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The Straw Man Of Russia's Western Food Embargo

Russia may be officially forbidding Western food on grocery shelves, but facing skyrocketing prices and shortages, it's allowing Belarus and Kazakhstan to act as intermediaries.

Belarusian President Lukashenko, Kazakh President Nazarbayev and Russian President Putin in Astana in May
Belarusian President Lukashenko, Kazakh President Nazarbayev and Russian President Putin in Astana in May
Andrzej Kublik

WARSAW — It seems that Russia has created an end-around for its embargo against the West, creating intermediaries to bring to market the very goods that it has professed to ban.

Moscow officials have authorized Belarus and Kazakhstan to play this role of intermediary, handling imports from short-listed countries. "Our partners from the customs union will be able to benefit from the situation by processing on their territory some of the articles previously exported directly to Russia," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said.

According to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the retaliatory food embargo being imposed on the West should reshuffle the Russian market, which "needs competition, not a monopoly of Polish apples or Norwegian fish."

But Putin's response to Western sanctions, which have come as a result of Russian aggression in Ukraine, will hit his own countrymen hardest, creating skyrocketing prices and food shortages.

The wholesale price of salmon, for example, has risen by 15% to 20% — and this is despite the assertion by Russian officials that the gap created by the absence of Norwegian supplies would be filled with fish from native waters. In reality, enterprises from Russia's eastern coastline estimate that prices this year will be twice as high as in previous years.

Meanwhile, the third-party countries — Belarus and Kazakhstan, together with Russia, form the Eurasian Customs Union — seem to be benefitting from the Russian/West standoff.

Within the first week of the embargo being in force, the Belarus company Santa Bremor increased its supplies of salmon to Russia by 30%. Given that Belarus doesn't have access to the sea, its growing fishing export is readily mocked by Russian journalists.

A Belarus company willing to export Polish apples to Russia can simply flip the fruits into Belarusian boxes, making it difficult for customs officials to detect the contraband. Moscow is also more likely to turn a blind eye on the system's inadequacies than deal with food deficits and high retail prices.

Germany's agriculture minister said in a recent interview that Russia won't be able to bear for long the economic isolation of sanctions against the West, as its agriculture can meet only 60% of the country's demand.

Belarus, on the other hand, can start to count its potential economic windfall. Last year, Russia imported 705,000 tons of Polish apples valued at $389 million. According to the news portal Belorusskie Novosti, the re-export of Polish apples could bring the country up to $25 million.

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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