Entries with Categorías Global Affairs Ensayos .

Election violence in Africa: Motivations and effects on election outcome. The case of Kenya and Burundi

Police cordon off Uhuru Park in Nairobi in 2008 to bar opposition from holding there Mass protest rally [Wikimedia Commons]

▲ Police cordon off Uhuru Park in Nairobi in 2008 to bar opposition from holding there Mass protest rally [Wikimedia Commons]

ESSAY Álvaro de Lecea Larrañaga

From the moment colonial empires left the African continent and the new republics celebrated their first democratic elections, the issue of election violence has been present in the majority of the countries. It is a problem that has not changed and that keeps disturbing national and international supporters of a peaceful democratization of the African continent. It is not the first time in history we know about election violence in democratic states, such as France during the nineteenth century; nevertheless, the African dynamics are quite peculiar.

Violence, in general terms, has become a political instrument in the African democratic dynamics (Laakso, 2007). Depending on the actor making use of it, the motivation behind it is different. It is also important to take into account the historical, political, socio-cultural and economic context of each country to understand the purposes of the usage of this controversial mechanism. The spur is not the same for the ruling party or the opposition party, or other groups like the youth. Hence the use of violence has a lot of influence in the outcomes of an election process as it is an effective means that shapes the democratic dynamics when it comes to the election of the representatives at all stages of the electoral processes. For example, the ruling parties use it to avoid being removed from their powerful positions and all the benefits that come from them (Mehler, 2007).

This issue of power, with a high level of influence of money, is probably the most common motivation for every actor involved in these dynamics (Muna & Otieno, 2020, pp. 92-111). Not only the ruling powers but the ones trying to substitute them or the ones trying to impose a new order are, in some way, motivated by the powerful positions they could attain. The violence therefore permeates all party structures and is also noticeable within the parties.

The issue of intra-party violence has not received a lot of attention due to more frequency of state inspired violence against the opposition. Yet it is becoming more prevalent especially in political parties that hold power. This is because the belief is usually entrenched that if one represents the ruling party the chances of getting elected get higher. It should also be noted that the risk of intra-party violence increases as inter-party competition decreases, making intra-party violence more common in districts where a single party dominates (Bech Seeberg, Skaaning, & Wahman, 2017).

The timing of the violence is very relevant to understand the problem of election violence. The different three kinds of election violence (pre-election violence, post-election violence and violence during the Election Day) carry different connotations with them (Daxecker, 2013). They are the result of the general context of the country and represent the behaviour of their citizens towards the democratic principles of the nation. This can also be a response to the electoral campaigns of both the ruling and opposition parties, which sometimes involve violent means too.

Pre-election violence is normally recorded within parties as they carry out their primaries to select representatives and during the campaign process in a bid to hinder opponents from getting access to the people. Violence on Election Day is usually designed to disrupt areas where some candidates suspect they will lose or feel the election process has not been fair. While post-election violence is mainly an expression of dissatisfaction with the outcome of the election.

The role of media and international observers are also key for drafting the big picture of the problems involving election violence. These to some extent can escalate the conflict or reduce it. The power of information is huge and these agents are the most reliable sources to the local and international communities. If an international observer, such as a Committee from the United Nations, declares an election fraud, post-election violence is a very possible outcome (Daxecker, 2012). However, the media, and more concretely a trustworthy local media agent, has the power to calm the masses and bring peace.

Finally, the electoral system chosen by each country will also have a direct effect on the violence because of the interests behind the election. The plurality voting is the most used system among African states. These kinds of systems are also known as winner-takes-all, because the winner gets all the power. Even if it is not necessarily a negative system, as successful countries such as France or Brazil also use them, the difference of power between a common citizen and a politician is so big in Africa that the interest of getting those posts is higher (Reynolds, 2009). This will cause that any means justified to get there, including the use of violence.

To further analyze the motivations behind election violence in Africa and the effects it has on the region, and to try to offer a functional solution for this issue the article explores two case studies: Kenya 2007 and Burundi 2010.

African election violence case studies

Kenya 2007

The presidential and parliamentary elections held in Kenya in 2007 are a great example of election violence where external factors had influences on the outcomes. However, these external factors were not the only ones causing the violence. Internal issues such as the historical culture of the country, the electoral system or the will of power were also influential in this case. To understand the big picture, it is always important to analyze every relevant aspect.

Since the first multi-party democratic elections in Kenya, held in 1992, post-election violence has been very present. During the almost thirty years of dictatorship in Kenya after their independence from the British Crown, repression was promoted throughout the whole territory. Abuses of human rights, nepotism, widespread corruption and patronage were very common (Onyebadi & Oyedeji, 2011), therefore Kenyans are used to protest, violently if needed, against political fraud and suppression of their democratic rights.

Mwai Kibaki’s victory in the 2007 elections brought a whole wave of violent protests because of the fraudulent accusations the elections received (Odhiambo Owuor, 2013). Not only the opposition leader Raila Odinga denounced the election as massively rigged, but also the international community did so. As they condemned the election as fraudulent, the United Nations intervened and helped reach a deal between both party leaders. In this case, the violence produced arrived after the elections (post-election violence) and was motivated by the fraudulent accusations made by international and national observers.

The solution reached was to recognize Kibaki as president and to create a new position of Executive Prime Minister for Odinga. Furthermore, they stipulated that cabinet positions were to be shared by the disputants and their political parties. This characteristic outcome was accepted with more enthusiasm by the Kenyan people because it divided the power in more than one person and, therefore, the abuse of it as it had happened before was not so probable. The electoral system, which is explained later on, has helped these abuses to be produced, so this different outcome meant a significant change in the Kenyan policy-making.

In the case of Kenya, media is very relevant, as the two most successful newspapers, the “Daily Nation” and “The Standard”, with a combined strength of 75% market share, do not receive funding from the government. Without falling into sensationalism, these newspapers were able to become agents of peace and reconciliation. As violence raged in the post-election period, the newspapers adopted a thematic approach to reaching a peaceful outcome (Onyebadi & Oyedeji, 2011).

This conflict, apart from the effects it had on the electoral outcome, influenced the economic situation of the country. The annual percentage growth of GDP fell from 6.8% in 2007 to 0.2% in 2008, the annual percentage of GDP per capita growth was negative (-2.5%) and the growth on the percentage of employment regarding total labour force began increasing again in 2008, going from 2.5% that year to 2.7% in 2009 (World Bank, 2020). However, this data is biased because of the economic recession several countries, including Kenya, suffered due to the 2008 financial crisis.

Finally, Kenya’s first-past-the-post single member constituency electoral system gives the electoral winner plenty of power. Moreover, the economic inequality, the domination of the powerful elites of the country who are very influential in the political system and the fact that Kenyan political parties are not usually founded on ideology but serve the ideas of the funders, produce a form of democracy that represents the few rather than the majority. Therefore, it is very complicated to terminate the desire for political power from the Kenyan mindset.

Burundi 2010

Burundi’s history has been marked by the Hutu-Tutsi rivalry. Since it got independence in 1962, the ethnic cleavages between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi have been remarkable. The 2010 elections are not quite different from the rest, as the outcomes resulted in boycotts and violence. Burundi is a country that has used violence as a tool of solving conflicts several times and has a violent historic precedent regarding “democratic” elections (Mehler, 2007). Several prime ministers and presidents from the different ethnic groups have been assassinated throughout Burundi’s democratic history, which has led to a series of coups and ethnic clashes.

During the 2010 elections, the United Nations also sent a mission to observe the democratic process followed. They affirmed that the winning party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD–FDD), were able to campaign throughout the country, whereas the opposition parties had much less visibility (Palmans, n.d.).

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which is supposed to organize, conduct and supervise the elections independently from any party were not as transparent as they were meant to and didn’t respect the rights of the political parties, which caused the boycott led by the opposition (Niang, n.d.). In Burundi too, elections have mainly been a struggle for power as a means of gaining access to economic resources through control of the state. So, the tensions have always been great during elections. Thus, violence tends to be used by nearly every actor involved.

The peculiarity within this case is that the violence didn’t only take place after knowing the results of the elections, but also before the Election Day. Pre-election violence came as a consequence of systematic disagreement between CNDD-FDD and opposition parties. Although several institutions were created to ensure the legality and transparency of the election, such as the CENI, the CNDD-FDD tried to arrange the legal and institutional context to force the process into its advantage and ensure its victory against the opposition.

The pre-election violence transformed into post-election violence leading to the main opposition leader, Agathon Rwasa, having to flee the country. Even though the violence was not as widespread as in Kenya, the situation remained tense in the country. The results didn’t change, and the political rivalries were further entrenched. In this case, the use of violence and coupled with display of power won the elections which created more fear and despair within the population.

Conclusion

Election violence is very common in several countries over the world, with an emphasis on Africa. There, it has become some kind of political instrument which, despite being anti-democratic by nature, is part of the policymaking, campaigning and electoral process. It is different depending on the timing it appears and plenty of factors influence its appearance and control. Within the most remarkable we can find the role of international and national observers, the role of the media, both national and international, and the will of power, usually linked to the economic benefits the winner receives. Furthermore, depending on who the actor is making use of it, the factors behind it can change drastically.

After having analyzed the two case studies, Kenya 2008 and Burundi 2010, and having interpreted the impact these issues have had in their internal socio-economic parameters, it is also obvious that these anti-democratic practices do have some impact in every aspect of the society involved in it. Its most remarkable influence can be seen on the election outcome. In both cases, violence was key for establishing the results. In the case of Kenya, it was the motor that boosted a change in the policymaking, and in the case of Burundi, it helped the winning party keep the power.

The three main factors that influence this kind of policymaking and that should be reviewed and, if necessary, modified to end the violence are the electoral system most African countries follow, the ethnic nature of violence and the common African mindset regarding power. The majority of the electoral systems followed in Africa are winner-takes-all systems that makes it hard for the loser to give up power and lose the benefits it brings. Also, as the case of Burundi has shown, ethnic rivalries are a very common reason motivating the violent outcomes of elections, even if the state follows a democratic regime. This, together with the great will of power present on the African societies, demonstrated by the intra- and inter-party violence, provokes the unsustainable situation present nowadays.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bank, W. (2020). World Bank Database. Retrieved from https://datos.bancomundial.org/

Bech Seeberg, M., Skaaning, S.-E., & Wahman, M. (2017). Candidate nomination, Intra-party Democracy, and Election Violence in Africa. ResearchGate.

Daxecker, U. E. (2012). The cost of exposing cheating: International election monitoring, fraud, and post-election violence in Africa. Journal of Peace Research.

Daxecker, U. E. (2013). All quiet on Election Day? International election observation and incentives for pre-election violence in African elections. Electoral Studies, 1-12.

Laakso, L. (2007). Insights into Electoral Violence in Africa. En M. Basedau, G. Erdmann, & A. Mehler, Votes, Money and Violence: Political Parties and Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa (págs. 224-252). South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Mehler, A. (2007). Political Parties and Violence in Africa: Systematic Reflections against Empirical Background. In M. Basedau, G. Erdmann, & A. Mehler, Votes, Money and Violence: Political Parties and Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 194-223). South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Muna, W., & Otieno, M. (2020). The ‘Money Talks Factor’ in Kenya’s Public Policy and Electoral Democracy.

Niang, M. A. (n.d.). Case study: Burundi. EISA.

Odhiambo Owuor, F. (2013). The 2007 General Elections in Kenya: Electoral Laws and Process. EISA, 113-123.

Onyebadi, U., & Oyedeji, T. (2011). Newspaper coverage of post-political election violence in Africa: an assessment of the Kenyan example. Media, War & Conflict, 215-230.

Palmans, E. (n.d.). Burundi's 2010 Elections: Democracy and Peace at Risk? European Centre for Electoral Support.

Reynolds, A. (2009). Elections, Electoral Systems, and Conflict in Africa. The Brown Journal of World Affairs, 75-83.

International contracting on cluster bombs

A B-1B Lancer unleashes cluster munitions [USAF]

▲ A B-1B Lancer unleashes cluster munitions [USAF]

ESSAYAna Salas

The aim of this paper is to study the international contracts on cluster bombs. Before going deeper into this issue, it is important to understand the concept of international contract and cluster bomb. “A contract is a voluntary, deliberate, legally binding, and enforceable agreement creating mutual obligations between two or more parties and a contract is international when it has certain links with more than one State.”[1]

A cluster bomb is a free-fall or directed bomb that can be dropped from land, sea, or air. Cluster bombs contain a device that releases many small bombs when opened. These submunitions can cause different damages, they are used against various targets, including people, armored vehicles, and different types of material. It is an explosive charge designed to burst after that separation, in most cases when impacting the ground. But often large numbers of the submunitions fail to function as designed, and instead land on the ground without exploding, where they remain as very dangerous duds.

The main problem with these types of weapons is that they may cause serious collateral damage such as the death of thousands of civilians. Because of that, the legality of this type of weapon is controversial. Out of concern for the civilians affected by artifacts of this type, the Cluster Bomb Convention was held in Dublin, Ireland in 2008. There, a treaty was signed that prohibited the use of these weapons. Not all countries, though, signed the treaty; major arms producers, such as the United States, Russia and China, are not parties in the convention.

Among other things, the Convention proposed a total ban on cluster munitions, the promotion of the destruction of stocks in a period of 8 years, the cleaning of contaminated areas in 10 years, and assistance to the victims of these weapons.   

Convention on Cluster Munitions: geopolitical background  

The antecedents of this convention are in the recognition of the damage produced by the multiple attacks that have been carried out with cluster munitions. The International Handicap Organization has produced a report that offers concrete and documented data on the victims of cluster bombs around the world. In Laos[2], the attacks were designed to prevent enemy convoys make use of dense vegetation to camouflage among the trees. Furthermore, in this way it was not necessary to use ground troops. In Kosovo (1999), the targets were military posts, road vehicles, troop concentrations, armored units, and telecommunications centers. In Iraq cluster bombs have been used several times. During Operation “Desert Storm” in 1991, US forces dropped almost 50,000 bombs with more than 13 million submunitions on Iraq in air operations alone (not taking into account those dropped from the sea or by artillery). Estimates suggest that a third did not explode, and were found on roads, bridges and other civil infrastructure.

Pressure for an international ban on cluster bombs has recently intensified, following Israel's bombardments with these weapons in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Also, in Afghanistan, in 2001 and 2002, during the US offensive, more than 1,200 cluster bombs with almost 250,000 submunitions were dropped against Taliban military bases and positions. These targets were near towns and villages, whose civilian population was affected. UN demining teams estimate that around 40,000 munitions did not explode. These have been the main concern of NGOs. On the one hand, because of the large percentage of civilians who have been affected by the cluster bombs and on the other hand, due to the amount of submunitions that did not explode at the time and that are in the affected areas, being an even greater risk for the security of the civilian population or even for their agriculture in those lands.

Due to the great commotion over the death of thousands of civilians and after several attempts, a convention on such munitions was adopted in Dublin, where more than 100 countries had come together for an international agreement. The Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted on May 30, 2008, in Dublin and signed on December 3-4, 2008 in Oslo, Norway. The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on August 1, 2010.

One of the major problems addressed in the Convention was the threat posed by submunitions that do not explode as expected, and which remain in the area as a mortal danger, turning the affected area into a large minefield where the civilian population is the most vulnerable. A study indicates that 20-30% of these bombs do not explode either due to manufacturing defects, or to falls in soft areas or in trees, for example.

Articles 3 and 4 of the Convention are of great importance. Article 3 refers to the stockpile, storage, and destruction of cluster bombs. Here all Parties haves the obligation of making sure to destroy their stored cluster bombs no later than 8 years. Article 4, on the cleaning and destroying of cluster munition remnants and education on risk reduction, is intended to protect possible victims from the danger of bombs that have not exploded. Article 5 reinforces the obligation of the signatory parties to assist the victims of cluster bombs.

After the convention there is a double deal on cluster bombs. Since the destruction of the entire arsenal of these ammunitions and submunitions was approved, the affected companies and the countries involved will have a new challenge in hiring companies that carry out the extinction of these reserves.

Producers

The main manufacturers of cluster bombs are the United States, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, and India. Approximately 16 states are the largest producers of this ammunition and submunition worldwide, and none of these countries adhered to the convention on cluster munitions. Some of the countries involved are Greece, South Korea, North Korea, Egypt, Iran, Poland, Turkey, Brazil, Singapore, Romania, and Poland. The date on which the cluster munitions were produced is not clear because of the lack of transparency and the data available.

A total of 85 companies have produced, along history, cluster bombs or their essential parts. Many of these companies are headquartered in the United States or Europe, but others are state-owned industries located in developing countries. Cluster munition production involves the manufacturing and integration of a large number of parts, including metal parts, explosives, fuses, and packaging materials. All components are seldom produced by a single company in the same state. This makes difficult to determine the true extent of the international trade in cluster munitions.

International trade on cluster bomb has slackened. As the cluster munition monitor of 2017 states, the US company Textron Systems Corporation, for example, has slowed production of the CBU-105[3] weapon due to “reduced orders, and claimed that the current political environment has made it difficult to obtain sales approvals from the executive branch.”

Manufactures are also adapting their production to international regulations. Following a study by Pax[4] on “Worlwide Investments in cluster munitions,” Avibras (Brazil), Bharat Dynamics Limited (India), China Aerospace Science and Industry (China) or Hanwha (South Korea) are some of the companies that develop or produce cluster bombs according to the definition given by the Dublin Convention in 2008.

It is important to warn about the existing sensitivity regarding the production of cluster bombs. Undoubtedly, they pose a serious problem from the point of view of civil protection, but many companies engaged in the production and the funders of this kind of weapons have a high interest in keeping them legal.

There are very controversial weapons. Many countries insist on that cluster munitions are legal weapons, that, although not essential, have great military use. Some states believe that submunitions can be accurately targeted to reduce damage to civilians, meaning that military purposes can be isolated in densely populated areas. On the other hand, others believe that the ability of cluster munitions to destroy targets just as effectively throughout the attack area can cause those using them to neglect the target, thus increasing the risk of civilian casualties.

The future of International contracting on cluster bombs

As Jorge Heine defines the "New Diplomacy", it requires the negotiation of a wide range of relationships with the state, NGOs and commercial actors. “As middle powers have demonstrated, through joining forces with NGOs, they have actually succeeded in augmenting their power to project their interests into the international arena.”[5] Cluster munition is an example of this case.

Because of this, parties forming international contracts for the purchase and financing of cluster bombs are forced to change the object of the cluster bomb business. As mentioned earlier, the new business will be the destruction of these weapons, rather than their production. Especially munitions with high submunition failure rates. For this reason, countries such as Argentina, Canada, France, UK, Denmark, Norway, Spain and more have promoted a new business on the destruction of the storage of cluster bombs. As a result, cluster munitions move away from their useful life and have more chances of being destroyed than of being sold for profit.

By financing companies that produce cluster munitions, financial institutions (in many cases states themselves) help these companies to produce the weapon. But to achieve an effective elimination of cluster bombs, more than a convention is needed. The effort requires national legislation that reflects that purpose. Domestic governments must provide clear guidelines by introducing and enforcing legislation that prohibits investment in cluster munitions producers.  

Conclusion

As a military tactic, the use of cluster bombs provides a high percentage of success. A good number of states and armies defend that they are effective weapons, sometimes even decisive ones, depending on the circumstances and the context. It is often argued that using another type of weapon to achieve the same objective would require more firepower and use more explosives, and that this would cause even greater collateral damage. At the same time, and to avoid the low reliability of these weapons, some armies have begun to modernize their arsenals and to replace older weapons with more modern and precise versions that incorporate, for example, guidance or self-destruct systems. Their main objective in developing cluster bombs is to compensate for precision failures with more munitions and, on the other hand, to allow a greater number of targets to be hit in less time.

Advances in technology can certainly reduce some of the humanitarian problems generated by the less advanced types of cluster bombs but a good number of military operations are currently peace operations, where the risk generated by these products also becomes a military concern, not just humanitarian. For example, to address the issue of unexploded ordnance, weapons are being developed that have self-destruction or, at least, self-neutralization mechanisms[6].

There is great uncertainty about how the norms of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) are interpreted and whether they are applied rigorously in the case of cluster munitions, given the lack of precision and reliability of these weapons. The Convention on Cluster Munitions gives hope, but we must consider the different current situations and how they can change. We also have to take into account that this agreement leaves open many possibilities of circumventing what has been signed. For example, guided or self-destructive cluster bombs do not fall under the umbrella of this pact.

Despite the provisions of International Humanitarian Law, existing cluster munitions have caused large numbers of civilian casualties in various conflicts. A better implementation of the IHL, including the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, will not be able to fully address the problems caused by these weapons. There is a need for specific rules on these munitions as outlined above.

 


[1] Renzo Cavalieri and Vincenzo Salvatore, An introduction to international contract law, Torino: Giappichelli, 2018.

[2] During the years 1964 to 1973, Laos was bombed by the United States. The attacks were intended to cut off North Vietnamese supply lines and support Laotian government forces in their fight against communist rebels.

[3] CBU-105 is a free fall cluster bomb unit of the United States Air Force.

[4] Pax is a peace organization with the aim of “bringing peace, reconciliation and justice in the world”.

[5] Matthew Bolton and Thomas Nash, “The Role of Middle Powe-NGO Coalitions in Global Policy: The Case of the Cluster Munitions Ban”, Global Policy, Vol. 1, No. 2 (May 2010), pp 172-184.

[6] Some essential component for the operation of the bomb is deactivated.

Un nuevo horizonte para Próximo Oriente: los acuerdos entre Israel y países del Golfo suponen un cambio de juego

Los ministros de Exteriores de Bahréin y EAU firman con el ‘premier’ israelí los Acuerdos Abraham, en septiembre de 2020 [Casa Blanca]

▲ Los ministros de Exteriores de Bahréin y EAU firman con el ‘premier’ israelí los Acuerdos Abraham, en septiembre de 2020 [Casa Blanca]

ENSAYOLucas Martín Serrano *

Es interesante incorporar a cualquier tipo de análisis geopolítico unas pinceladas de historia. La historia es una ayuda fundamental para comprender el presente. Y la mayor parte de los conflictos, problemas, fricciones u obstáculos ya sea entre naciones o entidades públicas o privadas siempre tienen subyacente un trasfondo histórico. Además, llevado al terreno de la negociación, sin importar el nivel de esta, demostrar un cierto conocimiento histórico del adversario es útil porque, por un lado, no deja de ser una muestra de interés y respeto hacia él, lo cual siempre nos situará en una posición ventajosa, sino que, en otro orden de cosas, cualquier escollo o dificultad que aparezca tiene amplias posibilidades de tener su homólogo histórico, y precisamente ahí se puede hallar el camino hacia la solución. La parte que disponga una mayor profundidad de ese conocimiento aumentará notablemente las opciones de una solución más favorable a sus intereses.

