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The World of Balance

Russia, Europe and the United States are the most influential political actors on Earth.

by George Friedman

The international system is always changing. It usually shifts one piece at a time, each one constrained by the system to dampen its impact – and thus maintain balance and stability. Many years ago, for example, when China entered a period of breakneck economic growth, it did so without the U.S. investment and trade needed to stabilize the global impact of its rise. Yet the international system as a whole remained balanced. The world is designed to manage singular and limited shifts, as evidenced by the decades it took to create something as intricate as the European Union. It is much less comfortable managing relatively sudden and widespread shifts – which is exactly what is happening now.

Flags of the European Union in front of the EU-commission building "Berlaymont" in Brussels, Belgium [Photo Credit: Christian Lue/ Unsplash]

On the borders of Russia, President Vladimir Putin has submitted a peace proposal, which is essentially an acceptance of the fact that Russia does not have the power to retake all of Ukraine and would settle for minor concessions. This is, in itself, notable. Before the war, Russia was widely thought to have reclaimed much of the military and political power it lost in the fall of the Soviet Union. Putin’s proposal confirms that Russia’s recovery was an illusion and, in doing so, tacitly informs other nations that they ought to reconsider their Russia strategies accordingly.

Meanwhile, the European Union is in disarray. The EU helped stabilize a region given to war by embracing common liberal ideologies while discarding its imperial power and aligning with the United States. This system has been compromised by national interests, some of which run counter to the liberal ideals on which the bloc was founded. Recent elections in Europe, which resulted in the success of many right-wing candidates, call into question the ideals of the past and threaten to give way to a new Europe. How this process plays out will change Europe’s relationship with both the United States and Russia.

The U.S. is facing an election that will change its reality regardless of the outcome. If Donald Trump wins, he will seek to change the way in which decisions are made and redefine America’s relationship with other countries. He has accused Europe of taking advantage of the United States by refusing to fully fund its military obligations and has promised a foreign policy less interested in internal ideology and more interested in the economic benefits they offer the United States. If Joe Biden suffers a narrow defeat, the Democrats will likely reconsider many ideological initiatives they have sought to implement. If he narrowly wins, they will likely do likewise, particularly with regard to foreign policy. This year’s election will be the start of the next and operate based on lessons learned.

In Europe and the United States, immigration is an important issue. Despite dwindling labor pools and falling birth rates, there is increased suspicion of or outright opposition to immigrants. This has an impact on migrants as well as their countries, and it could close the door to the most attractive migration targets.

Russia, Europe and the United States are the most influential political actors on Earth. I exclude China here only because it appears far less interested in homegrown change than the others. If that changes, we will revisit its impact. If it doesn’t, the others will experience plenty of changes of their own, which will affect their behavior and thus the way the international system functions.

George Friedman is an internationally recognized geopolitical forecaster and strategist on international affairs and the founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures.

New World, New Hope: The Struggle for a Free Western Sahara Continues

The Sahrawi freedom movement Polisario continues the armed struggle against Morocco, which uses Israeli spyware and lures the West with trade opportunities to turn a blind eye to the occupation of Western Sahara. Many Sahrawis see new hope in a new multipolar world order that is not dominated by the United States and the West.

by Marc B. Sanganee

Life under occupation is a constant struggle. This is continually expressed at the international media conference in a refugee camp in Western Sahara. The conference takes place from May 1–5 and is organized by the Sahrawi Union of Journalists and Writers (UPES).

Western Sahara is occupied by Morocco, a country where King Muhammad VI has full control over Morocco’s armed forces, judiciary, and all foreign policy.

Western Sahara Refugees Camp [UN Photo/Evan Schneider]

In Western Sahara, the Moroccan monarchy violates the human rights of the Sahrawi people. Children suffer from malnutrition, journalists are thrown in prison, and international observers are denied access to the occupied territories.

Morocco’s colonization of Western Sahara has been going on since 1975; however, the occupation receives little attention from the international community. Through the occupation, Morocco offers trade opportunities to Western companies while the Moroccan intelligence service uses Israeli spyware to monitor the Sahrawis.

But the revolutionary Sahrawi freedom movement—Polisario Front—is not giving up: In 2020, Polisario resumed its armed struggle against Morocco. The Sahrawis hope that a new world order, not dominated by the West, will open up new possibilities in the fight for a free and independent Western Sahara.

Occupied Land

The media conference takes place in Wilayah of Bojador, one of five Sahrawi refugee camps located in Algeria on the border with Western Sahara. Algeria has given the area to Polisario, which administers the refugee camps.

Thus, you could say that Western Sahara is divided into three areas. There are the occupied territories of Western Sahara, where Morocco is in power. There are the liberated areas of Western Sahara, where Polisario is in power. And then there are the refugee camps in Algeria, where Polisario is also in power.

People may have traveled from all over the world to attend the media conference. However, it is the participants from the occupied territories of Western Sahara who receive the most acclaim at the opening of the various debates. This is due to the harsh living conditions in the occupied territories.

“Today, many children suffer from malnutrition due to the occupation,” says Buhubeini Yahya, head of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Sahrawi Red Crescent (SRC), which operates in the occupied territories.

Problems with malnutrition are partly due to the fact that Morocco currently blocks Polisario’s access to the occupied territories, making the freedom movement unable to deliver humanitarian assistance to the local population.

Journalists and Activists

Sahrawi journalists—who want to cover malnutrition among children in the occupied territories, for example—are doing a job that can cost them dearly.

Bhakha*, who works as a journalist in the territories, knows this.

“My colleagues and I are trying to expose Morocco’s crimes. But several have been arrested, some have received 27 years in prison,” Bhakha says from the stage.

