Entradas con Categorías Global Affairs Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza .

EU: Corona Virus and geopolitics. An Italian perspective

Apart from China, Italy has received aid from Russia and Cuba, making a risky geopolitical move in the European context

The global spreading of the virus is putting under stress the big ally of the Union, the United States, which is demonstrating its lack of an efficient social health care system. Furthermore, the initial refusal of Washington to send help to the EU was seen as an opportunity for countries like Russia, China and Cuba to send medical and technical support to those countries of the EU that are most affected by the virus. Italy has taken aid send by Beijing, Moscow and Havana, shaking the geopolitical understandings of the EU´s foreign policy.

Russia's aid arrived in Italy in the middle of the pandemic crisis [Russian Defense Ministry]

▲ Russia's aid arrived in Italy in the middle of the pandemic crisis [Russian Defense Ministry]

ARTICLEMatilde Romito

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Corona Virus (Covid-19) a pandemic on the 11th of March, 2020. The fast widespread of the virus pushed numerous countries around the world and especially in Europe where there is the highest number of confirmed cases, to call for a lockdown. This extreme measure not only is leading the EU and the entire world towards an unprecedented economic crisis, but it is also redefining geopolitics and the system of alliances we were used to.

The pandemic. On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the first outbreak of novel coronavirus a ‘public health emergency of international concern’. In mid-February, numerous cases of corona virus began to be reported in northern Italy and in several European countries. Initially, the spread of the virus mainly hit Italy, which reported the biggest number of cases among the EU states. In March, Italy started with the implementation of social-distancing measures and the consequent lockdown of the country, followed by Spain, France and other European countries. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared covid-19 a global pandemic. Currently, Europe is the region of the world with the highest number of confirmed cases. According to the WHO, on April 6, Europe reached 621,407 cases compared to the 352,600 cases in America and the 112,524 in Western Asia.

The global lockdown. At first, several major airlines suspended their flights from and to China, in order to avoid further contaminations. Now, the majority of flights in Europe and in other regions have been cancelled. The biggest areas of world are under lockdown and the economic consequences of this are becoming more and more evident. A forced social distancing seems to be the only way to contain the spread of the virus and the closing of national borders is currently at the center of states' policies to combat the virus. However, some European countries, such as Sweden, do not seem to agree on this.

Lack of solidarity

We are assisting to a global situation of 'everybody for oneself,' and this has become highly evident within the EU itself. Individual countries within the Union have shown high levels of egoism on different occasions. The North-South divide within the EU is clearer than ever, particularly between the Netherlands and Austria on the one side, and Italy, Spain, France and Greece on the other side. The former group of countries is asking for compromise and conditions to lend money to the most afflicted ones for countering the crisis, while the latter group is asking the EU to share the debts accumulated in order to save European economies (eurobonds).

The different spread-intensity of the virus in different European countries has shown more than once the fragility of the Union, which demonstrated to be led by the arrogance of the rich. On different occasions European leaders have shown a lack of European identity, solidarity and common vision. For instance, at the beginning of the crisis France and Germany attempted to 'cover with the European flag' medical products directed to Italy, by declaring them 'European products', trying to compensate the initial inaction of the EU. Another example, could be the seizure by the Czech Republic of 110,000 Chinese masks and thousands of breathing supports, which were destined to Italy (March the 21st). Moreover, the lack of unity also came from an unjustified action of protectionism undertaken by Poland, which closed its market to agricultural products coming from Italy on March 18, despite it was already known that the virus could not be spread through such products.

Nevertheless, there are some good and unexpected examples of solidarity. For instance, a good lesson on European solidarity came from the small state of Albania. The Albanian prime minister Edi Rama taught European leaders what it means to be part of the EU by sending a medical unit to the Italian region of Lombardy, despite the numerous difficulties Albania is facing, thus showing that the fight against the virus has no nationality and it cannot leave room for egoistic calculations. Moreover, more recently Germany has accepted to receive and take care of numerous patients coming from Italy, where the majority of health infrastructures are saturated.

Overall, little comprehension and solidarity has been shown between European member states, thus being criticised by the European Commission president, Ursula Von Der Leyen.

Geopolitical tensions

The EU is going through numerous changes in the relations between its members. The closing up of individual countries poses a big challenge to the EU itself, which is founded on freedom of movement of people and goods.

Currently, sending masks and medicines seems to have become the main means for countries to exert influence in global affairs. The global spreading of the virus is putting under stress the big ally of the Union, the United States (US), which is demonstrating its lack of an efficient social health care system. Furthermore, the initial refusal of Washington to send help to the EU was seen as an opportunity for countries like Russia, China and Cuba to send medical and technical support to those countries of the EU that are most affected by the virus, like Italy and Spain. After having seen its hegemonic position in Europe under threat, the US decided to send monetary help to some European countries, such as 100 million dollars to Italy, in order to help in countering the emergency.

At the end, the EU seems to start standing all together. But, did the European countries take action on time? Generally, countries, like human beings, are more likely to remember one bad impression better than numerous good ones. Therefore, are countries like Italy going to 'forgive' the EU and its initial inactivity? Or are they going to fall back on countries like Russia and China, which have shown their solidarity since the beginning?

Furthermore, did the EU take action because of an inherent identity and solidarity? Or was it just a counteraction to the Chinese and Russian help? It seemed that specifically Germany's mobilisation followed the exhortation of the former president of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi. He accused Germany and other countries of taking advantage of the virus for imposing a 'conditionality' to the countries that were asking for help. Moreover, in an interview on the Financial Times he called for an exceptional investment in the economies and for a guarantee of the debts, in order to jointly face the crisis, because no country can face this unprecedented threat alone. Now, anti-virus economic action turned into a matter of urgency for Europe and the European Commission is working on a common European response to the crisis.

Future perspectives

Probably, after the end of the virus spread, the world will assist to important changes in the global dynamics of alliances. Russia and China will most likely have one or more European allies to advance their interests in the EU. On the one side, this could lead to a further weakening of the EU governance and to the re-emergence of nationalism on states' behaviour within the Union. And on the other side, it could lead to the development of further mechanisms of cooperation among the EU members, which will go beyond the eurobonds and will probably extend to the sanitary dimension.

To preserve its unity, the European political-economic-cultural area will need to be strengthened, by fighting inequalities with a new model of solidarity. Its future prosperity will most likely depend on its internal market.

Nevertheless, for now the only thing we can be sure about is that the first impression on the EU was very bad and that this situation is going to lead all of us towards an unprecedented economic crisis, which most probably will redefine the political relationships between the world's biggest regions.

Impacto del Covid-19 en las crisis humanitarias

Personal de ACNUR construyendo una carpa para refugiados venezolanos en la ciudad colombiana de Cúcuta [ACNUR]

▲ Personal de ACNUR construyendo una carpa para refugiados venezolanos en la ciudad colombiana de Cúcuta [ACNUR]

COMENTARIOPaula Ulibarrena

Las restrictivas medidas impuestas por los estados para tratar de contener la epidemia de coronavirus implican para millones de personas dejar de ir a trabajar o hacerlo desde casa. Pero no todos pueden parar su actividad o pasar al teletrabajo. Hay trabajadores por cuenta propia, pequeños comercios, tiendas de barrio, comerciantes ambulantes o vendedores callejeros, y artistas independientes que viven prácticamente al día. Para ellos y para amuchas otras personas que queden sin ingresos o los vean reducidos, los gastos seguirán igualmente corriendo: pago de servicios, alquileres, hipotecas, colegiaturas y, por supuesto, alimentos y medicinas.

Todos estos impactos sociales que está acarreando la crisis por el coronavirus ya empiezan a cuestionarse entre quienes viven en la “zona roja” de la epidemia. En Italia, por ejemplo, algunos colectivos políticos han demandado que las ayudas no sean para las grandes empresas, sino para este conjunto de trabajadores precarios o familias necesitadas y están exigiendo una “renta básica de cuarentena”.

Planteamientos semejantes están surgiendo en otras partes del mundo e incluso ha llevado a que algunos mandatarios a adelantarse a las exigencias de la población. En Francia, Emmanuel Macron anunció que el gobierno asumirá los créditos, y suspendió el pago de alquileres, impuestos y recibos de luz, gas y agua. En Estados Unidos el gobierno de Donald Trump anunció que se enviarán cheques a cada familia para enfrentar los gastos o riesgos que implica la pandemia.

En otras grandes crisis el Estado ha salido a rescatar a las grandes empresas y bancos. Ahora se reclama que los recursos públicos se dediquen a rescatar a los más necesitados.

En toda crisis, son los más desfavorecidos los que peor lo pasan, hoy hay en el mundo más de 126 millones de personas que necesitan asistencia humanitaria, incluidos 70 millones de desplazados forzosos. Dentro de estos colectivos comenzamos a conocer los primeros casos de infectados (campo de desplazados de Ninive-Irak, Somalia, Afganistán, Nigeria, Sudán, Venezuela….), el informe de casos en Burkina Faso es particularmente ilustrativo del desafío de responder en un contexto donde la atención médica es limitada. Los refugiados malienses que una vez fueron desplazados a Burkina Faso están siendo obligados a regresar a Malí, y la violencia continua inhibe el acceso humanitario y médico a las poblaciones afectadas.

Muchos campos de refugiados sufren de insuficientes instalaciones de higiene y saneamiento, lo que crea condiciones propicias para la propagación de enfermedades. Los planes oficiales de respuesta en los Estados Unidos, Corea del Sur, China y Europa requieren distanciamiento social, lo que es físicamente imposible en muchos campamentos de desplazados y en los contextos urbanos abarrotados en los que viven muchas personas desplazadas por la fuerza. Jan Egeland, director general del Consejo Noruego para los Refugiados, advirtió que COVID-19 podría "diezmar las comunidades de refugiados". 

Jacob Kurtzer, del Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) de Washington, advierte que las políticas nacionales de aislamiento en reacción a la propagación de COVID-19 también tienen consecuencias negativas para las personas que enfrentan emergencias humanitarias. Así el Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR) y la Organización Internacional para las Migraciones han anunciado el fin de los programas de reasentamiento de refugiados, ya que algunos gobiernos anfitriones han detenido la entrada de refugiados e impusieron restricciones de viaje como parte de su respuesta oficial.

Para agravar estos desafíos está la realidad de que la financiación humanitaria, que apenas puede satisfacer la demanda mundial y que puede verse afectada ya que los estados donantes consideran que en este momento deben enfocar dichos fondos a la respuesta al Covid-19.

En el lado contrario el coronavirus podría suponer una oportunidad de reducción de algunos conflictos armados. Por ejemplo, la Unión Europea ha pedido el cese de las hostilidades y el cese de las transferencias militares en Libia para permitir que las autoridades se concentren en responder a la emergencia de salud. El Estado Islámico ha publicado repetidos mensajes en su boletín informativo de Al-Naba pidiendo a los combatientes que no viajen a Europa y que reduzcan los ataques mientras se concentran en mantenerse libres del virus. 

