The Ukraine Safari

I don’t usually write about cultural products from my own country, but I must make an exception for Slovenian filmmaker Miran Zupanič’s new documentary Sarajevo Safari, which details one of the most bizarre and pathological episodes of the 1992-96 siege


Colombian President Gustavo Petro Warns of Coup Plot Against Him


Colombia’s first leftist president Gustavo Petro sounded the alarms about a brewing coup plot against him. He told participants during an event in Sucre at which land was turned over to dispossessed peasants, “For the first time there is a president that, instead of trying to take the land away from peasants to keep it or give it to his friends, he is trying to give the land back. And now some former colonel says that this deserves a coup d’état… these coups are resisted and overcome through the mobilization of citizens.”

Petro was referring to statements made on May 11 by retired Army Colonel John Marulanda during a debate on La W radio. Marulanda said that the mobilization of retired members of the military is a sign that Colombia is “following the steps of Peru” wherein “the reserve forces were successfully able to defenestrate a corrupt president.” He added, “Here we will do our best to defenestrate someone who was a guerrilla fighter.”

On Wednesday, May 10, around 3,000 retired members of the Armed Forces mobilized in the Plaza Bolívar against Petro’s government. The retired members particularly take issue with Petro’s plan for “Total Peace,” in which the government has engaged in peace talks and negotiations with numerous armed groups and established several bilateral ceasefires. Retired army personnel also criticized progressive reforms promoted by Petro and members of the Historic Pact, such as the health care reform and labor reform. Many in the mobilization demanded “Out Petro!” and particularly opposed him for being a former member of a guerrilla group. In this context, Marulanda’s words have sparked concerns of a coup plot against Petro.

Fighting Between Sudanese Army and RSF Has Disastrous Impact in Darfur as Hundreds of Thousands Are Displaced


Over 700,000 people have been internally displaced in Sudan since April 15, when an armed conflict began between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM spokesperson, Paul Dillon, said at a press briefing in Geneva on May 9 that the number has doubled in the prior week after IOM had previously estimated on May 3 that 334,053 had been displaced, 72 percent of them in West Darfur and South Darfur States.

In the states of South Darfur, North Darfur, and Central Darfur, clashes between the SAF and RAF began soon after they started fighting in Khartoum, killing many civilians, as Mohammed Alamaldin, a civil society activist from West Darfur’s capital Genena, told Peoples Dispatch.

However, in his own state, community members—including youth, women, and elders—had managed to secure a local agreement between SAF and RSF “to wait until the winner is determined in Khartoum.”

The locally negotiated truce lasted for a little over a week before forces clashed on April 24. Amid the ensuing insecurity, the armed conflict between West Darfur’s ethnic militias escalated, killing over 250 and wounding 300 civilians between April 27 and May 3, according to Alamaldin. On May 12 and May 13 alone, 280 were killed and over 160 were injured.

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

India’s Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party Suffers Blow in Karnataka State Elections


India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost a key election in the state of Karnataka on May 10. The opposition Indian National Congress (INC) won a decisive victory in the southern state, securing 135 seats in the 234-member legislative assembly. The BJP won 65 seats, while the Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)] won 19 seats.

The BJP had been in power in Karnataka, having formed the government in July 2019 under controversial circumstances. The BJP toppled a coalition of the INC and JD(S) by having legislators of the two parties defect.

The BJP conducted a high-octane campaign in the state in 2023, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his second-in-command Home Minister Amit Shah. The party resorted to its usual strategies of religious polarization. However, in the run-up to the campaign, analysts pointed out that there was deep dissatisfaction with the BJP government in Karnataka.

Newsclick analyst Subodh Varma noted that a pre-poll survey had found that “68 percent of those surveyed identified corruption, 47 percent said price rise and 34 percent said unemployment were important factors in deciding which way to vote… The survey found that among poorer sections, price rise becomes an even bigger issue with about 51 percent of respondents reporting it as a major factor.” He added that these issues, along with unemployment and the crisis faced by farmers, were “[overriding the] caste and regional divisions” in the state. 

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Erdoğan Upsets Opposition Hopes of Victory, Run-off With Kılıçdaroğlu Expected in Turkey’s Presidential Race


In the Turkish parliamentary elections held on May 14, the ruling People’s Alliance, led by the Justice and Development Party, retained its majority. However, there was no clear winner in the presidential elections and a run-off is likely to be held between incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his challenger Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. 

Erdoğan emerged as the front runner with more than 49 percent of the vote. His agenda is the continuation of his economic and foreign policies. Kılıçdaroğlu, the joint candidate of the Nation Alliance led by the Republican People’s Party, who was leading in the pre-election surveys, failed to win even 45 percent of the votes. He is campaigning on the promise of “change,” including a return to the parliamentary system and radical changes in foreign policy based on a pro-Western approach.