“Moroccan police kidnap journalists and confiscate our phones and cameras. Media people are having their bank accounts blocked and our websites are being cyberattacked,” he continues.

Bhakha says that in the occupied territories, Morocco is cracking down on activists who organize demonstrations and speak out against the occupation. According to him, activists have been “thrown off tall buildings” as punishment for protesting.

“The Moroccan authorities have intensified their spate of violations against pro-independence Sahrawi activists through ill-treatment, arrests, detentions, and harassment in an attempt to silence or punish them,” the NGO Amnesty International wrote in 2021.

In eight months, Amnesty had recorded “seven cases of torture or other ill-treatment, three house raids, two de facto house arrests and nine cases of arrests, detentions and harassment of individuals in relation to their peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression and assembly.”

Tough Prisons

Sukina can’t hold back the tears. She is attending the media conference to talk about her brother Hussein, an activist from the occupied territories who has been thrown in prison for speaking out in favor of independence for Western Sahara.

“I find it very difficult to talk about how much my brother is suffering in prison,” says Sukina.

Next to Sukina is journalist Mustaffa, who himself was locked up in a Moroccan prison as a political prisoner because he reported on the Moroccan occupation. Mustaffa describes a harsh prison system where inmates live in “miserable conditions” with many diseases circulating.

According to Prison Insider, a prison information platform, human rights organizations are concerned about Morocco’s “massive use of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in Morocco and Western Sahara, where political prisoners are numerous and are particularly vulnerable.”

Sukina says that her family has to go through a lot to even see her brother Hussein in the Moroccan prison where he is being held. Just getting to the prison can take more than a day.

“The prison is many kilometers away from my family’s home. We have been forced to walk so far that my mother is now suffering from a kidney disease. There is nowhere near the prison where we can stay overnight. We have to go back and forth on the same day,” she says.

Sukina continues, “Once we get there, it is not at all certain that the Moroccan prison guards will even let us see my brother. They have rejected us several times with mocking remarks.”

“And when they do let us meet with Hussein, it is always too short a meeting [and] under the supervision of the prison guards. My brother is not allowed to say a word about the conditions in the prison,” Sukina sighs.

Money Talks

At the media conference in the refugee camp, many local participants express frustration that the international community generally turns a blind eye to Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara.

According to several experts on stage, the lack of focus is due to Morocco offering Western companies access to natural resources and other commercial opportunities in the occupied territories.

Here, European companies are involved—through imports, exports, or the provision of technical services—in phosphate mining, wind power projects, agriculture, and fishing.

The economic exploitation of Western Sahara without the consent of the Sahrawi people is in violation of international law. The Sahrawis have not accepted the economic activities in the occupied territories and do not receive a share of the profits.

In 2017, the Danish shipping companies Ultrabulk and Clipper were caught in a political crossfire when it emerged that the shipping companies were shipping cargo from occupied Western Sahara. Anders Samuelsen, then the Danish foreign minister from the neoliberal party Liberal Alliance, refused to intervene.

In this way, Western companies and governments are helping to maintain the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.

Connections to Israel

During the conference, there are repeated expressions of support for the Palestinians who are currently suffering from Israel’s genocide. All participants stand up and observe a minute of silence in solidarity with Palestine.

In this way, one occupied people shows solidarity with another. The Sahrawis and the Palestinians are fighting against their respective occupying powers, who are collaborating with each other.

In December 2020, a month before his presidential term expired, Donald Trump declared that the United States now considered all of Western Sahara to be part of Moroccan territory. This is one of the decisions that current U.S. President Joe Biden has chosen not to change.

In exchange for the declaration, the United States demanded that Morocco establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Today, Morocco recognizes Israel as a state and Israel recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

It has also come to light that Morocco is using the Israeli spyware Pegasus to spy on Sahrawi human rights activists.

“Morocco uses Pegasus against all content related to Western Sahara,” says Hamada Salma, Minister of Information of Western Sahara.

Armed Struggle Resumed

Although most of the world ignores Morocco’s oppression of the Sahrawis, the Sahrawis have not given up.

In 2020, the revolutionary freedom movement Polisario decided to resume its armed struggle against Morocco.

This happened after Morocco broke a long-standing ceasefire dating back to 1991. The ceasefire between Polisario and Morocco was initiated by the UN.

The ceasefire was based on an agreement that the UN would organize a referendum where the Sahrawis would vote on whether they wanted an independent Western Sahara or a Western Sahara integrated into Morocco.

Twenty-nine years later, the referendum had not materialized. And when Morocco broke the ceasefire on November 13, 2020, by launching a military mission against peaceful protesters, Polisario decided to resume the armed struggle.

During the media conference, Polisario soldier Barak Mamir talks about the armed resistance against Morocco. In different regions, the Polisario is attacking Moroccan forces along the “Wall of Shame,” a 2,700-kilometer fortification built by Morocco across Western Sahara.

“Since November 13, 2020, we have carried out a total of 3,500 attacks,” says Barak Mamir.

Affecting the Economy

According to Barak Mamir, Polisario’s attacks against Morocco’s military have had a significant effect on the Moroccan economy.

“As a result of our attacks, Morocco has been forced to double its military budget. This means that the price of basic necessities for the average Moroccan has increased significantly,” he says.

In 2023, the pan-African news network Africanews reported that the price of vegetables in Moroccan markets was “almost as expensive as in some French supermarkets,” even though the minimum wage in France was five times higher than in Morocco.

“The Moroccan regime is doing everything it can to keep the cost of the conflict out of the public eye,” says Barak Mimir from the stage.

