Monday, August 29, 2011

Endgame for Brazil’s role in MINUSTAH?

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Fellow Alex Sanchez
Report - Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Original post
August 29, 2011

Brazil’s leadership in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) may be coming to its end. The newly-appointed defense minister, Celso Amorin (most recently he served as foreign affairs minister from 2003 to 2011) recently declared to the Brazilian media that he “supports the withdrawal of Brazilian troops from Haiti.”[1] Should this happen, it would be a major departure from the status quo, and would greatly affect MINUSTAH’s operations, as well as jolt Brazil’s role as the Caribbean’s major arbiter of security. Furthermore, Brasilia’s quest for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has been partially based on its role in MINUSTAH as an example of its readiness for a UN seat, which may now be called into question.

Brazil’s role in Haiti
Brasilia racked up a huge leadership role in MINUSTAH, which had as its mission to aid the transitional government that gained control of Haiti (via the UNSC’s resolution 1542) after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in early 2004. The mission was controversial at the time and drew heavy criticism from its inception as it was regarded as a type of colonial government by the UN in the wake of Aristide’s abrupt forced departure from power, following major national protests and violence. At the time, there were persistent accusations that the U.S., Canada and France had a role in the Haitian head of state’s ouster.

Brazil has provided the military commanders for MINUSTAH along with a significant number of its forces over the past seven years. Brasilia has reportedly deployed 1,266 army and navy troops to MINUSTAH,[2] but, in the aftermath of the massive January 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti, the Brazilian Congress approved a request to send 1,300 additional troops to the Caribbean country to help with relief operations.[3]
In January 2006, there was a bizarre incident in which MINUSTAH’s commander, Lieutenant General Urano Teixeira da Matta, committed suicide while in his hotel room in Port-au-Prince. In cables published by Wikileaks, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez told State Department Assistant Secretary Patrick Duddy that he suspected that Teixeira had been assassinated by a paramilitary group, possibly led by Guy Philippe, a renowned Haitian cutpurse and rebel leader with a good deal of political clout.[4] MINUSTAH’s current commander is Major General Luiz Eduardo Ramos Pereira, also from Brazil.[5]

According to MINUSTAH’s official website, the mission’s current strength (as of June 30, 2011) totals 12,261 uniformed personnel, not including volunteers as well as international and local civilian personnel. Since its inception, the mission has suffered 164 fatalities, 66 of which were military personnel. Twenty UN Brazilian soldiers were killed in the January 2010 earthquake.[6]

Brazil Inside and Out
Dilma Rousseff’s first year as president of Brazil has been far from ideal as a number of senior and high-profile members of her cabinet have resigned. The list includes: Agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi, Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, Transportation Minister Alfredo Nascimento, as well as President Rousseff’s chief of staff, Antonio Palocci.[7] Should the Brazilian head of state decide to maintain her troops in Haiti despite the defense minister’s opinion to the contrary, this may put Rousseff at odds with other key members of her cabinet, as well as with the military’s leadership. Furthermore, a recent letter to the Brazilian President was signed by a number of legislators, like Markus Sokol of the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores – Worker’s Party) National Directorate, representatives of the CUT (Central Única dos Trabalhadores – Unified Worker’s Central) and the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – Landless Workers’ Movement) , as well as others. The open letter states: “we must end Brazil’s participation in a military operation that is repudiated by the vast majority of the Haitian people … this occupation has only deepened the plight of the people and has denied them their sovereignty.”[8]

It is worth noting that some influential Brazilians do support a continued presence in Haiti. Geraldo Cavagnari, member of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Campinas (Unicamp) has declared that “the troops should stay put because there is no risk, and there are many things in play.”[9] The other “many things” most likely include Brazil’s hardly concealed quest for a permanent UNSC seat.