En la antigüedad, el territorio que hoy ocupan los Emiratos Árabes Unidos estaba habitado por tribus árabes, nómadas agricultores, artesanos y comerciantes. El saqueo de los barcos mercantes de potencias europeas que navegaban por sus costas, aproximándose a estas más de lo recomendable, era algo habitual. Y, en cierto modo, una forma de vida para parte de sus habitantes. Es en el siglo VII cuando el Islam se asienta en la cultura local. De las dos corrientes surgidas tras las disputas acaecidas después de la muerte del Profeta, es la sunní la que se hace con la hegemonía a partir del siglo XI.

Con la finalidad de poner fin a la piratería y asegurar las rutas comerciales marítimas, el Reino Unido, a partir de 1820, firma con los jeques de la zona un tratado de paz. En 1853 se va un paso más allá y se logra firmar otro acuerdo por el cual todo el territorio quedaba bajo el protectorado militar del Reino Unido.

La zona atrajo la atención de potencias como Rusia, Francia y Alemania, y en 1892, para proteger sus intereses, se firma el acuerdo que garantiza para los británicos el monopolio sobre el comercio y la exportación.

La zona que abarca a los actuales siete Emiratos Árabes Unidos más Catar y Bahréin se conoció a partir de ese momento como los “Estados de la Tregua” o “Trucial States”.

Durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, los aeródromos y puertos del Golfo tomaron un importante papel en el desarrollo del conflicto en favor de Reino Unido. Al término de la Segunda Guerra Mundial en 1945, se creó la Liga de Estados Árabes (Liga Árabe), formada por aquellos que gozaban de cierta independencia colonial. La organización llamó la atención de los Estados de la Tregua.

En 1960, se crea la Organización de Países Exportadores de Petróleo (OPEP), siendo Arabia Saudita, Irán, Irak, Kuwait y Venezuela sus fundadores y con sede en Viena, Austria. Los siete emiratos, que posteriormente formarían los Emiratos Árabes Unidos, se unieron a la organización en 1967.

Desde 1968, nueve emiratos de la costa oriental de la península Arábiga habían comenzado negociaciones para constituir un estado federal. Tras la retirada definitiva de las tropas británicas y después de que Bahréin y Catar se desmarcasen del proceso y obtuviesen la independencia por separado, en 1971, seis emiratos se independizaron del imperio británico: Abu Dhabi, Dubái, Sharjah, Ajmán, Umm al Qaywayn y Fujairah, formando la federación de los Emiratos Árabes Unidos, con un sistema legal basado en la constitución de 1971. Una vez consolidada, el 12 de junio se unieron a la Liga Árabe. El séptimo emirato, Ras Al-Khaimah se adhirió al año siguiente, destacando como componentes más fuertes los emiratos de Dubái y Abu Dabi, la capital.

Fue el inicio de la explotación de los enormes pozos petrolíferos descubiertos años atrás lo que dio un giro total a la situación. A partir de la crisis del petróleo de 1973, los Emiratos comenzaron a acumular una enorme riqueza, debido a que los miembros de la OPEP decidieron no exportar más petróleo a los países que apoyaron a Israel durante la guerra del Yom Kippur.

El petróleo y el turismo basado en el crecimiento urbanístico y el desarrollo tecnológico son las principales fuentes de prosperidad del país en la actualidad, y un dato muy importante desde todos los puntos de vista es que, actualmente, el 80-85% de la población de EAU es inmigrante.

Situación actual

Ha sido especialmente durante la última década, y como consecuencia en parte de los acontecimientos acaecidos en la región a partir de lo que se conoció como la Primavera Árabe, cuando los EUA han emergido como una potencia regional con capacidad de influir en la zona.

La principal característica que puede atribuirse a esta aparición en la escena internacional es la transformación de una política exterior conservadora y muy dirigida hacia la “autoconservación”, hacia otras más aperturista con clara vocación de, no sólo jugar un papel relevante en la región, sino de influir en la misma para proteger sus intereses.

La que se puede considerar como la principal ambición de Abu Dhabi es convertirse en un actor principal capaz de influir en la definición y establecimiento de las estructuras de gobernanza a lo largo de la región según su propio modelo, asegurando y ampliando las rutas comerciales, introduciendo en ella a sus vecinos para crear un nodo económico lo suficientemente potente con capacidad para estrechar lazos con toda la región Este de África y con el sudeste asiático, en lo que parece otro claro ejemplo de cómo el centro geopolítico mundial se está desplazando ya definitivamente hacia el eje Asia-Pacífico.

El modelo emiratí ha sido capaz de evolucionar para integrar una creciente apertura económica junto con un modelo político conservador y de gobierno fuerte cuyo principal discurso está construido en base a un estado perfectamente afianzado y seguro. Y todo ello aunándolo con una gran capacidad como proveedor de servicios. Y lo que es muy interesante, el modelo social es de base relativamente secular y liberal, si lo comparamos con los estándares de la región.

Pero un dato fundamental que no puede olvidarse es el rechazo frontal hacia cualquier ideología política o religiosa que suponga la más leve amenaza a la hegemonía y supremacía del Estado y de sus líderes.

Es Abu Dhabi, por ser el mayor y más próspero de los siete emiratos, el que ejerce más influencia a la hora de marcar las líneas generales de la política, tanto interior como exterior. De hecho, la evolución del modelo establecido por los EAU está firmemente asociado al príncipe de la corona de Abu Dhabi y líder de facto del emirato, Mohamed bin Zayed (MbZ).

Lo que no se puede perder de vista es que, a pesar de que MbZ y su círculo más íntimo de confianza comparten la misma visión del mundo y la política, sus acciones y decisiones no siguen necesariamente un plan preestablecido. No hay una doctrina base con objetivos tácticos y estratégicos marcados y las líneas de trabajo a seguir para alcanzarlos.

Su forma de llevar a cabo la estrategia país, si así puede llamarse, se basa en un pequeño grupo perteneciente a ese círculo íntimo, el cual pone sobre la mesa varias opciones normalmente tácticas y reactivas ante cualquier problema o asunto que surja para llevar a cabo. En base a estas, la cúpula dirigente sigue un proceso de toma de decisiones ad hoc que puede conducir a una excesiva necesidad de correcciones y ajustes posteriores que a su vez derive en una pérdida de oportunidades.

Amenazas – Situación de seguridad

Las autoridades de los Emiratos tienen una clara percepción de cuáles son las principales amenazas geoestratégicas para su desarrollo: por un lado, la difusión transnacional promovida por Irán de la ideología política islamista y, por otro, la influencia que tratan de ejercer los Hermanos Musulmanes y sus promotores y apoyos, incluido Catar y Turquía, es percibida como una amenaza existencial a su visión de una forma de gobierno más secular, así como para la estabilidad del actual statu quo regional, dado que pueden actuar como un catalizador para el radicalismo en la zona.

No obstante, Abu Dhabi ha sido mucho más beligerante en su discurso contra los Hermanos Musulmanes y aquellos que les apoyan, al tiempo que ha mantenido cierta cautela en su posicionamiento contra Irán.

El reciente acuerdo con el Estado de Israel ha servido para restar credibilidad a muchos de los tradicionales tópicos tan arraigados al tiempo que ha puesto de manifiesto el nacimiento de un bloque judeo-sunní como oposición a la beligerante y creciente corriente chiita liderada por Irán y por sus proxies, activos en prácticamente todos los países de la zona y en todos los conflictos regionales.

Esta nueva situación debe servir a las potencias occidentales para confirmar que en la región del Próximo Oriente la visión de su propia problemática ha cambiado e Irán y su particular forma de ejercer su política exterior y defender sus intereses son considerados en la actualidad un factor mucho más desestabilizador que el duradero conflicto palestino-israelí. La amenaza que supone Irán ha actuado como catalizador a la hora de aunar criterios al tiempo que, a pesar de todo, Israel es visto como un elemento que proporciona estabilidad tanto en el plano militar como en el económico.

El Tratado EAU-Israel

El 15 de septiembre, Israel, Emiratos Árabes Unidos y Bahréin, formalizaron la normalización de sus relaciones. Este acuerdo significa que ya son cuatro los Estados árabes que han aceptado el derecho de Israel a existir, y esto es indudablemente un auténtico éxito diplomático.

El hecho de que hayan sido, precisamente, los EAU y Bahréin no es casual. Ninguno de los dos Estados ha participado en una guerra directa contra Israel.  Y, si esa característica es común a ambos estados, la relación de Bahréin con Israel ha sido mucho más fluida que la de Emiratos Árabes Unidos. Esta realidad se sustenta en la comunidad judía asentada en Al-Qatif y en su integración, que se ha traducido en una participación plena y activa en la vida política de Bahréin. Ello ha ayudado a que las relaciones entre Manama y Jerusalén no hayan sido en absoluto conflictivas.

A pesar de ser visto a los ojos del gran público como una novedad, la verdad es que el reciente acuerdo alcanzado es el tercer “Tratado de Paz” que firma el país hebreo con una nación árabe. Sin embargo, es el primero que tiene visos de nacer con unos cimientos lo suficientemente sólidos que permiten augurar una nueva situación mucho más estable y duradera, en claro contraste con las relaciones fruto de los anteriores acuerdos con Egipto y Jordania, muy ceñidos a limitadas relaciones personales y en el campo de la seguridad y la diplomacia convencional.

El nuevo acuerdo con Israel establece una nueva senda de colaboración que afecta a todo Oriente Próximo, e incluye de un modo sustancial contrapesar la influencia de Irán, fomentar las relaciones comerciales, el turismo, la colaboración en materia militar a la hora de compartir inteligencia, cooperación en el área sanitaria y de ese modo contribuir a posicionar a EAU para liderar la diplomacia árabe en la región ofreciendo una oposición sólida a grupos islamistas como los Hermanos Musulmanes y su brazo palestino en Gaza, Hamas para de ese modo abrir la puerta a que otros países de la zona den pasos en su misma dirección.

La decisión de Israel de suspender la anunciada anexión bajo su soberanía de determinadas zonas de Cisjordania es la prueba de que estos movimientos en la región son mucho más profundos y están mucho más preparados y acordados de antemano de lo que pueda imaginarse.

Y esta es precisamente una de las grandes diferencias que se encuentran con los acuerdos anteriores. La gran expectación que se ha creado y los claros indicios de que otros países, incluido Arabia Saudí, sigan la estela de EAU.

De hecho, un paso lleno de significado se ha dado en esta dirección, y ha sido algo tan simple como que un avión de la compañía israelí “EI-Al” sobrevoló espacio aéreo saudí llevando como pasajeros a un gran número de hombres de negocios, personal oficial e inversores camino de Emiratos como un gesto de buena voluntad. Y al contrario de lo que cabría haber esperado en otros momentos, este hecho, ni tuvo repercusión en el mundo árabe, ni provocó ningún tipo de protesta o manifestación en contra.

Lugares como Amman, Beirut, Túnez y Rabat, donde tradicionalmente las manifestaciones en contra de la “ocupación” israelí y acusaciones similares son por lo general numerosas en cuanto a participación, en esta ocasión se mantuvieron en total calma.

Pero si este dato ha pasado desapercibido para la población en general, no ha sucedido así para los líderes de las potencias de Oriente Próximo y las organizaciones violentas que utilizan como proxies.

Para aquellos que aspiran a seguir los pasos de EAU y establecer relaciones con Israel, ello ha servido de acicate para reafirmar su decisión, pues ha disminuido la sensación de inquietud o incluso de peligro emanante de las calles en el mundo árabe en relación con el conflicto palestino israelí que dicho paso podría provocar.

Por el contrario, para Irán y sus proxies ha sido una dura lección. No solo por comprobar que la baza de la causa palestina, enarbolada y puesta sobre el tablero durante tanto tiempo, ha disminuido notablemente su importancia, sino porque ha coincidido en el tiempo con potestas tanto en Iraq como en el Líbano de sentido totalmente contrario, es decir, en contra de la injerencia de Irán en los asuntos internos de ambos países.

Como conclusión, se debe extraer que, a pesar de que esa ausencia de protestas por el acuerdo entre Israel y EAU pueda parecer sorprendente, no es más que un signo evidente de un largo proceso de maduración y evolución política dentro del mundo árabe en general.

La población de Oriente Próximo en general no aspira ya a una unidad panarabista, panislámica, al establecimiento del Gran Califato o, en el caso de Irán o Turquía, a sueños imperialistas que son cosa del pasado. La masa del pueblo y de la sociedad lo que realmente desea es mejorar su bienestar, disponer de mayores y más atractivas oportunidades económicas, tener un buen sistema educativo, mejorar los niveles de desarrollo en todos los órdenes, que rija el imperio de la ley, y que esta sea igual para todos en sus respectivos países.

El tratado objeto de este punto encaja a la perfección dentro de esas aspiraciones y ese esquema mental. Las masas que antaño tomaban las calles ya no creen que la causa palestina sea merecedora de más esfuerzos y atención que su propia lucha por alcanzar un futuro mejor en sus naciones.

Y, este dato es muy importante, a pesar de la opacidad del régimen de los ayatolás, en Irán, la población es cada vez menos sumisa a unas políticas que llevan al país a una serie de conflictos permanentes y sin visos de finalización que provocan un derroche de los recursos del país para mantenerlos.

Justo dos días después del anuncio del acuerdo de paz, Emiratos Árabes Unidos levantó la prohibición de la comunicación telefónica con Israel, siendo el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores hebreo, Gabi Ashkenazi, y su homólogo de Emiratos, Abdullah binZayed, los encargados de simbolizar la apertura de esta nueva línea de comunicación.

Casi inmediatamente después, un equipo del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores israelí se desplazó a Abu Dhabi para comenzar a buscar posibles emplazamientos para la futura sede de la embajada de Israel.

Un importante flujo de inversiones procedentes de EAU se está canalizando hacia empresas israelíes que tratan de buscar nuevas formas de tratar la COVID19 y de desarrollar nuevas pruebas para detectar la enfermedad. El incremento de acuerdos de negocios entre empresas israelíes y de Emiratos ha sido prácticamente inmediato, y la compañía “El-Al” está trabajando ya para abrir un corredor directo entre Tel Aviv y Abu Dhabi.

Todo ello está favoreciendo que, ante la nueva situación y los nuevos planteamientos, en Marruecos, Omán y otros países árabes, se estén produciendo movimientos buscando seguir la estela de EAU. El atractivo de Israel no hace sino acrecentarse, en una significativa evolución desde la condición de país más odiado de la región a la de socio más deseado.

No obstante, un factor a tener en cuenta es el impacto en EEUU y Europa. En Occidente, en general, la causa palestina está ganando adeptos principalmente debido al movimiento “Boicot, Desinversión y Sanciones” (BDS). Por ello, es probable que los cambios en las relaciones con Israel no sólo no logren minar ese apoyo, sino que inciten a incrementar sus esfuerzos para evitar la normalización mediante campañas de desinformación de difusión del odio hacia Israel.

Por último, la oposición de Turquía, Catar e Irán era algo que puede calificarse de previsible, pero también es un elemento clarificador. El presidente iraní ha calificado el acuerdo de “grave error”, mientras que su homólogo turco ha amenazado con cerrar la embajada de EAU en Turquía. En ambos casos, la razón última de esta reacción es la misma: la utilización de la causa palestina en beneficio de sus propios intereses y, casualmente ambas son en esta ocasión coincidentes, distraer a la opinión pública de la difícil situación económica que por diferentes motivos los dos países están atravesando.

Política regional

El elemento más importante y perdurable en el tiempo en la política exterior y de seguridad de EAU lo constituye sus alianzas estratégicas con EEUU y Arabia Saudí. A pesar de que durante la última década Emiratos ha seguido una línea más independiente, los hechos acontecidos y esta nueva dirección no habrían sido posibles sin el apoyo de EEUU, en cuya protección confía el pequeño pero rico y al mismo tiempo poco poblado estado, y con quien pueden contar a la hora de exportar sus recursos energéticos en el supuesto de un conflicto.

Incluso durante la época de la administración de Obama, cuando las relaciones se enrarecieron debido a la política que tomó EEUU en relación con los sucesos de la “Primavera Árabe” y con respecto a Irán, la alianza estratégica entre ambas naciones se mantuvo.

La claramente definida política anti iraní del gobierno liderado por Donald Trump, equivalente a la de EAU, facilitó una mejora rápida de las relaciones de nuevo, y la nueva administración norteamericana vio en Emiratos un pilar fundamental en el que cimentar su política en Oriente Próximo. De ese modo, en la actualidad, junto con Israel y Arabia Saudí, los Emiratos Árabes Unidos son el principal aliado de EEUU en la zona.

Al contrario que lo sucedido con EEUU, Arabia Saudí se convirtió en un socio estratégico de la nueva política regional de EAU durante los mandatos de Obama. En realidad, ambas naciones han mantenido estrechos lazos desde el nacimiento de los Emiratos en 1971, pero como era lógico, el nuevo y joven estado se mantuvo a la sombra de la otra nación, más asentada y siguiendo las políticas de su “hermano mayor”.

Esta situación cambió con la subida al poder de Mohamed Bin Zayed quien, desde 2011, se empeñó en abanderar una línea política de acciones conjuntas en la región que a la postre han sido decisivas. MbZ encontró a su contraparte perfecta en el príncipe saudí Mohamed Bin Salman, quien gradualmente, desde 2015 fue tomando las riendas como la cabeza visible de la política de Arabia Saudí. Llegando a tal extremo que en ciertos casos como los de Yemen y Catar el liderazgo y empuje de EAU parece haber sido la fuerza aglutinadora de las políticas regionales conjuntas.

Alianzas

Estados Unidos

El papel de EEUU como aliado de EAU se remonta a comienzos de los años 80, justo después de la revolución iraní de 1979, que supuso la pérdida de su más importante aliado en la región y del comienzo de la guerra Irán-Irak.

No obstante, fue la Guerra del Golfo de 1990-1991 la que, con la invasión de Kuwait por parte de Irak el día 2 de agosto de 1990, mostró a EAU lo vulnerables que eran los pequeños Estados del Golfo ante una agresión militar por parte de cualquiera de sus poderosos vecinos.

Con la finalidad de asegurarse la protección, y de la misma manera que otros países de la región, EAU favoreció durante los años posteriores a la guerra el aumento de la presencia de EEUU en su territorio. Todo ello concluyó con un acuerdo bilateral de seguridad firmado en julio de 1994. Mediante este, Estados Unidos recibían acceso a las bases aéreas y puertos de los Emiratos y, en contraprestación, se comprometía a proteger al país de posibles agresiones externas. Lo interesante, y que da una medida de cómo ha evolucionado la situación, es que el acuerdo permaneció en secreto a petición de Abu Dhabi por el temor de EAU a las posibles críticas y protestas tanto internas como por parte de Irán.

Inicialmente, EAU no fue más que un aliado más de los EEUU en el Golfo Pérsico. Sin embargo, su importancia como socio fue incrementándose entre 1990 y 2000, en parte debido al puerto de Jebel Ali, el cual fue se convirtió en la base más usada por la US Navy fuera de su país, y a la base aérea de Al Dhafra, instalación clave para las actividades de EEUU en la región.

Además, desde finales de la década de los 90, EAU inició un proceso para mostrarse ante su nuevo aliado como un socio fiable y más relevante, aumentando en cantidad y nivel su cooperación. Siguiendo esa línea, fuerzas militares de Emiratos han participado en todas las grandes operaciones de EEUU en Oriente Próximo, desde la Guerra del Golfo en 1991 a Somalia en 1992, Kosovo en 1999, Afganistán desde 2002, Libia desde 2011, y Siria (en el marco de la lucha contra el Daesh) entre 2014 y 2015. Sólo se evitó por parte de Emiratos, y de una forma muy vehemente, la participación en la invasión de Iraq en 2003. De esta implicación las Fuerzas Armadas de EAU han obtenido una gran experiencia sobre el terreno que ha redundado en su eficacia y profesionalidad.

Esta implicación en las no pocas veces controvertidas acciones militares de EEUU en países árabes ha supuesto, indudablemente, un elemento fundamental para Estados Unidos. No sólo por lo que supone desde el punto de vista de la imagen y la narrativa que al menos un país musulmán les apoyara, sino porque la contribución de Abu Dhabi no se ha limitado al aspecto militar. Organizaciones humanitarias han actuado en paralelo con la finalidad de ganar el apoyo de la población allá donde se intervenía invirtiendo enormes cantidades de dinero. El ejemplo más claro es Afganistán, país en el que Emiratos ha gastado millones de dólares en proyectos humanitarios y de desarrollo para ayudar a la estabilización del país, al mismo tiempo que proporcionó un pequeño contingente de fuerzas de operaciones especiales en la especialmente peligrosa zona sur del país desde 2003. Además, entre 2012 y 2014 ampliaron su despliegue con seis aviones F16 para apoyar las operaciones aéreas contra los talibanes. Incluso cuando EEUU comenzó su retirada gradual después de 2014, las tropas de Emiratos continuaron en Afganistán.

Lograr que EAU se adhiriera a la causa de la lucha contra los yihadistas no fue tarea difícil en absoluto, pues sus líderes sienten una especial aversión a cualquier forma de extremismo religioso que afecte al sistema político dentro del Islam. Esta es la principal razón para que su Fuerza Aérea se implicara en la coalición liderada por EEUU contra el Daesh en Siria entre 2014 y 2015. Hasta tal punto que, después de los aparatos norteamericanos, fueron los procedentes de EAU los que llevaron a cabo más salidas contra objetivos yihadistas.

Pero no se limitó la colaboración a EEUU. Tanto Australia como Francia tuvieron a su disposición las bases aéreas de los emiratos para llevar a cabo sus operaciones.

Sólo la ruptura abierta de hostilidades y la implicación de EAU en la Guerra de Yemen de 2015 redujo su participación en la lucha contra el Daesh.