Kurtzer sugiere que esta es una oportunidad para reflexionar sobre la naturaleza del trabajo humanitario en el extranjero y garantizar que no se pase por alto. Curiosamente los países desarrollados se enfrentan a una vulnerabilidad médica real, de hecho Médicos Sin Fronteras ha abierto instalaciones en cuatro ubicaciones en Italia. Cooperar con organizaciones humanitarias confiables a nivel nacional será de vital importancia para responder a las necesidades de la población y al mismo tiempo desarrollar una mayor comprensión del trabajo vital que realizan en entornos humanitarios en el extranjero.

What has been the most successful government building in Africa?

UN led vs. non-UN led post-conflict government building

WORKING PAPERMaría del Pilar Cazali



Government building in Africa has been an important issue to deal with after post- independence internal conflicts. Some African states have had the support of UN peacekeeping missions to rebuild their government, while others have built their government on their own without external help. The question this article looks to answer is what method of government building has been more effective. This is done through the analysis of four important overall government building indicators: rule of law, participation, human rights and accountability and transparency. Based on these indicators, states with non-UN indicators have had a more efficient government building especially due to the flexibility and freedom they’ve had to do it in comparison with states with UN intervention due to the UN’s neo-liberal view and their lack of contact with locals.


What has been the most successful government building in Africa?Download the document [pdf. 431K]

Mexicans once again account for majority of migration at southwest US border

The Trump Administration’s Newest Migration Policies and Shifting Immigrant Demographics in the USA

New Trump administration migration policies including the "Safe Third Country" agreements signed by the USA, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have reduced the number of migrants from the Northern Triangle countries at the southwest US border. As a consequence of this phenomenon and other factors, Mexicans have become once again the main national group of people deemed inadmissible for asylum or apprehended by the US Customs and Border Protection.

An US Border Patrol agent at the southwest US border [cbp.gov]

▲ An US Border Patrol agent at the southwest US border [cbp.gov]

ARTICLE Alexandria Casarano Christofellis

On March 31, 2018, the Trump administration cut off aid to the Northern Triangle countries in order to coerce them into implementing new policies to curb illegal migration to the United States. El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala all rely heavily on USAid, and had received 118, 181, and 257 million USD in USAid respectively in the 2017 fiscal year.

The US resumed financial aid to the Northern Triangle countries on October 17 of 2019, in the context of the establishment of bilateral negotiations of Safe Third Country agreements with each of the countries, and the implementation of the US Supreme Court’s de facto asylum ban on September 11 of 2019. The Safe Third Country agreements will allow the US to ‘return’ asylum seekers to the countries which they traveled through on their way to the US border (provided that the asylum seekers are not returned to their home countries). The US Supreme Court’s asylum ban similarly requires refugees to apply for and be denied asylum in each of the countries which they pass through before arriving at the US border to apply for asylum. This means that Honduran and Salvadoran refugees would need to apply for and be denied asylum in both Guatemala and Mexico before applying for asylum in the US, and Guatemalan refugees would need to apply for and be denied asylum in Mexico before applying for asylum in the US. This also means that refugees fleeing one of the Northern Triangle countries can be returned to another Northern Triangle country suffering many of the same issues they were fleeing in the first place.

Combined with the Trump administration’s longer-standing “metering” or “Remain in Mexico” policy (Migrant Protection Protocols/MPP), these political developments serve to effectively “push back” the US border. The “Remain in Mexico” policy requires US asylum seekers from Latin America to remain on the Mexican side of the US-Mexico border to wait their turn to be accepted into US territory. Within the past year, the US government has planted significant obstacles in the way of the path of Central American refugees to US asylum, and for better or worse has shifted the burden of the Central American refugee crisis to Mexico and the Central American countries themselves, which are ill-prepared to handle the influx, even in the light of resumed US foreign aid. The new arrangements resemble the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey.

These policy changes are coupled with a shift in US immigration demographics. In August of 2019, Mexico reclaimed its position as the single largest source of unauthorized immigration to the US, having been temporarily surpassed by Guatemala and Honduras in 2018.




US Customs and Border Protection data indicates a net increase of 21% in the number of Unaccompanied Alien Children from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador deemed inadmissible for asylum at the Southwest US Border by the US field office between fiscal year 2019 (through February) and fiscal year 2020 (through February). All other inadmissible groups (Family Units, Single Adults, etc.) experienced a net decrease of 18-24% over the same time period. For both the entirety of fiscal year 2019 and fiscal year 2020 through February, Mexicans accounted for 69 and 61% of Unaccompanied Alien Children Inadmisibles at the Southwest US border respectively, whereas previously in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 Mexicans accounted for only 21 and 26% of these same figures, respectively. The percentages of Family Unit Inadmisibles from the Northern Triangle countries have been decreasing since 2018, while the percentage of Family Unit Inadmisibles from Mexico since 2018 has been on the rise.

With asylum made far less accessible to Central Americans in the wake of the Trump administration's new migration policies, the number of Central American inadmisibles is in sharp decline. Conversely, the number of Mexican inadmisibles is on the rise, having nearly tripled over the past three years.

Chain migration factors at play in Mexico may be contributing to this demographic shift. On September 10, 2019, prominent Mexican newspaper El Debate published an article titled “Immigrants Can Avoid Deportation with these Five Documents.” Additionally, The Washington Post cites the testimony of a city official from Michoacan, Mexico, claiming that a local Mexican travel company has begun running a weekly “door-to-door” service line to several US border points of entry, and that hundreds of Mexican citizens have been coming to the municipal offices daily requesting documentation to help them apply for asylum in the US. Word of mouth, press coverage like that found in El Debate, and the commercial exploitation of the Mexican migrant situation have perhaps made migration, and especially the claiming of asylum, more accessible to the Mexican population.

US Customs and Border Protection data also indicates that total apprehensions of migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador attempting illegal crossings at the Southwest US border declined 44% for Unaccompanied Alien Children and 73% for Family Units between fiscal year 2019 (through February) and fiscal year 2020 (through February), while increasing for Single Adults by 4%. The same data trends show that while Mexicans have consistently accounted for the overwhelming majority of Single Adult Apprehensions since 2016, Family Unit and Unaccompanied Alien Children Apprehensions until the past year were dominated by Central Americans. However, in fiscal year 2020-February, the percentages of Central American Family Unit and Unaccompanied Alien Children Apprehensions have declined while the Mexican percentage has increased significantly. This could be attributed to the Northern Triangle countries’ and especially Mexico’s recent crackdown on the flow of illegal immigration within their own states in response to the same US sanctions and suspension of USAid which led to the Safe Third Country bilateral agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

While the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration from the Northern Triangle countries has effectively worked to limit both the legal and illegal access of Central Americans to US entry, the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration from Mexico in the past few years has focused on arresting and deporting illegal Mexican immigrants already living and working within the US borders. Between 2017 and 2018, ICE increased workplace raids to arrest undocumented immigrants by over 400% according to The Independent in the UK. The trend seemed to continue into 2019. President Trump tweeted on June 17, 2019 that “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in.” More deportations could be leading to more attempts at reentry, increasing Mexican migration to the US, and more Mexican Single Adult apprehensions at the Southwest border. The Washington Post alleges that the majority of the Mexican single adults apprehended at the border are previous deportees trying to reenter the country.




Lastly, the steadily increasing violence within the state of Mexico should not be overlooked as a cause for continued migration. Within the past year, violence between the various Mexican cartels has intensified, and murder rates have continued to rise. While the increase in violence alone is not intense enough to solely account for the spike that has recently been seen in Mexican migration to the US, internal violence nethertheless remains an important factor in the Mexican migrant situation. Similarly, widespread poverty in Mexico, recently worsened by a decline in foreign investment in the light of threatened tariffs from the USA, also plays a key role.

In conclusion, the Trump administration’s new migration policies mark an intensification of long-standing nativist tendencies in the US, and pose a potential threat to the human rights of asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border. The corresponding present demographic shift back to Mexican predominance in US immigration is driven not only by the Trump administration’s new migration policies, but also by many other diverse factors within both Mexico and the US, from press coverage to increased deportations to long-standing cartel violence and poverty. In the face of these recent developments, one thing remains clear: the situation south of the Rio Grande is just as complex, nuanced, and constantly evolving as is the situation to the north on Capitol Hill in the USA.

Russia’s sharp power in Africa: the case of Madagascar, Central Africa Republic, Sudan and South Africa

A picture of Vladimir Putin on Sputnik's website

▲ A picture of Vladimir Putin on Sputnik's website

ESSAYPablo Arbuniés

A new form of power

Russia’s growing influence in African countries and public opinion has often been overlooked by western democracies, giving the Kremlin a lot of valuable time to extend its influence on the continent.

Until very recently, western democracies have looked at influence efforts from authoritarian countries as nothing more than an exercise of soft power. Joseph S. Nye defined soft power as a nation’s power of attraction, in contrast to the hard power of coercion inherent in military or economic strength (Nye 1990). However, this influence does not fit the common definition of soft power as ‘winning hearts and minds’. In the last years China and Russia have developed and perfected extremely sophisticated strategies of manipulation aimed towards the civil population of target countries, and in the case of Russia the role of Russia Today should be taken as an example.

These strategies go beyond soft power and have already proved their effectiveness. They are what the academia has recently labelled as sharp power (Walker 2019). Sharp power aims to hijack public opinion through disinformation or distraction, being an international projection of how authoritarian countries manipulate their own population (Singh 2018).

Sharp power strategies are being severely underestimated by western policy makers and advisors, who tend to focus on more classical conceptions of the exercise of power. As an example, the “Framework document” issued by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies on Russia-Africa relations (Mora Tebas 2019). The document completely ignores sharp power, labelling Russian interest in communication markets as no more than regular soft power without taking into consideration de disinformative and manipulative nature of these actions.

A growing interest in Africa 

Over the past 20 years, many international actors have shifted their interest towards the African continent, each in a different way.

China has made Africa a mayor geopolitical target in recent years, focusing on economic investments for infrastructure development. Such investments can be noticed in the Ethiopian dam projects such as the Gibe III, or in the Entebbe-Kampala Expressway in Uganda.

This could be considered as debt-trap diplomacy, as China uses infrastructure investments and development loans to gain leverage over African countries. However, there is also a key geopolitical interest, especially in those countries with access to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, due to the One Belt One Road Initiative. This project requires a net of seaports, where Kenya, and specifically the port of Lamu, could play a key role becoming a hub for trade in East Africa (Hurley, Morris and Portelance 2019).

Also, Chinese investments are attractive for African countries because they do not come with prerequisites of democratization or transparent administration, unlike those from western countries.

Yet, even though both China and Russia use sharp power as part of their foreign policy strategies, China does barely use it in Africa, since its interests in the continent are more economic than political. This is based on the view that China is more keen to exploit Africa’s natural resources (Mlambo, Kushamba y Simawu 2016) than anything else.

On the other hand, Russia has both economic and military interests in the region. This is exemplified by the case of Sudan, where in addition to the economic interest in natural resources, there is also a military interest in accessing the Red Sea. In order to achieve these goals, the first step is to grant stability in the country, and it can be achieved through ensuring that public opinion supports the government and accepts Russian presence.

