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US presidency poll 2016: Will Trump emerge victorious?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap]mericans will vote on 8 November to decide who will be the country’s next president to lead the nation to a peaceful path without wars and bloodbaths. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have presented a crude irony to the poll that American people have been provided with a choice between not only the two most unpopular candidates, but also the two most reactionary candidates in modern history.

The 2016 presidential poll to elect the most suited person to guide the nation and world at large, is taking place as Americans, fed up with terror wars and erratic climatic disorders, have begun to think about a possible political systemic change rather than regime change and a new world order to move away from militarism, unilateralism, unipolarity and exploitation towards real democracy and collective work for freedom and happiness – unheard of in any capitalist nation.

At the outset, neither Trump nor Hillary is capable of making anew reformed and enlightened America and they would only continue with Bush-Obama policies of invasions and militarism. In that sense Americans are unlucky lot.

The final 2016 presidential debate took place on October 19 night, and expectations were not high either. Apparently, both leaders debated only those issues that seemed agreed upon in advance. That has been the practice of US politics cutting across the two-party system. The presidential candidates, therefore, have not been asked questions on some of the critical issues facing the nation that is fighting illegal wars abroad in Middle East on fake pretexts.

Hillary Clinton has long been the frontrunner in this contest but there have been times where she has looked far from comfortable. The most recent examples came back-to-back in early September. First, she made headlines by labeling half of Donald Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorable”, allowing her rival to conclude it was evidence of her disdain for “hardworking people”. Mrs. Clinton had been suffering from pneumonia fuelling further rumours about her health – rumours that some of her critics have been pushing for months. The news about her “sudden illness” helps Hillary in poll rating. Her poll numbers took a noticeable hit in the days that followed, but they appeared to recover towards the end of September.

Most US leaders think Hillary can bring more resources to the nation than Trump by terror wars. That is not the strength but weakness.

Presidential debates are mere gimmicks?

Debates in US presidential poll campaign are just a formality and what the candidates say would not have any relevance for the presidency as the presidents are controlled by capitalist-imperialist lobbyists, war monger intelligence-Pentagon, and mainly regulated for pro-Israel policies by the Jewish members of Neocons.

Particularly the final presidential debate, meant to make the presidential candidates to come to terms with the rising demands on USA, did not discuss anything about some of the most pressing concerns Americans as well as the world face, like climate change, terror wars as permanent war feature, poverty and corruption and campaign finance.

The final debate moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, faced questions on debt and entitlements, immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots and the candidates’ genuinity and fitness to be president. These topics have already been widely covered in previous debates. According to an analysis of the first two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, there has been a “significant emphasis on Russia, terrorism and taxes.” So far, those topics have received a whopping 409 mentions combined, with 77 of those dedicated to Trump’s own taxes.

The presidential candidates, if they sincere about future of Americans and humanity, should have concentrated on the following issues:

1. How to end terror wars, essentially on Islam?

2. How to recast a normal foreign policy for promoting world peace and genuine democracy?

3. How to put an end to media Islamophobia trends?

4. How to solve the dangerous climate change?

5. How to attack poverty and save the poor and under privileged? Much more, of course!

Climate change, poverty and campaign finance reform are just three issues the mainstream media has refused to raise questions about in the debates. Also, both the candidates and media are silent on issues like China, gun control, education, student debt, voting rights, drugs, abortion, and reproductive health, NSA/privacy/surveillance, Native Americans.

Global warming directly threatens economy and capitalism. According to a World Economic Forum survey of global experts in 2016 global warming tops the list of potential threats to the global economy. But this issue has been mentioned three times in the debates (by Hillary Clinton, in passing. According to Pew Research the people are concerned about climate change, with 73 percent of all registered US voters saying they care either “a great deal” or “some” about the issue. Fifty-two percent of registered voters say the environment is “very important” to their voting decision in 2016.

Donald Trump is a climate denier and has said on his medium of choice that global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive. Trump has pledged to undo the Obama’s climate initiatives, including the Paris climate agreement and the Clean Power Plan, which would require power plants to clean up their emissions. Trump has also vowed to expand fossil-fuel exploration. Clinton just has a detailed plan for combating climate change, with the promise of “taking on the threat of climate change and making America the world’s clean energy superpower.” But ways and means are not discussed by her. While she has gained a number of endorsements from leading climate groups, her acceptance of natural gas as a so-called bridge fuel disturbs some, including 350.org, which says it’s “just a fast lane to more climate destruction.”

Speaking for the first time in his entire campaign with some seriousness, Trump touched a number of ultra-right talking points calling for the appointment of Supreme Court justices, for a wall along the US-Mexico border and to deport millions of undocumented workers, and pointing out, correctly, that President Obama has deported many millions already. Trump appealed to the economic grievances of working people, declaring that expelling immigrant workers, renegotiating trade agreements to bar foreign imports and slashing taxes on the wealthy and the corporations would generate an unprecedented economic boom, with annual GDP growth of six or seven percent. He declared that “millions of people are registered to vote that should not be allowed to vote,” then added that Clinton herself “should never have been allowed to run for president because of what she did with emails and so many other things.”

For the first time in any of the debates, the question of a US-Russian conflict in Syria was broached when Wallace asked Clinton directly about her support for a no-fly zone over Aleppo and other contested Syrian cities. A no-fly zone meant war with Syria and Russia, and if a Russian plane violates the no-fly zone, does President Clinton shoot it down? Clinton simply ducked the question, claiming that the no-fly zone, an act of war against Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, would be the subject of “negotiation.”

Treacherous politics of poverty

It is not just the third world but even the developed nations have poverty, both known and covert. Despite over 45 million Americans currently living in poverty, not a single question has been asked about that either, and the issue has barely been mentioned. In fact, Democrats had no questions on poverty in any of their primary debates. That is because Democrats have taken, along with terror wars, the burden of poverty as well prompted by Republicans as well as their own. Child poverty rates in the United States, at 21.6 percent, are nearly double the OECD average of 12.4 percent. Before running for president, Jewish leader Bernie Sanders, who still claims to be a socialist, called poverty one of the “great moral and economic issues” that Americans face. The Census revealed that the number of Americans living in poverty had increased to over 46 million, the highest number ever. “Poverty in America today leads not only to anxiety, unhappiness, discomfort and a lack of material goods. It leads to death,” Sanders said.

