LIMA, Peru — As Peru approaches general elections on April 10, polls show that voters are leaning toward continuity, which might be expected for a country with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The leading contenders offer variations on the pro-business, open-market policies that have been the Peruvian status quo for two decades. The frontrunner, with 27 percent support in recent polls, is former President Alejandro Toledo, who governed from 2001-2006. A Stanford-educated economist, Toledo negotiated the country’s free-trade agreement with the United States and oversaw moderate economic growth, but endured frequent scandals and protests during his presidency. Born into […]

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American policy planners for Afghanistan would do well to take note of developments in Egypt, where last week the army deployed in Cairo to fill the vacuum created by the disappearance of the hated police. To my mind, there’s a clear parallel with Afghanistan, where the notoriously corrupt police are likewise hated, while the army enjoys a similar — if not as historically established — reputation as the Egyptian military. But the difficulty in Egypt in finding an acceptable transition scenario to the current unrest suggests the limitations of a society in which the military is the only credible institution […]

The recent events in Tunisia have reverberated across the Middle East and North Africa, but they have found particular resonance in Egypt, where anger and frustration with President Hosni Mubarak’s government has escalated considerably over the past year. The violence, corruption and media censorship that accompanied last November’s parliamentary elections severely damaged the government’s credibility. Exacerbating this general frustration is the expectation that Mubarak’s son, Gamal, will succeed him and simply continue the status quo. In this week’s demonstrations, which saw Jan. 25 renamed Youm al-Ghadab, or Day of Wrath, protestors have indeed directed some of their anger at the […]

Negotiators from the P5+1 countries and Iran failed to reach a breakthrough in Istanbul last week at thelatest round of talks over Iran’s nuclear program. Nevertheless, it seems that, once again, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to keep negotiations alive with his seemingly never-ending bazaar-style haggling. The reason is simple: Ahmadinejad’s administration requires a positive outcome, at least on paper, so that the U.S., its European allies and the United Nations Security Council lift the debilitating economic sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic. So despite last week’s stalemate, the latest of many, Ahmadinejad is dangling the carrot of compromise to lure […]

BOMET COUNTY, Kenya — Last month, when Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), requested summonses for six individuals on charges related to Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence, a majority of Kenyans applauded. In a country with a deep-rooted culture of impunity, many citizens had given up on domestic justice to deal with those responsible for the violence. On the eve of Ocampo’s announcement, one poll found that 85 percent of Kenyans supported the ICC process, launched after Kenya’s government failed to establish a local tribunal for key perpetrators of the violence. Yet here in Kenya’s Rift Valley […]

In December, Italy’s bilateral trade agreements with Russia drew media scrutiny. First, a Wikileaks cable release indicated anxiety on the part of various U.S. diplomats over Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s close friendship with Russia’s leaders, particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin. Then Italy’s largest energy company, Eni, renewed its extensive 2006 contract with Russia’s Gazprom, including plans to jointly build the South Stream pipeline across the Black Sea, as well as cooperation in drilling, transportation and personnel training. Critics in Italy and abroad believe the energy partnership between the two nations results as much from Berlusconi’s personal politics as from […]

Nearly 20 years ago, Somaliland, a Florida-sized region of northeast Somalia once known as British Somaliland, declared its independence from Somalia. In the years since, Somaliland has emerged as a stable, democratic state that provides a measure of international security in a region overrun with pirates and transnational terrorists. Yet, no state or international body recognizes Somaliland’s independence. Instead, the international community is content with the fiction that Somalia remains a unified state. Denying Somaliland recognition will likely result in its eventual collapse and the expansion of the chaos, instability and international insecurity that characterizes Somalia. To prevent this eventuality, […]

Brazil’s recent achievements in developing a sound economy, harnessing natural resources, lifting tens of thousands out of poverty and even landing the 2016 Olympic games has many convinced that its emergence as a world power is inevitable. But ongoing internal challenges, especially poor educational performance, may delay its rise. Outgoing President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva’s obsession with immediate poverty alleviation and school attendance led him to overlook the underlying institutional and policy challenges facing Brazil’s education system. And though President Dilma Rousseff’s new administration has made strengthening that system a priority, it faces myriad bureaucratic, financial and policy obstacles […]

