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EL ESPECTADOR
The oldest newspaper in Colombia, El Espectador was founded in 1887. The national daily newspaper has historically taken a firm stance against drug trafficking and in defense of freedom of the press. In 1986, the director of El Espectador was assassinated by gunmen hired by Pablo Escobar. The majority share-holder of the paper is Julio Mario Santo Domingo, a Colombian businessman named by Forbes magazine as one of the wealthiest men in the world in 2011.
Watching China, And The Western Trap Of Wishful Thinking
Geopolitics
Santiago Villa

Watching China, And The Western Trap Of Wishful Thinking

While many Chinese citizens are indeed fed up with the government’s Zero-COVID policy, predicting that a mass revolt is ready to overturn Communist rule is the latest sign of our deep misunderstanding of the Asian superpower. A view from Bogotá of a former Beijing correspondent.

-Analysis-

BOGOTÁ — It isn’t easy to gauge the scope of the protests in China on the basis of Western media reports. Beyond the correspondents present on the ground, those running news operations in Europe and especially the United States have tended to overestimate the public discontent, exaggerate economic problems and project a greater desire for freedoms and democracy than really exists in China.

Meanwhile here in Latin America, the editorial tendency has instead been to highlight the 'eccentric' aspects of modern Chinese culture, which has strengthened some existing myths and misperceptions. Coverage of politics was always cautious and reporting on the regional characteristics of China's economic progression hardly a top item on our weekend news bulletins. When I was a freelance journalist in China, it was always easier for me to sell articles on, say, types of firearms you could buy there on Taobao, a Chinese equivalent of Amazon.

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Photo of a child sitting on a bench
Society
Catalina Ruiz-Navarro

Parental Rights v. Children Rights? Why Courts Keep Getting It Wrong

Justice works around adults. Keen to uphold parental custody rights, family courts have effectively allowed violence against children by giving abusive parents access. So it is time the legal system stopped ignoring children.

-OpEd-

BOGOTA — Recently a sound recording from Bogotá of a 10-year-old girl crying and pleading not to be made to live with her father went viral online. The father had faced two sets of charges relating to domestic violence and sexual abuse of the girl, who had earlier described to court doctors his inappropriate physical contact.

The charges were dismissed for technical reasons, which led the authorities to conclude that, technically, the father had not "touched" his daughter. But the ruling led the girl's mother to refuse him visits or access to the girl. That in turn prompted a (female) judge to deprive the mother of custody rights and order the daughter to be sent to live with her father — a suspected child molester.

The girl's weeping was recorded at the handover, loudly illustrating how the girl's wishes contradicted the judge's decision.

The trouble with Parental Alienation Syndrome

This piece of juridical injustice is connected with two terms that recur in custody battles: parental alienation syndrome (PAS) and vicarious violence. One is a sexist male invention and the other a reality that isn't discussed enough. PAS is a term coined by the psychiatrist Richard Gardner and concerns a child's supposed brainwashing by one parent — more often than not the mother — after a divorce against the other parent.

Parental Alienation Syndrome is an argument that sells with both male and female judges.

The concept came to the fore in the 1993 court battle between the film director Woody Allen and his former wife, actress Mia Farrow, over the custody of their daughter Dylan. The girl, who was around six years old at the time, had told her mother about supposed abuse from Allen, her adoptive father. This was recorded on tapes later used for the documentary, Allen v. Farrow. Viewing them makes it very difficult to believe that these were trumped up allegations.

Gardner made many assertions that have never been certified by the medical community. In 1992, he published his True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse, in which he insisted pedophilia is "normal" in certain societies and "necessary" to human survival. In spite of having been refuted a thousand times, PAS is an argument that sells with both male and female judges and has been used to negate the testimonies of many children who tried to denounce parental abuse.

Photo of a person sitting in front of a jury

The judicial experience has been designed by — and for — adults.

Saúl Bucio/Unsplash

Listening to and believing children

Separately, vicarious violence (violencia vicaria) is a term coined in 2012 by the Argentinian psychologist Sonia Vaccaro to explain the way many abusers use their children to control and attack their partner. The idea itself is older. In the early 1990s, in the U.S. state of Minnesota, the Duluth model (named after a Minnesota town) was developed to curb domestic violence.

Children know who loves and cares for them.

It included a Power and Control Wheel that identified forms of abuse that include use of the children to threaten and control their mother. In 2015, the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women ruled that the Spanish state had violated the rights of Ángela González Carreño and of her seven-year-old daughter Andrea, who was killed by her father during a custody visit.

González had filed 30 complaints against the aggressor, in spite of which a court had allowed unsupervised visits by the father. Justice, evidently, works around adults. That is why certain judges become convinced that children are malleable creatures that are easily led to accuse their father of sexual abuse in order to please their mothers. And while this is possible in theory, it is in fact quite improbable.

Children know who loves and cares for them, and we must believe them when they denounce violence or sexual abuse.

