Nick Davis | DW
The International Monetary Fund has granted Jamaica a much-needed economic lifeline. In return, the island – one of the most indebted countries in the world – needs to get a grip on its rampant public spending.
Inside a Cambio (currency exchange – the ed.), as the customers wait in line, the talk quickly turns to the exchange rate. In a country where many depend on remittances sent by family from the US, Canada and the UK the country’s sliding dollar is a worry. “It’ll soon be J$100 to $1US, watch my words,” says an old man; a woman interrupts to add that it won’t stop there, as everyone looks at the board showing the exchange rate.
It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed across the island for months. Since the start of the year the local currency has lost over 8 percent of its value and investor confidence has also fallen but many hope that will change with Jamaica finally signing a deal with the International Monetary Fund.
The executive board has agreed to a loan of $950 million that’s an economic lifeline to the country. The island, which is one of the most indebted in the world, that owes some $18 billion, has undertaken a debt swap by local lenders and has promised to tackle tax reform and public spending.
This should unlock millions more in aid and loans from other multi-lateral agencies; but many are wary after a similar loan and debt exchange in 2010 didn’t help to improve the economy after key goals weren’t meet.
David Smith | The Guardian
He has been a schoolteacher, freedom fighter and political prisoner. He has gone from admired independence leader to despised autocrat. Now a life that spans nine decades could be about to add its least expected final chapter: the rehabilitation of Robert Mugabe.
The following scenario, once unthinkable, is now just conceivable. The Zimbabwean president will retain power in this year’s elections through fair means or foul; the poll will be relatively peaceful and deemed “credible” by the west; then sanctions will be lifted against Mugabe and his inner circle, ushering him back in from the cold.
This coincides with a subtle shift in the mood music around Africa’s oldest leader. Domestic political foes have praised him. He recently enjoyed cordial meetings with Andrew Young, special envoy of the US state department, and civil rights stalwart the Rev Jesse Jackson. A documentary film, Mugabe: Villain or Hero?, has won sympathetic audiences in London. Most contentiously of all, researchers have begun to challenge the orthodoxy that Zimbabwe’s land reform programme was an unmitigated disaster.
Patna Bihar | The Economist
During the boom of the 1990s and 2000s, it became fashionable to talk of India’s forthcoming “demographic dividend”. This was quite a turnaround. In the 1960s and 1970s, the booming populations of states like Bihar were seen as a curse. “The Population Bomb”, a Malthusian bestseller by two American environmentalists, Paul and Anne Ehrlich, began by describing “one stinking hot night in Delhi”, and its horrifying number of “people, people, people, people”. In the 1970s there was a forced sterilisation programme. Sanjay Gandhi, a thuggish scion of the ruling dynasty, organised vasectomy camps near Delhi—one doctor boasted he could perform 40 sterilisations an hour.
In the 1990s, though, economic liberalisers evoked the experiences of East Asia and the demographic dividend it benefited from when previously high fertility rates began to decline. Working-age populations rose at the same time as the ratio of dependants to workers fell. An associated rise in the rate of saving allowed more investment, helping pay for the vast expansion in manufacturing that employed those workers and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. In the mid2000s the prospect of a similar dividend in India, where the fertility rate had dropped a lot in the 1980s and 1990s, was a key reason for investors’ optimism. The timing was particularly encouraging: India’s labour force was due to soar as China’s began to decline (see chart 1).
Now many are worried that India is squandering this demographic opportunity.
NOT long ago, the lion’s share of official aid to poor countries was provided by rich Western governments that carefully report what they give and to whom. But recent years have seen a rapid increase in aid from non-Western sources that do not always prioritise transparency. A new working paper from the Centre for Global Development (CGD) attempts to gauge aid flows to Africa from China, one of the more opaque givers. In the absence of comprehensive official figures, the CGD compiled a database using open-source media reports. It says that China committed $75 billion in aid between 2000 and 2011, almost as much as America ($90 billion) and nearly a fifth of the total flows reported by Western governments. Two of the largest identifiable categories, by value, were transport and energy, which could fuel suspicions that China’s provision of aid is aimed at securing natural resources. But the counter-argument holds that Chinese aid, which focuses on overlooked areas like infrastructure, rather than education or health, is actually complementary to the West’s.