The latest hacked Clinton emails show that in the 2016 primary Clinton’s aides were wary of ideas that could alienate centrist and conservative voters who are skeptical of welfare. Despite the fact that nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will someday themselves experience the official poverty line.

People would love to see the presidential candidates discuss their plans for combating poverty. Trump talks about poverty, about creating more jobs, which he aims to achieve by cutting taxes and government regulations and renegotiating trade deals to bring more jobs back to America. He’s also called for a new tax plan to help defray child care costs for working parents. Clinton has detailed plans to fight poverty on her website, including: expanding the tax credit for children; providing universal preschool for 4-year-olds; subsidizing child care; increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour; and investing tens of billions of dollars in poor communities, including for housing and job training. To pay for her proposals, she would increase taxes on the wealthy, but she won’t do it. .

Campaign Finance and fundraising

USA promotes lobbyists to make money from foreign nations and companies.’ This is the root cause of rampant corruption and nepotism in America. Since the common folk and the poor certainly don’t make large campaign contributions, they don’t have powerful lobbyists in Congress and Senate representing their interests. Everything is planned and executed in USA for the rich and those who “generously” give money to the candidates during the immoral fund raising. Eighty-four percent of Americans think money has too much influence in their political campaigns. But moderators have asked not one question about it, and there’s only been one mention so far in the debates.

Therefore, USA clearly cannot overcome the phenomenon of rampant corruption in all domains.Clinton and Trump have raised a jaw-dropping $911 million and $423 million respectively, including money from super PACs. In state and local races across the country, donors have poured more than $1 billion so far this year

Trump said he supports campaign finance reform that would keep registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in US elections. The one campaign finance mention in the debates Hillary Clinton said, perhaps without any serious intent that she wants to “see the Supreme Court reverse Citizens United and get dark, unaccountable money out of our politics.” The Hacked emails prove coordination between Clinton Campaign and Super PACs” shows consistent, repeated efforts by the Clinton campaign to collaborate with Super PACs on strategy, research, attacks on political adversaries and fundraising.” That’s against the rules of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center announced earlier this month that it had filed two sets of complaints with the Federal Election Commission, charging that both the Trump and Clinton campaigns have improperly coordinated with super PACs.

Terror wars launched by the foolishly arrogant USA in energy rich Muslim nations have further narrowed down the space for genuine cooperation, peace efforts and promotion of freedoms in US policies. The continued support for Israeli crimes in Palestine has dented the prestige of USA more than anything else. In fact it is the US policy for Israel and the latter’s ideas about a new world order where Israel’s threats to Arab world, its crimes and genocides in Palestine are respected that has complicated and weakened US efforts for secured world.

Like Israeli establishment, US establishment also generally decides who should be the next president and what should be his agenda, and they work for that end, it is still seen busy with a Hillary win and Trump defeat. Clinton has become the coSunday, November 06, 2016nsensus candidate of Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus, and, increasingly, of the Republican as well as the Democratic wing of the political establishment. It is significant that Trump never identified himself as a Republican or made any reference to the Republican Party during the debate, while Clinton repeatedly invoked the names of Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and contrasted them to Trump. Hillary is ready to claim to be the next president in January 2017.

Israel controls and attacks not just the Gaza Strip but even areas in West bank. The UN human rights rapporteur has accused Israel of denying Palestine’s right to development thus causing rampant poverty, “epic” unemployment and economic stagnation, while illegal settlement activity is leaving hundreds of Palestinians homeless this year alone. Over 1,100 people have been left homeless so far this year in Area C of the West Bank, as Israel demolished some 780 Palestinian homes. Area C is fully controlled by Israel and comprises of some 60 percent of the total territory in the West Bank. It is the area where the Jewish settlements – illegal under international law – are located.

So far this year, Israel has destroyed 780 homes there, compared to 453 demolitions that were conducted in 2015. Last year’s demolitions left some 580 Palestinians homeless, while this year 1,129 people were left without a roof over their heads. In addition, the publication noted that further 125 Palestinian homes were also demolished in East Jerusalem since the start of the year. Last year’s figures stood at 78 home demolitions. As a result, 164 Palestinians were left homeless this year in East Jerusalem. Overall, more half a million Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority considers West Bank to be a part of a future independent Palestinians state, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Illegal occupation remains one of the main stumbling blocks on the way to achieve a two-state solution with Israel.

A day earlier, as part of the Israeli government’s ‘carrot and stick’ policy, the country’s security cabinet reportedly approved a series of Palestinian building plans in Area C. The Deepening of the occupation, the constriction of basic human rights and the utter absence of a political horizon leading to self-determination for the Palestinians have reinforced an atmosphere of despair and hopelessness “Poverty is rising. Unemployment is rising to epic levels. Food insecurity is becoming more acute. The Palestinian economy is becoming more stifled and less viable under the occupation,” Michael Link, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said delivering his report to the UN General Assembly in New York.

US/NATO unilateralism vs. Multilateralism

Unilateralism, represented by USA is challenged by multilateralism of Russia, backed by China and a few others has landed Americans in perpetual troubles. Americans are unhappy. The 2016 presidential election has left a strong impression of the USA as a fractured, gloomy nation. According to the latest American Values Survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans say neither major party represents them, while 74 percent are pessimistic about the country’s direction – up from 57 percent just four years ago. Nearly three-fourths say the country is either stagnating or falling behind, according to a Time magazine poll. The American-led Western order of governance and economics is on the wane. Even among young adults under 30, more than half are fearful for the future. This mood of pessimism requires that the winners of the election listen to the views of people who think differently from them.

