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The relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia

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In the period from 2009 to 2013 when Hillary Clinton was US Secretary of State, Saudi Arabia contributed with at least 10 million US dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

Especially in the phases when, incidentally, Hillary Clinton permitted the sale of advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia

As stated by Prince Regent Mohammed Bin Salman in an interview released in 2016 to the Jordanian news agency “Petra”, Saudi Arabia also paid over 20% of Hillary Clinton’s election campaign.

However, it also subsidized the other candidates to the US Presidency, although to a lesser extent.

In the political campaign for the US Presidency, no foreign investor puts all his/her eggs in the same basket – just to follow a typical US piece of advice.

Moreover, like Russia and other countries, also the Saudi Kingdom has always backed both US presidential candidates financially.

During the electoral campaign, Trump theorized the ban on entry into the USA of tourists and migrants from most Islamic States, including Saudi Arabia. He was also harshly criticized by Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and by the famous Saudi multimillionaire, Al Walid bin Talal, the owner of the Kingdon Holding Company of Riyadh, a huge world financial holding, with packages of personal shares in Coca Cola, AOL, Amazon, Apple until 2005, Pepsi Cola, Fininvest, as well as a 5% shareholding in Rupert Murdoch’s media companies, and many other investments that it is even useless to mention here.

After becoming US President, Trump apologized and made his first trip abroad to Saudi Arabia in May 20-22, 2017. It was there that he placed his hands on an illuminated globe that marked the birthof the Global Center for Combating Terrorism in Riyadh.

Once released from his prison in the Ritz Carlton of Riyadh on January 27, Al Walid bin Talal, the nephew of Saudi King Abdullah, paid a 6 billion dollar fine to the winning faction of the royal family, led by Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

After finally realizing to what extent the Wahabite Kingdom is important for the US economy, also Trump has relented and seen reason with the Al Saud’s dynasty.

In an interview with Fox News Night TV released on October 19 last, the US President said that he was interested in knowing the truth about the assassination of Saudi journalist Kashoggi – who, indeed, was also resident in the USA – recently occurred in his country’s Consulate in Istanbul.  Nevertheless, President Trump has refused to stop all the arms sales to Saudi Arabia for this reason.

At the end of May 2017, during his first trip abroad, precisely to Saudi Arabia, Donald J. Trump also signed a contract for the sale of arms and for other economic transactions with Riyadh – an agreement worth as many as 110 billion US dollars immediately and additional 350 billion dollars over the next ten years, with the political aim of countering Daesh-Isis, in particular.

The purchases include 18 billion dollars for C4 systems (Command, Control, Communications and Computers);  13.5 billion dollars for seven THAAD units (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), anti-missile defense systems;  6.65 billion dollars for the old Patriot-class anti-missile systems; 25 billion dollars for the recapitalization of the Saudi purchase of the F-35 fighters; 5.8 billion dollars for three KC130J and 20 C130J transport aircraft;  6 billion dollars for 4 coastal battleships and additional 11.5 billion dollars for ships already ordered by Saudi Arabia in 2015 and blocked by former President Obama, although with the interested pressure of his Secretary of State.

Other Saudi investments are aimed at spy planes, fine electronics, troop movement and ground attack vehicles, as well as the purchase of Apache helicopters and M1A2 tanks, and finally for many human and computer-interactive military training programs for all the Saudi Armed Forces.

Clearly Saudi Arabia has turned a blind eye to the technological upgrading of the weapon systems ordered – far more advanced than the level of current purchases – but in view of a strong future bond with the United States.

Saudi official sources also state that until May 2017 the Kingdom suffered over 60 terrorist attacks by Isis-Daesh and Al Qaeda, with over 25 of them over the last two years.

According to the documents of the Saudi Center for Combating Terrorism, over 200 Saudi citizens, including policemen and civilians, have been killed by Islamist terrorism.

It is strange that a deeply Islamic State defines the “sword jihad” as “terrorism”, as if it did not know what the jihad rules and techniques are.

Some terminologies are used only by Western States, which have not yet well understood what is happening in the Islamic religious and political universe.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia claims to have organized at least 341 air raids against the positions of the self-proclaimed Caliphate in Syria, thus resulting the second counterterrorist power operating in the region after the United States.

Nothing to do, however, with the air raids of the Russian Federation, which the US intelligence services have already counted to thousands.

