Posts Tagged ‘international’

Philippines: Time for Dutertismo To Change Course

October 14, 2017


President Rodrigo Duterte addresses delegates at the closing ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and its 50th Grand Celebration, Tuesday Aug. 8, 2017, at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez

(First published on October 13) The sharp decline in public satisfaction with and trust in President Rodrigo Duterte may reflect the end of his “honeymoon period,” as the general public begins to critically reexamine their expectations for this administration and juxtapose them with its actual performance. Based on the third quarter survey of Social Weather Stations (SWS), 67 percent of adult Filipinos were satisfied with the president’s performance, while 14 percent were undecided and 19 percent were dissatisfied. This leads to Duterte gaining a net rating (satisfied minus dissatisfied) rating of +48, a whopping 18-point drop from his +66 rating during the second quarter. The same survey indicates that 73 percent of Filipinos continue to trust Duterte, while 15 percent remain undecided and 12 percent give him little trust. This gives him a net trust rating of +60 (very good), down from +75 in June.

The release of the survey results was exceptionally timely, as the Stratbase ADR Institute had organized a roundtable discussion on Tuesday that aimed to flesh out the successes and shortfalls of Duterte’s first year in office. Featuring Richard Javad Heydarian, non-resident fellow and author of the Special Study titled “Duterte’s First Year in Office: Assessing the Balance Sheet,” the roundtable provided critical avenue for select leaders in the political-diplomatic field, business community, and civil society to exchange ideas and insights as to why Duterte’s satisfaction and trust ratings suddenly plunged, and what the Duterte administration can do in order to reverse the downward trend and win back public support for its security, governance and development agendas.

Major policy ruptures and political risk

During his presentation, Heydarian cited major ruptures in policy and causes of political risk which, in varying degrees, could have had detrimental impact on Duterte’s satisfaction and trust ratings. The most controversial of which is the War on Drugs, which has not only experienced growing criticism at home but has also raised alarm within the greater international community. Based on the latest report of the Philippine National Police on the anti-illegal drugs campaign, there were already 6,225 drug-related deaths between July 1, 2016 and Sept. 16, 2017. Of these, 3,850 individuals died in police operations, 2,290 individuals died due to drug-related deaths and 85 government personnel (82 policemen, 3 soldiers) were killed in action.

According to Heydarian, the problem with the war on drugs is that it has been inextricably linked with the erosion of basic human rights and civil liberties, owing to the increase in extrajudicial killings and lack of accountability of law enforcement agencies and other unknown perpetrators of criminal violence. This prompted legislators from the United States and European Union, as well as legal luminaries of the International Criminal Court, to voice out their concern over the ballooning casualties which, if left unaddressed, may incur reputational and economic costs for the Philippines through expulsion from the United Nations Human Rights Council and imposition of economic sanctions, respectively.

Aside from the war on drugs, Heydarian identified “debt trap” Dutertenomics and fiscal or tax reforms as two other major causes of political risk that need judicious evaluation and effective implementation. Citing the Pulse Asia survey dated March 2017, Heydarian recounted that the three most urgent national concerns are economic in nature: improving/increasing the pay of workers (43 percent), controlling inflation (41 percent), and creating more jobs (39 percent). While Duterte deserves credit for his determination to advance his two signature initiatives, Build, Build, Build, Infrastructure Project and the tax reform, in order to level the economic playing field, improve the domestic investment climate, and render economic growth more inclusive, concerns over the sustainability of projects, the progressive leftist-technocratic divide within his Cabinet, and policy predictability, among others remain. In addition, overreliance on Official Development Assistance (ODA) with high interest rates from prospective donor countries such as China may lead to another wave of ballooning of the country’s foreign debt.

Opportunities for positive change

On the brighter side, Heydarian noted that the Philippine government has also made progress on some national issues. First, Duterte ought to be credited for pushing for a more inclusive and comprehensive peace negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as well as keeping Malacañang’s gates open for the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.

Should Duterte succeed in brokering enduring peace agreements both with the Moro and Communist insurgents, the Philippine defense and security establishment will be able to stave off the advance of Islamic State in Mindanao, facilitate agrarian reform and rural development in Communist-infested areas, and devote much of its energy on external defense, especially in light of China’s growing assertiveness in the West Philippine Sea. Second, Duterte’s unwavering support for the anti-trust regulation and the passage of key constitutional amendments, such as the relaxation of restrictions on foreign investments, would contribute to creating a more stable policy environment which, in turn, would usher the democratization of the domestic economy and improvement of the country’s business and investment climate.