Pero no todo ha sido fácil. La invasión de Iraq en 2003 produjo profundas reticencias en EAU, que lo consideró un grave error. Su temor era que dicha intervención terminara por aumentar la influencia de Irán sobre Irak, o derivara en una guerra civil, lo cual desestabilizaría toda la región.

Los temores se vieron cumplidos cuando en 2005 una coalición chiita próxima a Irán ganó las elecciones en Irak y estalló la guerra, dejando a EAU de manos atadas para tartar de influir de algún modo en la situación. Su mayor preocupación entonces era que una prematura retirada de todas las fuerzas de EEUU complicara aún más la situación.

La renovada relación con la administración Trump ha llevado a la firma de un nuevo acuerdo de seguridad y cooperación firmado en 2017. En contraste con lo sucedido en 1994, los contenidos del mismo han sido hechos públicos, y hacen referencia principalmente a la presencia de tropas de EEUU en suelo emiratí de manera permanente. El acuerdo así mismo abarca el adiestramiento de las Fuerzas Armadas de Emiratos y la realización de ejercicios conjuntos de manera periódica.

Gracias a este acuerdo, la presencia de EEUU en Emiratos es más numerosa que nunca. Actualmente hay unos 5.000 hombres desplegados entre la base aérea de Al Dhafra, el puerto de Jebel Ali y en algunas otras pequeñas bases o estaciones navales. Sólo en la mencionada base aérea hay 3.500 hombres que, desde allí, operan desde aviones de combate F-15, F-22 y F-35, además de aparatos de reconocimiento y vehículos aéreos no tripulados (UAVs).

Por su parte, EAU ha continuado desarrollando sus propias capacidades militares adquiriendo material de fabricación norteamericana, principalmente sistemas antiaéreos (“Patriot” y THAAD) y aviones de combate (110 F-16). A ello se añade que, desde hace un par de años, EAU ha mostrado gran interés por hacerse con el Nuevo F-35, aunque las negociaciones, no exentas de ciertas reticencias, aún continúan.

En 2018 surgieron problemas para el suministro de municiones de precisión guiadas tanto a EAU como a Arabia Saudí, dado que ambos países las estaban usando en la Guerra de Yemen. El asesinato del periodista Saudí Jamal Kashoggi agravó la resistencia del congreso de EEUU, forzando al presidente Trump a usar su derecho de veto para poder mantener el suministro. Esto da una medida de cuan determinante es la actitud de la actual administración en relación con ambos países.

A pesar de todas las dificultades mencionadas, la actual administración norteamericana ha redoblado sus esfuerzos para apoyar a EAU en sus políticas regionales, pues son coincidentes con los objetivos de EEUU.

El primer objetivo ha sido construir una alianza anti-Irán entre estados de Próximo Oriente que incluye a EAU como socio clave junto con Arabia Saudí y Egipto. Este plan es totalmente coincidente con la aspiración de Abu Dhabi de cobrar cierto liderazgo en la región, y tiene visos de prosperar, ya que EAU probablemente apoyará a EEUU en una solución para el conflicto palestino que está bastante en línea con la propuesta israelí.

Arabia Saudita

Arabia Saudí es, a día de hoy, el aliado más importante de EAU en la región. Ambos estados se financian gracias a las exportaciones de crudo y ambos tienen las mismas reticencias a las ambiciones expansionistas de sus poderosos vecinos, especialmente Irán.

No obstante, durante mucho tiempo, a pesar de esta alianza, EAU ha temido que Arabia Saudí, valiéndose de su desigual tamaño tanto en población como en fuerza militar como en capacidad de producción de petróleo tratara de mantener una posición hegemónica en el Golfo Pérsico.

En 1981, los países del Golfo Pérsico aprovecharon la oportunidad para crear una alianza que excluyera a las por entonces principales potencias regionales. Así, Bahréin, Kuwait, Omán, Catar, Arabia Saudí y EAU crearon el Consejo de Cooperación para los Estados Árabes del Golfo (GCC en sus siglas en inglés). Dicho Consejo disponía de una fuerza militar conjunta que nunca alcanzó una entidad significativa. La mayor prueba de la debilidad del GCC y su ineficacia fue la invasión de Kuwait por parte de Irak sin oposición alguna por el ente supranacional.

Como resultado de lo anterior, EAU depositó en EEUU la confianza para su protección, el único país que aunaba la voluntad y la capacidad de llevar a cabo la tarea de defender al pequeño Estado frente a potenciales agresiones extranjeras.

La consecuencia a nivel regional viene marcada por la convergencia de intereses de Arabia Saudí y EAU los cuales, entre 2011 y 2019, han perseguido objetivos políticos regionales comunes apoyándose si es necesario en sus capacidades militares.

Como ejemplo, tenemos la petición de ayuda de Bahréin al GCC en 2011 cuando sus gobernantes se sintieron amenazados por los movimientos de protesta chiitas. No obstante, su intervención más relevante fue el apoyo al golpe de estado en Egipto contra el presidente Mohamed Morsi y los Hermanos Musulmanes en 2013.

India

Las relaciones sociopolíticas y económicas entre los miembros del GCC y la India siempre han sido muy estrechas, y han estado basadas en el entendimiento de que un entorno seguro y estable tanto política como socialmente en el entorno del Golfo Pérsico y en el subcontinente indio son factores críticos para el desarrollo de los respectivos países y sus lazos transregionales.

Desde la perspectiva de la India, la mejora de su desarrollo tecnológico y económico va en consonancia a la capacidad de Nueva Delhi para afianzar sus alianzas en todo el mundo. A este respecto, los países del Golfo Pérsico, y especialmente EAU, son considerados un puente de acceso al conocimiento, capacidades, recursos y mercados para mejorar ese desarrollo.

En 2016, las hasta entonces relaciones bilaterales entre ambos países se formalizaron en un acuerdo de cooperación estratégica denominado CSP (Comprehensive Strategic Partnership)

Para EAU, India es un país moderno, un fenómeno político independiente de Occidente que mantiene fuertes raíces religiosas y tradicionales sin renunciar a su diversidad. En cierto modo y con algunas reservas, para EAU es un espejo donde mirarse.

El acuerdo de cooperación es transversal y se refiere a asuntos tan diversos como lucha contra el terrorismo, intercambio de información e inteligencia, medidas para luchar contra el lavado de dinero, ciberseguridad, así como cooperación en materia de defensa, ayuda humanitaria, etc.

En el aspecto más económico la iniciativa incluye acciones concretas que faciliten el comercio y las inversiones, con el compromiso de EAU de alcanzar el objetivo de 75 mil millones de dólares para apoyar el desarrollo de infraestructuras de nueva generación en la India, especialmente ferroviarias, puertos, carreteras, aeropuertos y parques industriales.

En lo que se refiere al sector energético, el acuerdo contempla la participación de EAU en la modernización del sector petrolífero en todas sus ramas, teniendo en cuenta el desarrollo de una reserva estratégica.

Es muy significativa la parte que trata sobre el desarrollo de tecnología para el uso pacífico de la energía nuclear, así como la cooperación en el sector aeroespacial incluyendo el desarrollo y lanzamiento conjunto de satélites, así como de la infraestructura necesaria de control en tierra y todas las aplicaciones necesarias.

En la actualidad, la India tiene unos lazos socioeconómicos crecientes y multifacéticos tanto con Israel como con los países del Golfo Pérsico, y en especial con EAU. La diáspora de trabajadores indios en el Golfo Pérsico supone unas remesas anuales de casi 50.000 millones de dólares. Las relaciones comerciales dejan a las arcas del país asiático más de 150.000 millones de dólares, y casi dos tercios de los hidrocarburos que necesita el país proceden de esa región. Por ello, es evidente que la nueva situación es vista con especial interés desde esta parte del mundo, valorando oportunidades y posibles amenazas.

Evidentemente, cualquier acuerdo como este que suponga al menos a priori más estabilidad y una normalización de relaciones siempre será beneficioso, pero también hay que tener en cuenta sus puntos débiles y la posible evolución de la situación.

Así pues, desde el punto de vista geopolítico, India ha acogido con buenos ojos el restablecimiento de relaciones entre EAU e Israel, toda vez que ambos son socios estratégicos.

El nuevo panorama que se abre entre Israel y el GCC parece acercar una solución moderada y consistente para el problema palestino, haciendo mucho más fácil el trabajo de la diplomacia india.

Pero hay que ser cautos, y especialmente en esta zona del planeta nada es de un solo color. Este esperanzador acuerdo puede tener un efecto perverso que polarice aún más a los sectores yihadistas del mundo árabe enfrentándolos más aun si cabe al resto.

La posibilidad de que la región del Golfo Pérsico se convierta en el nuevo campo de batalla donde se enfrenten los proxies de Irán e Israel no puede descartarse por completo, especialmente en aquellas zonas controladas por los chiitas. No obstante, no es por el momento una opción probable.

Pero para India tiene mucha más importancia, si cabe, gestionar las implicaciones económicas del nuevo tratado. Con la cooperación en defensa y seguridad como pilares fundamentales, ambas partes comienzan ahora a contemplar el verdadero potencial económico que se abre al complementar sus economías.

Reacciones al tratado: escenarios   

Ante un hecho tan relevante como el relatado es de esperar que se produzcan reacciones en varias direcciones, y en función de estas la evolución de la situación puede ser diferente.

Los actores que pueden tener un papel relevante en los diferentes escenarios son EAU y la nueva alianza, Arabia Saudí, Irán, Turquía, Palestina y los Hermanos musulmanes.

No se puede olvidar que el trasfondo de este tratado es económico. Si su desarrollo tiene éxito el aporte de estabilidad a una región largamente castigada por todo tipo de conflictos y enfrentamientos se transformará en un aumento exponencial de las operaciones comerciales, trasvase de tecnología y la apertura de nuevas rutas y colaboraciones principalmente con el sudeste asiático.

El papel de EEUU será determinante en cualquiera de los escenarios que puedan plantearse, pero en cualquiera de ellos su posición será minimizar la presencia física y apoyar a los firmantes del tratado con acciones políticas, económicas y de defensa mediante el suministro de material militar.

El tratado tiene una fuerte componente económica fijada en el subcontinente indio y en el sudeste asiático. Esto no es sino un signo más de cómo el centro de gravedad geopolítico mundial se está situando en la región Asia-Pacífico y este es uno de los principales motivos del apoyo incondicional de EEUU.

Los miembros del gobierno de EAU han considerado tradicionalmente que las ideologías y políticas islamistas más radicales suponen una amenaza existencial para los valores fundamentales del país. Tanto el régimen sectario chiita en Irán como los Hermanos Musulmanes, grupo de corte sunnita, son vistos como una amenaza constante para la estabilidad de los poderes de la región.

Para EAU estos movimientos transnacionales son un catalizador para el radicalismo en toda la región.

Por todo lo anterior se pueden plantear como plausibles los siguientes escenarios:

Escenario 1

Por el momento, los más perjudicados en sus intereses por la nueva situación son los palestinos. Personalidades relevantes de la sociedad palestina, así como altos cargos de la Autoridad Palestina, han considerado el nuevo tratado como una traición. Como se ha mencionado, el problema palestino está pasando a un segundo plano en el mundo árabe.

Si, como se vaticina, en los próximos meses más países se unen al nuevo tratado, es posible que la Autoridad Palestina trate por todos los medios de volver a llevar a la actualidad sus reivindicaciones y su lucha. Para ello contaría con el apoyo de Irán y sus proxies y de Turquía. En esta situación, se empezaría por deslegitimar a los gobiernos de los países que se han alineado con EAU e Israel mediante una fuerte campaña de información a todos los niveles, con un uso masivo de redes sociales con la finalidad de movilizar a la población más sensible y afín a los palestinos. El objetivo sería promover manifestaciones y/o revueltas que crearan dudas en aquellos que aún no se han adherido al pacto. Estas dudas podrían llevar a un cambio de decisión o retraso en las nuevas adhesiones, o que estos nuevos candidatos a formar parte del tratado aumentaran las condiciones relacionadas con los palestinos para sumarse al mismo. Esta opción pasa por ser la más peligrosa por la posibilidad de generar disensiones o discusiones internas que llevaran a una implosión del mismo.

Puede considerarse un escenario probable de intensidad media/baja.

Escenario 2

La posición que tome Arabia Saudí es clave. Y será determinante para calibrar la reacción de Irán. En el ecosistema de Próximo Oriente, Irán es la potencia que más tiene que perder con esta nueva alianza. No puede olvidarse la lucha que existe por la hegemonía dentro del mundo musulmán. Y esta lucha, que no deja de ser religiosa, pues enfrenta a chiitas y sunnitas, tiene como principales protagonistas a Irán y Arabia Saudí.

Arabia Saudí es posible que se una al tratado, pero dada la situación, y en un intento de no tensar más la cuerda con su principal enemigo, puede tomar la decisión de no unirse al mismo, pero apoyarlo desde fuera con acuerdos puntuales o bilaterales. Siempre con el resto de países árabes miembros del mismo, que harían de puente para sus relaciones con Israel. Sería un modo de lavar la cara y evitar el reconocimiento expreso del Estado de Israel o sus relaciones directas con este. Hay que tener en cuenta las bolsas de mayoría chiita que hay en el país y que podrían ser espoleadas por Irán.

No obstante, y planteando el peor de los casos, Irán reaccionará a través de sus proxies, recrudeciendo su actividad en Yemen, tratando de promover protestas y revueltas dentro de Arabia Saudí, reforzando su apoyo a Hamas en Palestina y a Hezbollah en el Líbano e incluso a sus milicias en Irak.

El apoyo a las protestas que ya se han producido en Sudán formará también parte de esta campaña. Sudán es un país muy inestable, con unas estructuras de poder muy débiles que difícilmente podrán sofocar revueltas de alta intensidad.

El objetivo sería incendiar la región bajo la pantalla del apoyo al pueblo palestino con la finalidad de disuadir más adhesiones al tratado, así como minar la eficacia del mismo, dando la imagen de inestabilidad e inseguridad en la región. Ello hará desistir a posibles inversores de acercarse a EAU atraídos por las enormes posibilidades económicas que ofrece al tiempo que mantiene a Arabia Saudí ocupada con su flanco sur y sus problemas internos. No es descartable alguna acción sin autor claro o reconocido contra los buques que transitan por el Golfo, como ya ha sucedido, o el abordaje de alguno por parte de fuerzas iraníes bajo cualquier tipo de acusación o argucia legal. Acciones directas que involucren a fuerzas iraníes no son probables.

Turquía puede involucrarse proporcionando armas, tecnología e incluso combatientes mercenarios a cualquiera de las facciones que actúan como proxy de Irán.

Este escenario puede considerarse como posible y de intensidad media

Escenario 3

Irán necesita que, o bien los gobiernos, o bien la población de los diferentes países de Próximo Oriente continúen viendo en Israel a su principal enemigo y amenaza. Entre otros motivos porque es una narrativa de consumo interno que utiliza recurrentemente para desviar la atención de su propia población de otro tipo de problemas. Hasta el momento, el elemento aglutinador de esa forma de ver a Israel ha sido el conflicto palestino. Por lo tanto, es probable que se lleven a cabo acciones que provoquen una reacción de Israel. Estas acciones pueden ser dentro del propio Estado de Israel procedentes desde territorio palestino o libanés, siempre a cargo de los proxies de Irán. No se puede descartar alguna provocación que tenga como resultado un ataque de Israel sobre territorio árabe, seguramente contra Irán o Siria. El objetivo final no sería el Estado hebreo sino minar las bases del tratado, crear malestar social en los firmantes, evitar la adhesión de Arabia Saudí y volver a poder utilizar el conflicto palestino en su propio interés.

Este es un escenario posible y de alta intensidad. 

Conclusiones

La irrupción de EAU como una potencia geopolítica emergente en Oriente Próximo ha sido algo tan sorprendente como precipitado, pues no hace tanto los observadores internacionales no daban demasiada esperanza de vida a la nueva federación de pequeños estados que acababa de nacer.

Por el contrario, EAU y Abu Dhabi, su mayor y más próspero emirato, en particular, ha ido incrementando su posición durante la última década, jugando un papel determinante en la región. Hasta tal punto que, a día de hoy, se considera que las acciones de EAU son las que han facilitado en cierto modo los cambios a los que estamos asistiendo.

Por lo general, los políticos occidentales se sienten deslumbrados por el liberalismo que se percibe de EAU y por la capacidad de sus elites de hablar tanto literal como figuradamente su propio idioma. Es importante que se familiaricen con el modelo de EAU en todos sus aspectos y, lo que es la clave, que entiendan que Abu Dhabi espera ser tratado por todos de igual a igual. Tratar con EAU de esta manera y considerándolo un socio robusto y fiable significa también lanzarles el mensaje de la clara intención de apoyarles.

Una de las grandes consecuencias de este acuerdo puede ser la bajada de intensidad en el conflicto palestino, si no acabando con él, si limitándolo permanentemente. Durante generaciones, este conflicto ha sido utilizado por líderes políticos y religiosos a lo largo y ancho del mundo árabe y musulmán para distraer su atención de otros asuntos. Era un recurso fácil y siempre a mano. Pero ahora ya se reconoce que se trata de una disputa territorial entre dos pueblos, y las futuras negociaciones no tienen más remedio que ir por ese camino, poniendo el foco en el desfasado liderazgo de los palestinos.

Existe la nada desdeñable posibilidad de que el acuerdo alcanzado tenga un efecto dominó y arrastre a otros Estados de la zona a seguir los pasos de EAU, algo que en algunos casos sólo significaría hacer públicas las relaciones que de facto ya mantienen con el Estado de Israel. En este sentido, se conocen conversaciones entre el ministro de exteriores de Omán con su homólogo israelí justo después de la firma del tratado con EAU.

Así mismo, el Primer Ministro israelí mantuvo un encuentro con el líder sudanés Abdel Fattah Burhan, lo cual podría ser una señal de próximos movimientos en ese flanco también.

Aunque la filtración tuvo consecuencias para un alto funcionario sudanés, lo cierto es que el gobierno no negó los contactos. Y todo se ha confirmado cuando EEUU, al anuncio de la próxima salida de Sudán de la lista de países patrocinadores del terrorismo, ha seguido el acuerdo entre Israel y Sudán para normalizar sus relaciones diplomáticas.

Desde hace años, la política de EEUU pasa por desmilitarizar su posición en Próximo Oriente; el coste de su presencia ha sido muy elevado frente a los beneficios que le reporta, además de generar cierta animadversión. Tanto EEUU como otros miembros del G8 apoyan a EAU como el líder económico de la región. Ese apoyo les proporciona la posición ideal para desplegar sus intereses económicos de la región (commodities, I+D & investment). 

Esta posición de apoyo EEUU/EAU (más algunos países del G8), fortalece el papel del país árabe en la región en materia política y por defecto militar, y de cierta forma le permite a sus nuevos aliados y valedores tener cierta influencia en organizaciones como la OPEP, CCG, Liga Árabe) y en países vecinos, pero desde una posición más árabe y menos occidental.

Referente al asunto de la compra de los F-35 por parte de EAU, es innegable que este asunto incomoda a Israel a pesar del cambio en las relaciones. El motivo principal es el temor a que se produzca una equiparación en capacidades militares que podrían ser peligrosos. No obstante, esto no será un obstáculo para el avance en los futuros acuerdos de paz y en el desarrollo de este. Una operación de tal envergadura llevaría años para materializarse y para entonces, las relaciones entre Jerusalén y Abu Dhabi se habrán consolidado. Es más, puede que incluso llegue a verse con buenos ojos por parte de Israel, dado que fortalecería las capacidades militares frente a sus principales oponentes en la región

Cada vez es más patente en el mundo árabe que Israel es demasiado pequeño como para albergar aspiraciones imperialistas, en contraste con países como Turquía e Irán, países ambos que formaron antiguos imperios, y que parecen tener la intención de tratar de restaurar aquello que una vez lograron o fueron.

En cambio, Israel, cada vez más, es visto como un país fuerte, próspero y lo suficientemente dinámico, que convierten la cooperación con Jerusalén en un movimiento inteligente que puede proporcionar beneficios a ambas partes.

Es posible que el acuerdo entre Israel y EAU haya sido impulsado en parte por el temor de ambos a los avances de Irán y al peligro que supone. Pero los beneficios que puede proporcionarles van mucho más allá de ese asunto.

Estos se extienden a posibilidades de inversiones económicas, financieras, turismo y especialmente a compartir know-how. EAU puede beneficiarse de la ventaja tecnológica y científica de Israel del mismo modo que Israel puede obtener rédito de la posición de EAU como centro de servicios internacionales y puerta fundamental de entrada hacia el subcontinente indio y el sudeste asiático.

En relación con la puerta de entrada al subcontinente indio, hay que tener en cuenta que para India la parte más importante del acuerdo es gestionar la faceta económica de las sinergias causadas por este.

EAU y Bahréin pueden convertirse en intermediarios de las exportaciones israelíes tanto de materias como de servicios a diversas partes del mundo.

Israel tiene una fuerte industria de defensa, seguridad y equipos de vigilancia. Es puntera en cultivos sobre terrenos áridos, energía solar, horticultura, alta tecnología joyería y productos farmacéuticos.

Es más, Israel tiene la capacidad de proveer de mano de obra muy cualificada y semicualificada a los países del GCC, especialmente si proceden de las etnias sefardí y mizrahim, muchos de los cuales hablan árabe. Incluso los árabes israelíes pueden encontrar oportunidades que ayuden a seguir tendiendo lazos y puentes que estrechen la división cultural.

La incursión de Israel en el Golfo tiene el potencial de influir en la arquitectura político-económica que India lleva años construyendo, siendo, por ejemplo, uno de los mayores proveedores de trabajadores, productos alimenticios, farmacéuticos etc.

Los mayores clientes del mercado inmobiliario de Dubái, así como el mayor número de turistas que visitan el país proceden de la India. Pero en este cambiante escenario hay margen para establecer sinergias a tres bandas, lo cual convierte a la India en un actor principal en este.

La conclusión final que se puede extraer a modo de valoración a futuro es que, sin duda, esta nueva relación será un modelo a seguir por otros Estados sunnitas que transformará una región estancada en conflictos del siglo XIX en uno de los centros de poder del siglo XXI.

* Teniente Coronel de Infantería. Analista de Geopolítica

 

BIBLIOGRAFÍA

Acharya, Arabinda, “COVID-19: A Testing Time for UAE–India Relations? A Perspective from Abu Dhabi”, Strategic Analysis, Septiembre 2020.