Another factor that may influence the future role of Brazil in Haiti may be budgetary issues. An August 15, 2011 article entitled “Bye Bye MINUSTAH” published by the Canada Haiti Action Network,[10] explains that since 2004, Brazil’s taxpayers have spent over R$ 1 billion on MINUSTAH. Last year alone, maintenance of the Brazilian troops in Haiti cost R$ 426 million: R$ 140 million for annual costs and other expenditures, plus R$ 286 million for humanitarian aid sent after the 2010 earthquake. The analysis goes on to argue that in principle, the UN should reimburse these expenses, but in recent years the reimbursements have amounted to only 16% of the payments made by the Brazilian government. The article finally adds that, in addition, the salaries of Brazil’s MINUSTAH troops have, in fact, exceeded R$ 41 million per year, but these costs are excluded from Brazil’s expenses on the mission because these individuals would be entitled to their pay even if they were in Brazil. The Portuguese-speaking nation is currently enjoying an economic boom, but this will most likely not last, in part because the Brazilian currency, the real, is showing signs of being overvalued. If a period of economic austerity appears, the Brazilian government may be forced to rethink some of its peacekeeping operations and other major military commitments.
An official interviewed by the author, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that Brazil as well as several other states have desired to leave Haiti for some time and they argue that there is already some kind of, at least superficial, political stability in the Caribbean state. It would seem that the recent Haitian presidential elections, as dubious and controversial as they were, may serve as part of Brazil’s “exit strategy” for leaving MINUSTAH.

An Unsuccessful Departure?
Brazil’s military has been involved in Haiti since 2004 but, unfortunately, few positive developments have stemmed from Brazil’s limited interactions in the small Caribbean nation. MINUSTAH operations managed to pacify most violent neighborhoods, like Cite Soleil in 2005, but they also were responsible for carrying out human rights abuses that have been well- documented, which gained further criticism of the UN operation.

A critical moment occurred on January 12, 2010, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed most infrastructure in Port- au-Prince as well as other Haitian towns across the country. A recent report by the U.S. Agency for International Development, obtained by the Miami Herald, states that between 46,190 and 86,961 people died and less than 66,625 quake victims are living in hundreds of camps scattered around the capital.[11] In the aftermath of the disaster, dozens of international governments agencies and relief organizations have poured into the country to help with search operations and to take care of the thousands of Haitians that were left homeless and with very little food and shelter. MINUSTAH was not spared of some of these losses. This was particularly the case as the mission’s headquarters in Haiti collapsed killing several UN employees;[12] however the body did continue to carry out relief operations. A February 2010 UN report praised MINUSTAH’s emergency response, explaining that “MINUSTAH, despite its own losses, acted as a crucial first responder, opening the major arterial road from the Port-au-Prince airport to the town centre, re-establishing communications and opening its medical facilities to victims.”[13] The Security Reform Resource Centre adds that:

“In the months following the earthquake, MINUSTAH made significant contributions providing logistical and administrative support to relief efforts. MINUSTAH supplied security assistance for humanitarian operations, operational support to the Haitian National Police (HNP), provided technical advice and support to state institutions at the sub-national level, assisted in repairing the damage to critical infrastructure of the judiciary, and coordinated a large-scale public information campaign.”[14]

In any case, the praise MINUSTAH received for its operations in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake proved to be short-lived. In October 2010, MINUSTAH troops apparently introduced a cholera epidemic in Haiti by dumping fecal matter into the country’s rivers. Over 5,000 individuals have died due to the cholera outbreak and thousands more are infected. A March 2011 report by the BBC highlights the variety of estimates of how many Haitians currently are, and could possibly become, infected, with numbers ranging from 400,000 to a possible 779,000 by November of this year.[15] A July 2011 article in the Los Angeles Times reported that “the [Haitian] Health Ministry reported more than 1,000 new cholera cases a day last month [June].”[16] There were several protests against MINUSTAH when the local population realized how the epidemic started.[17] It is important to clarify that it seems that UN peacekeepers from Nepal most likely started the cholera epidemic, not personnel coming from Brazil.

Furthermore, it is necessary to note that a possible Brazilian withdrawal from MINUSTAH is just an option for the moment, and it would take time for the minister Amorin’s proposal to become an official government-sanctioned plan, if it does at all. Even more time would be needed to arrange the logistics for the Brazilian troops to actually leave Haiti; hence any Brazilian departure will not likely occur anytime soon.

MINUSTAH without Brazil?
Should Brasilia decide to pull all of its troops from the Caribbean nation, the future of MINUSTAH may be called into question. Can the mission survive without the major donor of its troops, and the one with the most zeal to do so? Possibly yes, but the UN will face several new problems, like finding replacement troops from other nations to make up for the departure of the Brazilians. In addition, if Brazil does depart, other states that supply troops to MINUSTAH, may decide to leave the operation as well. As previously mentioned, some states, besides Haiti, may already be looking for an exit strategy to leave that country. In an extreme scenario, MINUSTAH may end up with a reduced force and a more limited ability to carry out its operations.

