Violent Protests Rein Maduro’s Regime


Venezuelans protesting in Caracas – (picture by Fernando Llano/AP for the New York Times)

by Rebecca Arce

Last Friday, the Venezuelan Ministry confirmed that 11 civilians were killed and six were wounded during protests against Nicolás Maduro’s government in El Valle, a city southwest of Caracas, the capital. This raises to 20 the number of deaths due to riots in the last three weeks.

NGOs such as the Venezuelan Program of Education and Action in Human Rights (PROVEA), stated that manifestations were heavily repressed by the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and by “chavists,” defenders of Maduro’s dictatorship.

During the protest, a children’s hospital in El Valle, where 54 infants were hospitalized, was forced to be evacuated. According to the Venezuelan government, the hospital was attacked by armed groups financed by the opposition, known as the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), that denied any involvement with the case.

Riots have become more intense since last Tuesday, as Maduro announced the activation of the FANB’s “Zamora Plan,” to maintain internal order against “coup threats convened by Washington.”

“Given this scenario, I decided to activate the special civil-military strategic plan to ensure the country’s functioning, its security, internal order, and social integration,” added Maduro during a speech at his official workplace, the Miraflores Palace.

The content of the plan was not stated, causing the MUD to question if all opposition to the government will be viewed as a coup. “The military has a lot of power in Venezuela, so there could only be immediate changes if this system crashes,” said Rafael Uzcátegui, member of the PROVEA.

Last Thursday, nine Latin-American countries released a statement mourning the tragic events of the Venezuelan protests. The governments of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay strongly condemned “the violence unleashed in Venezuela” and lamented “the loss of more lives.”  The Chilean Foreign Minister, Heraldo Muñoz, added that “it is urgent that the Venezuelan authorities adopt measures to ensure fundamental rights and preserve social peace.”

The nations also urge the Venezuelan government to “take back the path of a democratic institution” and to “set dates for compliance with the electoral timetable, release political prisoners and ensure the separation of the constitutional powers.”

Demonstrations against Maduro’s undemocratic administration have been raging since February 2014 when Leopoldo López, opposition leader, activist, and former Mayor of Caracas’ Chacao district, assembled students to protest peacefully against the lack of basic daily products supplies. Following this protest, Lopez was sentenced to 14 years for public incitement to violence.

Three years after the first protest, the lack of such products is still a predominant issue in the country. On March, 25, the city council of Barute promoted public bartering between civilians under a reinforced police control for safety purposes.



The Saffron Tide of the 21st Century


Source: NDTV

by Gowtham Ashokan

India, a nation of 1.2 billion people with hundreds of faiths, thousands of languages, and hundreds of ethnicities is possibly one of the most diverse democracies in the 21
st century (Morin). In many ways, India is a forced conglobation of an entire geographical region into a singular nation state.

Yet, one person believed in the great experiment that is Indian democracy; Mahatma Gandhi. He aspired for a state that would be completely self-sufficient and inclusive of all human beings regardless of faith, caste, ethnicity, and gender. With the help of B.R Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian constitution, they crafted a secular and democratic constitution with ideas borrowed from the Americans, the British and the French.

Today, the bedrock of democracy and secularism is being shaken in India, as tides of saffron-clad (saffron being a color widely associated with Hinduism) Hindu nationalists have channeled economic anxiety and disdain for corruption into hate towards the minority groups.

Hindus constitute 79.8% of the population while Muslims and Christians form 14.2% and 2.3% (“The World Factbook:INDIA”). These groups have coexisted for centuries through the Mughal dynasty, the Hindu kingdoms, and British rule.