Reverting to the Saudi Kingdom, the Wahhabi regime has also started to control private donations to the self-proclaimed Caliphate.

A special and semi-secret Counter ISIL Finance Group between Saudi Arabia, the United States and Italy was created in 2015, with a view to countering the financial networks of the Caliphate.

Saudi Arabia alone has also established a Financial Intelligence Unit, which is also member of the Egmont Group, a network of 159 Financial Intelligence Units between EU, “dangerous” countries and Middle East networks.

Moreover, regardless of their being registered in the Kingdom, the Saudi charities can operate only through the Riyadh center of the Saudi Red Crescent and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid. Any autonomous fundraising through mosques and even through the mere charity public centers is forbidden.

Money transfers without a license (accounting for 60% of the total transfers) are also banned, but there are also sanctions against Hezbollah.

Two birds with one stone, of course.

Until September 30, 2017 -that is the end of the last fiscal year available -the United States sold as many as 55.6 billion US dollars of arms worldwide, that is over 33% more than the previous year.

As President Trump has declared openly, he does not want “to stop a 110 billion dollar investment in the United States” – a sum that, however, also includes the 23 billion dollars of Saudi arms purchases, those already granted by the former Obama administration.

At least since 2012, one fifth of all US foreign arms sales has gone to Saudi Arabia.

One third of all arms sales in the world originates from the United States.

Half of US arms sales, however, goes to the whole Middle East and Africa.

With specific reference to the weapon systems, the largest share of US exports is in the aeronautics sector, followed by the missile sector and finally by the ground weapon systems and transport vehicles.

The countries buying more weapons from the USA are Saudi Arabia, Poland, Japan, Romania, Bahrain, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Greece and Singapore.

Reverting to Saudi Arabia, a royal decree of April 22, 2017 appointed Khalid bin Salman Al Saud -the son of the current King and former pilot of fighter aircraft, who demonstrated excellence in dangerous missions against the self-proclaimed Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate – as the new Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

On October 2, 2018, with his usual frankness, President Trump stated that the Saudi Kingdom would collapse in two weeks without the US protection.

It is true and the current Prince and leader of Saudi Arabia knows it all too well. It is not yet certain that the Kingdom will last only two weeks without the United States, but it knows it is at risk.

Hence Prince Muhammad bin Salman is newly recreating the traditional relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, in spite of the unfortunate incident of the journalist Khashoggi, by underlining two important factors such as the relevance of the Wahabi Kingdom’s investments for the United States, which are now essential for this country, and the bilateral and strategic relationship with the United States that the Al Saud’s dynasty hopes will become even more stable.

Without America, Saudi Arabia is lost. Without Saudi Arabia the United States would definitely become poorer, and no President can accept this.

This holds true also for Yemen, where, since 2015, the United States has been training, arming and sharing intelligence with the Saudis against the Houthi, the Shiite guerrillas of the seventh Imam, obviously organized by Iran. What if the Saudis were afraid of one thing only, i.e. the uprising of the Shiites who are many in the area of their main oil wells?

It was exactly in 2015, the year when King Salman came to the throne and immediately delegated power to his son Mohammed.

Hence a military exchange on an equal footing between the United States and Saudi Arabia? Let us analyze the oil situation between the two countries more closely. Ultimately this is what really matters. However, we will talk about it at a later stage.

Meanwhile, however, let us see how Saudi Arabia presses the US companies and the economy, not only with the most well-known shareholdings.

At the time of the assassination of journalist Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, the Emirates’ Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nayhan, immediately expressed his full support for Saudi Arabia.

Even Oman, which had certainly not been a supporter of the Saudi-led anti-Iranian coalition, supported the Kingdom in that harsh situation.

Also the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdullatif Al Zayani, supported Saudi Arabia.

Even the Secretary-General of the Arab League, however, has recently expressed his support for Saudi Arabia.

At strategic and economic levels, harshly punishing the Saudi Kingdom for the assassination of journalist Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate of Istanbul – an assassination which has currently turned out to be premeditated and particularly brutal – leaves no other chance for Prince Muhammad bin Salman than resorting to the usual countermoves.

Some Saudi leaders have openly mentioned the “oil weapon”, which would be used as a hefty club against European oil consumers, and not as it happened after the Kippur war of October 6-25, 1973 – when someone, namely ENI, escaped the grip of the Saudi-led OPEC.

If the oil price increased, also the US economy would suffer inflationary pressures and pressure on interest rates. This would greatly slow the US economic growth down – and the EU one even more.

