Democracy Dies in Darkness

DemocracyPost | Opinion

Colombia's peace, Rwanda's election, and Venezuela's downward spiral

August 6, 2017 at 9:33 PM

Rwandan President Paul Kagame casts his vote in Kigali, Rwanda, August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana

Writing in the New York Times, Oliver Kaplan and Enzio Nussio offer advice on preserving stability in Colombia, where FARC rebels are still adjusting to a new era ushered in by a long-awaited peace agreement. (We also recommend Kaplan’s new book, “Resisting War: How Communities Protect Themselves,” a study of grassroots conflict resolution in Colombia.)

In the Boston Globe, Stephen Kinzer argues that Western critics of Rwandan leader Paul Kagame (who just won re-election as president with some 99 percent of the vote) fail to give him credit for “turning his devastated country into a most unexpected success story.” Rwandans, Kinzer writes, overwhelmingly approve of Kagame “because they want this progress to continue. They can also be sure that while he holds power, his strong hand will assure ethnic peace. That is no small matter in a country that still lives with the unfathomable trauma of fratricide that killed nearly a million people in 1994.” Bert Ingelaere, writing in The New York Times, wonders whether that “success story” is quite as positive as Kagame’s defenders assume. Ingelaere, who has a long history of conducting research in Rwanda, argues that the country’s leaders have a track record of falsifying or distorting data about their achievements.

In Foreign Affairs, Michael Shifter and Ben Raderstorf offer a grim verdict on the situation in Venezuela following the government-organized vote on a “constituent assembly.” “The constituyente, as it is known, could set the stage for the Maduro government to totally and indefinitely consolidate its power, criminalize the opposition without limits, and usher in a new and even darker phase in Venezuela’s crisis.”

The Guardian’s Natalie Nougayrède tracks the efforts of contemporary autocrats are attempting to whitewash history according to their political wishes – but worries that some democracies are increasingly succumbing to the same tendency.

In The New Statesman, Martin Fletcher offers a long read on Viktor Orban’s experiment with “illiberal democracy” in Hungary. “So how did a politician who began his career in the 1980s as a young student activist fighting Hungary’s communist regime, a champion of Western-style liberal democracy who helped bring down the Berlin Wall, become what he is today: the standard-bearer for Europe’s populist right who excoriates Brussels, courts Moscow, engages in Soviet-style cronyism and propaganda, erects fences to exclude migrants, threatens academic freedom and targets George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who did so much to help him fight Soviet repression?”

Karin Strohecker and Marc Jones of Reuters note that some of the biggest market gains of the year have come in countries where democracy is being dismantled. “Returns have been strong across emerging markets this year,” they write, “but the list of top performers is peppered with countries where leaders are strengthening their hold on power” – including Orban’s Hungary.

The Remote Control project presents a new paper by Alison Pargeter exploring Libyan views on international intervention. “Libyans in general are deeply uneasy about the idea of foreign intervention, but also feel abandoned in the wake of the 2011 events,” writes Pargeter. “Some feel angry that this abandonment left the country prey to interventions by regional powers.”

In the Mail and Guardian Africa, Nanjala Nyabola reports on the murder of a key election official that has jolted the Kenyan election.

Finally, the New Yorker’s Rozina Ali reviews a new novel about the 2011 revolution in Egypt, “The City Always Wins” by Omar Robert Hamilton. “Hamilton’s narrative serves, in part, as a challenge to the official record, which insists that the Army did not kill peaceful protesters and that [Egyptian president] Sisi protected the revolution,” writes Ali. “The book also challenges the myth that January, 2011, was beautiful and peaceful. In this way, too, it is a reminder of the suppression and violence that continue.”

Christian Caryl is an editor with The Post's Opinions section.

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