Arab Center for Research and Policy studies, “The Abraham Agreement: normalization of relations or announcement of an existing Emirati - Israeli alliance?”. Catar, Agosto 2020.

Karsh, Ephraim, ed., “The Israel-UAE Peace: A Preliminary Assessment”, Ramat Gan: The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Septiembre 2020

Salisbury, Peter, “Risk Perception and Appetite in UAE Foreign and National Security Policy”, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House Middle East and North Africa Programme, Londres: Julio 2020

Steinber, Guido, “Regional Powers, United Arab Emirates”, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin, Julio 2020.

The Ethics of Ubuntu as a basis for African institutions: The case of Gacaca courts in Rwanda

Photographs of Rwandan genocide victims displayed at the Genocide Memorial Center in Kigali [Adam Jones]

▲ Photographs of Rwandan genocide victims displayed at the Genocide Memorial Center in Kigali [Adam Jones]

ESSAYEmilija Žebrauskaitė

Introduction

While the Western Westphalian State – and, consequently, the Western legal system – became the default in most parts of the world, Africa with its traditional ethics and customs has a lot to offer. Although the positive legalism is still embraced, there is a tendency of looking at the indigenous traditions for the inspiration of the system that would be a better fit in an African setting. Ubuntu ethics has a lot to offer and can be considered a basis for all traditional institutions in Africa. A great example of Ubuntu in action is the African Traditional Justice System which embraces the Ubuntu values as its basis. This article will provide a conceptualization of Ubuntu philosophy and will analyse its applications in the real-world scenarios through the case of Gacaca trials in Rwanda.

Firstly, this essay will define Ubuntu: its main tenants, how Ubuntu compares with other philosophical and ethical traditions, and the main criticism of Ubuntu ethics. Secondly, the application of Ubuntu ethics through African Indigenous Justice Systems will be covered, naming the features of Ubuntu that can be seen in the application of justice in the African setting, discussing the peace vs. justice debate and why one value is emphasized more than another in AIJS, and how the traditional justice in Africa differs from the Western one.

Lastly, through the case study of Gacaca trials in post-genocide Rwanda, this essay seeks to demonstrate that the application of the traditional justice in the post-genocide society did what the Western legalistic system failed to do – it provided a more efficient way to distribute justice and made the healing of the wounds inflicted by the genocide easier by allowing the community to actively participate in the judicial decision-making process.

It is the opinion of this article that while the African Traditional Justice System has it’s share of problems when applied in modern-day Africa, as the continent is embedded into the reality of the Westphalian state, each state being a part of the global international order, the Western model of justice is eroding the autonomy of the community which is a cornerstone of African society. However, the values of Ubuntu ethics persist, providing a strong basis for traditional African institutions. 

Conceptualization of Ubuntu

The word Ubuntu derives from the Bantu language group spoken widely across sub-Saharan Africa. It can be defined as “A quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity” (Lexico, n.d.) and, according to Mugumbate and Nyanguru, is a homogenizing concept, a “backbone of African spirituality” in African ontology (2013). “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” – a Zulu phrase meaning “a person is a person through other persons” is one of the widely spread interpretations of Ubuntu. 

In comparison with non-African philosophical thoughts, there can be found similarities between Ubuntu and the traditional Chinese as well as Western ethics, but when it comes to the modern Western way of thought, the contrast is striking. According to Lutz (2009), Confucian ethics, just like Ubuntu ethics, view the institution of family as a central building block of society. An Aristotelian tradition which prevailed in the Western world until Enlightenment had some characteristics similar to Ubuntu as well, namely the idea of Aristoteles that human being is a social being and can only reach his true potential through the community (Aristoteles, 350 B.C.E.). However, Tomas Hobbes had an opposite idea of human nature, claiming that the natural condition of man is solidarity (Hobbes, 1651). The values that still prevail in Ubuntu ethics, therefore, are rarely seen in modern liberal thought that prevails in the Western World and in the international order in general. According to Lutz (2009) “Reconciling self-realization and communalism is important because it solves the problem of moral motivation” which Western modern ethics have a hard time to answer. It can be argued, therefore, that Ubuntu has a lot to offer to the global ethical thought, especially in the world in which the Western ideas of individualism prevail and the values of community and collectivism are often forgotten.

Criticisms

However, while Ubuntu carries values that can contribute to global ethics, as a philosophical current it is heavily criticised. According to Metz (2011), there are three main reasons why Ubuntu receives criticism: firstly, it is considered vague as a philosophical thought and does not have a solid framework; secondly, it is feared that due to its collectivist orientation there is a danger of sacrificing individual freedoms for the sake of society; and lastly, it is thought that Ubuntu philosophy is applicable and useful only in traditional, but not modern society. 

When it comes to the reproach about the vagueness of Ubuntu as a philosophical thought, Thaddeus Metz examines six theoretical interpretations of the concept of Ubuntu:

U1: An action is right just insofar as it respects a person’s dignity; an act is wrong to the extent that it degrades humanity.

U2: An action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to enhance the welfare of one’s fellows.

U3: An action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others without violating their rights; an act is wrong to the extent that it either violates rights or fails to enhance the welfare of one’s fellows without violating rights.

U4: An action is right just insofar as it positively relates to others and thereby realizes oneself; an act is wrong to the extent that it does not perfect one’s valuable nature as a social being.

U5: An action is right just insofar as it is in solidarity with groups whose survival is threatened; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to support a vulnerable community.

U6: An action is right just insofar as it produces harmony and reduces discord; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to develop community (Metz, 2007).

While arguing that the concept U4 is the most accepted in literature, Matz himself argues in favour of the concept U6 as the basis of the ethics is rooted not in the subject, but in the object (Metz, 2007).

The fear that Ubuntu tenants make people submissive to authority and collective goals, giving them a very strong identity that might result in violence against other groups originates, according to Lutz (2009), from a faulty understanding of Ubuntu. Even though the tribalism is pretty common in the African setting, it does not derive from the tenants of Ubuntu, but a corrupted idea of this ethical philosophy. Further criticism on the idea that collectivism might interfere with individual rights or liberties can also be denied quoting Lutz, who said that “Ethical theories that tell us we must choose between egoism and altruism, between self-love and love of others, between prudence and morality, or one’s good and the common good are individualistic ethical theories” and therefore have nothing in common with ideas of Ubuntu, which, unlike the individualistic theories, reconciles the common and personal good and goals. 

The third objection, namely the question of whether Ubuntu ethics remain useful in the modern society which functions according to the Westphalian State model is challenged by Metz (2011). While it is true that Ubuntu developed in a traditional setting in which the value of human beings was based on the amount of communal life a human has lived (explaining the respect for the elders and the ancestors in African setting), a variant concept of dignity that in no way can be applied in a modern setting, there are still valuable ethical norms that can be thought by Ubuntu. Metz (2011) provides a concept of human dignity based on Ubuntu ideas, which, as he argues, can contribute to ethics in the modern African setting: “individuals have dignity insofar as they have communal nature, that is, the inherent capacity to exhibit identity and solidarity with others.” 

The Ubuntu ethics in African Indigenous Justice System

The institutionalisation and centralisation of power in the hands of the Westphalian State takes away the power from the communities which are central to the lifestyle in Africa. However, the communal values have arguably persisted and continue to directly oppose the centralisation. While the Westphalian State model seems to be functioning in the West, there are many good reasons to believe that Africa must look for inspiration in local traditions and customs (Malisa & Nhengeze, 2018). Taking into consideration the Ubuntu values, it is not difficult to understand why institutionalisation has generally not been very successful in African setting (Mugumbate & Nyanguru, 2013), as a place where the community is morally obliged to take care of its members, there is little space for alienated institutions. 

Generally, two justice systems are operating alongside each other in many African societies: the state-administered justice system and the African Indigenous Justice System (AIJS). According to Elechi, Morris & Schauer, the litigants can choose between the state tribunal and AIJS, and can apply to be judged by the state if they do not agree with the sentence of the AIJS (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). However, Ubuntu values emphasise the concept of reconciliation: “African political philosophy responds easily and organically to the demands for the reconciliation as a means of restoring the equilibrium of the flow of life when its disturbed” (Nabudere, 2005). As the national court interventions often disharmonize the community by applying the “winner takes it all” approach, and are sometimes considered to be corrupt, there is a strong tendency for the communities to insist on bringing the offender to the AIJS tribunal (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010).

African Indigenous Justice System is a great example of Ubuntu values in action. The system operates on the cultural norm that important decision should be reached by consensus of the whole group as opposed to the majority opinion. AIJS is characterised by features such as the focus on the effects the offence had on victims and the community, the involvement of the litigants in the active definition of harms and the resolution of the trial, the localisation and decentralisation of authority, the importance of the restoration of harm, the property or relationship, the understanding that the offender might be a victim of the socioeconomic conditions; with the main objective of the justice system being the restoration of relationships, healing, and reconciliation in the community (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). Underlying this system is the concept of Ubuntu, which “leads to a way of dealing with the social problems which are very different from the Western legalistic, rule-based system which had become the global default” (Baggini, 2018).

One of the reasons why AIJS can be considered exemplary is its ability to avoid the alienation of the Western courts in which the victim, the offender, and everybody else seem to be represented, but neither victim nor offender can directly participate in the decision making. The system which emphasises reconciliation and in which the community is in charge of the process is arguably much more effective in the African setting, where communities are generally familiar and close-knit. As the offender is still considered a part of the community and is still expected to contribute to its surroundings in the future, the participation in the trial and the decision making is important to the reconciliation: “unlike adjudicated justice, negotiated justice is not a winner take it all justice. Resolution can be reached where the offender, the community, and the victim are each partially wrong” (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). As there is very little hope for an offender to be reintegrated into a close community without forgiving and forgiveness from both parties, this type of approach is pivotal.

Another interesting feature of AIJS is the assumption that the offender is not inherently bad in himself, but is primarily a marginalised victim, who does not have the same opportunities as other members of the community to participate in the economic, political, and social aspects of the group, and who can be made right if both the offender and the community make effort (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). This concept differs from the Western Hobbesian idea of human beings being inherently corrupt and is much closer to traditional Western Aristotelian ethics. What makes the African concept different, however, is the focus which is not on the virtue of the person himself, but rather on the relationship the offender has with his family and community which, although violated by the offence, can and should be rebuilt by amendments (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010).

The Gacaca Trials

The Gacaca trials are the state-administered structure which uses communities (around a thousand of them) as a basis for judicial forums (Meyerstein, 2007). They were introduced by the Rwandan government as an alternative to national justice after the Rwandan genocide.

During the colonial times, Rwanda was indirectly ruled by the colonizers through local authorities, namely the Tutsi minority (Uvin, 1999). The Hutu majority were considered second class citizens and by the time of independence were holding deep grievances. The Rwandan Revolution of 1959-1961 overthrew the monarchy and the ruling Tutsi elite. After the independence from the colonial regime, Rwanda was ruled by the Party of Hutu Emancipation Movement, which was supported by the international community on the grounds of the idea that the government is legitimate as it represents the majority of the population – the Hutu (ibid.) During the period of transition, ethnic violence against Tutsi, forcing many of them to leave the country, happened (Rettig, 2008). In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Army composed mostly by the Tutsi exiles invaded Rwanda from neighbouring Uganda (ibid.) The incumbent government harnessed the already pre-existing ethnic to unite the Hutu population to fight against the Tutsi rebels. The strategy included finding a scapegoat in an internal Tutsi population that continued to live in Rwanda (Uvin, 1999). The genocide which soon followed took lives of 500,000 to 800,000 people between April and July of the year 1994 when the total population at the time is estimated to have been around 8 million (Drumbl, 2020). More than 100,000 people were accused and waited in detention for trials, creating a great burden on a Rwandan county (Schabas, 2005).

According to Meyerstein (2007), the Gacaca trials were a response to the failure of the Western-styled nation court to process all the suspects of the genocide. Gacaca trials were based on indigenous local justice, with Ubuntu ethics being an underlying element of the system. The trials were traditionally informal, organic, and patriarchal, but the Rwandan government modernized the indigenous justice system by establishing an organizational structure, and, among other things, making the participation of women a requirement (Drumbl, 2020). 

The application of Gacaca trails to do justice after the genocide was not always well received by the international community. The trials received criticism for not complying with the international standards for the distribution of justice. For example, Amnesty International invoked Article 14 of the ICCPR and stated that Gacaca trials violated the right of the accused to be presumed innocent and to the free trial (Meyerstein, 2007). There are, undoubtedly, many problems that can be assigned to the system of Gacaca when it comes to the strict norms of the international norms. 

The judges are drawn from the community and arguably lack the official legal training, the punitive model of the trials that arguably have served for many as an opportunity for personal revenge, and the aforementioned lack of legal protection for the accused are a few of many problems faced by the Gacaca trials (Rettig, 2008). Furthermore, the Gacaca trials excluded the war criminals from the prosecution – there were many cases of the killings of Hutu civilians by Tutsis that formed the part of the Rwandan Patriotic Front army (Corey & Joireman, 2004). This was seen by many as a politicised application of justice, in which, by creating two separate categories of criminals - the crimes of war by the Tutsis that were not the subject of Gacaca and the crimes of the genocide by the Hutus that were dealt with by the trials – the impunity and high moral ground was granted for the Tutsi (ibid). This attitude might bring results that are contrary to the initial goal of the community-based justice - not the reconciliation of the people, but the further division of the society along the ethnic lines. 

However, while the criticism of the Gacaca trials is completely valid, it is also important to understand, that given the limited amount of resources and time, the goal of bringing justice to the victims of the genocide is an incredibly complex mission. In the context of the deeply wounded, post-genocidal society in which the social capital was almost non-existent, the ultimate goal, while having justice as a high priority, was first of all based on Ubuntu ethics and focused more on peace, retribution, and social healing. The utopian perfectness expected by the international community was nearly impossible, and the Gacaca trials met the goal of finding the best possible solutions in the limits of available resources. Furthermore, the criticism of international community often seemed to stem not so much from the preoccupation for the Rwandan citizens, as from the fact that a different approach to justice threatens the homogenizing concept of human rights “which lashes out to squash cultural difference and legal pluralism by criticizing the Gacaca for failures to approximate canonized doctrine” (Meyerstein, 2007).

While it is true that even Rwandan citizens often saw Gacaca as problematic, whether the problems perceived by them were similar to those criticised by the international community is dubious. For example, Rwanda’s Supreme Court’s response to the international criticism was the provision of approach to human rights which, while not denying their objectivity, also advocates for the definition that better suits the local culture and unique circumstances of post-genocide Rwanda (Supreme Court of Rwanda, 2003). After all, the interventions from the part of the Western world on behalf of the universal values have arguably created more violence historically than the defended values should ever allow. The acceptance that Gacaca trials, while imperfect, contributed positively to the post-genocide Rwandan society has the grave implications that human rights are ultimately a product of negotiation between global and local actors” (Meyerstein, 2007) which the West has always refused to accept. However, it is the opinion of this article that exactly the opposite attitude, namely that of better intercultural understanding and the search for the solutions that are not utopian but fit in the margins of the possibilities of a specific society, are the key to both the efficiency and the fairness of a justice system. 

Conclusion

The primary end of the African Indigenous Justice System is to empower the community and to foster reconciliation through a consensus that is made by the offenders, the victims, and the community alike. It encourages to view victims as people who have valuable relationships: they are someone’s daughters, sons, fathers – they are important members of society. Ubuntu is the underlying basis of the Indigenous Justice System and African ethnic in general. While the AIJS seems to be functioning alongside the state’s courts, in the end, the centralization and alienation from the community are undermining these traditional values that flourish in the African setting. The Western legalistic system helps little when it comes to the main goal of justice in Africa – the reconciliation of the community, and more often than not only succeeds in creating further discord. While the criticism of Gacaca trials was undoubtedly valid, it often stemmed from the utopian idealism that did not take the actual situation of a post-genocide Rwanda into consideration or the Western universalism, which was threatened by the introduction of a justice system that in many ways differs from the positivist standard. It is the opinion of this article, therefore, that more autonomy should be granted to the communities that are the basic building blocks of most of the African societies, with the traditional values of Ubuntu being the basis of the African social institutions.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Lexico. (n.d.). Lexico. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/definition/ubuntu

Mugumbate, J., & Nyanguru, A. (2013). Exploring African Philosophy: The Value of Ubuntu in Social Work. African Journal of Social Work, 82-100.

Metz, T. (2011). Ubuntu as a moral theory and human rights in South Africa. African Human Rights Law Journal, 532-559.

Metz, T. (2007). Towards an African Moral Theory. The Journal of Political Philosophy.

Lutz, D. W. (2009). African Ubuntu Philosophy and Global Management. Journal of Business Ethics, 313-328.

Hobbes, T. (1651). Leviathan.

Aristoteles. (350 B.C.E.). Politics.

Malisa, M., & Nhengeze, P. (2018). Pan-Africanism: A Quest for Liberation and the Pursuit of a United Africa. Genealogy.

Elechi, O., Morris, S., & Schauer, E. (2010). Restoring Justice (Ubuntu): An African Perspective. International Criminal Justice Review.

Baggini, J. (2018). How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy. London: Granta Books.

Meyerstein, A. (2007). Between Law and Culture: Rwanda's Gacaca and Postolocial Legality. Law & Social Inquiry.

Corey, A., & Joireman, S. (2004). African Affairs. Retributive Justice: the Gacaca Courts in Rwanda.

Nabudere, D. W. (2005). Ubuntu Philosophy. Memory and Reconciliation. Texas Scholar Works, University of Texas Library.

Rettig, M. (2008). Gacaca: Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Postconflict Rwanda? African Studies Review.

Supreme Court of Rwanda. (2003). Developments on the subject of the report and different correspondences of Amnesty International. Départements des Jurisdictions Gacaca.

Drumbl, M. A. (2020). Post-Genocide Justice in Rwanda. Journal of International Peacekeeping.

Uvin, P. (1999). Ethnicity and Power in Burundi and Rwanda: Different Paths to Mass Violence. Comparative Politics, 253-271.

Schabas, W. A. (2005). Genocide Trials and Gacaca Courts. Journal of International Criminal Justice, 879-895.

Rhetoric as a fundamental pillar of Nicolás Maduro’s regime

Nicolás Maduro during a broadcasted speech [Gov. of Venezuela]

▲ Nicolás Maduro during a broadcasted speech [Gov. of Venezuela]

ESSAY Isabelle León Graticola

It is no secret to anyone that Venezuela is going through the most convoluted economic and social crisis in its history, a crisis in which the creators have manipulated the existence of the people, degrading its integrity, and extinguishing everything that once characterized Venezuela.

The country holds a key geopolitical location that serves as a route for North America and the Caribbean to the rest of South America. Likewise, the country is endowed with abundant natural resources like natural gas, iron ore, diamonds, gold, and oil.1 Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, with 302 billion barrels in January 2018, emanating an extremely rich country with astonishing potential.2  However, this crisis has not only hindered people's lives but has ironically dissipated the country's resources to consolidate the pillars of the regime to such an extent that today the government of Nicolás Maduro is importing oil from Iran. Inadequate policies that have weakened the society’s sense of responsibility and nationalism, decreased foreign investment out of lack of trust, and annihilated the state-led oil production, therefore reinforcing the country’s economic downfall and hyperinflation.

The Venezuelan government, headed by Nicolás Maduro, has managed its way to continue holding power despite accusations of corruption, crimes against humanity, and even drugs trafficking involvement. The perplexing socio-economic and political crisis has created an unsustainable and violent context in which poorly informed people are manipulated by the government through speeches that take big significance on how society perceives the actual situation, as well as other countries’ statements on the crisis. Up to this point, it has become difficult to understand what keeps bolstering this regime, but if the situation is analyzed from the nucleus, the well-orchestrated rhetoric of Chávez and his successor, Maduro, has contributed to support the ends and sustainment of the regime. 

Since Maduro reached power, poverty motivated violence has been rampant in Venezuela and insecurity has become a significant part of society’s dynamics. Consequently, many protests against the government demanding for freedom and better living standards have taken place. Maduro’s regime has been forced to employ tools such as fake news and hateful rhetoric to soften the anger of the people by manipulating them and brainwashing the armed forces to avoid uprisings. 

This article aims to analyze how Maduro’s rhetoric has maintained a minority in the wrong side of history and a majority in constant battle by making erroneous accusations to third parties to justify the perturbed situation, while the government keeps enriching its wallet at the cost of the people and its smudged operations. Such feverish society gave rise to pure uncertainty, to a place where disinformation takes the form of a lethal weapon for the dangerous context in which it exists.

The background: Chávez’s indoctrinated society

First, it is necessary to clarify that the focus of this article is merely on the rhetorical aspect as a pillar of the regime. However, when it comes to the background that has sustained Maduro’s administration up to this day, there is a more complex reality, full of crime, death, manipulation, and corruption. Venezuela is an almost abnormal reality because, after more than twenty years, it is still tied to a group of people who have taken absolutely everything from it. From a man that portrayed nothing but hope for the poor, to one who has managed his way sticking to policies damaging to the very people they mean to help, and which, sooner or later, will make the regime collapse.

Hugo Chávez’s presidency was characterized by a tremendous and persuasive oratory; he knew how to get to the people. Chávez’s measures and campaigns were based on a psychological strategy that won him the admiration of the most impoverished classes of the country. Chávez arrived and gave importance and attention to the big mass of the population that previous governments had systematically neglected. People felt the time had come for them to have what they never had before. Filled with charisma and political mastery, his speeches always contained jokes, dances, and colloquial phrases that were considered indecent by the country’s highest class and often misunderstood abroad.