Europeans should not believe they can use the Russian oil and gas to counteract the rise in Saudi and Sunni OPEC prices.

Russia fully agrees with OPEC and will not give up a general increase in the oil barrel and natural gas prices.

Certainly the increase in the oil barrel price, which is supposed to reach approximately 90 US dollars by next year, would favor the sale of shale oil and natural gas – a production which has doubled in the United States, but with a shorter price cycle: higher prices generate greater supply, which inevitably leads to a subsequent lowering of the oil barrel price.

The less Iranian oil on the market, the greater tension for the price increase – not to mention the reduction of the Russian and OPEC supply and the almost cessation of extraction in Venezuela for the well-known internal political reasons.

All this happens while the demand for oil and gas is increasing rapidly all over the world.

Combining the restriction to the Saudi and Sunni OPEC production with the growth of US production, it is certain that the growth of the North American supply has significantly reduced the Saudi power to exert pressure. In fact, Saudi Arabia can raise prices only in a way not stimulating a further growth of the extractive production in the United States.

Hence the “oil war” that Prince Mohammed bin Salman has in mind – if it were to start – would lead to a great energy crisis, stronger in Europe than in the United States.

Naturally the weak and now demented European Union has said nothing serious in this phase.

If Europe thinks President Trump can pull its chestnuts out of the fire, it is completely wrong.

The US President does not like Europe at all. He will soon put an end to the German trade surplus and he can scarcely bear NATO. Even Israel, however, has no regard for this EU and not even Russia takes it too seriously.

In this framework of isolation, Europe does not even pursue its most immediate interests.

Every day it only deals with pseudo-economic matters and quarrels with its South that some German economists would already like to leave to the fate of a “Southern” Euro to be separated from the “Northern” Euro.

We will see how the monetary competition between the two “Euros” will be structured – a competition which could be fatal for the Northern and Southern versions of the unsuccessful European monetary union.

A currency that would like to be global, but without the characteristics of a lender of last resort it makes us laugh. Nevertheless, the EU leaders still believe in it.

The economy is made up of geopolitics and global strategy, not the other way round.

The old neoclassical handbooks which are read in Strasbourg and Brussels are now antiques.

If the United States or other countries were to apply sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – who is in a hurry to relinquish the too oil-led economy which, however, made the huge fortunes of his country – would have very good cards to play.

Certainly, since 2015 Saudi Arabia has had public budgets in the red. For the first time in its financial history it has issued public debt securities. Probably it has also problems of slow depletion of some wells, in addition to the insecurity generated by the essential fact that their maximum extraction area has a very strong Shiite minority, on which Iran is constantly operating – from Bahrain and from Oman, which turns a blind eye.

The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF)is a sovereign fund which largely operates in the United States, in Europe and in Asia.

The aforementioned Sovereign Fund of Riyadh has a 5% shareholding of Tesla, as well as other stakes in Tesla’s direct competitor, namely Lucid Motors. It has invested 3.5 billion dollars in Uber, the global leader of unlicensed taxis, as well as 20 billion dollars in a US infrastructure fund managed by Blackstone. PIF has built three new cities on the Red Sea coast and invested 45 billion dollars in the Soft Bank. Furthermore, the Prince Regent –  who directly leads PIF – said he wanted to invest additional 170 billion dollars over the next three to four years.

However, Saudi Arabia has also other geoeconomic weapons in its hands: in the United States, PIF owns 70% of Sabic, a large plastics-producing company. There are also the Saudi Telecom Company and the Saudi Electricity, with significant shareholdings in the sector in North America. There is also the aforementioned Blackstone Fund for Infrastructure, as well as a 45% shareholding of the National Commercial Bank, the Saudi Arabian Mining Company, the Entertainment Investment Company and the Fund of Funds.

PIF has also Saudi investments in Europe: the main ones are in Krups, Siemens, Arcelor Mittal and in many other sectors and small and medium-size enterprises.

PIF has also operations in place, of a size comparable to those in the USA, China, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine and  the Philippines.

In South Africa, the Saudi government is negotiating with the Denel arms factory for cooperation with the Kingdom’s defense industries.

According to the Saudi press sources, the country would already have in mind at least 30 major operations to harshly respond to the possible US sanctions for the Khashoggi case.

They would not be oil sanctions, but rather financial, banking and industrial sanctions.

