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Falkland Islands

Tag Archives | Falkland Islands

Thatcher’s Carrot and Stick approach towards Apartheid

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President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the White House

“Thatcher did more to release Nelson Mandela out of prison than any of the other hundreds of anti-Apartheid committees, in Europe.” – Pik Botha, last foreign minister of the Apartheid regime

President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the White House

Margaret Thatcher stirred up sentiments among many in the UK, but her foreign policy characterized by the Falklands War, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the way she dealt with the South African Apartheid regime were no less controversial, the latter of which – as David Cameron admitted – resulted in Thatcher standing on the wrong side of history.

Nearly two decades after the end of Apartheid, Thatcher remains a controversial figure in South Africa. Whilst Jacob Zuma sent his condolences, former Cabinet Minister Pallo Jordan accused her of supporting the Apartheid regime by preventing sanctions. He does not consider Thatcher’s death as a great loss. The ANC engaging in a guerrilla war against the Apartheid regime was accused by Thatcher of terrorism. Moreover, her spokesman’s quote claiming that whoever believes that the ANC will overthrow the Apartheid regime and rule South Africa was “living in a cloud cuckoo-land” is well known in South Africa.

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America’s Goals and Opportunities in Latin America

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President Barack Obama participates in the CEO Summit of the Americas panel discussion at the Hilton Hotel, Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012. Pete Souza/White House

“I know there are frustrations and that some call for legalization. For the sake of the health and safety of our citizens - all our citizens - the United States will not be going in this direction.” – President Barack Obama, speaking at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia

President Barack Obama participates in the CEO Summit of the Americas panel discussion at the Hilton Hotel, Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012. Pete Souza/White House

This past December marked the 190th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine, the 1823 policy declaration by President James Monroe that essentially made Latin America the exclusive reserve of the United States. And if anyone has any doubts about what lay at the heart of that Doctrine, consider that since 1843 the U.S. has intervened in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Uruguay, Grenada, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In the case of Nicaragua, nine times, and Honduras, eight. Sometimes the intrusion was unadorned with diplomatic niceties: the U.S. infantry assaulting Chapultepec Castle outside Mexico City in 1847, Marines hunting down insurgents in Central America, or Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing pursuing Pancho Villa through Chihuahua in 1916.

At other times the intervention was cloaked in shadow—a secret payoff, a nod and a wink to some generals, or strangling an economy because some government had the temerity to propose land reform or a re-distribution of wealth. For 150 years, the history of this region, that stretches across two hemispheres and ranges from frozen tundra to blazing deserts and steaming rainforests, was in large part determined by what happened in Washington. As the wily old Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz once put it, the great tragedy of Latin America is that it lay so far from God and so near to the United States.

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The Talented Mrs. Kirchner

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Recent demonstrations against Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner have attracted widespread international attention.

Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Leo La Valle/EPA

The protesters of the “8N Movement” hold Kirchner’s government responsible for double-digit inflation, increasing crime rates and high profile corruption cases. Suspicions that Kirchner seeks to undermine Argentina’s democratic institutions in favor of a dictatorship are alleged by some of her opponents. She has dismissed the anti-government demonstrators as representatives of the elite, with the support of foreign and domestic right-wing media outlets. But the 8N Movement clearly is a rejection of Kirchner’s agenda from among a variety of segments of Argentina’s population, particularly from the middle and upper classes.

A common theme within the 8N Movement is that the government caters to the interests of its supporters, while ignoring the remainder of society. Clearly, the standard of living for the average Argentine is deteriorating rapidly. Argentina’s inflation rate is one of the highest in the world, with some analysts believing that the actual figure is approaching 25 percent. The rising crime rate has been a major rallying cry within the Movement. According to the Organization of American States, thievery is double South America’s average rate. Protesters believe that Kirchner’s government is not concerned with the security of Argentinians, nor is it willing to address the matter in a serious way.

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Britain, Ecuador and the Case of Julian Assange

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange making a statement at Ecuador’s Embassy in London. Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

A decade ago, the British government of Labour prime minister Tony Blair decided to back President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq even though foreign office lawyers in London had warned that such an attack had no “legal basis in international law.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange making a statement at Ecuador’s Embassy in London. Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

In the midst of sharp divisions in government and British society, the invasion went ahead in March 2003. The consequences were far-reaching and they undermined the Blair government’s authority at home. Limping thereafter, he resigned in June 2007, humbled and apologetic. War and the economy together played no mean part in Tony Blair’s fall in British politics and the Labour Party’s defeat three years later.