Within Western so-called democracies – from Britain to the US itself – people are disillusioned with the their systems that promotes only capitalism and colonialism, care only for the rich and corporate interests, resulting in reactionary populist movements are pushing back against the rotten rules and systems that have stayed for decades. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is feeling betrayal by USA. In “autocratic” countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, leaders feeling badgered by the USA over human rights are turning to China and Russia, too. When the Philippines’ tough-guy President Rodrigo Duterte announced in Beijing last week that “America has lost” and that he was “separating” from the USA to align with a rising China, it could only send a clear message to the world about the current weak status of superpower. Yet, US leaders cannot leave out Israel – the major cause of its decline.

Americans are in a period of struggle between democratic governance and a more authoritarian vision of rule both nationally and internationally. People feel that their culture and identity are under threat; they sense that governing systems are no longer working, and they want some strong response to that. As America has become a less-dominant presence in the world, the countries that have risen to play a larger role are broadly “democratic” and adhering to free-market norms and multilateralism – from Turkey to Japan to India, South Africa, and Australia. Moreover, China and Russia have been seeking to expand their influence for years as America has been forced to withdraw somewhat from its leading role. But the “authoritarian market state” has not drawn many converts.

The world order launched following the end of a disastrous World War Two, making USA the richest nation on earth and the current US picture, can be seen as the birth pangs of a new world order – less Western-centric and still retaining the old order’s foundation of democracy and liberal economics. Organized movements like the tea party or Black Lives Matter don’t fade away.

Post WW-II world has been fully controlled and regulated by the USA. Now the Western-built system of international order is no longer serving the world’s needs. The USA and Europe are less willing to intervene when other parts of the world are unable to respond effectively to conflicts and other global challenges. That has meant a decline in Western influence. Indeed, 500 years of the West ordering the world is at an end, and that sounds terrible. And, broadly speaking, the emerging multipolar global order is largely based on the principles that the West espoused. And, a decline of dependence on the part of independent nations!

Americans have seen these alternative means of civic engagement show up on the margins of politics. New communities have formed, often on the internet, around local food, alternative energy, home-schooling, or work sharing. Americans don’t simply stew in political resentment. They create new paths, outside official democracy, to find people of similar interests and values. The Digital Age has accelerated this trend to redefine what is public. It can also mean understanding how Americans are turning their disappointment with politics into new forms of civic activity. If they are not finding the social goods they seek through elections, they must be looking for them elsewhere.

These alternative civic bonds do not merely fill the gaps of government services. They can create whole new communities, cutting across the traditional political divisions. Yes, Americans “must always believe that they can write their own destiny.” These are based on hope, not gloom. The 2016 election winners does indeed have work to do in listening to the currents of American society that are moving ahead on their own. A good leader tries to run ahead of the people in the direction they are going. This shift is happening as the global systems established by the West face unusual headwinds.

Frustrated populations are increasingly tempted by strong alternatives to the status quo, the diplomat says. Internationally, a breakdown of the long-reigning Western order is prompting the Russians and Chinese to promote multilateralism- a new version of international relations on their side. But China and Russia have made little headway. Already at the time of the international financial crisis, the Chinese were putting out that their system was better than the American democratic system. The financial crisis saw the emergence of the multipolar G20 where once the all-Western G7 had reigned.

Observation

In the name of democracy and regime change, USA has promoted only authoritarians. And it’s not just countries that are more or less new to the club of Western principles. For instance, more than a quarter of French citizens are prepared to accept a more authoritarian state, according to a recent survey. In the USA, critics see a war mongering and arrogant Clinton, the rise of Donald Trump – who has spoken openly of reining in press freedoms, intimidated judges, and taken a generally bellicose tone – as a turn toward a strongman-like figure.

World wars and the so-called cold war with Soviet Russia made USA what it is today, the super power that can bully any nation that does not obey its instructions, follows its footsteps. Perhaps for this reason USA does not want to stop criticizing and attacking Russia. As the effective boss of UN and UNSC, NATO, G-7, World Bank and IMF, etc, strangest and loudest campaigner of so-called democracy, USA has been able to retain its control over the world and press its global prowess into action to weaken any nation.

Far more rapidly than most people are aware, the quarter-century of war waged by the US since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the fifteen years of the “war on terror,” are metastasizing into a direct confrontation with the larger geopolitical rivals of the United States. This immense war danger has been virtually excluded from the presidential election campaign and all but ignored by what presents itself as the political “left” in the United States. After a quarter-century of unending war, including eight years under Obama–the first president to serve two full terms with the country continuously at war–there is no functioning antiwar movement.

The US poll looks like an establishment conspiracy against Trump and hence questions on Trump’s unwanted sexual advances scandal. To date, the controversies have appeared to hurt Trump more than Clinton, who has gradually expanded her lead over the GOP nominee in recent polls. Several women, supporting Hillary, have since accused him of making unwanted sexual advances in separate incidents from the early 1980s to 2007. Trump has denied the allegations, calling them “totally and absolutely false.” Why has Hillary and her party have resorted to cheap politics? The usual battle for the White House by two-party system is nearing the end point. World is damn sure that irrespective of who win the battle would continue the Bushdom agenda of permanent war on Islam by using many Muslim rulers like Syrian leader Assad.

The usual battle for the White House by two-party system is nearing the end point. World is damn sure that irrespective of who win the battle would continue the Bushdom agenda of permanent war on Islam by using many Muslim rulers like Syrian leader Assad.

WikiLeaks has embarrassed the Clinton campaign by releasing thousands of hacked emails purportedly from her campaign chairman’s account. FBI files alleging a State Department official sought a “quid pro quo” to alter the classification on a Clinton server email added to the campaign’s – and Obama government’s – woes.

Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week. Clinton, the Democratic former secretary of state, led Trump 44 percent to 40 percent, according to the Oct. 14-20 poll, a 4-point lead, with the Nov. 8 election fast approaching. That compared with 44 percent for Clinton and 37 percent for Trump in the Oct. 7-13 poll released last week. But today the trend has again changed favoring Trump by one percent. If the upward swings and shifts continue Trump would land in White House to control the world.