As per Turkey’s Supreme Election Council, 87 percent of the electorate, 56 million citizens, voted in the elections. The results have defied public opinion surveys published prior to the vote, which stated that Kılıçdaroğlu was ahead of Erdoğan.

The results have also dashed the opposition’s hope of benefiting from popular grievances against Erdoğan’s government, which include prolonged high inflation deepening the cost of living crisis, backlash against Syrian refugees, and the mismanagement of the February earthquake relief.

A run-off will most likely be held two weeks from now for the presidential post, as neither of the lead candidates were able to secure over 50 percent of the vote.

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Japanese public gathers to call halt to nuke wastewater discharge plan


Hundreds of Japanese people on Tuesday gathered at multiple locations in Tokyo to protest against the government’s plan to discharge nuclear-contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the sea, demanding immediate suspension of such plan.

On Tuesday morning, residents from prefectural regions, including Tokyo, Fukushima and Nagasaki, gathered in front of the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), chanting slogans such as “Don’t pollute the ocean,” “Protect fisheries” and “Guard the future” in unison.

Seen on-site were various banners and flags with slogans that read “Don’t discharge polluted water into the sea,” “Don’t pollute the ocean for all,” and “The sea is not the toilet for nuclear power plants.”

The Japanese government, which regarded discharging nuclear-polluted water into the sea as the initial conclusion, has been making all kinds of excuses stressing that other discharge methods would not work or could not preserve nuclear-polluted water on land, said Kazuyoshi Sato, co-director of KOREUMI, a Japanese citizens’ conference to condemn further pollution of the ocean and one of the rallies’ organizers.

Sato, also a resident of Fukushima prefecture, said in his speech that the Japanese government is now spending tens of billions of yen to publicize the discharge plan through various media platforms, but the public, not convinced of such wrong propaganda, will not agree to the decision.

“Through today’s actions, we are raising our voice against the dumping plan to the whole world,” he said.

Chiyo Oda, another co-director of the group, read and submitted a petition to a TEPCO representative, demanding the company to abide by the agreement with local associations such as Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations and not to discharge nuclear-polluted water into the ocean without the understanding and consent of relevant parties.

The petition required disclosure of information such as the concentration and total amount of all radionuclides and reassessment of the radiation’s impact on the marine environment and creatures.

It also demanded fundamental countermeasures from TEPCO, such as exploring the construction of large water storage tanks for long-term nuclear-polluted water preservation and promoting the practical application of tritium separation technology.

The rally held in front of the Second Members’ Office Building of the House of Representatives later during the day was joined by five Japanese lawmakers from opposition parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party.

Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party, told the crowd that radioactive materials, once discharged, cannot be retrieved, so they must be intensively managed.

“Such materials would be beyond management if they are discharged into the ocean. We can’t allow such a thing to happen,” she said.

Biden to cut short Asia-Pacific trip due to debt ceiling stalemate


U.S. President Joe Biden will not travel to Papua New Guinea and Australia later this month as originally planned due to the ongoing stalemate in negotiations with congressional leaders to address the debt ceiling, multiple U.S. media outlets reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Biden would have become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Pacific island country of Papua New Guinea, to be followed by a trip to Sydney for the leaders’ summit of the Quad, which includes the United States, Japan, India and Australia.

Biden will still go to Hiroshima, Japan, to participate in the three-day Group of Seven (G7) summit beginning Friday.

Earlier in the day, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, told the regular White House press briefing that the White House was “reevaluating” the post-Japan part of Biden’s trip.

“What I can speak to is the G7 and going to Hiroshima. The president is looking forward to that. We are taking a look at the rest of the trip,” Kirby told reporters.

News of the shortening of the presidential overseas trip came as Biden was meeting with congressional leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties in the Oval Office over the debt ceiling issue.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reaffirmed Monday that the United States may default on its debt obligations as soon as June 1 if the partisan fight drags on without a settlement.

Biden will depart Washington on Wednesday, stopping over Anchorage, Alaska, before arriving in Japan on Thursday, according to the travel guidance announced previously by the White House.

Chinese technology helps Africa pursue quality development


Burundi, an East African country known as the “heart of Africa,” boasts favorable conditions for rice production thanks to its tropical climate with abundant rainfall, but Burundians have long been suffering from food shortage for the low yield of rice.

To help address the agricultural challenge in the country, China has sent five batches of senior experts under bilateral technical cooperation programs since August 2009. To conduct research and trials, the Chinese experts made field trips in all 15 rice-growing provinces in Burundi and successfully selected and introduced eight varieties of rice seed suitable to the local weather and environment.

