiced openness to the continued presence of 28,000 American troops in South Korea. Just last week, North and South Korea discussed signing a peace treaty to replace the supposedly temporary armistice in place since 1953 (meaning a state of war still technically exists between the North and the South and the U.S.). Also, remarkable in terms of symbolic and practical meaning, they discussed

returning the border to a more normal state. The “Demilitarized Zone” is of course a misnomer, perhaps even ironic at this point, as it is the most heavily militarized patch of land on Earth.

All of this incredible progress has occurred despite the North’s understandable loathing of the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, the largest in the world, which are currently in progress. Beyond that, no sanctions on North Korea have yet been lifted, and neither the inter-Korean summit nor the U.S.-North Korean summit meetings have happened yet.

North Korea has pivoted to an emphasis on economic development over further military investment, as announced by Kim on New Year’s Day and in more recent statements. The United States should honor the remarkable steps North Korea has taken to demonstrate it is operating in good faith with a reciprocal commitment for peace. Ultimately, U.S. goals should include the signing of a peace treaty, the lifting of economic sanctions against North Korea, and the integration of North Korea into a regional and world economy, which is key to long-term peace and stability on the Peninsula.

While recent diplomatic progress has inspired hope for peace around the world, few feel the full weight of that hope more than Koreans. South Koreans overwhelmingly support a peace agreement to end Korean War, 79% according to the latest poll.

For many Korean and Korean-American family members divided by Korean War, these summits offer the hope of being reunited with their families—the last hope for some. According to the latest government report, 131,447 South Koreans are registered as separated families since 1988. Over 73,611 have passed away since 1988 when the registration opened, and a quarter of those alive are over 90 years old.

In the U.S., Members of Congress to show their support for diplomacy and a successful summit with public statements, and by co-sponsoring the “No Unconstitutional First Strike on Korea Act,” S. 2016 sponsored by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and H.R. 4837  sponsored by Representative Ro Khanna. It’s time we all gave peace on the Korean Peninsula a real chance.

 

by:SIMONE CHUN – KEVIN MARTIN

Dr. Simone Chun serves on the Steering Committee of the Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea. Kevin Martin is President of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund, and also convenes the Korea Peace Network. www.peaceaction.org

 

Attention

“What governments need to pay extra attention to should be high unemployment rate; with a large population of an educated youth force with shattered expectations, and an uneven distribution of wealth. These problems are also faced by democratic governments as well. With the use of new information technologies to quickly spread news and images to help organize street protests, no government will be able to escape the wrath of the citizens.”
“Those governments who objectively understand the existence of the problems within their societies will be able to find remedies, in time. Those who are blind and deaf to the realities within society, those government leaders who love to hear sugar coated lies from their snake oil salesmen advisors, those leaders who are way removed from the “real” people and are surrounded by cheerleaders are bound to repeat the usual historical mistake. False sense of security cannot replicate the reality. Neither Zine Al-Abiidine Ben Ali nor Hosni Mubarak thought that they will be kicked out so quickly by the same people that they had oppressed for long and had taken them for granted.”
Kidane Tsegai.

One of the most truthful and principled writers that I have respect for.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

America has had its share of crooks (Warren G. Harding, Richard Nixon), bigots (Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan), and incompetents (Andrew Johnson, George W. Bush). But never before Donald Trump have we had a president who combined all these nefarious qualities.

These are admirable combined qualities of U.S. President Trump.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

DECEMBER 19, 2017

Why Can’t France Leave Africa Alone? 

by AIDAN O’BRIEN

“Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century.”

— François Mitterrand, 1957

“Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power.”

— Jacques Chirac, 2008

“France, along with Europe, would like to be even more involved in the destiny of [Africa]…”

— François Hollande, 2013

“I am of a generation that doesn’t tell Africans what to do.”

— Emmanuel Macron, 2017

France’s great white hope – Emmanuel Macron – was selling himself in Africa recently. He was full of jokes and smiles. However, while the package had “youthful innocence” written all over it – the product was “senile dementia”. No matter the age of the man – the French attempt to lead Africa is a stale and stupid story. And the man – Macron – is yet another stale and stupid French mask.

The mask fell in a public forum in Burkina Faso when the French military and it’s presence in Africa was questioned by a girl. In response Macron hysterically told the local audience that they should applaud the French soldiers on African streets.

The problem was that the day before a local – instead of applauding – threw a hand grenade at French troops. And the following day a few more locals shouted for an end to neocolonialism. The militarization of French policy in Africa is beginning to smell like a rotten occupation.

But when has it been otherwise? Since it began occupying Africa in the 19th century France has expected nothing else but applause. The package at the beginning of this long war on Africa was “civilization”. But that never did conceal the vile racism and base capitalism that drove the French army across the Sahara.

In a giant pincer movement beginning around 1830 and ending on the eve of the First World War, France slowly but surely conquered most of West and Central Africa. Moving east from Dakar and south from Algiers the French military stole probably 40% of the continent.

However while “France” was away terrorizing Africa – Paris met it’s nemesis: Berlin. The Teutonic power woke up and ironically proceeded to do to France what France was doing to Africa. In a series of wars and occupations (1871, 1914 and 1940) Germany mercilessly crushed the place of France in the world. And by 1960, more or less, France was out of Africa. And was ripe for revolution. Or counterrevolution.