America and the West must withdraw from being world policemen and a new breed of global strongmen are trying to take over leadership, Russia and China topping the list. Many countries now rising to prominence claim they do share America’s core values. American ally seemingly eschew the long-dominant Western order of democratic principles and free-market economics to embrace a more authoritarian and state-driven vision of economic and political rule.

Americans can no longer leave the electoral process to the two parties or the media conglomerates with who they’re in cahoots. The stakes are too high. But Americans do not have more than just two candidate choices and have to abide by the conventions. The American political mood is dark and pessimistic just now. This will force those elected in November to listen even more to those they oppose. What they find may surprise them.

In the name of democracy and regime change, USA has promoted only authoritarians. And it’s not just countries that are more or less new to the club of Western principles. For instance, more than a quarter of French citizens are prepared to accept a more authoritarian state, according to a recent survey. In the USA, critics see a war mongering and arrogant Clinton, the rise of Donald Trump – who has spoken openly of reining in press freedoms, intimidated judges, and taken a generally bellicose tone – as a turn toward a strongman-like figure.

After 70 years of a world order that has been built by the West on the architecture of Western values, it is certainly striking how much liberalism is on the retreat. Now the new president could, if he wants and has the will, can play a lead role in reforming a new world order of multilateralism and genuine justice.

The routine US presidential poll campaign formality is over. The third and final debate is finished! The candidates go their separate ways without a handshake. Clinton walks off stage first. Of course, no love lost there, that’s for sure. What would be the fate of Americans?

In order to overcome the high level expectations and manipulations, Trump and his advisers should be prudent enough to understand the under current in the campaigns trying to wean away the votes from Trump camp.

The high light of the final debate is that it has witnessed a reformed Trump performing. USA would wait for some more years to have their first ever woman president who is honest and sincere, unlike hawkish warmongering Hillary who over exposed as a terror inspired US leader. Hillary is surely unfit to lead Americans and world.

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Americas

Latin America is inching slowly towards a change for the better

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Authors: Ash Narain Roy and Shimone Jaini*

Every utopia sooner or later turns into a dystopia. Why, then, do Latin Americans fancy themselves constructing alternative utopias? What good is utopia? Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano seems to have the answer, “it is good for walk.”  Latin America hasn’t stopped imagining and dreaming. It may not have captured the imagination of global policy-makers and the chattering classes. But the region has indeed changed, mostly for the better. However, it would be premature to proclaim that Latin America has turned the corner.

Why has Latin America acquired the reputation for its pursuit of endless revolutions or what Marina Sitrin calls ‘Everyday Revolutions’? Peruvian novelist Santiago Roncagliolo provides some insights about such revolutions in his novel, Red April, “there is a feeling in Latin America that good ones were not so good and the bad ones were not so bad.”

Latin America has long been a laboratory of political and social experiments. Sebastian Edwards, author of Left Behind: Latin America and the False Promise of Populism, says that the political and economic history of Latin America has been “marked by great hopes and even greater disappointments”. And yet, some of the political and social experiments continue to catapult the region into the global consciousness and resonate with people across the globe.

Latin America suffers from many frailties. But it refuses to put an end to imaginations. It continues to dream how to construct a world where many worlds could live. Thanks to their endless dreams and imaginations, the region glimpses possibilities of other worlds. There is a lot to learn from Latin America both from its best practices and worst failures.

Deepening democracy and political participation

With the entrenchment of democracy, new paradigms of governance have emerged in Latin America. In recent decades the region has shown a trend to reject traditional political parties and vote for new formations to power. The dominance of the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats is long over.  But Political institutions are still quite weak. Rewriting constitutions comes easy to Latin Americans. Dominican Republic is having its 32nd constitution. Venezuela, Haiti and Ecuador have had 32nd, 26th and 20th constitutions respectively. Now Chilean President has agreed to change the 1980 Pinochet constitution.

Does it show Latin America’s growing impatience with the non-performing models? Or are Latin Americans undermining democratic principles in the name of pursuing more radical agendas?

The institutional architecture for democracy has been very diverse in Latin America. For instance, in some countries, the party system has collapsed (e.g., Peru and Venezuela); in other countries, parties have become increasingly detached from civil society (e.g., Chile and Mexico), and, in others, social movements have replaced traditional parties (e.g., Bolivia).

The region has also shown deep contempt for modern democratic politics. It means a different kind of politics, not necessarily the denial or rejection of politics. Maybe what the region is hankering after is not just a politics which delivers but also which uses a new language of politics. It is, in a way, what Andreas Schedlar calls ‘end of politics.’

The same voters who were captivated by new, mostly leftist movements, promising to redistribute wealth, punishing traditional parties and turning political systems on their heads have now begun rejecting them. Across the continent traditional parties have disintegrated though the trend is more pronounced in the Andean region.

It all began with the emergence of a ‘vote of rage’ towards the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the present century. Several governments lost power and the voters made a demand like ‘que se vayantodos’ (they all should go). Elections in Mexico in 2000 ended 70 years of PRI’s domination. In 1999, elections in Venezuela brought an end to 40 years of bipartisan politics. Something similar happened in Uruguay in 2000 when the domination of the Colorados and the Blancos came to an end. Popular movements toppled several governments in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Ivan Hinojosa of Catholic University in Lima says that “some parties recuperate but many don’t, and in their place you have all new and unpredictable movements”.

 The institutions that promised better outcomes have delivered at best modest results. Much of the frustrations and anger that have given rise to mass protests and democratic discontent across the region are centred on the weaknesses of these institutions.1 Governments have changed, new parties and political formations have captured power and even the rhetoric has changed but meaningful institutional innovations are still a work in progress.

Constitutional changes and innovative schemes have empowered the various indigenous groups. Social policies and constitutional recognition of new citizenship rights have given these groups a new sense of belonging. However, the durability of these measures remains a moot question at a time when Latin America is witnessing end of the commodity boom and electoral setback to left-wing regimes.

