Interview: CLAS Chair Harley Shaiken Interviews Sergio Fajardo on the Challenges for Colombia Post-Peace Agreement

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The following is an edited transcript of an interview that took place on August 25, 2016 between Professor Harley Shaiken of UC Berkeley and Sergio Fajardo about the peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC that was signed Wednesday evening.

Sergio Fajardo recently stepped down as governor of Antioquia and was voted “Best Governor” in Colombia.  Formerly, he served as the mayor of Medellin (2004-2007) and was a vice-presidential candidate in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

 

Harley Shaiken: The peace agreement has been widely described as significant and historic, not simply for Colombia, but for all of Latin America. What in your view is most significant about this peace agreement for the future of Colombia?

Sergio Fajardo: A few things can be singled out as very relevant for Colombia, in terms of negotiating the peace process. This was a very well designed process in many ways. One thing that has to be pointed out is this is a process that is taking place with a lot of advances in the world regarding human rights and international law — all these new conditions — that I think are crucial for world development. They were taken into account.

We have had peace processes before in Colombia, for example the process, which reduced harsh conditions to a general amnesty. (It reduced them. It wasn’t trivial.) With that process you had to take into account the international laws. There wasn’t such a thing as a general amnesty, and it had to fit within the law. And that was an advance that was crucially and carefully crafted so that it could stand up in front of the international community.

That is another point that is crucial here with the current process: It was important to have the international community involved in the negotiations as well as rallying behind the peace agreement and the Colombian government. The support has been very important. And it’s very important for Colombia.

At the same time it is a process that is carefully crafted. It’s very well organized. It is usually difficult to negotiate a process such as this one after more than 50 years. It’s very difficult to come to terms with what has happened. This agreement has many details that answer questions that are usually left out when negotiating, which is important because if you don’t include them then they become a real problem when it’s going to be implemented. And of course there is leeway in there, but there is plenty of exactitude in the design of the process. There will, of course, be many loose points left out that will translate into other problems when we come to terms with it.

And finally, it is a process that solves a more than 50-year problem. I mean, in Colombia we have had the FARC as a main actor in life for more than 50 years. And it’s an actor associated with a negative condition in many senses. So it [the agreement] allows us to turn the page definitively, in spite of all the difficulties. There are natural difficulties and it’s a complex process, but in spite of all the perturbation that we have in Colombia, and the polarization, it’s quite an advance for us in Colombia. As a society it’s an opportunity for us.

Harley Shaiken: My second question would be: The plebiscite for ratifying the agreement is scheduled for October 2. What do you view as the central challenges between now and that plebiscite?

A crucial challenge is explaining to the Colombian people what this agreement is all about. That’s not easy. The agreement itself is close to 300 pages. Turning that into material that can be understood by any Colombian in any condition is quite a challenge from the pedagogical point of view and from the political point of view.

There is quite a reaction — a negative reaction — led by President Uribe and his political group. They have been opposing some of the conditions in the agreement and are very relevant political actors in Colombia. They have a lot of followers. And there is a confrontation with the National Government at a time when the image of President Santos is quite low with regards to the Colombian people.

So explaining in the middle of this confrontation, having the wisdom to show the real profit of where we are going as a society by signing, and being able to overcome particular details that are troublesome, naturally troublesome, and show the whole picture will be challenging. Many people have to get involved, even those of us who are for peace, but don’t belong to the unity government that President Santos leads, have to show support.

We have to understand something that is crucial: The way we handle these times is going to represent the way we are going to live and what lies ahead for us. And we have to have the ability to understand the orders, to listen to the orders, and stop doing something we usually do which is think, ‘you think differently than me, then you’re my enemy.’

And that may sound simple, but it will be quite a challenge and change for our Colombia society. I think those are the challenges for October 2. I think it’s going to be successful but it has to be worked out and we have to take the time and have the patience to show the Colombian people that this is quite an advance for us.

HS: And finally, post October 2, I know — impossible to predict — what do you think the challenges will be to build a new Colombia post-ratification?

We claim that after ratification, the signing, and the final ratification — that’s the moment to build peace, and it has to be built in the territory. This is as a new chapter in our Colombian life is going to force us to relate among ourselves in a different way. We have to understand what it means to be at peace in the territories. I’m talking about those places in Colombia that have not been the subject of the state’s special attention — like the agricultural sector, which has been underdeveloped for decades. But, the first challenge will be reconciliation. How are we going to handle differences? How are we going to pay attention to and honor what is signed?

For example, there are many conditions that require money we don’t have at the moment. Colombia is going through a difficult economic situation, so we have to be able to reconcile the terms and translate the agreement into concrete, practical, real steps that allow us to see that we are implementing what we signed. That requires a lot of political subtly and agreements so that it works and it doesn’t become a disappointment and then a new confrontation. That’s crucial.