Echoing Heydarian, it is imperative for Duterte to focus less on exacting political vendetta and focus more on state-building. In other words, he ought to address the issues closest to the gut of ordinary Juan, namely: preservation of law and order, generation of economic opportunities and strengthening of local institutions of governance.

Dindo Manhit is the president of think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, a partner of


Crawford Falconer takes up post as UK’s top trade negotiator — “Open markets at the core of the post-war global order.”

August 21, 2017

BBC News

Liam Fox and Crawford Falconer
Crawford Falconer, right, will begin his new job this week

The man in charge of negotiating the UK’s trade deals once Brexit is finalised, starts his job this week.

Crawford Falconer will take up the post of chief trade negotiation adviser at the Department for International Trade.

Leaving the single market would mean the UK would have to establish new bilateral trade agreements, but cannot formally do so until after Brexit.

However, one economist suggested Mr Falconer would already be “building bridges” with the European Commission.

The UK faces a huge challenge in resetting its trading relationship with the EU and other countries when Brexit takes effect.

Trade pacts that have been negotiated by the EU with the rest of the world will no longer apply to the UK, while Britain will also need to define new trading relationships with the EU itself.

Membership of the EU has meant the UK does not have a large bank of trade negotiators with recent experience.

A New Zealander, Mr Falconer has more than 25 years trade experience. He has represented New Zealand at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and held various posts in foreign and trade affairs in his home country.

Prof Alan Winters, from the University of Sussex’s UK Trade Policy Observatory, said Mr Falconer’s experience and contacts at the WTO would mean the groundwork for separating UK trade policy from Brussels would be made easier.

“He knows quite a lot of the main players at the WTO and can build bridges at the European Council, which is good as there is work to be done right now,” he said.

“There is work he can do, such as discussions on whether the UK uses replicas or changes trade agreements that we have with nations by way of membership with the EU.”

One suggestion has been that initially trade agreements could be adopted by the UK in their current form – replicating them – at the point of Brexit, to be altered subsequently as new deals are agreed.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said of the new appointee: “Crawford Falconer brings a wealth of international trade expertise to our international economic department, ensuring that as we leave the EU, the UK will be at the forefront of global free trade and driving the case for international openness.”

Mr Falconer will lead trade policy and negotiation teams at the DIT. His appointment was first announced in June.

See also:

Britain’s post-Brexit trade deals will make world safer place, new trade chief vows


THE Government’s new chief trade negotiation adviser has said the trade deals Britain can strike after Brexit could help boost global security.

Crawford Falconer tells The Telegraph that Britain will lead efforts to avoid conflict by creating new trade allies around the world.

Crawford Falconer, the Government’s new chief trade negotiation adviser, said the trade deals Britain can strike after Brexit could help boost global security

Crawford Falconer, the Government’s new chief trade negotiation adviser, said the trade deals Britain can strike after Brexit could help boost global security

Last week, the Government conceded that the UK will not be able to implement any free trade agreements under a proposed customs transition deal which will expire around two years after Brexit in March 2019.

But Mr Falconer, who will work alongside International Trade Secretary Liam Fox from this week, says that the UK can help promote stability by striking deals with nations that want to benefit from the country’s democratic reputation

He said: “There is a powerful political and security element to getting this right.

“History is littered with instances of the destructive political consequences of closed markets.

“This was a lesson well understood at the end of the last century’s global conflicts

“It was at the core of the post-war global order.”

He added:”And the UK was nothing less than one of the chief architects of that order.

“Many countries still recognise that open trade policies directed at engaging with others are at the core of any strategy to improve the global prospects for political openness and stability. They are already looking to partner with us to re-energise that agenda.”

Mr Falconer is an experienced trade negotiator who also served as New Zealand’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization.

It comes as The Daily Express reports how Britain has seen £50billion invested in the UK and the promise of 44,000 new jobs since the Brexit vote.

Change Britain campaign group found firms from around the world were bringing their business to the UK.