New tools to boost political participation

In the areas of women’s empowerment and advancement of gender rights, the region has made notable advance. A study conducted by International IDEA in 18 Latin American countries demonstrates how important it is to have both men and women leaders to promote better participation from women, if the parties want to be democratic and inclusive institutions.

Efforts made by such parties in 11 “institutional spaces” include Statutes and Declarations of Principles, Internal Organization, Financing, Training, Recruiting, Media, etc. For example, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) have been ratified by every Latin American country. Most  countries have approved laws promoting gender equality. Moreover, a small yet significant step of using gender-sensitive language to acknowledge women has proven monumental in reversing the predominantly male concepts in political language.

Despite the continued presence of a series of obstacles limiting the political participation of women in the region, such political parties have undertaken innovative and effective initiatives that can be considered “best practices”. 

Multiple global crises have led to an increased interest in Latin America in the social and solidarity economy (SSE).  In Latin America, the social and solidarity discourse, deployed with increasing intensity since the 1990s, refers to a model of political and economic development based on principles of solidarity, participation, cooperation and reciprocity. The same has also been articulated as ‘social knowledge economy’.

Hotbed of political innovation

A wave of political innovation is sweeping across Latin America as it is creating more participatory and inclusive democratic governments, breaking its shackles from the deep-rooted authoritarianism. It has also become an inspiration for many on how path to democracy is mapped out and advanced.

The Instituto Update, which studies political innovation in Latin America, found in its study that more than 600 initiatives have been put in place which are trying to reduce the gap between citizens and their governments by increasing political participation, improving transparency and accountability, encouraging innovation in government, and doing more to develop independent media.

The study identifies 5 main approaches in Latin America towards creating, developing and practicing new methods and instruments to foster political participation and trust in government. Firstly, citizens themselves are working for social change. The Secundarista movement that spread all over Brazil was led by students protesting for better education reforms in Saõ Paulo’s public high schools.

Another movement in México known as #Yo soy 132 was spearheaded by students who were protesting against political corruption during the 2012 presidential elections. This shows that people are creating new innovative ways to mobilize resources and to persuade elected officials and bureaucrats to pursue public policy changes.

Secondly, there are many feminist movements taking place all over Latin America like-#PrimaveraFeminista, #NiUnaMenos, #Pimp My Carroça, demanding reproductive rights and bringing attention to the issue of domestic abuse.  Activists and organisations are also using social media and humor like GregNews, a comedy news show to make citizens aware and interested in public interest issues.

Thirdly, elected officials are trying to make institutions more participatory and inclusive. Measures like DemocracyOS (Argentina) and LinQ (Ecuador) to Brazil’s Internet Bill of Rights have made great progress in giving voice to the people in the policymaking process.

Moreover, to monitor and hold politicians and corporations accountable, civil society organizations are using technology and open data. Groups like Paraguay’s A Quienes Elegimos, Argentina’s Chequeado, and Chile’s Del Dicho al Hecho are using online tools and organising public protests to insist on transparency from the government.

And finally, there’s a recognition that politics across Latin America needs new voices and new people to get involved. Today, movements such as Mexico’s WikiPolítica and Brazil’s Bancada Ativista, as well as new political parties like Chile’s Revolución Democrática and Argentina’s Partido de la Red, are aiming to make politics accessible, cool, and honorable to a new generation of activists.

How protest movements are novel

Culture has long been a tool of propaganda. But culture in Latin America is also a tool of protests. Protesters dancing to the rhythms of cumbia and salsa music and citizens pot-banging from their balconies have grabbed global eyeballs. Brazilians have resorted to ‘panelacos’ (protesting with pots and pans) against President Bolsonaro for denying science on Coronavirus.

Chileans have resorted to social media with their different artistic modes of expression to warrant their movement against the government which decided to privatize public services and raise the price of public transportation. Victor Jara’s 1971 song “Derecho a la paz”(Right to peace) has become a resistance anthem for students and working-class protestors. The song, originally composed during Pinochet’s dictatorship, has now become an inspiration for the demonstrators to take to the streets despite the violent oppression by the police and military national forces.

New slogans, new symbols of power, new empowerment

For hundreds of years the indigenous people remained invisible in a culture dominated by the language and traditions of Europe. They also became victims ofwhat sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls ‘Racism without Racists’. Hence, recent gains by the indigenous are credible. Today, they have begun to dream. After all, dreams give vision and vision leads to action. Today, the various indigenous communities refuse to return to the dark valley; they have realized that forgetting could be a key part of learning.

Empowerment is an enabling exercise. It begins with the marginal, the forgotten. The indigenous groups in particular have worked to address the incompleteness of citizenship. In their efforts to rework politics, they have pointed out how for many, citizenship has remained an unfulfilled promise; citizenship is not mere entitlement.

For the indigenous, the body is the site for politics, very much the way it was for Gandhi. It is also a site for struggle. As Shiv Viswanathan argues, “the body prevents politics from straying into the abstractions of ideology or policy. It is a statement of presence, of sensing politics and suffering as part of a sensorium of sounds, smells, touch, taste and memory.” No less importantly, the rise of the indigenous has gone a long way to liberate politics from its behavioral and ideological pomposity.

By making way for leaders of their choice to gain power and overthrowing several presidents in Bolivia and Ecuador, the newly empowered indigenous groups want to ensure that no despot ascends the throne but a doer, one who heals their wounds, not turn the knife in them. In several countries and more specifically in Bolivia and Ecuador, the traditionally occupied indigenous territories have been recognized and protected and the sustainable development of natural resources located in their land has been guaranteed. Some of the issues like land as an economic base, a space of social reproduction and a condition for survival, recognition of their collective rights, have gained recognition in international forums.