Then I think a key point in Colombia right now is the fight against corruption. There is a growing sense of corruption as a very bad characteristic of the political world in Colombia. And if you look at the polls where people are asked about what they think about different institutions, at the lowest levels of opinion you will find President Maduro, FARC and politicians and the congressman. And that’s very bad when politicians, congressman, and justice are held in such low regard by society. It means we are in trouble. We have to work on that and the fight against corruption is a central and crucial need for the Colombian people. There is a lot of indignation associated with it.

And then finally, we have to avoid becoming trapped by the process because there are many aspects of development in a society. We cannot start living only in terms of FARC and the agreement from here on for 10 years. FARC has to become part of the political spectrum in Colombia. That’s the spirit of this negotiation: They can bring their ideas without guns and weapons and we will be discussing Colombia and some of its very pressing needs, in particular our focus on education as an outstanding factor.

After turning the page of destruction, let’s give ourselves the opportunity to write a new page — one that has education as the base of the whole thing.

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An Imperfect, Just, and Necessary Peace

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Photo by Martin St-Amant.

By Almudena Bernabeu 

After years without respite, in the next few hours Colombia will sign a peace deal to end more than 50 years of armed conflict that have devastated the country, and in many cases, redefined it politically, culturally, geographically, and even psychologically. Negotiations conclude today with the signing of the peace agreement, which will be followed by a referendum that will validate it, a peace that will be celebrated, and a significant number of agreements that will be implemented. What is perhaps most trying, although not unexpected, is that the closer we come to the final signing of the peace agreement, the more Colombian society becomes polarized. There are those who believe that negotiating with the FARC implies surrender, they advocate a military victory — they always have — and not a negotiated peace.

One of the most delicate points on the negotiation agenda — in any case, the one I know best because of my work and my convictions — has been Point 5, the Victims Agreement, which establishes a legal framework for the mechanisms of transitional justice that must be put into operation once the peace agreement has been signed successfully. Published by the negotiating table in Havana in December 2015, the Victims Agreement has been severely criticized by those both near and far. It’s a complex document and hard to understand, but without a doubt, it is a solid beginning that lays the foundation for a framework of justice in transition that takes into account the victims and the serious violations that have been committed against the Colombian people over all these years.

The presence of the victims from very early on in the negotiation process was the result of efforts by Colombian civil society organizations and institutions that have spent years organizing, fighting, exposing abuses, and ultimately, ensuring that the collective victims of this severe and long-lasting conflict are heard. The result is indisputable: an agreement that affords the much-needed recognition of this collective and contemplates the necessary reparations.

However, if it was difficult to guarantee victims a voice in the negotiation process so that their presence would ensure this fifth point of the agreement, the process of implementation is expected to be even more difficult. Common threats, like bureaucracy, ineffectiveness, possible conflict in the division of powers, political manipulation of the lack of results, etc., are real risks that may aggravate the victims’ distress, yet they are neither new or unusual for those of us who strive to promote these processes of transitional justice.

The Victims Agreement thus acknowledges the importance of truth and justice in the construction of historical memory as an essential step for the reconciliation of Colombian society. With such a long, painful, and complex conflict, it is imperative to recognize in detail, through the construction of historical memory, the victims, the perpetrators, and the necessary reparations. The Colombian agreement provides for the formation of what has been called the “Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition,” which will include, in addition to the Special Court for Peace, a Commission of Truth, bodies that will promote and set the standards for collecting the information needed to finally understand what happened during the conflict, how it happened, and who have been the most affected.

As I have already said, there has been criticism and even outright rejection of the Victims Agreement. It has even been called an agreement of impunity. I disagree. Those who have expressed these opinions publicly demonstrate a failure to understand the difficulties entailed in negotiations of this sort and seek a spotlight that is inappropriate and endangers the process and its success. If you care about Colombia and a lasting peace, you must support the agreement. It is true that the sanctions could be more severe, that suggestions of individual criminal responsibility are dangerously evaded, that it is difficult to imagine a reality in which existing institutions and new institutions coexist while maintaining the necessary autonomy. It is even possible that Point 5 may need to be reviewed and refined to make it more effective and ensure the results that the victims crave. Yet none of this excuses or justifies the failure to recognize that Colombia and Colombians have made a huge effort to build peace and establish a justice system that confronts and recognizes the human rights violations committed during the conflict.

There is no instruction manual for a peace process, let alone a peace process as complex as Colombia’s. There are lessons learned, wisdom both explicit and intuitive, but above all there is exhaustion. Exhaustion and desire — I truly believe — to imagine and experience another Colombia, a Colombia that unlearns the violence and, hopefully, does not remember what it is to be born, grow up, and live in war.