Thanks to their efforts, poor yields or the threat of total crop failure caused by rice plague in mountainous areas becomes a thing of yesteryear.

Furthermore, as a leading country in the digital innovation industry, China has also been providing technical support for Africa’s digital economy development in terms of e-commerce, digital infrastructure, mobile application and payment, helping the continent unleash its great potential in agriculture and gain access to a broader global market.

Through cross-border e-commerce platforms, coffee from Ethiopia, chili sauce from Rwanda, black tea from Kenya, chocolate from Ghana and cashew nuts from Tanzania found their way to Chinese consumers. And Chinese e-commerce platforms such as Kilimall, Alibaba and KiKUU have also managed to hit the African market.

To facilitate the flow of more quality goods from Africa into China, a live-stream shopping carnival will be held at the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in June in Changsha, capital of central China’s Hunan Province, on the theme of “common development for a shared future.”

In February, the China-Africa economic and trade digitalization service base was unveiled in Changsha, aiming to build digital and information capabilities in China-Africa economic and trade cooperation. Meanwhile, it will also help African countries build more comprehensive and efficient payment systems.

With its rapid urbanization and huge demographic dividend, Africa has a broad market prospect for the digital economy.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted traditional trade and investment activities but otherwise facilitate the growth of the digital economy, it is of great significance for Africa to tap the digital economy’s potential to drive economic growth and strengthen global connections.

Chinese technology has empowered African countries to enhance the fight against poverty and contributed immensely to development. Cavince Adhere, a Kenyan International Relations scholar, said that China’s use of technology to help targeted poverty alleviation is an inspiration for developing countries.

Additionally, talent cultivation plays a significant role in economic development. To this end, China helps build up vocational education in Africa in an effort to improve Africa’s capacity building.

China has helped set up the Luban Workshop, which has effectively enhanced African countries’ capacity for independent development and played an important role in promoting social stability.

Africa’s first Luban Workshop was launched in Djibouti in 2019. Considering Djibouti’s transportation needs, the Luban Workshop offered training in the fields of rail transport operation and management with a view to helping build a local talent pool for the railway industry.

The workshop in Djibouti, as well as about a dozen others, set up in Africa over the years, has helped upgrade facilities and provided state-of-the-art technology and training for the host country.

As more qualified workers have mastered modern technologies and more advanced technologies from China are now being utilized in Africa, Sino-African cooperation has maintained its dynamic momentum and is even rising to a higher level.

Chinese tech giant Huawei and Botswana’s Debswana have jointly unveiled a 5G-oriented smart diamond mine project; Chinese and Ugandan companies have announced the East African country’s first 5G digital cement factory project; a science and technology center from the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences has been inaugurated in the Republic of Congo.

The projects have shown that China-Africa cooperation has kept pace with the times and continues to deepen and expand with the empowerment of emerging technologies.

Since China put forward the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith in its ties with Africa a decade ago, the world’s largest developing country and the continent with the most developing countries in the world together uphold the spirit of peace, development, cooperation and win-win results, heading toward the high-quality practical cooperation.

Thailand’s Reformist Opposition Emerges Victorious in General Election, Challenging Military-Backed Rule


In a groundbreaking election result, Thailand’s reformist opposition parties have secured the most seats and garnered the largest share of the popular vote, signaling a strong rejection of the military-backed parties that have governed the country for almost a decade. The progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) and the populist Pheu Thai Party have emerged as the primary victors, projected to win approximately 286 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives, according to nearly finalized vote counts on Monday.

Despite their electoral success, uncertainties loom over the formation of the next government due to the skewed parliamentary rules that grant 250 members of a military-appointed Senate the power to vote on the prime minister. Consequently, the MFP and Pheu Thai will need the support of smaller parties to establish a new administration, raising questions about the feasibility of their victory leading to substantial policy changes.

The most remarkable outcome of Sunday’s election was the triumph of the MFP, a progressive youth-led party participating in general elections for the first time. The party’s bold platform advocating for reform of the monarchy and a reduction in military influence by rewriting the constitution and ending conscription resonated with voters. Preliminary results, with 99 percent of votes counted, showed the MFP poised to secure the largest share of the lower-house with a total of 147 seats. These figures include 112 directly elected seats and 35 party-list seats allocated proportionally.

Analysts hailed the MFP’s performance as “outstanding,” as pre-election surveys had anticipated Pheu Thai, linked to the influential Shinawatra family and a consistent winner since 2001, to claim the majority. Nevertheless, Pheu Thai still garnered a respectable total of 138 seats, with 112 directly elected and 27 from the party-list.

