viernes, 1 de noviembre de 2013

Urban Combat Represents the Future of War

That war is regarded as something terrible and woefully destructive is a rather recent notion. Up until the Great War, or WWI, men and women thought of war as something distant and romantic from whence men returned transformed into their best versions. Hardly any mention of the lasting damages war made to people was made, and in all senses war was seen as almost desirable by nearly every portion of society.
Naturally, politicians advocated war when it meant territorial gain and national pride. WWI represented that and more: it meant the crushing of an ideology that threatened to bring the civilized world to its knees. It needed to be squashed with no regard for human life, property or territory. Forces never before used in that scale came into play: airborne, marines and foot soldiers were deployed by their grand numbers and a version of victory was achieved in loud fashion. But a silent enemy had been created, inadvertently.
These great wars had until then been fought on major land extensions where no one lived, so the only caualties were soldiers. The terrain suffered, but it all went no further as urban centers were heavily guarded and great distances away from the battles. That reality has changed, even if armies have not.
The democratization of technology, along with the rise of popular protests have brought war to the city arena, to the place where it once was unthinkable to wage combat. Simply explained, war is where the enemy makes base. As the reasons for wars used to be something out of the public mind, its development and outcome did not use to matter to most people, except for the safe return of their loved ones. Now there are so many social movements and news outlets that it is impossible to keep these things secret. For the same reason there are too many people involved in wars, even if not actively in armed combat, which makes modern wars more dangerous as their potential damage is far greater.
Eventually, armed combat reached the great cities. Eventually the people who stayed behind in times of combat found themselves in the midst of it, and themilitary was not prepared. One may ask why, and find that the military always considered combat to be its own exclusive membership club. Military commanders have always longed for combat in order to have a reason to flex their muscles and show off all they have been working so hard on for so long. It is not a matter of defending the honeland for them, but rather an opportunity to have their training efforts rewarded. That is why combats keep happening, and down the road this leads to the dehumanization of the enemy.
But the most worrisome outcome of this evolution or war is that it is crawling into cities, where there are other members of society not supposed to be engaged in armed combat. This is an inevitable trend, partially because war still retains some of its romantic appeal, and hence there are still too many enthusiastic individuals who throw themselves into war and combat. Rebel and opposing forces have already learned that, and are fighting with different techniques, more aimed at the discouragement of the public than at the lives of the soldiers. Still, the incredible amounts that governments keep spending on military development are completely missing the picture when the real war is being fought inland, on the streets. In this regard, governments ought to be spending on police development, not army strengthening.
I read today a presentation about a book that deals with the rise of urban guerrillas which shed some light on the need for better military defense and preparation in the cities, and the need for a move away from the traditional battlefields.
To sum up, I just remembered a conversation I once had with an American friend. He argued that the current US Army was the greatest military in human history and that it could not be defeated. I argued that his perception was faulty because since the Civil War –go figure- the US Army had not had a major domestic conflict that tested and improved its skills, and that all its recent military engagements had happened overseas. I told him that when the US Army had to fight a war in their own territory, right next to its cities and its civlian population, it would learn the truth about itself: that both the Army and the country were not prepared for the evolution of warfare. I am not talking about digital warfare, since we all got so good at and involved in that kind. I am talking about warfare with immediate civilian damages.
And not only is American society unprepared. Most of our societies are not ready for urban combat. The majority of our cities lay under siege by latent enemies that traditional military tactics simply cannot see. Enemies like extortion, microtraffic of drugs and weapons, local prostitution, and so forth. The army will never see, find or defeat these enemies, and social change takes too long. It is the police forces that need to be invested in.
The police, being a public force, knows its turf as it operates daily in it. As opposed to invading forces, which I wonder why still exist today at all, the police does not have to strive to recognize the ground it fights on. Its very scheme of operation holds it closer to the heart and reasons for criminality. Of course this has accounted for much corruption and unholy alliances, but these last have helped achieve some of the greatest feats in law enforcement. Hardly any major threat to public order has been defeated purely through officially approved parameters. And though many may frown at this, it is also true that the police operates at this level on a daily basis. Forget about secret agencies. Crime is defeated facing it directly.
My perspective is, then, that armies have not evolved along with warfare, that police forces have adapted to the new ways of fighting wars through operating within and with gangs, and that their effort is the only one that can effectively protect civilian populations in the long run.

What comes for Egypt, seriously?

Though Morsy's government was not what any Egyptian expected, and though that very fact ought to justify his ouster, it also must be admitted that democracy needs to run its long and tortuous course before significant change can take place. One cannot simply pretend to kill a dog, buy a cat and expect it to behave like the dead dog. 

It does not happen.

By jumping into the bandwagon of electoral politics, Egypt has agreed to a set of rules and workings it is not used to. Authority in Egypt has traditionally been simply been taken for granted, not earned through campaigning and hand shaking. Politics involves concessions on the part of all involved, not just on the leaders. But of course, before the left can be contested, the right has to prevail. When it does, the confrontation will finally become political. This is not so much, however, about who is right, as it is about saving lives. And no one can honestly be in favor of more bloodshed.