As an international lawyer, as someone who believes in and implements transitional justice, and especially as someone who respects and admires Colombia, I have no doubt that today all Colombians and the international community as a whole should celebrate and support the conclusion of these peace negotiations and place their bets on the definitive end of the conflict, to throw in for peace, without reservation. Again, I’ll insist that this does not mean making compromises or giving up the right to be critical or to demand more; it does not mean renouncing personal beliefs or suddenly overcoming justified fears; everything in due time. Without a doubt, these are key strengths for guiding the end of the conflict and the implementation of these agreements. Once the agreement is signed and peace is iron clad, the challenge will be to ensure proper implementation. Important steps already have been taken to implement the agreement, and there are many of us who will remain close by to try and lend a hand in everything that we can in this process, so that today’s agreement materializes and thus makes a space for the victims, ensures justice, and transforms Colombia forever.

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Almudena Bernabeu is an international lawyer and director of the Transitional Justice Program at the Center for Justice and Accountability in San Francisco. She divides her time among San Francisco, London, and Madrid. Bernabeu has worked for more than a decade in Latin America and around the world in defense of the rights of victims in post-conflict situations and in the wake of state abuse, fighting for justice in all transitional justice processes. Bernabeu advises key civil society organizations and institutions in Colombia on the peace agreement, with special regard for matters relating to victims and special justice for peace, which today is part of the peace agreement being discussed in Havana.

Original Spanish version available here.

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Una Paz Imperfecta, Justa y Necesaria

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Photo by Martin St-Amant.

Por Almudena Bernabeu

Tras años sin tregua ni descanso, Colombia firmará en las próximas horas un acuerdo de paz que pone fin a los más de cincuenta años de conflicto armado que han abatido y en muchos casos redefinido política, cultural, geográfica y hasta psicológicamente el país. Las negociaciones se cierran hoy con la firma del acuerdo de paz a la que seguirá un plebiscito que lo refrendará, una PAZ que se celebrará, y un importante número de acuerdos que la implementarán. Quizá lo más duro está siendo, aunque no inesperado, presenciar cómo cuanto más cerca esta esa firma definitiva de la paz, más se polariza la sociedad Colombiana, pues hay quienes consideran que negociar con las FARC es rendirse, abogando por una victoria militar — siempre lo han hecho — y no por una paz negociada.

Uno de los puntos más delicados en la agenda de negociación y en todo caso el que conozco mejor por mi trabajo y por convicción, ha sido el punto 5, el Acuerdo de Víctimas. Este punto 5 ha estado a cargo de establecer un marco jurídico para los mecanismos de justicia transicional que necesariamente se pondrán en funcionamiento una vez se haya firmado con éxito la paz. El Acuerdo, que fue publicado por la mesa de negociación en la Habana en diciembre de 2015, ha sido criticado por próximos y ajenos con severidad. Su lectura es compleja y su comprensión elusiva, pero no cabe duda que es un principio sólido que sienta las bases para un marco de justicia en transición que tiene muy en cuenta a las víctimas y a las graves violaciones que durante todos estos años se han cometido contra el pueblo Colombiano.

La presencia de las víctimas desde etapas muy tempranas en el proceso de negociación es consecuencia del trabajo de las organizaciones e instituciones de la sociedad civil Colombiana que llevan años organizando, luchando, exponiendo los abusos cometidos, asegurándose en definitiva que las víctimas como colectivo inevitable de la gravedad y la duración del conflicto, tengan su propia voz. El resultado es indiscutible: un acuerdo que proporciona el reconocimiento necesario a ese colectivo y contempla las reparaciones necesarias.

Sin embargo, si fue duro asegurar que las víctimas tuvieran voz en el proceso de negociación y con su presencia se garantizara este punto 5, aún más dura se prevé su implementación. Riesgos tan comunes como la burocracia, la inefectividad, un posible conflicto de delimitación de competencias, manipulación política de la falta de resultados etc., son riesgos reales que pueden agravar el desasosiego de las víctimas y que no son ni raros ni nuevos para quienes trabajamos por el éxito de estos procesos de justicia transicional.

El acuerdo de víctimas reconoce así mismo la importancia de la verdad y la justicia en la construcción de la memoria histórica como paso imprescindible para la reconciliación de la sociedad Colombiana. Con un conflicto tan largo, doloroso y complejo, es imperativo reconocer en detalle, a través de la construcción de la memoria histórica, quiénes han sido las víctimas, quiénes los victimarios y cuáles son las necesidades de reparación. El acuerdo Colombiano prevé lo que se ha dado en llamar la formación del “Sistema Integral de Verdad, Justicia, Reparación y No Repetición,” que incluirá además de la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, una Comisión de la Verdad, instancias que promoverán y sentarán las bases para recopilar la información necesaria para finalmente entender qué pasó en el conflicto, cómo pasó, y quiénes han sido los más afectados.