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014 promising economic reform, a corruption-free India, and a strong emphasis on Hindu pride. (“Promising the good times”) Mr. Modi’s ideological background is inspired by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a far-right Hindu nationalist paramilitary volunteer organization that upholds the values of Hinduism and a conservative agenda, mainly through the education of a young public and the training of a “moral police” within society. For example, the RSS often targets university campuses and separates couples on Valentine’s Day. (Mishra)

However, the RSS has tampered with the benevolent Hindu faith, one that is tolerant of all faiths and beliefs, and has transformed it into a vile, chauvinistic, and hateful political tool. This perversion of Hinduism started with Prime Minister Modi’s negligence of the massive Gujarat riots in 2002 (Timeline) that opposed Hindus and Muslims.

Nowadays, as cow protection squads routinely harass Muslims and Dalits (Alder)– people from India’s lowest caste— in the name of their beliefs, it seems like there is an even thinner separation of the state and the faiths.

Narendra supporters

Source: Independent UK

Modi’s BJP passed an immigration bill (Garg) that allows only religious minorities from the neighboring South Asian countries to enter the country. This is eerily similar to Donald Trump’s first travel ban allowing only Christian minorities into the United States. While Modi may be more restrained with his rhetoric his use of dog whistle tactics and actions are similar to a demagogue like Trump.

Consequently, the government shut down a protest at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (“JNU..”), citing the protest to be ‘anti-Indian’ and arrested the leaders under colonial-era sedition charges.

These events are only a sample of all the religious hatred, suppression of dissent, and caste violence that have spawned since Narendra Modi took power. In fact, Modi and his party have readily started to downplay the role of Gandhi and have started to elate the role of more nationalistic leaders such as Subash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh, as Gandhi directly contradicts their view of “Hindutva” – that India is a nation with Hindu spirit. (Venu)

Modi’s attacks on the freedom of the press, right to dissent, and minorities has been effective in his quest to consolidate power, whether it be the Jawaharlal Nehru University crackdown, or silence during the Gujarat riots. His party recently won the state legislature in the biggest Indian state, Uttar Pradesh, and appointed a Hindu extremist who has murder cases filed against him. (Singh)

The people of India and the media cannot permit Modi and the BJP to incite hatred and divisiveness for political gains. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has enabled violence against Dalits and Muslims, cracked down on protests under the pretext of outdated sedition laws, and has emboldened the Hindu militants to gain power as seen in Uttar Pradesh. India can and must show the world that it is a transparent, secular, diverse, and free country for the better of its people and the example it sets to fellow developing countries.

Sources Cited:

Alder, Ketan. “A Short History of the Rise and Rise of Hindu Nationalism in India.” Quartz. Quartz, 02 Mar. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

“What Hindu Nationalism Means.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 18 May 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Morin, Rich. “The Most (and Least) Culturally Diverse Countries in the World.” Pew Research Center. N.p., 18 July 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

“The World Factbook: INDIA.” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, 12 Jan. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

“Promising the Good times.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 22 May 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

Mishra, Akshaya. “Kiss of Love:.” Firstpost. N.p., 09 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <;.

“Timeline of the Riots in Modi’s Gujarat.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Apr. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <;.

Garg, Lovish. “If India Wants to Stay Secular, the New Citizenship Bill Isn’t the Way to Go.” The Wire. N.p., 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <;.

“JNU Students Protest outside Home Ministry, Detained – Times of India.” The Times of India. India, 21 Oct. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2017. <;.

Venu, MK. Firstpost. Firstpost, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <;.

Singh, Rajesh Kumar. “How Yogi Adityanath Overcame Political Ignominy to Win the UP Crown.” Hindustan Times, 18 Mar. 2017. Web. 14 Apr. 2017. <;.

South Korea’s second presidential debate

From left to right: Sim Sang Jung, Hong Joon Pyo, Yoo Seong Min, Moon Jae In, and Anh Cheol Soo (image courtesy of Nikkei Asian Preview)

by Min Bae

The five leading presidential candidates faced one another in their second TV debate last Wednesday, hosted by Korean Broadcasting System. The event drew nationwide attention as it was the first Korean presidential debate with candidates speaking without a script while standing up. The discussion was divided into two sessions: one on politics and national security, and the other on educational, economic, and sociocultural issues.

