Geopolitics

Iván Duque, New Colombia President Is Likely Trump Ally In Latin America

Colombia's next president may deepen divisions in his country and align Bogota with the belligerent postures of U.S. President Trump.

Duque upon arrival at his campaign headquarters in Bogota on June 17
Duque upon arrival at his campaign headquarters in Bogota on June 17
Salomón Kalmanovitz

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — What kind of government can we expect from Colombia's president-elect, conservative Iván Duque? He has limited government experience, having worked as a junior assistant to two conservative finance ministers, Roberto Junguito and Alberto Carrasquilla (between 2002 and 2007), and as a cultural official in the Inter-American Development Bank, thanks to the outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos. But he ultimately owes his entire political career to former president Álvaro Uribe, who put him in his closed Senate list four years ago. Duque is disciplined, has a sharp memory and some talent for singing and dancing, but little formal training in either economics or political science.

This all means that he is bound to be greatly dependent on the architect of the extreme right-wing coalition that has raised him to power: Mr. Uribe.

One worries about the coalition backing Duque, not to mention the clientelist politicians who joined his bandwagon when it began to look like he might win. In fact he needs the legislative support of more than 55 senators to govern without problems and he only has 19, which is why he will offer ministries and positions to parties like the liberal Radical Change (Cambio Radical, with 16 senators), the Conservatives (15 senators), the centrist Unity Party (14) and the Liberals led by former president César Gaviria (7). He will offer lesser positions to other, prominent figures like the former conservative inspector-general, Alejandro Ordoñez and the former Attorney-General Viviane Morales. This means that all the old politicians are back in the saddle, as if nothing had been promised during the elections.

Ordoñez and Morales will play an influential, ideological role in family policies, which will discriminate against single mothers, youth pregnancies and the LGBT population. There will be discrimination against native communities and Afro-Colombians, and education policies will be swayed away from science, toward the ruling coalition's religious ideas.

Duque's continuing denunciations of what is left of the FARC, the country's mostly disarmed communist rebels, will end up strengthening its dissidents who have not accepted the peace process because they do not believe it will be implemented. The incipient peace process with ELN, the other Marxist guerrillas, may well grind to a halt and the group may even absorb FARC dissidents, reviving the specter of civil war in Colombia. We shall miss the departing Santos (who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his efforts to resolve the civil war).

Washington is interested in regime change in Venezuela.

This will be a government that will seek to downsize a state still plagued with clientelism and endemic corruption. It will cut taxes for the rich and neglect already ailing public services. Public universities will decline and once more become centers of resistance to the regime.

Few have reflected on the affinities between people like Duque and Uribe with Donald J. Trump, or what this will entail for Colombia's international relations in an increasingly fractured world. The United States will not invade Venezuela since its soldiers are already risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is interested in regime change there. We shall therefore have a bellicose Uribe-Duque administration that will aid in a blockade of our neighbor's economy, and perhaps help topple President Nicolás Maduro. That would mean thousands more Venezuelans fleeing to Colombia and Brazil; or, another massive humanitarian crisis.
Luckily, there will be a block of 27 senators who will act as opposition. Either way, we will have a rough four years ahead.
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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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