Como apuntaba más arriba, no han faltado voces críticas y hasta negativas con este acuerdo sobre víctimas llamándolo incluso un acuerdo de impunidad. No estoy de acuerdo; quienes han dicho esto públicamente revelan un desconocimiento de la realidad de las dificultades que una negociación de estas características reviste y buscan un protagonismo inoportuno y peligroso para el proceso y su éxito. Si a uno le importa Colombia y su paz definitiva, debe estar de acuerdo con lo pactado. Es cierto que las sanciones podrían ser más severas, que se eluden peligrosamente teorías indirectas de responsabilidad penal individual, que cuesta imaginarse un universo donde instituciones preexistentes y nuevas instituciones coexisten mientras mantienen la necesaria autonomía. Incluso es posible que más adelante haya que revisar y matizar este punto 5 para hacerlo más efectivo y asegurar los resultados que las víctimas anhelan. Nada de esto sin embargo es excusa ni justificación para no reconocer que Colombia y los Colombianos han hecho un esfuerzo enorme en la construcción de paz y al establecer un sistema de justicia que enfrente y reconozca las violaciones a los derechos humanos cometidas durante el conflicto.

No hay manual de instrucciones para un proceso de paz, y mucho menos para un proceso de paz de la complejidad del Colombiano. Hay lecciones aprendidas, sabiduría explicita e intuida y sobre todo hay cansancio; cansancio y deseo, en mi opinión genuinos, de concebir y vivir otra Colombia, una Colombia que desaprenda la violencia y con suerte no se acuerde de lo que es nacer, crecer y vivir en guerra.

No me cabe duda, como abogada internacional y como alguien que cree y pone en práctica la justicia transicional, y sobre todo como alguien que respeta y admira Colombia, que hoy todos los Colombianos así como la comunidad internacional por entero deben celebrar y apoyar la conclusión de esta negociación de paz y apostar, sin matices, por el fin definitivo del conflicto, por la paz. Esto, insisto, no significa hacer concesiones o abandonar el derecho a ser crítico o a pedir más; no significa renunciar a creencias personales o superar de pronto miedos justificados; todo en su debido momento. Estas serán sin lugar a dudas bazas claves para guiar el post conflicto y la implementación de estos acuerdos. Firmado el acuerdo y blindada esa paz, el reto estará en asegurar su correcta implementación; ya se han adoptado importantes pasos para ponerla en marcha, muchos somos quienes estaremos cercanos e intentaremos echar una mano en todo lo que podamos en ese proceso con el fin de que lo acordado hoy se materialice y con ello dar espacio a las víctimas, garantizar la justicia, y transformar Colombia para siempre.

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Almudena Bernabeu es abogada internacional y directora de justicia transicional del Centro de Justicia Y Responsabilidad en San Francisco. Almudena desempeña su labor entre San Francisco, Londres y Madrid. Almudena lleva mas de una década trabajando en Latinoamérica y en otras partes del mundo en defensa de los derechos de las víctimas en situaciones de post conflicto y concluidos periodos de abuso por parte del Estado luchando por garantizar justicia en todo proceso de justicia transicional.

En su calidad de experta Almudena asesora a organizaciones e instituciones claves de la sociedad civil Colombiana en todo lo relativo al acuerdo sobre víctimas y justicia especial para la paz, que hoy hace parte de los acuerdos de paz que se discuten en la Habana.

English version available here.

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Honduran Youth Reject the Social Values of Generations Past

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Screenshot from Daddy Yankee’s “Shaky Shaky.”

By Franklin Moreno

I recently returned from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where I was studying young people’s moral judgments and reasoning regarding violence, with support from the Tinker Foundation and CLAS. I spent most of my time talking with people in Chamelecón, a sector where levels of violence are especially acute.

Society’s ills are often explained with assumptions about young people, and violence is no exception. In the summer of 2015, I had assisted Dr. Erin Murphy-Graham from the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley with a study examining intimate partnership violence in Honduras. On numerous occasions, several adults — including a representative from the National Police — expressed opinions that young people become delinquents in part because they reject Honduran values and adopt cultural values from abroad, particularly attitudes inspired by Reggeaton music. Echoing the country’s politicians in the past, these claims resurfaced in my recent research in San Pedro: the younger generation is rejecting the values of Honduran society.

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Photo by Franklin Moreno.