Although the pulpit method was implemented to facilitate discussion and appeal to voters, the two-hour debate seemed to revolve around grilling the dominant frontrunner Moon Jae In and the runner-up Ahn Cheol Soo over remarks they had made throughout their political careers.

Yoo Seong Min of the right-wing Bareun Party was first to unleash series of attacks on Moon, mostly concerning the controversy over the liberal front-runner’s decision to follow Pyongyang’s opinion on a 2007 UN resolution regarding North Korea’s human rights situation.

Hong Joon Pyo of the right-wing Liberty Korea Party accused Moon of condoning a charitable giving of $4.4 billion to North Korea when he was the chief aide to the liberal president Roh Moo Hyun. Hong also claimed that the money was used to fund North’s nuclear weapon program.

While Moon spent most of his discussion time defending himself, he asserted that the former President Kim Dae Jung’s Sunshine Policy and Roh’s engagement policy toward North Korea played a significant role in improving the relationship between the two Koreas. Moon also re-asserted his position against North Korea’s nuclear program, saying that the North’s nuclear issue has become much more serious and resolving it should be our priority.

Sim Sang Jung of the progressive Justice Party made sharp attacks to both Moon and Anh regarding the dispute around the deployment of an advanced missile defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), the predominant topic in the debate’s first session. She criticized Moon’s description of the deployment as “strategic ambiguity.”

“I was perplexed by Moon’s expressions such as ‘strategic ambiguity’ or ‘strategic prudence.’ These are words of a critic, not of a political leader.”

Moon was also criticized by Sim on his recent change in viewpoint on the THAAD issue from opposition to conditional approval. Ahn was criticized for shifting his opinion earlier last week; He proclaimed that the continuing military provocation from North Korea made the deployment inevitable.

An early election has been scheduled to take place on May 9 following the impeachment of the former right-wing president Park Geun Hye over her participation in a multi-million dollar corruption scandal. Park is currently under arrest on 13 charges including bribery and abuse of power. Anh and Moon, influential candidates with left-wing affiliations, emerged as two leading presidential contenders in public opinion polls.

It seems that the biggest winner of the second debate is Moon Jae In, with 41% of support. He managed to distance himself from the runner-up, Anh Cheol Soo by 11 % in a recent poll as Anh has lost 7 % of support after the debate.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the second debate was watched by 26.4 % of Korean households, tripling the 7- 8 % average of viewership of public network broadcasting.

Macron and Le Pen, winners of the first round



Image with courtesy of “”

-Article by Alice Ferré

At 8 p.m., Paris time, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen were the selected candidates for the second round of the French presidential election, at 24,01% and 21,30% respectively.

“En Marche!” 

Emmanuel Macron achieved to incarnate the people’s demand for change, something which can be considered quite spectacular as Macron founded the “En Marche!” party, a mix of left and right ideologies, just a year ago.

Few minutes after the release of the results, many members from the entire political spectrum minus the extreme right appealed French voters to rally behind the centrist Macron: Rightists Christian Estrosi, François Baroin or leftists Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Benoît Hamon (the socialist party’s candidate who scored 6%) and President François Hollande all joined the call.

A slight divide in the right party “Les Républicains” can although be seen, as some rightists like Laurent Vauquier nuanced their statement, not appealing voters to vote for Macron but against Marine Le Pen. Two dangerous trends could be developing in the right party that would need to consolidate itself before the legislative elections early June.

Bleu Marine

The National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, made it to the second tour without surprise. It is the second time since 2002 in the history of the French elections that the National Front qualifies itself for the second tour; last time was, however, less expected and caused a horrified reaction in the political sphere. Le Pen’s more expected score this time could be explained by the French’s frustration and fear triggered by a high rate of unemployment, the refugee crisis, and the repeated terrorist attacks on France and Europe over the past few years. Marine Le Pen claims to be the candidate of anti-mundialization and anti-European Union. She calls for a strong, united, and independent France.