The popular Beatles song "Revolution" comes to mind: 

You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow

The Snowden Affair: The Uncomfortable Truth

It seems interesting that no country has yet given asylum to Edward Snowden, after so many days in hiding and after filing so many asylum requests. Not even Ecuador, a bitter US diplomatic enemy, has given a positive answer. In fact, they have just announced they will not grant Snowden’s petition. It makes one wonder as to the reasons for this. Publicly, no one wants to be seen as the one who protected the leaker and therefore condoning US spying (and that eliminates any EU member country to grant asylum), but also no one wants to be seen openly opposing eavesdropping on everyone else, meaning we are all doing it?
Let us face it. Espionage was romanticized by James Bond and a myriad of other media, but it is today more alive than ever. It is a constant reality of world politics, and an important component of diplomacy. Spying on each other is a heritage of the world wars, and there is simply no denying.
Perhaps Snowden’s revelations about US spying do not tell us as much as the lack of protective action from so many other countries. What they do not say is what speaks the loudest, it seems. So,when will we hear about Russia’s own spying scheme? How about the EU? The US seems to have been thrown under the bus here, but I am sure they are not alone in the eavesdropping endeavour.
Now, will this lead to armed conflicts? Not really. It will probably help deepen those that already exist in pursuit of profit and better ensuring of lucrative contracts, but it will not produce a conflict of its own. Snowden will shortly be given asylum somewhere also known as a tax haven, where loose and confusing legislation can shelter him from international organisms, and will soon be forgotten. The case of John McAfee’s escape from Belize into Florida comes to mind. After a couple of weeks of media attention, McAfee is back into hiding and no one asks about him anymore.
Snowden will become just an obscure figure.

A Venezuelan Night of the Long Knives?

My suspicions are being confirmed. The Venezuelan government is effecting a country wide political clean up.

It is a matter of deep concern that the situation of social unrest in Venezuela is escalating so high and quickly, especially for us Colombians. The border situation isparticularly preoccupating, as that border has long been a known corridor for drug and arms trafficking, leaving from Colombia and Venezuela to other latitudes. That fact makes the region a crime dominated and regulated one, the likes of which during conflicts usually become harbor areas for combatants and prisoners of war.
That the Chavista government would steal the elections and install Nicolás Maduro as president was widely expected, though Venezuelan voters the world over hoped and dreamed of a defeat at the ballots and therefore voted massively, which was demonstrated by the incredibly narrow margin by which Henrique Capriles lost the presidency.
Prior to the elections, I spoke to many political analysts, campaign specialists and even someone within Mr. Capriles’ own campaign. None of us expected Capriles to win, but we all thought he would lose by a 10 or 11% margin to Mr. Maduro. Hence, it was shocking for us all that the actual margin was that 1% announced on Sunday evening. To everyone without exception it was evident that Mr. Capriles had won the elections, and the government modified the results by just that much, or was only able to due to the heavy and ubiquitous presence of Capriles supporters and international observers.
The fact is that the protests staged by Venezuelans against what they are calling the illegitimate election of Maduro are only reasonable when one considers the situation, the feeling and the facts of life in Venezuela. But the violent repression thay are being object of is outrageous and seems almost absurd if the election was indeed democratic and legitimate. It seems to me that these seven casualties and 61 wounded the news outlets are already reporting are not really collateral damage of repressing the manifestations, but rather a 2013 form of the Night of the Long Knives, which was used by the Nazi regime in 1934 to clean up the country from unwanted potential opposers. If that is so, it must be remembered that by 1934 Germany had already become a one-party state, similarly to the long reaching PSUV, and was already setting the stage for WWII.
The news have also reported that certain known opposers of the regime have been threatened and have denounced persecution from government forces. Leopoldo Lopez, former mayor of the Chacao municipality of Caracas and former pre-presidential candidate is one of such opposers.
All this, together with the already denounced mobilisation of troops by the Venezuelan government prior to Chavez’s death announcement make me think that there is much more going on in Venezuela than the news are able to report. There is a political clean up under way, and preparations for larger scale militaryand guerrilla actions are also in the mix.
UPDATE: Someone I know inside the Capriles campaign planning and development, and who now works as a consultant for him, confirmed today that Capriles followers are being seized and tortured and have been for some days now. This confirms, to a certain extent, what I fear about a political clean up. Now add the statements that Maduro has thrown in the last few days, and you have a government effectively scaring its people into fear-based obedience.

Politics, Latin Style

Should societies be allowed to roam the land freely? Furthermore, would that be a society at all?

Lately, Latin America has seen many news breaks involving high rank politicians and showing them in attitudes less than desirable for people of their social stature and standing. 

So, I know many do not really like politicians, or politics itself for all that matters. Politics is, ideally, supposed to stand for good government and leading the society. But so many scandals and bad news filling up the televisions and taking over the headlines do not help the tarnished image that politicians in general hold.

Notwithstanding the latter, politics is a reality of human life, and as such it must be understood in order to gain a full understanding of what living in these times is really like. 

What makes politics so controversial and a topic of so much, often heated, discussion is that it basks on democracy, now understood as the government of people for people by people, paraphrasing US President Abraham Lincoln. 

Ironically, it is democracy itself that allows for, and fosters, popular revolts and either unfading love or utter despise of a candidate or politician. To grant so much power unto one or a body has forever proven to be wrong. But then, if not like that, then how? How to best organize any societal body, if not through laws and institutions to enforce them? And if said institutions are to exist, how to best select the individuals who will be at their helm?

This is what has transpired in Latin America. The exercise of democracy and its ails has brought the continent to some of its darkest days. One needs only look at Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina and Colombia to grasp the situation properly. 

All this raises the question of the convenience of politics and all that it entails. Should societies be allowed to roam the land freely? Furthermore, would that be a society at all? 