Chávez always built a drastic separation between the ideals of the United States and Venezuela and looked for ways to antagonize the former with his rhetoric. He began to refer to George W. Bush as “Mr. Danger”, an imperial literary character of one of the most famous Venezuelan novels, Doña Bárbara.3

Hugo Chávez is one of the most revolutionary characters in Venezuelan history, one who brought the convoluted situation that today perpetuates in the country. Chávez persecuted journalists and political opponents, expropriated lands, nationalized Venezuela’s key industries such as telecommunications, electricity, and the refining processes of heavy crudes, and slowly degraded the society as the exercise of power was directed to hold complete control of Venezuela’s internal dynamics.4

Chávez extended education and medical assistance to the least favored classes and improved the living conditions of the needy. This policy did nothing but create among these classes a culture of dependence on the government. Chávez’s supporters or Chavistas were the pillars that buttressed the government, while the wealthy were cataloged as “squealing pigs” and “vampires.”5 The Chavistas admired Chavez’s charismatic character and his constant gifts; he gave them fridges and TVs, gadgets that they could never afford on their own. He also constructed buildings, under the “Misión Vivienda” initiative, to give people living in slums a ‘proper’ home. All of this was possible because the oil prices at the time were skyrocketing; he used the oil income to buy his support. The general standard of life, however, continued to be poor. The government knew what to give and how to manipulate to stay in power, and that is precisely what made Hugo Chávez so powerful and almost impossible to defeat despite strong opposition. 

Historically, the United States has opposed left-wing governments in Latin America, so Chávez condemned the US, by referring to them as an imperialist power, or the “Empire.” He disgraced US leaders and actions and transferred that anti-imperialistic and anti-capitalist approach to the population, part of which supported him and was blindly loyal to the cause. Chávez’s alliance with Cuba under Fidel Castro led to the supply of oil at cut-rate prices, all related to the desire of reducing US economic influence in South America. Chávez's populist initiatives were the tenets of his administration and controversial foreign policy. These, along with his rhetoric and opposition from the Venezuelan wealthy class, deeply polarized the society and gave rise to what Venezuela has today: a divided society that has suffered from the lack of basic necessities, disinformation, and integrity.

Currently, the spokesmen of the Government of Nicolás Maduro address citizens at all hours from public channels and social networks to stir up the disgruntlement of the population toward the external enemy.6 Despite the poorly prepared speeches, the lack of vocabulary, and the improper formulation of sentences, Maduro has kept the colloquial and unformal rhetoric that characterized Chávez, but has failed to draw the connection that the late president enjoyed. The anti-imperialist strategy has been maintained, and, as the justification of the crisis, it has become the epicenter of the regime’s speech. Nicolás Maduro’s rhetoric revolves around two words: the US and the “Patria”, a word frequently used by Chávez.

The base of Maduro’s rhetoric: the love for Chávez

Shortly before dying in March 2013, Hugo Chávez appointed Vice President Nicolás Maduro as his successor. Chávez’s charisma and legacy are what somehow ensured him that Maduro would provide a smooth transition. After Chávez’s passing, Maduro took advantage of the momentum and sentiment that the Chavistas revealed and ensured that if picked, he would follow the steps of his predecessor and would continue to strengthen the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’. Along with the continuity with Chávez's legacy, the defense of Venezuelan sovereignty in front of the US, and the social equality became the key messages of his administration.7 Nevertheless, Maduro had little support from the elites and inherited a country that was already economically weak due to the downfall of the oil prices and corruption.

In Chávez’s wake, Maduro appealed to the emotion of the audience. He strongly claimed that the people were there for the ‘Comandante’ and said that “his soul and his spirit was so strong that his body could not stand it anymore, and he was released and now through this universe expanding filling us with blessings and love”. He knew what this meant for the people and a crying audience exclaimed “Chávez vive, la lucha sigue”.

Maduro filled his rhetoric with the love for Chávez. He acknowledged that the Chavistas worshipped him as if he was God and that for ideological reasons, support for Maduro was guaranteed. Nevertheless, others recognized that the situation in the country was not favorable and questioned Maduro’s ability to fill the void left by Chávez. When Maduro took power, the country entered a period of reinforced economic decline accompanied by hyperinflation that nowadays exceeds 10 million percent.8 As it was previously stated, the conditions of poverty surpass anything seen before in the country, which is now on the brink of collapse.

Furthermore, Venezuela went through two rounds of mass protests, in 2014 and 2018, that demanded freedom and change. Unfortunately, and as was expected from the government, thousands of violations of human rights were part of the demonstration’s dynamics as brutal repression and the unjust imprisonment of demonstrators took place all along. Simultaneously, Maduro managed to call for concentrations on the days of the major opposition’s marches and retained the populist speech based on ideological arguments and emotional appeals among the minority of supporters to consolidate his power in Venezuela. Last year, in a regime concentration on February 23rd, he condemned the elites as he explained that he was certain that from the bottom of his Chavista sentiment of loyalty to this battle, he was never going to be part of one. He stated that Venezuela will continue to be Patria for more many years to come. 

The ongoing crisis has forced many to survive rather than to live, but despite all, Maduro remains in control. Maduro has kept Chávez’s anti-imperialist policy and has rejected any minimum support from the United States. The government takes advantage of the hunger and the vulnerable situation of its people and makes sure that it remains as the only source of food. It does not take responsibility and instead, blames the crisis on the ‘economic war’ that the US has imposed on Venezuela.9  When Juan Guaidó sworn himself the legitimate president, Maduro’s supporters started raising firms in a campaign called “Hands off Venezuela”, while the US was trying to get humanitarian assistance into Venezuela through the Colombian border in the name of Guaidó. 

In this sense, he explained in the same concentration speech that they were defending the national territory and the right to live freely and independently. Although it may seem ironic, because the government has killed hundreds of people with its police brutality and torture, this rhetoric is what has kept him the support of the hardcore revolutionary followers. The “Hands off Venezuela”, was shouted and accompanied by the worst English pronunciation –that characterizes Maduro–, and followed with insults to Guaidó.

As Maduro yelled “puppet, clown, and beggar of imperialism and Donald Trump. If he is the President, where are the economic and social measures that he has applied for the people? It is a game to deceive and manipulate, it is a game that has failed, the coup d'état has failed” as the red audience shouted, “jail him, jail him!”. He drew his speech to a hardcore anti-imperialist audience and firmly stated that the US intended to invade Venezuela and enslave it. Maduro finalized his speech by shouting “wave up the flag, up the Patria, for the people in defense of the Revolution”.

Recently, the US State Department released a price for the capture of Maduro and his cabinet, not only for the crimes committed against the Venezuelan population, but also because of their involvement in a huge drug-trafficking network. With this, the regime's position has become more vulnerable and simultaneously pragmatic, but as tough actions were taken against possible threats and opposing figures, Maduro’s rhetoric remains to deny its status and manipulating those that still support him. In another public speech, he stated that “Donald Trump's government, in an extravagant and extreme, vulgar, miserable action, launched a set of false accusations and like a racist cowboy of the 21st century, put a price on the heads of revolutionaries that still are willing to fight them”. He one more time accused the US of being the main cause of the economic crisis of Venezuela.

Nicolás Maduro’s speech has always been directed to the hardcore revolutionaries, those that worship Chávez since the beginning and who firmly believe in the socialist cause. Maduro has maintained his rhetoric despite the changes in the internal situation of the country; he has held an enduring method for antagonizing the opposition, the Venezuelan upper class, and the United States. On the other hand, regarding the strategic foreign allies, the regime openly gives declarations to support them, but again to somehow antagonize the United States. Indeed, this was the case of the US assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian top commander, in which government representatives attended the Iranian embassy to give the condolences in the name of the regime and swore to avenge Soleimani’s death. The administration of Nicolás Maduro has no gray areas, everything is either black or white; the opposition, the upper class, the US, and the US-influenced countries are the enemies, and the rhetoric rarely leans toward a conciliatory message, rather has always revolved around these conflicting parties.

What is left

Twenty years have passed since the Chavismo arrived in the country. Nowadays, a passionate minority of the population keeps supporting Maduro. His regime continues to train armed groups to combat discontent headed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó. The Chavismo keeps being strong, but it has been fragmented by those who believe that the revolution ended at the moment Chávez died, and the ones that are convinced that supporting Maduro means being loyal to Chávez. In the case of Juan Guaidó, he keeps doing his efforts. He still has relative support and keeps being a source of hope. Nevertheless, many criticize the fact that he let again the people cool down. A close change is expected, but no one knows what the movements behind are. Meanwhile, the people will continue suffering and trying to survive.

Upon reflection, it can be noticed that Maduro's entire argumentation revolves around a confrontational rhetoric: the US and capitalism against Venezuela; Guaidó against the Patria; the elites against the Revolution.10 Far from recognizing the reality that the country faces and take actions to improve it, this confrontational approach simply places the blame on those who have tried to bring a change in the internal dynamics of Venezuela. The regime has managed to construct a national united front against a common foreign enemy and to demonize the opposition.

Chávez and Maduro’s rhetoric has followed a tangible objective: the Revolution. Maduro's regime up to this point is searching for a way to consolidate its power and sustain itself as the best way to elude a rather somber future in jail. This never-ending nightmare should have long ago collapsed due to the economic catastrophe, hyperinflation, political repression, human rights violations, and the lack of direction for Venezuela. Behind what maintains this structure there is nothing but the exercise of power and the almost absolute control of society. The Patria that they constantly speak of is running out of fuel to keep going. Nonetheless, the rhetorical deceptions of the Bolivarian revolution, which for two decades have appealed to the popular classes, settled in the collective mindset of the Chavismo and brought space for support in the Venezuelan society.

Chávez and Maduro’s presidencies have been based on educating and changing the mindset of the population as they wanted; a population that is content with one box of food a month and which, unfortunately, hunts for the easy means to achieve its goals instead of fighting to improve its lot.

Today, the regime is fed on the memory of Hugo Chávez, on his promises, on his battle. As long as it keeps generating an illusion on the supporters, Maduro will appeal to it as a pillar of his administration and of the Revolution.

 

1. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Venezuela facts and figures. 2019, https://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/about_us/171.htm. Accessed 28 Nov. 2019.

2. US Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis. Venezuela. Jan. 2019, https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis.php?iso=VEN. Accessed 28 Nov. 2019.

3. Livingstone, G. (2013, March 10). The secret of Hugo Chavez's hold on his people. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the-secret-of-hugo-chavezs-hold-on-his-people-8527832.html

4. El País. (2007, January 08). Chávez anuncia la nacionalización del servicio eléctrico y las telecomunicaciones. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://elpais.com/internacional/2007/01/08/actualidad/1168210811_850215.html

5. The Guardian. (2012, October 08). Hugo Chávez: A victory of enduring charisma and political mastery. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/08/hugo-chavez-victory-political-venezuela

6. Twitter, F., & Miraflores, P. (2017, July 23). Maduro, sus ministros y la corrupción del lenguaje. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/07/22/opinion/1500746848_239358.html

7. Grainger, S. Hugo Chávez and Venezuela Confront his Succession. Dec. 2012. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-20678634. Accessed 29 Nov. 2019.

8.  Sánchez, V. Venezuela hyperinflation hits 10 million percent. ‘Shock therapy’ may be only chance to undo economic damage. Aug. 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/02/venezuela-inflation-at-10-million-percent-its-time-for-shock-therapy.html. Accessed 29 Nov. 2019.

9. TVVenezuela. Las cajas CLAP ya no tienen con qué alimentar a los venezolanos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MelhZDbiFQQ. Sept. 2019. Accessed 30 Nov. 2019.

10. Delgado, A., & Herrero, J. (2019, February 12). Retóricas de Venezuela en Twitter: Guaidó vs. Maduro. Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://beersandpolitics.com/retoricas-de-venezuela-en-twitter-guaido-vs-maduro

The Crime-Terror Continuum: The case of the Andean region

Members of Colombia's National Liberation Army  [Voces de Colombia]

▲ Members of Colombia's National Liberation Army [Voces de Colombia]

ESSAY / Ángel Martos

Terrorism and transnational organized crime are some of the most relevant topics nowadays in international security. The former represents a traditional threat that has been present during most our recent history, especially since the second half of the twentieth century. International organized crime, on the other hand, has taken place throughout history in multiple ways. Examples can be found even in the pre-industrial era: In rural and coastal areas, where law enforcement was weaker, bandits and pirates all over the world made considerable profit from hijacking vehicles along trade routes and roads, demanding a payment or simply looting the goods that the merchants carried. The phenomenon has evolved into complex sets of interconnected criminal networks that operate globally and in organized way, sometimes even with the help of the authorities.

In this paper, the author will analyze the close interaction between terrorism and organized crime often dubbed the “crime-terror continuum”. After explaining the main tenets of this theory, a case study will be presented. It is the network of relations that exists in Latin America which links terrorist groups with drug cartels. The evolution of some of these organizations into a hybrid comprising terrorist and criminal activity will also be studied.

Defining concepts

The crime-terror nexus is agreed to have been consolidated in the post-Cold War era. After the 9/11 attacks, the academic community began to analyze more deeply and thoroughly the threat that terrorism represented for international security. However, there is one specific topic that was not paid much attention until some years later: the financing of terrorist activity. Due to the decline of state sponsorship for terrorism, these groups have managed to look for funding by partnering with organized criminal groups or engaging in illicit activities themselves. Starting in the 1980s with what later came to be known as narco-terrorism, the use of organized crime by terrorist groups became mainstream in the 1990s. Taxing drug trade and credit-card fraud are the two most common sources of revenues for these groups (Makarenko, 2010).

The basic level of relationship that exists between two groups of such different nature is an alliance. Terrorists may look for different objectives when allying with organized crime groups. For example, they may seek expert knowledge (money-laundering, counterfeiting, bomb-making, etc.) or access to smuggling routes. Even if the alliances may seem to be only beneficial for terrorist groups, criminal networks benefit from the destabilizing effect terrorism has over political institutions, and from the additional effort law enforcement agencies need to do to combat terrorism, investing resources that will not be available to fight other crimes. Theirs is a symbiotic relation in which both actors win. A popular example in the international realm is the protection that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) offered to drug traders that smuggle cocaine from South America through West and North Africa towards Europe. During the last decade, the terrorist organization charged a fee on the shipments in exchange for its protection along the route (Vardy, 2009).

The convergence of organizations

Both types of organizations can converge into one up to the point that the resulting group can change its motives and objectives from one side to the other of the continuum, constituting a hybrid organization whose defining points and objectives blur. An organization of this nature could be both a criminal group with political motivations, and a terrorist group interested in criminal profits. The first one may for example be interested in getting involved in political processes and institutions or may use violence to gain a monopolized control over a lucrative economic sector.

Criminal and terrorist groups mutate to be able to carry out by themselves a wider range of activities (political and financial) while avoiding competitiveness, misunderstandings and threats to their internal security. This phenomenon was popularized after the 1990s, when criminal groups sought to manipulate the operational conditions of weak states, while terrorist groups sought to find new financial sources other than the declining state sponsors. A clear example of this can be found in the Italian Mafia during the 1990s. A series of deliberate bombing attacks were reported in key locations such as the Uffizi Galleries in Florence and the church of St. John Lateran in Rome. The target was not a specific enemy, but rather the public opinion and political authorities (the Anti-Mafia Commission) who received a warning for having passed legislation unfavorable to the interests of the criminal group. Another example far away from Europe and its traditional criminal groups can be found in Brazil. In the early 2000s, a newly elected government carried out a crackdown on several criminal organizations like the Comando Vermelho, the Amigos dos Amigos, and the group Terceiro Comando, which reacted violently by unleashing brutal terrorist attacks on governmental buildings and police officers. These attacks gave the Administration no other choice but to give those groups back the immunity with which they had always operated in Rio de Janeiro.

On the other side of the relationship, terrorist organizations have also engaged in criminal activities, most notably illicit drug trade, in what has been a common pattern since the 1970s. Groups like the FARC, ETA, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), or Sendero Luminoso are among them. The PKK, for example, made most of its finances using its advantageous geographic location as well as the Balkan routes of entry into Europe to smuggle heroin from Asia into Europe. In yet another example, Hezbollah is said to protect heroin and cocaine laboratories in the Bekaa Valley, in Lebanon.

Drug trafficking is not the only activity used by terrorist groups. Other criminal activities serve the same purpose. For example, wholesale credit-card fraud all around Europe is used by Al Qaeda to gain profits (US$ 1 million a month). Furthermore, counterfeit products smuggling has been extensively used by paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland and Albanian extremist groups to finance their activities.

Sometimes, the fusion of both activities reaches a point where the political cause that once motivated the terrorist activity of a group ends or weakens, and instead of disbanding, it drifts toward the criminal side and morphs into an organized criminal association with no political motivations) that the convergence thesis identifies is the one of terrorist organizations that have ultimately maintained their political façade for legitimation purposes but that their real motivations and objectives have mutated into those of a criminal group. They are thus able to attract recruits via 2 sources, their political and their financial one. Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and FARC are illustrative of this. Abu Sayyaf, originally founded to establish an Islamic republic in the territory comprising Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago (Philippines), is now dedicated exclusively to kidnapping and marijuana plantations. The former granted them US$ 20 million only in 2000. Colombian FARC, since the 1990s, has followed the same path: according to Paul Wilkinson, they have evolved from a revolutionary group that had state-wide support into a criminal guerrilla involved in protection of crops and laboratories, also acting as “middlemen” between farmers and cartels; kidnapping, and extortion.  By the beginning of our century, they controlled 40 per cent of Colombia’s territory and received an annual revenue of US$ 500 million (McDermott, 2003).

“Black hole” states

The ultimate danger the convergence between criminal and terrorist groups may present is a situation where a weak or failed state becomes a safe haven for the operations of hybrid organizations like those described before. This is known as the “black hole” syndrome. Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Angola, Sierra Leone and North Korea are examples of states falling into this category. Other regions, such as the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, and others in Indonesia and Thailand in which the government presence is weak can also be considered as such.

Afghanistan has been considered a “black hole state” since at least the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989. Since the beginning of the civil war, the groups involved in it have sought to survive, oftentimes renouncing to their ideological foundations, by engaging in criminal activity such as the production and trafficking of opiates, arms or commodities across the border with Pakistan, together with warlords. The chaos that reigns in the country is a threat not only to the nation itself and its immediate neighbors, but also to the entire world.

The People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is, on the other hand, considered a criminal state. This is because it has engaged in transnational criminal activities since the 1970s, with its “Bureau 39”, a government department that manages the whole criminal activity for creating hard currency (drug trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, privacy, etc.). This was proved when the Norwegian government expelled officials of the North Korean embassy in 1976 alleging that they were engaged in the smuggling of narcotics and unlicensed goods (Galeotti, 2001).

Another situation may arise where criminal and terrorist groups deliberately foster regional instability for their own economic benefits. In civil wars, these groups may run the tasks that a state’s government would be supposed to run. It is the natural evolution of a territory in which a political criminal organization or a commercial terrorist group delegitimizes the state and replaces its activity. Examples of this situation are found in the Balkans, Caucasus, southern Thailand and Sierra Leone (Bangura, 1997).

In Sierra Leone, for example, it is now evident that the violence suffered in the 1990s during the rebellion of the Revolutionary United Forces (RUF) had nothing to do with politics or ideals - it was rather a struggle between the guerrilla and the government to crack down on the other party and reap the profits of illicit trade in diamonds. There was no appeal to the population or political discourse whatsoever. The “black hole” thesis illustrates how civil wars in our times are for the most part a legitimization for the private enrichment of the criminal parties involved and at the same time product of the desire of these parties for the war to never end.

The end of the Cold War saw a shift in the study of the nexus between crime and terrorism. During the previous period, it was a phenomenon only present in Latin America between insurgent groups and drug cartels. It was not until the emergence of Al Qaeda’s highly networked and globally interconnected cells that governments realized the level of threat to international security that non-state actors could pose. As long as weak or failed states exist, the crime-terror nexus will be further enhanced. Moreover, the activity of these groups will be buttressed by effects of globalization such as the increase of open borders policies, immigration flows, international transportation infrastructure, and technological development. Policymakers do not pay enough attention to the criminal activities of both types of organizations. Rather than dealing with the political motivations of a group, what really makes the difference is to focus on its funding resources – credit-card frauds, smuggling, money laundering, etc.

The following section focuses on the crime-terror continuum that exists between illegal drug trade and terrorist networks. This phenomenon has emerged in many regions all around the world, but the case of Latin America, or the Andean region more specifically, represents the paradigm of the characteristics, dangers and opportunities of these situations.

NARCO-TERRORISM CASE STUDY:

When drug trafficking meets political violence

The concept of narco-terrorism was born in recent years as a result of the understanding of illicit drug trade and terrorism as two interconnected phenomena. Traditionally linked with Latin America, the concept can now be found in other parts of the world like, for example, the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan), or the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar).

There is no consensus on the convenience and accuracy of the term “narco-terrorism,” if only because it may refer to different realities. One can think of narco-terrorism as the use of terrorist attacks by criminal organizations such as the Colombian Medellin Cartel to attain an immediate political goal. Or, from a different point of view, one can think of a terrorist organization engaging in illicit drug trade to raise funds for its activity. Briefly, according to Tamara Makarenko’s Crime-Terror Continuum construct all organizations, no matter the type, could at some point move along this continuum depending on their activities and motivations; from the one extreme of a purely criminal organization, to the other of a purely political one, or even constituting a hybrid in the middle (Makarenko, 2010).

There is a general perception of a usual interaction between drug-trafficking and terrorist organizations. Here, it is necessary to distinguish between the cooperation of two organizations of each nature, and an organization carrying out activities under both domains. There are common similarities between the different organizations that can be highlighted to help policymaking more effective.

Both type of organizations cohabit in the same underground domain of society and share the common interest of remaining undiscovered by law enforcement authorities. Also, their transnational operations follow similar patterns. Their structure is vertical in the highest levels of the organization and turns horizontal in the lowest. Finally, the most sophisticated among them use a cell structure to reduce information sharing to the bare minimum to reduce the risk of the organization being unveiled if some of its members are arrested.

The main incentive for organizations to cooperate are tangible resources. Revenues from narcotics trafficking might be very helpful for terrorist organizations, while access to explosive material may benefit drug trade organizations. As an example, according to the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2004, an estimated US$ 2.3 billion of the total revenue of global drug trade end up in the hands of organizations like Al Qaeda. Another example is the illegal market of weapons emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, field of interest of both types of networks. On the other hand, intangible resources are similar to tangible in usefulness but different in essence. Intangible resources that drug trafficking organizations possess and can be in the interests of terrorist ones are the expertise on methods and routes of transports, which could be used for terrorist to smuggle goods or people - drug corridors such as the Balkan route or the Northern route. On the other way around, terrorists can share the military tactics, know-how and skills to perpetrate attacks. Some common resources that can be used by both in their benefit are the extended networks and contacts (connections with corrupt officials, safe havens, money laundering facilities, etc.) A good example of the latter can be found in the hiring of ELN members by Pablo Escobar to construct car bombs.