Indigenous and peasant groups have not stopped at mere protests. They have adopted another strategy: protesta con propuesta, whereby positive alternatives have been suggested. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), for example, has formulated its own water reform proposal. Without denying their economic importance, the proposals emphasize the community-based, social, and ecological aspects of water. Also in Peru and Bolivia, platforms of popular alliances and peasant and indigenous organizations have formulated constructive counter-proposals that complement their claims and protests.

The following section analyses some of the institutional innovations and best practices in Latin America that have found acceptance and admiration outside the region.

Mexico’s Oportunidades and Brazil’s Zero Hunger

Progresa, Mexico’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program,(later known as Oportunidades and now as Prospera), is known for increasing school enrolments and attendance in its initial 18-month randomized evaluation (Parker and Todd 2017). In this program, money is directly given to families if they send children to school, meet nutrition standards and receive regular health check-ups. This has had significant long-term benefits that could reduce intergenerational poverty according to a study published in National Bureau of Economic Research.

A similar CCT program was adopted by Colombia in 2000 known as Familasenaccion which provides money to poor households with children under 18 years old. It targets population that comprises of poor families that have either been displaced by the conflict or are from indigenous communities. Though it is no longer regarded as an emergency response to a short-term crisis, but it has proven efficient as an answer to more structural poverty problems.

Another commendable example towards ensuring food security for everyone was taken up by Brazil in the form of ‘Fome Zero’ or Zero Hunger program. The program launched in 2003 with the goal that all people be able to access enough and the right kinds of foods, to meet basic nutritional needs and support health. Fome Zero is based on a multi-sectoral approach at the public policy level, involving policies and programs around social protection and safety nets, education, food production, health services, drinking water, and sanitation. This  can serve as a role model for national commitment to making better nutrition a top priority. 

Another best practice, Participatory budgeting (PB), has been the most serious effort to take democracy to the doorsteps of the citizens. The Workers Party and a coalition of civil society organizations of Brazil introduced PB in Porto Alegre in 1989. It soon spread to more than 250 municipalities. Several countries followed suit. PB is a process of democratic decision-making. It is a type of participatory democracy, in which ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. It allows citizens to identify, discuss and prioritize public spending projects and gives them the power to make real decisions about how money is spent. The Porto Alegre model is no longer used in the same way in Porto Alegre itself. It has lost its sheen elsewhere in Latin America.

Consulta previa (prior consultation) is another significant legal framework that some countries in Latin America have institutionalized to deepen democracy. It is the right of the indigenous and ethnic groups to be consulted on matters affecting their culture and heritage as established by ILO Convention 169. Its implementation has at best been patchy. While it has been successfully implemented by Peru’s Amazonian communities, progress is much slower as far as the Andean communities are concerned. Much of the natural resources are located in the region inhabited by the indigenous communities, consulta previa has given the people a say in the extraction of raw materials. However, many left-leaning governments have resorted to the so-called “progressive neo-extractism” to ‘fight poverty’. The indigenous groups have sharpened attacks on the Left arguing such model of development, which relies on the rapacious extraction of natural resources, entails environmental destruction and the fragmentation of indigenous territory.

Cuba’s medical internationalism

For nearly 60 years, Cuba has been sending healthcare professionals all over the globe. This is done partly to support those in need but also as a part of concerted campaign of its medical diplomacy and to make some money to help the country survive an ongoing US embargo. Since then, Cuba has established permanent medical missions in a number of countries. Over the last five decades, it has sent between 135,000 to 400,000 doctors abroad.

The tradition of medical internationalism in Cuba goes back to the first years of the Cuban Revolution. The country has dispatched 593 workers to 14 countries in the battle against Covid-19. According to the Cuban health ministry, 179 doctors, 399 nurses and 15 health technologists have been dispatched as part of Henry Reeve initiative. According to Helen Yaffe, free healthcare as a universal human right has been a key tenet now and in the 1959 Cuban Revolution which laid the foundation of medical internationalism thereby enforcing the idea and practice of sending medical teams abroad.

Even though the Cuban medical support has been helpful and hopeful to all those in desperate need, it also hasn’t been able to keep away from criticism. Some rights groups have accused Havana of exploiting its medical workers who are forced to work in unsafe environments. Others have criticized by calling the program “selectively humanitarian” which makes lower numbers of doctors available to the Cuban population. Many countries have been wary of accepting Cuba’s help due to its poor human rights record. While everyone may not find Cuba’s help genuine, this is perhaps the time to put ideological differences aside and focus on the joint effort against the global war of Coronavirus.

Zapatistas’ enduring legacy

The Zapatista movement was the first post-modern movement and it is still defiant in mountain strongholds. It rose up not just to fight indigenous repression, but also the globalization from above. It was a genuine popular movement striving for justice and for changing the status quo. Scholarly interest in the various indigenous movements in Latin America was shown only after the 1994 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas.The images of the Zapatistas were too striking to be missed—indigenous peasants with wooden rifles declaring war on the Mexican government. With their faces covered by black ski masks or red bandanas, the Zapatistas symbolically became the face of the faceless, the voice of the voiceless.

The Zapatista National Liberation Army had one-third women, some in bare feet. They became instant heroes of the left and an inspiration to indigenous groups and political romantics. There are still areas under their control where they have their own system of education, health, justice and security. They train their own teachers and doctors and some have their own currency. Their slogans have been equally instructive such as “cuando una mujeravanza, no hay hombre que retrocede (when a woman advances, no man is left behind) and “here you can buy or sell anything except indigenous dignity”. The Zapatistas spelt out their key priorities like revitalizing indigenous worldviews, building autonomous, locally focused food system and food sovereignty and gender equity. Mexican sociologist Gonzalez Casanova says that the Zapatistas represent a new way of approaching problems and alternatives beyond the old dilemmas of the left, defending life, water, land and forest. The Zapatista movement offered alternative ways to organize societies, economies and the food systems.

