Archive for June, 2010

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CSTO Acts as Problems Arise

June 21, 2010

With the riots and mass killings going on in southern Kyrgyzstan, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) had an emergency meeting in Moscow to decide what to do to solve the problem. Out of many options, CSTO, an alliance between former Soviet republics, decided to let the government of Kyrgyzstan deal with the problem, however, they do plan to send supplies to help them do so.

CSTO Secretary General, Nikolai Bordyuzha, said that the government of Kyrgyzstan had “sufficient manpower but lacks special gear and equipment,” to solve the problem. The government lacks supplies, such as, ground transportation, helicopters, equipment and they don’t even have fuel. The government of Kyrgyzstan wanted CSTO intervention, but because of many options and circumstances they opted to indirect help.

The unrest has been going on since early April and mass attacks by Kyrgyz mobs on ethnic Uzbek villages has resulted in as many as 126 deaths, also leaving 150,000 homeless in refugee camps. The unrest has prompted CSTO to be careful how they insert themselves in the problem. If Russia, the larger power in the alliance, were to send troops into the south to intervene this could lead to an invasion of Kyrgyzstan by the Uzbeks. The invasion could lead to war between the two countries and Russia does not want that.

Other options could potentially have CSTO send its troops to intervene or have international intervention by either the United Nations of the United States. The Uzbeks would most likely prefer the troops from the CSTO because they are under higher rules and the Uzbeks would have a better say in the peace keeping talks.  

-By Jamie Bowen

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Cancun Mayor Campaigns from Jail

June 15, 2010

Current Cancun Mayor, Gregorio Sánchez.

Current Cancun Mayor, Gregorio Sánchez was arrested two weeks ago on charges that he was helping out two drug dealers from the current “War on Drugs” in the northern states of Mexico.

He stashed a total of $2.5 million dollars throughout a half dozen bank accounts across Mexico for them. Though he denies the allegations; Sánchez is currently in a high security prison in the state of Nayarit.

Sánchez also announced that he will continue to run for governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo from his jail cell, over 1,000 miles away on the Pacific Coast. If his name stays on the ballot for the July 4th election, and he wins, this could be very interesting for the future of politics in Mexico. His win could even bring more hope to the drug cartels as they continue to corrupt and infiltrate the Mexican government.

Drug corruption in their city comes as no surprise to the residents of Cancun. They have seen five of the last seven mayors be involved in similar activities. In a time when the “War on Drugs” is at its highest having corruption in cities like Cancun will only hurt President Calderon’s efforts to end the war.

To the people of Cancun, Sánchez is known as “Greg” and he has plastered a billboard slogan “Greg is With You” all over the city.

Time will only tell if “Greg” is with the people of Cancun and Quintana Roo, but currently he can only be with them in spirit from his cell block.

-By Jamie Bowen

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Japanese Prime Minister Resigns

June 6, 2010

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama speaks to reporters at his official residence in Tokyo on December 21, 2009 after he had talks with Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii. Hatoyama's cabinet will meet on December 22 and decide on tax reform measures for the next fiscal year. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS

Over the past four years, Japan has seen four different prime ministers. And on Tuesday, that number may go up to five when Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned his position after just eight months of service.

His reason? He says he failed to keep his campaign promise, which was to remove the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the southern island of Okinawa. The resignation brings doubts of how the breaking of the Democratic Party of Japan‘s (DPJ) political promise will affect how the people look at the next prime minister and also if it will affect Japan-U.S. relations.

Problems leading up to the resignation first arose when Hatoyama announced last week that the base would not be moving from the island. Party members came out against him saying that the announcement was breaking the party’s agreement and promise. Hatoyama reacted by firing his cabinet member who went against his decision, said Sheila Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies for the Council of Foreign Relations who gave her thoughts on the resignation in a phone conference Wednesday afternoon.

The following weekend was quiet and come Monday everyone was astounded by the news, she said. “I don’t think anyone saw it coming—in Tokyo it was a great shock.”

Okinawans expressed their feelings toward the announcement of keeping the base in Okinawa by Hatoyama as “betrayal.” Currently the agreement between the two governments would proceed in moving the base and the people of the island would agree and cooperate with them. But with the betrayal of the promise, this could have bad effects on the negotiations.

The amount of damage that has been done on the opinions of the Okinawans toward the government is yet to be seen, but the leaders of the state have already made theirs public. In the plan, the city of Nago is supposed to be the site of the new base, but the mayor has already spoken out against it saying that he will not accept a base in his city. The governor of Okinawa also has the power to approve or reject any coastal construction. “You have leaders in Okinawa that can approve or reject the American proposal. This could be a problem for both governments,” Smith said.