Julie Turkewitz | Pacific Standard
In Ecuador, an impoverished woman plans to sell 335 grams of a drug she cannot even identify. She’s caught. Her sentence? Eight years in prison. In Mexico, a woman finds heroin planted in her suitcase. Her punishment? Twenty-two years behind bars. In Bolivia, a man stomps coca, the first step in the process to make cocaine. His penalty? Ten years.
For years, Latin American governments have been dishing out increasingly harsh punishments to people convicted of drug-related crimes, including those convicted of low-level offenses—possession of, say, 50 grams of marijuana. While anecdotal evidence has often pointed toward this pattern, a new study conducted by Dejusticia, a Colombian research and advocacy group, documents this trend and comes to a harsh conclusion: “In three of the seven countries surveyed, drug trafficking garnered longer maximum and minimum penalties than murder.” In all countries studied, “the maximum penalty for drug trafficking is nearly equal to or, in most cases, greater than the maximum for rape.”
“That, for me, was the most shocking data that we found,” explains Rodrigo Uprimny, the director of Dejusticia and one of the study’s authors. Uprimny and his two co-authors found that many countries make no distinction between “very, very small drug traffickers” and those selling “hundreds of kilos of cocaine.” From the report: “In a few cases, a small-scale marihuana [sic] dealer is punished as if he were Pablo Escobar.”
Aryn Baker | Time
The video starts out like so many of the dozens coming out of the war in Syria every day, with the camera hovering over the body of a dead Syrian soldier. But the next frame makes it clear why this video, smuggled out of the city of Homs and into Lebanon with a rebel fighter, and obtained by TIME in April, is particularly shocking. In the video a man who is believed to be a rebel commander named Khalid al-Hamad, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Sakkar, bends over the government soldier, knife in hand. With his right hand he moves what appears to be the dead man’s heart onto a flat piece of wood or metal lying across the body. With his left hand he pulls what appears to be a lung across the open cavity in the man’s chest. According to two of Abu Sakkar’s fellow rebels, who said they were present at the scene, Abu Sakkar had cut the organs out of the man’s body. The man believed to be Abu Sakkar then works his knife through the flesh of the dead man’s torso before he stands to face the camera, holding an organ in each hand. “I swear we will eat from your hearts and livers, you dogs of Bashar,” he says, referring to supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Off camera, a small crowd can be heard calling out “Allahu akbar” — God is great. Then the man raises one of the bloodied organs to his lips and starts to tear off a chunk with his teeth.
DW: Pirate party congress opens in Neumarkt.
The congress of Germany’s Pirate Party has begun in Bavaria ahead of federal elections in September. After choosing Katharina Nocun as its top candidate, the party must now hash out its political manifesto.
During the three-day congress in the northern Bavarian city of Neumarkt, the Pirate Party will finalize its political manifesto for the September federal elections. Over the weekend, the Pirates are set to discuss their stance on issues such as civil rights on the Internet, transparency, democracy and foreign policy.
RWANDA GENOCIDE 20 YEARS ON: “WE LIVE WITH THOSE THAT KILLED OUR FAMILIES, WE ARE TOLD THEY’RE SORRY. BUT ARE THEY?
Chris McGreal | The Guardian
Lucie is bound up in an unprecedented experiment in which an entire country has been pressed to atone, forgive and reconcile but never forget. That has meant the killers confessing and seeking mercy, and the survivors accepting those who murdered their families back from prison as neighbours. Meanwhile a new generation is being taught to reject the labels of Hutu and Tutsi, and find a common purpose in reconstructing Rwanda.