In 1990s, Colombia’s indigenous groups formed the Indigenous Social Alliance. It won a few seats in national parliament a few years later. Nationally visible indigenous parties came up in mid-1990s in Bolivia and Ecuador. In Bolivia, groups like the Assembly for the Sovereignty of the Peoples, Movement towards Socialism and Pachakutic Movement of Plurinational Unity gained traction. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE) in Ecuador has tasted electoral success and acquired considerable clout. It initially supported the left but later broke from its tutelage. The indigenous movements have helped in the democratization process. The group has combined indigenous culture and state institutions in innovative ways.

Limits of caudillismo

Latin Americans are masters at creating leaders, prophets and gods. The bane of Latin America is the system of caudillos (strongmen).  Hence some are seeking leaderless revolutions. They contend, we don’t need leaders, certainly not big leaders. As Emile Zapata says, “strong leaders make a weak people.”

Populism the bane

Populism continues to be the bane of Latin American polity. Power and authority are still configured in relation to caudillos, not institutions. Parliaments, judiciary, party system and civil society provide little institutional counterweights to political abuses by the political class. The caudillos promise magical solutions and people still fall for them. Ironically, to remain in power, the maximum leader exerts and abuses state force but also propagate the myth that he/she is there by the popular will. The growing polarization has not allowed institutions like the judiciary and the police to become autonomous and independent. Populism has acquired a “new dimension” with decisive leaders pushing nationalism, demonizing opposition and stirring up issues that divide society. Populismhas marginalized the centrist forces and removed their bonding powers resulting in gridlock in parliament and diluting public trust in its efficacy.

Bertrand Russell says that the game of politics is the process by which people choose the man who will get the blame. Latin America has witnessed the masterful play of such blame game. Populist leaders thrive on confrontation and chaos. Bolsonaro is using the pandemic to stir up his base. He has dismissed Coronavirus as “just a little flu”, “we will all die one day”.

Conclusion

Some of the best practices in Latin America have caught the attention of the world. Whether these are replicable or not requires further research and study.The region has been long experimenting with novel political, social and economic initiatives and practices which resonate with people across the globe. Some consider the region to be a land of endless revolutions, but it has launched not only slogans but sustainable alternatives as well. It has maintained the ideal of ‘Protesta con propuesta’(Protest with purpose). However, many have questioned the robustness of these measures when Latin America is witnessing the end of the commodity boom and the defeat of left-wing governments. The historical conflicts, the silhouettes of authoritarianism and past of caudillismo still weigh heavily on the Latin American present.

Will the region be able to overcome its non-democratic past and advance with its revitalized worldview? Or will it succumb to the ghosts of the old despotic regimes? There are no easy answers. It has to do with Latin American psychology, “the rejection of what is real and possible.” Latin America also fits in Hannah Arendt’s description how the most radical revolutionary becomes “conservative the day after the revolution”. That of course doesn’t deter Latin Americans from constructing alternative utopias.

*Shimone Jaini is doing Masters from Centre of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian andLatin American Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

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Murder of George Floyd – On Camera Murder by Neo Ku Klux Klan

M. Abdul Basit

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image credit: Flickr, Fibonacci Blue

Now that the doors of racism have been shut down by law, the de facto persecution of blacks carry on. The cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis officers is one of the many such cases. If the four racist cops could strangulate a handcuffed person on camera, one should be fearful to assume what could they be doing off camera. Until the lion learns how to write, every story will keep glorifying the hunter.

The persecution and segregation of colored people has been done since long. Gone are the days when Rosa Parks could be ordered to leave her seat on bus for a white. And gone should have been the days when Eugene Bull Connor could use state authority to subjugate unarmed protestors in Birmingham during Civil Rights Movement while being filmed on Television. George Floyd kept on begging to let the air in for he was suffocating.The racist cop told him to be easy while putting more pressure on his neck while Floyd laid down on ground with his hands cuffed behind his back. The four armed cops apparently could not find a better way to handle him except strangling him to death. Or perhaps they did not wish to.

The inhumane treatment, especially when done by state authorities, develop grievances in vulnerable communities. A liberal state is meant to treat everyone equally. When Jim Crow Laws were on a high and Ku Klux Klan started to target humans on basis of skin color, it led to the formation of violent groups in African Americans like Black Panther. Violence against particular groups cannot sustain for long in a developed world. When USA tries to proliferate liberal values across the world, it should not remain aloof that despite being the world’s oldest democracy, blacks are still victims of oppression in America.

The white supremacy is not a myth. The Minneapolis officers were able to kill a person while being filmed as well as begged by the civilians to do mercy on Floyd for he didn’t put any threat to them. The cops gave him a slow death without any shame like they were living in a pre-Lincoln era. Luckily, the heinous crime was filmed and all the cops have been terminated but it is likely that without being prosecuted for the cold-blooded murder, it may not give a lesson to other state authorities regarding misuse of their powers.

This is simply a Neo Ku Klux Klan where the Blacks are being oppressed on the basis of color and the murderers get a clean chit. A similar case happened in 2014 when Eric Garner was strangulated when he kept saying “I can’t breathe” while dying and the white officers didn’t face federal charges despite being filmed doing the murder. In the same year, a 12 year old black boy Tamir Rice was carrying a toy gun and he was killed by a white cop. In 2016, Philando Castile was murdered in his car when the situation could be handled pacifically but the police used preemptive measure to kill him right away. There are many cases in recent past that make it evident that The United States of America has not fixed the problem of Ku Klux Klan; rather it is a neo Ku Klux Klan that is de facto segregating and oppressing the colored community. One in every 1000 black males can expect to die at the hands of police in USA.

The Neo Ku Klux Klan needs to be stopped. State institutions must function as they are supposed to perform and not to deal humans with discrimination depending on what color of skin they carry on their flesh. Racism should have been buried when President Kennedy got successful in calling civil rights a moral cause. But racism thrives till today and now with President Donald Trump, it is far from possible to end racism in American society when he himself dehumanizes the blacks. If the state institutions as well as the public does not proactively try to resolve the issues that are a direct threat to human security when it comes to black lives, the dreams of Equality, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness will remain a hoax.