The idea of a Russian world—Russkiy Mir—has grown under Putin and is key to understanding the country’s soft and sharp power strategies. It consists on the expansion of power and culture using any means possible in order to regain the lost superpower status.

However, this approach must not be seen only as a nostalgic push to regain status, but also from a purely pragmatic point of view, since economic and practical factors have “pushed aside ideology” in the competition against the West (Warsaw Institute 2019).

The recent Russia-Africa Summit (23-24 October 2019), that took place in Sochi, Russia, proves how Russia has pivoted towards Africa in recent years, offering infrastructure, energy and other investments as well as arms deals and different advisors. The outcome of this pivoting is being quite beneficial for Moscow in strategic terms.

The Kremlin’s interest in Africa was not remarkable until the post Crimea invasion. The economic sanctions imposed after the occupation of Crimea forced Russia to look further abroad for allies and business opportunities. For instance, as part of this policy there a more robust involvement of Russia in Syria.

The Russian strategy for the African continent involves benefiting favourable politicians through political and military advisors and offering control on media influence (Warsaw Institute 2019). In exchange, Russia looks for military and energy supply contracts, mining concessions and infrastructure building deals. Moreover, on a bigger picture, Russia—as well as China—aims to reduce the influence of the US and former colonial powers France and the UK.

Leaked documents published by The Guardian (Harding and Buerke 2019), show this effort to gain influence on the continent, as well as the strategies followed and the degree of cooperation with the different powers—from governments to opposition groups or social movements.

However, the growth of Russia’s influence in Africa cannot be understood without the figure of Yevgeny Prigozhin, an extremely powerful oligarch which, according to US special counsel Robert Mueller, was critical to the social media campaign for the election of Donald Trump in 2016. He is also linked to the foundation of the Wagner group, a private military contractor present among other conflicts in the Syrian war.

Prigozhin, through a network of enterprises known as ‘The Company’ has been for long the head of Putin’s plans for the African continent, being responsible of the growing number of Russian military experts involved with different governments along the continent, and now suspected to lead the push to infiltrate in the communication markets.

Between 100 and 200 spin doctors have already been sent to the continent, reaching at least 10 different countries (Warsaw Institute 2019). Their focus is on political marketing and specially on social media, with the hope that it can be as influential as in the Arab Springs.

Main targets

Influence in the media is one of the key aspects of Russia’s influence in Africa, and the main targets in this aspect are the Central African Republic, Madagascar, South Africa and Sudan. Each of these countries has a potential for Russian interests, and is targeted on different levels of cooperation, from weapons deals to spin doctors (Warsaw Institute 2019), but all of them are targets for sharp power strategies.

However, it is hard for a foreign government to directly enter the communication markets of another country without making people suspicious of its activities, and that is where The Company plays its role. Through it, pro-Russian editorial lines are fed to the population of the target states by acquiring already existing media platforms—such as newspapers or television and radio stations—or creating new ones directly under the supervision of officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this ensures that the dominant frames fit Russia’s interests and that of its allies.

Also, the presence of Russian international media is key to its sharp power. Russia Today and Sputnik have expanded their reach by associating with local entities in Eritrea, Ivory Coast, etc. Russian radio services have been expanded to Africa as well as a key factor in both soft and sharp power.

Finally, social media are a great way of distributing disinformation, given its global reach and the insufficient amount of fact-checkers devoted to this area. There, not only Russian media can participate but also bots and individual accounts are at the service of the Kremlin’s interests.


Although Madagascar is viewed by the Kremlin as a high cooperation partner, it doesn’t seem to have much to offer in geopolitical terms other tan mining concessions for Russian companies. Therefore, Russian presence in Madagascar was widely unexpected.

During the May 2019 election, Russia backed six different candidates, but none of them won. In the final stages of the campaign, the Kremlin changed its strategy and backed the expected and eventual winner, Andry Rajoelina (Allison 2019). This could be considered a fiasco and ignored because of the disastrous result, but there is a key aspect that shows how Russia is trying to shape public opinion across the continent.

Although political advisors and spin doctors were only one part of the plan, Russia managed to produce and distribute the biggest mass-selling newspaper along the country with more than two million copies every month (Harding and Buerke 2019). Though it did not seem to have any major impact on the short term, it could be an important asset for shaping public opinion on the long run.

Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR) is of major geopolitical relevance in the whole of the African continent. Due to its location as well as its cultural and ethnic features, it is viewed by the Kremlin as the gate to the whole continent. It is the zone of transition between the Muslim north of the continent and the Christian south (Harding and Buerke 2019).

Given the complicated situation and the context of the ongoing civil war, it can be considered as an easy target for foreign powers. This is mainly due to the power structures being weakened by the war. Russia is part of the UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR, in a combination of soft and hard power. Also, a Russian training centre is operative in the country, and both Moscow and Bangui are open to the inauguration of a Russian military base.

Russia played a key role in the peace deal of February 2019, and since 2017 Valery Zakharov, a former Russian intelligence official, has been an adviser to CAR’s president. All of this, if the peacekeeping operations are successful, would lead to an immense political debt in favour of the Kremlin.

The mineral richness of the CAR is another asset to consider due to the reserves of gold and high-quality diamonds. Also, there is a big business opportunity in rebuilding a broken country, and Russian oligarchs and businessmen would certainly be interested in any public contracts regarding this matter. 

In the CAR, Russia exerts sharp power not only through social media, but also through two print publications and a radio station, which still have limited influence (Harding and Buerke 2019). Through such means, Russia is consistently feeding its frames narratives to a disoriented population, which given the unstable context, would be an easy target to manipulate.  Moreover, the possibility to create a favourable dominant post conflict narrative would render public opinion more likely to accept Russian presence in the future.


Sudan is of major geostrategic importance for Russia among many other actors. For long time both countries have had economic, political and military relations, leading to Sudan being considered by the Kremlin as a level 5 co-operator, the highest possible (Harding and Buerke 2019). This relation is enforced by Sudan’s constant claims of aggressive acts by the United States, for which it demands Russia’s military assistance.

Also, Sudan is rich in uranium, bearing the third biggest reserves in the world. Uranium is a key raw material to build a major power nowadays, and Russia is always keen on new sources of uranium to bolster its nuclear industry.

Moreover, Sudan is key in regional and global geopolitics because it offers Russia a possibility to have a military base with access to the Red Sea. Given the amount of trade routes that go through its waters, the Kremlin would be very keen to have said access. Many other powers have shown interest in this area, such as the gulf States, or China with its base in Djibouti being operative since 2017.  

For all these reasons. Sudan is a very special element in Russia’s plans, and thus its level of commitment is greater than in other countries. The election to take place on April 2020 could be considered as one of the most important challenges for democracy in the short term. Russia is closely monitoring the situation in order to draw an efficient plan of action.

Before the end of Omar al-Bashir’s presidency, Russia and Sudan enjoyed good relationship. Russian specialists had prepared reforms in economic and political matters in order to ensure the continuity in power of Bashir, and his fall was a blow to these plans.

However, Russia will devote many resources to amend the situation in the Sudan parliamentary and presidential election, that will take place in April 2020. In a ploy to maintain power, Al Bashir mirrored the measures employed against opposition protesters in Russia. These tactics consist of using disinformation and manipulated videos in order to portray any opposition movement as anti-Islamic, pro-Israeli or pro-LGBT. Given the fact the core of Sudan’s public opinion is mostly conservative and religious, Russia’s plan consists on manipulating it towards its desired candidate or candidates (Harding and Buerke 2019).

In order to ensure that the Russian framing was dominant, social media pages like Radio Africa’s Facebook page or Sudan Daily were presented like news pages, while being in fact part of a  Russian-backed influence network in central and northern Africa (Alba and Frenkel 2019). The information shown has been supportive of whatever government is in power, and critical of the protesters (Stanford Internet Observatory 2019), which shows that Russia’s prioritary interest is a stable government and weak protesters.

Another key part of the strategy has been pressuring the government to increase the cost of newsprint to limit the possibilities of countering the disinformation distributed with the help pf Russian advisors (Harding and Buerke 2019). The de-democratization of information can prove to be very effective, even more taking into account the fact that social media is not as powerful in Sudan as it is in western countries, so owning the most popular means of communication allows to create a dominant frame and impose it to the population without them even noticing.

South Africa

The economic context of South Africa, with a large economy, a rising middle class and a good market overall, is quite interesting for business and could be one of the reasons why Russia has such an interest in the country. Also, South Africa can be seen as an economic gateway to the southern part of the African continent.

South Africa is a key country for the global interest of Russia. Not only for its mineral richness and business opportunities, but mainly for its presence in BRICS. Russia attempts to use BRICS as a global counterbalance in a US dominated international landscape.

Russia is interested in selling nuclear technology to its allies, and South Africa is no exception. The presence of South Africa in BRICS is key to understand why such a deal would be so interesting for Russia. BRICS may not offer the possibility to create a perfect counter-balance for western powers, mainly due to the unsurpassable discrepancies among the involved countries, but its ability to cooperate comprehensively on limited shared projects and objectives can be of critical relevance (Salzman 2019).

The presence in the country of Afrique Panorama and AFRIC (Association for Free Research and International Cooperation), shows how Russia attempts to exert its influence. Both pages are linked to Prigozhin, but they are disguised as independent. AFRIC was involved in the elections of Zimbabwe, South Africa, Madagascar and DRC (Grossman, Bush y Diresta 2019).

In fact, if public opinion could be shaped in order to make Russia’s interests like nuclear cooperation acceptable by South Africa, the main obstacle would be surpassed, and a comprehensive plan of cooperation would be in play sooner than later.

The elections of May 2019 were one of the main priorities for Russia. The election saw Cyril Ramaphosa elected, as successor of Jacob Zouma. Ramaphosa is known to have openly congratulated Nicolás Maduro for his second inauguration and holds good relations with Vietnam. This are indicators of a willingness to have good relations even with anti-western powers, which is of big interest for the Kremlin. Furthermore, he has a vast business experience, being the architect of the most powerful trade union in the country among other achievements and initiatives, which would see him open to strike deals with Russian oligarchs in the mineral or energetic fields.

All this considered, South Africa is of extreme relevance for Russia, and thus its efforts to be able to shape public opinion. This could be used to favour the implementation of nuclear facilities as well as electing favourable politicians, creating a political debt to be exploited someday. For now, any activity has been limited to tracking and getting to understand public opinion. However, the creation of new media under some form of control by the Kremlin is one of the priorities for the coming years (Harding and Buerke 2019), and could prove a very valuable asset if it’s successfully achieved. Also, despite what was said in the case of Sudan, the importance of social media is not to be forgotten or underestimated, especially given the advantage of English being an official language in the country.

The bigger picture

From a more theorical point of view, that of the Flow and Contra-flow paradigm, Russia attempts to set the political agenda through mass media control, as well as impose its own frames or those that benefit its allies. Also, given the proportions of the project, we could talk about an attempt to go back to the cultural imperialism doctrines, where Russia attempts to pose its narrative as a counterflow of the western narratives. This was mainly seen during the cold war, when global powers attempted to widely spread their own narratives through controlling said information flows, arguably as a form of cultural imperialism.