Photo of a street in Doha, Qatar, with a building displaying a giant ad for the 2022 World Cup
Society
Reinaldo Spitaletta

Let's Not Forget The Original Sin Of The Qatar World Cup: Greed

Soccer is a useful political tool for dictatorships. But Qatar is able to milk the World Cup as much as possible because the sport is infected by unbridled capitalistic greed.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — Soccer lost its innocence years ago. Its history of spectacular feats and heart-wrenching moments contain a catalogue of outrages. Beyond the miracles and goals, the "beautiful game" must face up to its own infection by capitalism and greed for profits.

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How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil
Ideas
Santiago Villa

How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

American and Southwest Airlines have been refusing to allow Cubans on board flights if they've been blacklisted by the government in Havana.

On Sunday, American Airlines refused to let Cuban writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez board a Miami flight bound for Havana. It was at least the third time this year that a U.S. airline refused to let Cubans on board to return to their homeland after Havana circulated a government "blacklist" of critics of the regime. Clearly undemocratic and possibly illegal under U.S. law, the airlines want to make sure to cash in on a lucrative travel route, writes Colombian journalist Santiago Villa:

-OpEd-

Imagine for a moment that you left your home country years ago because you couldn't properly pursue your chosen career there. It wasn't easy, of course: Your profession is not just singularly demanding, but even at the top of the game you might not be assured a stable or sufficient income, and you've had to take on second jobs, working in bars and restaurants.

This chosen vocation is that of a writer or journalist, or perhaps an artist, which has kept you tied to your homeland, often the subject of your work, even if you don't live there anymore.

Since leaving, you've been back home several times, though not so much for work. Because if you did, you would be followed in cars and receive phone calls to let you know you are being watched.

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photo of vladimir putin clapping his hands
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Héctor Abad Faciolince

Nazis. Terrorists! Satanists!? Putin's Rollout Of Big Lies Is Losing Its Punch

The Russian president has resorted to a string of changing lies to justify his war on Ukraine. He has shown contempt along the way for the Christian values he claims to defend. But like arms and ammunition, a regime can also run out of lies.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — In time, lies are bound to implode. They'll crash faster than a troubled currency in a financial storm. When a deceitful government can no longer pull the wool over people's eyes, it is forced to seek more lies. That is what Russia's Vladimir Putin and his spokesmen have been doing: looking for new methods of bluster to justify his invasion of Ukraine.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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When launched last February, the official explanation was the shameless lie of wanting to liberate the Ukrainians from a Nazi-style regime. Simultaneously, Putin claimed Ukraine was no country but a mistaken gift of the Soviet Union, which had provisionally granted independence to its 40 million inhabitants and 600,000 square kilometers!

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Picture of Raul Castro and Nicolas Maduro watching Havana May Day parade
Geopolitics
Mauricio Rubio

How Cuban Intelligence Helped Secure Maduro's Grip On Power In Venezuela

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has managed to cling to power after an allegedly rigged 2018 presidential election. He did so with the help of Cuba, having enjoyed "working relations" with Cuban intelligence for decades.

BOGOTÁ — In the late 1980s, Venezuela's Socialist President Nicolás Maduro was a student in Havana, where Cuban intelligence tried to recruit him to promote revolution in Latin America.

Maduro has been president of Venezuela since 2013, following the death of Hugo Chavez. Since taking office, the authoritarian leader has been accused of crimes against humanity and managed to cling to power after attempts to oust him over an allegedly rigged 2018 election.

New evidence has shown how Maduro's formative years in Cuba have helped him cement his grip on power.

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photo of people reading books on the floor of texas legislature
Ideas
Héctor Abad Faciolince

Cancel Culture And Censorship, A Necessary Enemy Of Art

Readers can be unduly critical of authors for a range of reasons, from old-fashioned spite to the modern phenomenon of wokeness. But writers should not consider these people enemies, but rather guides to help dig deeper.

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — There are many types of readers. There is the grammatical one, for example (who chases the ghost of the comma, gerund or misuses of the relative clause), the hedonistic reader (who seeks nothing but pleasure), the studious or critical ones (who will make reading an academic profession).

There is the paranoid reader (who feels alluded to, persecuted and discriminated), the apprentice (for whom a book is a teaching instrument), the insomniac (who uses words to fall asleep or, indeed, stay awake) and the censorious or inquisitorial reader (seeing sins in every passage or an offense to their ideology).

The reader types abound and I have no intention of providing an exhaustive list.

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China, Russia And Iran: A New Axis Of Tyranny
Geopolitics
Marcos Peckel

China, Russia And Iran: A New Axis Of Tyranny

A triad of powers is taking the world on a rocky ride to a new world (dis)order. Nobody quite knows where we're heading, but the ride is sure to be bumpy.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — By now, it's clear that the old world order is ending, and making way for a new one — and like all beginnings, this moment is fraught with uncertainties.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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In this new order, or disorder, there is a power axis that includes China, Iran and Russia. They are not strictly an alliance, nor do their interests overlap entirely. The similarity is rather in their treatment of the current order we liked to view as free of inter-state wars, brazen attacks on weaker neighbors, or land grabs that violate Article 2 of the UN Charter.

These are three countries ruled by despots who mercilessly crush all opposition to them, whether it be the Uighurs of China locked up in communist reeducation camps, the girls and women of Iran murdered by the Supreme leader's Revolutionary guards, or the Russian opponents of the war in Ukraine who have conspicuously disappeared.

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