A “Samson” operation is also planned, with a fast and very significant reduction in oil production, capable of making the oil barrel price jump up to an incredible level of 400 US dollars.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman could also block the purchases of weapons already planned in the USA – and it is worth recalling that the Saudi Kingdom is the second largest importer of weapons in the world.

The Prince Regent has also invested significantly in the Silicon Valley industries, which he is integrating into the Saudi Giga Projects.

Finally, the Saudi investment line could head to countries such as China, Russia and India, instead of the USA and the EU.

Egypt, too, would soon participate in this game, with currently unpredictable consequences in the Maghreb region, and especially in Libya – where Egypt is the major supporter of General Khalifa Haftar – as well as in the United Arab Emirates.

A transition from the West to the East that would probably be the tombstone of Western economic and financial development.

It would also create a structural financial crisis in the United States, which could partly retaliate by unleashing a harsh trade war precisely with the European Union.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Americas

Will Geneva Be Any Different Than Helsinki?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Any meeting between the leaders of Russia and the U.S. is inevitably an important international event. At some point in history, such summits decided the fate of the entire world, and the world held its collective breath as it followed Kremlin-White House talks on strategic arms or the two sides seeking agreements on urgent regional problems or any political signals coming from the superpower capitals prior to another round of negotiations.

The bipolar era has long been gone, and the Russia-U.S. relations are no longer the principal axis of international politics, although the suspense over bilateral summits remains. As before, the two countries are engaged in “top-down” interaction. Summits give the initial impetus to Moscow and Washington’s cumbersome bureaucratic machines, then diplomats, military personnel and officials start their assiduous work on specific issues, collaboration between the two countries’ private sectors and civil society perks up, the media gradually soften their rhetoric, bilateral projects in culture, education and science are gradually resumed.

Still, there are annoying exceptions to this general rule. In particular, the latest full-fledged Russia–U.S. summit in Helsinki in July 2018 failed to trigger improvements in bilateral relations. On the contrary, Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Finland’s capital aroused massive resentment among the anti-Russian Washington establishment. Ultimately, on returning home, the U.S. President had to offer awkward apologies to his supporters and opponents alike, and relations between the two countries continued to rapidly deteriorate after the summit.

Surely, nobody is willing to see another Helsinki scenario in June 2021, this time in Geneva. Yet, do we have good reason to hope for a different outcome this time? To answer this question, let us compare Donald Trump and Joseph Biden’s approaches to Russia-U.S. summits and to bilateral relations at large.

First of all, in Helsinki, Trump very much wanted the Russian leader to like him. The Republican President avoided publicly criticizing his Russian counterpart and was quite generous with his compliments to him, which inevitably caused not only annoyance but pure outrage in Washington and in Trump’s own Administration. Joe Biden has known Vladimir Putin for many years; he does not set himself the task of getting the Russian leader to like him. As far as one can tell, the two politicians do not have any special liking for each other, with this more than reserved attitude unlikely to change following their meeting in Geneva.

Additionally, in Helsinki, Trump wanted, as was his wont, to score an impressive foreign policy victory of his own. He believed he was quite capable of doing better than Barack Obama with his “reset” and of somehow “hitting it off” with Putin, thereby transforming Russia if not into a U.S. ally, then at least into its strategic partner. Apparently, Biden has no such plans. The new American President clearly sees that Moscow-Washington relations will remain those of rivalry in the near future and will involve direct confrontation in some instances. The Kremlin and the White House have widely diverging ideas about today’s world: about what is legitimate and what is illegitimate, what is fair and what is unfair, where the world is heading and what the impending world order should be like. So, we are not talking about a transition from strategic confrontation to strategic partnership, we are talking about a possible reduction in the risks and costs of this necessarily costly and lengthy confrontation.

Finally, Trump simply had much more time to prepare for the Helsinki summit than Biden has had to prepare for Geneva. Trump travelled to Finland eighteen months after coming to power. Biden is planning to meet with Putin in less than five months since his inauguration. Preparations for the Geneva summit have to be made in haste, so the expectations concerning the impending summit’s outcome are less.

These differences between Biden and Trump suggest that there is no reason to expect a particularly successful summit. Even so, we should not forget the entire spectrum of other special features of the Biden Administration’s current style of foreign policy. They allow us to be cautiously optimistic about the June summit.

