Is another military coup brewing in Peru, after historic electoral victory for leftist candidate?

July 29th, 2021

by Nick Corbishley

Rural teacher-turned-politician Pedro Castillo has been named president-elect in Peru after right-wing rival, Keiko Fujimori, conceded. PHOTO/Twitter/@AJEnglish/Tele Sur

The threat should not be taken lightly, especially given Peru’s long history of coups d’états.

Five days ago, a group of retired military officers in Peru dispatched a letter to the high command of the country’s armed forces. In it they call upon the army to rise up against the leftist leader Pedro Castillo if he is pronounced president. The letter also raised questions about the recent work of Peru’s National Office of Electoral Processes (JNE) and urged the institution to fulfil “its constitutional mandate in a reliable and transparent manner” — i.e. by ensuring that Castillo, a former schoolteacher and farmer who ran largely on a socialist platform, does not become the next president. If it fails in this task, the institution will “bear the consequences.”

18 Coups in 200 Years

The threat should not be taken lightly, especially given Peru’s long history of coups d’états. Since the country won its independence from Spain in 1821 there have been no fewer than 18, 14 of which were successful. Seven of them have occurred since the 1940s. 

Another source of concern is the long list of former high-ranking officers among the letter’s signatories. They include 23 retired Army generals, 22 retired Navy vice admirals and 18 retired Air Force lieutenant generals. Some have gone on to hold high positions within Peru’s political establishment, including former president Francisco Morales Bermúdez, former Prime Minister Walter Martos and elected congressmen Jorge Montoya, José Cueto, José Williams and Roberto Chiabra.

Peru’s interim president, Francisco Sagasti, described the letter as “unacceptable”. In a nationally televised message broadcast on Friday, Sagasti, standing alongside Peru’s Prime Minister Violeta Bermúdez and Minister of Defense Nuria Esparch, said the letter had been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office. The requisite investigations will be launched. For her part Esparch lamented the “political use of the armed forces” because it generates alarm, anxiety and division at a time when the country needs unity and calm.”

Naked Capitalism for more

The world is desperate for more Covid vaccines – patents shouldn’t get in the way

July 29th, 2021

by STEPHEN BURANYI

‘Allowing big pharma to handle business as usual has worked out for just a rich few.’ Covid-19 vaccination in Sylhet, Bangladesh, on 18 April. PHOTO/Majority World/Rex/Shutterstock

Pharmaceutical companies insist secrecy is the only way. But what if they were obliged to share recipes and supply chains?

Biolyse is a small pharmaceutical manufacturer in Canada with a simple proposition: provide a recipe for a coronavirus vaccine, and it will produce 20m doses for nations in the global south. It has approached AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, and even asked the Canadian government to help it with compulsory licensing – which would give it the authorisation to produce another company’s patented product for emergency use – but so far no one has taken up its offer.

When I reached him by phone this week, John Fulton, the vice-president of Biolyse, told me: “We’ve been passed over. We’ve got this production capacity and it’s not being put to use. If we had started this last year, we could have shipped millions of doses by now. This is supposed to be like a wartime effort, everyone in it together. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

The situation seems mind-bogglingly shortsighted. The world desperately needs coronavirus vaccines. About 430m doses have been produced so far this year, enough for about 215 million people. And of the doses already given, about half have gone to the richest 16% of the world’s population. Covax, the World Health Organization initiative to transfer vaccines to nations in need, has delivered just 38m doses. According to analysis by the Center for Global Development and the Economist, nations in the global south may not reach widespread vaccination until 2023.

The situation is dire, and we need more vaccines. At the moment, there is no worldwide joined-up effort to expand production. As incredible as it sounds, after all the public money that went into vaccine development, making and distributing them has been left entirely up to the market. Each company has its own – totally secret – recipes and supply chains, and they insist no other approach is possible.

But the Biolyse offer does suggest another way. They’re a chemotherapy drug manufacturer, certified to produce advanced biological compounds for injection. “We have the facilities and equipment, bioreactors, we have fill-and-finish capability. Depending on how much help we get with technology transfer, we could be ready in a few months,” explains Biolyse’s head of production Claude Mercure. “I don’t understand pharma’s stance on this. Everyone needs to make money, sure. But this is a very serious situation and there’s no reason to be this harsh,” he added.

The Guardian for more

When the Monuments Men pushed back against the U.S. to protect priceless art

July 29th, 2021

by NORA McGREEVY

The U.S. Third Army discovers Édouard Manet’s The Winter Garden in the salt mines at Merkers on April 25, 1945. PHOTO/Courtesy of National Archives at College Park, MD

It may have been the first blockbuster art exhibition of modern times.