This can be seen as an attempt to counterbalance the power of the US and western powers by attempting to shift African countries towards non-western actors. And African countries may be interested in this idea, since being the centre of the competition could mean better deals and business opportunities or investments being offered to them.

It would be a mistake to think that Russia’s sharp power in Africa is just a tool to help political allies get to power or maintain it. Beyond that, Russia monitors social conflicts and attempts to intensify them in order to destabilize target countries or exterior powers (Alba and Frenkel 2019). Such is the case in Comoros, where Prigozhin employees were tasked to explore the possibilities of intensifying the conflict between the local government and the French administration (Harding and Buerke 2019). Again on a broader picture of things, the attempt to develop an African self-identity through the use of sharp power looks to reduce the approval of influence of western democracies on the continent, thus creating a context ideal for bolstering dependence on the Russian administration either through supply contracts or political debt.

In conclusion, the recent growth of Russia’s soft and above all sharp power in Africa could potentially be one of the political keys in the years to follow, and it is not to be overlooked by western democracies. Global media, supranational entities and public administrations should put their efforts on providing civil society with the tools to avoid falling for Russia’s manipulative tactics and serve as guarantors of democracy. The most immediate focus should be on the US 2020 election, since the worst-case scenario is that the latest exercises of Russia’s sharp power in Africa are a practice towards a new attempt at influencing the US presidential election in 2020.



Alba, Davey, and Sheera Frenkel. 2019. “Russia Tests New Disinformation Tactics in Africa to Expand Influence.” The New York Times, 30 October.

Allison, Simon. 2019. “Le retour contrarié de la Russie en Afrique.” Courrier international, 5 August.

Ashraf, Nadia, y Jeske van Seters. 2020. «Africa and EU-Africa partnership insights: input for estonia’s new africa strategy.» ECDPM.

Grossman, Shelby, Daniel Bush, y Renée Diresta. 2019. «Evidence of Russia-Linked Influence Operations in Africa.»

Harding, Luke, and Jason Buerke. 2019. “Leaked documents reveal Russian effort to exert influence in Africa.” The Guardian, 11 June. Accessed November 25, 2019.

Hurley, John, Scott Morris, y Gailyn Portelance. 2019. «Examining the debt implications of the Belt and Road Initiative from a policy perspective.» Journal of Infrastructure, Policy and Development (EnPress Publisher) 3 (1): 139.

Madowo, Larry. 2018. Should Africa be wary of chinese debt.

Mlambo, Courage, Audrey Kushamba, y More Blessing Simawu. 2016. «China-Africa Relations: What Lies Beneath?» Chinese Economy (Routledge) 49 (4): 257-276.

Mora Tebas, Juan A. 10/2019. http://www.ieee.es/. 2019. ««Rusiáfrica»: el regreso de Rusia al «gran juego» africano.» Documento Marco IEEE. Último acceso: 30 de Nov de 2019. http://www.ieee.es/.

Nye, Joseph. 1990. Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. London: Basic Books.

Salzman, Rachel S. 2019. Russia, BRICS, and the disruption of global order. Georgetown University Press.

Singh, Mandip. 2018. “From Smart Power to Sharp Power: How China Promotes her National Interests .” Journal of Defence Studies.

Standish, Reid. 2019. Putin Has a Dream of Africa. Foreign Policy.

Stanford Internet Observatory. 2019. «Evidence of Russia-Linked Influence Operations in Africa.»

Walker, C. and Ludwig, J. 2019. «The Meaning of Sharp PowerForeign Affairs.

Warsaw Institute. 2019. “Russia in Africa: weapons, mercenaries, spin doctors.” Strategic report, Warsaw.

A comparative study of the effectiveness of women’s political participation. The case of Spain, Rwanda and South Africa

Farewell of Espérance Nyirasafari (left) as minister of Gender and Family Promotion, in Rwanda's capital in 2018 [Rwanda's Gov.]

▲ Farewell of Espérance Nyirasafari (left) as minister of Gender and Family Promotion, in Rwanda's capital in 2018 [Rwanda's Gov.]

ESSAY María Rodríguez Reyero

South Africa is ranked 17th in the World Economic Forum's 2020 Global Gender Gap Index[1] (a two place increase from 2019), while Rwanda is ranked 9th (a three place decline from the previous year). Interestingly, Spain is ranked 8th (a major gain of 11 places in one year). Since 2018, Spain has made a gain of 21 places, which is only rivaled by countries like Madagascar (22), Mexico and Georgia (25) and Ethiopia (35).

Regarding political participation and governance in the last decade, the number of African women in ministerial posts has tripled. African women already account for 22.5% of parliamentary seats, a similar percentage to that of Europe (23.5%) and higher than that of the US (18%). However, does the increase in female participation in high political positions lead to a real improvement in the lives of other women? Or is female participation only a façade?

This study’s main aim is to explore the impact that women’s participation in politics has on the circumstances of the rest of women in their countries. The study is based on secondary research and quantitative data collection and will objectively analyze the situation in Spain, Rwanda, and South Africa and draw pertinent conclusions.


From April to July 1994, between 800,000 and one million ethnic Tutsis were brutally killed during a 100 day killing spree perpetrated by Hutus [2]. After the genocide, Rwanda was on the edge of total collapse. Entire villages had been destroyed, and social cohesion was in tatters. Yet, this small African country has made a remarkable economic turnaround since the genocide. The country now boasts intra-regional trade and has positioned itself as an attractive destination for foreign investment, being a leading country in the African economy. Rwanda’s economy appears to be thriving, with annual GDP growth averaging 7.76% between 2000 and 2019, and “growth expected to continue at a similar pace over the next few years” according to a recent study of World Finance.[3] About 70% of the survivors of the fratricidal struggle between Hutus and Tutsis are women, and thus women play a role of utmost importance in the recovery of Rwanda.[4]

The Rwandan genocide ended with the deaths of one million people and the rape of more than 200,000 women.[5] Women were the clear losers of the conflict, yet the conflict also enabled women to become the main economic, political and social engine of Rwanda during its recovery from the war. Roles traditionally assigned to men were assigned to women, which turned women into more active members of society and empowered them to fight for their rights. The main area where this shift has been felt is in politics, where gender parity reaches its highest level thanks to Rwanda’s continued commitment to equal representation. This support has led the proportion of women in the Rwandan National Parliament to even exceed that of men in the lower house, which consists of 49 women out of a total of 89 representatives.[6]

The body responsible for coordinating female protection and empowerment is the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, promoter of the National Gender Policy. The minister of Gender until 2018 was Espérance Nyirasafari. Nyirasafari was responsible for several main changes in Rwandan society including the approval of laws against gender-based violence. She now serves as one of two Vice Presidents of the senate of Rwanda.

Consequently, Rwanda illustrates African female advancement. In addition to currently being the world's leading country in female representation in Parliament, (in which women hold nearly 60% of the seats), Rwanda reached the fourth highest position in the las World Economic Forum's gender gap report. The only countries that came close in this respect were Namibia and South Africa.

The political representation of women in Rwanda has led to astonishing results in other areas, notably education. Rwanda’s education system is considered one of the most advanced in Africa, with free and compulsory access to primary school and the first years of high school. About 100% of Rwandan children are incorporated into primary school and 75% of young people ages 15+ are literate. However, high school attendance is significantly low, counting with just 23% of young people, of which women represent only 30%.[7] Low high school attendance is mainly due to the predominance of rural areas in the country, where education is more difficult to access, especially for women, who are frequently committed to marriage and the duties of housework and family life from a very young age. Despite the growing data and measures established, education is in reality very hard to achieve for women, who are mostly stuck at home or committed to other labor.[8]

Regarding the legislative measures put in place to achieve gender equality and better conditions and opportunities for women, Rwanda does not score high. Despite being one of the most advanced countries in gender equality, currently, no laws exist to ensure equal pay or non-discrimination in the hiring of women, according to WEF’s 2019 report, even if some relevant legal measures have been effectively been put into practice since the ratification of the 2003 Constitution, which demonstrates the progress on gender equality in Rwanda.

The Constitution also argues that the principle of gender equality must prevail in politics and that the list of members of the Chamber of Deputies must be governed by this equitable principle. The law on gender violence passed in 2008 is proof of national commitment to women's rights, as it recognizes innovative protections such as the prohibition of spousal rape, three months of compulsory maternity leave (even some Western countries such as the United States lack this protection) or equal rights in inheritance process regardless of gender.[9]

Finally the labor law passed in 2009 establishes numerous protections for Rwandan women, such as receiving the same salary as their male colleagues or the total prohibition of any gesture of sexual content towards them.

Some of the most relevant progress made in Rwanda are the reduction of the percentage of women in extreme poverty from 40% in 2001 to 16.3% in 2014, and the possession of land by 26% of women personally and 54% in a shared way with their husbands.[10] Thanks to the work and commitment of female politicians, Rwandan women today enjoy inalienable rights which women in many other countries can only dream of.[11] This ongoing egalitarian work has paid off: Rwanda is as mentioned above the 9th country in the world with a smaller gender gap, only behind Iceland, Nicaragua, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. In the annual study of the World Economic Forum, only five countries (including Rwanda, the only African) have surpassed the 50% barrier in terms of reducing the gender gap in politics. Likewise, the gender parity in economic participation that Rwanda has achieved is of great relevance, which has made it the first country in the world to include women in the world of work and equal economic remuneration. Rwanda is a regional role model in terms of egalitarian legislation.[12]

South Africa

According to IMF and World Bank latest data, South Africa currently is the second most prosperous country of the whole continent, only surpassed by Nigeria. The structure of its economy is that of a developed country, with the preeminence of the services sector, and the country stands out for its extensive natural resources, thus being considered one of the largest emerging economies nowadays. South Africa also has a seat in the BRICS economy block (with Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and is a member of the G20.

Despite its economic position, the country is also home to great inequality, largely bequeathed in its history of racial segregation. According to the New York Times, the post-apartheid society had to face great challenges: it had to “re-engineer an economy dominated by mining and expand into modern pursuits like tourism and agriculture while overcoming a legacy of colonial exploitation, racial oppression, and global isolation — the results of decades of international sanctions."[13] However, what is the role of women in this deep transformation? Has their situation improved or are they the new discriminated ones?

South Africa continues to lead the way in women's political participation in the region with 46% of women in the House of Assembly and provincial legislatures and 50% of women in the cabinet after the May 2019 elections. All the speakers in the national and provincial legislatures are women. Women parliamentarians rose from 40% in 2014 to 46% in 2019.

Rwanda, Namibia and South Africa are ranked in the top 20 countries in reducing the gender gap. On the other hand, South Africa does have established legislation about equality in salaries, but not in non-discrimination in the hiring process according to the data collected by the World Economic Forum in January 2020.