However, Le Pen will still have to fight the “Front Républicain,” the gathering of politicians of diverse ideologies against her own party. This multi-party coalition failed her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2002 and led to the victory of the rightist candidate Jacques Chirac. Rightist François Fillon (who scored 20%) called for a gathering behind Macron, as “extremism can bring only despair and division in France.” Benoît Hamon, in a similar spirit, called for “fighting at our best the extreme right.” One dissenting voice was Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s from the extreme-left; He claimed of having no “mandate to speak on the behalf of French voters.”

Nonetheless, the possible tension in the right party “Les Républicains” could certainly lead to Le Pen’s victory, said David Rachline, campaign director of the National Front: Extreme-right and right voters often share common values on fighting the laxist judiciary system, immigration, and unemployment. He added that Le Pen’s score today was a great leap forward for the party and showed that the people want their voice to be heard. Marine Le Pen declared that her first-round victory was a sign that it was “time to free French people from arrogant elites.”

A historical election

Such an unpredictable future for France underlines the historically unique aspect of this election. Moreover, we can notice the development of an unprecedented quadrualism political system as the addition of Macron’s and Le Pen’s scores are only about 45%, less than the majority. Indeed, the four first candidates shared the French’s convictions.

The French political landscape is currently exploding but one thing remains stable: the need to block the National Front from the path to victory with a call for an amplified dynamic of recomposition throughout the country.

Opinion: Turkey’s Democracy Has Not Died This Week


‘No’ supporters in the Kadikoy neighborhood, Istanbul (Image by AFP for Hürriyet Daily News)

The most dubious and critical election of the republic’s history has now just passed. Reason points out that mathematically “no” has won, but this issue was not a battle between simply “yes” or “no.” The government validated 2.5 million invalid “yes” votes, and Erdoğan gave a victory speech as if to say “let it go, we won already” that befooled the people when sealed ballot boxes were still waiting to be opened.

And now, the Republic is trying to balance itself on a rock with the compromise attempts from both sides of the status quo.

First of all, the opposition has never sufficiently answered the public demand for “no.” The CHP (The Republican People’s Party) leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was never fully ready, and the AKP (Justice and Development Party) would have shifted the helm in their favor with more chaos if the “no” had won.
All the same, Kılıçdaroğlu has done nothing but preach compromise throughout the referendum campaign. The CHP is a pro-order hallow party that stands in the way of public outrage, a party that Erdoğan should be thanking at every opportunity. In every election, it successfully suppresses the accumulated anger and energy among its grassroots who wonder if it “would be different this time.”

Secondly and more importantly, the referendum result profits a majority of big businesses and international corporate hegemonies. Local CEOs and their international partners have been the ones proposing the absolute presidency for years.

The mainstream media institutions’ publications of junk articles such as “Turkey is Following a Path Towards Dictatorship” or “Turkey’s Democracy Has Died Today” are nothing but a perpetuation of what imperialist hubs have been propagating in the past. The only issue these publications have with Erdoğan, whom they kept listing him as one of the top “most effective leaders,” is his arrogance and extreme gestures. Sent out on the web like spam emails for the past days by Western media outlets, these articles have problems not with Turkey’s democracy but with a compulsive need to sensationalize its politics.

The “yes” vote that won by a small margin will tie Erdoğan’s hands and keep an agenda that will increase the circulation of capital. It happened as they wished. This has been Kılıçdaroğlu’s mission for years.

Politically, status quo has won, even if  24 million people have “officially” said “no” to this order of things. However, this balance will not remain through compromise. The largest cities in the country, including İzmir, İstanbul, and Ankara have said “no”: A government that has lost in these places does not have the license to run the country anymore. Turkey no longer carries Erdoğan.

Hundreds of thousands of people worked for “no” during the campaign through great sacrifice. Erdoğan is aware of how many votes he stole, and even as he is still trying to cover up the mess with speeches, our hearts and reason indicate “no” has won.