Conversely, the royalist-military parties faced a significant setback in the election. The United Thai Nation Party of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who came to power through a coup in 2014, trailed in fifth place with 36 seats. Prayuth’s former party, the Palang Pracharath, secured approximately 40 seats, placing it fourth in the election results.

The election outcome reflects a shifting political landscape in Thailand, with voters demonstrating a desire for change and a departure from the established order. However, challenges lie ahead for the MFP and Pheu Thai as they navigate the complex process of forming a government, given the influence of the military-appointed Senate. The coming weeks will determine whether the progressive opposition can translate their electoral success into meaningful political reforms that reshape Thailand’s governance structure.

Turkish President Erdogan Declares Early Victory in Parliamentary and Presidential Elections


On Sunday, May 14, Turkey held parliamentary and presidential elections, with voters going to the polls to elect the country’s next president and the members of its 600-seat parliament. According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his People’s Alliance is “well ahead” in the race, though final results have yet to be announced.

Speaking from the balcony of his Justice and Development (AK) Party’s headquarters in the capital Ankara, Erdogan said that he had around 2.6 million more votes than his closest competitor, Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and joint candidate for the six-party opposition Nation Alliance. Erdogan expressed confidence that the lead would widen, adding that he expected to finish this round with over 50% of the votes.

Erdogan emphasized the high turnout in the elections, calling it “one of the highest in our history.” He expressed gratitude to voters for their participation and urged his supporters to be “vigilant” until the tally process was over. Erdogan stressed that he respected the popular will and expected the “same democratic maturity” from everyone.

The presidential ballot offered voters a choice between Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu, and Sinan Ogan of the ATA (Ancestral) Alliance. Another presidential contender, Muharrem Ince, withdrew from the race on Thursday. The final results of the election are yet to be announced, and Erdogan called on his supporters to remain patient and await the official results.

Washington’s trade war causes losses to itself and world


The recent U.S. Census Bureau data suggest that the U.S. merchandise trade deficit with China was larger in 2022 than when Donald Trump was president, said an article on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website.

Adding that America’s overall trade deficit hit an all-time high of 1.18 trillion U.S. dollars, Carnegie noted that this fortifies the view that “tariffs would not reduce U.S. trade deficits and the costs would be paid largely by Americans.”

Similarly, the Financial Times recently commented on “waging war on trade,” describing the current U.S. approach as “a negative-sum game” and stressing that politicizing trade will surely lead to wasteful outcomes.

The slowdown in world trade, the article’s author Martin Wolf wrote, the shift towards economic nationalism, and the growing demands in the West for decoupling from China “are reshaping the global economy.”

In recent years, the U.S. bullying trading tactics have caused an increase in costs for international companies, a decrease in their competitiveness, and harm the interests of consumers.

Statistics show that the previous U.S. government has implemented over 3,900 sanctions, which is an average of three sanctions per day. The Biden administration has also announced a “Buy American” rule, requiring any goods purchased with taxpayer money to contain 75 percent American-made content.

Despite what appears to be a periodic implementation of protectionist and unilateral policies, American firms are reluctant to undertake such a shift, which could undermine their prospects in the global economy, said Rahim Teymoori, a researcher at the Development and Foresight Research Center of the Plan and Budget Organization of Iran.

“Although such economic policies would, in the short term, possibly contribute to the U.S. production sector on the back of the government’s financial support and protection, they, in the long run, would harm the U.S. companies’ competitiveness as they would lose a big integrated market, in which their connections have been formed,” he said.

Domestically, Washington’s trade war have caused sweeping losses borne by ordinary people. Worldwide, U.S. protectionist policies can lead to disordered supply chains, severe inflation shocks, and an increase in living costs.

The United States is not only restricting its companies’ overseas economic activities, escalating export controls, and introducing the Chips and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to protect its interests, but also coercing other countries into joining the sanctions and forcing others to do things that are not good for themselves, said a Japanese researcher, noting that “this is an act of the mafia.”

Kiyoyuki Seguchi, research director at Japan’s Canon Institute for Global Studies, said that the U.S. export restrictions on semiconductors have affected companies in Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands and other countries, and even the United States itself.

In Seguchi’s opinion, the U.S. adoption of a zero-sum economics policy cannot succeed in the real economic field because “the logic in economic relations is that either win-win or lose-lose, there can be no result where one side wins and the other loses.”

Partly due to U.S. trade protectionism and the spillover effects of previous monetary and fiscal policies, global inflation has risen to a 40-year high and more than 60 percent of low-income developing countries are in debt trouble.

While the Trump administration had tried to bring profits and dividends to the country by imposing tariffs on multinational products, the Biden administration continued with this industrial policy of incentives, fueling high inflation and making the whole world bear the consequences, said Hsia Hua Sheng, an economist at the University of Sao Paulo.

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