A few days ago, Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague personally approved a letter that was sent to Ecuador. Its details were taken as a threat to raid the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and drag out WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange for extradition to Sweden, where state prosecutors say they want to question him about complaints of sexual assault. Hague’s letter was delivered to Ecuador despite the “grave reservations of lawyers in his department.” Speaking anonymously to the Independent newspaper, a senior British official said that “staff feared the move could provoke retaliatory attacks against British embassies overseas.” A large majority in the Organization of American States is up in arms. Outside the Americas too, Britain is struggling to find much sympathy for its stance. In soccer parlance, Prime Minister David Cameron’s center forward has scored a spectacular own goal.

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UK-Latin American Relations after the Assange Scandal

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Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa. Photo: Eduardo Santillán

On August 2nd, I wrote a brief commentary for International Policy Digest with my thoughts about Ecuador’s foreign policy which I argued that, while Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa is not necessarily as ambitious as his Venezuelan friend and counterpart, Hugo Chavez (nor does he have the same amount of resources) Quito has carried out several interesting foreign policy initiatives in the past few years.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa. Photo: Eduardo Santillán

Among the issues that I mentioned was that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was in Ecuador’s embassy in London. I also stated that I had mixed feelings about what should be Assange’s ultimate fate, meaning whether he should be extradited from the UK to Sweden over sexual assault allegations (and possibly to the U.S.) or receive asylum. In the past 72 hours Ecuador has granted Assange asylum thus creating a diplomatic storm between London and Quito.

The whole situation has become a circus, with journalists and police camped outside the Ecuadorean embassy in London. There are a plethora of issues that are currently being discussed, including whether the British government can forcefully enter the embassy and physically remove Assange. The BBC recently reported that “UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said there was ‘no legal basis’ to allow Mr. Assange safe passage out of the country and warned that the case could go on for a ‘considerable’ time. In a statement issued after the Ecuadorean decision, Mr. Hague said that Britain was under a ‘binding obligation’ to extradite him to Sweden.”

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Latin America Delivers A Swift Kick

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President Barack Obama meets with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012.  Pete Souza/White House

“In the dynamism of our hemisphere, we’ve learned anew an old truth - as nations, as neighbors, we rise and fall together.” – Barack Obama, Saturday, April 14, 2012

President Barack Obama meets with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012. Pete Souza/White House

On one level, April’s hemispheric summit meeting was an old fashioned butt kicking for Washington’s policies in the region. The White House found itself virtually alone—Dudley Do Right Canada its sole ally—on everything from Cuba to the war on drugs. But the differences go deeper than the exclusion of Havana and the growing body count in Washington’s failed anti-narcotics strategy. They reflect profound disagreements on how to build economies, confront inequity, and reflect a new balance of power in world affairs.

The backdrop for the summit is anger in Latin America over the failure of the U.S. and Europe to stimulate their economies, all the while pursuing policies that have flooded the region with money—a “monetary tsunami” in the words of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff—driving up the value of southern hemisphere currencies and strangling local industries. After meeting last month with President Obama, Rousseff said she told him of Brazil’s “concern with the expansionary monetary policies of the rich countries…leading to the depreciation of developed countries currencies and compromising growth among emerging economies.”

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Britain’s Defence Policy under David Cameron

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British Prime Minister David Cameron.  Source: 10 Downing Street

The SDSR, “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review,” was released by the David Cameron government in October of 2010. Despite calls for deep cuts to the military budget, British defence policy under David Cameron mirrors the policy directions taken by his predecessors, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

British Prime Minister David Cameron. Source: 10 Downing Street

For example, the U.K. will continue to have an operational military presence in Afghanistan and the Balkans and a non-operational presence in Cyprus, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Germany and Northern Ireland. The parliamentary elections last year were essentially a mandate on Labour’s handling of the economy. The general campaign theme of the Conservative Party was the U.K.’s dire economic circumstances and the need for difficult spending cuts to confront the U.K.’s massive debt burden and return the U.K. to fiscal solvency. As leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron posted on his WebCameron blog at the beginning of 2010, “I defy anyone to look at our plans and call them timid – because the truth is they cannot be timid if we’re to confront and defeat these problems.”

The cuts proposed by David Cameron, reflect his pragmatic approach and his acknowledgment that in order for the U.K. to stay competitive and respond to threats from external and internal actors, defence spending had to be addressed in a responsible manner. Britain’s Treasury establishes the fiscal problems facing the U.K., “Last year, the Government borrowed one pound in every four that it spent; and the interest payments on the nation’s public debt each year are more than the Government spends on schools in England.” Further, the U.K. owes £43 billion in interest on its debt.

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