The organizations are, as we have seen, often dependent on the same resources, communications, and even suppliers. This does not lead to cooperation, but rather to competition, even to conflict. Examples can be traced back to the 1980s in Peru when clashes erupted between drug traffickers and the terrorist Sendero Luminoso, and in Colombia when drug cartels and the FARC clashed for territorial matters. Even the protection of crops terrorists offer to drug traffickers is one of the main drivers of conflict, even if they do find common grounds of understanding most of the time; for example, in terms of government, revenue-motivated organizations are a threat to the state as they fight to weaken some parts of it such as law enforcement or jurisdiction, while politically-motivated ones wish not only to undermine the state but to radically change its structures to fit their ideological vision (state-run economy, religious-based society, etc.).

The terrorism and drug connection in the Andean Region

Nowhere has the use of illicit drug trade as a source of funds for terrorism been so developed as in the Andean Region (Steinitz, 2002). Leftist groups such as FARC and Peruvian Sendero Luminoso, as well as right-wing paramilitary organizations such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) are involved in this activity. At the beginning, the engagement between terrorists and drug traffickers was limited only to fees imposed by the former on the latter in exchange for the protection of crops, labs and shipments. Later, FARC and AUC have further expanded this engagement and are now involved in the early stages of the traffic itself – being the main substance cocaine, and the main reward money and arms from the drug syndicates. The terrorist cells can be therefore considered a hybrid of political and criminal groups. The following paragraphs will further analyze each case.

Peru’s Sendero Luminoso

Sendero Luminoso (SL) started to operate in the Huallaga Valley, a strong Peruvian coca region, several years after its foundation, in 1980. Peru was at the time the world’s first producer of coca leaf. The plant was then processed into coca paste and transported to Colombian laboratories by traffickers. Arguably, the desire for profit from the coca business rather than for political influence was the ultimate motive for Sendero Luminoso’s expansion into the region. SL protected the crops and taxed the production and transportation of coca paste: the 1991 document “Economic Balance of the Shining Path” shows that the group charged US$ 3,000-7,000 per flight leaving Huallaga. Taxes were also levied in exchange for a service that the group provided the cocaleros: negotiating favorable prices with the traffickers. In the late 1980s, SL’s annual income from the business was estimated at US$ 15-100 million (McClintock, 1998).

The Peruvian government’s fight against SL represents a milestone in the fight against the terrorism-crime nexus. Lima set up a political-military command which focused on combatting terrorism while ignoring drugs, because a reasonable percentage of the Peruvian population eked out a living by working in the coca fields. The government also avoided using the police as they were seen as highly corruptible. They succeeded in gaining the support of peasant growers and traffickers of Huallaga Valley, a valuable source of intelligence to use against SL. The latter finally left the Valley.

But it was not a final victory. Due to the vacuum SL left, the now more powerful traffickers reduced the prices paid for the coca leaf. SL was no longer there to act as an intermediary in defense of peasants and minor traffickers, so thanks to the new lower prices, the cocaine market experienced a boom. The military deployed in the area started to accept bribes in exchange for their laissez-faire attitude, becoming increasingly corrupted. President Fujimori in 1996 carried out a strategy of interdiction of the flights that departed from the Valley carrying coca paste to Colombia, causing the traffickers and farmers to flee and the coca leaf price to fall notably. However, this environment did not last long, and the country is experiencing a rise in drug trade and terrorist subversive activities.

The Colombian nexus expands

The collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic crisis in Cuba diminished the amount of aid that the FARC could receive. After the government’s crackdown, with the help of Washington, of the Medellin and Cali cartels, the drug business in Colombia was seized by numerous smaller networks. There was not any significant reduction of the cocaine flow into the United States. The FARC benefitted greatly from the neighboring states’ actions, gaining privileged access to drug money. Peru under Fujimori had cracked down on the coca paste transports, and Bolivia’s government had also put under strict surveillance its domestic drug cultivation. This elimination of competitors caused a doubling of coca production in Colombia between 1995 and 2000. Moreover, opium poppy cultivation also grew significantly and gained relevance in the US’ East-coast market. The FARC also benefitted from this opportunity.

According to the Colombian government, in 1998 the terrorist groups earned US$ 551 million from drug, US$ 311 million from extortion, and US$ 236 million from kidnapping. So much so that the organization has been able to pay higher salaries to its recruits than the Colombian army pays its soldiers. By 2000, the FARC had an estimated 15,000-20,000 recruits in more than 70 fronts, de facto controlling 1/3 of the nation’s territory. Most of the criminal-derived money in the country comes nowadays from taxation and protection of the drug business. According to the Colombian Military, more than half both the FARC’s fronts were involved in the collection of funds by the beginning of the 2000s decade, compared to 40% approx. of AUC fronts (Rebasa and Chalk, 1999).

The situation that was created in both scenarios required created a chaos in which the drug cartels, the cultivation syndicates and the terrorist organizations were the strongest actors. This makes it a very unstable environment for the peoples that lived in the territories under criminal/terrorist control. The tactics of law enforcement agents and government, in these cases, need to be carefully planned, so that multilateral counter-drug/counter-terrorist strategies can satisfactorily address threats existing at multiple dimensions. In the following section, the author will review some key aspects of the policies carried out by the US government in this domain.

The “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror”

Since 9/11, policies considering both threats as being intertwined have become more and more popular. The separation of counter terrorism and counter-narcotics has faded significantly. Although in the Tashkent Conferences of 1999-2000 the necessary link between both was already mentioned, the milestone of cooperative policies is the Resolution 1373 of the UN Security Council (Björnehed, 2006). In it, emphasis is given to the close connection between terrorism and all kinds of organized crime, and therefore coordination at national, regional and global level is said to be necessary. War on drugs and war on terror should no longer be two separate plans of action.

The effectiveness of a policy that wishes to undermine the threat of illicit drug trade and terrorism is to a high degree dependent on successful intelligence gathering. Information about networks, suspects, shipments, projects, etc. benefits agencies fighting drug trafficking as well as those fighting terrorism, since the resources are most of the times shared.  Narco-terrorism nexus is also present in legal acts, with the aim of blocking loopholes in law enforcement efforts. Examples are the Victory Act and the Patriot Act, passed in the US. Recognizing the natural link and cooperation between drug trade and terrorism leads to security analysts developing more holistic theories for policymakers to implement more accurate and useful measures.

However, there are many aspects in which illicit drug trade and terrorist activity differ, and so do the measures that should be taken against them. An example of a failure to understand this point can be found in Afghanistan, where the Taliban in 2000 set a ban in poppy cultivation which resulted in a strong increase of its price, being this a victory for traffickers since the trade did not stop. Another idea to have in mind is that strategies of a war on drugs differ greatly depending on the nature of the country: whether it is solely a consumer like the UK or a producer and consumer like Tajikistan. In regard to terrorism, the measures adopted to undermine it (diplomacy, foreign aid, democratization, etc.) may have minimal effect on the fight against drug trade.

Sometimes, the risk of unifying counter-policies is leaving some areas in which cooperation is not present unattended. Certain areas are suitable for a comprehensive approach such as intelligence gathering, law enforcement and security devices, while others such as drug rehabilitation are not mutually beneficial. Not distinguishing the different motivations and goals among organizations can lead to a failed homogenous policy.

CONCLUSIONS:

Multilevel threats demand multilevel solutions

Terrorism has traditionally been considered a threat to national and international security, while illicit drug trade a threat to human security. This perception derives from the effects of drugs in a consumer country, although war on drugs policies are usually aimed at supplier ones. Although it was already constituting a threat to regional stability during the twentieth century, it was not considered a crucial political issue until 9/11 attacks, when the cooperative link between criminal and terrorist organizations became evident. An example of unequal attention paid to both threats can be found in US’s Plan Colombia in 2000: one of the main advocators of the legislation stated that the primary focus was on counter-drug, so the United States would not engage with Colombian counterinsurgency efforts (Vaicius, Ingrid and Isacson, 2003).The same type of failure was also seen in Afghanistan but in the opposite way, when the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) completely neglected any action against drug traffickers, the trade or the production itself.

The merging of drug trafficking and terrorism as two overlapping threats have encouraged authorities to develop common policies of intelligence gathering and law enforcement. The similarities between organizations engaged in each activity are the main reason for this. However, the differences between them are also relevant, and should be taken into consideration for the counter policies to be accurate enough.

Evidence of a substantial link between terrorists and criminals has been proved all along our recent history. Around the world, leaders of mafias and terrorist commanders have oftentimes worked together when they felt that their objectives were close, if not similar. When cohabitating in the outlaw world, groups tend to offer each other help, usually in exchange for something. This is part of human behavior. Added to the phenomenon of globalization, lines tend to be blurred for international security authorities, and thus for the survival of organizations acting transnationally.

The consequences can be noticed especially in Latin America, and more specifically in organizations such as the FARC. We can no longer tell what are the specific objectives and the motivations that pushed youngsters to flee towards the mountains to learn to shoot and fabricate bombs. Is it a political aspiration? Or is it rather an economic necessity? The reason why we cannot answer this question without leaving aside a substantial part of the explanation is the evolution of the once terrorist organization into a hybrid group that moves all along the crime-terror continuum.

The ideas of Makarenko, Björnehed and Steinitz have helped the international community in its duty to protect its societies. It cannot be expected for affected societies to live in peace if the competent authorities try to tackle its structural security issues only through the counter-terrorist approach or through the organized crime lens. The hybrid threats that the world is suffering in the twenty-first century demand hybrid solutions.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bangura, Y. (1997) ‘Understanding the political and cultural dynamics of the sierra leone war’, Africa Development, vol. 22, no. 3/4 [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Björnehed, E., 2006. Narco-Terrorism: The Merger Of The War On Drugs And The War On Terror. [online] Taylor & Francis. Available at [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Galeotti, M. (2001) ‘Criminalisation of the DPRK’, Jane’s Intelligence Review, vol. 13, no. 3 (March) [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Makarenko, T., 2010. The Crime-Terror Continuum: Tracing The Interplay Between Transnational Organised Crime And Terrorism. [online] Taylor & Francis. Available at [Accessed 3 April 2020].

McClintock, C. Revolutionary Movements in Latin America: El Salvador’s FMLN and Peru’s Shining Path (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1998), p. 341 [Accessed 10 April 2020].

McDermott, J. (2003) ‘Financing insurgents in Colombia’, Jane’s Intelligence Review, vol. 15, no. 2

(February) [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Mutschke, R., (2000) ‘The threat posed by organised crime, international drug trafficking and terrorism’, written testimony to the General Secretariat Hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime (13 December) [Accessed 14 June 2020].

Rebasa and Chalk, pp. 32–33; “To Turn the Heroin Tide,” Washington Post, February 22, 1999, p. A9; “Colombian Paramilitary Chief Shows Face,” Associated Press, March 2, 2000.

Steinitz, M., 2002. The Terrorism And Drug Connection In Latin America’S Andean Region. [online] Brian Loveman, San Diego State University. Available at [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Vaicius, Ingrid and Isacson, Adam “‘The War on Drugs’ meets the ’War on Terror’ ”(CIP International Policy Report February 2003) p. 13.

Vardy, N., 2009. Al-Qaeda's New Business Model: Cocaine And Human Trafficking. [online] Forbes. Available at [Accessed 14 June 2020].

Climate Refugees will raise, nations should find the way for shelter them

Flood rescue in the Afghan village of Jalalabad, in 2010 [NATO]

▲ Flood rescue in the Afghan village of Jalalabad, in 2010 [NATO]

ESSAYAlejandro J. Alfonso

In December of 2019, Madrid hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, in an effort to raise awareness and induce action to combat the effects of climate change and global warming. COP25 is another conference in a long line of efforts to combat climate change, including the Kyoto Protocol of 2005 and the Paris Agreement in 2016. However, what the International Community has failed to do in these conferences and agreements is address the issue of those displaced by the adverse effects of Climate Change, what some call “Climate Refugees”.

Introduction

In 1951, six years after the conclusion of the Second World War and three years after the creation of the State of Israel, a young organization called the United Nations held an international convention on the status of refugees. According to Article 1 section A of this convention, the status of refugee would be given to those already recognized as refugees by earlier conventions, dating back to the League of Nations, and those who were affected “as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion…”. However, as this is such a narrow definition of a refugee, the UN reconvened in 1967 to remove the geographical and time restrictions found in the 1951 convention[1], thus creating the 1967 Protocol.

Since then, the United Nations General Assembly and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have worked together to promote the rights of refugees and to continue the fight against the root causes of refugee movements.[2] In 2016, the General Assembly made the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, followed by the Global Compact on Refugees in 2018, in which was established four objectives: “(i) ease pressures on host countries; (ii) enhance refugee self-reliance; (iii) expand access to third country solutions; and (iv) support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity”.[3] Defined as ‘interlinked and interdependent objectives’, the Global Compact aims to unite the political will of the International Community and other major stakeholders in order to have ‘equitalized, sustained and predictable contributions’ towards refugee relief efforts. Taking a holistic approach, the Compact recognizes that various factors may affect refugee movements, and that several interlinked solutions are needed to combat these root causes.

While the UN and its supporting bodies have made an effort to expand international protection of refugees, the definition on the status of refugees remains largely untouched since its initial applications in 1951 and 1967. “While not in themselves causes of refugee movements, climate, environmental degradation and natural disasters increasingly interact with the drivers of refugee movements”.3 The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that the increase of the average temperature of the planet, commonly known as Global Warming, can lead to an increase in the intensity and occurrence of natural disasters[4]. Furthermore, this is reinforced by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, which has found that the number of those displaced by natural disasters is higher than the number of those displaced by violence or conflict on a yearly basis[5], as shown in Table 1. In an era in which there is great preoccupation and worry concerning the adverse effects of climate change and global warming, the UN has not expanded its definition of refugee to encapsulate those who are displaced due to natural disasters caused by, allegedly, climate change.

 

Table 1 / Global Internal Displacement Database, from IDMC

 

Methodology

This present paper will be focused on the study of Central America and Southeast Asia as my study subjects. The first reason for which these two regions have been selected is that both are the first and second most disaster prone areas in the world[6], respectively. Secondly, the countries found within these areas can be considered as developing states, with infrastructural, economic, and political issues that can be aggravating factors. Finally, both have been selected due to the hegemonic powers within those hemispheres: the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. Both of these powers have an interest in how a ‘refugee’ is defined due to concerns over these two regions, and worries over becoming receiving countries to refugee flows.

Central America

As aforementioned, the intensity and frequency of natural disasters are expected to increase due to irregularities brought upon by an increase in the average temperature of the ocean. Figure 1 shows that climate driven disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean have slowly been increasing since the 1970s, along with the world average, and are expected to increase further in the years to come. In a study by Omar D. Bello, the rate of climate related disasters in Central America increased by 326% from the year 1970 to 1999, while from 2000 to 2009 the total number of climate disasters were 143 and 148 in Central America and the Caribbean respectively[7].  On the other hand, while research conducted by Holland and Bruyère has not concluded an increase in the number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic, there has been an upward trend in the proportion of Category 4-5 hurricanes in the area[8] .

 

 

This increase in natural disasters, and their intensity, can have a hard effect on those countries which have a reliance on agriculture. Agriculture as a percentage of GDP has been declining within the region in recent years due to policies of diversification of economies. However, in the countries of Honduras and Nicaragua the percentage share of agriculture is still slightly higher than 10%, while in Guatemala and Belize agriculture is slightly below 10% of GDP share[9]. Therefore, we can expect high levels of emigration from the agricultural sectors of these countries, heading toward higher elevations, such as the Central Plateau of Mexico, and the highlands of Guatemala. Furthermore, we can expect mass migration movements from Belize, which is projected to be partially submerged by 2100 due to rising sea levels[10].

 

Figure 2 / Climate Risk Index 2020, from German Watch

 

Southeast Asia

The second region of concern is Southeast Asia, the region most affected by natural disasters, according to the research by Bello, mentioned previously. The countries of Southeast Asia are ranked in the top ten countries projected to be at most risk due to climate change, shown in Figure 2 above[11]. Southeast Asia is home to over 650 million people, about 8% of total world population, with 50% living in urban areas[12]. Recently, the OECD concluded that while the share in GDP of agriculture and fisheries has declined in recent years, there is still a heavy reliance on these sectors to push economy in the future[13]. In 2014, the Asian Development Bank carried out a study analyzing the possible cost of climate change on several countries in the region. It concluded that a possible loss of 1.8% in the GDP of six countries could occur by 2050[14]. These six countries had a high reliance on agriculture as part of the GDP, for example Bangladesh with around 20% of GDP and 48% of the workforce being dedicated to agricultural goods. Therefore, those countries with a high reliance on agricultural goods or fisheries as a proportion of GDP can be expected to be the sources of large climate migration in the future, more so than in the countries of Central America.

One possible factor is the vast river system within the area, which is susceptible to yearly flooding. With an increase in average water levels, we can expect this flooding to worsen gradually throughout the years. In the case of Bangladesh, 28% of the population lives on a coastline which sits below sea level[15]. With trends of submerged areas, Bangladesh is expected to lose 11% of its territory due to rising sea levels by 2050, affecting approximately 15 million inhabitants[16][17]. Scientists have reason to believe that warmer ocean temperatures will not only lead to rising sea levels, but also an intensification and increase of frequency in typhoons and monsoons[18], such as is the case with hurricanes in the North Atlantic.

Expected Destinations

Taking into account the analysis provided above, there are two possible migration movements: internal or external. In respect to internal migration, climate migrants will begin to move towards higher elevations and temperate climates to avoid the extreme weather that forced their exodus. The World Bank report, cited above, marked two locations within Central America that fulfil these criteria: the Central Plateau of Mexico, and the highlands of Guatemala. Meanwhile, in Southeast Asia, climate migrants will move inwards in an attempt to flee the rising waters, floods, and storms.

However, it is within reason to believe that there will be significant climate migration flows towards the USA and the Popular Republic of China (PRC). Both the United States and China are global powers, and as such have a political stability and economic prowess that already attracts normal migration flows. For those fleeing the effects of climate change, this stability will become even more so attractive as a future home. For those in Southeast Asia, China becomes a very desired destination. With the second largest land area of any country, and with a large central zone far from coastal waters, China provides a territorial sound destination. As the hegemon in Asia, China could easily acclimate these climate migrants, sending them to regions that could use a larger agricultural workforce, if such a place exists within China.

In the case of Central America, the United States is already a sought-after destination for migrant movements, being the first migrant destination for all Central American countries save Nicaragua, whose citizens migrate in greater number to Costa Rica[19]. With the world’s largest economy, and with the oldest democracy in the Western hemisphere, the United States is a stable destination for any refugee. In regard to relocation plans for areas affected by natural disasters, the United States also has shown it is capable of effectively moving at-risk populations, such as the Isle de Jean Charles resettlement program in the state of Louisiana[20].

Problems

While some would opine that ‘climate migrants’ and ‘climate refugees’ are interchangeable terms, they are unfortunately not. Under international law, there does not exist ‘climate refugees’. The problem with ‘climate refugees’ is that there is currently no political will to change the definition of refugee to include this new category among them. In the case of the United States, section 101(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the definition of a refugee follows that of the aforementioned 1951 Geneva convention[21], once again leaving out the supposed ‘climate refugees’. The Trump administration has an interest in maintaining this status quo, especially in regard to its hard stance in stopping the flow of illegal immigrants coming from Central America. If a resolution should pass the United Nations Security Council, the Trump administration would have no choice but to change section 101(42) of the INA, thus risking an increased number of asylum applicants to the US. Therefore, it can confidently be projected that the current administration, and possibly future administrations, would utilize the veto power, given to permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, on such a resolution.

China, the strongest regional actor in Asia, does not have to worry about displeasing the voter. Rather, they would not allow a redefinition of refugee to pass the UN Security Council for reasons concerning the stability and homogeneity of the country. While China does accept refugees, according to the UNHCR, the number of refugees is fairly low, especially those from the Middle East. This is mostly likely due to the animosity that the Chinese government has for the Muslim population. In fact, the Chinese government has a tense relationship with organized religion in and of itself, but mostly with Islam and Buddhism. Therefore, it is very easy to believe that China would veto a redefinition of refugee to include ‘climate refugees’, in that that would open its borders to a larger number of asylum seekers from its neighboring countries. This is especially unlikely when said neighbors have a high concentration of Muslims and Buddhists: Bangladesh is 90% Muslim, and Burma (Myanmar) is 87% Buddhist[22]. Furthermore, both countries have known religious extremist groups that cause instability in civil society, a problem the Chinese government neither needs nor wants.

On the other hand, there is also the theory that the causes of climate migration simply cannot be measured. Natural disasters have always been a part of human history and have been a cause of migration since time immemorial. Therefore, how can we know if migrations are taking place due to climate factors, or due to other aggravating factors, such as political or economic instability? According to a report by the French think tank ‘Population and Societies’, when a natural disaster occurs, the consequences remain localized, and the people will migrate only temporarily, if they leave the affected zone at all[23]. This is due to the fact that usually that society will bind together, working with familial relations to surpass the event. The report also brings to light an important issue touched upon in the studies mentioned above: there are other factors that play in a migration due to a natural disaster. Véron and Golaz in their report cite that the migration caused by the Ethiopian drought of 1984 was also due in part to bad policies by the Ethiopian government, such as tax measures or non-farming policies.

The lack of diversification of the economies of these countries, and the reliance on agriculture could be such an aggravating factor. Agriculture is very susceptible to changes in climate patterns and are affected when these climate patterns become irregular. This can relate to a change of expected rainfall, whether it be delayed, not the quantity needed, or no rainfall at all. Concerning the rising sea levels and an increase in floods, the soil of agricultural areas can be contaminated with excess salt levels, which would remain even after the flooding recedes. For example, the Sula Valley in Honduras generates 62% of GDP, and about 68% of the exports, but with its rivers and proximity to the ocean, also suffers from occasional flooding. Likewise, Bangladesh's heavy reliance on agriculture, being below sea level, could see salt contamination in its soil in the near future, damaging agricultural property.