This also applies when Moroccan soldiers fall in battle.

Fighting for Freedom

“When a family in Morocco is informed that their son has been killed in action, they are told not to post anything about it on social media,” says Barak Mimir.

According to him, several Moroccan soldiers have also been prosecuted for choosing to flee instead of fighting the Polisario. Dozens of Moroccan soldiers have even left the military in opposition to the Moroccan monarchy.

This has happened even though the Moroccan military is armed with state-of-the-art military technology such as drones.

A Polisario soldier explains that there are significant differences between Moroccan and Sahrawi soldiers:

“The soldiers from Western Sahara know the country, and we fight for the freedom of our people. Moroccan soldiers, on the other hand, have not chosen to fight but have been forced to do so as part of their job.”

According to the soldier, this is one of the reasons why Polisario has managed to break through the Wall of Shame, which is divided into a series of lines: barbed wire, dogs, a moat, the wall itself, 150,000 soldiers and 8 million landmines.

In one of the refugee camps is the Museum of Resistance, where visitors can see several of the tanks, artillery systems, and other weapons that Polisario soldiers have managed to take from the Moroccan army after breaking through the wall.

New World, New Hope

But for a revolutionary freedom movement, fighting against a Moroccan military power armed with modern weapons that have primarily been produced in the West is no walk in the park. Many Sahrawis have fallen in battle.

It’s not that the Sahrawis want war either. The goal is to be able to live in an independent and peaceful Western Sahara, it is repeated several times at the media conference.

The new multipolar world order, where non-Western powers have more and more say, is seen by several participants at the conference as a positive development that can open the door for the liberation of Western Sahara.

Morocco has historically benefited from the unipolar world order, which for decades after the end of the Cold War in 1991 was dominated by the United States. This allowed Morocco to occupy Western Sahara without consequences.

But now a new world order is emerging, and it is making its presence felt in Western Sahara’s neighborhood. Countries like Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso have thrown out Western soldiers from the United States and France, respectively, to strengthen cooperation with Russia.

“New powers are emerging, more different countries are rising up. The multipolar world, where the U.S. does not dominate, will strengthen Western Sahara’s struggle for liberation,” says Syrian Mahmoud Al-Saleh, chairman of the Arab Committee of Solidarity with the Sahrawi People.

A Sahrawi journalist says that Polisario’s struggle against the Moroccan occupation is receiving better coverage in non-Western media such as Russia Today, a state-owned Russian media that is also participating in this media conference.

“There is a long way to go before the international community becomes objective. If you only had access to Western media, the world would see us as terrorists,” says the journalist.

*Disclaimer: Some conference participants are referred to by first name only and names in the article may not be spelled correctly.

Source: Globetrotter

Marc B. Sanganee is editor-in-chief of Arbejderen, an online newspaper in Denmark.

US Congress Backs Tibet in Dalai Lama Visit

United States Congressional Delegation Reaffirms Support for Tibet in Dharamsala Meeting with Dalai Lama

Dharamsala, India — A high-profile bipartisan delegation from the United States Congress, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), visited Dharamsala today for an audience with the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders. The delegation, comprising both Republican and Democratic members, emphasized their unwavering support for the Tibetan people’s freedom and autonomy.

Chairman McCaul, who spearheaded the recently passed H.R.533, the Resolve Tibet Act, reiterated the United States’ stance against the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempts to interfere with the succession of the Dalai Lama. “The Chinese Communist Party continues to threaten the freedom of the Tibetan people, and they have even attempted to insert themselves into the succession of the Dalai Lama, but we will not let that happen,” McCaul declared after the meeting.

Members of the US Congressional Delegation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the conclusion of their meeting at His Holiness's residence in Dharamsala, HP, India, on June 19, 2024. (Photo: Tenzin Choejor)

The delegation included key figures such as Resolve Tibet Act author Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), and Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA). They met with Sikyong Penpa Tsering, the democratically elected leader of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), and Speaker Sonam Tenphel of the Tibetan parliament in exile.

Rep. McGovern, reflecting on his past visits to Dharamsala, praised the resilience and hope embodied by Tibetan children and the CTA’s democratic governance. “The Tibetan children living here and in diaspora communities around the world and the Tibetan children living under the repression of the PRC, they are Tibet’s future, and they give me such great hope,” he said. He emphasized that the CTA serves as a model of governance for those facing oppression and displacement.

Speaker Emerita Pelosi lauded the Dalai Lama’s enduring message of compassion and resilience, while sharply criticizing the Chinese government. “With his message of knowledge and tradition and compassion and purity of soul and love, he will live a long time, and his legacy will live forever. But to you, President of China, you’ll be gone, and nobody will give you credit for anything,” she said.

Tencho Gyatso, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, expressed gratitude for the delegation’s visit, which she viewed as a testament to America’s steadfast support for Tibet. “China’s misplaced hope is that the Tibet issue will fade away. In reality, the Dalai Lama’s message of compassion and the resilience of the Tibetan people are a source of inspiration,” Gyatso stated.

In a message to Beijing, House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-NY) urged the Chinese government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama and the CTA. “We all are here to call on the government of Beijing to immediately stop its countless abuses of Tibetan human rights. It’s time for Beijing to re-engage in dialogue without preconditions with His Holiness and His Representative to reach a negotiated resolution that leads to meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan people,” Meeks said.

The Resolve Tibet Act, which passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support and is awaiting President Biden’s signature, underscores that the Tibet-China dispute remains unresolved under international law. It encourages substantive dialogue leading to a negotiated settlement.

Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), an Indian-American member of Congress, highlighted the spiritual connection shared with the Tibetan people. “When I look around at this audience, I see my brothers and sisters, my spiritual brothers and sisters. So, know, brothers and sisters, that you have one of your own brothers in the United States Congress fighting for your rights, for your freedom, and for your future,” he said.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) shared a personal story, connecting her mother’s escape from communism in Cuba to the Tibetan struggle. “I have a lot of compassion and empathy for the people who are here today, who want to return to their homelands,” she said.

The delegation’s visit included meetings at the CTA complex and a dinner reception hosted by Sikyong Penpa Tsering, featuring Tibetan cultural performances. The visit is seen as a significant reaffirmation of Congressional support for Tibet amidst ongoing Chinese repression.

Rep. McCaul noted that despite warnings from Beijing, the delegation remained undeterred. “Just this week, our delegation received a letter from the CCP warning us not to come here. But we did not let the CCP intimidate us, for we are here today,” he said.

The Pinochet Regime Declassified

Fifty Years after Official Creation, Declassified Documents Record Atrocities Committed by Chilean Secret Security Force, DINA

On June 18, 1974, the official registry of the Chilean military dictatorship published Decree 521 on the “creation of the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA),” the secret police force responsible for some of the regime’s most emblematic human rights crimes. To mark the 50th anniversary of DINA’s official creation, the National Security Archive today is publishing a curated collection of declassified CIA, DIA, FBI and State Department documents, along with key Chilean records, that reflect the history of DINA’s horrific human rights atrocities and terrorist crimes.

The CIA Deputy Director, Lt. General Vernon Walters, provided CIA support for the formation of DINA.

The decree signed by General Augusto Pinochet and other members of the military junta officially established DINA for “the purpose of producing intelligence collection requirements for the formulation of policies, plans and adoption of measures required for the security and development of the country,” but the measure also included three secret articles empowering DINA to operate as a secret police force to surveil, arrest, imprison and eliminate anyone considered an opponent of the regime. The new decree gave “legal/official blessing to an organization that is already fully active,” the U.S. Defense attaché reported to Washington. Other members of the Chilean military viewed the junta’s order as “the foundation upon which a Gestapo-type police force will be built.”

DINA was created as a military organization outside the military chain of command, instead reporting directly to Pinochet as chief of the junta. As the secret articles of the decree stated, the new Directorate of National Intelligence was the “continuation of the DINA Commission” established in November 1973, only eight weeks after the September 11, 1973, military coup. By the time it was officially inaugurated, DINA was already the most feared security force in Chile—if not all Latin America. “There are three sources of power in Chile,” one Chilean intelligence officer informed a U.S. military attaché in early 1974: “Pinochet, God and DINA.”

As the principal agency of the regime’s apparatus of repression, DINA became infamous for its secret torture centers, extrajudicial executions, the forced disappearances of hundreds of civilians and acts of international terrorism. The sinister secret police force, according to a special TOP SECRET/SENSITIVE Senate report based on still classified CIA documents, eventually grew to 3,800 officers, operatives and administrative personnel—the figure is mistyped in the report as 38,000—with an annual budget of $27 million. According to that study, DINA “was established as an arm of the presidency, under the direct control of President Pinochet.” DINA’s director, Col. Manuel Contreras, according to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, “has reported exclusively to, and received orders only from President Pinochet.”

As it expanded its operations, DINA also received organizational support from the CIA. In February 1974, Pinochet personally asked CIA deputy director Vernon Walters to assist DINA in its “formative period.” Walters hosted a luncheon for Contreras at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia in early March 1974. In mid-1975, the CIA briefly put the DINA director on its payroll as a paid asset.

The documents published by the National Security Archives yesterday record some of DINA’s most notorious operations:

** SECRET DETENTION AND TORTURE CENTERS: Although numerous units of the Chilean military routinely engaged in human rights abuses, during the first three years of the dictatorship, DINA was responsible for the majority of secret arrests, cases of torture and disappearances committed by the regime. One early U.S. intelligence report noted that DINA interrogation techniques of detained prisoners were “straight out of the Spanish Inquisition” and that DINA was “developing into a KGB-type organization as originally predicted.” One of DINA’s most sadistic torturers, Capt. Ricardo Lawrence, later provided a statement to the Chilean courts on the network of secret detention centers where these abuses took place—Villa Grimaldi, Londres No. 38, Venecia, Malloco, Jose Domingo Canas and Cuatro Alamos, among others—as well as the DINA units and commanders stationed there. Many of the torture victims in these secret detention centers were executed and then disappeared; many of them were dropped from DINA helicopters into the ocean.

** OPERATION COLOMBO: Confronted with growing pressure from the families of the disappeared and international condemnation of these human rights atrocities, in 1975 DINA mounted a major disinformation campaign to provide what the U.S. Embassy called “some means of accounting for [the] disappearance” of Chileans. Code-named “Operation Colombo,” DINA agents planted false stories in obscure newsletters and newspapers in Brazil and Argentina claiming that Chilean leftists were killing each other in internecine political warfare. In Buenos Aires, agents deposited a dead body—its head and hands cut off—with identification papers of one of the disappeared Chileans and a note that read: “Brought down by the MIR,” one of the militant Chilean organizations. The false articles were then used by DINA allies in the Chilean media to write false stories with headlines such as “Exterminated Like Rats” to advance the cover-up of the true fate of the disappeared. Investigative reporters, led by U.S. journalist John Dinges, quickly exposed Operation Colombo; the U.S. Embassy reported to Washington that the stories appearing in the Pinochet-controlled press in Chile were “probably untrue” and that the disappeared victims had actually been killed by Chilean security forces.

