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13/08/2020
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Columnistas invitados/Guest columnists

Corruption and History

Brazilians Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff could end up in prison for corruption. Especially Lula. Also the Spaniard Mariano Rajoy and the Argentine Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, if prosecutors prove the charges that hang over their heads.

Why go on? At this moment, there are more than 30 European and Latin American heads or former heads of state in prison, expatriated, or suspected of embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, money laundering and other coarser ways to steal the resources of society for personal benefit or to foment political patronage. I’m not even including the Africans and many Asians, because the list would be too long. Lula da Silva targeted by Brazilian justice

The usual scheme consists of a criminal triangle. There are some politicians or functionaries who have the authority to grant juicy state contracts and there are some businessmen who are willing to undertake those projects but not to win them in open, clean and truly competitive bids but through tricks and deals. Between them there’s usually a “bagman” who negotiates with the businessmen in the name of the politicians, receives the bribe, splits it, and keeps a slice.

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Ecuador's shrinking Democracy

Rafael CorreaLast August, the Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Emilio Alvarez Icaza, criticized the state of democracy in Ecuador. Alvarez pointed out that Ecuador’s democracy enjoys electoral democracy but as a whole, democracy is weakened by repression of freedom of expression and freedom of association. Alvarez condemned in strong terms, the fact that cartoonists and other media outlets are outlawed if they criticize the president.

Of course Alvarez’s declarations were only the tip of the iceberg in a country where formal democracy works as a façade better than in any other country in the region. However, Ecuador has been under the radar, hardly detected by the international community. Furthermore, the regional anti-democratic environment that has prevailed in the last two decades has sustained this abysmal state of democracy in Ecuador.

Last December the officially controlled National Assembly approved fifteen constitutional amendments that established that all public offices could be reelected indefinitely. This applies also to the president but only after May, 2017, which effectively excludes Rafael Correa from running in the next presidential elections. However, Correa could run indefinitely after 2021.

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Bienvenidos a la era de la “posverdad”

Diarios de referencia de diferentes países reflexionan sobre el valor de la verdad a raíz del éxito de campañas políticas basadas –por lo menos, en parte– en mentiras flagrantes. De esta forma, los medios profundizan en su propia crisis más allá de la disrupción tecnológica y de los cambios en los modelos de negocio. Lo que está en juego no es la forma sino el fondo: la misma sustancia de las sociedades democráticas. 

En los últimos meses, el mundo occidental ha asistido a dos hechos políticos de gran impacto: el Brexit y la nominación de Trump como candidato republicano a la Casa Blanca. Por lo que respecta al Brexit, las declaraciones de Nigel Farage en sus primeras reacciones al resultado podrían haber causado un gran escándalo. Sin embargo, el reconocimiento de que, una vez fuera de la Unión Europea, Gran Bretaña no dispondría de los millones de libras prometidos para su sistema sanitario no parece que haya tenido mayores consecuencias. Y si Trump insiste en que Obama es uno de los fundadores del Estado Islámico tampoco parece que genere un revuelo especial. Episodios como estos han suscitado un debate en los medios de comunicación, una discusión que en buena parte trata sobre el papel de los mismos medios. ¿Cómo ha podido suceder?, se preguntan los periodistas. ¿Hasta dónde llega nuestra responsabilidad? ¿Somos culpables?

En esta discusión tiene un lugar importante el artículo en el que la directora de The Guardian, Katharine Viner, rescata el concepto de post-truth politics. Si bien la mentira ha existido siempre y los políticos la han utilizado, Viner señala que la novedad ahora consiste en que ha desaparecido la tensión: se reconoce que se ha mentido como si tal cosa y, además, el público lo acepta sin mayores problemas. El artículo de Viner, “How technology disrupted the truth”, ha tenido un cierto eco y, de hecho, el debate sobre la posverdad ha encontrado un hueco en otros medios de referencia (The Economist, Le Monde, Slate, Washington Post...). Este debate –que ya es relevante que se produzca– pone sobre la mesa la estructura básica de nuestras democracias e invita a considerar los cambios que ha sufrido en los últimos años.

Discurso emocional
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Colombian People’s Rejection Of Peace Agreement Provides Opportunity For A Better Deal

The FARC started as a guerrilla movement
inspired by the Castro revolution in Cuba.

By a small margin, Colombians rejected the peace agreement recently signed between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The agreement reached in Havana in August and subjected to a referendum on October 2nd came after four years of negotiations between the two entities. The deal was supposed to end the activities of the six decades old guerrilla group and integrate it into civilian and political life.

The rejection came as a shock to many in Colombia and particularly to President Juan Manuel Santos who expected to establish his legacy as the president who brought perpetual peace to his long-suffering country.

Much has been said about the terms of the agreement and what it entailed and there is no need to repeat here the arguments for and against it.

What is clear from the results of the referendum is that the Colombian people are not yet willing to trust the FARC, which makes a lot of sense since the FARC has been the primary source of violence the country has experienced since the mid-1960’s.

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¡The Right to Write Fiction is under attack!

«I am hopeful that the concept of “cultural appropriation”
is a passing fad.»
.─ Novelist Lionel Shriver’s speech
Sept. 8 at the Brisbane Writers Festival Novelist Lionel Shriver at her library

Taken to their logical conclusion, ideologies recently come into vogue challenge our right to write fiction at all. Meanwhile, the kind of fiction we are “allowed” to write is in danger of becoming so hedged, so circumscribed, so tippy-toe, that we’d indeed be better off not writing the anodyne drivel to begin with.

Let’s start with a tempest-in-a-teacup at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Earlier this year, two students, both members of student government, threw a tequila-themed birthday party for a friend. The hosts provided attendees with miniature sombreros, which—the horror—numerous partygoers wore.

When photos of the party circulated on social media, campus-wide outrage ensued. Should this be banned?Administrators sent multiple emails to the “culprits” threatening an investigation into an “act of ethnic stereotyping.” . . .

In sum, the party-favour hats constituted—wait for it—“cultural appropriation.” . . .

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