Reliance on agriculture alone does not answer why natural disasters could cause large emigration in the region. Bello and Professor Patricia Weiss Fagen[24] find that issues concerning the funding of local relief projects, corruption in local institutions, and general mismanagement of crisis response is another aggravating factor. Usually, forced migration flows finish with a return to the country or area of origin, once the crisis has been resolved. However, when the crisis has continuing effects, such as what happened in Chernobyl, for example, or when the crisis has not been correctly dealt with, this return flow does not occur. For example, in the countries composing the Northern Triangle, there are problems of organized crime which is already a factor for migration flows from the area[25]. Likewise, the failure of Bangladesh and Myanmar to deal with extremist Buddhist movements, or the specific case of the Rohinga Muslims, could inhibit return flows and even encourage leaving the region entirely.

Recommendations and Conclusions

The definition of refugee will not be changed or modified in order to protect climate migrants. That is a political decision by countries who sit at a privileged position of not having to worry about such a crisis occurring in their own countries, nor want to be burdened by those countries who will be affected. Facing this simple reality should help to find a better alternative solution, which is the continuing efforts of the development of nations, in order that they may be self-sufficient, for their sake and the population’s sake. This fight does not have to be taken alone, but can be fought together through regional organizations who have a better understanding and grasp of the gravity of the situation, and can create holistic approaches to resolve and prevent these crises.

We should not expect the United Nations to resolve the problem of displacement due to natural disasters. The United Nations focuses on generalized and universal issues, such as that of global warming and climate change, but in my opinion is weak in resolving localized problems. Regional organizations are the correct forum to resolve this grave problem. For Central America, the Organization of American States (OAS) provides a stable forum where these countries may express their concerns with states of North and Latin America. With the re-election of Secretary General Luis Almagro, a strong and outspoken authority on issues concerning the protection of Human Rights, the OAS is the perfect forum to protect those displaced by natural disasters in the region. Furthermore, the OAS could work closely with the Inter-American Development Bank, which has the financial support of international actors who are not part of the OAS, such as Japan, Israel, Spain, and China, to establish the necessary political and structural reforms to better implement crisis management responses. This does not exclude the collusion with other international organizations, such as the UN. Interestingly, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has a project in the aforementioned Sula Valley to improve infrastructure to deal with the yearly floods[26]

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is another example of an apt regional organization to deal with the localized issues. Mostly dealing with economic issues, this forum of ten countries could carry out mutual programs in order to protect agricultural territory, or further integrate to allow a diversification of their economies to ease this reliance on agricultural goods. ASEAN could also call forth the ASEAN +3 mechanism, which incorporates China, Japan, and South Korea, to help with the management of these projects, or for financial aid. China should be interested in the latter option, seeing as it can increase its good image in the region, as well as protecting its interest of preventing possible migration flows to its territory. The Asian Development Bank, on the other hand, offers a good alternative financial source if the ASEAN countries so choose, in order to not have heavy reliance on one country or the other.

 

 

[1]https://www.unhcr.org/about-us/background/4ec262df9/1951-convention-relating-status-refugees-its-1967-protocol.html

[2]https://www.unhcr.org/

[3]https://www.unhcr.org/new-york-declaration-for-refugees-and-migrants.html

[4]https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/03/SREX_Full_Report-1.pdf

[5]https://www.internal-displacement.org/database/displacement-data

[6]https://reliefweb.int/report/world/natural-disasters-latin-america-and-caribbean-2000-2019

[7]https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/42007/1/RVI121_Bello.pdf

[8]https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s00382-013-1713-0.pdf

[9]https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/NV.AGR.TOTL.ZS/map/central-america

[10]https://www.caribbeanclimate.bz/belize-most-vulnerable-in-central-america-to-sea-level-rise/

[11]https://germanwatch.org/en/17307

[12]https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/south-eastern-asia-population/

[13]http://www.fao.org/3/a-bt099e.pdf

[14]https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/42811/assessing-costs-climate-change-and-adaptation-south-asia.pdf

[15]https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/bangladesh-country-underwater-culture-move

[16]https://www.dw.com/en/worst-case-scenario-for-sea-level-rise-no-more-new-york-berlin-or-shanghai/a-18714345

[17]https://ejfoundation.org/reports/climate-displacement-in-bangladesh

[18]https://www.climatecentral.org/news/warming-increases-typhoon-intensity-19049

[19]https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/central-american-immigrants-united-states

[20] http://isledejeancharles.la.gov/

[21]https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-prelim-title8-section1101&num=0&edition=prelim

[22]https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/

[23]https://www.ined.fr/fichier/s_rubrique/23737/population.societes.2015.522.migration.environmental.en.pdf

[24]https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/D4B04197663A2846492575FD001D9715-Full_Report.pdf

[25]https://www.refugeesinternational.org/reports/2017/11/27/displacement-and-violence-in-the-northern-triangle?gclid=CjwKCAjwmKLzBRBeEiwACCVihjauFsYr3zo1g-3g3Ry9WfQzr7wwO7cOGID1Ksdh5L5mOSSY_55GuBoCmfAQAvD_BwE

[26]https://opecfund.org/operations/list/sula-valley-flood-protection-project

Looking beyond Kashmir: Past and present territorial disputes between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh

The British Raj in 1909 showing Muslim majority areas in green

▲ The British Raj in 1909 showing Muslim majority areas in green

ESSAYVictoria Paternina and Claudia Plasencia

Pakistan’s partition from India in 1947 marked the beginning of a long road of various territorial disputes, causing different effects in the region. The geopolitics of Pakistan with India are often linked when considering their shared history; and in fact, it makes sense if we take the perspective of Kashmir as the prominent issue that Islamabad has to deal with. However, neither the history nor the present of Pakistan can be reduced to New Delhi and their common regional conflict over the Line of Control that divides Kashmir.

The turbulent and mistrustful relations between India and Pakistan go beyond Kashmir, with the region of Punjab divided in two sides and no common ground between New Delhi and Islamabad. In the same way, the bitter ties between Islamabad and a third country are not exclusively with India. Once part of Pakistan, Bangladesh has a deeply rooted hatred relationship with Islamabad since their split in 1971. Looking beyond Kashmir, Punjab and Bangladesh show a distinct aspect of the territorial disputes of the past and present-day Pakistan. Islamabad has a say in these issues that seem to go unnoticed due to the fact that they stand in the shadow of Kashmir.

This essay tries to shed light on other events that have a solid weight on Pakistan’s geopolitics as well as to make clear that the country is worthy of attention not only from New Delhi’s perspective but also from their own Pakistani view. In that way, this paper is divided in two different topics that we believe are important in order to understand Pakistan and its role in the region. Punjab and Bangladesh: the two shoved under the rug by Kashmir.

Punjab

The tale of territorial disputes is rooted deeply in Pakistan and Indian relations; the common mistake is to believe that New Delhi and Islamabad only fight over Kashmir. If the longstanding dispute over Kashmir has raised the independence claims of its citizens, Punjab is not far from that. On the edge of the partition, Punjab was another region in which territorial lines were difficult to apply. They finally decided to divide the territory in two sides; the western for Pakistan and the eastern for India. However, this issue automatically brought problems since the majority of Punjabis were neither Hindus nor Muslims but rather Sikhs. Currently, the division of Punjab is still in force. Despite the situation in Pakistan Punjab remains calm due to the lack of Sikhs as most of them left the territory or died in the partition. The context in India Punjab is completely different as riots and violence are common in the eastern side due to the wide majority of Sikhs that find no common ground with Hindus and believe that India has occupied its territory. Independence claims have been strengthened throughout the years in many occasions, supported by the Pakistani ISI in order to destabilize India. Furthermore, the rise of the nationalist Indian movement is worsening the situation for Punjabis who are realizing how their rights are getting marginalized in the eyes of Modi’s government.

Nonetheless, the question of Punjabi independence is only a matter of the Indian side. The Pakistan-held Punjab is a crucial province of the country in which the wide majority are Muslims. The separation of Punjab from Islamabad would not be conceived since it would be devastating. For Pakistan, it would mean the loss of 72 million inhabitants; damaging the union and stability of the country. All of this taking into account that Punjab represents a strong pillar for the national economy since it is the place where the Indus river – one of the most important ones – flows. It can be said that there is no room for independence of the Pakistani side, nor for a rapprochement between both parts of the former Punjab region. They have lost their main community ties. Besides, the disagreements are between New Delhi and Eastern Punjab, so Islamabad has nothing to do here. According to that, the only likely long-term possibility would be the independence of the Indian side of the Punjab due to the growth of the hatred against New Delhi. Additionally, there are many Sikhs living abroad in UK or Canada who support the independence of Punjab into a new country “Khalistan” strengthening the movement into an international concern. Nevertheless, the achievement of this point would probably increase the violence in Punjab, and in case they would become independent it would be at the expense of many deaths.

There is a last point that must be taken into account when referring to India-Pakistan turbulent territorial relations. This is the case of the longstanding conflict over water resources in which both countries have been increasing tensions periodically. Considering that there is a scarcity of water resources and a high demand of that public good, it is easy to realize that two enemies that share those resources are going to fight for them. Furthermore, if they both are mainly agrarian countries, the interest of the water would be even harder as it is the case of Pakistan and India. However, for more than five decades both Islamabad and New Delhi have maintained the Indus Waters Treaty that regulates the consumption of the common waters. It divides the six rivers that flow over Pakistan and India in two sides. The three western ones for Pakistan, and the other three of the eastern part for India. Nevertheless, it does not mean that India could not make any use of the Pakistani ones or vice versa; they are allowed to use them in non-consumptive terms such as irrigation, but not for storage or building infrastructures[1]. This is where the problem is. India is seemed to have violated those terms by constructing a dam in the area of the Pakistani Indus river in order to use the water as a diplomatic weapon against Islamabad.

This term has been used as an Indian strategy to condemn the violence of Pakistan-based groups against India undermining in that way the economy of Pakistan which is highly dependent on water resources. Nevertheless, it is hard to think that New Delhi would violate one of the milestones treaties in its bilateral relations with Pakistan. Firstly, because it could escalate their already existent tensions with Pakistan that would transform into an increase of the violence against India. Islamabad’s reaction would not be friendly, and although terrorist activities follow political causes, any excuse is valid to lead to an attack. Secondly, because it would bring a bad international image for PM Modi as the UN and other countries would condemn New Delhi of having breached a treaty as well as leaving thousands of people without access to water. Thirdly, they should consider that rivers are originated in the Tibet, China, and a bad movement would mean a reaction from Beijing diverting the water towards Pakistan[2]. Finally, India does not have enough infrastructure to use the additional water available. It is better for both New Delhi and Islamabad to maintain the issue over water resources under a formal treaty considering their mutual mistrust and common clashes. Nevertheless, it would be better for them to renew the Indus Waters Treaty in order to include new aspects that were not foreseen when it was drafted as well as to preserve the economic security of both countries.

Bangladesh

Punjab is a territory obligated to be divided in two between India and Pakistan, yet Bangladesh separated itself completely from Pakistan and finds itself in the middle of India. Bangladesh, once part of Pakistan, after a tumultuous war, separated into its own country.  While India did not explicitly intervene with Bangladesh and Pakistan’s split, it did promote the hatred between the two for its own agenda and to increase in power. The scarring aspect of the split of Bangladesh from Pakistan is the bloody war and genocide that took place, something that the Bengali people still have not overcome to this day. The people of Bangladesh are seeking an apology from Pakistan, something that does not look like it is going to come anytime soon.

Pakistan and Bangladesh share a bitter past with one another as prior to 1971, they were one country which separated into two as a result of a bloody war and emerging political differences. Since 1971 up to today, India and the Awami league have worked to maintain this hatred between Bangladesh and Pakistan through propagandist programs and different techniques. For example, they set up a war museum, documentaries and films in order to boast more the self-proclamation of superiority on behalf of India against Bangladesh and Pakistan. India and the Awami League ignore the fact that they have committed atrocities against the Bengali people and that in large part they are responsible for the breakup between Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) worked to improve relations with Pakistan under the governments of Ziaur Rahman, Begum Khaldia Zia, and Hossain Mohammad Ershad in Bangladesh, who had maintained distance from India. Five Pakistani heads of government have visited Bangladesh since 1980, along with signing trade and cultural agreements to improve relations between the two nations.[3] While an alliance between Pakistan and Bangladesh against India is not a realistic scenario, what is important for Pakistan and Bangladesh for the next decade to come is attempt to put their past behind them in order to steer clear of India and develop mutually beneficial relations to help improve their economies. For example, a possible scenario for improving Pakistan and Bangladesh relations could be to join the CPEC to better take advantage of the trade opportunities offered within South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, and China and Russia.[4]

Despite decades of improving trade and military links, especially as a defense against Indian supremacy in the region, the two countries continue to be divided by the question of genocide. Bangladesh wants Pakistan to recognize the genocide and its atrocities and teach them as a part of its history. However, Pakistan has refused to do so and has even referred to militant leader executed for war crimes as being killed for his loyalty to Pakistan.[5]

Even though India supported Bangladesh in its independence from Pakistan, Bangladesh thinks that India is self-serving and that they change ideas depending on their own convenience.[6] An alliance of Pakistan and Bangladesh, even though it is against a common enemy, India, is not realistic given the information recently provided. India is a country that yes, even though they helped Bangladesh against Pakistan, they are always going to look out for themselves, especially in search to be the central power in the region. India sees still a lot of potential for their power in the coming decades. Indian PM Narendra Modi is very keen on making strategic choices for the country to transform an increase its global leadership position.[7]

The hostile relations between Pakistan and India find their peak in its longstanding conflict over Kashmir, but Punjab and Bangladesh must not be put in the shadow. The further directions of both PM Imran Khan and PM Modi could have consequences that would alter the interests of Punjab and Bangladesh as different actors in the international order. In the case of Punjab their mutual feelings of mistrust could challenge the instability of a region far from being calm. It is true that independence claims is not an issue for Pakistan itself since both Islamabad and Pakistan-held Punjab would lose in that scenario, and they both know it. Nonetheless, Indian Punjabis’ reality is different. They have crucial problems within New Delhi, again as a historical matter of identity and ethnicity that is still present nowadays. Sikhs have not found common ground with Hindus yet and it does not seem that it will happen in a near future. In fact, tensions are increasing, posing a threat for two nations with their views on Kashmir rather than on Punjab. In the case of Bangladesh, its relations with Pakistan did not have a great start. Bangladesh gained freedom with help from India and remained under its influence. Both Pakistan and Bangladesh took a long time to adjust to the shock of separation and their new reality, with India in between them.

In conclusion, Punjab and Bangladesh tend to be the less important territorial issues, and not a priority neither for Islamabad nor for New Delhi that are more engaged in Kashmir. However, considering the magnitude of both disputes, we should appreciate how the Sikhs in the Indian-held territory of Punjab as well as the Bengali people deserve the same rights as the Kashmiris to be heard and to have these territorial disputes settled once and for all.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ayres, Alyssa. “India: a ‘Major Power’ Still below Its Potential.” Lowy Institute, July 24, 2018.

Iftikhar, Momin. “Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations.” The Nation. The Nation, December 15, 2018.

"Indus Water Treaty: Everything You Need to Know". ClearIAS.

Muhammad Hanif, Col. “Keeping India out of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations.” Daily Times, March 6, 2018.

Sami, Shafi. “Pakistan Bangladesh Relations In the Changing International Environment.” JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.

Shakoor, Farzana. “Pakistan Bangladesh Relations Survey.” JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.

 


[2] ibid

[3] Muhammad Hanif, Col. “Keeping India out of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations.” Daily Times, March 6, 2018.

[4] Iftikhar, Momin. “Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations.” The Nation. The Nation, December 15, 2018.

[5] Sami, Shafi. “Pakistan Bangladesh Relations In the Changing International Environment.” JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.

[6] Shakoor, Farzana. “Pakistan Bangladesh Relations Survey.” JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.

[7]Ayres, Alyssa. “India: a ‘Major Power’ Still below Its Potential.” Lowy Institute, July 24, 2018.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and its ties with radical groups

Logo of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence organization. It depicts Pakistan's national animal, Markhor, eating a snake [Wikipedia]

▲ Logo of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence organization. It depicts Pakistan's national animal, Markhor, eating a snake [Wikipedia]

ESSAYManuel Lamela

Jihadism continues to be one of the main threats Pakistan faces. Its impact on Pakistani society at the political, economic and social levels is evident, it continues to be the source of greatest uncertainty, which acts as a barrier to any company that is interested in investing in the Asian country. Although the situation concerning terrorist attacks on national soil has improved, jihadism is an endemic problem in the region and medium-term prospects are not positive. The atmosphere of extreme volatility and insistence that is breathed does not help in generating confidence. If we add to this the general idea that Pakistan's institutions are not very strong due to their close links with certain radical groups, the result is a not very optimistic scenario. In this essay, we will deal with the current situation of jihadism in Pakistan, offering a multidisciplinary approach that helps to situate itself in the complicated reality that the country is experiencing.

 

 

 

1. Jihadism in the region, a risk assessment

Through this graph, we will analyze the probability and impact of various risk factors concerning jihadist activity in the region. All factors refer to hypothetical situations that may develop in the short or medium term. The increase in jihadist activity in the region will depend on how many of these predictions are fulfilled.

Risk Factors:

R1: US-Taliban treaty fails, creating more instability in the region. If the United States is not able to make a proper exit from Afghanistan, we may find ourselves in a similar situation to that experienced during the 1990s. Such scenario will once again plunge the region into a fierce civil war between government forces and Taliban groups. The proposed scenario becomes increasingly plausible if we look at the recent American actions regarding foreign policy.

R2: Pakistan two-head strategy facing terrorism collapse. Pakistan’s strategy in dealing with jihadism is extremely risky, it’s collapse would lead to a schism in the way the Asian state deals with its most immediate challenges. The chances of this strategy failing in the medium term are considerably high due to its structure, which makes it unsustainable over the time.

R3: Violations of the LoC by the two sides in the conflict. Given the frequency with which these events occur, their impact is residual, but it must be taken into account that it in an environment of high tension and other factors, continuous violations of the LoC may be the spark that leads to an increase in terrorist attacks in the region.

R4: Agreement between the afghan Taliban and the government. Despite the recent agreement between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Albduallah, it seems unlikely that he will be able to reach a lasting settlement with the Taliban, given the latter's pretensions. If it is true that if it happens, the agreement will have a great impact that will even transcend Afghan borders.

R5: Afghan Taliban make a coup d’état to the afghan government. In relation to the previous point, despite the pact between the government and the opposition, it seems likely that instability will continue to exist in the country, so a coup attempt by the Taliban seems more likely than a peaceful solution in the medium or long term

R6: U.S. Democrat party wins the 2020 elections. Broadly speaking, both Republican and Democratic parties are betting on focusing their efforts on containing the growth of their great rival, China.

R7: U.S. withdraw its troops from Afghanistan regarding the result of the peace process. This is closely related to the previous point as it responds to a basic geopolitical issue.

R8: New agreement between India and Pakistan regarding the LoC.  If produced, this would bring both states closer together and help reduce jihadist attacks in the Kashmir region. However, if we look at recent events, such a possibility seems distant at present.

 

 

2. The ties between the ISI and the Taliban and other radical groups

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been accused on many occasions of being closely linked to various radical groups; for example, they have recently been involved with the radicalization of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh[1]. Although Islamabad continues strongly denying such accusations, reality shows us that cooperation between the ISI and various terrorist organizations has been fundamental to their proliferation and settlement both on national territory and in the neighboring states of India and Afghanistan. The West has not been able to fully understand the nature of this relationship and its link to terrorism. The various complaints to the ISI have been loaded with different arguments of different kinds, lacking in unity and coherence. Unlike popular opinion, this analysis will point to the confused and undefined Pakistani nationalism as the main cause of this close relationship.

The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, together with the Intelligence Bureau and the Military Intelligence, constitute the intelligence services of the Pakistani State, the most important of which is the ISI. ISI can be described as the intellectual core and center of gravity of the army. Its broad functions are the protection of Pakistan's national security and the promotion and defense of Pakistan's interests abroad. Despite the image created around the ISI, in general terms its activities and functions are based on the same "values" as other intelligence agencies such as the MI6, the CIA, etc. They all operate under the common ideal of protecting national interests, the essential foundation of intelligence centers without which they are worthless. We must rationalize their actions on the ground, move away from inquisitive accusations and try to observe what are the ideals that move the group, their connection with the government of Islamabad and the Pakistani society in general.

2.1. The Afghan Taliban

To understand the idiosyncrasy of the ISI we must go back to the war in Afghanistan[2], it is from this moment that the center begins to build an image of itself, independent of the rest of the armed forces. From the ISI we can see the victory of the Mujahideen on Afghan territory as their own, a great achievement that shapes their thinking and vision. But this understanding does not emerge in isolation and independently, as most Pakistani society views the Afghan Taliban as legitimate warriors and defenders of an honorable cause[3]. The Mujahideen victory over the USSR was a real turning point in Pakistani history, the foundation of modern Pakistani nationalism begins from this point. The year 1989 gave rise to a social catharsis from which the ISI was not excluded.

Along with this ideological component, it is also important to highlight the strategic aspect; we are dealing with a question of nationalism, of defending patriotic interests. Since the emergence of the Taliban, Pakistan has not hesitated to support them for major strategic reasons, as there has always been a fear that an unstable Afghanistan would end up being controlled directly or indirectly by India, an encircle strategy[4]. Faced with this dangerous scenario, the Taliban are Islamabad's only asset on the ground. It is for this reason, and not only for religious commitment, that this bond is produced, although over time it is strengthened and expanded. Therefore, at first, it is Pakistani nationalism and its foreign interests that are the cause of this situation, it seeks to influence neighboring Afghanistan to make the situation as beneficial as possible for Pakistan. Later on, when we discuss the situation of the Taliban on the national territory, we will address the issue of Pakistani nationalism and how its weak construction causes great problems for the state itself. But on Afghan territory, from what has been explained above, we can conclude that this relationship will continue shortly, it does not seem likely that this will change unless there are great changes of impossible prediction. The ISI will continue to have a significant influence on these groups and will continue its covert operations to promote and defend the Taliban, although it should be noted that the peace treaty between the Taliban and the US[5] is an important factor to take into account, this issue will be developed once the situation of the Taliban at the internal level is explained.