** PROJECT ANDREA: DINA was responsible for an ultra-secret program by the Chilean military to develop a chemical weapons capability to be used in case of war with Peru or Argentina and as a tool of clandestine assassination missions against enemies of the regime. DINA officials constructed a clandestine laboratory at the safe house of one of their leading agents, Michael Townley, who purchased equipment and chemicals in the United States. In addition to manufacturing Sarin nerve gas in the laboratory in Townley’s basement, DINA planned to produce even more dangerous chemical warfare gases known as “soman” and “tabun” using extremely toxic nerve agents such as Clostridium botulinum, saxitoxin and tetrodotoxin. According to a handwritten history of his DINA activities, Townley reported that nerve gas was used to murder at least two individuals in Santiago. As DINA’s leading international assassin, Townley considered using the sarin gas to assassinate Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C., sending the deadly nerve gas to the U.S. hidden in a Chanel No. 5 perfume dispenser.

** OPERATION CONDOR: DINA was the organizer and leading member of Operation Condor, the multilateral collaboration between Southern Cone secret police services to track, seize and eliminate opponents of their regimes around the world. In October 1975, DINA director Manuel Contreras sent invitations to his secret police counterparts in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, inviting them to the “first working meeting on National Intelligence” scheduled in Santiago between November 25 and December 1, 1975. During that meeting, the delegates voted to honor their hosts by naming their new consortium for Chile’s national bird, the “Condor.” At the second Condor meeting, in Santiago in June 1976, the member countries created a collaborative death squad program—code named “Teseo,” for the avenging Greek demigod, Theseus—“to conduct physical attacks against subversive targets” abroad, according to CIA reports. Plan Teseo included a chilling section titled “Execution of the Target,” which stated: “This is the responsibility of the operational team which will (A) intercept the target, (B) Carry out the Operation, and (C) Escape.”

** INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM: For decades, the Washington, D.C., car-bomb assassination of former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his young colleague Ronni Karpen Moffitt on September 21, 1976, was believed to be Condor’s most infamous operation. In fact, the targeting of Letelier, a former Ambassador to Washington and Defense Minister in Salvador Allende’s government, was a mostly unilateral DINA mission, although it drew on Paraguayan support, under the Condor accord, to provide false travel documents for the assassination team. “The explicit orders,” according to Michael Townley, DINA’s leading hitman, “were: Find Letelier’s home and workplace and contact the Cuban group [of violent exiles working with DINA] to eliminate him, or use SARIN gas, or orchestrate an accident, or in the end by whatever method—but the government of Chile wanted Letelier dead.” The Letelier assassination was the third high-profile act of international terrorism committed by DINA operatives: in September 1975, former Christian Democrat Party vice president Bernardo Leighton and his wife were gunned down on the streets of Rome; both survived with crippling injuries. In September 1974, retired Chilean General Carlos Prats and his wife Sofia were killed by a car bomb—also planted by Michael Townley—in Buenos Aires.

As an act of international terrorism in the capital city of the United States, the Letelier-Moffitt assassination brought renewed international pressure and criticism from inside the Chilean military on General Pinochet to curb DINA’s operations. Eleven months after the car bombing, as the focused on DINA’s role, the Pinochet regime announced that DINA would be dissolved. Decree 521 would be rescinded, and a new decree established the “Center for National Intelligence” (CNI). U.S. intelligence reports and Embassy assessments noted that the rebranding of the Chilean secret police was largely cosmetic. Numerous DINA agents were simply transferred to the CNI, which, like DINA, reported only to General Pinochet. Disappearances diminished, but CNI agents continued to commit human rights atrocities between 1977 and 1990 when Pinochet was forced to yield power to civilian rule.

In January 1978, the U.S. Justice Department indicted Manuel Contreras and his DINA deputy Pedro Espinosa for their roles in the Letelier-Moffitt assassination and demanded their extradition. Pinochet protected them from prosecution, blackmailed by Contreras who made it clear that he had hidden documents that would reveal that Pinochet himself ordered the terrorist operation. After the return to democracy in Chile, they were both prosecuted and convicted, becoming the first Chilean military officers to be held accountable for human rights crimes, and a special luxury prison was constructed to house them. Both were later convicted of other human rights crimes. Contreras died in prison in 2015. Pinochet, who was indicted but never convicted for human rights crimes, died on December 10, 2006—International Human Rights Day.

“DINA’s unique structure and lethally effective methods of operation were critical to the alliance of right-wing civilian and military forces that destroyed Chile’s democracy. The history of DINA gains fresh relevance in light of the emerging authoritarian and anti-democratic political movements in the world, including in the United States,” observed John Dinges, author of The Condor Years and the forthcoming book Chile in Our Hearts: The Untold Story of Two Americans who Went Missing After the Coup.

Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive’s Chile Documentation Project, said: “Fifty years later, these documents remind us of a history of repression and crimes against humanity that, now more than ever, must not be forgotten.”

Amendment Deception: Sri Lanka’s Misled Generations and Societal Illusions

Did the enactment of the 13th Amendment, in late 1987, make a difference in the lives of Tamil speaking people?

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) is being wooed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa and Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake seeking its endorsement at the forthcoming Presidential Poll.

The ITAK, widely known as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), has received repeated assurances as regards the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in late 1987. Wickremesinghe is yet to officially announce his candidature at the forthcoming Presidential Poll and two other main contenders – Premadasa and AKD, too, are keen to reach consensus with the ITAK as quickly as possible.

President Jayawardene (Left) with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (center). [File Photo]

For them, ITAK’s endorsement is of crucial importance. The ITAK, consisting of 10 MPs, is widely believed to be divided over the polls strategy, particularly at a time the major candidates have declared commitment to the full implementation of the contentious piece of legislation.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is now in two minds as to throw its weight behind Wickremesinghe or field a candidate of its own, and will have to state its position on the 13th Amendment without further delay.

