Feb-01-14 - by Rosendo Fraga
1. In the US, Obama focuses his State of the Union yearly address on homeland issues as the Treasury Secretary raises optimism at the Davos Forum. The president highlighted unemployment is the lowest of his administration, urging business people to improve salaries given the increase in profit. He asked Congress to pass the migration reform this year and claimed he would do everything in his power to improve the situation of the American families. He contended the US is the best country to invest in. In foreign policy, he announced he would veto any sanction lay Against Iran preventing the negotiation underway, and admitted that even though the original conduct of Al Qaeda is defeated, the associated militias are a new form of terrorism of action. Days before, the Secretary of Treasury (Lew) made an optimistic argument at the Davos Forum about the course of the US economy. In terms of espionage, Obama has appointed a Vice Admiral expert in cryptography as new head of the NSA and the whistleblower for the leaks which affected ties between Washington and allies (Snowden) reported on German television that he is target of murder.
2. Continuing in Europe, the Prime Minister of Ukraine steps down; the Constitutional Court in Spain reminds that independent bills are not accepted; and Russia confirms assylum for Snowden. Violent protests in Ukraine from pro-Western opponents (for three months now) escalated in the past days with deaths and wounded people, spreading across the whole country. President Yanucovich was forced to partially give in to the claims after the resignation of the Prime Minister (Azarov). This entails a setback of the pro-Russia sectors, which want to keep the country in the Moscow’s orbit. The US and EU condemned the repression and took a stance in this conflict. In Spain, the Constitutional Court reminded people that the independent plan of Catalonia is not allowed. It starts with the referendum called for this year. Economic signals show an incipient and weak recovery but the country has been suffering six years of employment destruction. Russia ensured Snowden he will have asylum and the British government confirmed data about the risk of terrorist actions in Russia on occasion of the Winter Olympics. The Pope is increasingly a global actor: exhorted the Davos Forum to improve wealth distribution, called for peace in Syria and met with the president of France (Hollande) after his recent separation.
3. Moving on to Asia, the Chinese government has been affected by the disclosure of its tax havens and New Delhi has replaced Beijing as the most polluting city. Two international NGOs disclosed the names of the Chinese officials who own companies in the Virgin Islands. Those include the sister and brother-in-law to the current president (Xi) and direct relatives of two past prime ministers, among 13 top-level officials. Some 22,000 Chinese clients own assets in tax havens and businesses in the Virgin Islands –with 28,000 inhabitants- and account for the country’s second leading foreign investor combined. But the regime has responded harshly, bringing an activist who claims for more transparency to court, banning the entry of foreign media in the country and blocking in Internet search engines words like “tax havens” and “prince” –which is used to refer to the rich sons to officials”-. New Delhi has displaced Beijing as the most polluting city of the world and confirms that the destruction of the environment is a cost of the emerging development in Asia. The North Korean dictator executed all the relatives to his uncle after ordering that the latter was eaten up by hungry dogs weeks ago.
4. In the case of the Middle East, peace in Syria gets frustrated in Geneva II; conflict to Lebanon spreads; Iran asks for investments in Davos and Al Qaeda calls its followers for unity. The peace conference on Syria started with international claims on the killings at “massive scale” against Assad, charged with killing and torturing 11,000 prisoners. But that was the first meeting between the parties since the conflict began. After a humanitarian agreement for the city of Homs, Assad’s refusal to discuss his step down frustrated the conference. At the same time, the sixth suicide attack launched by Al Nusra (ally to Al Qaeda) took place in Lebanon Against Hezbollah (ally to the Syrian government), leaving a toll of 4 deaths and hundreds of wounded. The leaders of this organization, which increasingly takes action through associated groups, has called on the unity of its followers both among the Syrian rebels as well as the rest of the world. The Iranian president (Rohani), which has proposed elections in Syria in support of Assad, proposed the US to reopen its embassy in Teheran, and asked for investments in the country at Davos, while seeking to accelerate the nuclear negotiation. The Israeli Prime Minister (Netanyahu) stated that Rohani “continues his show of deceit”.
5. Sissi’s candidacy in Egypt gets stronger, and Latin America plays host to the CELAC Summit as the economic crisis hastens in Argentina. The violent protests of the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood asking for Morsi’s return to power and the terrorist actions launched by Al Qaeda’s allies intensify in Egypt. But after the victory of the government in the referendum, the Army authorized that the leader (Sissi) runs as presidential candidate in the anticipated elections where he is likely to win, thus returning to the authoritarian regime which seemed to have finished after half a century when Mubarak fell three years ago. In Nigeria, attacks from the Islamist group Boko Hana against Christian cause dozens of deaths. In Latin America, the heads of the 33 countries of the region and the Caribbean got together and agreed on declaring the region “peace zone”, assuming critical stances towards the US, and supporting the independent movement of Puerto Rico. Argentina has devalued 30% in few weeks, suffers a strong decline in reserves and reports a monthly inflation around 5%. This takes place when devaluation pressures affect other emerging nations such as South Africa and Turkey, and some fear “contagion”.
6. To conclude:
a) In the State of the Union address, Obama underscored the economic and social progress achieved, and ratified his commitment to reforms, advising he will veto any law of sanctions on Iran.
b) In Europe, the Ukrainian president gives in to protests; the Constitutional court in Spain ratifies its stance towards independent plans, and Hollande visits the Pope after his split.
c) The Chinese leaders were affected by the disclosure of the information on the businesses they have in the Virgin Islands; New Delhi has become more polluting than Beijing.
d) In the Middle East, the conference on Syria marked some progress but then frustrated; the conflict spreads to Lebanon and Iran continues its openness policy, rejected by Israel.
e) In Africa, the head of the Egyptian army consolidates as presidential candidate, and Latin America plays host for the CELAC Summit, which takes a critical view to the US, as the Argentine crisis prompts concerns.