2006: A worrying downgrade in peace and democracy

I am 34, and since I was a child I have been keen and sensitive to international politics and human rights issues. I lived through the period when the Berlin Wall fell, and optimism and enthusiasm have been with me since then. But in the last few years, specially the last few months, I feel I have been losing this innate optimism. Now I have to comment on 2006, and I cannot help but feel worried and sad about the world situation. Unfortunately, there are many reasons to be worried and pessimistic, and very few to feel the opposite. Let's start with Iraq. We cannot deny anymore that this country is in chaos and civil war, and it is now one of the worst countries to live in. The spiral of violence and revenge among the different groups seems endless and without solution. The US army cannot stay and cannot leave, and now the US government is desperately trying to dialogue with its worst enemies in the region -- Iran and Syria -- to try to avoid the worst. These countries will ask something in exchange -- the acceptance by the USA to let them keep doing what they want with Lebanon, seeking nuclear weapons, etc... Herein is the link with the Israel-Palestine-Lebanon problems. Lebanon is still a protectorate of Syria, which controls the country with its surrogate Hezbollah and president Lahoud. The Lebanese government is incapable of getting rid of these people and will be always the victim of the crossfire between Israel and Hezbollah. In Palestine, truces are not lasting and there is no true willingness to keep them alive: moreover, Palestine is always dangerously split between Al Fatah and the other armed groups, including the Hamas movement. So, this mess in the Middle East is extremely dangerous and at the same time very difficult to solve. In the meantime, some positive notes come from the Arabian Gulf Emirates: UAE, Bahrain and Qatar have booming economies and have started a slow path towards a moderate democracy. Few steps ahead in democracy have been achieved in the last elections in Yemen, although this country is still plagued with poverty, sectarianism and violence. Africa: We have an extremely dangerous situation in Somalia now, where Islamic Courts have staged a coup and are threatening to spread Somalia's conflict to all neighbouring countries, some of which are supporting the Islamic Courts and others the transitional government in Baidoa. This situation is threatening to start a new conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and I fear that Somaliland could be the next target of the bloody militia of the Islamic Courts regime. Not far from this conflict, we have another extremely worrying situation: the Darfur conflict which is now spreading to Chad. The Sudanese government -- led by one of the most brutal assassins in human history and armed by Russian and Chinese governments -- and some Saudi personalities linked to Al Qaeda are sponsoring the civil war in Chad, aimed at overthrowing Iddris Deby and installing another Islamic government in Central Africa. Chad is also rich in oil and uranium, and the falling of the corrupt and authoritarian but still not extremist nor genocidal Chadian government will be an extremely dangerous victory by Al Qaeda and fundamentalists. Not all Chadian rebel groups are linked to them, so if extremists take power, the country could fall into a long spiral of civil war, which could worsen the situation of the Central African Republic and Niger, two countries on the verge of an all-scale civil war if Chad falls. Some mixed and some positive signals are coming from other African countries: Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Liberia are trying to emerge from their former terrible conflicts, while Guinea is seen as the next possible war-ravaged country, in which ailing president Conte could pass away soon. Still unsolved is the situation in Cote d'Ivoire, where president Gbagbo uses his militia to keep the country in chaos and keep the presidency indefinitely. The situation in Nigeria is still very worrying ahead of the next election, especially in Niger Delta where violence and kidnappings are aimed at separating the oil-rich state from Nigeria. Burindi and Congo Kinshasa are just on the border between peace and new violence; let's hope the first one will prevail. Southern African countries, especially Zimbabwe, are facing growing economic problems due to the dramatic spread of HIV and political mismanagement. Madagascar is preparing to stage new elections amid threats of a coup by the army commander, who had aspirations of becoming president. Some positive news from Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo Brazzaville, the fledging new democracy in Mauritania, glances of hope for the next Angolan elections and peace process in Cabinda, doubts regarding the viability of the peace deal with LRA in Uganda and some little progress in the economy and in democracy in some northern African countries complete the African picture. Asia: The Asian tigers are still running, but democracy is still trailing in most of them. Thailandís shocking coup d'etat could lead to fresh elections soon, but it