Chairwoman Gisela Stuart, a former Labour MP and Leave campaigner, told the newspaper: “Workers and businesses will continue to prosper once we’ve left the EU as we begin to strike our own free trade deals with growing economies around the world, spreading wealth and creating jobs throughout the UK.”

Hundreds flee wildfires near Jerusalem

November 25, 2016


© AFP/File | Israeli authorities evacuated 60,000 people from Haifa because of a spate of wildfires

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Hundreds of people were evacuated from an Israeli village near Jerusalem overnight, police said Friday, as firefighters battled wildfires that have forced tens of thousands to flee around the country.

The evacuations in Beit Meir, a cooperative village of religious Jews, came after 60,000 people in Israel’s third-largest city Haifa were moved to safety on Thursday because of a spate of fires.

“All the Beit Meir area has been evacuated — several hundred people, maybe 400,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

Rosenfeld said that a suspect had been arrested in connection with the blaze, but did not elaborate.

Police have arrested a number of people in connection with the fires across the country.

Some are suspected of criminal negligence leading to accidental fires in tinder-dry woodland and undergrowth, while there are also suspicions that some may have been deliberate and related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Police on Friday morning reported the outbreak of a new fire near the southern town of Kiryat Gat.

In the north, thousands of residents of the mixed Jewish-Arab coastal city of Haifa spent the night in temporary accommodation.

The Haifa fires were “under control” on Friday morning, Rosenfeld said, but he cautioned that “things can change and develop as we speak.”

Firefighters and rescue services say strong and changeable winds make developments hard to predict.

“At the moment, (Haifa) residents who were evacuated from their homes are not allowed to go back,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.

Entire neighbourhoods of the port city have been evacuated, along with Haifa University and local prisons.

Meteorologists say a long dry summer and so-far rainless autumn have brought about ideal conditions for fires to spread — whether sparked by accident or on purpose.


Bushfires rage on in Israel, Haifa blaze overcome

November 25, 2016

The Associated Press and AFP

© Ahmad Gharabli, AFP | An Israeli firefighter inspects the damages in Beit Meir, a religious cooperative village in the hills to the west of Jerusalem, on November 25, 2016


Latest update : 2016-11-25

Israeli firefighters on Friday reined in a blaze in the country’s third-largest city of Haifa that had forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, but continued to battle more than a dozen other fires around the country.

Some 60,000 have yet to return to their homes as police forces and firefighting units were still heavily deployed in the Haifa area for fear that the fire could be reignited due to the rare dry, windy weather.

Though no serious injuries were caused, several dozen people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Hundreds of homes were damaged and in a rare move, Israel on Thursday called up military reservists to join overstretched police and firefighters and made use of an international fleet of firefighting aircraft sent by several countries.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a small village in the forests near Jerusalem was evacuated overnight as several homes there caught fire.

Overall, he said 12 people have been arrested across Israel on suspicion of arson. The country’s leaders have raised the possibility that Arab assailants had intentionally set the blazes.

Israel has been on edge during more than a year of Palestinian attacks – mostly stabbings – that have tapered off but not completely halted in recent months.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Palestinian incitement for fueling those attacks. Israel’s police chief Roni Alsheich told reporters on Thursday that early indications on the fires pointed toward a series of “politically motivated” arson attacks.

The fires began three days ago at the Neve Shalom community near Jerusalem where Israelis and Arabs live together. Later, blazes erupted in the northern Israeli area of Zichron Yaakov and elsewhere near Jerusalem before the largest ones spread across Haifa.

The rash of fires is the worst since 2010, when Israel suffered the single deadliest wildfire in its history. That blaze burned out of control for four days, killed 42 people and was extinguished only after firefighting aircraft arrived from as far away as the United States.

Israel has strengthened its firefighting capabilities since then, buying special planes that can drop large quantities of water on affected areas.

Several countries, including Russia, France, Cyprus, Turkey, Croatia, Greece and Italy were also sending assistance to battle this week’s blazes. In a rare gesture, the Palestinians also offered to send firefighting teams to help combat the flames.

Most Asean countries ‘want to stay out of Beijing’s South China Sea dispute with the Philippines’ — “There is great anxiety about angering the dragon.”

