Latest Developments, March 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Non-European pontiff
Reuters reports that the Argentine cardinal who has become Francis I, the first ever Latin American pope, faces “sharp questions” about the role he played decades ago in his country’s Dirty War:

“ ‘History condemns him. It shows him to be opposed to all innovation in the Church and above all, during the dictatorship, it shows he was very cozy with the military,’ Fortunato Mallimacci, the former dean of social sciences at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, once said.
His actions during this period strained his relations with many brother Jesuits around the world, who tend to be more politically liberal.
Those who defend [Jorge] Bergoglio say there is no proof behind these claims and, on the contrary, they say the priest helped many dissidents escape during the military junta’s rule.”

Investor bias
Reuters also reports that Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has proposed a bill to “annul” his country’s investment protection treaty with the US:

“Correa, who won a sweeping re-election victory in mid-February, said over the weekend that the OPEC-member country could go bankrupt because arbitration tribunals always rule that Ecuador should pay damages to foreign investors when there is a dispute.
‘These (investment) treaties favor foreign investors over human beings. Anyone can take us to an arbitration tribunal without first going to a national court,’ he said on Saturday.

Ecuador has signed 23 investment protection treaties, which has allowed foreign companies to file 39 arbitration requests at the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), state-run media said on Monday.”

Shareholder battle
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Chevron is moving to block activist shareholders that want the US oil giant to settle a multibillion-dollar lawsuit over alleged environmental destruction in Ecuador:

“ ‘I’ve never had a case of a company playing such hardball tactics against its own shareholders this way,’ said Simon Billenness with Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

‘The feeling among institutional shareholders is we really have to draw a line in the sand here, because we can’t have companies using these tactics against shareholders in the future,’ he said.”

Changing tactics
The BBC reports that Guatemala is looking for bold new ways to deal with drug trafficking beyond what the country’s interior minister calls a “failed” military campaign:

“This idea, being put forward by Guatemala to decriminalise and regulate the international trade in drugs such as heroin and cocaine, is unequivocally condemned by Britain and other Western governments.

Guatemala is not yet clear on how decriminalisation would work. The idea of legal containers of cocaine being loaded onto ships in port might be far-fetched, but with the drugs trade undermining fragile states such as Afghanistan and Burma, its initiative for change is gaining support.”

Getting worse
Al Jazeera reports on the state of the Guantanamo Bay prison more than four years after US President Barack Obama promised to shut down the controversial facility on his first day in office:

“ ‘I think we need to understand what we mean when we talk about closure, we don’t mean transfer or prosecute which is what many of the critics of Guantanamo would like to see happen. When the US government talks about closing Guantanamo, they talk about moving some set of detainees to some other place where they continue to be detained without charge,’ [according to Georgetown University’s Jennifer Daskal].”

Unintended consequences
Makerere University’s Mahmood Mamdani calls the International Criminal Court “the single factor with the most influence” in Kenya’s recent presidential election:

“Whereas the 2010 referendum had a de-ethnicising effect on Kenyan politics, the involvement of the ICC had the opposite effect, re-ethnicising Kenyan politics, with more and more ethnicities organising politically and centrally. The result is that the country has re-divided into two large ethnic coalitions.

The ICC process has polarised politics in Kenya because the electoral process did not unfold on a level playing field. Led by individuals who stand charged before the ICC, one side in the electoral contest is, and so it can not contemplate defeat. The simple fact is that, if defeated, they would lose all.
Everyone knows that the worst thing to do in a contest is to leave your opponent without an escape route. If you do that, you turn the contest into a life-and-death struggle. You transform adversaries into enemies.”

Reporting differently
Cornell University’s Mukoma Wa Ngugi writes that “Western journalists have been left behind by an Africa moving forward”:

“For western journalism to be taken seriously by Africans and Westerners alike, it needs Africans to vouch for stories rather than satirizing them. I am not saying that journalism needs the subject to agree with the content, but the search for journalistic truth takes place within a broad societal consensus. That is, while one may disagree with particular reportage and the facts, the spirit of the essay should not be in question. But Africans are saying that the journalists are not representing the complex truth of the continent; that Western journalists are not only misrepresenting the truth, but are in spirit working against the continent. The good news is there have been enough people questioning the coverage of Africa over the years that Western journalists have had no choice but to do some soul searching. The bad news is that the answers are variations of the problem.”

Radical shift
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues that the language of development has changed drastically in the last few years:

“Three words: universality, sustainability and equality – like a non-violent French revolution, all are now unshakeably central to the post-2015 agreement. The absurd conceptualisation of countries as either developed or developing; the ruinous failure to integrate the environment into development; the self-serving attempt to relegate the distribution of wealth to an afterthought – all now consigned to the dustbin.
Where the [Millennium Development Goals] narrative implied we were marching boldly towards the ‘end of development’, to paraphrase Francis Fukuyama’s declaration, such a philosophy will be roundly rebuffed by the new [Sustainable Development Goals] narrative, which calls for profound action in countries that were once self-described as ‘developed’ as much as in much poorer countries.”

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