South Africa is writing a new page in its history thanks to the entry of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (she was elected in 2012 president of the African Union Commission becoming the first woman to lead this organization, and currently serves as Minister of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation in South Africa’s Government) and other women, such as Lindiwe Nonceba Sisulu (minister of International Relations and Cooperation until 2019) into the political competition.

Subsequently, women have always been involved in political organizations, as well as in the trade union movement and other civil society organizations. Although evolving in a patriarchal straitjacket due to the social role women had assigned, they don't waited for "the authorization of men" to claim their rights. This feminine tradition of political engagement in South Africa has resulted the writing of a protective Constitution for women in a post-apartheid multiracial and supposedly non-sexist context.

However, this has not led to an effective improvement in the real situation of women in the country. According to local media data,[14] a woman dies every eight hours in South Africa because of gender violence and, according to 2016 government statistics, one in five claims to have suffered at some time in her life. Besides, in South Africa, about 40,000 violations are reported annually, according to police data, the vast majority reported by women. These figures lead South Africa's statistics agency to estimate that 1.4 out of every thousand women have been raped, which places the country with one of the highest rates of this type in the world.[15]


After a cruel civil war, followed by 36 years of dictatorship, Spanish society was looking forward to a change, and thus the democratic transition took place, transforming an oppressed country into the Spain we nowadays know. In many occasions, history tends to forget the 27 women, deputies and senators of the 1977 democratic legislature who were architects of this political change (divorce law, legalize the sale of contraceptives, participate in the drafting of the Constitution of 1978, amongst others). These women also having an active role in politics, something unusual and risky for a woman at that time (without rights as basic as owning property or opening a bank account during the dictatorship). It is clear that women played a crucial role in the transformation of Spanish society, but has it really been effective?

Spain’s new data since the establishment of a new government in January 2020 is among the top 4 European countries with the highest female proportion: behind Sweden (with 47.4%), France (47.2%) and Finland (45.8%), according to the latest data published by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).[16] After the last elections in November, Spain is placed in tenth place in the global ranking. Ahead, there are Rwanda (with 61.3%), Cuba (53.2%), Bolivia (53.1%), Mexico (48.2%) and others such as Grenada, Namibia, Sweden, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, according to data published by the World Bank. Of the 350 congress deputies, 196 are men and 154 are women, meaning that 56% of the members of the House of Representatives are men while 44% are women.

In Spain, also almost every child gets a primary education according to OECD but almost 35% of Spanish young people do not get a higher education. Of those who do go to university nearly 60% of all the students are women. They also get better grades and take on average less time to graduate than men but are less likely to hold a power position: according to PwC Spain last data, only a 19% of all directive positions are held by women, 11% of management advice are women and less than a 5% are women in direction or presidency of Spanish enterprises. This is since at least 2.5 million women in Spain cannot access the labor market because they have to take care of family care. Among men, the figure is reduced to 181,000. The data has been given by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The study also revealed that women in Spain perform 68% of all unpaid care work, dedicating twice as much time as men. About 25% of inactive women in Spain claim that they cannot work away from home because of their family charges. This percentage is much higher than those of other surrounding countries, such as Portugal (13%) or France (10%) and the European average. It is also much larger than that of Spanish men who do not work for the same reason (3%).

Regarding gender-based violence, even if Spain has since 2004 an existing regulation to severely punish it, in the year 2019 a total of 55 women have been killed by their partners or ex-partners, the highest death toll since 2015, with a total of 1,033 since they began to be credited in 2003, according to the balance of the Government Delegation for Gender Violence last data.


To sum up, even if African countries such as Rwanda and South Africa have more women representation and are doing well by-passing laws and measures, due to cultural reasons such as a more ingrained patriarchal society, community interventions, family pressure or the stigma of single mothers, gender equality is more difficult in Africa. Culture, in reality, makes it more difficult to be effective, whereas in Spain the measures implemented, even if they are apparently less numerous, are more effective when it comes to creating institutions that protect women. Women in Africa usually depend a lot on their husbands; they very often suffer in silence not to be left alone without financial support, a situation that in Spain has been tacked without problems.

It is not so much a legislative issue but a cultural one: in Spain, if a woman suffers gender violence and reports it, it is more likely that she would be offered government's help (monetary help, job opportunities...) in order to start a new life, and she most certainly will not be judged by society due to her circumstances. Whereas in South Africa for example, a UN Women rapporteur estimated that only one in nine rapes were reported to the police and that this number was even lower if the woman was raped by a partner, this mainly being due to the social stigma still present nowadays. In Rwanda, a 2011 report from the Rwandan Men's Resource Centre said 57% of women questioned had experienced violence from a partner, while 32% of women had been raped by their husbands, this crime being admitted by only 4% of men, as rape in marriage is seen as a normal situation due to cultural reasons: women still depend somehow on their husbands, and family is the center of society, so it must not be broken.

In numerous occasions, in African countries justice is taken at a different level, in order not to disturb the social and familial order; frequently, rape or gender violence is tackled amongst the parties by negotiating or by less traditional justice systems such as community systems like Gacaca court in Rwanda (a  social form of justice designed to promote communal healing, massively used after Rwandan genocide),[17] something unbelievable in Spain, where according to official data from Equality Ministry, last year more than 40.000 reports for gender violence were heard by courts.[18]

In regard to inequality and according to the latest IMF studies, closing the gender gap in employment could increase the GDP of a country by 35% on average, of which between 7 and 8 percentage points correspond to increases in productivity thanks to gender diversity. Having one more woman in senior management or on the board of directors of a company raises the return on assets between 8 and 13 basis points. Consequently, we could state that, as shown by the data (not only those provided by the IMF, but the evident improvements that have taken place throughout this decade in Spain, Burundi, Rwanda, and South Africa) the presence of women both in top management positions and above all, in politics and governance does lead to a real improvement in the rights and lifestyles of the rest of the women, and a substantial improvement of the country as a whole.

However, after their arduous and tricky climb to the top, women inherit a political system which is difficult, if not almost impossible, to change in a few years. Furthermore, the question of the application of laws, when they exist, by the judicial system is a huge challenge in all states as well as making effective all the measures for the reduction of gender inequality. This supposes such a great challenge, not only for these women but also for the whole society, as having arrived where we are.


[1] World Economic Forum (December 2020), The Global Gender Gap Report 2020. World Economic Forum. Accessed 14/02/2020

[2] Max Roser and Mohamed Nagdy (2020), "Genocides". Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Accessed 14/02/202

[3] Natalie Keffler (2019)., ‘Economic growth in Rwanda has arguably come at the cost of democratic freedom’, World Finance. Accessed 14/02/2020

[4] Charlotte Florance (2016), 22 Years After the Rwandan Genocide. Huffpost. Accessed 14/02/2020

[5] Violet K. Dixon (2009), A Study in Violence: Examining Rape in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Inquires journal. Accessed 14/02/2020

[6] Inter-parliamentary Union (2019), ‘Women in national Parliaments’. IUP. Accessed 14/02/2020

[7] World Bank (2019), The World Bank in Rwanda. World Bank. Accessed 14/02/2020

[8] Natalie Keffler (2019)., ‘Economic growth in Rwanda has arguably come at the cost of democratic freedom’, World Finance. Accessed 14/02/2020

[9] Tony Blair. (2014), ‘20 years after the genocide, Rwanda is a beacon of hope.’ The Guardian. Accessed 14/02/20

[10] Antonio Cascais (2019), ‘Rwanda – real equality or gender-washing?’ DW. Accessed 14/02/2020

[11] Álex Maroño (2018), ‘Ruanda, ¿una utopía feminista?.’ El Orden Mundial. Accessed 14/02/2020

[12] Alexandra Topping (2014), ‘The genocide Conflict and arms Rwanda's women make strides towards equality 20 years after the genocide.’ The Guardian. Accessed 14/02/2020

[13] Peter S. Goodman (2017), ‘End of Apartheid in South Africa? Not in Economic Terms.’ The New York Times Sitio. Accessed 14/02/2020

[14] Gopolang Makou (2018), ‘Femicide in South Africa: 3 numbers about the murdering of women investigated.’ Africa Check. Accessed 14/02/2020

[15] British Broadcasting Corporation (2019), ‘Sexual violence in South Africa: 'I was raped, now I fear for my daughters'. BBC News. Accessed 14/02/2020

[16] European Institute for Gender Equality (2019). ‘Gender Equality Index.’ EIGE. Accessed 14/02/2020

[17] Gerd Hankel. (2019), ‘Gacaca Courts’, Oxford Public International Law. Accessed 14/02/2020

[18] Instituto de la mujer (2016), ‘Estadísticas violencia de género.’ Ministerio de Igualdad de España. Accessed 14/02/2020

Los otros ‘piratas del Caribe’: los paraísos fiscales caribeños y su impacto en Latinoamérica

El 27% de la riqueza privada total latinoamericana está depositada en territorios que ofrecen un tratamiento impositivo favorable

Latinoamérica es la región mundial con mayor porcentaje de riqueza privada “offshore”. La cercanía de paraísos fiscales, en diversos países o dependencias insulares del Caribe, puede facilitar la llegada de esos capitales, algunos generados de forma ilícita (narcotráfico, corrupción) y todos evadidos de unas instituciones fiscales nacionales con poca fuerza supervisora y coercitiva. Latinoamérica dejó de ingresar impuestos en 2017 por valor de 335.000 millones de dólares, lo que representó el 6,3% de su PIB.

Playa del Caribe [Pixabay]

▲ Playa del Caribe [Pixabay]

ARTÍCULOJokin de Carlos Sola

Contrasta la riqueza natural de los países latinoamericanos con la precariedad de la situación económica de buena parte de sus sociedades. Tierras ricas en petróleo, minerales y bienes primarios no consiguen en ocasiones alimentar a todos sus ciudadanos. Una de las razones de esa deficiencia es la frecuencia con la cual empresas y dirigentes tienden a evadir impuestos, alejando el capital de sus países.

Una de las razones de la tendencia a evadir impuestos es el gran tamaño de la economía sumergida y las carencias de los Estados para implementar los sistemas impositivos. Otra es la presencia cercana de paraísos fiscales en el Caribe, básicamente vinculados históricamente a Reino Unido. Estos territorios con características fiscales beneficiarias han atraído capital proveniente del continente.


La historia de la evasión fiscal es larga. Su relación con Latinoamérica y los archipiélagos británicos caribeños, sin embargo, tiene su origen en la caída del Imperio Británico.

A partir de 1945, Gran Bretaña comenzó a perder poco a poco las posesiones coloniales que tenía repartidas por el mundo. El efecto financiero fue claro: millones de libras se perdieron o fueron sacadas de operaciones en todo el imperio. Para hacer frente a esa situación y poder mantener su poder financiero mundial, los banqueros de la City de Londres pensaron en crear campos de acción fuera de la jurisdicción del Banco de Inglaterra, desde donde pudieran operar también banqueros de todo el mundo (especialmente norteamericanos) para evitar sus respectivas regulaciones nacionales. Surgió entonces una nueva oportunidad en los territorios de ultramar británicos, algunos de los cuales no se independizaron, sino que mantuvieron su vinculación, aunque laxa, con Reino Unido. Fue el caso del Caribe.