The cases for both yes and no on this question have already been presented at length, so there is no need for us to repeat them here. Yet we do live in a society today, which functions by rules and regulations, much like those of olden days. Why, one might then ask, are there so many popular demonstrations and unrest in so many parts of the world?

The answer is simple: that is the very exercise of modern politics. 

In Latin America it is no different than it is in the Arab World, which has given us the Arab Spring. We have been less violent and radical, true. But no less discontent. 

Cyprus: In the eye of the storm

The European Union is a hive for all forms of political maneuvering. Today's topic: Cyprus.

Cyprus now finds itself in a very uncomfortable position. It either applies some really impopular measures and triggers social unrest, or it does not apply these measures, gets thrown out of the EU and triggers social unrest. Either way the civilian population risks becoming the target for ethnic cleansing, revenge attacks, and crossfire casualties. 
Add to the mix the ongoing, age-old tension between the Turkish and Cypriot loyalists, and you will have the perfect excuse for, yet another, coup d'etat. 
Cyprus' geographic position is not particularly helpful, either. Being so close to the birthplace and current worst case of the Arab Spring, it might just become a hot spot thanks to refugees both arriving from neighboring Syria and Greece, and departing from Cyprus itself in case of a raging conflict. It must also be considered that, because of its touristic appeal, the island might also begin swarming with nationals from many other nations who would also become collateral damage victims to the conflicts, including the armed one and the commonplace rip-off unwise tourists often suffer at the hands of, in this case, desperate people striving to scrape a living.
Additionally, in the far removed and remote possibility that the UN will finally decide to take action in Syria or Turkey, it would make strategic sense to set base, if only temporary, in Cyprus... like the economically ravaged country does not already have enough problems to also have to play host to hordes of soldiers and military hospitals. 
But would not this make it possible for Cyprus to remain an EU member, if only for a bit? Nah. Nicosia already went to Russia and got turned down. Brussels turned her down as well. Bottomline, none of the prospects are good. Be it as it may, Cyprus stands at a very difficult crossroads where armed conflict is brewing. The strength of the Cypriot military will be tested, as well as its allegiance. Seeing as the north coast is Turkish controlled, but the majority of the territory is Cyprus ruled, a civil war would not play well for either side based only on resources and supply routes. But it must be recognised that the north would have a strategic and political advantage: Turkish support. Ah, but the south has the ground in its favour, and that only in the case of civil war. In the case of a UN intervention, civil war is off the table and Turkish Cypriots would be reduced to border skirmishes, which would be denied by all parts involved, and kickstart guerrilla wars, with plundering, ransacking, the whole nine yards. 
In my opinion, however, the best that can happen to Cyprus is a breakoff from Brussels. Just as it happened with the Arab Spring, it would bring about turmoil both political and civil, along with military. Even so, societies must be granted a chance to define themselves by themselves. Cyprus has had quite a convoluted history, being defined and dominated again and again by many other social conglomerates, none of which ever provided a safe harbor or platform for Cyprus to rise and grow. As a society, it needs to stop returning to its nursing mothers, be it Greece or Britain, and make its own way.
UPDATE: Cyprus has chosen the hard, yet comfortable path for the moment by agreeing to the EU bailout, which is not by no means without strings. Given the liquidity of the banks, Cyprus will likely require a new bailout some time next year. Meanwhile, the social unrest spoken of will cook up and erupt quicker than the government's ability to quash it. Two possible scenarios then arise: The Turkish Cypriots vie for independence and attempt the creation of a new state member of the EU and civil war sparks off, or Cyprus as a whole is expelled from the union due to lack of fulfilllment of committments and civil war sparks off.

After Chavez: Now What?

The burning question of the moment in Latin America: Will it be a peaceful transition or a civil war?

With Hugo Chavez' death, Venezuela is once again given the opportunity and the historical choice of abiding by its own laws or take the force road and push its way through. 

On one hand, according to the Venezuelan constitution, the presidency now falls on Mr. Diosdado Cabello, President of the National Assembly, with a term of 30 days to call elections and let democracy run its course and elect a new president for a new term.

On the other hand, Vice President Mr. Nicolás Maduro has been exercising power since Mr.Chavez' cancer treatment begun in Cuba late last year. He has been the visible head of government ever since, and even when Chavez failed to be in Venezuela for his inauguration for the term awarded him by the 2012 elections, Mr. Maduro has been seen as the leader of the Venezuelan government, with no intention to leave.

Now, two perspectives are to be considered here, namely the legal way and the popular sentiment. The law states that Cabello is the president upon Mr. Chavez' death. But popular sentiment remembers that Mr. Chavez selected Mr. Maduro as his successor should anything happen to him, and considering the populist measures the Venezuelan government took over many years, this sentiment is an issue to reckon and weigh.

Everytime a country becomes divided in this fashion, a conflict follows. In the case at hand, unless Mr. Cabello and Mr. Maduro reach an agreement to follow the law, a conflict lurks in the near future. Now, considering that the Chavistas, loyal to Chavez and his cabinet, will likely line up behind Mr. Maduro, the opposition will definitely do so behind Mr. Cabello, because the law so dictates, in spite of Mr. Cabello's being a member of the cabinet himself. 

Summing up, Venezuela is presented today with a difficult choice. Its laws support one man the country does not, and its sentiment exalt another man whom the country definitely does not care for. The probability of this dicotomy escalating into a civil conflict is high, especially when one considers that since late last week, reports have been coming in from within Venezuela that the government has been mobilizing the military to various parts of the country, with the obvious, yet silent, intention of controlling any uprisings pursuant to Mr. Chavez' death announcement.