In late 1945, as Europe took its first steps toward rebuilding post-World War II, the United States government shipped 202 paintings by famed artists—including Botticelli, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Vermeer—from Germany to Washington, D.C. Beginning in 1948, the works were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art before traveling to major museums in 13 other cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Detroit and San Francisco.

All told, a record-breaking 2.5 million Americans saw the exhibition during its cross-country tour. But while audiences were enthusiastic, many onlookers also expressed outrage: Just a few years earlier, Allied forces had rescued these paintings from a salt mine in central Germany where the Nazis had housed thousands of evacuated artistic treasures.

The U.S. returned the artworks to Germany in 1949. But officials’ decision to transport and tour the German-owned paintings (they had previously resided in the collections of the State Museums of Berlin) around the country was “morally dubious,” curator Peter Jonathan Bell tells the Art Newspaper’s Martin Bailey. Now, in a new exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM), co-curators Bell and Kristi A. Nelson unpack the complicated intersections between art and politics in the post-war era by tracing the history of the so-called “Berlin 202.”

Paintings, Politics and the Monuments Men: The Berlin Masterpieces in America” opens today and runs through October 3. Per a statement, the show will not travel anywhere else. Four of the original “202” are featured, including Sandro Botticelli’s Ideal Portrait of a Lady (1475–80), on loan from Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie, and Fra Filippo Lippi’s Madonna and Child (1440), on loan from the National Gallery in D.C., as Susan Stamberg reports for NPR.

Smithsonian Mag for more

Remembrances of meeting cult novelist Andrzej Kusniewicz in Warsaw

July 28th, 2021

by GAITHER STEWART

The Polish word, jestem—‘I am’, ‘here I am’, ‘present’—seems to define the life of the writer and cult figure for a generation, Andrzej Kusniewicz. On an overcast, pollution-infested Warsaw afternoon over thirty years ago in his crowded study in a surprisingly bourgeois apartment in a quiet residential area of the capital city, the poet-novelist insisted on the Polish word and the multiple occasions of his life when he answered jestem. I, the interviewer, came to feel he had earned a right to the word. For all his life he had been ‘present’—so in contrast to the past about which he wrote. 

Jestem, I always answered when my parents called me—a Jewish child in Polish Galicia—for unusual tasks in unusual places in those unusual times.’ Kusniewicz answered ‘present’ when called to fight against the Nazi invaders of Operation Barbarossa. He was ‘present’ in the French Resistance. ‘Present’ in Mauthausen concentration camp. ‘Present’ in the Polish United Workers Party. ‘Present’ as a Polish Communist diplomat of the new post-World War II Poland. ‘Present’ as a writer in Poland. When called to act, he answered: jestem. And his life ‘presences’ were indeed many. Errant Quixote. Internal immigrant. Soldier. Resistance warrior. Death camp inmate. Communist. Diplomat. Poet. Novelist. 

But today, end of the 1980s,  stillness reigned in his life and he didn’t seem like a cult figure at all.

In those 1980s, people of Warsaw felt the approaching uncertainties of the end of a period. Familiar spaces were becoming less familiar. In those great spaces reaching from Russia to West Europe the sense of abandonment was perceptible. East European air was contaminated like that of Warsaw. Conspiracy-infected air. Power was changing hands. People like Kusniewicz were lonely, and their number was accumulating. Lonely people abandoned in familiar spaces that were lonely too. The uncertainty of social-political loneliness spread epidemically. Eastwards and westwards it spread. Time seemed to be running out. Feelings of displacement mounted, invasive shape-shifting aliens infiltrated society. DNAs were mutating. Unaffiliated and traitorous leaders-presidents had declared war on the peoples abandoned in those unusual spaces. People no longer knew who they were. Or where they were. People no longer counted as once. Engulfed by bushfire revolts running wild. Old vigils in the East tottered; artificial infections were hatched in the Western faraway. Pandemic change-renewal infected ancient spaces, contaminating its ancient abandoned peoples. Nature too was in rebellion. Gray skies hung low in the great lonely cities. Cities themselves lonely. Pure air was found only high in the Carpathians, in the Alps, in the Urals; people were confined to tight polluted spaces down below. Nature gives and nature takes away. Animal life was oblivious. Nature neutral. Only faintly echoed lonely voices like that of Andrzej Kusniewicz.