En 1969 las islas Caimán crearon la primera legislación sobre secreto bancario. Fue el primer territorio de ultramar convertido en paraíso fiscal. A partir de oficinas establecidas allí, los bancos de la City fueron generando redes de operaciones no reguladas por el Banco de Inglaterra y con apenas supervisión local. Pronto otras jurisdicciones caribeñas siguieron los mismos pasos.

Los paraísos fiscales

Los principales paraísos fiscales del Caribe son territorios británicos de ultramar como las islas Caimán, Vírgenes y Montserrat, o algunas excolonias británicas luego independizadas, como las Bahamas. Se trata de islas con poca población y una economía pequeña. Muchos de los políticos y legisladores de esos lugares trabajan para el sector financiero británico y garantizan el secreto dentro de sus territorios.

A diferencia de otros emplazamientos que también pueden considerarse paraísos fiscales, las islas de influencia británica del Caribe ofrecen un segundo nivel de secreto además del legal: el fideicomiso. La mayor parte de quienes tienen bienes en sociedades establecidas en esos territorios lo hacen a través de la figura del fideicomiso. Bajo este sistema el beneficiario guarda sus bienes (acciones, propiedades, sociedades, etc.) en un fideicomiso el cual es administrado por un fideicomisario. Estos elementos (fideicomiso, beneficiario, fideicomisario, empresas fantasmas, etc.) están repartidos en diversas estructuras vinculadas a diferentes jurisdicciones caribeñas. De esa forma, un fideicomiso puede estar establecido en una jurisdicción, pero sus beneficiarios estar en otra diferente, el fideicomisario en una tercera y las empresas fantasmas en una cuarta. Se trata de un tipo de estructuras que para los gobiernos son casi imposibles de desarticular. Por ello cuando gobiernos de ultramar se comprometen a compartir información bancaria, por presiones de Washington o Bruselas, esta resulta es de poca utilidad por la propia estructura de secreto mencionada.

Impacto en Latinoamérica

La legislación sobre el secreto bancario surgió en Latinoamérica con el objetivo de atraer capital obtenido de forma lícita. Sin embargo, durante la década de 1970 y de 1980 esa protección sobre los datos de las cuentas corrientes atrajo también el capital obtenido a través de medios ilícitos, como el narcotráfico y la corrupción.

Durante esos años capos del tráfico de droga como Pablo Escobar usaron los beneficios de las Islas Caimán y otros territorios para esconder fortunas y propiedades. Por otra parte, varias de las dictaduras latinoamericanas también utilizaron estos mecanismos para esconder el enriquecimiento de sus líderes a través de la corrupción o incluso también de la droga, como ocurrió con el panameño Manuel Noriega.

Con el tiempo comunidad internacional aumentó su presión sobre los paraísos fiscales. En los últimos años las autoridades de las Islas Caimán y Bahamas han hecho esfuerzos para que sus estructuras de secreto no sean usadas como lavado de dinero del crimen organizado, pero no todos los territorios considerados paraísos fiscales han hecho lo mismo.

Esas redes opacas son utilizadas por una parte considerable de las grandes fortunas latinoamericanas. El 27% de la riqueza privada total de América Latina está depositada en países que ofrecen un tratamiento impositivo favorable, lo que le convierte en la región del mundo con mayor proporción de capitales privados en esos lugares, de acuerdo con un estudio de Boston Consulting Group de 2017. Según esta consultora, ese desvío de la riqueza privada es mayor en Latinoamérica que en Oriente Medio y África (23%), Europa del Este (20%), Europa Occidental (7%), Asia-Pacífico (6%) y Estados Unidos y Canadá (1%). 

Los paraísos fiscales son el destino de una parte difícil de precisar del total de 335.000 millones de dólares objeto de evasión o elusión fiscal que hubo en la región en 2017, cifra que constituyó el 6,3% del PIB latinoamericano (4% dejado de ingresar en el impuesto de la renta de las personas físicas y 2,3% en el IVA), tal como se especifica en el informe Panorama Fiscal de América Latina y el Caribe 2019 de la CEPAL. Esta comisión económica de la ONU para la región destaca que en promedio los países latinoamericanos pierden más del 50% de sus ingresos por concepto de impuesto de la renta.



La conexión con Londres

Ha habido diversas teorías sobre el papel jugado por Londres en relación a los paraísos fiscales. Esas teorías coinciden en presentar una conexión de intereses entre las sociedades opacas y la City de Londres, en una red de complicidad en la que incluso podrían haber participado el Banco de Inglaterra y el gobierno británico.

La más importante fue expresada por el autor británico Nicholas Shaxson en el libro Treasure Island. La tesis fue desarrollada más tarde por el documental Spiders Web, producido por la organización Tax Justice Network, cuyo fundador, John Christiansen, trabajó como asesor para el gobierno de Jersey, que es una jurisdicción especial.

La City de Londres cuenta con una administración separada, elegida por los todavía existentes gremios, los cuales representan a la clase comercial y bancaria de la ciudad. Esto permite que las operaciones financieras que se desarrollan en esa zona de la capital británica escapen parcialmente del control del Banco de Inglaterra y de las regulaciones gubernamentales. Una City atractiva para el capital extranjero y próspera beneficia grandemente a la economía británica, pues su actividad supone el 2,4% del PIB del país.

La soberanía británica sobre los territorios de ultramar que sirven de paraísos fiscales lleva en ocasiones a acusar a Reino Unido de complicidad con esas redes financieras. Downing Street responde que se trata de territorios que operan con una gran autonomía, por más que Londres ponga al gobernador, controle la política exterior y tenga poder de veto sobre las legislaciones que se aprueban en esos lugares.

Además, es cierto que el Gobierno británico ha apoyado en la última década una mayor coordinación internacional para incrementar el escrutinio sobre los paraísos fiscales, obligando a las autoridades de esos lugares a entregar relevante información fiscal, si bien la estructura de los fideicomisos sigue actuando contra la transparencia.

Corregir la situación

Los problemas de Latinoamérica con relación a la evasión fiscal pueden estar más relacionados con la propia fragilidad de sus propias instituciones fiscales que a la presencia de paraísos fiscales cercanos al continente americano. Al mismo tiempo, algunos paraísos fiscales se han beneficiado de la inestabilidad y la corrupción política en Latinoamérica.

Los efectos de la fuga de capitales nacionales hacia esos lugares de regímenes fiscales especiales son claramente negativos para los países de la región, pues les priva de mayor actividad económica y posibilidades recaudatorias, lastrando la capacidad del Estado para acometer una necesaria mejora de los servicios públicos.

Por ello es imperativo que se establezcan ciertas políticas de corrección. En el campo de las políticas nacionales se deberían crear mecanismos para evitar la evasión y la elusión fiscales. Al mismo tiempo, a nivel internacional se deberían configurar iniciativas diplomáticas para acabar con las estructuras de los fideicomisos. La OEA ofrece, en este sentido, un importante marco negociador no solo con ciertos territorios de ultramar, sino con sus propias metrópolis, pues estas, como es el caso del Reino Unido, son miembros observadores permanentes de la organización hemisférica.

Batalla por el nuevo presupuesto europeo

Las siempre complicadas negociaciones se ven dificultadas aún más por los 75.000 millones de euros que el Reino Unido deja de aportar

ANÁLISIS / Pablo Gurbindo Palomo

Las negociaciones para el presupuesto europeo para el periodo 2021-2027 son cruciales para el devenir de la Unión. Tras el fracaso de la cumbre extraordinaria de los días 20 y 21 de febrero el tiempo se acaba y los Estados miembros deben aparcar sus diferencias para llegar a un acuerdo antes del 31 de diciembre de 2020.

La negociación de un nuevo Marco Financiero Plurianual (MFP) europeo es siempre complicada y capital pues la ambición de la Unión depende de la cantidad de dinero que los Estados miembros estén dispuestos a aportar. Pero la negociación de esta nueva partida presupuestaria, para el periodo 2021-2027, tiene una complicación añadida: es la primera sin el Reino Unido tras el Brexit. Esta complicación no reside en la ausencia de los británicos en las negociaciones (para algunos eso es más un alivio) sino en los 75.000 millones de euros que han dejado de aportar.

¿Qué es el MFP?

El Marco Financiero Plurianual es el marco presupuestario de la UE a largo plazo y establece los límites de gasto de la Unión, tanto en su conjunto como en sus diferentes ámbitos de actividad, para un plazo no inferior a 5 años. Aparte, el MFP incluye una serie de disposiciones y de “instrumentos especiales” más allá, para que, aún en circunstancias imprevistas como crisis o emergencias, puedan emplearse fondos para afrontar el problema. Por eso el MFP es capital, pues marca las prioridades políticas y los objetivos para los próximos años.

Este marco es propuesto inicialmente por la Comisión y, sobre esta base, el Consejo (compuesto por todos los Estados miembros) negocia y tiene que llegar a un acuerdo unánime. Tras esto la propuesta es enviada al Parlamento Europeo para su aprobación.

La cantidad que se destina al MFP se calcula con la Renta Nacional Bruta (RNB) de los Estados miembros, es decir, la suma de las retribuciones de los factores de producción de todos los miembros. Pero también forman parte derechos aduaneros, gravámenes agrícolas y azucareros y otros ingresos como el IVA.

Alianzas para la guerra

En la UE hay países que son “contribuidores netos” y otros “receptores netos”. Unos pagan más a la Unión de lo que reciben a cambio y otros, por contra, reciben más de lo que aportan. Por ello las posturas de los países están viciadas cuando afrontan estas negociaciones: unos quieren pagar menos dinero y otros no quieren recibir menos.

Como toda guerra europea que se precie, las alianzas y coaliciones han sido formadas previamente.

La propuesta de la Comisión para el MFP 2021–2027, realizada el 2 de mayo de 2018, ya puso nerviosas a muchas capitales europeas. La propuesta era del 1,11 % de la RNB (ya excluyendo al Reino Unido). En ella se preveían aumentos presupuestarios para el control de las fronteras, la defensa, la migración, la seguridad interior y exterior, la cooperación al desarrollo y la investigación, entre otros ámbitos. Pero, por otro lado, se preveían recortes en la Política de Cohesión (ayudas para ayudar a las regiones más desfavorecidas de la Unión) y la Política Agrícola Común (PAC).

El Parlamento presentó un informe provisional sobre esta propuesta en la que pidió que se subiera al 1,3 % de la RNB (lo que corresponde a una subida del 16,7% de la propuesta anterior). Además, los parlamentarios pedían, entre otras cosas, que se mantuvieran los fondos para la cohesión y la agricultura como en el marco presupuestario anterior.

El 2 de febrero de 2019 la presidencia finlandesa del Consejo propuso un marco de negociación a partir del 1,07 % de la RNB.

Esta sucesión de acontecimientos provocó la aparición de dos bloques antagónicos: el club de los frugales y los amigos de la cohesión.