Though there may be possible problems on the horizon, analysts say that Japan-U.S. relations are not going be hurt by the resignation and that the negotiations will continue. Japan is currently in a new regime for the first time since the end of World War II. The U.S. is going to have to be patient with the transformation, Smith said. “There needs to be patience and long term perspective. This is an important part of keeping the alliance and making this smooth,” she said.

The true effects of the resignation will not be felt until after the July elections in the upper house of the Japanese Parliament and when negotiations resume at the end of the summer. 

-By Jamie Bowen

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‘Samurai 150’

June 3, 2010

The Samurai

When we think of Samurais we think of ancient disciplined warriors who fought and protected Japanese villages and emperors; not of foreign diplomats. The Japanese embassy in Washington DC on May 24-28 celebrated 150 years of diplomacy with the United States with a commemorative lecture, play and film serious called “Samurai 150.” The celebration commemorated 150 years since the Samurai were sent by the Shogun on a diplomatic mission to the United States, an event that changed history forever.

The celebration started out with a lecture at the Library of Congress where Akira Iriye, professor of American history at Harvard University and Ronald Toby, professor of East Asian language and culture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discussed the events of the 1860 diplomatic mission of 77 samurai to the U.S. from Japan. In attendance were the current Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki and even one of the decedents of one of the 77 diplomats.

The history of the 77 samurai is not well known to Japanese or Americans alike. This was a great moment in history where, for the first time, a country from East Asia had set out on a diplomatic mission to a Western country. When the samurai came over, they were very popular. Everybody wanted to see them and every photographer wanted to take their picture. As they traveled from place to place they were received by thousands, especially in New York and in Washington.

The samurai carried with them the Treaty of Amity and Commerce everywhere they went until they got to the White House where they were greeted by then President Buchanan. The treaty was ratified by the U.S. and it started the 150 years of diplomacy between the two countries.

“An Evening with Samurai” followed with a play by Samurai Sword Soul, a theater company from New York City. The event started out with a lecture on the history of the Samurai. The lecture discussed the beginnings of the Samurai in 660 BCE and ended in 1868 when Emperor Meiji started the dismantling of the Samurai Class. It was followed by a performance of samurai sword fighting (tate) inside of a play filled with murder and conspiracy. After the performance, members of the audience joined the performers on stage for “Samurai Boot Camp” where they were taught the art of the sword. Audience members were given foam swords while the founder of Samurai Sword Soul, Yoshi Amao, led them in drills.

The week wrapped up with the Samurai Film Fest. The film festival featured three films; Yojimbo, a 1961 film directed by Akira Kurosawa; The Hidden Blade, a 2004 film directed by Yoji Yamada; Samurai X: The Motion Picture, a 1997 anime film directed by Hatsuki Tsuji.

The mission by the 77 samurai was key in bringing Japan into the modern area and in opening up free trade with the Western world. It also laid the framework for future diplomats from Japan to the world. “Us Japanese diplomats always think we have to learn from them [77 samurai]. We have to follow the good examples as followers in the diplomacy,” said Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki.

-Jamie Bowen

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Restoring Hope to a Battered Country

June 3, 2010

CFR Photo by Kaveh Sardari

 “The Iron Lady of Africa” is a strong nickname for a strong woman. This woman is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, current leader of Liberia, who spoke to a crowded room at the Counsel of Foreign Relations last Tuesday. She spoke of the great strides her country has made in the past four years after being under the harsh rule of former leader Charles Taylor.

Sirleaf inherited a country with an economy in recession, many displaced citizens, dysfunctional institutions and a broken infrastructure. In March 2006, she set out to change the outlook on the country and has since “come a long way,” she said. Major steps have already been taken in economic growth, a total growth of seven percent since 2006. Sirleaf joked that it would’ve been higher if it weren’t for the 2009 global economic downturn. Clearly, Sirleaf is in Washington to convince American companies to bring their business to her country. And she has amassed compelling reasons for them to do so.

The Liberian economy is focusing more on its rich natural resources: diamonds, gold, rubber and on agriculture to help bring in money. The mining and agricultural industry alone is now bringing in $10 billion dollars a year. Sirleaf is also focusing on attracting private investors to come to Liberia. Currently China has been investing a lot in Liberia because of the access to raw material. Sirleaf invited members of the audience to bring their companies and try them out in the “new” Liberia.

One of the biggest problems in the past decade for Liberia has been with crisis and conflict management. Liberia holds the record for most U.S. Embassy evacuations with the embassy being evacuated nine times in 15 years. The United Nations Peace keeping force currently has 10,000 troops in Liberia to help keep the peace–down from 15,000 in 2006.