The only political grouping to publicly declare its opposition to the 13th Amendment is the Sarvajana Balaya consisting of the National Freedom Front (NFF), Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), Mawbima Janatha Party (MJP), Democratic Left Front (DLF), Communist Party (CP), Yuthukama, et al. That grouping is yet to officially announce its presidential candidate though there is widespread belief that MJP leader, entrepreneur Dilith Jayaweera, eyes the candidature.

Whatever the consequences, serious candidates will have to deal with the issue at hand, pragmatically. Fifteen years after the conclusion of the war, the 13th Amendment, that had been forced on Sri Lanka by India in line with the latter’s overall strategy meant to establish an administration in the merged North-East Province beholden to India, is the eye of the storm, so to speak.

It would be pertinent to mention that in addition to the 10 seats won by the ITAK, the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP/two seats), Ahila Ilankai Thamil Congress (AITC/two seats), Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK/ one seat) and Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP/one seat) won altogether six seats.

The EPDP and TMVP are certain to back President Wickremesinghe’s candidature whereas there is uncertainty regarding the likely stand of TMTK and AITC. Former parliamentarian M.K. Sivajilingam’s recent declaration that he would contest the Presidential Poll unless Tamil political parties agreed on a common candidate, however, is unlikely to influence the Tamil electorate with his one man show.

Therefore, Tamil political parties, too, are under tremendous pressure to take an informed decision. TNA parliamentarian Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran, PC, publicly regretted the joint LTTE-TNA decision that caused Ranil Wickremesinghe’s defeat at the 2005 Presidential Poll. At the time the ITAK announced the polls boycott order, on behalf of the LTTE, it had 22 seats representing the Northern and Eastern electoral districts. Today, the ITAK is down to just 10 seats with serious differences of opinion causing overall deterioration of its standing among the Tamil community.

Unfortunately, major candidates, in their undue haste to reach agreement with the ITAK, appeared to have failed to conduct proper assessment of the ground situation.

Furious reaction

Lt. General (retd) Jagath Dias, the former Army Chief of Staff, insists that the country’s unitary status cannot be diluted, under any circumstances. Commenting on the recent political developments, the Gajaba Regiment veteran asserted that no political party exercised the power, whatsoever, to negotiate with the ITAK/TNA, or any other party, regarding the country’s unitary status.

An irate former General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the 57 Division, that had been tasked with liberating Kilinochchi, emphasized the responsibility on the part of all political parties to revisit the 13th Amendment as that piece of legislation in its entirety is illegal. “The issue is the 13th Amendment. Therefore, it should be repealed. Repealed without delay. Those who find fault with the granting of police and land powers, in terms of the 13th Amendment, are playing politics with the issue,” Lt. Gen. Dias said. “Shame on them. They should be ashamed of themselves for bending backwards to appease the ITAK/TNA that surrendered its own authority to the now defunct LTTE,” Dias declared.

Recalling the infamous Indian ‘parippu’ drop in June 1987 over Jaffna, Jagath Dias, who had been engaged in ‘Operation Liberation’ to regain control of the Vadamaratchchy region at the time, questioned the legality of the 13th Amendment, enacted under controversial circumstances. In fact, the first phase of ‘Operation Liberation’ had been completed with Dias, at Vasavilan, with his battalion.

The war veteran stressed that those who sought to woo the Tamil electorate, by granting them police and land powers, should at least bother to examine the origins of terrorism here and the enactment of the 13th Amendment.

The writer, too, firmly believe Lt. General Dias’s assertion that India launched its terrorism project here to create an environment conducive for the introduction of legislation aimed at meeting their objectives. Now, 15 years after the eradication of terrorism, Sri Lanka is still struggling to deal with a law that was enacted to appease those seeking a Federal system of government here.

Lt. Gen. Dias stressed that he questioned the rationale in retaining the 13th Amendment in the draft Constitution prepared during Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s tenure as the President (2019 Nov-July 2022).

That draft Constitution proposed to do away with a separate Provincial Council election and to constitute Provincial Councils with those elected separately out of those who contest for Local Authorities which shall constitute 70% members and the balance 30% nominated proportionately, based on the votes obtained by parties at the Local Authority Elections. It was proposed that every elector should be entitled to vote to elect a Local Authority member to represent the ward he is residing and to elect a Provincial Council member to represent his Local Authority, from among the members contesting in his Local Authority area.

Having been a frontline combat officer with the famed Gajaba Regiment with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Dias is one of the very few senior retired officers who threw his weight behind nationalistic groups, though he kept out of politics.

“If we are really serious about enacting a new Constitution, the country should do so. It should reflect the post-war ground situation. We eradicated the LTTE’s conventional power for once and for all. That is the reality. Tamil political parties should realize that. The major political parties shouldn’t pursue the same old agenda meant to woo the Tamil electorate. What all political parties represented in Parliament must, without fail ,understand is that the Constitution should reflect the post-war situation and without allowing minority groups to hold the country hostage to their parochial interests.”

Having served the Army for over 35 years, Dias retired in Dec 2015. He kept quite a low profile though, a couple of years ago, he declared support for a Sangha led grouping, the Coalition Against Partition of Sri Lanka campaigning against the 13th Amendment. Lt. Gen Dias served as its Convener.

“Let me explain what political parties shouldn’t do. There should be general consensus among them that the 13th Amendment cannot be utilized as a tool to win over the Northern electorate. They should be told of the situation in the post-LTTE scenario.”

