Slow end for the socialist dream in Latin America

The article from FP highlights the end of a new (geo) political order in South America, under the leadership of Hugo Chavez and Luiz Inacio da Silva.

The analysis is pretty spot on. Both men had huge personalities, and started a project that at the time, seemed realistic to them. But the strong US backed opposition (in the case of Venezuela), corruption, drop in commodity prices dwarted the legacy of the work they started.

In the end, despite their divergent strategies, both Venezuela and Brazil have wound up in the same humbled place, their earlier international dreams in tatters.

These outsized dreams were fueled by the outsized personalities of Lula and Chávez. But they were also enabled by an economic boom that couldn’t last — and, indeed, hasn’t. Their hand-picked, charisma-challenged successors have been forced to trim their ambitions amid a collapse in the price of global commodities. Rousseff — the dry, technocratic former chairman of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras and former guerrilla leader — has struggled to recover from China’s reduced hunger for Brazilian iron ore and agricultural products, just as Nicolás Maduro has had no answer for the steep drop in the price of oil.

To be sure, Chavismo’s damage is real, and deeply felt. But the government of Chávez and Maduro and the Bolivarian project have been marked more by incompetence, corruption, and criminality, than by ideological coherence. Today, the Venezuelan economy is the worst-performing in the world, with a GDP expected to contract by around 10 percent. Its people suffer from massive shortages of basic goods like corn meal and toilet paper, inflation rates that are expected to reach 200 percent this year, and the second-highest murder rate in the world.

Read more here.

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Diendere charged for Sankara assassination

Authorities in Burkina Faso have charged a general who led a failed coup in September with complicity in the 1987 assassination of President Thomas Sankara, senior security sources have told the Reuters news agency.

“General Gilbert Diendere is formally charged in the Thomas Sankara case,” a senior security source with direct knowledge of the case told Reuters, adding Diendere had been charged last month.

Mathieu Some, Diendere’s lawyer, told Reuters on Sunday that his client had been charged over Sankara’s death and he would prepare his legal defence. The charges are yet to be made public.

Ten others, less senior than Diendere, have already been charged, Reuters reported. The senior security official said most were soldiers in the elite presidential guard of former President Blaise Compaore, who was ousted in October 2014.

Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/12/burkina-faso-coup-leader-charged-sankara-murder-151206161901202.html

Interesting to see this coming through now, a few weeks only after Diendere’s failed coup attempt. No doubt Compaore also played a key role in the October 1987 events, but we’ll leave this to the Burkinabe justice to have the final say.

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The Revolution in Burkina Faso

In late October, the landlocked African nation of Burkina Faso saw the end of its president’s 27-year-long reign. A popular revolution terminated Blaise Compaoré’s term after he tried to change the constitution so that he could run for a fifth consecutive term.

Cornered by an angry mob in his presidential palace, “Beau Blaise” fled the country along with his entourage as protesters torched the National Assembly and other symbols of the old regime.

Now in exile, Compaoré is rumored to be living in luxury on the Ivory Coast. In Burkina Faso, a new transitional government has emerged, led by President Michel Kafando and his prime minister, Lieutenant-Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida.

VICE News went to the streets of Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou in the midst of the revolution to document the final hours of Compaoré’s reign.

In 1983, Thomas Sankara, known as the Che Guevara of Africa, took power in Burkina Faso. But a few years later, he was overthrown in a French-backed coup. In his place, the French installed, Blaise Compoare. Many years have passed and he is still in power. However, it seems that his days are numbered. There is a revolution happening in Burkina Faso. Protest has been stirring for weeks as President Blaise Compoare has been trying to extend his term limits. The people won’t allow it and have taken over the TV centre and Parliament. 19 people have already been killed and an army coup is brewing. A key Western ally in the region, is the government about to fall?

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The greatest athlete ever?

Right up there with Muhammad Ali and Didier Drogba.

More: Serena Williams transcends sport. We’re lucky to be living in her time
 

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Why it is difficult to explain racism

The Black Voices section of the Huffington Post, ran that article Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism earlier last week.

Mainstream dictionary definitions reduce racism to individual racial prejudice and the intentional actions that result. The people that commit these intentional acts are deemed bad, and those that don’t are good. If we are against racism and unaware of committing racist acts, we can’t be racist; racism and being a good person have become mutually exclusive. […]
Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system — a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups. Because whites built and dominate all significant institutions, (often at the expense of and on the uncompensated labor of other groups), their interests are embedded in the foundation of U.S. society. While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group.

Yes, an individual person of color can sit at the tables of power, but the overwhelming majority of decision-makers will be white. Yes, white people can have problems and face barriers, but systematic racism won’t be one of them. This distinction — between individual prejudice and a system of unequal institutionalized racial power — is fundamental.

The article is very US-focused, but the mechanics would apply to many situations. The article allowed me to get my head around a few concepts that I saw and witnessed, but could not completely get my head around. The fact that is it written by a white researcher gives a different perspective:

Individualism: Whites are taught to see themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a racial group. Individualism enables us to deny that racism is structured into the fabric of society. This erases our history and hides the way in which wealth has accumulated over generations and benefits us, as a group, today. It also allows us to distance ourselves from the history and actions of our group. Thus we get very irate when we are “accused” of racism, because as individuals, we are “different” from other white people and expect to be seen as such; we find intolerable any suggestion that our behavior or perspectives are typical of our group as a whole.

 

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How much does war cost? Economics of war in South Sudan

South Sudan is only four years old, but the world’s youngest nation tops the rank of failed states worldwide.
After decades of conflict with its neighbour Sudan, long-sought autonomy in 2011 was meant to be a dream come true, but the country has been wracked by violence ever since.

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On the same subject, Cornel West…

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