Nothing is over yet, it has only begun. 24 million people should not remain silent.

The insufficient opposition is looking for new compromises as the CHP wants to pacify millions of honorable citizens who voted “no” and got their votes stolen. This treachery will be heavily paid for: A referendum designated through tyranny, deceit, and theft could have no legitimacy.

But this fight is neither between Erdoğan and the West nor between CHP and AKP; it is the fight of the people for the Republic. And yet again, the republic cannot be defended through silence.

Article by Metin Demirli

France’s second presidential debate


From top left clockwise: François Fillon, Benoît Hamon, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron, Philippe Poutou, Jean Lassalle, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Jacques Cheminade, François Asselineau, Nathalie Arthaud – (by

-Article by Alice Ferré

After receiving criticism from the entire political spectrum for only having invited the five frontrunners at the first presidential debate, the national French broadcasting channel France 2 widened its panel of candidates. For the second debate, the six other candidates (or “little” candidates) were invited to participate; according to France 24, it was historically the first debate in France to host all the candidates of a presidential race.

Although it gave an opportunity to the smaller candidates – François Asselineau, Nathalie Arthaud, Nicolas Dupont Aignan, Jacques Cheminade, Jean Lassalle, and Philippe Poutou – to voice their ideas, this wider panel seemed to have spread confusion on the discussions of issues and shadowed the frontrunners.

It quickly became a “three-hour marathon” of attacks:

Philippe Poutou, affiliated to the far-left, ridiculed Marine Le Pen’s main claim to being “anti-system” as he declared that she used her parliamentary immunity to protect herself from judicial prosecution in the affair of illegal payments to her staff.

Ms. Le Pen was relatively passive throughout the debate, although she threw a cutting remark at the centrist Emmanuel Macron (who currently leads the polls). Ms. Le Pen mocked Mr. Macron’s self-proclamation of “the candidate of a new hope,” advancing that his politics were new in form but not in content.

Nathalie Arthaud (Workers’ Struggle) and Philippe Poutou (New Anti-Capitalist Party), both sharing ideologies for the empowerment of the working class, heavily criticized most of the frontrunners for their lack of political ethic: François Fillon from the right party and Ms. Le Pen for the scandals and other corruption affairs they were involved in a few weeks ago.
Mr. Poutou said to Mr. Fillon: “François Fillon, the more we dig, the more we smell corruption, cheating; these are guys who tell us that we need rigor, austerity, when they steal from the coffers,” according to France 24.

Mr. Poutou, who refused to join the ten other candidates on the picture taken before the debate and wore a plain white shirt with blue jeans, also greatly accentuated how he is the only candidate, with Ms. Arthaud, who work a job. (Mr. Poutou is a Ford mechanic). He denounced the “corrupt politicians, disconnected from reality,” according to France 24.

Mainly, it seems like the debate was an excellent opportunity for “little” candidates to settle accounts with the big political figures and the fruitless political establishment they embody.

The third debate has been scheduled by France 2 for April, 20th; however, Mr. Mélenchon and Ms. Le Pen have refused to participate so far, considering it would take place three days before the first election round.

In any case, the race to presidency remains one of the most unpredictable in years, with scandals and surprises that undermined the big players and reinforced the smaller ones.

According to the latest polls published by L’Internaute on April, 15th, Emmanuel Macron  (yellow line) remains winner of the election, closely followed by Marine Le Pen (black line). Jean-Luc Méchelon (red line) has gained 6% of voting intention since March 27th and is now on an equal footing with François Fillon (blue line). Conversely, Benoît Hamon has lost more than 5% of voting intention.