Difficult path ahead

Political parties are seeking to advance their despicable agendas at war-winning Sri Lanka’s expense. The SLFP-led coalition that provided leadership during the war is no more. Instead, we have the SLPP, led by war-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa, but trapped in Ranil Wickremesinghe’s machinations.

Wickremesinghe, who had been one of the architects of the one-sided 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), which was signed in secrecy with the LTTE that brought us closer to the brink of unprecedented catastrophe, seems confident of securing the TNA’s endorsement. The UNP leader obviously has the edge over both the SJB and JJB/JVP leaders as he had previously worked closely with the ITAK/TNA. What would the ITAK/TNA prefer, the full implementation of the 13th Amendment or a much wider devolution package, something that can be safely called 13+?

The JJB/JVP declaration in support of the 13th Amendment is certainly a triumph for the devolution lobby. Having waged a murderous campaign in the ’80s against, what the JVP then called expansionist Indian strategy here, the Marxist party, possibly spoilt by filthy lucre of the decadent West, has now donned business suits to globetrot and conveniently amended its policy, forgetting the needless blood it shed. Probably, the JJB/JVP has realized the extreme difficulty in advancing their political agenda and amended strategy in the run-up to the public protest campaign aka Aragalaya, launched in March 2022.

The acceptance of the 13th Amendment, as well as the post-Aragalaya relationship with India and the US, should be considered in line with the change in the JJB/JVP overall strategy to suit the times.

Did the Expert Committee, appointed by ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in late 2020, to formulate a new draft Constitution, properly deal with the 13th Amendment? The group, headed by Romesh de Silva, PC, produced a draft Constitution, though there were divergent views on Provincial Council polls held in terms of the 13th Amendment. The Expert Committee proposed some far reaching changes to the existing system but still a section of the nationalist group opposed the move. General Dias is one of those critics who believed the 13th Amendment should be repealed. But, that seems implausible for obvious reasons.

Professor A. Sarveswaran, a member of Romesh de Silva’s Committee, is of the view that the structure, introduced by the 13th Amendment, should be retained. Others disagreed. Professor G.H. Peiris, Manohara de Silva PC and Samantha Ratwatte PC asserted that the 13th Amendment is prejudicial to the independence, sovereignty, unitary character, territorial integrity, and national security of the State. They favoured the repealing of the Provincial Councils, established under the 13th Amendment. The overwhelming majority of those who made representations before Romesh de Silva’s Committee supported a unitary state and were against the Provincial Council structure introduced by the 13th Amendment. But, in the run-up to the presidential poll, major parties/alliances seemed to be in favour of the Provincial Council polls. Sarvajana Balaya appeared to be the only group taking a different view.

The section of Romesh de Silva’s Committee report, that dealt with 13th Amendment is evidence that the issue at hand remained unresolvable in the foreseeable future. Manohara de Silva has explained how their proposals effected far reaching changes to the existing Provincial Council system but those opposed to the concept seemed hell-bent on getting rid of it.

Karu for 13A

With the Presidential Poll just a couple of months away, former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, in his capacity as the Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ), has declared his support for SJB leader Premadasa’s anticipated promise to fully implement the 13th Amendment. The UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF) that has been engaged in a controversial reconciliatory moves with the backing of a section of Maha Sangha, too, supports the SJB leader’s move. Taking a common stand on the SJB’s leader’s declaration, the NMSJ and GTF are pushing for political parties represented in Parliament to build on the SJB leader’s declaration.

Premadasa, the first Opposition Leader to make such a declaration, is quite confident of the SJB campaign. Close on the heels of Premadasa’s Kilinochchi declaration and subsequent meeting with the ITAK/TNA leadership, rebel SLPPer and former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris was in Jaffna to promote Premadasa’s candidature. The former academic declared, in Jaffna, that unlike other leaders (an obvious reference to Wickremesinghe and AKD), Premadasa wouldn’t make empty promises.

The stand taken by the NMSJ and GTF matter, but whatever the political parties represented in Parliament and various other groups aligned with them say in respect of 13th Amendment, it would be pertinent to examine public sentiments.

Did the enactment of the 13th Amendment, in late 1987, make a difference in the lives of Tamil speaking people? That should be examined, taking into consideration that the LTTE shunned the Provincial Council system and the Tamil speaking people, living in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, had no qualms in overwhelmingly voting at the 2010 Presidential Poll for General Fonseka whose Army crushed the Tiger terrorists’ formidable conventional fighting capabilities in the battlefield itself in 2009. Had the Rajapaksas listened to the West and allowed the Tiger Supremo Prabhakaran and the rest of his inner circle to be rescued by the West we would still be wracked by their terror. The country should be ever grateful to the Rajapaksas for rescuing the country from terrorism, while bringing forth unprecedented development projects to the country at the same time, whatever their detractors, paid for by the West, say about them.

In spite of bombastic declarations by some Tamil politicians and Tamil Diaspora groups over the years, Tamil public participation at the Mullivaikkal commemorative event, in May, has apparently deteriorated with each passing year. Over the years, the public appeared to have realized that various interested parties played politics with the issues at hand and pre-poll talks on the 13th Amendment formed part of their agenda.

Premadasa earned the wrath of Sarvajana Balaya with former ministers Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila and Gevindu Cumaratunga mercilessly attacking the proposal. They warned of dire consequences in case the Provincial Councils were granted police and land powers. They shouldn’t forget that years ago, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during his second term, declared his readiness to grant 13+. What did he really mean by it?

Shamindra Ferdinando is a Deputy Editor of a Colombo-based daily newspaper, The Island.