July 28, 2016

Southeast Asian bloc left out mention of international court ruling as Manila was the sole party who wanted it included, says diplomat

By Liu Zhen and Catherine Wong
South China Morning Post

Thursday, July 28, 2016, 4:18pm

Most Asean countries want to stay out of the South China Sea dispute between China and the Philippines, says a diplomat with inside knowledge about the negotiations that went on before the bloc issued a joint statement on the matter this week.

The Philippines had pushed to include this month’s international court ruling on the South China Sea in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ joint statement, the diplomat said, but the communique released on Monday left it out in the end.

No one but the Philippines insisted that the arbitral ruling be included, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

He said most countries in the bloc, especially those who had no claims in the South China Sea, wished to stay out of the dispute.

The Asean statement carried a section on the contested waters, expressing serious concern over land reclamations and “escalations of activities” in the region, but did not directly challenge China nor mention the ruling.

The bloc had, during a meeting in Laos, been deadlocked over the language of the initial statement and whether to mention the ruling handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague on July 12. The court had ruled in the Philippines’ favour, declaring China’s claims to the contested South China Sea invalid.

ASEAN Flags sometimes have trouble hanging together….

“The arbitration was never intended to be included in the statement,” the diplomat said on the sidelines of the Laos meeting on Tuesday.

He added that the impression that China had emerged as the winner and Asean the loser after the statement’s release had caused pressure on the bloc.

“For some small countries, if they think Asean cannot be relied on, they will go to the big powers,” the diplomat said.

 Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, center, and Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., prepare for a photo, during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane, Laos, Monday, July 25, 2016. AP/Sakchai Lalit

On Tuesday, Vice-President Li Yuanchao thanked Cambodia’s visiting National Assembly President Samdech Heng Samrin in Beijing for his country’s “impartial stance” and for “speaking out for justice on the South China Sea issue”.

Earlier reports said that according to Asean diplomats, Cambodia had spoken out in opposition to the inclusion of the ruling in the bloc’s statement.

In 2012, the Asean summit held in Cambodia for the first time failed to issue a joint statement because its members could not agree over the South China Sea disputes with China.

If anyone or anything had divided the Asean, it was the ruling itself, because it wiped out any possible grey areas in the disputes … and made it impossible for the Asean to take a position in such a take-it-or-leave-it situation

In June, the Asean foreign ministers retracted a joint statement expressing concern over the South China Sea situation, after a special Asean-China foreign ministers’ meeting held in Yunnan province.

Philippines foreign minister Perfecto Yasay said that the issuance of the joint communique this time was a victory for Asean.

The bloc had initially been divided but eventually showed its united stance on the need to abide by international law and ensure peace, Yasay said.

“I am just saying this to dispel the reports that have been said that China came out victorious in the Asean meeting because we precisely agreed not to mention the arbitral award,” Yasay told a news conference on Wednesday.

He said the arbitration was a matter between China and the Philippines and that his country did not want to gloat over the win or rock the boat with Asean.

It is no surprise that the Asean omitted the arbitration ruling in their joint statement as the countries each hold very different opinions on the issue, analysts say

Among the Asean’s 10 members, Cambodia and Laos have sided with China since 2012, while the Philippines and Vietnam have been pushing for a more hardline approach, said Oh Ei-sun, senior fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. The remaining nations are somewhere in between.

“The Asean way is if there is no consensus among all members, the Asean will not make a statement on it,” he said.

There has been speculation that China, the United States or Japan have been trying to influence the smaller Asean nations and are dividing the 49-year-old bloc from the inside.

But Xue Li, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Asean countries – just like the European Union – had the right to balance their own national interests and the unity of the regional group.

“The policy choices of the Asean countries on the South China Sea issue is fundamentally based on their own interest needs, not outside pressure,” Xue said.

Huang Jing, a professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said individual Asean countries were reluctant to back the one-sided ruling on the South China Sea as it would mean that they wholly supported the Philippines. Some of these countries were themselves also locked in maritime disputes with the Philippines, he said.

“If anyone or anything had divided the Asean, it was the ruling itself, because it wiped out any possible grey areas in the disputes, which are necessary for negotiation towards a compromise, and made it impossible for the Asean to take a position in such a take-it-or-leave-it situation,” Huang said.

A strong, powerful Asean would benefit regional peace and stability, which was also in China’s interest, said Xu Liping, an expert in Southeast Asian affairs from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Meanwhile, former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos has accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to serve as a special envoy to restart talks with China.