Capture d_écran 2017-04-15 à 23.02.47

Article by Alice Ferré

How Trumponomics affect Malaysia

by Maneesha Kaur Khalae


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and President Donal Trump – (The Malaysian Times) 

As the US elections proceeded, the world held its breath, wondering where the chips would fall and in whose favor. President Trump’s victory certainly took the global audience and political pundits by surprise, and many expressed concerns over how the election of a business mogul rather than an experienced Washington politico would affect them. Perhaps none so more than Malaysia, whose fate is tied, alongside many other Southeast Asian countries, to the state of the US economy.

Potential reduction in GDP, tax revenue, and increased inflationary pressure 

The biggest concern over Donald Trump’s election was the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Along with Malaysia, the signatories of the agreement include the United States of America, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Peru. Collectively, these countries make up approximately 40% of the world’s GDP and 26% of the world’s trade.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the partnership means that Malaysia will have to forgo the benefit of a gross domestic product growth of $211 billion over a period of 10 years, according to the New Straits Times. It will also lose out on reforms such as competitive tendering processes and wage hikes for workers. The US withdrawal of TPP also signifies reduced exports in the palm oil and gas industries for the Malaysian economy.

The US market is no longer as open to Malaysian commodities as Malaysia would like or need it to be, which means a fall in Malaysia’s tax revenues leading to a higher cost of living. Further, the Malaysian’s government’s unpopular Goods & Service Tax (GST) will worsen inflation in the country, adding to more fiscal problems.

Harsher immigration stance

The White House’s brusque attitude towards immigration may result in a global economic decline, caused by primarily by deportations, and a considerable number of immigrants with H1-B visas will have to return home to Malaysia.

Given that the country is experiencing a brain-drain crisis, this could be a silver lining as it will help burgeon the domestic talent pool, especially in the fields of engineering, medicine, and even the social sciences.

More tariffs

The tariffs that Trump has threatened to impose on Chinese exports (around 35-45%) could result in higher costs of goods as suppliers relying on international supply chains will be forced to pass on the increase in production costs to consumers, as well as to the American companies doing business abroad. This will not only affect American consumers but also Malaysians. As demand in the US suffers, the spillover effects in Malaysia will certainly be felt since the US is one of the largest exchange markets.

Alternatively, China could redirect a greater proportion of its trade relationships with its ASEAN neighbors such as Malaysia instead of the USA. This is looking to be increasingly plausible as it seeks to ‘punish’ Singapore over siding with the USA over the South China Sea territorial dispute. This, however, may be thwarted by the influence of a pro-global Jared Kushner. If Arabella Kushner’s, Jared and Ivanka’s daughter, impressive deployment of Mandarin skills at the Trump-Xi summit is any indicator of the USA’s future soft diplomatic approach, it appears as though the US-China tensions that had previously soured seem to be cooling in favor of trade with China.

Accelerating climate change

If Trump does decide to cancel the 2015 Paris Agreement, which stipulates that each country must plan to reduce its carbon emissions, the effects of environmental degradation will accelerate. The implications for Malaysia would be devastating as the country has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. Land overuse for palm oil and rubber plantations, as well as an increase in carbon emissions, will only worsen an already fragile ecosystem, thereby increasing the likelihood of flash floods and landslides. The country also depends heavily on its coral reefs, notably for tourism. If part of the “Coral Triangle” is damaged, lost revenue and regional unemployment will certainly threaten the country.

It is safe to say that Trump’s presidency seems to be heading in a worrying direction for most of Southeast Asia – and Malaysia is no exception to that. However, the art of prediction is not a science, and no one can ascertain the degree to which Trump’s policies will affect the world.

Ironically, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, far from expressing any concern over the election of President Trump, has congratulated the former real-estate mogul, who is also his close friend. Given Najib’s embroilment in the 1MDB scandal, it should come as no surprise to any Malaysian nor anyone who has been following recent developments in Malaysian politics, that the Prime Minister should be sympathetic to a politician involved in questionable business dealings and avoidance of declaration of taxes. But for now, the effect of Trumponomics still remains a mystery to which one must take the approach of ‘wait and see’.