It seems that the government knows that a confrontation might soon begin in the country. Should that happen, the already prolific flight of Venezuelan citizens to neighboring countries will increase spectacularly. As a Colombian, I hope to be wrong about it all. But the disdain and the non-compliance with the laws that the Venezuelan government has displayed over the last years does not indicate anything different.

Legislating for the minority: Always the same mistake.

This week alone I have witnessed first hand one example and read about another of the mistake it is to pass legislation for a minority.
In my hometown of Bogota the mayor decided (by himself, mind you) to kick to the curb the private waste collectors and order that the city handle the task. With no infrastructure, no know-how, no staff and no equipment, the city spent nearly three full days with its streets filled with trash, not to mention the rodents and other pests.
The problem here is trying to satisfy the sector of the population that is both a minority and was not asking for anything different than what they had: the recycling community. These people had a system, which was working for them. Also, it was providing a service to the city. But then, overnight, with no prior consultation, the mayor destroyed that system and attempted against the public health by exposing the city to all that waste. The model has failed here in its very implementation, and not because of the model itself, but because of the scope it was given. The minority that was affected in this case was a relatively invisible one. A minority that was not claiming for any right or had any problems with the way things were working out. Yet a whole legislation was launched seeking to benefit those who were not asking for it. The administrative and public health costs have been too high to pay.

On the other hand, the Newtown massacre happened. And it happened because US legislation, based upon the Constitution, regarding ownership of firearms has just been too lenient. The right to defend your home is good and necessary, but when your country’s culture enshrines unchecked freedom, the right to own firearms becomes a mere expression of personality, and not an earned right for emotionally stable individuals with busy minds. Once again, legislating for the minority has caused painful, unmeasureable social and public consequences. For not only do firearms owners feel entitled to their right to own them, but feel striped of their fundamental right to defend themselves, which is another way of saying that a people who proclaim their faith in government, democracy and institutions does not actually trust them to shelter them and their freedom.

What can be drawn from all this is that as people and times change, so should legislation. But also, that when a model works it must be upheld, like the waste collection model. The firearms model, however, has proven to have failed. Specifically, firearms are to be wielded by government officers who have been appointed to defend the country, not by just about anyone who wished to defend their cornfield, and will wind up shooting up children out of boredom.

On Colombia’s Upcoming Military Challenges

The very need the military has in Colombia at the moment is the same ball and chain preventing it from better fulfilling its duty.

In light of recent events, namely FARC’s announcement about a two month truce and the International Court of Justice’s ruling on the San Andrés archipelago dispute, Colombia finds itself in the position of reassessing its military stance and capability.
First, the FARC truce. The leftist guerrilla group’s proposal for a bilateral truce (which by the way was violated the very next day by the rebel group who staged combats in four areas of the country) was rejected by President Santos, in a move that both courts his past as Defense Minister for President Uribe, and follows suit with his initiative to end the Colombian conflict without any concessions beyond those originally agreed to when peace talks started in Norway. Besides, the Colombian military is already known to be quite capable in its own field, and with a budget that oscillates between 3 and 4% of GDP, it has little to worry about. What must be a concern here is the power play that it has been dragged into over years of carrying the conflict. In many areas of the country, the army is seen as merely another player in the power play á la Game of Thrones in a highly irregular conflict. The challenge here will not be about empowering or about supplying the military with equipment. It will be about what it has always been: changing the public’s perception of it.
Yet, how to do that when its mandate is to act as the power player with the biggest stick?
The military has been working on welfare projects and helping out in many remote communities to try and restore its image, tainted by false positives and animal torture scandals. But the same question raised by Michael Moore about American soldiers must be raised about Colombian ones: If the men on the ground have no idea why they are fighting and why their lives should be the ones at risk, how can society pretend to hold them accountable for their ignorance about everything else?
For these reasons, and for the seemingly endless perpetuation of the conflict, Colombian families are more than reluctant to send their sons and daughters to serve in the front. They cannot be blamed, but their position means fewer troops on the ground, and that the troops who do go into combat are less convinced, less educated, more coerced and more susceptible to corruption, be it false positives or treason, let alone cowardice. To this must be added that many Colombians, especially retired officers and active servicemen oppose the peace negotiations, which to them are the representation of the government’s willful ignorance of their toil and sacrifice.
That being said, the Colombian army has but one chance at getting back the people’s love and the soldiers’ loyalty: To make the army look like the invincible entity it must be by constitutional mandate. Hence, things like Plan Colombia are not going away anytime soon. For that reason too, the government will never accept a truce like that agreed to in 2002, when FARC seized the oportunity to strenghten itself and then resume its attacks with increased cruelty.