Over the course of a month, I befriended youth, community leaders, and outreach center coordinators and staff from Project Genesis, a joint initiative of the National Foundation for the Development of Honduras (Funadeh, the United States Agency for International Development, and the local community. And as my hosts drove me to the public hospital to shadow rounds with a medical student, we tuned in to the big band sounds of Ray Conniff. At the Mario Catarino Rivas hospital, I spoke with adolescent victims of gun violence and their mothers and sisters who attended them day and night, sleeping on the hospital floors.

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Photo by Franklin Moreno.

The Funadeh staff was pivotal in supporting my work. The foundation coordinates outreach centers (centros de alcance) throughout Honduras, and they do incredible work on violence prevention through educational initiatives and employment and microbusiness capacity building. I was able to visit many neighborhoods because of the rapport Funadeh has with the communities, especially with the gangs. In the neighborhood of Miguel Ángel Pavón, we had to lower the car windows for the “guards” to see who was entering, while in other areas, the foundation’s logo displayed on the vehicles was enough to gain admittance.

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Photo by Franklin Moreno.

I went with an open mind, and I came back with a yearning to return and learn more. So many questions linger about the multiple levels of violence affecting the lives of people, young and old.

Exactly what are my friends adapting to when they take alternative routes to come home from the grocery store in the evening or when they consistently watch to see who is parked outside their house? How do neighborhoods become mini-states, where everyone (except older women) faces potentially lethal consequences for crossing gang “borders?” What does “gang violence” actually refer to if police use it as an instrument of policing, threatening to abandon young people across the “border?” What form of human development emerges when most cars have every window tinted as a form of protection, including the front windshield? Is the depravation of basic sanitary conditions such as hand soap, drinking water (!), certain medications, and bed sheets for patients at the public hospital a form of violence?

Perhaps these conditions have led young people to abandon the values of their own society. From what I observed and heard in the focus groups and interviews I conducted, this assertion is partially true.

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Photo taken by student at Funadeh.

The youth I spoke with reject illegal searches and threats by the police as unjust. They condemn as discrimination company practices that disqualify them for employment because of the marginalized neighborhoods they live in. They express moral outrage at the loss of family and friendship ties due to the forcibly imposed gang borders. They perceive the 2009 coup as political corruption. And they judge government spending on police uniforms, weapons, and vehicles as unjust, especially given the scant resources directed to education.

Absolutely, Honduran youth renounce values of injustice and discrimination. Shouldn’t the adults?

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Franklin Moreno is a student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. He carried out research on youth moral reasoning in Honduras with support from a 2016 Tinker Research Grant.

 

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Brazil: Zika, Chika, Coup d’Etat

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Photo by Public Domain.

By Nancy Scheper-Hughes

We are in the last week of the Brazil Olympic games. Cal athletes are well represented, and on Berkeley’s campus we are celebrating Cal student Ryan Murphy’s second gold medal in Rio de Janeiro.

Yet, as we cheer on one of our own and take part in the pageantry, we read about the mugging of another Olympic medalist, Ryan Lochte, who along with three other Team U.S. swimmers was attacked coming home from a party Sunday morning.   In addition, police and vigilante violence (often in tandem and in collaboration) runs rampant in Rio and there are real dangers for those infected in the Zika-Chikungunya epidemic.

In such an iconic setting as Rio de Janeiro, a wondrous city with almost mythical standing in the imagination, it seems things have gotten really real.

The Wondrous City

Though initially untouched by U.S. Olympic Committee and Brazilian officials, the mugging incident with Lochte and his teammates was later investigated and confirmed.

During the 3 a.m. incident, questionably counterfeit police officers demanded that the four men get out of a taxi and get down on the ground. Lochte refused, and had a gun cocked at his head. Wallets were taken, passports and IDs returned. The athletes were allowed to return to their bubble, the safe and gated Olympic village.

It was the latest of several street attacks during the Games including the mugging of an Australian Paralympian, Liesl Tesch, and the bungled mugging of the chief of security for the Games.

Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, apologized several times for these incidents. He noted that they are to be expected in a ‘third world country,’ — a term that had been abandoned during the past decade as Brazil’s fortunes and economy soared. Paes lamented, “This is not the best moment to be in the eyes of the world.”

Recently, my colleague, Frederic Vandenberghe, a professor at UERJ, the state university of Rio de Janeiro, sent me a message to pass along to anyone I knew traveling to the Games:

“Welcome to Brazil! We are happy you are here and hope you will enjoy the Olympic Games™©®. We wish we could have received you under better circumstances. As you might know, we had a coup d’État over here. It’s not a classic military coup, as in the ‘60s, but the result is the same. Democracy in Brazil is under siege and you will see Brazil’s military forces everywhere. They are there to guarantee your security, but also to repress an opposition to the illegitimate government…. I hope you will quickly notice that Brazil is a racially diverse country. The majority of the population is black. Our ‘new’ government, however, is all white, all male, and all corrupt… The new government is defending the interests of the banks, privatizing the economy, repressing minorities, exterminating indigenous populations and otherwise doing everything it can to abolish the rights won by the majority of the population… Enjoy your stay!”

