Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
The European Commission told Croatia this week that its negotiations to join the European Union have reached their “final” stage. Sounds promising, considering how reluctant many EU governments are to admit any new members at a time when the bloc is coping with financial difficulties.
But there was another, more subtle message in the text of the Commission’s annual progress report on EU hopefuls. And it read quite differently.
In fact, the EU executive told Croatia it will have to be more convincing than the most recent countries allowed in — Romania and Bulgaria — that its democratic reforms are working.
Admitting Romania and Bulgaria, two poor Balkan states, to the EU in 2007 is seen by many EU diplomats as a mistake. Both had to conduct deep-reaching judicial reforms to prove their ability to deal with pervasive corruption to qualify for entry. Because the last-minute reforms had shown little effect by the time the countries were admitted, Brussels introduced a “monitoring” mechanism to check up on judicial progress.
I heard the bursts of gunfire near my house in Monterrey as I was showering this morning. Then the ambulance sirens started wailing, and as I drove my kids to school about 20 minutes later, a convoy of green-clad soldiers, their assault rifles at the ready, sped by us. In northern Mexico, where I cover the drug war, it has become a part of life to read about, hear and even witness shootouts, but today I shuddered at the thought: what if those soldiers accidentally ever shot at me?
It was in February 2007 that Amnesty International raised concerns over Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s decision, two months earlier, to send thousands of troops across the country to control Mexico’s spiraling drug violence. Echoing worries voiced by the United Nations, the rights group warned that sending the army onto Mexican streets to do the job of the police was a bad idea. Even individual soldiers have commented to Reuters, off the record of course, that they feel very uncomfortable about their new role.
By Sunanda Creagh
The decision by Indonesia’s reformist Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to move to the World Bank must have thrilled those politicians who lobbied hard to dethrone her and derail her anti-corruption drive. But if letters to the editor in the local media are any guide, Indonesia’s ‘wong cilik’ or the little people, as the man on the street is called here — are in mourning.
“It was a black Wednesday in the history of our nation,” read one reader’s letter to the Jakarta Post.
“One of the most honest and qualified people and someone who is known as the hope, finally succumbed to political pressure by the political elite that prefer to remain.”
Many letter-writers have begged her to return in 2014 to run for president, while others have expressed fears that, without her, Indonesia will return to the bad old days of cronyism.
“We didn’t want to see you driven out. Take pity on the people of Indonesia!” one reader, Daslam Al Maliki, wrote on the Indonesian-language news website Tempo Interaktif.
Indrawati, as well as being a widely respected economist, is a notoriously tough cookie who stood up to powerful businessmen and politicians who wanted the rules bent in their favour.
In retaliation, she was made the target of an inquiry into the 2008 decision to bail out the ailing Bank Century.
Chief among her detractors was Golkar, the party of former President Suharto, now headed by business magnate and politician Aburizal Bakrie.
Her departure has also been met with a deafening silence from the country’s business elite. Few among Indonesia’s tycoons seem sad to see the back of a politician who made it her mission to end collusion between powerful businessmen and crooked officials and lawmakers.
Several have paid lip service to her abilities as an economist but no-one — except the distressed letter-writers — appears to be pleading for her to stay.
The yawning gap between the reponses of the public on the one hand and the political and business elite on the other underlines how out of touch those in power are with their constituents.
Last year’s elections were fought over the issue of reform, the fight against corruption, as means to deliver better economic growth and more jobs in a country of high unemployment and underemployment.
A recent poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute found that those parties that pushed hardest to investigate Indrawati and the Bank Century bailout decision have actually lost support.
Political analysts and economists are now wondering if her departure is a sign that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s commitment to institutional reform is flagging.
“What is wrong with Indonesia? While the top brains are needed to run this country, even the President approves this brain drain,” one reader, ‘Walt’, wrote in the Jakarta Post.
Not all letter-writers are Indrawati fans; several are suspicious she is leaving the country to avoid further questioning over the Bank Century case, an allegation Indrawati has dismissed.
But to many Indonesians, her bruising political battles have turned her into a national heroine while her new job on the international stage will bring prestige to Indonesia
Indrawati herself appears relieved and happy she is moving on to a job that will, hopefully, involve a little less mud-slinging.
“Don’t cry for me, Indonesia. I go for the good of all,” read one headline in the Jakarta Post, a wry reference to Argentinian leader Evita Peron.
from Africa News blog:
The return of Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua three months after he left for a Saudi hospital might normally have beeen seen as a sign that a long spell of debilitating uncertainty was over.
But this was no ordinary return for a long absent president with an army band and a red carpet.
from Afghan Journal:
That sure was fast.
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told American TV audiences that Afghan President Hamid Karzai needed to take steps to fight graft, including setting up a new anti-corruption task force, if he wants to keep U.S. support. Less than 24 hours later, there was Karzai’s interior minister at a luxury hotel in Kabul -- flanked by the U.S. and British ambassadors -- announcing exactly that. A new major crimes police task force, anti-corruption prosecution unit and special court will be set up, at least the third time that Afghan authorities and their foreign backers have launched special units to tackle corruption.
There are just a couple of days left before Karzai is inaugurated for a new term as president. Perhaps a few more days after that, U.S. President Barack Obama will announce whether he is sending tens of thousands of additional troops to join the 68,000 Americans and 40,000 NATO-led allies fighting there.
By Sunanda Creagh
Just over a decade ago, Indonesians took to the streets to protest. Now they can make themselves heard without even leaving home.
A Facebook group supporting two senior officials from the anti-corruption agency, who many people think have been framed, has attracted almost half a million members in just four days.
from Africa News blog:
The list published by Nigeria's central bank of those who owe money to the banks it has just bailed out makes clear that the situation has already gone well beyond just being a banking crisis.
The list cuts across the business elite and Nigeria's regions and also includes many politically powerful figures. (And it doesn't even appear that all those who could have been named as directors of the debtor companies have been identified).
from UK News:
The shockwaves reverberating through Westminster as the MPs' expenses scandal unfolds have been compared with the "Clean Hands" bribery scandal that effectively demolished Italy's post-war political establishment in the space of a couple of years in the early 1990s.
If things are going to get that bad, the guilty politicians are going to have an uncomfortable time.
A scandal about expenses claimed by British members of parliament has damaged the already low standing of British politicians and helped Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party to its worst opinion poll showing since polling began.
The MPs argue that what they are doing is within the rules – correct, but missing the point that it is out of line with public sentiment especially at a time of national belt-tightening.
By Jon Herskovitz
There is almost no such thing as a happy retirement for South Korea’s former presidents.
Former President Roh Moo-hyun, who left office a little more than a year ago, joined the club of troubled ex-leaders on Thursday when he appeared before prosecutors to answer questions about their suspicions his family received at least $1 million in bribes from a shoe company CEO.