A final critical factor that may affect MINUSTAH’s future will be the Haitian government, which now has a new president, if highly problematic, former singer Michel Martelly. As part of his campaign promises, the new head of state has declared his interest in reforming the controversial Haitian army to help improve internal security. The country’s military was disbanded in 1995 by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, after he was deposed in a coup and then restored to power with the help of U.N. forces.[18] Historically the Haitian army has been known for its violent acts and lack of political neutrality, particularly under the Duvalier dictatorships. An April 2011 article in the Washington Post quotes Martelly as saying that “the new armed forces wouldn’t be known for brutality, as their predecessors were.”[19] The Haitian leader may be looking to replace MINUSTAH, which it cannot control, with local security forces sworn to comply with his orders.

If Brazil leaves, what role should the US play?
A 2008 State Department document made public by Wikileaks, explains that “the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [U.S. government] policy interests in [that country].”[20] The disclosed report then adds “paying one-quarter of MINUSTAH’s budget through our DPKO [department of peace keeping operations] assessment, the U.S. reaps the security and stabilization benefits of a 9,000-person international military and civilian stabilization mission in the hemisphere’s most troubled country. […] in the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission.” With military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and, for the time being, in Libya, embarking on a series of new military challenges, even if it’s under an UN-peacekeeping mantle, may prove too costly for Washington and particularly the Barack Obama administration, which will have to face re-elections in 2012.

MINUSTAH has been controversial since its origins, and a more visible U.S. involvement in Haiti would be cumbersome and would add to a long list of lamentable military involvement in that country. U.S.-Haitian relations have been historically problematic, as they mostly revolve around American military operations in that island, including from 1914-1934, in 1994 and, most recently, in 2004 when Aristide was ousted. It is necessary to note that Washington did deploy the carrier USS Carl Vinson [21] along with the USNS Comfort and thousands of military personnel[22] to provide help in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

Deploying American troops in Haitian territory is a questionable practice, and it’s highly unlikely that it will happen; nevertheless it would be helpful for Washington’s national interests to continue working with the UN and the Haitian government so that the Caribbean nation avoids becoming a failed state.

Regarding Brazil, one can see the reasons for leaving the mission, including its unpopularity, lack of major successes and financial costs. With that said, it is illogical to think that any departure would occur quickly. If Brasilia does decide to leave MINUSTAH, at the very least it should have a responsible exchange of power and responsibilities to other UN personnel or Haitian security forces. As a recommendation, we can observe that while most of Brazilian military personnel will ultimately leave Haiti, some senior officers should stay in a consultancy basis, particularly in order to keep training the Haitian police. In spite of MINUSTAH’s controversial origins, we cannot forget Haiti’s internal problems (some of which were collectively caused by foreign powers); the international community hopefully should leave the country in better shape than when it entered it.

Alex Sanchez, a COHA research fellow, recently published an article discussing Brazil’s UN ambitions and its role in MINUSTAH: W. Alex Sanchez, “An Easy Way to Improve U.S.-Latin American Relations” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, July 28, 2011). Available: In addition, an article that discusses Brazil’s role in MINUSTAH and the UN mission in East Timor will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Globalizations. His personal blog can be found by clicking here.