El club de los frugales está compuesto por cuatro países del norte de Europa: Suecia, Dinamarca, Países Bajos y Austria. Estos países son todos contribuidores netos y abogan por un presupuesto no superior al 1 % de la RNB. Por otro lado, piden que los recortes se hagan en partidas que consideran “anticuadas” como los fondos de cohesión o la PAC y quieren aumentar el presupuesto en otras como I+D, defensa y lucha contra la inmigración o cambio climático.

El canciller austriaco, Sebastian Kurz, ya ha anunciado que vetará en el Consejo cualquier propuesta que exceda el 1 % de la RNB.

Los amigos de la cohesión integran a quince países del sur y este de la Unión: España, Bulgaria, República Checa, Chipre, Estonia, Grecia, Hungría, Letonia, Lituania, Malta, Polonia, Portugal, Rumanía, Eslovaquia y Eslovenia. Todos estos países son receptores netos y demandan que se mantengan los fondos destinados a la PAC y a la política de cohesión, y que el presupuesto comunitario se base en entre el 1,16 y 1,3 % de la RNB.

Este nutrido grupo se reunió el pasado 1 de febrero en la localidad portuguesa de Beja. Allí trataron de mostrar una imagen de unidad antes de los primeros días de debate del MFP, que se llevarían a cabo en Bruselas los días 20 y 21 de ese mismo mes. También anunciaron que bloquearán cualquier tipo de recorte.

Será curioso ver si con el avance de las negociaciones los bloques se mantendrán fuertes o cada país tirará hacia lo que más le convenga.

Fuera de estos dos grupos destacan los dos grandes contribuidores netos, que son quienes mueven los hilos de lo que ocurre en la UE: Alemania y Francia.

Alemania es más cercana a los frugales al querer un presupuesto más austero y destinar más dinero a partidas más modernas como la digitalización o la lucha contra el cambio climático. Pero ante todo quiere que se llegue a un acuerdo rápido.

Francia, por su parte, es más próxima a los amigos de la cohesión al querer mantener una PAC fuerte, pero también quiere un mayor gasto en defensa.

El problema de los “rebates”

Y si todas estas variables no fueran suficientes, hay que añadir la figura de los cheques compensatorios o “rebates”. Estos son descuentos a la aportación de un país al presupuesto. Esta figura se creó en 1984 para el Reino Unido, durante la presidencia de la conservadora Margaret Thatcher. Para la “Dama de Hierro” la cantidad que aportaba su país al presupuesto era excesiva, ya que la mayor parte del monto (un 70%) iba destinado a la PAC y a los Fondos de Cohesión, de los que el Reino Unido apenas se beneficiaba. Por ello se acordó que el Reino Unido tendría ciertos descuentos en su aportación presupuestaria de forma permanente y completa.

Estos cheques compensatorios se han entregado desde entonces a otros países contribuidores netos, pero estos se tenían que negociar con cada MFP y eran parciales sobre un ámbito concreto como el IVA o las contribuciones. Esta figura ya se intentó eliminar sin éxito en 2005.

Para los frugales y Alemania estos cheques deben mantenerse, en oposición a los amigos de la cohesión y especialmente Francia, que quieren que desaparezcan.

Sánchez busca su primera victoria en Bruselas

El presidente del Gobierno español, Pedro Sánchez, se juega mucha de su credibilidad tanto en Europa como en España en estas negociaciones.

En Europa, para muchos fracasó en las negociaciones para la nueva Comisión. Sánchez partía en una posición de fuerza al ser el líder de la cuarta economía de Europa, tras la salida del Reino Unido. Además, era el miembro más fuerte del grupo parlamentario socialista, de capa caída los últimos años a nivel europeo, pero segunda fuerza en las elecciones al Parlamento Europeo. Por ello, para muchos, la elección del español Josep Borrell como Alto Representante de la Unión para Asuntos Exteriores y Política de Seguridad, sin ningún otro socialista en puestos capitales, fue visto como un fracaso.

Sánchez tiene la oportunidad en las negociaciones de mostrarse como un líder fuerte y confiable para que el eje franco-alemán cuente con España para llevar a cabo los importantes cambios que la Unión tiene que hacer en los próximos años.

Por otro lado, en España, Sánchez tiene al campo en pie de guerra por las perspectivas de reducción de la PAC. Y se juega mucha de su credibilidad tras su victoria en las elecciones del año pasado y la formación de la “coalición progresista” con el apoyo de Podemos y los independentistas. El Gobierno español ya se ha posicionado con los agricultores, y no puede permitirse una derrota.

Los agricultores españoles son muy dependientes de la PAC. Según el Ministerio de Agricultura Pesca y Alimentación: “en 2017, un total de 775.000 perceptores recibieron 6.678 millones de euros por esta vía. En el período 2021-2027 nos estamos jugando más de 44.000 millones de euros.”

Estas ayudas de la PAC son de dos tipos diferentes:

  • Ayudas directas: unas se conceden por volumen de producción, por cultivo (denominadas “acopladas”), y las otras, las “desacopladas”, se conceden por razón de las hectáreas, no por producción o por rendimiento y han sido criticadas por algunos sectores.

  • Ayudas indirectas: no van destinadas directamente al agricultor, sino que se utilizan para el desarrollo de las zonas rurales.

El volumen de las ayudas recibidas varía dependiendo del sector, pero pueden suponer hasta el 30 % de la renta de un agricultor. Sin estas ayudas gran parte del campo español y de otros países europeos no puede competir con productos que vienen de fuera de la Unión.

Fracaso de la primera cumbre presupuestaria

Los días 20 y 21 de febrero tuvo lugar una cumbre extraordinaria del Consejo Europeo para llegar a un acuerdo. La cosa no empezó bien con la propuesta del presidente del Consejo, Charles Michel, de un presupuesto basado en el 1,074 % de la RNB. Esta propuesta no convenció a nadie, ni a los frugales por excesiva, ni a los amigos de la cohesión por insuficiente.

La propuesta de Michel incluyó una complicación añadida al querer vincular la entrega de ayudas al cumplimiento del Estado de Derecho. Esta medida puso en guardia al denominado grupo de Visegrado (Hungría, Polonia, República Checa y Eslovaquia), pues desde el oeste de la Unión ponen en entredicho los Estados de Derecho de algunos de estos países. Así que otro grupo se sube a la palestra.

Los servicios técnicos de la Comisión lanzaron varias propuestas para intentar contentar a todos. La final fue del 1,069 % de la RNB. Acercándose más al 1 %, e incluyendo un aumento en los “rebates” para Alemania, Holanda, Suecia, Austria y Dinamarca, para contentar a los frugales y atraer a los alemanes. Pero también un aumento en la PAC para contentar a los amigos de la cohesión y Francia, a costa de reducir otras partidas presupuestarias como los fondos en investigación, defensa y exteriores.

Pero los bloques no se movieron. Los frugales siguen enrocados en el 1 %, y los amigos de la cohesión en respuesta han decidido hacer lo mismo, pero en el 1,3 % que propuso el Parlamento Europeo (aunque sepan que no es realista).

Ante la falta de acuerdo Michel disolvió el encuentro; se espera que en las próximas semanas haya conversaciones y se convoque otra cumbre.


La UE tiene un problema: su ambición no se iguala con el compromiso de sus Estados miembros. La Unión tiene que reinventarse y ser más ambiciosa, dicen sus integrantes, pero a la hora de la verdad son pocos los que están dispuestos verdaderamente a contribuir y aportar lo que sea necesario.

La Comisión Von der Leyen llegó con tres planes estrella: el Pacto Verde Europeo para convertir a Europa en el primer continente neutro en carbono; la digitalización, y, de la mano de Josep Borrell, una mayor implicación internacional por parte de la Unión. Pero en cuanto han empezado las negociaciones del presupuesto y se ha visto que esto conllevaría un aumento del gasto, cada país ha tirado hacia lo que más le conviene y han sido este tipo de propuestas las primeras en caer en recortes ante la imposibilidad de un entendimiento.

Se tiene que llegar a un acuerdo para antes del 31 de diciembre de 2020, si no se quiere que no haya dinero para nada: ni para PAC, ni para “rebates” ni incluso para Erasmus.

Los Estados miembros deben entender que para que la UE sea más ambiciosa ellos mismos tienen que ser más ambiciosos y estar dispuestos a involucrarse más, con el aumento del presupuesto que ello conlleva.

El mundo de Putin

[Angela Stent, Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and with the Rest. Twelve. New York, 2019. 433 p.]

RESEÑAÁngel Martos

Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and with the RestAngela Stent, directora del Centro para Estudios de Eurasia, Rusia y Europa del Este de Georgetown University, presenta en este libro un profundo análisis de la naturaleza de Rusia en estos comienzos del siglo XXI. Para comprender lo que sucede hoy, nos muestra previamente las líneas maestras históricas que dieron forma al masivo heartland que los estadistas rusos han consolidado a lo largo del tiempo.

Rusia aprovechó el escaparate global que suponía la organización del Mundial de Fútbol de 2018 para presentar una imagen renovada. La operación de venta de la marca nacional de Rusia tuvo cierto éxito, como reflejaron las encuestas: muchos espectadores extranjeros (especialmente estadounidenses) que visitaron el país para el torneo de fútbol se llevaron una imagen mejorada del pueblo ruso, y viceversa. Sin embargo, lo que se presentaba como una apertura al mundo, no ha tenido su manifestación en la política nacional o internacional del Kremlin: no se ha aflojado en lo más mínimo el control de Putin sobre el régimen híbrido que gobierna Rusia desde el colapso de la Unión Soviética.

Muchos expertos no pudieron predecir el destino de esta nación en los años 90. Después del colapso del régimen comunista, muchos pensaron que Rusia comenzaría un largo y doloroso camino hacia la democracia. Estados Unidos mantendría su condición de superpotencia única y conformaría un Nuevo Orden Mundial que abarcara a Rusia como potencia menor, igual a otros estados europeos. Pero esas consideraciones no tenían en cuenta la voluntad del pueblo ruso, que entendía la gestión de Gorbachov y Yeltsin como “errores históricos” que debían corregirse. Y esta perspectiva puede verse en los principales discursos de Vladimir Putin: un sentimiento nostálgico por el pasado imperial de Rusia, el rechazo a ser parte de un mundo gobernado por Estados Unidos y la necesidad de doblegar la soberanía de las una vez repúblicas soviéticas. Este último es un aspecto crucial de la política exterior de Rusia que, en distinta medida, ya ha aplicado a Ucrania, Bielorrusia, Georgia y otros.

¿Qué ha cambiado en el alma de los rusos desde el colapso de la Unión Soviética? ¿Han sufrido altibajos las relaciones con Europa a lo largo de la historia del Imperio ruso? ¿Cómo son esas relaciones ahora que Rusia no es un imperio, tras perder casi todo su poder en cuestión de años? La autora nos lleva de la mano por esas cuestiones. La Federación de Rusia, tal como la conocemos ahora, solo ha sido gobernada por tres autócratas: Boris Yeltsin, Dmitry Medvedev y Vladimir Putin, aunque podríamos argumentar que Medvedev ni siquiera cuenta propiamente como presidente, ya que durante su mandato Putin era el líder intelectual que estaba detrás de cada paso adoptado en el ámbito internacional.

