DOZENS DEAD IN DONETSK
Dozens of separatist fighters and civilians were killed after violent fights against Ukraine’s armed forces around Donetsk airport. The exact number of victims is unclear because there is conflicting reporting between Western and Russian media. According to AFP, the mayor of Donetsk said that “two civilians and 38 participants” had died in the fights, while RT quotes the prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic as saying that “more than 50 self-defense fighters” were killed. The state-backed Russian channel also reports that three civilians died in a mortar attack in the city of Sloviansk, citing local media. Yesterday, newly elected Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko promised to restore calm in Donetsk in “hours” as the military were launching air strikes on the airport.
“Many people see Sweden as a kind of paradise for women In Europe. But that’s a myth,” Sweden's Feminist Initiative head Gudrun Schyman said two days after the group became the first formal feminist party to be elected to the EU Parliament.
KIDNAPPED NIGERIAN GIRLS LOCATED
The Nigerian government has located the nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted over a month ago by Boko Haram but decided against using force to rescue them, Vanguard reports. “The good news for parents of the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you,” an official says. “Just leave us alone to do our work. We are working to get the girls back.” Meanwhile, the BBC reported late yesterday that an agreement was close between the Islamist group and the Nigerian government for an exchange of prisoners but that the latter pulled out of the negotiations after President Goodluck Jonathan attended a conference about the crisis in Paris.
As Le Monde’s Alain Frachon writes, more people have been killed during the current Syrian war than during all Israeli-Arab wars combined. And now the government of President Bashar al-Assad, who is most to blame, is gaining ground against the opposition, in large part thanks to the help of Iran. “The Islamic Republic is the architect of the conflict's current evolution,” Frachon writes of Iran. “It supervises the Syrian forces. It ordered Lebanon's Hezbollah troops to take part in the fight. Thanks to its ties with the government in Baghdad, it also called upon Iraqi Shiite militias to join the ranks. And finally, it offers financial support to Damascus, spending billions of dollars while the Iranian economy is struggling under the weight of international sanctions.”
Read the full article, As Iran Plays The Nuclear Card, Syria Is Left To Burn.”
VIETNAM BOAT CAPSIZES
A Vietnamese fishing boat sank after a collision with a Chinese vessel near a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters of the South China Sea, though the crew was rescued. The territorial dispute sparked violent anti-Chinese protests over the last two weeks, and this latest incident is likely to reignite tensions between the two countries. According to AP, Vietnamese media say that the sunken boat and a few others were surrounded by 40 Chinese fishing vessels and that one rammed into the Vietnamese boat. But China’s Foreign Ministry and Chinese media accused the Vietnamese, saying their vessel “forcefully rammed” the oil rig. Read more from South China Morning Post.
Thousands gathered in Brockworth, UK, Monday for the annual cheese-rolling competition down Cooper's Hill, with participants chasing a double Gloucestershire down a very steep slope.
SYRIAN REBELS ATTACK UN INVESTIGATORS
A convoy carrying six members of the UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were ambushed as they traveled to investigate the site of an alleged chlorine attack by the Syrian army. According to the BBC, the crew is “safe and well.” An earlier AP report quoted the country’s Foreign Ministry as saying that the six investigators and their five Syrian drivers were abducted by rebel fighters.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
FRENCH PARTY LEADER RESIGNS
Jean-François Copé, the leader of France’s center-right opposition party UMP, announced this morning he would step down June 15 amid a mounting financial scandal linked with Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2012 presidential campaign, Le Figaro reports. The party, which finished second behind the far-right National Front in Sunday’s European Parliament elections, allegedly asked a communications agency to produce fake invoices worth over 10 million euros to cover up campaign expenses that exceeded the allowed amount. Read more in English from France 24.