Second, the ICJ’s ruling. On 19 November 2012, the ICJ ruled on a lawsuit originally filed by Nicaragua against Colombia for the sovereignity of the San Andres archipelago and part of the ocean surrounding it. The ruling favors Nicaragua’s pretensions over the ocean bed and the redrawing of the maritime limit lines. The new lines make it difficult for Colombian vessels, military and civilian alike, to access certain portions of the archipelago. Also, there are several families who make a living out of fishing they regularly practice on the waters now under Nicaraguan control. The navy will have to protect these families, and all other vessels travelling using the newly narrowed water corridor accessing San Andrés. To add to this, the Panamanian and the Jamaican governments will each have a bone to pick with the Colombian government about the redefinition of trade routes and navigation corridors. All that area will need protection from the navy, though especially vessels sailing in and out of San Andrés will take priority. These activities will necessarily divert attention from drug trafficking surveillance activities and the defence of other posts. The Colombian navy does not enjoy the popularity the army does, but that also means that its own corruption and torture scandals are less known than the army’s. But with so much cash going to the army and the police already, increased military spending defending an area that has been irreversibly redefined will not sit well with the public, especially when one considers that the public opinion unjustly blames the ruling on the president and the chancellor. And let alone the well known fact that the Nicaraguan government has turned a blind eye on Colombian drug trafficking since the late 70's.
But, what option is there when the mandate is to protect all the coasts?
As can be seen, the point and the problem here is not about capability, either operational or financial. It is about legitimacy, or as some would call it, save face.
The military holds the monopoly of the use of force, at least the legitimate use of it. By that understanding, even the army must justify its actions and its operations. And it is that accountability that also holds it down from operating at full capacity. Hence, the very need the military has in Colombia at the moment, both the army and the navy alike, is the same ball and chain preventing it from better fulfilling its duty.

On the Forecasted Re-election of President Obama and the Shift of the American Political Spectrum

The results have come in, though some still continue pouring through the excitement of the news outlets, all reporting Barack Obama’s reelection as president of the United States.
All things considered, the result was not a surprise, at least not for me. As conservative as I am, it was clear for me that Romney did not have a chance against the incumbent. His acceptance amongst the American electorate, when combined with his stance on immigration and gay marriage, plus his views against US military presence in the Middle East (which, by the way, was a great election vehicle in 2008), were all too hard for a hardcore Republican like Romney to vanquish.
What must be seen here is something beyond the mere election result. Romney’s defeat is not just his campaign being thrashed, or his Mormon faith dragging him down in the polls. It is the American people, voicing out their despise for the ultraconservatism exemplified by Romney, and initially embodied by both Bush-es.

May I clarify that I am not using the terms conservative and right interchangeably. I see a clear difference between them. The right is a system of government, which as any has its virtues and its shortcomings. The conservatism is a rotten and outdated view of the world, which aims at restricting many things regarded as diabolic and unnatural. And well, though some of them may be unnatural and from a certain perspective immoral, politics is a game of tolerance and concessions. The conservatives, whether by choice or by cultural inheritance, ought to accept that.

The world that created the left and right in politics and government is no longer in existence. It was a world of black and white, of right -go figure- versus wrong, of free versus slave, etc. The difference was clear and easy to see. But our society has changed, and the debate is not that simple anymore. Yet many conservatives persist in seeing it that way. For that reason, the right lost legitimacy and debating weight, as it was associated with indefensible points, and had its banners carried by uncompromising politicians. Hence, their struggle to pair up the ideals of the conservatism with the aims of the right was tarnished by the restrictive character of the former.
This, of course, gives way to an identity crisis for new rightist politicians and followers who now must struggle to keep the party alive. In that struggle, these newcomers to the political scene have adequately focused on keeping the right and slightly but surely dismissing the conservative, thus choosing the better reflecting adjective moderate.
This being said, the entire political spectrum finds itself changed and redefined. The traditionalconservative understanding no longer holds up in a debate. The right, however, does. And all those who at one point called themselves center-right are no more. The center has become the new right, and the left now takes on a more aggressive, further-reaching stance than ever, emboldened by its triumph on moral issues such as gay rights and abortion.
The conservative politicians and their voters are outdated. The left is inevitably taking over politics, and if the right is going to counter its advance, or at least ensure its survival –and for democracy’s sake it should- it needs to redefine itself as a political force focused on administration and a stronger foreign policy maker, away from morality and restrictions.

As a personal note, at one point I considered myself a conservative. I was raised as one. Now, after studying and loving politics as I have, I understand that the far right was simply too narrow-minded, and it even clouded politicians’ and voters’ view of administrative issues, which is what politics is all about, in the end. Morality remains a high importance issue for me, but I know now that politics cannot be tied to it.

On the Venezuelan Presidential Elections Result

Let no one be deceived. The Chavez bureaucratic machine has stolen these elections from the Venezuelan people. Thinking about the future: Venezuelan government and military officials will continue to harbor, aid and abett Colombian guerrilla fighters, ahea of the proposed peace talks with the Colombian government. They will (I hope to be wrong) pretend a ceasefire as a gesture of good will, increase drug trafficking along the Arauca and Santander Colombian departments, and hide in Venezuela from a Colombian Army offensive, which President Santos has already announced in spite of the impending peace talks.
Clearly the elections were manipulated. Clearly the Chavistas never doubted they would remain in power. 

But then again, it must be remembered that the memos commanding public servers to vote for Chavez per a special service bonus were very much real. It must be remembered that private enterprises and startups have been nationalized for years now, and hence many people had no choice but to serve the Chavez government against their wishes. It must be remembered that Venezuelans with means have been fleeing the country not out of treason, but out of lack of opportunities to make their businesses flourish.
These things were not happening mere 25 years ago, when the oil was still reporting real royalties and profits to Venezuela, and the autocratic and self serving machinery Chavez imposed on the country was not in full force. And let it not be forgotten that the greatest challenge Venezuela faces today is insecurity. Add to this the fact that Chavez is a military man, with wide support from the rebellious military, and that Putin also committed electoral fraud earlier this year in Russia, and you have the horrendous result that the violence in Venezuela is both sponsored and fostered by the government, as well as used as a control tool on people from lower classes, who also happen to be less politically educated and cannot see beyond free education for their youngest ones.
Is a civil war or civil unrest in the woodwork in Venezuela? Will there be a citizen uprising like the Arab Spring? No one knows. But I believe there ought to be. Though the pressure of having your loved ones threatened with death and disappearance weighs heavily on Venezuelans, the future of the country and the region as a whole must also be considered and weighed by everyone.