Yasay said he hoped dialogue could be arranged, but did not say whether the Philippines would insist on discussing the arbitration ruling.

A Vietnamese official told Peace and Freedom, “There is great anxiety about angering the dragon.”


 (Contains links to several related articles)

U.S. Navy Chief Says He’ll Keep Sailing in South China Sea



  (China always tells others what topics can and cannot be discussed)

China, Russia Plan Naval Drills in South China Sea

July 28, 2016

Joint exercises follow international tribunal’s rejection of China’s claims

The Chinese destroyer DDG-112 Harbin fires its gun during joint drills with Russia in the Yellow Sea in 2012. The two countries plan drills in the South China Sea in September.
The Chinese destroyer DDG-112 Harbin fires its gun during joint drills with Russia in the Yellow Sea in 2012. The two countries plan drills in the South China Sea in September. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

July 28, 2016 8:07 a.m. ET

BEIJING—China and Russia will hold joint naval exercises in the South China Sea in September, the Chinese Defense Ministry said, amid heightened regional tension following an international tribunal’s rejection of Beijing’s maritime claims there.

China’s defense-ministry spokesman, Senior Col. Yang Yujun, gave few details at a monthly news conference on Thursday but said the drills were “routine” and not directed at any other countries.

However, they are the first joint exercises in the South China Sea between China and Russia, which have been strengthening defense ties in recent years in part due to a shared interest in countering pressure over their military activities from the U.S. and its allies.

They will also be the first joint drills scheduled by any countries in the South China Sea since the tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled overwhelmingly against China on July 12 in a case brought by the Philippines over Beijing’s sweeping maritime claims.

“This is a routine exercise between the two armed forces, aimed at strengthening the developing China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership,” Col Yang said. “The exercise is not directed against third parties.”
Moscow and Beijing were once rivals for leadership of the Communist world, and fought a brief border conflict in 1969. Suspicions between them endure, especially over Beijing’s growing influence in Central Asia, and a much-vaunted energy partnership has largely stalled.

But they have often found common cause in blocking initiatives from the U.S. and its allies on the U.N. Security Council, where they are both among the five veto-wielding permanent members. In the past few years, they have also forged closer defense ties as both have come under pressure from the U.S. and its allies over their military activities around their own borders.

In 2014, Russia and China held joint naval exercises in the East China Sea for the first time, a few months after a flare-up there in a territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo over a small cluster of islands.

In May last year, China and Russia held drills in European waters for the first time—in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea—in what many Western officials saw as a show of solidarity following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Those were followed by more drills in the Sea of Japan in August.

The U.S. and some of its allies have urged China to abide by the tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea and accused Beijing of trying to assert its claims by force, including by building seven fortified artificial islands in disputed waters.

China calls the ruling invalid, claiming the tribunal had no jurisdiction in the case. It counts Russia among dozens of countries that it says have backed its position. Moscow has been more circumspect in its public position, however, saying that claimants should seek a diplomatic settlement based on international law.

Russia also has close defense ties with Vietnam, another country whose claims overlap with Beijing’s in the South China Sea.

Write to Jeremy Page at


 (Contains links to several related articles)



Russian Navy Udaloy Class destroyer



Russia’s Guided-Missile Cruiser Varyag

  (China always tells others what topics can and cannot be discussed)

South China Sea: China and Russia getting ready for combined naval drills in September

July 28, 2016


Thu Jul 28, 2016 3:35 a.m. EDT

China and Russia will hold “routine” naval drills in the South China Sea in September, China’s defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a news conference on Thursday.

The drills come at a time of heightened tension in the contested waters after an arbitration court in the Hague ruled this month that China did not have historic rights to the South China Sea and criticized its environmental destruction there. China rejected the ruling and refused to participate in the case.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Robert Birsel)


 (Contains links to several related articles)



Russian Navy Udaloy Class destroyer



Russia’s Guided-Missile Cruiser Varyag

  (China always tells others what topics can and cannot be discussed)

Cellphone service providers kill long distance service to and from Venezuela — amid a general economic collapse

April 11, 2016

APRIL 11, 2016, 11:42 A.M.

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s two main cellphone service providers are suspending long distance calling as the South American country struggles to pay its bills.