Then there is the issue of the Zika-Chikungunya epidemic that arrived in Brazil in February 2015 — just in time for the collapse of Brazil’s national health care system, the Sistema Unico de Saude.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the UN World Health Organization disagreed on the threat of the epidemic for athletes and tourists visiting Rio de Janeiro. The former strongly suggested caution, while the later — embracing medical global diplomacy — urged the show to go on.

Moreover, Dr. Margaret Chan, chief of the WHO, said that she planned on going to the Olympics herself, though she warned the athletes and tourists to take measures to avoid mosquitoes.  “You don’t want to bring to a standstill the world’s movement of people,” Chan said. “This is all about risk assessment and management.”

Immediately after, 240 health professionals from 40 countries signed an open letter to the WHO chief expressing their deep concern about the real threat of Zika to the global visitors and thus to the world.

Zika and Chika

Healthy, pregnant women infected with Zika may have minor symptoms: a rash and a low-grade fever for a few days. But the virus can be lethal to an embryo or fetus, producing serious neurological disabilities, most visible, microcephaly. Neuroscientists do not know what later neurological problems could emerge, according to Berkeley epidemiologist, Lee Riley.

The dangers of Zika have been well publicized. Lesser known, however, is Zika’s evil stepsister, Chikungunya. Referred to in rural Northeast Brazil as ‘Chika,’ it is transmitted by the same mosquito. Chika can be lethal to older people with heart conditions.

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Photo by Nancy Scheper-Hughes.

Endemic in parts of Africa, the Swahili term for Chikungunya means “the sickness of crooked walkers” as Chika produces severe arthritic symptoms, pain and swelling of fingers, toes and joints.

Both Zika and Chika are not easily distinguished by confirmatory blood and urine clinical tests. Chika is a transient and mild problem for the young, but can be fatal for elderly persons with preexisting heart disease.

In March 2016, I received an urgent e-mail from my companheiro in the field, Patricio Silva of Timbauba:

“Dear Nancy, I just returned from Timbaúba. I was called home because my father got very sick with Chikungunya, a serious disease related to the Zika virus. Today 30 percent of the population of Timbauba is sick with Zika or Chika. It is a terrible time for us. We want you to come immediately…”

A letter from the secretary of Health of the municipality followed asking me to help the 120 stranded community health agents of Timbauba who were the ‘face’ of medicine in the municipality of 55,000 people.

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Photo by Patricio Silva.

The situation was grim: Dedicated, yet underpaid and under-trained, ‘barefoot’ community health workers managed the epidemic in the absence of any resident public health SUS doctors. The only exception was a single Cuban doctor working in a small peripheral rural villa.

These first responders to the Zika-Chika epidemic worked without basic medical equipment, local hospital beds or laboratories to confirm suspected cases. As a result, literally thousands of suspected cases of Zika and Chika in Pernambuco went unconfirmed. The municipality was so hard hit in the weeks following Brazilian carnival that shops and restaurants closed, the streets were empty, and there were no soccer games. The players said their joints hurt too much.

A Mother’s Legacy

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Photo by Michael Hughes.

The dozens of teenage pregnant girls I interviewed at the local health posts in the poorest communities were ready to admit that they had been sick with Chika, but in denial about whether they had possibly been infected with Zika.  Confirmatory test kits were as scarce in the capital city as mosquito repellant. The shelves at local pharmacies were bare.

The only solution for the infected and pregnant patients of Timbauba was to outsource them all –- the pregnant, the infected and the dying — to public hospitals and clinics elsewhere.

Recife, the capital city, roughly 60 miles away, was the first option. For those pregnant women who had been confirmed infected with Zika and with signs of fetal microcephaly, Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Recife offered the best care. But with only one public ambulance to transport women in labor and the sick, private cars, taxis and motorized bicycles were making do.

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Health workers. Photo by Michael Hughes.

Some pregnant women gave birth in taxicabs. Other patients, not pregnant but infected, had to wait for hours. Sometimes they waited overnight to see a doctor or to be interned in public hospitals that had no vacant beds.