UPDATE: The list of 27 Venezuelan nationals who are being held captive by FARC comes at a very convenient time for the opposition, who after their sound defeat at the voting stations are trying to hit back at the government on security and social equality issues. Also, considering that Venezuela has long been a supporter of FARC and their subversive labor in Colombia, one must then weigh the possible consequences of playing hard ball with the government as they are now. Can public opinion shift? Can Venezuelan foreign policy change? Will there be more and better military offensives against FARC militants along the border with Colombia? Or will all this brawl end up in just another indignationoutburst?

On the Proposed Peace Talks with FARC and the Integration of Former Fighters into Society

These days, everyone has an opinion on such a prickly topic. Some will say it is a waste of time and resources, while others hail it as a great effort to end the conflict. Many, however, will label it as a campaign act from President Santos to remain in power for four more years, and nothing else.
Be that as it may, the ramifications of a peace process, including the integration into society of the former fighters, must be evaluated and weighed before, during and after any exercise of opinion.
Peace processes are intrinsically unpopular because of the former fighter integration into society. In Colombia’s case, the fighting has been going on since 1961, which means that nowadays most fighters have been insurgents all their lives. These are people who do not know how to do anything else, save fighting. To integrate these people into society life would mean to teach them a craft and then create enterprises to employ them, since only few or no business owners would hire them. That means that it would be the state that would be in the position of creating companies to create jobs for the former fighters, thus perpetuating the social isolation they have been subject to all their lives. Who, then, is to say that this isolation will not breed a new generation of resentful insurgents? What, then, is the alternative?
But it goes beyond that. The FARC militants, and those who sympathize with them have proposed their transition into a political party. This makes sense, and has already seen good results in Colombia in the case of the M-19, the leftist guerrilla group that in 1990 deposed its arms and became a political party. Many former members of this group are still part of Colombia’s political scene today, the most prominent of whom is Gustavo Petro Urrego, current Mayor of Bogotá, the Colombian capital. It is precisely Mr. Petro who has been selected to lead the transition process. But with all the crimes and the delinquent history these prospective future politicians carry, the public opinion cannot help but frown at the thought of investing legislative powers upon them. However, what else can be done? The fighters must be relocated somehow into the social weaving, and that includes political power in some measure.
My perspective is that, if a demobilisation is really going to take place, the militants must be allowed to become a political movement and must also be allowed to be elected for public office, much as it happened with the M-19 former fighters. It must be noted that the M-19 obtained a pardon for all their crimes, to the point which they cannot even be mentioned in the news or in any judicial sentence.
We are not prepared, as a people, to let this happen. We are not prepared to allow these fighters to become part of our daily lives. This is not an issue of forgiving or of not having it in us to forgive. It is matter of it being impossible, as the wounds are still too fresh.
There is another issue complicating things in this regard, and it is that the President and FARC have both confirmed that military operations from either side will not cease during the peace talks. Some have called this the “logic of war”, and I subscribe to this understanding. Some others have viewed it as the strength declaration from both sides, that part of the negotiation that is to take place on the field rather than on the tables. If military operations do not cease, the civilian population will have little to no reasons or justifications to begin the forgiving process, vital to the success of the social integration. But if operations cease, there is a historical referent to deny that mere possibility. It was done once back in 1999 with fatal results to the peace process then undertook, and the area cleared by the government to that end was retaken violently by the Colombian Armed Forces. So, since military operations and skirmishes will not cease, the civilians will have to trust their lives and futures on the negotiations alone. This is seen by many as reelecting the President in order to give continuity to the process, which takes the discussion back to the reelection debate: Is this a real process or merely a reelecting vehicle?In my view it is an honest attempt at something nearly impossible to accomplish.
If, for whatever reason, this process falls through, the alternative is one the Colombian people already know and hate: the military option. This eliminates the possibility of social integration, and further deepens the division between victims and victimaries.
The hope that Colombia now embraces is that the negotiations will render good fruits, and that violence can cease. As far as political integration goes, the truth must be told: There has always been, and there always will be, corruption. No one likes corruption. But is it preferred over violence? I am sure many would agree with me on the affirmative. Corporations have their money invested in war, even Big Oil. The corruption is there and it already happens, much like violence. But thinking in terms of globalization, foreign investment is needed, even beyond the multple FTAs Colombia is part of and those that are being negotiated. It must be noted that such FTAs have been signed and are about to be signed in spite of violence and corruption.
 What really, then, should matter here is to end violence. If welcoming these criminals into Congress is what that takes, so be it.