First, Donald Trump never put too much store by arms control, since he arrogantly believed the U.S. capable of winning any race with either Moscow or Beijing. So, his presidential tenure saw nearly total destruction of this crucial dimension of the bilateral relations, with all its attendant negative consequences for other aspects of Russia-U.S. interaction and for global strategic stability.

In contrast, Biden remains a staunch supporter of arms control, as he has already confirmed by his decision to prolong the bilateral New START. There are grounds for hoping that Geneva will see the two leaders to at least start discussing a new agenda in this area, including militarization of outer space, cyberspace, hypersonic weapons, prompt global strike potential, lethal autonomous weapons etc. The dialogue on arms control beyond the New START does not promise any quick solutions, as it will be difficult for both parties. Yet, the sooner it starts, the better it is going to be for both countries and for the international community as a whole.

Second, Trump never liked multilateral formats, believing them to be unproductive. Apparently, he sincerely believed that he could single-handedly resolve any burning international problems, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to North Korea’s nuclear missile programme.

Biden does not seem to harbor such illusions. He has repeatedly emphasized the importance of multilateralism, and he clearly understands that collaboration with Russia is necessary on many regional conflicts and crises. Consequently, Geneva talks may see the two leaders engage in a dialogue on Afghanistan, on the Iranian nuclear deal, on North Korea, or even on Syria. It is not at all obvious that Biden will succeed in reaching agreement with Putin immediately on all or any of these issues, but the very possibility of them discussed at the summit should be welcomed.

Third, Trump was not particularly fond of career diplomats and, apparently, attached little value to the diplomatic dimension of foreign policy. The Russia-U.S. “embassy war” had started before Trump—but not only did Trump fail to stop it, he boosted it to an unprecedented scale and urgency.

Sadly, the “embassy war” continues after Trump, too. Yet President Biden, with his tremendous foreign policy experience, understands diplomatic work better and appreciates it. Practical results of the Geneva summit could include a restoration of the diplomatic missions in Washington and Moscow to their full-fledged status and a rebuilding of the networks of consular offices, which have been completely destroyed in recent years. Amid the problems of big politics, consular services may not seem crucial but, for most ordinary Russians and Americans, regaining the opportunity for recourse to rapid and efficient consular services would outweigh many other potential achievements of the Geneva summit.

From our partner RIAC

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“Choose sides” is practically a bogus idea for US military partners

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“Choosing sides” is practically a non-starter for US military allies such as Japan and South Korea. These nations, first and foremost military allies of the US, are forging cordial and productive ties with other countries based on military alliances with the US. The nature and level of partnerships varies greatly from those of allies, despite the fact that they appear to be quite heated at times.

Military concerns have been less important in the postwar period, but economic concerns have been extremely heated, social and cultural interactions have been close, and the qualitative differences between cooperative relations and allies have gotten confused, or have been covered and neglected.

Some unreasonable expectations and even mistakes were made. In general, in the game between the rising power and the hegemony, it is undesirable for the rising power to take the initiative and urge the hegemony’s supporters to select a side. Doing so will merely reinforce these countries’ preference for hegemony.

Not only that, but a developing country must contend with not only a dominant hegemony, but also a system of allies governed by the hegemony. In the event of a relative reduction in the power of the hegemony, the strength of the entire alliance system may be reinforced by removing restraints on allies, boosting allies’ capabilities, and allowing allies’ passion and initiative to shine.

Similarly, the allies of the hegemonic power are likely to be quite eager to improve their own strength and exert greater strength for the alliance, without necessarily responding to, much alone being pushed by, the leader. The “opening of a new chapter in the Korean-US partnership” was a key component of the joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States following the meeting of Moon Jae-in and Biden. What “new chapter” may a military alliance have in a situation of non-war?

There are at least three features that can be drawn from the series of encounters between South Korea and the United States during Moon Jae-visit in’s to the United States: First, the withdrawal of the “Korea-US Missile Guide” will place military constraints on South Korea’s missile development and serve as a deterrence to surrounding nations. The second point is that, in addition to the Korean Peninsula, military cooperation between the US and South Korea should be expanded to the regional level in order to respond to regional hotspots. The third point is that, in addition to military alliances, certain elements in vaccinations, chips, 5G, and even 6G are required. These types of coalitions will help to enhance economic cooperation.

Despite the fact that Vice President Harris wiped her hands after shaking hands with Moon Jae-in, and Biden called Moon Jae-in “Prime Minister” and other rude behaviors, the so-called “flaws” are not hidden, South Korea still believes that the visit’s results have exceeded expectations, and that Moon Jae-in’s approval rate will rise significantly as a result.

The joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States addresses delicate subjects such as the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. Of course, China expresses its outrage. It is widely assumed that this is a “private cargo” delivered by Biden’s invitation to Moon Jae-in to visit the United States.

Moon Jae-in stated that he was not pressured by Biden. If this is correct, one option is that such specific concerns will not be handled at all at the summit level; second, South Korea is truly worried about the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns and wishes to speak with the US jointly.

South Korea should be cognizant of China’s sensitivity to the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns. When it comes to China-related concerns, the phrasing in the ROK-US joint statement is far more mild than that in the ROK-Japan joint declaration. Nonetheless, the harm done to South Korea-China ties cannot be overlooked.

South Korea highlights the “openness” and “inclusiveness” of the four-party security dialogue system, which allows South Korea to engage to some extent. South Korea will assess the net gain between the “gain” on the US side and the “loss” on the Chinese side. China would strongly protest and fiercely respond to any country’s measures to intervene in China’s domestic affairs and restrict China’s rise.

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Political Violence and Elections: Should We Care?

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The next Sunday 6th of June, the Chamber of Deputies along with 15 out of the 32 governorships will be up for grabs in Mexico’s mid-term elections. These elections will be a crucial test for the popularity of the president and his party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). They currently hold majority in the Lower Chamber of the national Congress, and these elections could challenge this.

Recent national polls indicate that the ruling party, MORENA, is still the most popular political force in Mexico, and they are poised to win not only several governorships, but also several municipalities. They are also expected to maintain control of the Lower  Chamber, although with a loss of a few seats. In order to ensure MORENA keeps its current majority in the Congress, they have decided to pursue an electoral alliance with the Green Party (PVEM) and the Labout Party (PT). It is expected that with this move, they will be able to ensure the majority in the Chamber of Deputies in the Congress.

There is, however, another aspect that is making the headlines in this current electoral process: The high levels of political and electoral violence, The current electoral process is the second most violent since 2000. The number of candidates that have been assassinated is close to 30% higher than the mid-term electoral process of 2015. More than 79 candidates have been killed so far all across the country.

Insecurity in Mexico has been an ongoing issue that has continued to deteriorate during the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). AMLO has continually criticised his predecessors and the valid problems of their approaches to insecurity in Mexico along with the War on Drugs policy. However, to date, he has yet to offer a viable alternative to tackle the security problems he inherited. During his campaign, AMLO coined the phrase “abrazos no balazos” (hugs not bullets) to describe his approach toward improving security in Mexico. He believed that to successfully tackle the worsening crisis of insecurity, the structural conditions that forced people to commit crimes had to be addressed first: Namely inequality, poverty, low salaries, lack of access to employment etc. To date, insecurity in Mexico continues to worsen, and this had become evident during the current electoral process.

This nonsensical approach to insecurity has resulted in the first three years of his government reaching over 100,000 murders, along with the nearly 225,000 deaths as a result of the pandemic.

What should be particularly worrying in this spiral of violence, is the prevalence of political and electoral violence during the current process. Political violence represents not only a direct attack on democratic institutions and democracy itself, but it also compromises the independence, autonomy, and integrity of those currently in power, and those competing for positions of power. It affects democracy also because political violence offers a way for candidates to gain power through violent means against opposition, and this also allows organised crime to infiltrate the state apparatus.

Political violence is a phenomenon that hurts all citizens and actors in a democracy. It represents a breeding ground for authoritarianism, and impunity at all levels of government. This limits the freedoms and rights of citizens and other actors as it extinguishes any sort of democratic coexistence between those currently holding political power and those aspiring to achieve it. Political violence also obstructs the development of democracy as it discredits anyone with critical views to those in power. This is worrying when we consider that 49% of those assassinated belong to opposition parties. This increase in political violence has also highlighted AMLO´s inability to curtail organised crime and related violence.

Assassination of candidates is only the tip of the iceberg. Organised criminal groups have also infiltrated politics through financing of political campaigns. Most of electoral and political violence tends to happen an municipal levels, where it is easier for criminal groups to exert more pressure and influence in the hope of securing protection, and perpetuate impunity, or securing control over drug trafficking routes. This should be especially worrisome when there is close too government control in certain areas of the country, and there is a serious risk of state erosion at municipal level in several states.

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