Movistar, a subsidiary of the Spain-based Telefonica, and Digitel both announced last week that they would be cutting international service because of issues related to Venezuela’s byzantine currency controls. Digitel ended that service on Saturday while Movistar will do so Friday.

The companies had already dramatically reduced the list of countries Venezuelans could call.

Movistar said the change will be temporary, but didn’t say when long distance calling will resume. Venezuelans will still be able to make international calls from some landlines.

Currency rationing is increasingly cutting Venezuela’s global trade. Many airline companies have abandoned the country, and mail delivery is also limited.

The government has created what amount to subsidized rates for hard currency and requires companies to get approval for converting local bolivars into dollars. With the administration running low on dollars itself amid a general economic collapse, officials are increasingly reluctant to part with any foreign currency.

The phone companies have said they are tens of millions of dollars in debt to foreign providers and have unsuccessfully asked the government to increase rates for international calls.

Those rates have failed to keep up with Venezuela’s triple-digit inflation, with a four-hour call to Hong Kong costing less than 50 cents at the black market exchange rate.


Venezuela risks a descent into chaos

 Financial Times (FT)

Riot police arrest students during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in San Cristobal, Venezuela on March 29, 2016. Two police officers died and four more were severely injured after being ran over by a car presumably driven by students during an anti-government protest against the rise in the public transport fares, in San Cristobal. AFP PHOTO/ARNALDO CESARETTIARNALDO CESARETTI/AFP/Getty Images©AFP

Police arrest students during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal. Two officers died and four more were hurt

At the main morgue of central Caracas, the stench forces everyone to cover their nostrils. “Now things are worse than ever,” says Yuli Sánchez. “They kill people and no one is punished while families have to keep their pain to themselves.”

Ms Sánchez’s 14-year-old nephew, Oliver, was shot five times by malandros, or thugs, while riding on the back of a friend’s motorcycle. His uncle, Luis Mejía, remarked that in a fortnight three members of their family had been shot, including two youths who were shot by police.

An economic, social and political crisis facing Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s unpopular president, is being aggravated by a rise in violence which is prompting fears that this oil-rich country risks becoming a failed state.

“What can we do?” Mr Mejía asks. “Give up.” The morgue employee in charge of handling the corpses notes that a decade ago he received seven or eight bodies every weekend. These days, he says, that number has risen to between 40 and 50: “This is now wilder than the wild west.”

Critics say that the Venezuelan government is increasingly unable to provide citizens with water, electricity, health or a functioning economy which can supply basic food staples or indispensable medicines, let alone personal safety.

Last month alone, Venezuelans learned of the summary execution of at least 17 gold miners supposedly by a mining Mafia, the killing of two police officers allegedly by a group of students who drove a bus into a barricade, and a hostage drama inside a prison at the hands of a grenade-wielding criminal gang. On Wednesday, three policemen were killed when an armed gang busted a member out of a lock-up in the capital.

At least 10 were killed in a Caracas shanty town after a confrontation between local thugs armed with assault rifles, while a local mayor was gunned down outside his home in Trujillo state last month. There are widespread reports of lynchings.

All this is creating a broad unease that Mr Maduro is unable to maintain order. Venezuela has the world’s fastest inflation and its dire recession is worsening. Mr Maduro last week declared every Friday a holiday for the next two months to save electricity as a prolonged drought has exacerbated chronic power shortages. There is a lack of basic goods. Analysts warn that the economic crisis risks turning in to a humanitarian one.

The evidence of state failure is very concrete in the country that sits on top of the world’s largest oil reserves

– Moisés Naím, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“Failed state is a nebulous concept often used too lightly. That’s not the case with today’s Venezuela,” says Moisés Naím a Venezuelan distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The evidence of state failure is very concrete in the country that sits on top of the world’s largest oil reserves.”

Venezuela is already one of the world’s deadliest countries. The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a local think-tank, says the murder rate rose last year to 92 killings per 100,000 residents. The attorney-general cites a lower figure of 58 homicides per 100,000.

In 1998, a year before former leader Hugo Chávez took office, the rate was 19 per 100,000, says the think-tank’s director Roberto Briceño León, adding that after 17 years of socialist “revolution”, it is the poor who make up most of the victims.

“I think it is evident that the Venezuelan state cannot act as a state in many areas of the country, so it could be considered failed,” says Mr Briceño, adding that the state now “lacks a monopoly on violence”.