On Mexico’s New Head of State and the Great Election Year

It was no surprise at all to find out Enrique Peña Nieto making away with the Mexican presidency in today’s elections in his country. His party, the PRI, has built a fame for itself of espionage, murder and getting away with it. They held power in Mexico for 71 uninterrupted years, having all that time represented the far right which had oligarchy rise to power and remain with it for years in Latin America.
It is that same rancid right tht rises today to power in Mexico. A right that brought much progress while it was not fully understood or scrutinized. But now when so many parties have come into being, the flaws and excesses of the right have been exposed. Not that this exonerates the left, no. The left has had excesses of itself and of the same kind. But because it echoes the feeling of the vast majority, it is that much more popular. The left has had excesses that were most successfully concealed by people’s willing ignorance, while the right’s excesses were concealed by the grand press mechanism.
This was not different from what transpired today in Mexico. While AMLO, the leftist candidate aimed his efforts at the popular sentiment and the reconquest of Mexican heart and soul, EPN focused on broadcasting his visits to different cities and populations online, and on TV and radio spots. The power remains in the hands of the masses, sure. But the point is how that power is convinced. Through spoils distributed among low income voters or by psychological and emotional bombarding?
What is done is done already. But the long lasting effect of this election will be felt over time, when the newly elected government takes hold of the country and steers it where the world is going: right-fostered foreign investment and laws being passed much faster and easier than usual, and more radical opposition being brewed in a heartbeat.

On the Greek problem and the alternative(s) available.

Greece has returned to the polls and, somewhat surprisingly, had decided for the option to remain in the Eurozone, despite all the troubles and its thrown-upon pariah status amongst the euro countries.
The leftist, young leaders of Syriza told the world and Greece they wanted to reject EU bailout and go it alone, pretending they had a chance at it. They wanted to see Greece return to the drachma and go back to how things were. Now, that is simply not possible. The dismounting of the drachma and the insertion of the euro brought with them the single largest restructuring of Greece’s way of life. To change the value and cost of things overnight, as well as the salaries and the fair remuneration for people´s labor, it all changed and the country was not ready for it. Syriza wanted to have the country go backwards full  speed through the same path it had already traveled. What Syriza and its firey/fiery supporters willfully ignored was the economic isolation to which they would be dooming their country by taking it off the euro.
Considering the weakness with which the drachma would have entered the arena again, no one would like to continue doing business with Greece, save perhaps the companies whose manufacturing facilities are in Greece. Oh, yeah. Most of those are German, e.g., Skoda, BMW, IKEA. All this added to the fact thatGermany hosts 571700 refugees according to the UN Refugee Agency. These refugees most likely make a living out of money transfers or by serving as cheap labor in German factories. If the euro were to destabilize, Germany and everyone else would have to evict refugees and become protectionist, a model which has already failed spectacularly.
Let us examine one of the sectors affected by all this: tourism. That industry suffers laterally from a harsh problem springing from economic downturns, which is insecurity for travellers. Both Europeans and non Europeans alike travel to Greece to spend their holidays and are attracted by the country’s natural beauty. But poverty and harshness make for a difficult environment for foreigners. The first counter action taken is a greater presence of the military. But in a country undergoing what Greece is undergoing that seems only a good dream. Pensions, salaries, training, facilities, feeding, etc. for the miitary are unpayable and only the conservatives would advocate for it. Were Greece under leftist control, the solution of choice would probably be education programs and citizen control, which unequivocally makes for power abuses. But it would be cheap. All this while promoting national industry, unsuccessfully.
All this stated, the best option for Greece is to become austere and remain in the euro, for its sake and everyone else’s. The terms of the bailout must be renegotiated, no doubt. But the fact is that Greece is part of an economic bloc that already constitutes a large portion of the economic and financial arenas, leaving England out of the latter for a moment. Let us forget about Royal Sunalliance and many other corporations clenching silently the rest of corporations and societies, and all reporting back to London.
The euro may have been a mistake in the first place. To pretend that countries with such differring cultures and habits coexist in the same ecosystem and following the same rules was a very long shot.

On the Attempt on the Life of a Former Colombian Minister

A few days ago, my wife posed a possibility to me, in light of a recent attempt on a former minister´s life in Bogotá. She said that even though the perpetrators must have considered the collateral damage and the fact that they were indeed trying to kill a person, they also must have felt like those who tried to kill Hitler: the 20 July plotters and so many others. 
Probably, she said, these people thought that they were serving a greater good by doing something horrifying, and that they were taking on the burden of being the criminals, who would then be called heroes. 
I slightly disagree. I concede that such feelings might have lingered in the hearts of some ancient soldiers and soldiers of fortune. But today, I seriously doubt that to be the case. I see these people more as opportunists rather than people of vision.

