When the Portuguese Parliament failed to pass an austerity bill on March 23, the country’s Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, resigned. That move leaves Portugal leaderless for at least two months while facing a significant financial crisis: it must refinance nearly $13 billion of short-term debt by June. Investors have already pushed interest rates on Portugal’s sovereign 10-year debt to almost 8 percent, while credit-rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s both downgraded that debt’s quality on March 24.
The Obama administration’s UN-backed military intervention against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is aiding al-Qaeda, which, according to media reports citing high-level commanders in the terror group and Libyan rebel leaders, is deeply tied to the revolution. When the dust settles, the anti-American Islamic extremists could easily emerge as the new rulers of that nation, or at least a part of it. And al-Qaeda is already reportedly grabbing up advanced military weaponry there.
As a means to increase government revenues, which the government says will help reduce the nation’s ever-expanding federal deficit, the Department of Homeland Security is looking into a proposed change to border crossing policies that would force Canadians looking to visit the United States, arriving via air or sea, to pay more for the privilege.
The almost unrestrained drug trafficking in Mexico has pushed violent drug wars deeper into Central America, as drugs are funneled through small countries ill-equipped to handle the squeeze of traffickers using their shores, ports, and jungles for smuggling. The New York Times reported on March 23 that, even though traffickers have used Central American points for stopovers since the 70’s, “crackdowns on criminal organizations in Mexico and Colombia [and the Caribbean] have increasingly brought the powerful drug syndicates here [Honduras].” The seven tiny countries are now no longer just “stopovers” but territory coveted by cartels, and the scenes of escalating drug violence.
Socialist Venezuelan “President” Hugo Chavez prompted ridicule and concern about his well being after suggesting in a speech that “capitalism” and “imperialism” may have ended life on Mars, adding the possible demise of Martian civilization to a long list of ills the revolutionary leader blames on free markets.
In an interview with the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun, on July 4, 1925, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was asked if he thought that the revolutionary turmoil in China, India, Persia, Egypt, and other Eastern countries was a sign that the Western powers had dug themselves graves in the East and would end up being buried there.
On the 50th anniversary of the United Nations treaty that led to the global “War on Drugs,” a group of prominent officials and legislators from the United Kingdom declared the battle a failure and formed a commission calling for new policies to deal with problems associated with drugs.
With turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa continuing to spread in the wake of the departure of Egypt’s longtime dictator and U.S. stooge Hosni Mubarak, it is difficult to predict the short-term, let alone the long-term, future for that profoundly troubled region. Inspired by the relative ease and nonviolence with which determined resistance managed to unseat long-entrenched dictatorships, first in Tunisia and then in Egypt, people elsewhere in the Arab world are finding the struggle for self-emancipation much tougher slogging.
“This is the most exciting story I’ve ever covered in my life,” gushed veteran journalist Charles Sennott. “I’ve been a reporter for 25 years. I’ve covered the Middle East for more than 15 of those years. It was just so thrilling, so breathtaking, so unpredictable, and really a journey for the whole country of Egypt but also for those correspondents who’ve covered the Middle East for a long time.”
While U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip to Latin America hogs the media spotlight in news coverage of the region, the nations on the Southern continent made their new regional government official on March 11 as the Union Of South American Nations (UNASUR or UNASUL) treaty entered into force. Basing the supranational institution on the European Union model, further integration is still planned and already underway as two socialists were elected to lead the union.
The European Union is seeking broad new powers over the formerly sovereign nations of Europe, including direct taxation, further centralization of economic decisions, the ability to levy massive fines on national governments, harmonization of corporate tax policy, and more, prompting a fierce backlash by activists and even some governments.