The Fifth Republic couldn’t hide the failure of bourgeois France. 1968 exposed it for all to see. And forced it to choose one way or the other. It could either follow the example of Africa and attempt to liberate itself from the culture, economics, and politics of imperialism. Or it could attempt to restore imperialism. And reconquer Africa.

The Fifth Republic chose the latter. And it has been a race to the bottom ever since. France’s significant Communist Party was rejected (the Socialist Party too – eventually). As was Jean Paul Sartre. Bourgeois mediocrity became the rule. And by the year 2000 politicians like Nicolas Sarkozy and philosophers like Bernard-Henri Lévy were ready to lead France back into the arms of NATO (De Gaulle had taken France out of NATO in 1966) and it’s naked imperialism.

France was no longer a European force but a European farce. German neoliberalism dominated the new European century. And France could do nothing but prostrate itself before Berlin and it’s demonic religion: austerity (cheap labor). However, there was one place where France could act like “France” – there was one place where France could escape the German “will to power”: Africa.

The French “will to backward power” had one dirty trick left up it’s sleeve: it’s army in Africa. When France retreated from the African continent in the 1950s and 1960s it left behind active military bases that continued to give it leverage in Africa. Indeed according to the website Stratfor:

“Following their independence, 12 [African] countries signed secret national defense agreements with France. The agreements, which have never been made public, allow France to retain a physical presence in the countries in exchange for defending their national sovereignty [sic]…”

We can guess the countries that signed up to these nefarious French deals: Morocco, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Tunisia, Chad, Cotes d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Gabon and Djibouti. A few more – according to those in the know – were later added to the list: Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire (the Democratic Republic of Congo). In any case the picture was and is clear: before leaving (and even after leaving) Africa – France threw a web around Africa.

And what did these arrangements mean in reality? In 2007 the New York Times wrote that “France intervened militarily in Africa nineteen times between 1962 and 1995.” And Stratfor in 2016 calculated 42 French interventions between 1968 and 2013.

The New York Times cut off point significantly is 1995 because in 1994 France lost out to the USA in the strategic battle for Rwanda (a million or more Hutus and Tutsis died in this battle – and millions were killed in the battles which followed in the Congo etc.). And in the years after this key turning point in African geopolitics – French power in Africa decisively decreased – not only because of the military power of the USA (AFRICOM) but also because of the new economic power of China.

The times were changing in the 1990s. France was losing “the battles” for Europe and Africa. It was becoming a second rate power. Nonetheless that trick remained up it’s sleeve: the overt and covert military arrangements it had arranged in Africa. France’s finger was still on the trigger. The counterrevolution desperately needed a new lease of life. And the “Arab Spring” gave it one.

When Tunisia began to protest in 2010, France responded by offering it’s “military might” (it’s “technical support and police know how”) to it’s Tunisian agent: Ben Ali. And when that French attempt to repress African independence failed – France led the wars against independent Libya in 2011 (Opération Harmattan) and independent Azawad (Opération Serval in northern Mali, etc.) in 2013.

In 2014 the situation was such that Newsweek claimed that “France is slowly reclaiming its old African Empire”. And by 2015 the Business Insider was reporting that “France’s military is all over Africa”. Thousands of French soldiers were spread out across the Sahara and beyond (Opération Barkhane). But the fact is that they were fighting to save not Africa but “France”.

The pathetic attempt to restore bourgeois France (dare we say Bourbon France – because it’s that bad in Europe right now) has reached the stage were France’s military is not only all over Africa but is also all over France (Opération Sentinelle). In 2015 – after gun attacks in Paris – the French army began to occupy French streets. And then in 2017 along came Président Macron (le dauphin? – the prince?) riding on “a tank” to his inauguration.

In the uncompetitive (in bourgeois terms) French economy the only competitor seemed to be the French military. They were and are occupying both sides of the francophone Mediterranean. And Macron was and is applauding. As he gives lower taxes and cheaper labor to the decrepit bourgeoisie – he gives the military the freedom of the streets. And the freedom of Africa.

Macron claims not to be telling the Africans what to do. But the French State is another matter. It has institutionalized the relationship between France and Africa (Françafrique). And it refuses to let go of it’s delusions of grandeur. In the last few years it has told Africa in no uncertain terms what it must do with Libya and Azawad (northern Mali and its environs). And today it marshals African forces (G5 Sahel) as they pursue shadows in the Sahara.

For Macron “jihadis” and “human traffickers” are the story. But neocolonialism is the bottom line. Or the French attempt to recreate neocolonialism is the real story. The French military are the claws of the French state. And as bourgeois France fades away, or slides down the memory hole of history, it’s claws are going to dig deep into whatever material is near at hand – in a desperate effort to avoid the inevitable. Africa is that material – the material of the future. While France, despite its machinations, is just flotsam.

The people of Burkina Faso are right to question the presence of the French military in Africa. They know more than the infantile French President. And they’ve a better sense of reality than the senile French State. Hand grenades do make more sense than applause.

“the French attempt to recreate neocolonialism is the real story”. “France refuses to let go of its delusions of grandeur”. This is a good article, hope you enjoy it.

Professor Mekonen Haddis