Protesters in Russia Demand Putin Resign
What It’s About: On May 7, 2000 Vladimir Putin became the President of Russia, a position he would hold until 2008. A former Russian intelligence officer, Putin has been accused of enforcing anti-democratic policies and ignored, or taken part in, the massive corruption that afflicts his country. In 2012, Putin once again stood for re-election to the presidency, and won.
Today, over 18,000 Russians have taken to street in protest over what they consider to be rigged and unlawful elections. Echoing the controversy of the previous elections many of the protests organizers have been detained and questioned.
Why It’s Important: As one of the richest and most influential nations in Europe and the world, and one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia is capable of exerting a significant influence on global policy. If the allegations of the Russian protesters are in fact true, it represents a significant blow to the cause of human rights in Europe. If the UN is unable or unwilling to curb corruption and human rights abuse in one of its leading countries, its abilities to do so elsewhere becomes suspect.
Spanish Debt Concerns
What It’s About: 2012 has been a year of continued economic instability in Europe. With Greece, Spain, and Italy all in deep debt and tied to the Euro, the collapse of any one of their economies poses a distinct and terrifying threat to the financial markets of all the members of the European Union.
Today, the cost of borrowing money increased for the Spanish Government as credit agencies downgraded their rating on 18 of Spain’s major banks. With many afraid that the nations banks will “fall off a cliff” investors have cautioned that the recent $125bn bailout has not solved the issues underlying the bank crises and that further investment does not warrant the risk associated with it.
Why It’s Important: As one of Europe’s larger economies, the collapse of the Spanish banking system would cause a huge financial strain on other European nations and jeopardize the stability of the Euro. Although Germany and France remain two of the strongest economies in Europe, they do not possess the cash reserves to keep Europe afloat indefinitely. With the recent announcement that the average US income has declined by 40%, the collapse of the Euro and European markets would likely cause a further weakening of North American and Asian economies.
The Syrian Conflict
What It’s About: The early months of 2011 saw the citizens of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria (among many other Arab nations) take to the streets in protest over the corruption within their governments as well as their lack of civil liberties. Although Egypt and Tunisia have seen post-revolutionary governments and elections, the conflict between the Syrian people and their government has continued.
At present many of Syria’s largest cities remain in shambles and divided between government and opposition forces; a situation that has led to today’s announcement by the UN that the country is now considered to be at civil war. Accompanying this announcement is the troubling revelations that the Syrian government has been torturing the children of known dissidents. Estimates put the number of children tortured over the last year at approximately 1,176.
Why It’s Important: Although a world away for many in North America and Europe, the situation in Syria and the actions of our nations in response holds great significance for the future. Despite the successes of the Arab Spring, the foundations it has established in Egypt and other countries remain unsteady and untested. Should the UN and the nations associated with it fail to censor the brutal actions of the Syrian government, or to uphold the right of Syrian citizens for self determination, the potential exists for the collapse of a democratic Middle East and a reversion to the oppressive policies that the Arab Spring sought to abolish.
Hugo Chavez Runs for Re-Election
What It’s About: Elected in 1998, Hugo Chavez has remained in office as Venezuela’s leader for over twelve years. A socialist leader, Chavez has promoted a very clear “Venezuela First” policy by nationalizing the country’s oil reserves. Some have claimed that his policies are anti-democratic that he has engaged in election fraud.
Today, Chavez has announced that he has recovered from his bought with cancer and will be participating in this year’s elections.
Why It’s Important: Hugo Chavez is one of the most important South American leaders and has had an influential role in shaping the region’s politics. A good friend of Castro, a supporter of Evo Morales, and a business partner with the Chinese government, Chavez is a powerful man with powerful connections. Whether or not he gets elected, and how, the upcoming Venezuelan election will result in one of a number of interesting possibilities:
- Chavez demonstrates he has the support of the Venezuelan people
- Chavez engages in fraud and affirms the perception that he is dictatorial and unwilling to relinquish power
- Chavez is defeated and the left leaning policies that have dominated South American politics for the last 12 years will be supplanted.
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