2.2. The Pakistani Taliban (Al-Qaeda[6] and the TTP)

The Taliban groups operating in Pakistan are an extension of those operating in neighboring Afghanistan. They belong to the same terrorist network and seek similar objectives, differentiated only by the place of action. Despite this obvious similarity, from Islamabad and increasingly from the whole of Pakistani society, the two groups are observed in a completely different way. On the one hand, as we said earlier, for most Pakistanis, the Afghan Taliban are fighting a legitimate and just war, that of liberating the region from foreign rule. However, groups operating in Pakistan are considered enemies of the state and the people. Although there was some support among the popular classes, especially in the Pashtun regions, this support has gradually been lost due to the multitude of atrocities against the civilian population that have recently been committed. The attack carried out by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)[7] in the Army Public School in Peshawar in the year 2014 generated a great stir in society, turning it against these radical groups. This duality marks Pakistan's strategy in dealing with terrorism both globally and internationally. While acting as an accomplice and protector of this groups in Afghanistan, he pursues his counterparts on their territory. We have to say that the operations carried out by the armed forces have been effective, especially the Zarb-e-Azb operation carried out in 2014 in North Waziristan, where the ISI played a fundamental role in identifying and classifying the different objectives. The position of the TTP in the region has been decimated, leaving it quite weakened. As can be seen in this scenario, there is no support at the institutional level from the ISI[8], as they are involved in the fight against these radical organizations. However, on an individual level if these informal links appear. This informal network is favored by the tribal character of Pakistani society, it can appear in different forms but often draw on ties of Kinship, friendship or social obligation[9]. Due to the nature of this type of relationship, it is impossible to know to what extent the ISI's activity is conditioned and how many of its members are linked to Taliban groups. However, we would like to point out that these unions are informal and individual and not institutional, which provides a certain degree of security and control, at least for the time being, the situation may vary greatly due to the lack of transparency.

2.3. ISI and the radical groups that operate in Kashmir

Another part of the board is made up of the radical groups that focus their terrorist attention on the conflict with India over control of Kashmir, the most important of which are: Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Both groups have committed real atrocities over the past decades, the most notorious being the one committed by LeT in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008. There are numerous testimonies, in particular, that of the American citizen David Haedy, which point to the cooperation of the ISI in carrying out the aforementioned attack.[10]

Recently, Hafiz Saeed, founder of Let and intellectual planner of the bloody attack, was arrested. The news generated some turmoil both locally and internationally and opened the debate as to whether Pakistan had finally decided to act against the radical groups operating in Kashmir. We are once again faced with a complex situation, although the arrest shows a certain amount of willpower, it is no more than a way of making up for the situation and relaxing international pressure. The above coincides with the FATF's[11] assessment of Pakistan's status within the institution, which is of great importance for the short-term future of the country's economy. Beyond rhetoric, there is no convincing evidence that suggests that Pakistan has made a move against those groups. The link and support provided by the ISI in this situation are again closely linked to strategic and ideological issues. Since its foundation, Pakistani foreign policy has revolved around India[12], as we saw on the Afghan stage. Pakistani nationalism is based on the maxim that India and the Hindus are the greatest threat to the future of the state. Given the significance of the conflict for Pakistani society, there has been no hesitation in using radical groups to gain advantages on the ground. From Pakistan perspective, it is considered that this group of terrorists are an essential asset when it comes to putting pressure on India and avoiding the complete loss of the territory, they are used as a negotiating tool and a brake on Indian interests in the region.

As we can see, the core between the ISI and certain terrorist groups is based on deep-seated nationalism, which has led both members of the ISI and society, in general, to identify with the ideas of certain radical groups. They have benefited from the situation by bringing together a huge amount of power, becoming a threat to the state itself. The latter has compromised the government of Pakistan, sometimes leaving it with little room for maneuver. The immense infrastructure and capacity of influence that Let has thanks to its charitable arm Jamaat-ud-Dawa, formed with re-localized terrorists, is a clear example of the latter. A revolt led by this group could put Islamabad in a serious predicament, so the actions taken both in Kashmir and internally to try to avoid the situation should be measured very well. The existing cooperation between the ISI and these radical groups is compromised by the development of the conflict in Kashmir, which may increase or decrease depending on the situation. What is certain, because of the above, is that it will not go unnoticed and will continue to play a key role in the future. These relationships, this two-way game could drag Pakistan soon into an internal conflict, which could compromise its very existence as a nation.

 


[3] Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan a Hard Country. 1st ed. London: Penguin, 2012.

[4] United States Institute for PeaceThe India-Pakistan Rivalry In Afghanistan, 2020.

[5] Maizland, Lindsay. "U.S.-Taliban Peace Deal: What To Know". Council On Foreign Relations, 2020.

[6] Blanchard, Christopher M. Al Qaeda: Statements And Evolving Ideology. PDF, 2007.

[7] Mapping Militant Organizations. “Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.” Stanford University. Last modified July 2018.

[9] Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan a Hard Country. 1st ed. London: Penguin, 2012.

[10] Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan a Hard Country. 1st ed. London: Penguin, 2012.

[12] "India And Pakistan: Forever Rivals?". Aljazeera.Com, 2017.

Irán: ¿Guerra Fría en Oriente Medio?

Ejercicios navales de comandos de la Guardia Revolucionaria en el Estrecho de Ormuz en 2015 [Wikipedia]

▲ Ejercicios navales de comandos de la Guardia Revolucionaria en el Estrecho de Ormuz en 2015 [Wikipedia]

ENSAYOAna Salas Cuevas

La República Islámica de Irán, también conocida como Persia, es un país con gran importancia en la geopolítica. Es una potencia regional no solo por su localización estratégica, sino también por sus grandes recursos de hidrocarburos, que hacen de Irán el cuarto país en reservas probadas de petróleo y el primero en reservas de gas[1].

Así hablamos de uno de los países más importantes del mundo por tres motivos fundamentales. El primero, mencionado anteriormente: sus inmensas reservas petrolíferas y de gas. En segundo lugar, porque Irán controla el estrecho de Ormuz, que es llave de entrada y salida del Golfo Pérsico y por el que pasan la mayor parte de las exportaciones de hidrocarburos de Irán, Arabia Saudí, Irak, Emiratos Árabes, Kuwait, Catar y Bahréin[2]. Por último, por el programa nuclear en el que ha invertido tantos años[3].

La república iraní se basa en los principios del Islam chií, aunque hay una gran diversidad étnica en su sociedad. Por ello, es indispensable tener en cuenta la gran “fuerza del nacionalismo iraní” para comprender su política. Apelando a la posición dominante sobre otros países, el movimiento nacionalista iraní pretende influir en la opinión pública. El nacionalismo se ha ido asentando desde hace más de 120 años, desde que el Boicot de Tabaco de 1891[4] supuso una respuesta directa a la intervención y presión exterior, y hoy pretende lograr la hegemonía en la región. La política exterior e interior de Irán son una clara expresión de este movimiento[5].

Por agente interpuesto (Proxy armies)

La guerra subsidiaria (en inglés, war by proxy) es un modelo de guerra en el cual un país hace uso de terceros para combatir o influenciar en un determinado territorio, en lugar de enfrentarse directamente. Como señala David Daoud, en el Líbano, Irak, Yemen y Siria, “Teherán ha perfeccionado el arte de conquistar gradualmente un país sin reemplazar su bandera”[6]. En esa tarea participa directamente la Guardia Revolucionaria Islámica de Irán (GRI), formando o favoreciendo militarmente a las fuerzas de otros países.

La GRI nació con la Revolución Islámica liderada por el ayatolá Ruhollah Jomeini, con el fin de mantener los logros del movimiento[7]. Se trata de uno de los principales actores políticos y sociales del país. Posee gran capacidad para influir en los debates y decisiones de la política nacional. Es, además, propietaria de numerosas empresas dentro del país, lo que le garantiza una fuente de financiación propia y refuerza su carácter de poder interno. Constituye un cuerpo independiente de las fuerzas armadas, y el nombramiento de sus altos cargos depende directamente del Líder de la Revolución. Entre sus objetivos está la lucha contra el imperialismo, y expresamente se compromete a intentar rescatar Jerusalén para devolverla a los palestinos[8]. Su importancia es crucial para el régimen, y cualquier ataque a estos cuerpos representa una amenaza directa al gobierno iraní[9].

La relación de Irán con los países musulmanes de su entorno se encuentra marcada por dos hechos principales: por un lado, su condición chiita; por otro, la preeminencia que logró tener en el pasado en la región[10]. Gracias a que su acción exterior se encuentra apoyada en la Guardia Revolucionaria Islámica, Irán ha conseguido establecer grandes vínculos con grupos políticos y religiosos por todo Oriente Medio. A partir de ahí, Irán aprovecha distintos recursos para afianzar su influencia en los distintos países. En primer lugar, haciendo uso de herramientas de poder blando o soft power. Así, entre otras acciones, ha participado en la reconstrucción de mezquitas y escuelas en países como el Líbano o Irak[11]. En Yemen ha proporcionado ayudas logísticas y económicas al movimiento hutí. En 2006, se implicó en la reconstrucción del sur de Beirut.

No obstante, los métodos utilizados por estas fuerzas alcanzan otros extremos, pasando a mecanismos más intrusivos (hard power). Por ejemplo, tras la invasión israelí de 1982 en el Líbano, Irán ha ido estableciendo allí a lo largo de tres décadas un punto de apoyo, con Hezbolá como proxy, aprovechando las quejas sobre la privación de derechos de la comunidad chiita. Esta línea de acción ha permitido a Teherán promover su Revolución Islámica en el extranjero[12].

En Irak la GRI buscó la desestabilización interna de Irak, apoyando facciones chiitas como la organización Badr, durante la guerra irano-iraquí de la década de 1980. Por otro lado, Irán involucró a la GRI en el levantamiento de Saddam Hussein a principios de la década de 1990. A través de este tipo de influencias y encarnando el paradigma de proxy army, Irán ha ido estableciendo influencias muy directas sobre estos lugares. Incluso en Siria, este cuerpo de élite iraní tiene una gran influencia, apoyando al gobierno de Al Assad y las milicias chiitas que combaten junto a él.

Por su parte, Arabia Saudí acusa a Iran y su Guardia de proveer armas en Yemen a los hutíes (movimiento que defiende a la minoría chiita), generando una importante escalada de tensión entre ambos países[13].

La GRI se consolida, así, como uno de los factores más importantes en el panorama de Oriente Medio, impulsando la lucha entre dos bandos que quedan contrapuestos. No obstante, no es el único. De esta manera, encontramos un escenario de “guerra fría”, que acaba trascendiendo y convirtiéndose en foco internacional. Por un lado, Irán, apoyado por potencias como Rusia o China. Por el otro, Arabia Saudí, de la mano de EEUU. Esta contienda se desarrolla, en gran medida, de una manera no convencional, a través de proxy armies como Hezbolá y las milicias chiitas en Irak, en Siria o en Yemen[14].

Causas de una confrontación

Las tensiones entre Arabia Saudí e Irán se han extendido a todo Oriente Medio (y más allá), creando en este territorio dos bandos bien determinados, ambos con pretensión de adjudicarse la hegemonía en la zona.

Para interpretar este escenario y comprender mejor su oposición es importante, en primer lugar, distinguir dos corrientes ideológicas contrapuestas: el chiismo y el sunismo (wahabismo). El wahabismo es una tendencia religiosa musulmana de extrema derecha, de la rama del sunismo, que hoy en día es la religión mayoritaria en Arabia Saudí. El chiismo, como previamente se ha mencionado, es la corriente en la que se basa la República de Irán. No obstante, como veremos, la pugna que se desarrolla entre Irán y Arabia Saudí es política, no religiosa; está más basada en la ambición de poder, que en la religión.

En segundo lugar, encontramos en el control del tráfico del petróleo otra causa de esta rivalidad. Para entender este motivo, conviene tener en cuenta la posición estratégica que juegan los países de Oriente Medio en el mapa global al acoger las mayores reservas de hidrocarburos del mundo. Un gran número de luchas contemporáneas se deben, en efecto, a la intromisión de las grandes potencias en la región, intentando tener un papel sobre estos territorios. Así, por ejemplo, el acuerdo de Sykes-Picot[15] de 1916 para el reparto de influencias europeas sigue condicionando acontecimientos actuales. Tanto Arabia Saudí como Irán, como venimos diciendo, poseen un protagonismo especial en estos enfrentamientos, por las razones descritas.

Bajo estas consideraciones, es importante señalar, en tercer lugar, la implicación en dichas tensiones de potencias exteriores como Estados Unidos.

Los efectos de las primaveras árabes han debilitado a muchos países de la zona. No así a Arabia Saudí e Irán, que han buscado en las últimas décadas su consolidación como potencias regionales, en gran medida gracias al respaldo que les otorga su producción y sus grandes reservas de petróleo. Las diferencias entre ambos países se ven reflejadas en la manera en la que intentan configurar la región y en los distintos intereses que pretenden lograr. Además de las diferencias étnicas entre Irán (persas) y Arabia Saudí (árabes), su alineamiento en el panorama internacional también es opuesto. El wahabismo se presenta como antinorteamericano, pero el gobierno saudí es consciente de la necesidad que tiene del apoyo de EEUU, y ambos países mantienen una conveniencia recíproca, con el petróleo como base. No sucede lo mismo con Irán.

Irán y EEUU fueron estrechos aliados hasta 1979. La Revolución Islámica lo cambió todo y desde entonces, con la crisis de los rehenes de la embajada estadounidense en Teherán como momento inicial especialmente dramático, las tensiones entre los dos países han sido frecuentes. La confrontación diplomática ha vuelto a ser aguda con la decisión del presidente Donald Trump de retirada del Plan de Acción Integral Conjunto (PAIC), firmado en 2015 para la no proliferación nuclear de Irán, con la consiguiente reanudación de las sanciones económicas hacía este país. Además, en abril de 2019 Estados Unidos situó a la Guardia Revolucionaria en su lista de organizaciones terroristas[16], responsabilizando a Irán de financiar y promover el terrorismo como una herramienta de gobierno[17].

Por un lado, pues, está el bando de los saudís, apoyados por EEUU y, dentro de la región, por Emiratos Árabes Unidos, Kuwait, Baréin e Israel. Por el otro lado, Irán y sus aliados de Palestina, Líbano (parte pro-chiita) y recientemente Qatar, lista a la que podría añadirse Siria e Irak (milicias chiitas). Las tensiones aumentaron tras la muerte de Qasem Soleimani en enero de 2020. En este último bando podríamos destacar el apoyo internacional de China o Rusia, pero poco a poco podemos observar un alejamiento de las relaciones entre Irán y Rusia.

Al hablar de la lucha por la hegemonía del control del tráfico del petróleo, es imprescindible mencionar el Estrecho de Ormuz, el punto geográfico crucial de esta contienda, donde se ven enfrentadas ambas potencias directamente. Este estrecho es una zona estratégica situada entre el Golfo Pérsico y el de Omán. Por ahí pasa un 40% del petróleo mundial[18]. El control de estas aguas es, evidentemente, decisivo en el enfrentamiento entre Arabia Saudí e Irán; así como para cualquiera de los miembros de la Organización de Países Exportadores de Petróleo de Oriente Medio (OPEP) en la región: Irán, Arabia Saudí, Irak, Emiratos Árabes y Kuwait.

Uno de los objetivos de las sanciones económicas impuestas por Washington a Irán es reducir sus exportaciones para favorecer a Arabia Saudí, su mayor aliado regional. A estos efectos, la Quinta Flota estadounidense, con sede en Baréin, tiene la tarea de proteger la navegación comercial en esta área.

El Estrecho de Ormuz “es la válvula de escape que utiliza Irán para aliviar la presión que se ejerce desde fuera del Golfo” [19]. Desde aquí, Irán intenta reaccionar ante las sanciones económicas impuestas por EEUU y otras potencias; es lo que le otorga una mayor voz en el panorama internacional, al tener capacidad de bloquear el estratégico paso. Recientemente se han dado ataques a petroleros de Arabia Saudí y otros países[20], algo que provoca una gran desestabilización tanto económica como militar en cada nuevo episodio[21].  

En definitiva, la competencia entre Irán y Arabia Saudí tiene un efecto no solo regional sino que afecta globalmente. Los conflictos que pudieran desatarse en esta área recuerdan, cada vez más, a una ya conocida Guerra Fría, tanto por los métodos en el frente de batalla (y la incidencia de las proxy armies en este frente), como por la atención que requiere para el resto del mundo, que depende de este resultado, quizá, bastante más de lo que es consciente.

Conclusiones

Desde hace varios años se ha ido consolidando un enfrentamiento regional que implica también a las grandes potencias. Esta lucha trasciende las fronteras de Oriente Medio, análogamente a la situación desencadenada durante la Guerra Fría. Sus principales agentes son las proxy armies, que impulsan luchas a través de agentes no estatales y con métodos de guerra no convencionales, desestabilizando constantemente las relaciones entre los Estados, así como dentro de los propios Estados.

Para evitar la lucha en Ormuz, países como Arabia Saudí y los Emiratos Árabes Unidos han intentado transportar el petróleo por otras vías, por ejemplo, mediante la construcción de oleoductos. Este grifo lo tiene Siria, país por el que las conducciones deben pasar para llegar a Europa). Al fin y al cabo, la guerra de Siria se puede ver desde muchas perspectivas, pero no hay duda de que uno de los motivos de la intromisión de potencias extrarregionales es el interés económico que conlleva la costa siria.

Desde 2015 hasta ahora se libra la silenciada guerra civil de Yemen. En ella están en juego asuntos estratégicos como el control del Estrecho de Mandeb. Detrás de esta terrible guerra contra los hutíes (proxies), hay un latente miedo a que estos se hagan con el control de acceso al Mar Rojo. En este mar y cerca del estrecho se encuentra Djibouti, donde las grandes potencias han instalado bases militares para un mejor control sobre la zona.

La potencia más perjudicada es Irán, que ve su economía debilitada por las constantes sanciones económicas. La situación afecta a una población oprimida tanto por el propio gobierno como por la presión internacional. El propio gobierno acaba desinformando a la sociedad, provocando una gran desconfianza hacia las autoridades. Esto genera una creciente inestabilidad política, que se manifiesta en frecuentes protestas.

El régimen ha publicitado esas manifestaciones como protestas por las actuaciones de EEUU, como por ejemplo a raíz del asesinato del general Soleimani, sin mencionar que muchas de estas revueltas se deben al gran descontento de la población civil por las graves medidas tomadas por el ayatolá Jamenei, más centrado en procurar la hegemonía en la zona que en resolver los problemas internos.

Así, muchas veces es difícil darse cuenta de implicación de estos enfrentamientos para la mayoría del mundo. En efecto, la utilización de proxy armies no debe distraernos del hecho de la verdadera involucración de las principales potencias de Occidente y de Oriente (al verdadero modo de una Guerra Fría). Tampoco los motivos que se alegan para mantener estos frentes abiertos deben distraernos de la verdadera incidencia de lo que está en juego realmente: ni más ni menos que la economía global.


[1] El nuevo mapa de los gigantes globales del petróleo y el gas, David Page, Expansión.com, el 26 de junio de 2013. Disponible en

[2] Los cuatro puntos clave por los que viaja el petróleo: El Estrecho de Ormuz, el “arma” de Irán, 30 de julio de 2018. Disponible en

[3] En noviembre de 2013 firmaban China, Rusia, Francia, Reino Unido y Estados Unidos (P5) e Irán el Plan de Acción Conjunto (PAC). Se trató de un acuerdo inicial sobre el programa nuclear de Irán sobre el cual se realizaron varias negociaciones que concluyeron con un pacto final, el Plan de Acción Integral Conjunto (PAIC), firmado en 2015, al que se adhirió la Unión Europea.

[4] El Boicot de Tabaco fue el primer movimiento en contra de una actuación concreta del Estado, no se dio una revolución en el sentido estricto de la palabra, pero en él se arraigó un fuerte nacionalismo. Se dio debido a la ley del monopolio del tabaco concedida a los británicos en 1890. Más información en: “El veto al tabaco”, Joaquín Rodríguez Vargas, Profesor de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

[5] Cuaderno de estrategia 137, Ministerio de Defensa: Irán, potencia emergente en Oriente Medio. Implicaciones en la estabilidad del Mediterráneo. Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos, julio de 2007. Disponible en

[6] Meet the Proxies: How Iran Spreads Its Empire through Terrorist Militias,The Tower Magazine, March 2015. Disponible en

[7] El artículo 150 de la Constitución de la República Islámica de Irán lo dice expresamente.

[8] Tensiones entre Irán y Estados Unidos: causas y estrategias, Kamran Vahed, Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos, noviembre 2019. Disponible en, pág. 5.

[9] Una de las seis secciones de la GRI es la Fuerza “Quds” (cuyo comandante era Qasem Soleimani), especializada en guerra convencional y operaciones de inteligencia militar. También responsable de llevar a cabo intervenciones extraterritoriales.

[10] Irán, Ficha país. Oficina de Información Diplomática, España. Disponible en

[11] Tensiones entre Irán y Estados Unidos: causas y estrategias, Kamran Vahed, Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos, noviembre 2019. Disponible en

[12] Hezbollah Watch, Iran’s Proxy War in Lebanon. November 2018. Disponible en

[13] Yemen: la batalla entre Arabia Sudí e Irán por la influencia en la región, Kim Amor, 2019, El Periódico. Disponible en

[14] Irán contra Arabia Saudí, ¿una guerra inminente?, Juan José Sánchez Arreseigor, IEEE, 2016. Disponible en

[15] El acuerdo de Sykes-Picot fue un pacto secreto entre Gran Bretaña y Francia durante la Primera Guerra Mundial (1916) en el que, con el consentimiento de Rusia (aún presoviética), ambas potencias se repartieron las zonas conquistadas del Imperio Otomano tras la Gran Guerra.

[16] Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Boureau of Counterterrorism. Disponible en

[17] Statement from the President on the Designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, Foreign Policy, april of 2019. Disponible en

[18] El estrecho de Ormuz, la principal arteria del petróleo mundial, Euronews (datos contrastados con Vortexa), 14 de junio de 2019. Disponible en

[19] “Máxima presión” en el Estrecho de Ormuz, Félix Arteaga, Real Instituto el Cano, 2019. Disponible en

[20] Estrecho de Ormuz: qué se sabe de las nuevas explosiones en buques petroleros que aumentan la tensión entre Estados Unidos e Irán, BBC News Mundo, 14 junio 2019. Disponible en

[21] Arabia Saudí denuncia el sabotaje de dos petroleros en aguas de Emiratos Árabes, Ángeles Espinosa, 14 de mayo de 2019, El País. Disponible en

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