makes us remember that 15 years of democracy are not a guarantee of annulling the risk of an undemocratic ousting of a government. The international community is still unable or not interested in pushing the abominable military junta of Myanmar towards democratic reforms, and North Koreaís erratic president is still blackmailing with its nuclear programme. Fundamentalism in Indonesia and the Philippines seems to be under control for now. Bangladesh is descending into chaos, and the January election needs a miracle to pass peacefully and give a breath to this impoverished country. Good news from Nepal, where in a matter of one year the situation has improved dramatically. Let's hope that Maoist former guerrilla will be able to be a true democratic party in this fledging democracy. Some glances of hopes of upcoming democracy are coming from Bhutan and some doubts from the the Maldives, while the Sri Lankan conflict seems to get worse every day and there is no willingness at all from any party to stop it. The Afghanistan and Pakistan Tribal Areas situation is always tense and difficult and we can say the level of violence is still very high and stable. The former Soviet Republics are still firmly in the hands of brutal dictators, good friends of Russia. Georgia economy is running, but the country is being strangled and blackmailed by the Russian hate against it and its reforms. Russia itself is blackmailing the whole European Union, threatening to cut the gas off if they don 't stop criticizing the brutal assassinations of any democratic politician and activist in Russia. In Europe, Eastern countriesí economies are still running, and in the Balkans we have a new country, Montenegro, which has just split from Serbia peacefully. The Kosovo status is still unsolved, as is Cyprusís. Belarusís abominable dictatorship and Transnistriaís gangster government are other toys in the hands of the Russian government, whose favorite game seems to be controlling as many neighbours as it can, and nip in the bud any evidence of democracy or criticism, even if the critic has an EU citizenship. Some glances of hope for peace in Spain. (Can we trust ETA this time?) Good luck to Bulgaria and Romania, which are set to join the European Union. In Oceania, we still have some worrying situations: Fiji has a very high risk of a coup d'etat, due to the conflict between the president and the army chief; the Solomon Islands, after the violence which marred the country, is trying to recover its democratic credentials and institutions; Tongaís "spring revolution" is at a crosspoint: the new King will need to give the last word whether to accept a true constitutional monarchy or decide for a local version of "Tien Amen". Let's hope the first option will prevail. The Americas: the evident failure and concentration of political and economical resources in Iraq, plus the bad results in the economy, have resulted in a crushing defeat for the Republicans in the mid-term elections. In the meantime, many problems are rattling across Latin America, too. In Mexico, the unaccepted victory of the new president and the terrible violence in Oaxaca are matters of strong concern for this country. The victory of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua could open old wounds in this miserable country. Some progress has been made in Guatemala and a notable reduction of violence and corruption is under way in Colombia: president Uribe now has to show that he is also able to be a man of peace by reaching a very difficult peace deal with the ELN, the smallest guerrilla group. If a peace deal is reached, the biggest group, FARC, will be cornered, unless the Venezuelan president helps it. Hugo Chavez is assured of another term and he will push for more erratic programs in the area, some peaceful and others violent. His dangerous interference in Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua will cause Mr. Lopez Obrador, Mr. Correa, Mr. Morales and Mr. Ortega to be puppets of him and his lunatic projects. Bolivia is still in an extremely dangerous situation, in which some provinces could seek to break away due to the fear of racist manifestos made by some members of the Bolivian government against all non-indigenous inhabitants. In Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil, economies are set to improve further and their moderate-leftists governments are showing moderation and genuine efforts in fighting corruption and mismanagement. In the Caribbeans, there are still some ethnic or crime problems in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana and Suriname, but their situation looks like it has reached the bottom and is starting to rebound. Haiti is still in the hands of violence, corruption and famine, with little progress under way. Finally, Cuban president Fidel Castro could soon pass away. To ensure Communism will not fall with his death, he nominated Hugo Chavez as his ideological heir, to spread his creed in the region and, with his oil money, to influence, monitor and ensure that in Cuba there will be a painless change of leadership within the Communist Party. Will his plan succeed? Good question for 2007. Maximiliano Herrera