On France´s Presidential Election: A Race for the Spoils

It seems the time has finally come for us bloggers and everyone else to cease talking about the US presidential race. The whole thing is planned, rehearsed and locked.
But come to think of it, it is not over just yet. It might provide some insight into what is wbout to happen in France. As the French rush to the polls tomorrow morning, they are faced with a terrible question: Europe or ourselves?
It is truly unreasonable to assume that whoever is the next French president will not continue pressing for a further redrawing of European borders and policies. However, that is certainly a matter of concern as nearly 3 million French currently struggle for a job. The pivotal role assumed by Nicolas Sarkozy in the Euro crisis has exposed the French to a great many risks, placing them at the forefront of the battle for the European dream alongside the much better armed Germans.
Sarkozy´s push for a Buy European Act for public contracts is certainly appealing to many other European economies, but it is not enough to appease undecided voters, who now live with a bigger state  infrastructure. The outrage over Sarkozy´s travelling lifestyle is affecting his image as an austere option to rule France, but I do not believe that it should be given much attention. Here is why:
  • There are too many candidates: The surplus of names to choose from is a problem, because it polarizes opinion far too much, pretty much creating the need for a second round which is almost always confirmatory of the first´s result. With only two or three names on the ballot, the decision would be simpler. And those who advocate for voting blank or not voting altogether would get a lesson (as they do every election year) on popular understanding of the need for a stable, well settled state.
  • The campaign has not been convincing: With so many unemployed among the voting ranks, the candidates have had to turn to staunch populism in order just to stay afloat in the polls, with the hard right, unsurprisingly, making away with a mere 2%. Such measures have taken the whole campaign to a poor level of argumenting and worse proposing.
  • The proposals are not sustainable: Le-Pen´s strong focus on immigration makes her the element not to look at. In spite of the importance of the immigration problem, is is not the only one out there asher campaign has made us all believe. It is almost as if she thought that kicking all immigrants would solve all the ails of the French economy. Never mind the Euro or the debt of the Eurozone; opposite is Melenchon, whose leftist extremist views do not sit well with an electorate who learned to be careful after electing and reelecting Mitterrand, not to mention that in times of crisis, the right is always preferred; Bayrou´s third presidential run ought to each him not to seek the long gone dream. In a way, he reminds me a bit of Ron Paul in the USA. He is the one who keeps a reserve of swing votes in his pocket for the party to use when in need; Hollande´s ideas for a more austere France would have a nefarious effect on French economy on the mid term. Increasing the minimum wage in a country with high taxation would force the informal employment. Not that it does not exist already, but having it increased is cooking a social revolt to spring in a few years, when his proposed reduction of retirement age is already taking its toll on a weakened France due to ECB loans and bailouts. One of the left´s traditional and most debilitating problems is its lack of willingness to accept the unstoppable course of history and fact.
Now, by the numbers. Sarkozy and Hollande comprise about 40% of the polled. That is not enough to write off a second round, especially when one considers the amount of candidates, and the vote division this will certainly cause. But a second round actually sounds a bit scarier in this sense for both Sarkozy  and Hollande, since many of those whose candidate is eliminated in the first round will quite likely become abstentionists in the second, leaving the election able to produce only a partially legitimate president and setting a grim stage for the parliamentary elections in June.
For that reason, the candidates´ rally to get the undecided, the spoils of the social construct, to elect them has been nothing but irregular. The candidates do not have clear answers in their proposals for the pressing questions. Hence, it might just be in France´s best interest to stay with their rockstar president, who will threaten much and many, but actually will only give continuity to the projects already in motion, which in times of crisis like these should be appreciated by any electorate.
UPDATE: With the official results out, the predictable happened. Hollande will take on Sarkozy on 6 May. What is surprising to me is that the left is actually having such a chance in France. Change is not the option for France in this moment. My forecast: Hollande will be elected president on 6 May by a 10% margin over Sarkozy. The hard right that voted Le Pen today will rather become abstentionist and form an opposition coalition with the center. There will be an euphoria over Hollande´s presidency, but the rightist opposition will prove his shortcomings before June, when about 55-60% of parliament will be conservative and there will be an avalanche of checks and balances that will trigger malcontent with the left, yet again.

On the Western Perspective of the Iranian Nuclear Program

Terror, for the sake of terror, ought to be regarded as meaningless and aimless. Yet the West has far seemed to me not only willing to have it, but to comply with its deadly effects, both dramatic and destructive. Especially the dramatic aspect, though.
Currrently the world is facing a crisis of terror for the sake of terror. The Iranian alleged nuclear program has become one of the biggest reasons, if not the most important already, for people the world over to fear (again, particularly in the West). Let us examine the facts:
  1. Ever since the days of the Cold War, which in some senses is not really over, the looming fear of nuclear anhilation has haunted societies and generations as if was really that close. But most of the world population today has lived with this fear embedded into our very raising, and yet nothing has happened other than unfortunate accidents such as Fukushima. There is nothing to be gained from nuclear warfare, which is why it has not happen and wll not happen anytime soon.
  2. Something to definitely consider are the commercial and military ties Iran has held with Syria for years now, but that today are accentuated given the crisis now underway in Syria.
    1. On this latter point much can be said, but I wish to focus on the fact that there is a lack of effective action to bring an end to the turmoil in Syria as it was done in Libya last year.
Why, might one ask, are the UN and everyone else not moving faster to intervene in Syria, but being so swift to impose sanction on Iran? The nuclear threat reason is overrated so I will just dismiss it. The next easy reason to argue is oil, but the Saudis have already stated that they can make up for Iran’s supply within weeks of the latter´s demise. Why, then?
Ahmadinejad is an ally of Chavez, Ortega and other South American leftist leaders. In a way, it could be assumed that all these countries are forming an alliance, an axis of sort, but then again the military forces of those countries, and considering the geopolitics aspect, it would not be a viable idea.
The only thing I can think of is that there are contractors with big contracts in Syria, backed by profits of Iranian oil, who cannot simply afford to lose the deals.
Another thing to consider: The presidential election in the USA, which includes president Obama seeking reelection. Everyone knows about Obama´s stance on war and military intervention, as well as the perspective on the same subject the Republicans have. Failing to interfere militarily in Syria and more strongly on Iran serves as a great war horse for Obama, even after David Cameron has already stated that a coalition of the willing could effectively enter Syria. But Obama has remained intriguingly silent.
The point is that Syria, as well as Iran, serve as smokescreens for sometihng different. There is little reason to worry about Iran´s nuclear program, seeing as the other programs already in existence have not been used for years, and the Iranian one is no different. Syria is a worrisome point, but until the Russians and the Iranians gets their money out of there, I do not see a UN resolution being passed anytime soon.