To watch in 2007

January 1, 2007

Afghanistan. Often forgotten because of the headlines from Iraq, Afghanistan is not a solved affair. Only Kabul is somewhat stable, with Kandahar and other cities remaining unsafe.

Global Warming. Scientists have been talking about it for years, and Al Gore has now popularized it with a documentary film . Yet there is still no clear policies on tackling this global issue. The US has not returned to the Kyoto framework (and hasn’t offered a good alternative) and Canada’s new government has been defiant in backing out of the Kyoto protocol. Meanwhile, the arctic is shrinking.

Iran. Will the Republic bow to pressure and halt uranium enrichment? And if not, what will Ahmadinejad do next? Iran has potential to play a vital regional role in stabilizing Iraq. It also may face opposition from the US.

Iraq. Will British and US occupying forces leave Iraq and leave it to Iraqi forces to provide security?

Lebanon. The standoff in Beirut continues, with protesters vowing to stay on. Will Prime Minister Siniora give in? Will protesters patience run out?

Mexico. Mexico will spend 2007 with new president Felipe Calderon. Will he be able to solve the mess of Oaxaca? Will state violence be halted or will the President disregard Mexican citizens in favor of Governor Ruiz?

North Korea. The DPRK has vowed to continue to provide a strong defense of the country and called on the 1.1. million army to be prepared to “mercilessly defeat any invasion of the US imperialists.” If nuclear talks don’t go well, will the Koreans test another bomb?

Palestine. Fatah and Hamas are at a stand-off, with Israel allowing arms deliveries to Fatah. Will elections take place? Will Abbas reach a deal with Olmert? What if Hamas prevails in the elections?

Russia. A presidential election is set for March 2008, yet some cynics have contended that Putin will attempt to stay in power, despite constitutional law which allows for only two terms. Putin the dictator?

Somalia. The country has lived through a lot in the last six months, with power shifting from one leadership to another, violence starting and ending. Will it stabilize in 2007?

United Nations. Ban Ki-moon enters his official duties as Secretary General of the UN. Will the troubled international body gain influence with its new face and voice? The test will be how Ban Ki-moon — a South Korean — handles the nuclear crisis in North Korea.

United States. The presidential elections are set for 2008, but candidates are already stepping up to the race. Will Senator Clinton run? Will McCain enter the race?

And everything else.

Please post omissions, like some of the obvious ones (China, Darfur, Haiti).

Federal Police retreated from the Mexican city of Oaxaca yesterday, after protesters put up a fight.

The Federal Police was brought in to “restore peace and order,” yet no one from Oaxaca really asked them to be there. The rector of the local university, which has 30 000 students, said: “We cannot consent for the campus to be an object of occupation. I want to ask the federal government to be sensitive in its solution to the problem.” According to law, it is the rector of the university who is to ask for police assistance – he never did so in this case.

Sympathizers of the Oaxaca protesters have increased in number. In Mexico City, yesterday, protesters blocked traffic to demand that police retreat from Oaxaca.

The conflict in Oaxaca has been going on since May, when teachers went on strike to demand wage increases, with locals joining in to support them. The protests were then violently challenged by the federal government and by local governor Ulises Ruiz.

Cf: Protest at Mexican Consulate in Response to Weekend Violence.

Map of Oaxaca. (c) 2004 Tony Burton.

The protests in Oaxaca have been going on since May of this year. This weekend, the city has been plagued by state violence, with several people being killed, including a journalist with IndyMedia. The violence continues this week with federal police threatening protesters.

As a response to this weekend’s bloodshed, a demonstration was organized in front of the Mexican Consulate in Montreal yesterday.

Here’s a short report I prepared for today’s edition of The Morning After on CKUT Radio:

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/2285602/view]

US Self-Isolation

October 26, 2006

The US President has signed a law to instate a fence at the US-Mexico border to prevent illegal migration into the US.

It’s still unclear where the funding for the fence will come from, although over a billion USD will be taken from a homeland security bill.

Could the signing of the bill be a way to divert attention from the growing opposition to the war in Iraq? The law will find some supporters, but it’s not without controversy. It certainly seems insulting to the US border to the south. And the policy is not far off from Russia’s handling of its diplomatic differences with Georgia — except that the US is economically dependent on Mexico and will is simply not in a position to stop trade.

The US is economically tied to Mexico (and Canada) through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Because of its proximity, Mexico has become a market for cheap labor for the US, and many products are produced there.

The US has also been pushing for tighter border regulations with Canada, not as radical as with Mexico. The argument for Canada goes that it’s a through-way for terrorists: too easy to come into (Canada) and too easy to pass on (to the US).

It will be interesting to see what kind of opposition the new law will receive in the US and if the international community will comment on it — Mexico is set to make a complaint with the UN regarding the matter.

Not only has the US been isolating itself slowly, in terms of Foreign Policy, it’s now doing so continentally.