Greanville Post for more

The history of ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’: Alternative names, competing claims

July 28th, 2021

by DANIEL MILLER

Jewish ultranationalists wave Israeli flags next to the Damascus gate, outside Jerusalem’s Old City. PHOTO/AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

On May 21, the airstrikes ended, the rockets stopped and the street fighting between Jewish and Arab Israelis abated as Israel and the militant Islamist group Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, ending the fourth war between them since 2008.

The war and the actions that culminated in it have been discussed extensively. Both sides have, as always, laid the blame for the latest hostilities at the feet of the other.

Sadly, this war and the lead up to it are just the latest entries in a long ledger written in blood and tears.

“Israel.” “Palestine.” One land, two names. Those on each side claim the land as theirs, under their chosen name.

An Israeli police officer and a Palestinian woman scuffle during clashes that erupted ahead of a planned march by Jewish ultranationalists through east Jerusalem, outside Jerusalem’s Old City, on June 15. PHOTO/AP/Ariel Schalit

‘Israel’

“Israel” first appears near the end of the 13th century BC within the Egyptian Merneptah Stele, referring apparently to a people (rather than a place) inhabiting what was then “Canaan.” A few centuries later in that region, we find two sister kingdoms: Israel and Judah (the origin of the term “Jew”). According to the Bible, there had first been a monarchy comprising both, apparently also called “Israel.”

In about 722 BC, the kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian empire, centred in what’s now Iraq. As an ancient geographic term, “Israel” was no more.

Judah alone

Less than a century and half later, Judah was overthrown. Its capital Jerusalem was sacked, the Jewish Temple destroyed and many of Judah’s inhabitants were exiled to Babylonia.

Following the exile’s end a little under 50 years later, the territory of the former kingdom of Judah served as the heart of Judaism for almost seven centuries (although the rebuilt Temple was again destroyed in AD 70, by the Romans).

‘Palestine’

In AD 135, following a failed Jewish revolt, Roman Emperor Hadrian expelled the Jews from Jerusalem and decreed that the city and surrounding territory be part of a larger entity called “Syria-Palestina.” “Palestina” took its name from the coastal territory of the ancient Philistines, enemies of the Israelites (ancestors of the Jews).

Subsequent to the Islamic conquest of the Middle East in the seventh century, Arab peoples began to settle in the former “Palestina.” Apart from about 90 years of Crusader domination, the land fell under Muslim control for just under 1,200 years. Although Jewish habitation never ceased, the population was overwhelmingly Arab.

Zionism and British control

In the second half of the 19th century, the longstanding yearning of Jews in the Diaspora to return to the territory of their ancestors culminated in the nationalistic movement called Zionism.

The Zionist cause was driven by steeply rising hatred toward Jews in Europe and Russia. Immigrating Jews encountered a predominantly Arab populace, who also considered it their ancestral homeland.

The Conversation for more

France needs more civil liberties and less hypo-securitization of religion

July 28th, 2021

by SANIA FAROOQUI

Rim-Sarah Alouane

In 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans for tougher laws to tackle what he called, “Islamist Separatism”, and a crackdown on “radical Islamists” in France, which he said were materializing through repeated deviations from the Republic’s values. To counter this, President Macron announced his plans to create a “French Islam”, a practise of the faith which would be regulated by the state.

In February 2021, France’s National Assembly passed a controversial “Separatist Bill”, to reinforce the country’s secular identity. The draft legislation aims to address, “deliberate politico-religious projects leading to the creation of a counter-society and to indoctrinationation, running counter to French laws”. Ironically this legislation which is meant to protect constitutional values, including human dignity, gender equality has been critiqued for undermining those very values.

“Instead of responding with pragmatism, instead of bringing a rational response to a very difficult issue of radicalization and terrorism, we respond to these issues in a very emotional way, which is dangerous,” says French scholar and commentator Rim-Sarah Alouane in an interview to me.

“The law of Separatism has a list of amendments that will not only restrict civil liberty but also extend the law of 1905 on limiting religious freedom. This law is equal, it applies to everybody, but when you look at it, it will defacto affect Muslim groups,” says Rim-Sarah.

French officials insist the bill is not aimed at Muslims in France, but is against the reconstructed vision of a religion that behaves in a way contrary to the republic.

France has 5.7 million Muslims living in the country, one of the largest in Europe. This bill extends to what is known in France as the “neutrality principle”, which basically prohibits civil servants from wearing religious symbols, voicing political views and is extended to private contractors of public services.