Dr.Humberto Graça, who took down a death squad in Timbauba a decade ago, works today as a promotor for Ministério Publico in Recife. He was outraged about the destruction of the public medical system in Brazil. He told us:

“Today we are facing the fact that the level of medicine we thought we had attained has been dismantled.… Going to the hospital we now see the same depressing scenes of people waiting in queues, people sleeping in the hospital corridors, or put on improvised beds. And people are coming to us for help. We are asked to decide who lives, who dies, because there is only one bed or no beds at all and we [Ministerio Publico] have to decide who will get that bed. So one of our afflictions as prosecutors, judges, and public defenders is to decide how to respond to all the people who come to us for a judicial order to obtain a needed hospital bed. But there are no vacancies. So, I have to ask myself if it is the right for a judge or a public defender to decide who will live and who will die as a consequence? When hospital doctors receive a judicial order to intern a very sick person, they are put into a terrible fix: either they disobey a judicial order (and face prosecution) or they accept it and vacate a bed being used by another mortally sick person… That is the reality of public hospitals and SUS today.”

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Photo by Michael Hughes.

As for the young women in Timbauba who were suspected of infection with the virus today, their legacy has been compromised. Previously believed to be the first generation that could trust in their future children’s health and well-being thanks to programs that Lula and Dilma put into place (zero hunger, the bolsa familia), they are stalwart about facing the possible threat of giving birth to an infant with special neurological needs.

They said plainly that they would not consider abortion, even if it were made legal in cases such as theirs. They will instead, they said, hold on to their infants and defend their sweet ‘angel babies,’ their anjelinhos, no matter what.

They had adamantly reversed the meaning of a folkloric term that their mothers and grandmothers once used to suggest that a sick or puny infant might, after all, be better off in heaven than on earth.

Update from Nancy Scheper-Hughes on the Ryan Lochte Case: August 19, 2016:

The true and full story of what happened early Sunday morning is still to be told. But the video shows evidence of four U.S. Olympic swimmers on a rampage and behaving like vandals. What ever happened to sportsmanship and global diplomacy? In covering up their disgraceful behavior by fabricating a kidnapping by men dressed as police –who happened to be security guards at a gas station—  the athletes violated the Olympic code of ethics:  respect for human dignity; maintaining harmonious relations with host authorities; and rejecting all forms of harassment, physical abuse and violence. They should be removed from the team and the ringleader, Ryan Lochte (despite his weak apology) should be stripped of his Rio gold medals.  What a sad moment for Brazil and the US.  

Nancy Scheper-Hughes headshotNancy Scheper-Hughes is the Chancellor’s Professor of Medical Anthropology at UC Berkeley and Chair of the doctoral program in critical medical anthropology. Her research and writings focus on the violence of everyday life examined on the ground from a radical existential and critically engaged perspective.

 

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From Pokémon Go to Whatsapp: Challenges to Net Neutrality in the U.S. and Colombia

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Gotta catch ’em all! (Photo by iphonedigital.)

By Catalina Moncada

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve likely heard about Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game from Nintendo that’s become a hit around the world. According to SimilarWeb, the game has been installed on more devices than Candy Crush, LinkedIn and Tinder, and totaled more than 26 million daily active users in United States just two days after its release.MONCADA_pokemongo_cellphoneimage

Due to the huge success of Pokémon Go, many businesses around the world are trying to benefit from the number of users the application has generated. One of these companies is T-Mobile, the international mobile phone services provider. In late July, T-Mobile sent out a text message to millions of its United States users saying, “Play Pokémon Go data-free for a full year when you download the T-Mobile app!”

As much as we would all love to play Pokémon Go without sacrificing our data, this raises an issue of infringement. Is T-Mobile’s offer a violation of the “net neutrality” principle?

Net neutrality is a principle recognized by the United Nations Human Rights Council that states that the Internet has an open nature, and while referring to human rights on the Internet, no single type of Internet traffic should be prioritized over another.

Given the guidelines of this principle and the role of T-mobile as an Internet provider, is T-Mobile therefore breaking the spirit of net neutrality? Some might say so. Although T-Mobile is not charging more money to offer its users a better experience while using the app, it isn’t blocking any content either. It is actively establishing a zero-rate for data usage while playing Pokémon Go, in effect privileging Pokémon Go content over others.

Similarly in Colombia, there have been multiple instances of questionable infringement on the net neutrality principle. Despite the State’s recognition of the principle under “Resolution 3502 of 2011,” in 2015, the Colombian government continued to endorse the “Internet.org” initiative promoted by Facebook for Internet providers to offer free access of certain content to users. Customers did not have to pay to enjoy apps like Messenger, Wikipedia, and UNICEF, but they were charged for using the non-chosen apps.MONCADA_pokemongo_pokemonimage

Other examples include cellphone companies Tigo and Claro, whom offer plans in which customers can get zero-rate prices for accessing apps like Facebook or Whatsapp but still have to pay for others like Viber.

What does this mean for us? The notion of the Internet as a “democratic” and permission-free environment is at risk. The Internet is now becoming more susceptible to transforming into a good where developers would have to ask Internet providers for permission not only to develop, but to commercialize the apps they’ve been developing freely until now. As a consequence, broadband providers will have power in deciding what kind of content is more likely to circulate the Internet, and what we as users will be more likely to see.