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What do Donald Trump and ultra-conservative Pakistani imams have in common?

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Authors: James M. Dorsey and Tehmina Qureshi*

US President Donald J. Trump and ultra-conservative Pakistani religious scholars may have more in common than either would want to admit: a belief that congregation is an essential pillar of prayer irrespective of public health concerns.

Mr. Trump, however, may wish that he had the kind of less polarized and/or more compliant audience that Pakistani clerics address.

Scores of religious leaders and groups in the United States have sought to protect their communities by advocating virtual rather than physical congregation at the time of a pandemic in which the coronavirus has yet to be brought under control.

Religious authorities in much of the Muslim world, Pakistan being the exception that proves the rule, have heeded government instructions and medical and public health advice.

That advice ranged from the closure of mosques to bans on social gatherings that precluded traditional iftar meals breaking the Ramadan fast and celebrations of this week’s end of the holy month to Saudi Arabia’s suspension of the umrah, the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca and possibly the haj too.

Leaving aside the question whether he has the legal power to do so, Mr. Trump vowed to overrule governors who refused to open houses of worship, noting that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had issued guidelines that included physical distancing.

The move designed to play to Mr. Trump’s Evangelist voter base received a mixed reception among American faith communities.

It appealed to those segments of the community with an unqualified belief in God’s ability and will to protect and that often are steeped in notions of Christian manhood that have deep roots in American Evangelism and were boosted by the 9/11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Towers and the Pentagon in Washington.

Mr. Trump’s recognition of prayer as an “essential” societal activity further drew a line intended to give houses of worship autonomy in an environment in which state intrusion into people’s lives has expanded greatly in a bid to fight the pandemic.

In that sense, the president was fighting a battle similar to that of Pakistani Sunni and Shia Muslim leaders who rejected a total closure of mosques but were willing to accept guidance on issues such as physical distancing.

The leaders see mosques “as spaces where you cultivate  and express a communal religious identity that is very central to…their vision of the Pakistani state,” said a Pakistani Islamic scholar.

The clerics’ determination to retain control of religious spaces was reinforced by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s flip flops that resembled Mr. Trump’s zig zags.

Mr. Khan initially sought to appeal to religious circles by meeting in the early days of the pandemic with Maulana Tariq Jameel, a leader of Tablighi Jamaat, who initially denied the contagious aspect of the virus.

Mr. Jameel reversed course and embraced physical distancing after his movement’s mass gatherings in Pakistan, Malaysia, India and Indonesia turned into super spreaders of the coronavirus.

Mr. Khan’s government further complicated issues by initially agreeing with religious leaders on a division of labour that would have empowered the clerics to advise their followers to stay at home, avoid congregational prayer and maintain physical distancing and then jumping the gun to announce the measures without coordination.

Mosques in major Pakistani cities were packed in recent days, despite religious leaders paying lip service to physical distancing, in a reflection of the degree to which ultra-conservatism has woven itself into the fabric of Pakistani society and in stark contrast to Saudi Arabia’s pre-emptive response to the health crisis.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled against government lockdowns, suggesting that the coronavirus was not a pandemic. Religious leaders have since backed away from their acceptance of physical distancing, demanding that the advice be abandoned.

Mr. Trump’s recognition of prayer as essential aligned itself with notions of concepts of religious freedom promoted by his administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the lead, that in effect serve to legitimize discrimination against minorities of various stripes.

Few doubt that Mr. Trump made his move with an eye on the US presidential election in November. Mr. Trump was embarking on a road on which mainstream ultra-conservative Pakistani clerics were also travelling.

The clerics remained silent when Ahmadis, a sect viewed as heretic by mainstream Muslims, were excluded from a national commission created by the government earlier this month to promote religious tolerance and counter persecution of minorities.

Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry barred inclusion of Ahmadis, who are among Pakistan’s most discriminated minorities, on grounds that they did not qualify as a minority and refuse to recognize the country’s constitution.

A 1974 amendment of the constitution bars Ahmadis from identifying themselves as Muslims because they do not recognize Mohammed as the last prophet.

Compared to the polarising environment that Mr. Trump operates in and likes to entrench, Pakistani clerics have it a lot easier. Except for liberals and human rights activists, few in Pakistan are willing to stand up for Ahmadi rights.

Moreover, the government shied away from imposing its will on the religious establishment during the pandemic as did the military, which built quarantine centres in various cities and helped local authorities implement a lockdown.

Pakistan lacks truly influential, more liberal religious voices in the mould of for example Reverend Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches that groups African-American denominations, the mainline church and the Greek Orthodox Church.

“We listen to communities of colour, and many of our congregations’ people are engaged in representing refugees and immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, even seniors, they’re saying, why the urgency?” Mr. DeYoung said in response to Mr. Trump’s push.

“They’re…directly affected. They’re actually afraid in many cases to go into group gatherings…We feel that we need to make our decisions based on good science and the recommendations of our health department,” the reverend added.

Mr. DeYoung was joined by his Muslim counterparts in contrast to their Pakistani brethren.

“American Muslim scholars and community leaders have already determined that mosques will not be open in the near future because of the health concerns brought on by the pandemic. That’s a determination for them to make not for the president to make,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, the largest US Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

To be sure, the United States and Pakistan are vastly different countries. Pakistan has been hard hit by the pandemic with 55,657 cases of infection to date and 1,155 deaths. Yet, that is  a far cry from the United States’ 1,613,324 cases and 96,659 deaths.

Pakistan, nonetheless, saw its number of cases quadruple during the month of Ramadan and the rate of new infections jump by 30 percent in the last week as the holy month neared its end .

Yet, when it comes to employing religion to entrench power at the cost of striking a balance between faith and science, Mr. Trump and Pakistani religious scholars share the kind of opportunism and worldview that serve their short-term interests irrespective of the cost to human life and potentially to already battered economies.

*Tehmina Qureshi is a multi-platform journalist and editorial writer at Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English-language newspaper.

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