“The groups that are in difficult positions will be in even more difficult positions due to such laws. Can you imagine, let’s say you work for a private company as a maid or as a garbage collector, you will have to be religiously neutral because your company has a contract with the state,” says Rim-Sarah.

The draft law against “separatism” also includes provisions which bolsters powers to close mosques promoting “extremism”, requiring associations to pledge allegiance to French “Republican principles”.

Rights group Amnesty International called for the many problematic provisions of the bill to be scrapped or amended. “The proposed law would be a serious attack on rights and freedoms in France. It would allow public authorities to fund only organizations which sign a ‘contract of republican commitment’ – a vaguely defined concept which is wide open to abuse and threatens the very freedoms of expression and association the French authorities claim to stand for,” the statement said.

Recently there was an uproar in France creating serious public debate concerns over the prohibition of the use of religious symbols for parents picking up their children after school, accompanying them on school trips, and during national sports competition.

Inter Press Service for more

New Great Game gets back to basics

July 27th, 2021

by PEPE ESCOBAR

The Great Game: This lithograph by British Lieutenant James Rattray shows Shah Shuja in 1839 after his enthronement as Emir of Afghanistan in the Bala Hissar (fort) of Kabul. Rattray wrote: ‘A year later the sanctity of the scene was bloodily violated: Shah Shuja was murdered.’ PHOTO/Wikipedia

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on a Central Asian loop all through the week. He’s visiting Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The last two are full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, founded 20 years ago.

The SCO heavyweights are of course China and Russia. They are joined by four Central Asian “stans” (all but Turkmenistan), India and Pakistan. Crucially, Afghanistan and Iran are observers, alongside Belarus and Mongolia.

And that leads us to what’s happening this Wednesday in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital. The SCO will hold a 3 in 1: meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, and a conference titled “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities.”

At the same table, then, we will have Wang Yi, his very close strategic partner Sergey Lavrov and, most importantly, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar. They’ll be debating trials and tribulations after the hegemon’s withdrawal and the miserable collapse of the myth of NATO “stabilizing” Afghanistan.

Let’s game a possible scenario: Wang Yi and Lavrov tell Atmar, in no uncertain terms, that there’s got to be a national reconciliation deal with the Taliban, brokered by Russia-China, with no American interference, including the end of the opium-heroin ratline.

Saker for more

How Nigeria can solve its tech talent gap

July 27th, 2021

by OLAYINKA DAVID-WEST & IBUKUN TAIWO

Pierre Favennec PHOTO/AFP/Getty Images

In the last decade, Nigeria has become a fintech powerhouse in sub-Saharan Africa. The fintech scene has produced two unicorns — Flutterwave and Interswitch — and several high-profile international acquisitions and partnerships with venture capital funding, including Paystack, OPay, and Kuda. Between 2014 and 2019, Nigeria’s fintech companies raised more than $600 million in funding, and $439 million in 2020. 

Ironically, this growth has highlighted a gap within the ecosystem: talent. A recent Ernst & Young report on the state of fintech in Nigeria highlights that “the quality and volume of fintech talent in Nigeria is limited and insufficient.” Nigerian fintech organizations have had trouble attracting and retaining employees. Workers who are proficient in data analytics, cybersecurity, and software engineering are difficult to find. This talent gap presents barriers to growth. 

Nigerian fintech founders and investors have been weathering this problem for many years. Victor Asemota, co-founder of MFiSA, an African mobile financial services accelerator, wrote in a tweet earlier this year that the biggest challenge startups in Africa face is talent. “Many are feeling the pains already. The biggest threat to talent availability is migration,” he wrote. Jessica Akano, recruiting manager at Andela, a software engineering outsourcing startup in Lagos, told TechCabal in 2019 that one of the major challenges of her role has been hiring talent, given pay competition and the many opportunities for software engineers at home and abroad. “There’s always another company willing to pay more or do more.”  

Rest of World for more

The attack that never happened: Cuba and the US fantasy of sonic attacks

July 27th, 2021

by ROSA MIRIAM ELIZALDE

The alleged “sonic attacks” on US personnel in Cuba have been the basis for a string of harsh measures from the US against Cuba. PHOTO/ Ji-Elle/Wikimedia

Renowned Cuban journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde discusses the long-lasting impact of the US allegation that “sonic attacks” were carried out against US embassy staff

They called it “sonic attacks,” “health incidents,” and “Havana syndrome.” In September 2017, the United States government decided to withdraw all nonessential personnel and their families from their country’s embassy in Cuba. This decision was based on alleged inexplicable noises whose causes were unclear. Word spread that about 20 diplomats reported symptoms as varied as dizziness, vertigo, mental confusion, partial deafness, sleep deprivation, and gaps in basic vocabulary, supposedly caused by exposure to persistent sounds of unknown origin in their homes or hotel rooms.