Nonetheless, so far, the effects of T-Mobile’s marketing offer have just been overall hype, and aren’t yet realized. In addition, measuring the real implications of this behavior is not easy, as it is difficult to determine whether the increase in T-Mobile Pokémon Go users is due to T-Mobile’s actual marketing offer, or simply because of the attractiveness of the app itself, or both. What we do know, however, is that this case of T-Mobile could be the discovery of a loophole in the application of the remarkable net neutrality principle.

Catalina Moncada headshotCatalina Moncada received her Master of Laws from UC Berkeley. She is passionate about the intersections of law, technology and intellectual property. You can read more of her posts here.

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Brexit, the emergence of anti-system movements, and Mexico

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British newspapers the day after the Brexit vote. (Photo by threefishsleeping.)

By Nain Martínez

The imminent departure of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), better known as “Brexit,” has shaken up an international system that has been almost unchallenged since 1990. Undoubtedly, the breakdown of the EU has a strong economic and political impact; however, the greatest impact of Brexit may be that it exposes the wear and tear of globalization and the free market in a nation that was one of its main promoters.

Moreover, it holds up signs of exhaustion of this model to other countries. This creates uncertainty about the depth of the rupture and the new direction that the international system might take, which sooner or later will have a political impact in Mexico.

De aquellos polvos, estos lodos. Since the economic crisis that began in 2008, which mired much of the developed world in a recession, there have been a variety of anti-system movements that have increased in strength. In the early years, social movements like “Occupy Wall Street” or the “Indignant Movement” (el Movimiento de los Indignados) emerged, which arose mainly among young people and segments of the population that suffered the harshest consequences of the recession. However, because of the inability of institutions and traditional political parties to generate an answer to social unrest, anti-system political parties – of the left or the right – were revitalized.

A specter is haunting the world. In France, the “National Front,” the nationalist and extreme right party of Marine Le Pen, has been gaining momentum, and is likely to achieve power in the near future. Greece experienced the emergence of “Syriza,” a nationalist left party which also promoted the separation of their country from the EU. In Spain, the people saw the birth of “Podemos,” which in just two years of existence has grown to become one of the main political forces and holds the balance of governability in the country. In the United States, the anti-system agenda was taken up by Bernie Sanders (from the left) and Donald Trump (from the right). Other examples are the growth of the extreme-right political views in Finland, Austria, Denmark, and Germany.

In all cases, the core argument is the same: the cosmopolitan elites from both left and right are corrupt because they are not representing the people or the nation; by contrast, they are representing the interest of a system that degrades the quality of life of the population. The difference between them lies in who and what is perceived as responsible.

For peripheral nations like Greece and Spain, those responsible are the politicians and the elite, the international economic system, and inequality; therefore the prescription of anti-system party is “social justice.” For the central nations such as UK, France, and Germany, responsibility lies with transnational elites, immigration, and unfair economic competition. Hence, the prescription is to recover the identity of their people and the greatness of their nations. In all cases, these parties and movements are calling for a radical change in the system.

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Greek anti-austerity protests. (Photo by yannis porfyropoulos.)

And we wake up with a hangover. Although there was already a precedent with Grexit – the unsuccessful attempt to exit Greece from the EU – it was believed that the international system could resist outbreaks of dissent. Brexit has shown that these anti-system movements and parties can succeed, and they can do it in the central nations. This is not about Greece or Spain, but about the UK, which has been one of the main promoters of globalization and the market economy, occupying a central position in the international economic system. Brexit opens the possibility that anti-system politics could spread and succeed elsewhere, and most concerningly in the United States.

Links with Mexico. Globalization and free trade have generated economic growth and benefits to some regions and productive sectors. However, in recent decades increased inequality has meant that those benefits have not translated into better living conditions for large segments of the population that continue to live in poverty. There is a disenchantment with politics and institutions, and traditional political parties are decaying. Moreover, certain sectors of the population feel threatened by the anti-Mexican rhetoric of Donald Trump. In this context, some analysts perceive the possibility of the emergence of a powerful anti-system movement. Certainly, internal factors play an important role in the political arena, but what happens in Europe and the United States could have a pedagogical effect (by showing that systemic change is possible), as well as generating economic and political effects that will encourage alternative politics.

Brexit seems to signal the emergence of a new political cycle. The direction taken by partner nations, and their effects on domestic politics, could determine the position of Mexico in the new international landscape.

NainMartinez

 

Nain Martínez (nain.martinez(at)berkeley.edu) is a graduate student in Environmental Science, Policy & Management at UC Berkeley. He is doing research in Mexico supported by a 2016 Tinker Research Grant.

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