[1] De Carvalho, Jailton. “Novo ministro da Defesa, Celso Amorim e a favor da volta de tropas brasileiras do Haiti.” O Globo. August 8, 2011. Available < >
[2] “Eleven Brazil soldiers killed in Haiti quake, many missing.” Reuters. January 13, 2011. Available < >
[3] “Brazil oks doubling its Haiti force to 2,600, troops.” Reuters. January 25, 2010. Available < >
[4] >Wikileaks: DR President believes Brazilian MINUSTAH commander assassinated, suspects cover up.” Wikileaks. January, 18, 2011. Available < >
[5] “Secretary-General appoints Major General Luiz Eduardo Ramos Pereira of Brazil as force commander of United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.” SG/A/1287. March 25, 2011. Available < >
[6] MINUSTAH official website. < >
[7] Lima, Mario Sergio and Ragir, Alexander. “Rousseff sees fourth Brazil minister resign on allegations.” Bloomberg Businessweek. August 18, 2011. Available < > Also see “Brazil corruption: President loses fourth minister.” BBC – Latin America & Caribbean. August 17, 2011. Available < >
[8] Weisbrot, Mark. “Brazilian Defense Minister Amorim supports withdrawal of troops from Haiti – but when?”Center for Economic and Policy Research (originally published in Folha de Sao Paulo – Brazil, August 17, 2011). Available < >
[9] Chery, Dady. “Brazilian discuss Haiti and MINUSTAH: The case for leaving.” Canada Haiti Action Network. August 15, 2011. Available < >
[10] Chery, Dady. “Brazilian discuss Haiti and MINUSTAH: The case for leaving.” Canada Haiti Action Network. August 15, 2011. Available < >
[11] Charles, Jacqueline. “A new report disputes the number of Haiti dead and displaced from the 2010 earthquake.” Miami Herald. May 31, 2011. Available < >
[12] MacFarquhar, Neil. “UN workers struggle as co-workers are unaccounted for.” New York Times. Americas. January 13, 2010.Available < >
[13] “Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.” UN Security Council. S/2010/200. February 22, 2010. P. 2. Available < >
[14] McManamen, Keith. “UN to revise mandate in earthquake aftermath.” Security Sector Reform Resource Centre. May 20, 2010. Available < >
[15] Roberts, Michelle. “Haiti cholera ‘far worse than expected,’ experts fear.” BBC. March 15, 2011. Available < >
[16] Gaestel, Amy. “Haiti again caught in cholera’s grip.” Los Angeles Times. July 24, 2011. Available <,0,4930249.story>
[17]“Protests in Haiti against MINUSTAH for cholera.” Diario Libre. November 16, 2010. Available < >
[18] Fox, Ben. “Would-be soldiers hope for revival of Haitian army.” Washington Post. March 9, 2011. Available < >
[19] Sheridan, Mary Beth. “Haitian President-elect Martelly pledges to speed up post-earthquake recovery.” Washington Post. April 20, 2011. Available < >
[20] “Secret: Why we need continuing MINUSTAH presence in Haiti.” Undisclosed document by Wikileaks. August 22, 2011. Available < >
[21] “Massive US ship nears Haiti to join relief effort.” AFP. January 15, 2010. Available < >
[22] Pessin, Al. “US maries join relief effort in Haiti, Hospital ship to arrive Wednesdday.” Voice of America. January 19, 2010. Available < >

Friday, August 26, 2011

On the rumors that Libya’s Gaddafi may flee to Venezuela

On the rumors that Libya’s Gaddafi may flee to Venezuela

W. Alejandro Sanchez
Research Fellow
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Blog Post - August 26, 2011

In recent months, governments across the world as well as the international media have pondered about Mohamad Gaddafi’s future as leader of Libya, following a 42 year dictatorship. Now that the rebel forces control virtually all of the country, including most of Tripoli, the country’s capital, the rebels' objective has switched from overthrowing Gaddafi to finding him. As the capital of the North African state has fallen, the current location of the former (arguably) Libyan head of state, as well as of other high profile members of his cabinet and family, like his brother-in-law Abdullah al-Senussi (the country’s intelligence chief) and sons, is a question that has yet to be answered. The Libyan rebels have offered a $1.6 million reward for finding Gaddafi, dead or alive.

One aspect that has remained constant is the support by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for Gaddafi. As several governments continue to recognize the rebels’ main political entity, the Transitional National Council (TNC), as the country’s legitimate government, Chavez has stated that Caracas will not establish relations with the TNC and will continue to recognize Gaddafi as Libya’s ruler.

Venezuela as a hiding spot?

As the Libyan leader’s whereabouts are currently unknown, in August 20 a Libyan rebel source in Benghazi said that a Venezuelan plane landed on the island of Djerba to evacuate members of Gaddafi's family. When these rumors appeared, an article in the UK newspaper the Daily Mail mused that “maybe President Chavez would still be willing to let him [Gaddafi] retire to Caracas, but getting there won’t be easy,” due to NATO’s no-fly zone over the country, rebel control of most of the country and a NATO fleet in the Mediterranean. In any case, Gaddafi eventually went on television and stated that “I want to show that I'm in Tripoli and not in Venezuela […] do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs."