OBAMA TO MOVE ON CARBON
President Barack Obama is expected to announce next Monday a new regulatory system to reduce carbon emissions. The Wall Street Journal describes it as a “cornerstone” of his climate change program. According to sources familiar with the project, the move will give states flexibility in how they enforce the new regulations and will “enable states to move forward in a way that works best for them with the energy resources they have,” the newspaper quoted a presidential advisor as saying.
WORLD CUP CONSTRUCTION BEHIND
The FIFA World Cup starts in 16 days, and though the stadiums should be ready for the competition, other infrastructure will not be completed in time. An article from the city of Cuiabá published in The New York Times shows that tourists and teams traveling there will see a city that looks like “a construction site of partially completed overpasses, underpasses, road expansion projects, bridges and light-rail lines.” A local described the $1.4 billion plan to turn the city into a modern hub as “too extensive.” A similar report in Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo explains that Rio de Janeiro road upgrades for major bus routes to and from the airport — as well as the subway and train station at the Maracanã stadium — will likely not be ready in time for the first game in the city.
Happy birthday, LOL! May 1989 was the first time we saw the three letters used to abbreviate "laugh out loud" (though its use to denote "lots of love" goes back even further). Here’s to 25 years of blissful abridging.
Echoing its cultural diplomacy of the early 20th century, the United States is gifting vaccines to Latin America as part of a renewed "good neighbor'' policy.
BUENOS AIRES — Just before and during World War II, the United States' Good Neighbor policy proved a very effective strategy to improve ties with Latin America. Initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the policy's main goal was non-interference and non-intervention. The U.S. would instead focus on reciprocal exchanges with their southern neighbors, including through art and cultural diplomacy.
Roosevelt's administration put businessman Nelson Rockefeller — grandson of the U.S. oil magnate and richest person in modern history, John D. Rockefeller — in charge of the Office for Inter-American Affairs. The aim was to conquer the hearts and minds of Latin Americans through exchanges of works of art. In spite of being a dictatorship at the time, Argentina was not excluded, which allowed works like Green-Gray Goblet, by Emilio Pettoruti, or New Chicago Athletic Club by Antonio Berni, to enter the collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Argentinian art thus came to prominence at a time when Latin American identity had been primarily associated with the Mexican muralists for over a decade.
Good neighbor policy
None of this was coincidental. The works were paid for from a special U.S. government fund Rockefeller's mother had helped start, and of which he was the treasurer and president. He had previously earned himself a government appointment after public donations totaling $4.5 million.
An example of the utility of such diplomatic strategies is the following case: at one diplomatic reception, the Argentine ambassador was seated at the table next to David Rockefeller (Nelson's brother).
Bringing different viewpoints closer requires experience and guile
The ambassador was aware that David Rockefeller might have had only a scant interest in Argentina, but nevertheless commented on the rising value of his purchases of Argentine and Latin American works of art.
Thus began a conversation that continued for the evening, and repeated itself whenever the two met at a venue. It took time, persistence, and knowledge to institutionalize such exchanges, maintain the conversation on art, and eventually transfer that conversation to other topics. Bringing radically different viewpoints closer together requires experience and guile.
Coronavirus vaccines delivered in Mexico
Cultural diplomacy for COVID times
In the last two years, the United States' Good Neighbor policy has focused on the coronavirus pandemic. Its new, soft diplomacy is not about buying pictures and sculptures, but vaccines and COVID-19 tests. Unlike its predecessor, the administration of President Biden has moved fast in this regard, though the Argentinian government's erratic foreign policy initially led it to reject help from the "American friends," before reluctantly accepting the offer.
The soft diplomacy that spoke of aesthetic and cultural exchanges has, in this pandemic, given way to vaccine donations as an effective way of winning friends. Because when the lives of millions are at risk, the beneficiaries will not forget how their North American neighbor gave them a helping hand when things were tough.
*Matallana (PhD, Torcuato di Tella University, Buenos Aires), lectures in sociology at the universities of Buenos Aires and Torcuato di Tella.
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