Geopolitics

Why Argentina Is Suddenly Getting So Cozy With Russia

Despite serious financial difficulties, Argentina is negotiating major arms purchases from Russia. Relations with the U.S., in the meantime, have gone from bad to worse.

Gendarmeria Nacional Argentina
Gendarmeria Nacional Argentina
Marcelo Ostria
-OpEd-
SANTIAGO DE CHILE — There have always been regional rivalries in the Americas. Between certain countries, historical tensions persist, suspicions run deep, and governments remain on guard against real or perceived threats, including arms purchases, which often prompt reciprocal actions.
Examples abound. In the early 1960s, the Soviet Union sought to use Cuba's Fidel Castro regime to install missiles capable of reaching Washington, D.C. The situation produced a frightening standoff. Fortunately, prudence prevailed, diminishing the threat of nuclear war and helping forge an outlook that later helped put an end to the Cold War.
Tensions, nevertheless, remained. In the early 1980s, war broke out over the Falklands (the Malvinas to the Argentines). In that adventure, Argentina could count, and still can, on the support of most Latin Americans, even if it faced defeat at the hands of a European power. Before that, Argentina nearly went to war with Chile over an archipelago to the south of both countries. Mediation by the Vatican helped resolve the impasse peacefully.
Personal and provocative
These days Argentina finds itself in a different kind of jam. A regional economic crisis is taking a major toll on the South American nation, which is also increasingly at odds with the United States. At certain moments, U.S.-Argentine tensions have even gotten a bit personal — and unnecessarily provocative. Four years ago, Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timmerman showed up, lock cutters in hand, to search a U.S. military plane in Ezeiza airport carrying items sent in as part of an official deal to train Buenos Aires police.
The government of President Cristina Kirchner has in recent years become much more anti-American, which explains in part its affinities with the socialist governments running Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador. Her speech at last month's Summit of the Americas in Panama was exemplary in its virulence and similar in tone to the declarations made by the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia. She spared no adjectives or charges every time she mentioned the United States.
Cristina Kirchner and Vladimir Putin in Buenos Aires, 2014 Photo: Martin Zabala/Xinhua/ZUMA
Another confirmation of Kirchner's realignments, despite the fact that she is nearing the end of her second and presumably final term, is her quest for a new ally in President Vladimir Putin. He too is at loggerheads with the West — over Ukraine, Crimea and U.S. and EU sanctions. Kirchner recently expressed support for Russia, declaring, "We believe that the history of state-to-state sanctions has not given results. Quite the contrary."
Further emphasizing her country's estrangement from the U.S., she announced on a recent visit to Moscow that Argentine and Russian troops and police would undertake joint maneuvers "for the first time in history" — supposedly to pursue "an international drug trafficking gang," as Clarín reported on April 24.
Russia and Argentina have signed a pact to protect secret information on their military and technical collaborations, and to produce military hardware and technical and "experimental" equipment.
Just a big distraction?
Clarín reports that Argentina has in recent years purchased two Russian military helicopters and plans to buy three more, despite problems with financing, as revealed by the defense minister himself. The Argentine navy has acquired four patrol boats for the South Atlantic and logistical support tasks in the Antarctic. Sailors are to be trained in the ports of Murmansk and Archangel. Meanwhile, a deputy security minister told the daily about links being found between Colombian, Mexican, Balkan and Russian criminal gangs, and how their commerce was increasingly passing through Argentina.
At the same time, the Argentine government has radicalized its rhetoric on recovering the Falklands, provoking diplomatic incidents with the United Kingdom. Some perceive the deals with Russia to be a possible backup for a hypothetical new attempt to retake the islands. That would create another precedent in Russian role-playing in this region: the use of its military hardware to back a new ally, a Kirchner-led Argentine government.
Or, certainly, it could all be an attempt to distract Argentines from their disgust with the scandals and incompetence associated with the Kirchner presidency. Polls and recent primary election results suggest the imminent end of a decade of rule by the Kirchner-led party. Perhaps the government is trying to buy time to come up with ideas on how to assure the impunity of senior officials — some in the very highest positions — suspected of acts of corruption.
This is the dramatic situation of a people who formerly led our continent in economy, education, health care and technological advances. And at least in the short-term, things might even get worse. One thing I do know, however, is that Argentine people, somehow or other, will eventually pull through.
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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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