But the state is indeed to blame for some of that violence, according to a report by advocacy groups Human Rights Watch and the Venezuelan Human Rights Education-Action Programme presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

“Venezuelans are facing one of the highest murder rates in the hemisphere and urgently need effective protection from violent crime,” said José Miguel Vivanco HRW’s Americas director. “But in multiple raids throughout the country, the security forces themselves have allegedly committed serious abuses.”

Their findings show that police and military raids in low-income and immigrant communities in Venezuela have led to widespread allegations of abuse, including extrajudicial killings, mass arbitrary detentions, maltreatment of detainees, forced evictions, the destruction of homes, and arbitrary deportations.

Brazil’s lessons for Latin America

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff looks on during a meeting with governors of Brazilian states at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Country’s bitter power struggle reflects institutional weakness across the region

The government usually blames violence within its borders on Colombian rightwing paramilitaries engaged in a war against its revolution. But as David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz of the Washington Office on Latin America, a think-tank, recently wrote: “Attributing violence in Venezuela to paramilitary activity has been a common rhetorical move used by the government over the past year, effectively making a citizen security problem into a national security problem.”

For many Venezuelans it no longer matters who is to blame. “It is a state policy of letting anarchy sink in,” says a former policeman outside the gates of a compound in Caracas.

That former police station now houses the Frente 5 de Marzo, one of the political groups that consider themselves the keepers of socialism’s sacred flame. The gates bear the colours of the Venezuelan flag and are marked with bullet holes. The man believes there is something akin to a civil war going on.

“Venezuela is pure chaos now. It seems to me there is no way back,” he says.

China: Up To 80% of Children in Some Areas Get Antibiotics from Tainted Food and Drinking Water, Shanghai’s Fudan University Finds

February 22, 2016


Mon Feb 22, 2016 5:56 am EST

Children in China’s eastern Jiangsu province are being widely exposed to antibiotics from tainted food and drinking water, potentially harming long-term health, local media reported on Monday, citing research from Shanghai’s Fudan University.

The study, which tested for 21 common antibiotics, including those used for animals, found traces of at least one type in 80 percent of a pool of 505 schoolchildren in Shanghai, China’s modern business hub with a population over 20 million.

China suffers from serious overuse of antibiotics, with doctors prescribing them to half of all outpatients, far above recommended levels, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

A WHO report in November found that nearly two-thirds of Chinese believed antibiotics should be used to treat colds and flu, while one-third thought antibiotics were effective against headaches.

Misuse of antibiotics is becoming a global risk, making the drugs much less effective at treating common infections.

“Beyond the health system, the economic costs of antibiotic resistance are formidable – in China, one prediction estimates the loss of up to a million lives a year by 2050,” the WHO said in the report.

The study from Fudan, one of China’s top universities, included both human and veterinary antibiotics. Some individual antibiotics, including those normally used in farming, were detected in nearly one-third of children tested.

The was published in the journal Environment International.

In 2013, China used 162,000 tons of antibiotics, around half of the world’s total use, state-backed news website said. It added that more than 50,000 tons of antibiotics were discharged into China’s waterways and soil.

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Additional reporting by the Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

 China — factory waste water from the Shenhua coal-to-liquid project into a stream in the hills in Ordos in the inner Mongolia. Photograph – Qiu Bo, Greenpeace. 2014 photo

Broad deal reached on Trans-Pacific Partnership

October 5, 2015



Twelve Pacific Rim countries on Monday reached a broad agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership to create one of the world’s largest free trade zones and set new international standards for trade and investment, negotiators said.

The joint statement issued after the marathon talks in Atlanta said Japan agreed to increase imports of butter, rice, wheat from TPP member states.

Tokyo also agreed to cut tariffs on pork and beef from TPP partners, according to the document.

Meanwhile, the TPP is to include a minimum of eight years of protection for new drugs, a Japanese official said.

The U.S. will completely lift tariffs on Japanese auto imports over 25 years, according to the deal.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed the basic agreement as “a far-sighted policy for all participating countries that share the same values and are trying to build a free and fair economic zone.”

The regional free trade pact, led by the United States, will represent about 40 percent of global gross domestic product. The deal must be officially signed by the participants and be approved by the legislature of each nation before taking effect.

The TPP countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.