On Jan. 1, the same day Hungary began its six-month EU presidency, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government introduced a law requiring “balanced” media coverage and instituting registration requirements for those disseminating information. The international furor over the new law threatens Hungary’s chances of making the most of its EU presidency, while offering a crumb of hope to a severely weakened opposition. France, Germany, Luxembourg, the U.K. and other EU members expressed concern over the media law, but Orban simply dismissed the criticism as misinformed and anti-Hungarian. He had already angered the business community by imposing surtaxes on banks, telecoms […]

Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes must rein in hard-line members of his party of former guerrilla leaders and win over the private sector if the country is to rebound from credit-rating cuts that suggest its economic growth is at risk. The extent to which the divide between the moderate Funes, a former TV journalist, and the ex-guerrillas leading his Faribundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) party is threatening his government was made all too public by secret U.S. diplomatic cables leaked to Wikileaks and published by Spanish daily El Pais. According to the cables, Funes asked the U.S. for protection against protests […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the Philippines peace process. Part I examined talks between the Philippine government and Maoist insurgents. Part II examines negotiations between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. While the reopening of peace talks between the government of Philippine President Benigno Aquino and the country’s leading Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is a welcome development, doubts remain on whether the Philippines is ready to seal the deal. At a preliminary meeting held in January, the two parties agreed to hold formal exploratory talks on Feb. 9-10 […]

MEXICO CITY — For Mexico, 2010 marked the bicentennial of the country’s independence and the 100th anniversary of its revolution. It was also the country’s most-violent year since President Felipe Calderón launched military operations against the country’s powerful drug cartels in 2006. According to the federal government, 15,273 people lost their lives in 2010 in violence related to the nation’s battle against organized crime. The figure represents nearly half of the 34,612 deaths from organized crime registered since 2006 and a 54 percent increase over the number of deaths recorded in 2009. On the positive side of the ledger, the […]

On Dec. 3, 2010, with only 28 days left in office, Brazil’s then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva officially recognized the independent state of Palestine along Israel’s pre-1967 borders. A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded with a pointed reminder that Brazil had “never made any contribution” to the peace process, and called such unilateral declarations counterproductive. But that didn’t keep Argentina from following suit within a matter of days, and Bolivia and Ecuador had joined the ranks by Christmas. Uruguay waited until the New Year to make a formal declaration, while Chile did so on Jan. 12. And on […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on the Philippines peace process. Part I examines talks between the Philippine government and Maoist insurgents. Part II will examine negotiations between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Upholding an electoral promise, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has pushed for the reopening of peace talks with the Maoist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Islamic rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The prospects for the two peace tracks are beset with difficulties, although for different reasons, with the NPA talks in particular presenting daunting challenges. […]

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Six months after the hotly contested signing of a controversial cross-strait trade pact, Taiwan may be beginning to accept talks with China as business as usual. Only a few dozen desultory protesters could be seen waving signs around in the bitter winter air in Taipei during the latest round of cross-strait negotiations last month. Police officers assigned to preserve the peace appeared more relaxed than during past talks, perhaps confident they wouldn’t need to exert themselves pulling apart mobs around Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin’s hotel. Flash back to June 2010, in the sweltering last few weeks leading […]

From the moment the first cell-phone videos of balaclava-clad young men sprinting away from police gunfire began to travel across cyberspace a few weeks ago, the mounting social unrest in Tunisia has caught many by surprise. Even longtime observers have had difficulty explaining how one of North Africa’s most prosperous and, arguably, most socially stable countries became a powder keg of political, economic and social fury. “I thought it could happen, but I didn’t believe it would happen so suddenly,” said Abdelwahab Hechiche, a political scientist at the University of South Florida who engaged in political activism for Tunisian independence […]

JODHPUR, India — In China, one often hears that it is impossible to govern a population of more than a billion using democracy. The country’s phenomenal rise over the past 30 years certainly testifies to the success of its “Leninist corporatism.” However, while concerns mount over the sustainability and fairness of this model, India’s greater tolerance and openness may become a source of considerable comparative advantage in the quest for regional leadership in the “Asian Century.” The fundamental differences in the two emerging behemoths’ social and political attitudes are reflected in their respective approaches to the past. In China, the […]

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