When the world gets closer, we help you see farther
Welcome to Tuesday, where “catastrophic destruction” is reported in eastern Ukraine, Japan upholds a same-sex marriage ban and an iconic Hong Kong restaurant is now feeding the fish. Meanwhile, an English Professor reflects in The Conversation on the linguistic implications of the Ukraine war and censorship on speech and silence.
[*Tsonga, South Africa and Mozambique]
The meaning of Petro: a former guerrilla as president is Colombian democracy at work
Gustavo Petro's victory is not only a response to the social ills of today, but having been part of a Marxist guerrilla group that negotiated with the state decades ago, and returned to the social fold, he embodies the nation's democratic future, writes Colombian daily El Espectador.
After decades of stigmatizing anything to do with the Left — to the point of annihilating an entire political party for its ideas — Colombia has elected for the first time — and quite decisively — a president of the Left. The election of Gustavo Petro and his vice-president, Francia Márquez, was itself one of the promises of the peace Colombia has sought for so long: with an orderly handover of power, the inclusion of all political positions and the possibility to work through our differences by voting.
The elections were a thumping rejection of the outgoing government of President Iván Duque and decades of dominance by the conservative currents led by his mentor, the former president Álvaro Uribe. The question now is: how shall we heal so many festering wounds in this country?
It is important to look back. Petro was a member of the M-19, the Marxist guerrilla group that negotiated with the state decades ago, and returned to the social fold. Since then, its members have been crucial to the state-building effort.
Petro's election confirms the guerrilla's former initiatives and shows the importance of a peaceful path and rejection of arms to win power. The elections have shown that Colombia is committed to the democratic and institutional option, which in itself is to be celebrated.
The figures attained should also mean a decisive mandate, and the presidential authority that comes with it. The experts had their doubts before, but Petro added three million votes to his first-round score, and some 700,000 more than his rival, Rodolfo Hernández.
The participation rate was at around 58%, which is a historic high in our electoral history. If we add to this the votes given to the (leftist) Historical Pact (Pacto histórico) in parliamentary elections, it is clear most Colombians are asking for change.
Petro must now be allowed to govern. Clearly we need oversight, with vigorous institutions that act as counterweights. Political deadlock would particularly signify a rejection of the majority's choice. But the president must also see the massive number of votes cast for his rival as a need to take that constituency into account, and the same may be said of a half million blank votes.
After a vicious campaign, it is now time to speak of unity and reconstruction, with actions complementing the important work of finding the right words.
The election of the country's first Afro-Caribbean vice-president is furthermore a message to the country's forgotten and downtrodden communities. The country's most vulnerable territories backed the Petro ticket, and expect an Equality ministry to start working on healing the country's immense rifts.
Colombia wanted change and has voted for it. What comes next will depend on how well the tattered social threads can be put back together after an election that was particularly divisive.
• Russia-Ukraine update: Governor of Eastern Luhansk region Serhiy Haidai reports “catastrophic destruction” in the controlled-city of Lysychansk. Haidai also said that fights were currently raging “in the industrial zone of Severodonetsk,” as the region is almost entirely occupied by Russian forces.
• Belgium repatriates ISIS relatives: Six women and 16 children born to Islamic State fathers were repatriated to Belgium, in the biggest airlift of this kind bringing back the relatives of jihadists from Syria, the authorities announced.
• Georgians rally for EU membership: Tens of thousands of Georgians marched in Tbilisi for Georgia’s EU membership bid, waving Georgian, Ukrainian and EU flags after the demand was deferred last week by the European Commission.
• Israel’s prime minister to dissolve parliament: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced the dissolution of his weakened coalition and called for new elections, which will be the fifth in three years. Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid will take over from Bennett as early as next week until a new government is sworn in.
• Heavy rains in China: About 200,000 people have been evacuated and more than 2,700 houses were destroyed in Southern China, in the heaviest torrential rain the country is experiencing in 60 years. According to the authorities, the damage so far is estimated at more than $254 million.
• Same-sex marriage ban upheld in Japan: Japanese court ruled that the government’s ban on same-sex marriage does not violate the constitution, dealing a setback to LGBTQ+ rights activists. Japan is the only G7 country that doesn’t recognize same-sex unions.
• Iconic Hong Kong restaurant sinks: The Jumbo Kingdom, Hong Kong’s iconic floating restaurant and tourist attraction, has sunk in the South China Sea. This comes less than a week after it was towed away from the harbor of the city.
Today’s front page of Catalan language daily Segre, based in Lleida, Spain, shows the mayor of Alòs de Balaguer walking in an ash-gray calcined forest. Its title “fires under control” brings great relief after six days of firefighters battling against wildfires in Catalonia.
Dmitry Muratov, the Russian editor-in-chief of independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, has auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize medal for $103.5 million. He said that all will go to help refugees from the war in Ukraine.
The Russian art of protesting through silence
In The Conversation, English Professor Jacob Edmond takes a look at the creative ways that Russian journalists, writers and artists are turning forced silence into powerful statements.
📣 What would you do if your country launched a war of aggression, causing tens of thousands of deaths and displacing millions? What if the price of protest or even posting objections on social media was arrest and imprisonment? What if even mentioning the word “war” online, in print, or on the street was illegal? Would you speak out, or keep quiet and bide your time? They are questions of ethical, familial, and national obligations. They are questions of personal risk, strategy and tactics. They are questions about how best to speak through silence.
🗞️ One powerful if all too brief example of how silencing can be turned into speech is Novaya Gazeta, the independent Russian news outlet that held out longest against the new censorship regime. Throughout March, Novaya Gazeta held up official lies for ridicule. Following new censorship laws, the newspaper used blanks to mark the silencing of any mention of the war: “Asked whether he is ready to stop the ___ , Putin answered ‘no’.” Newsagents began refusing to sell certain issues, and by March 28 Novaya Gazeta received its second official warning and was forced to close. The dance with censorship — the newspaper’s attempt to speak through silence — had come to an end.
🤐 Russian writers and artists living abroad who oppose the war also have a vexed relationship to speech and silence. Latvia-based poet Kuzmin has turned his energies towards helping Ukrainian refugees and translating and disseminating Ukrainian poetry. Kuzmin argues for prioritizing Ukrainian over Russian voices in this time of war. Other Russians living abroad dismiss this view, insisting their work must carry on regardless of the war and that the silencing of Russian culture serves no end. “Should we shoot ourselves in the leg out of solidarity? What is the benefit of that?,” asks the film director Kirill Serebrennikov.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
“You’re my hero.”
— U.S. actor and Goodwill ambassador Ben Stiller met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Ukraine. In the meeting, the actor commended Zelensky for quitting his own acting career to lead his country and rally the world in support of its people.
A man rides his bike through Dmytrivka, Ukraine, near the capital Kyiv, where the remains of Russian tanks and military equipment destroyed earlier in the war lie along the street — Photo: Sergei Chuzakov/SOPAimages/ZUMA
✍️ Newsletter by Lila Paulou, McKenna Johnson, Joel Silvestri and Lisa Berdet
Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!
- In Georgia, Fears Of Being Back On Putin's Hit List ›
- LGBTQ+ International: Marriage In Thailand, Trans Teacher Suicide ... ›
- A Nobel For Brave Journalists, And Remembering Those We've Lost ›