Some have embraced the role with vigour. In Kibuye, Hutu men who butchered entire families have offered heartfelt and detailed confessions that have prompted some survivors to set aside nearly unimaginable pain to embrace them as genuinely reformed. But scratch beneath the surface and Rwanda remains a country in shock.
A few yards from where Lucie is washing the skulls of the dead, a familiar-looking man is sweeping leaves from the mass grave of 4,500 Tutsis. He is short, with the same tightly cropped beard and haunted look I encountered in 1994 a few weeks after the church massacre, when the stench of the dead tossed just outside its walls still overwhelmed Sunday mass. Members of the congregation held cloths over their faces as they prayed, and then emerged to blame the Tutsis for their own deaths.
Lucie reminds me that the man’s name is Thomas Kanyeperu and that he had been the church groundsman. She says he served nine years in prison for genocide. “He said he didn’t do it,” she tells me. “He said he saved Tutsis. Maybe he saved some Tutsis but he killed others. Even today he hates us. Ask him. You’ll see.”
. . . The survivors wanted justice for their murdered families but the government didn’t have enough judges, lawyers or courtrooms to put the killers on trial. It faced the prospect of keeping them locked up without due process or freeing them without accounting for their crimes. Either way risked worsening the bitter legacy of genocide. President Kagame wanted to forge a new Rwandan identity devoid of Hutu and Tutsi. The answer lay in a form of traditional justice, known as gacaca, rejigged to serve as a mix of trial and local truth and reconciliation commissions.
The challenge was to get the killers to confess, in part to help the survivors discover how and where their loved ones died, but also as a counter by Hutu extremists in exile to deny the genocide. As gacaca rolled out, the government drew in the support of churches where preachers placed a heavy emphasis on biblical exhortations to confession and forgiveness. “All the talk of heaven and hell and redemption helped to start people talking,” says Tharcisse. “And once a few talked, naming names, telling where the bodies were buried, who killed who, then the door was open.”
Communities across the country elected 250,000 judges. Anyone was permitted to speak at the hearings, against or for a defendant. The accused were encouraged to confess their own crimes and name other genocidaire in return for reduced sentences and often swift release from Rwanda’s grim prisons. The floodgates opened. “We learned the truth about what happened. Who did what, how, when, where,” says Tharcisse. “One of the successes of gacaca is everything was told. Nothing very significant is unknown.”
Mohammed Hanif | The Guardian
If all the world’s magazine editors were allowed to vote for Imran Khan he would be the prime minister of half the English-speaking world. If Imran Khan had contested in west London he would have won hands-down. But since this is Pakistan, he has won in Peshawar and two other cities.
. . . the masses, it appears, were not really clamouring for a revolution but for electricity.
From the gossip columns of British tabloids to massive political rallies across Pakistan, Khan has been on a meaningful journey. In his campaign speeches, his blatantly Blairite message of New Pakistan did appeal to people but he really tested his supporters’ attention span when he started to lecture them about how the Scandinavian welfare state model is borrowed from the early days of the Islamic empire in Arabia. Amateur historians have never fared well in Pakistani politics. Or anywhere else. Khan promised to turn Pakistan into Sweden, Norway or any one of those countries where everyone is blond and pays tax. His opponents promised Dubai – where everyone is either a bonded labourer or a property speculator and no one pays taxes – and won.
Alan Taylor | In Focus | The Atlantic
While neighboring North Korea makes worldwide headlines with threats and demands, South Koreans have adjusted slightly to possible dangers, but largely carry on with their everyday lives. The war that halted in 1953 reverberates strongly today, including the continued strong presence of U.S. military forces near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas. South Koreans have rapidly become a country of digital natives, with city dwellers quickly adopting new technologies. The megacity of Seoul now has a population nearing 11 million — more than 20 percent of the entire country, all living in one dense, sprawling city, home to highrise apartments, shamanistic shrines, and grand palaces. Collected here are recent images from South Korea.