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Banana Republic Of America: Beware Of The 'Latinamericanization' Of US Politics

Op-Ed: Thanks to the climate in Washington, the United States is beginning to resemble Latin America’s “Banana Republics,” where for years, ideological fanaticism trumped common sense – all to the detriment of the general population. A view from those who

A Tea Party rally in Minnesota (Fibonacci Blue)
A Tea Party rally in Minnesota (Fibonacci Blue)


SANTIAGO -- The American presidential campaign is in full swing, and has grown increasingly intense as the weeks go by. For those Latin Americans following the process closely, the campaign triggers a real sense of déjà vu. Not because this contest resembles past elections in the United States, but because it recalls the dangerous ideology-driven politics that were once so commonplace in Latin America. Never before have politics been so rough, so hate-driven, observers in Washington have remarked.

For the first time in the history of the U.S. Congress, the most liberal representative of the Republican Party is more conservative than the most right-wing Democrat. The result is a political system that appears headed toward a new era that is both uncertain and unstable. The radicalization of the Republicans, a process that's being fed by fanatical conservatives in the media, is giving rise to words and actions that are simply uncompromising.

So far the response from the other side of the political spectrum has been slow, tepid and even incredulous. The appearance of Occupy Wall Street, however, shows that those who've been ridiculed by the right as being soft, cowardly and socialist can also be driven toward a more radical position. This, in turn, accentuates a polarization that is making the country ungovernable.

For years Americans feared the "Latinamericanization" of their country, as immigrants from the Spanish-speaking south moved to the United States in droves. But those immigrants embraced the values of the country that received them. What's paradoxical is that that the real Latinamericanization taking place in the United States has to do with how its political elites are making a dangerous and harmful turn toward the kind of ideological fanaticism that used to dominate politics south of the Rio Grande.

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Society

Tour Of Istanbul's Ancient Yedikule Gardens, At Risk With Urban Restoration

The six-hectare gardens in the center of Istanbul, which are more than 1,500 years old, have helped feed the city's residents over the centuries and are connected with its religious history. But current city management has a restoration project that could disrupt a unique urban ecosystem.

Photo of Muslims performing Friday prayer in the garden of Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul.

Last March, Muslims performing Friday prayer in the garden of Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul.

Tolga Ildun via ZUMA Press Wire
Canan Coşkun

ISTANBUL — The historic urban gardens of Yedikule in Istanbul are at risk of destruction once again. After damage in 2013 caused by the neighborhood municipality of Fatih, the gardens are now facing further disruption and possible damage as the greater Istanbul municipality plans more "restoration" work.

The six-hectare gardens are more than 1,500 years old, dating back to the city's Byzantine era. They were first farmed by Greeks and Albanians, then people from the northern city of Kastamonu, near the Black Sea. Now, a wide variety of seasonal produce grows in the garden, including herbs, varieties of lettuce and other greens, red turnip, green onion, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, pepper, corn, mullberry, fig and pomegranate.

Yedikule is unique among urban gardens around the world, says Cemal Kafadar, a historian and professor of Turkish Studies at Harvard University.

“There are (urban gardens) that are older than Istanbul gardens, such as those in Rome, but there is no other that has maintained continuity all this time with its techniques and specific craft," Kafadar says. "What makes Yedikule unique is that it still provides crops. You might have eaten (from these gardens) with or without knowing about it."

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