How Developing Nations Bear the Brunt of Heat Waves

Countries in South and Southeast Asia faced severe heat waves in 2024.

by Pranjal Pandey

In April 2024, extreme heat hit South and Southeast Asia, affecting nations like India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar. These heat waves severely impacted some of the world’s most densely populated regions, taking a heavy toll on health, the economy, and education.

In May and June, tens of millions of people faced dangerous heat. India had its longest heat wave ever, starting in mid-May. In northern India, temperatures rose above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit), with some areas exceeding 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit). Official reports in May mentioned 56 heat-related deaths between March and May, but the real number is probably higher because rural deaths often aren’t reported.

Source: Reuters

Myanmar has faced unprecedented high temperatures in several townships, including Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing, and Bago divisions. Cambodia has recently experienced its highest temperatures in 170 years, reaching up to 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit). In northern Thailand, temperatures soared above 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit), while Bangkok saw temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). In 2024, Thailand’s summer, which typically runs from late February to late May, was 1–2 degrees Celsius hotter than the previous year, with rainfall below average. Through May 10, 2024, at least 61 people in Thailand died from heatstroke, compared to 37 deaths throughout the entire previous year.

The intense heat has caused disruptions in education and labor productivity. In the Philippines, authorities instructed millions of students to stay home by suspending in-person classes for two days. The Department of Education directed more than 47,000 public schools to shift to online lessons.

Extreme heat is influenced by both local and global factors. Locally, reduced vegetation and soil moisture contribute to higher temperatures. Urban areas, with their concrete and asphalt surfaces, retain heat, creating what is known as the urban heat island effect. Additionally, wind patterns and cloud cover play roles in local temperature variations.

Globally, El Niño events and climate change amplify extreme heat occurrences. El Niño events have released additional heat into the atmosphere since May 2023, exacerbating global warming. Consequently, regions like South and Southeast Asia experience more frequent, prolonged, and intense heat waves.

El Niño is a weather phenomenon characterized by unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It occurs irregularly every few years and can affect global weather patterns. During El Niño, increased ocean temperatures lead to changes in atmospheric circulation, which can cause heavy rainfall in some regions and droughts in others. It also influences the jet stream, altering storm patterns worldwide.

In South and Southeast Asia, El Niño often correlates with hotter and drier conditions, worsening heat waves and extending dry periods. These conditions pose severe challenges for agriculture, leading to reduced crop yields and increased wildfire risks.

El Niño and La Niña are integral to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, a natural phenomenon causing significant year-to-year climate variations on Earth.

However, human-induced climate change is now affecting this cycle. Studies indicate that that factor is increasing the occurrence and intensity of severe El Niño events, multiplying their impacts such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and altered hurricane patterns.

Climate models predict that extreme El Niño events could occur approximately every 10 years instead of every 20 due to global warming. This heightened frequency could result in more frequent and severe weather-related disasters globally.

Climate change presents a significant challenge for Global South countries due to their limited resources and capacity to respond effectively. These nations heavily rely on agriculture as a vital economic pillar, making them particularly vulnerable to the erratic weather patterns associated with climate change. Consequently, they often experience crop failures, food insecurity, and heightened poverty levels.

Economically, the impact is substantial. Projections from the World Bank indicate that by 2050, over 140 million people in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America may be internally displaced due to factors exacerbated by climate change such as water scarcity and reduced agricultural productivity.

Socially, climate change worsens existing inequalities within these countries. The poorest populations, despite contributing minimally to global greenhouse gas emissions, bear the brunt of climate-related disasters such as floods and droughts. This exacerbates health issues, displaces communities, and sparks competition over essential resources like water and land. Moreover, inadequate healthcare infrastructure further complicates matters, as these countries struggle to manage the increased burden of climate-related illnesses.

Heat waves pose a serious threat to low-income communities, worsening existing health and economic disparities. These neighborhoods often lack adequate infrastructure to handle extreme temperatures, such as poorly insulated homes and limited access to cooling options. The urban heat island effect further exacerbates the problem, making urban areas hotter than surrounding rural regions due to human activities. As a result, cooling costs rise, putting financial strain on many low-income families during heat waves.

The health impacts on these communities are significant, with more hospitalizations due to heat-related illnesses like dehydration, heat exhaustion, and potentially fatal heatstroke. Limited health care access complicates timely treatment during heat emergencies. Moreover, existing health conditions prevalent in these areas, such as respiratory and heart diseases, worsen under extreme heat.

Economically, heat waves disrupt the livelihoods of low-income workers who rely on outdoor jobs or work in non-climate-controlled environments. Lost work hours due to illness or caregiving responsibilities contribute to financial instability.

Heat waves present significant risks to vulnerable populations in third-world countries, particularly women, the elderly, and children, exacerbating their health and socioeconomic challenges. Women, often engaged in agricultural labor, face heightened susceptibility to heat-related illnesses due to limited health care access and outdoor work. The elderly, with age-related health issues and reduced mobility, are at increased risk of heat stress complications, compounded by insufficient cooling infrastructure. Prolonged heat waves can lead to school closures and hinder educational opportunities, further impacting the development and future prospects of children in these regions.

While developed nations revel in the comforts of modern life, third-world countries face the harsh realities of escalating climate change and severe heat waves. These communities grapple with extreme temperatures that disrupt daily routines, endanger health, and undermine economic stability. The unequal distribution of resources starkly illustrates that as global temperatures increase, the consequences disproportionately affect those with limited resources and infrastructure to cope and adapt.

Source: Globetrotter

Pranjal Pandey, a journalist and editor located in Delhi, has edited seven books covering a range of issues available at LeftWord. You can explore his journalistic contributions on NewsClick.in.