Las complicadas relaciones de Rusia con los países europeos tienen un ejemplo notorio en el caso de Alemania, que el libro compara con una montaña rusa (expresión que en castellano es especialmente elocuente). Alemania es la puerta de la Federación hacia Europa, una puerta metafórica que, a lo largo de la historia contemporánea, ha estado entreabierta, abierta de par en par o cerrada, como en este momento. Tras la toma de Crimea las relaciones de la Alemania de Merkel con Moscú se han limitado estrictamente a cuestiones comerciales. Vale la pena resaltar las enormes diferencias que podemos encontrar entre la Ostpolitik de Willy Brandty y la actual Frostpolitik de Angela Merkel. Aunque Merkel se crió en Alemania Oriental, donde Putin trabajó como agente de la KGB durante cinco años, y ambos pueden entenderse tanto en ruso como en alemán, ese vínculo biográfico que los une no se ha reflejado en su relación política.

Alemania pasó de ser el mayor aliado europeo de Rusia (hasta el punto de que el canciller Gerhard Schröder, tras dejar el cargo, fue nombrado después de dejar el cargo de presidente del consejo de administración de Rosneft), a ser una amenaza para los intereses rusos. Después de las sanciones que se impusieron a Rusia en 2014 con el apoyo del gobierno de Alemania, las relaciones entre Putin y Merkel están en su peor momento. Sin embargo, algunos podrían argumentar que Alemania actúa de manera hipócrita dado que ha aceptado y financiado el gasoducto Nordstream, que perjudica fuertemente la economía de Ucrania.

Además de la UE, el otro oponente principal para los intereses rusos es la OTAN. En cada punto del mapa en el que el Kremlin desea poner presión la OTAN ha reforzado su presencia. Bajo el mando de Estados Unidos, la organización sigue la estrategia estadounidense de intentar mantener a raya a Rusia. Y Moscú percibe a la OTAN y a EEUU como el máximo obstáculo para recuperar su esfera de influencia en “near abroad” (Europa del Este, Asia Central) y en Oriente Medio.

La fijación de Putin con las exrepúblicas soviéticas no se ha desvanecido en absoluto con el tiempo. En todo caso, ha aumentado después de la exitosa anexión de la península de Crimea y la guerra civil que se encendió en el Donbass. La nostalgia de Rusia de lo que alguna vez fue parte de su territorio no es más que un pretexto para intentar neutralizar cualquier gobierno disidente en la región y subyugar tanto como sea posible a los países que componen su zona de amortiguación, por razones de seguridad y financieras.

Oriente Medio también juega un papel importante en la agenda de asuntos internacionales rusos. El objetivo principal de Rusia es fomentar la estabilidad y combatir las amenazas terroristas que pueden surgir en lugares escasamente controlados por los gobiernos de la región. Putin ha estado luchando contra el terrorismo islámico desde la amenaza separatista de Chechenia. Sin embargo, sus posibles buenas intenciones en la zona a menudo se malinterpretan debido a su apoyo en todas las formas posibles (incluso bombardeos aéreos) a algunos regímenes autoritarios, como el de Assad en Siria. En esta guerra civil en particular, Rusia está repitiendo el juego de guerra proxy de la Guerra Fría contra EEUU, que por su parte ha estado apoyando a las Fuerzas Democráticas Sirias (SDF) y a los kurdos. El interés de Putin es mantener a su aliado Assad en el poder, junto con la ayuda de la República Islámica de Irán.

Angela Stent dibuja una descripción precisa del pasado reciente de Rusia y su relación con el mundo exterior. Sin ser parcial, logra resumir críticamente lo que cualquier persona interesada en la seguridad debe tener en cuenta al abordar el tema de las amenazas y oportunidades de Rusia. Porque, como declaró el propio Vladimir Putin en 2018, “nadie ha logrado frenar a Rusia”. Aún no.

La política exterior de Bukele acerca El Salvador a Estados Unidos

La crítica a Maduro, la redimensión del abrazo chino y el mayor control migratorio marcan la sintonía con Washington tras diez años de FMLN

El sorprente uso del Ejército para presionar sobre la Asamblea Legislativa salvadoreña a comienzos de febrero, para la aprobación de una partida destinada a seguridad, ha generado alarma internacional sobre lo que puede deparar la presidencia de Nayib Bukele, que accedió al poder en junio de 2019. El haber estrechado en su primer medio año las relaciones con Estados Unidos, tras dos décadas de gobierno de la exguerrilla del FMLN, pudo haber hecho pensar a Bukele que su gesto autoritario sería disculpado desde Washington. La reacción unánime en la región le hizo corregir el tiro, al menos de momento.

Juramentación de Nayib Bukele como presidente, en junio de 2019, junto a su esposa, Gabriela Rodríguez [Presidencia de El Salvador]

▲ Juramentación de Nayib Bukele como presidente, en junio de 2019, junto a su esposa, Gabriela Rodríguez [Presidencia de El Salvador]

ARTÍCULOJimena Villacorta

El Salvador y Estados Unidos tuvieron una estrecha relación durante el largo dominio político del partido de derecha ARENA, pero la llegada al poder en 2009 del Frente Farabundo Martí de Liberación Nacional (FMLN) supuso un alineamiento de El Salvador con los países del ALBA (Venezuela, Nicaragua y Cuba, fundamentalmente), que ocasionó alguna tirantez ocasional con Washington. Además, en 2018, en la recta final de la presidencia de Salvador Sánchez Cerén, se produjo la ruptura de las relaciones diplomáticas con Taiwán y se abrió la posibilidad de inversiones estratégicas de China que fueron vistas con recelo por Estados Unidos (sobre todo la opción de control del puerto pacífico de La Unión, por el riesgo a su uso militar en situación de crisis).

Nayib Bukele ganó las elecciones de comienzos de 2019 presentándose como una alternativa a los partidos tradicionales, a pesar de que fue alcalde de San Salvador (2015-2018) liderando una coalición con el FMLN y de que para las presidenciales se quedó con las siglas GANA, creadas unos años antes como una escisión de ARENA. Su denuncia de la corrupción del sistema político, en cualquier caso, resultó creíble para la mayoría de un electorado ciertamente cansado con el tono bolivariano de los últimos gobiernos.

Durante su campaña electoral Bukele ya abogó por mejorar las relaciones con Estados Unidos, por ser un socio económicamente más interesante para El Salvador que las naciones del ALBA. «Toda ayuda que venga es bienvenida y mejor si es de Estados Unidos», dijo uno de sus asesores. Esos mensajes enseguida tuvieron acogida en Washington, y en el mes de julio el secretario de Estado norteamericano, Mike Pompeo, visitó El Salvador: era la primera vez en diez años, justamente el tiempo de las dos presidencias consecutivas del FMLN, que el jefe de la diplomacia estadounidense acudía al país centroamericano. Ese viaje sirvió para acentuar la colaboración en materia de lucha contra el narcotráfico y el problema de las pandillas, dos problemas compartidos. «Tenemos que luchar contra la pandilla MS-13, que ha sembrado la destrucción en El Salvador y también en Estados Unidos, porque tenemos su presencia casi en cuarenta de los cincuenta estados de nuestro país», dijo Pompeo.

Acorde con el cambio de orientación que estaba dando, El Salvador pasó a alinearse en los foros regionales contra el régimen de Nicolás Maduro. Así, el 12 de septiembre la representación salvadoreña en la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) apoyó la activación del Tratado Interamericano de Asistencia Recíproca (TIAR), después de años absteniéndose o votando a favor de resoluciones apoyando la Venezuela chavista. El 3 de diciembre Bukele anunció la expulsión de El Salvador de los diplomáticos del gobierno de Maduro, acción replicada de inmediato por Caracas.

En esos mismos meses El Salvador aceptó los términos del nuevo enfoque migratorio que la Administración Trump estaba perfilando. Durante el verano la Casa Blanca negoció con los países del Triángulo Norte centroamericano acuerdos asimilables al mecanismo de tercer país seguro, mediante los cuales Guatemala, Honduras y El Salvador aceptaban tramitar como demandantes de asilo a quienes pasando por su territorio hubieran acabado en EEUU formalizando esa solicitud. Bukele se entrevistó en septiembre con Trump en el marco de la Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas y firmó el acuerdo, que fue presentado como un instrumento para combatir el crimen organizado, fortalecer la seguridad entre fronteras, reducir el tráfico ilegal y la trata de personas. 

La firma del acuerdo resultó controvertida, pues desde muchas instancias se cuestiona las garantías de seguridad y protección de los derechos que puede ofrecer El Salvador, cuando es su falta la que impulsa la emigración de salvadoreños. Rubén Zamora, exembajador de El Salvador ante la ONU, censuró que Bukele estuviera concediendo mucho a Estados Unidos, sin apenas recibir nada a cambio.

Bukele, no obstante, pudo exhibir en octubre una contrapartida estadounidense: la extensión por un año, hasta enero de 2021, del Estatus de Protección Temporal (TPS) que da cobertura legal a la presencia de 250.000 salvadoreños y sus familias en EEUU. El total de salvadoreños que residen en ese país asciende al menos a unos 1,4 millones, la mayor cifra de migrantes latinoamericanos después de los mexicanos. Esto muestra la gran vinculación de la nación centroamericana, en la que viven 6,5 millones de personas, con la gran potencia del norte, que además es el destino del 80% de sus exportaciones y cuyo dólar es la moneda de uso en El Salvador.

El nuevo presidente salvadoreño pareció truncar esa sintonía con Washington en diciembre, cuando hizo un viaje oficial a Pekín y se entrevistó con el líder chino, Xi Jinping. EEUU había alertado del riesgo de que China aprovechara a nivel estratégico la puerta que se le abría en Centroamérica con el sucesivo establecimiento de relaciones diplomáticas con los países del istmo americano, que hasta hace pocos años eran un reducto de apoyo a Taiwán. En concreto, la embajada estadounidense en El Salvador había sido especialmente activa en denunciar las supuestas gestiones del gobierno de Sánchez Cerén para conceder a China la gestión del Puerto de La Unión, en el Golfo de Fonseca, al que podría unirse una zona económica especial.

Sin embargo, lo que hizo Bukele en ese viaje fue redimensionar, al menos de momento, esa relación con China, limitando las expectativas y calmando las suspicacias estadounidenses. No solo la cuestión del puerto de La Unión parece aparcada, sino que además el presidente salvadoreño circunscribió la asistencia china al terreno de la ayuda al desarrollo a fondo perdido y no en el de la concesión de créditos que luego, en caso de impago, condicionan la soberanía nacional. Bukele precisó que la «gigantesca cooperación» que prometía China era «no reembolsable» y se refirió a proyectos típicos de la cooperación internacional, como la construcción de una biblioteca, un estadio deportivo y una planta depuradora para limpiar las aguas servidas que se vierten en el lago Ilopango, junto a la capital.