Fernando Delage discusses the changes that have taken place in Japan over the last five years under the administration of Junichiro Koizumi. Prime Minister Koizumi gained extraordinary popularity for his ability to deal with diverse interest groups and bring about the structural reforms that the Japanese economy had been needing since the beginning of the 90′s. Now that Koizumi‘s government is ending, the question to be asked is: whether Shinzo Abe, Koizumi‘s successor, will have the consistency and leadership to clear up economic uncertainty, secure foreign policy, and continue the legacy of reforms?
Zidane Zeraoui explains how the production of opium has converted itself into a way of life and a principal source of capital for the people of Afghanistan. The increase in the production of opium over the last years has transformed political negotiation, as the very imperfect and very fragile democracy in Afghanistan finds itself incapable to curb the drug cultivation. In Zeroui‘s opinion, the democracy itself has worked to consolidate local powers and warlords who finance themselves through drug trafficking in Europe and Asia.
Mario Esteban explains how Chinese authorities have put aside the profound divergence between Maoism and the current government of China to pay homage to Mao Zedong on the thirtieth anniversary of his death. In Esteban‘s opinion, the insistence of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in preserving Mao‘s image is due to the role he plays in legitimizing the current regime. Mao was seen as both a tireless nationalist fighter for China‘s autonomy, and as an honest leader, concerned with the wellbeing of the masses. And, in the face great social inequality in China, the popular classes and intellectuals are turning to Mao as a symbol of social change. But even now, thirty years after his death, debate on the light and dark aspects of Mao‘s legacy continues to be taboo in China.
Mario Esteban describes how the reforms to democratize the Vietnamese government, being instituted by the Communist Party of Vietnam, could serve as a valuable model for political change in China. Yet, while many liberal voices are applauding Vietnam‘s transformation, many more conservative leaders refuse the idea of following in Vietnam‘s footsteps. Instead of fulfilling his promise to reform, Hu Jintao has chosen to continue the rigid framework established by Deng Xiaoping of economic growth, and party control of army and administration. In Esteban’s opinion, China is still far from democracy.
In Ruben Campos‘ opinion the execution and symbolism of the multiple bombings of Mumbai‘s rail network epitomizes the work of Al Qaeda. India‘s recent alliance with the United States as well as its age-old conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir has made the country a prime target for international Islamic terrorism. How the attacks will influence India‘s peace process with Pakistan, what the government response should be, and how the citizens of Mumbai have given the world a lesson on courage and unity: Campos carefully addresses all of these issues.
Fernando Delage discusses how the North Korean launch of intercontinental missiles (this past July 4th) was an attempt to intimidate the world community. The missile launch shows that the economic sanctions placed upon Kim Jong-Il‘s regime are working, and that the dictator has little to lose in terms of international punishments. Delage explains why North Korea wanted to draw attention with the launch, how the attack has only served to isolate the country more from the international community, and how the Bush Administration has been left with few other options but to continue with multilateral negotiations.
By Chimène Coste (for Safe Democracy)
Chimène Coste analyzes the history of the relationship between the European Union and Cuba, pointing out that the two options Brussels now has are either to maintain its current sanctions against Cuba, thus condemning the political repression of the country, or it can open itself up to dialogue, trade, and institutional cooperation. Spain and France have taken particular interest in relations with Cuba from the very beginning, and as Coste explains, the future of relations between Europe and Cuba is entirely in the hands of these two countries. The best decision now for Europe would be to follow in the diplomatic footsteps of previous Spanish and French presidents Felipe Gonzalez and Francois Mitterand. These two showed that it is possible to continue sanctioning Cuba, while establishing constructive dialogue.
Fernando Delage explains the role of the recently formed Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in what many see as the eastern alternative to NATO. The organization, led by China and Russia, has as one of its principal objectives to hinder and counteract the growing influence of the United States in Central Asia. Yet the possibilities for change of the SCO span beyond its capacity as a defensive and diplomatic group. With enough European and American backing, the SCO could serve as a major starting point for the authoritarian nations in Central Asia to undergo great political change.
Amaia Sánchez explains why Sri Lanka‘s fragile peace is crumbling as a consequence of the armed conflicts between the government of Colombo and the guerilla organization the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Sánchez points out that the official classification by the European Union of the LTTE as a terrorist organization has not helped to dissuade the group from continuing violence, nor has it stopped the escalation of the conflict. Sri Lanka finds itself now before the imminent and horrifying possibility of a return to open war.