Sirleaf hopes to have them completely gone by 2012, once the police force and rule of law are ready to stand on their own. Currently 2,000 policemen are being trained by military contractors from the United States and officers are being trained in Nigeria at a military school. This is all in hopes of having an army and police force that can keep the peace without the need of the UN.

Sirleaf is also leading the way for women in politics. She is currently the only woman president in Africa and was the first ever on the continent.

Liberia has come a long way in the last four years during the Sirleaf administration and according to her, has made more strides in four years than in the past 20. Sirleaf is a darling in Washington having visited many times to support investment in her country.

-By Jamie Bowen

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Another Attack on Hungarian Minorities

June 3, 2010

Viktor Orban, (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

Last Wednesday, the Hungarian government passed a law that allows citizens of other countries that are of Hungarian decent and speak the language to get citizenship without living in the country. Slovakia responded by passing a law later that day making it illegal for citizens to have dual citizenship. All citizens who have citizenship from other countries would be stripped of their Slovakian citizenship. Hungarians make up more than 10 percent of the population of Slovakia or more than 500,000 people. This law could jeopardize their citizenship and could be looked at as another attack on them by the Slovaks.

This law wouldn’t be the first apparent attack on the Hungarians by the Slovaks. In 2009, a law was passed by the government in regards to language. The law requires that the Slovak language must be used in all official contacts: which includes the police, fire brigade, armed forces, and local government. But the impact of the law is still not clearly defined in regards to cultural events or media in minority languages.

In the past, there has been a heated rivalry between the two countries which can be traced back to World War I; where after the war, Slovakia was made part of the new formed state of Czechoslovakia—which was once part of Austria-Hungary. The Slovakian state was created after the 1920 Treaty of Trianon was signed which left a minority of Hungarians in Slovakia. The Hungarian minority has often felt attacked ever since on their language, heritage and culture and have often cited laws passed as direct attacks on them.

The Slovak government has responded that the laws are protecting the best interests of its citizens. The passing of the language law was to keep the interests of Budapest in Hungary and not in the neighboring countries like Slovakia. They also came out against the more recent citizenship law saying that the Hungarians were trying to influence other countries with their politics by passing the law.

The controversy over the most recently passed laws is inconsequential because as members of the European Union (EU) of which both countries are members of, citizens are able to move freely between countries. This also includes the right and freedom of labor in the entire EU; the right to appeal to EU courts; and the right to vote and stand in local and European elections. This makes the Slovakian power over Hungarians limited.

-By Jamie Bowen

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Israel Strikes Turkish Aid Flotilla

June 1, 2010

Photo from Huffingtonpost.com

Israeli naval personnel carried out a mission to seize and stop a Turkish aid flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip. Nine people were killed while dozens more were injured. The flotilla was carrying supplies to aid the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Many countries have publically condemned the incident, which could have astronomical international implications at a time when Israel already has shaky ties with many of its allies.

Turkey came out publically against the attack condemning Israel for the killings and even brought back their ambassador to the country. This could mean an alliance of the past six decades could be severed and bring more unrest to the Middle East. The outcry forced Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to cancel his visit to the White House with President Barrack Obama and cut his visit to Canada short to return back to Israel.

The Israeli government has had a blockade on the Gaza Strip area since 2007. Earlier last week, the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu asked for the blockade to be lifted for the flotilla, but the Israeli government did not comply. The owner of the flotilla, Insani Yardim Vakfi, is a religious non-governmental organization and was on a humanitarian mission to deliver supplies to aid the Palestinians. Before the attack Netanyahu had previously consulted with his top security officers on whether or not to stop the ships and how to do it. Later, the mission named “Operation Sea Breeze” was approved.

One of the major international implications from the attacks will be augmented unrest in the Middle East because of a possible Turkey-Israel conflict. The United Nations has been trying to subdue the nuclear aspirations of Iran and this could hinder their efforts. The UN spoke out Tuesday against the attack on flotilla. “I condemn this dreadful waste of life over a humanitarian issue¬—such an incident should never have happened or needed to happen,” said John Holmes, UN humanitarian coordinator.

This incident could also make it difficult for the U.S. to continue its pursuit of peace in the region. On Tuesday, the U.S. gave their condolences on the loss of life, but they did not condemn the attack, citing the need for more information.  But the news of one American being killed on board of the flotilla will make it even more difficult to strengthen Israeli ties with the U.S.

The attacks have also angered the humanitarian world, turning their position on how Israel is treating the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.

-By Jamie Bowen