The Cuban government denied over and over again that it was responsible for this strange disease that neither the laws of physics nor dozens of scientists from a wide variety of disciplines could explain. If, according to various versions by Trump’s State Department, the cause were a sonic or microwave weapon, how could the waves have been perceived by certain people gathered in the same place and not others? How could a strong energy emission have had a selective effect? Did someone have James Bond’s magic ray gun? Was it SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion), the secret organization that the most famous spy in British films fought against?

The National Security Archive, an independent nongovernmental research institute, based at George Washington University, recently released the executive summary of a 2018 report from the State Department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB) after a four-month investigation. The strange attacks against US diplomats in Havana served as a pretext to initiate the Trump administration’s sanctions against Cuba—242 measures in four years applied against a single country, an unprecedented record in US foreign policy.

The report states that CIA agents in Havana were the first to raise the alarm about the strange symptoms. We do not know what these spies were doing. Still, considering the long history of more than 60 years of a dirty war against Cuba, assassination attempts, and fanciful plans against Fidel Castro, such as putting explosives in the Cuban leader’s cigars and poison in his diving suits, the agency surely did not pay for their stay so that they could take daiquiris under a palm tree at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.

Although exceptional, that is not the most relevant piece of information in the ARB’s investigation, which blames the State Department for “a lack of senior leadership, ineffective communications, and systemic disorganization.” What is remarkable is the recognition that they cannot explain what happened in Havana and could not identify a culprit. The report, delivered on June 7, 2018, to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, states, “We do not know the motive behind these incidents, when they actually commenced, or who did it.”

People’s Dispatch for more

Hubert H. Harrison’s When Africa Awakes: The “inside story” of the stirrings and strivings of the New Negro in the Western World

July 26th, 2021

by JEFFREY B. PERRY

The works of the finest mind in early 20th century Harlem, a man who was more class-conscious than Marcus Garvey and more race-conscious than A. Philip Randolph, are now available in a new, expanded Diasporic Africa Press Edition. Hubert H. Harrison was the “Black Socrates,” according to historian Richard B. Moore. He was “ahead of his time,” said Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, and “an advanced thinker and prophet,” in the words of John Henrik Clarke.

“It was made clear that this ‘New Negro Movement’ represented a breaking away of the Negro masses from the grip of old-time leaders….” – Hubert H. Harrison, “Launching the Liberty League,” The Voice, July 4, 1917

The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the Color Line. But what is the Color Line? It is the practice of the theory that the colored and “weaker” races of the earth shall not be free to follow “their own way of life and allegiance,” but shall live, work and be governed after such fashion as the dominant white race may decide. Consider for a moment the full meaning of this fact. Of the seventeen hundred million people that dwell on our earth today more than twelve hundred million are colored – black and brown and yellow. The so-called white race is, of course, the superior race. That is to say, it is on top by virtue of its control of the physical force of the world – ships, guns, soldiers, money and other resources. By virtue of this control England rules and robs India, Egypt, Africa and the West Indies; by virtue of this control we of the United States can tell Haytians, Hawaiians, Filipinos, and Virgin Islanders how much they shall get for their labor and what shall be done in their lands; by virtue of this control Belgium can still say to the Congolese whether they shall have their hands hacked off or their eyes gouged out – and all without any reference to what Africans, Asiatics or other inferior members of the world’s majority may want.

It is thus clear that, as long as the Color Line exists, all the perfumed protestations of Democracy on the part of the white race must be simply downright lying. The cant of “Democracy” is intended as dust in the eyes of white voters, incense on the altar of their own self-love. It furnishes bait for the clever statesmen who hold the destinies of their people in their hands when they go fishing for suckers in the waters of public discussion. But it becomes more and more apparent that Hindus, Egyptians, Africans, Chinese and Haytians have taken the measure of this cant and hypocrisy. And, whatever the white world may think, it will have these peoples to deal with….

Hubert H. Harrison

“Our Larger Duty,” The New Negro, August 1919

Diasporic Africa Press has just published a new, expanded edition of Hubert H. Harrison’s When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World. This new edition includes the COMPLETE TEXT of Harrison’s original 1920 volume including his “Introductory” and over fifty of his articles from publications that he edited in the 1917-1920 period.

Black Agenda Report for more