The main issue is not whether Venezuela may be an possible “safe haven” for Gaddafi to flee to if he realizes his time as Libya’s ruler is over. The point to be made here is “why” is the South American nation of Venezuela, presently under the rule of Hugo Chavez, a former army officer, coup-plotter and admirer of Simon Bolivar (a 19th century Latin American hero), is so often referred to as a possible refuge for the (former) Libyan ruler.

A recent blog post by James Bostworth for the Christian Science Monitor explains the reasons why Gaddafi may not go to Venezuela. I figure I might as well just repost his arguments here:

1. “Transportation. In order to get to any of these countries in the Western Hemisphere, Qaddafi would need to arrange a direct flight and avoid flying over any territory where ICC [International Criminal Court] warrants might come into play. This obstacle can be overcome, but it's a transportation hassle.

2. Surrender. If Qaddafi comes to the Americas, he is essentially giving up the fight. Logistics are challenging in getting to this hemisphere, but they are much harder and potentially impossible if he wants to lead a rebel or insurgent movement to regain power from this side of the world. Coming to Cuba, Venezuela, or Nicaragua means he gives up the fight and admits he will never again lead Libya, which goes against his personality.

3. Change. While this is less true for Cuba (though anything is possible), the prospect for a government change in Nicaragua or Venezuela should concern an exile-seeking dictator. As certain as Ortega and Chavez are that they will win reelection in the coming months, there is always the possibility that they will lose in this election cycle or the next. Qaddafi, who ruled for four decades, doesn't want to fly into exile only to have to change countries again as soon as the leadership changes.”

He does give a reason why Gaddafi may go to Venezuela though:
1. “Qaddafi is not logical. Even though basic logic says Qaddafi should not do something doesn't mean he won't do it. It's that uncertainty in his actions that has kept people guessing for so many years. So while he may understand the reasons he should not show up in Cuba, Venezuela, or Nicaragua, he may decide to do so on a whim.”

I would add that Gaddafi may be persuaded to do so. After all, most of his family, including several of his sons and daughter and the intelligence chief, have yet to be captured; they are most likely hiding with Gaddafi himself. Hence any of them (or all of them), could convince the (former) Libyan leader that it is in their best interest to go to Venezuela (maybe arguing that they can plan Gaddafi’s comeback from Caracas).

The Gaddafi-Chavez friendship
In an article for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), I discussed Chavez’s friendship with Gaddafi and the leaders of other states that are generally regarded by the international community as pariah or problematic states, like Belarus, Iran and Zimbabwe. However, it seems that the friendship of the two leaders has taken a whole new dimension in view of the ongoing civil war in the Maghrebain state. Chavez has maintained a strong relationship with Gaddafi both personally and at the inter-governmental level for over a decade, and has made numerous diplomatic visits to his counterpart in Tripoli. In 2004, Libya awarded Chavez with its annual Gaddafi International Human Rights Prize for resisting imperialism. In addition, Gaddafi named a new soccer stadium near the city of Benghazi (now the headquarters of the rebels) after Chavez in 2006. In return, the Venezuelan leader presented Gaddafi with a replica of the sword of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar following the 2009 Africa-South America Summit.

The British daily The Guardian recently published an article by Mike Gonzalez entitled “How can Latin America's 'revolutionary' leaders support Gaddafi?” In his analysis, Gonzalez discusses Latin leaders like Chavez, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and how they approach Communist/Socialist ideologies and relations with both the West (i.e. the U.S. and Europe)and pariah states like Libya.

In another article in El Universal (August 24) the author explains that:

"Chávez stubbornly accused NATO and the United States of waging a war to grab the Libyan oil and he lamented that European banks had frozen the accounts of Libya's international reserves. On Sunday, August 21, in the midst of the battle for Tripoli, the Venezuelan president lambasted again NATO shelling. However, he did not made reference to Gaddafi's potential asylum while the fight for the Libyan capital city escalated and looked final."

(Chavez sends letter of support to Gaddafi (in spanish)

If Gaddafi does go to Caracas… what then?

Let us imagine for a moment that Gaddafi (and probably some of his relatives and closest allies) end up in Caracas and Chavez offers them asylum. What would occur then? For the record, there are examples of how the Venezuelan government under Chavez of has offered asylum/a safe haven to individuals that were sought by the justice systems of other countries. For example, Vladimiro Montesinos, intelligence chief under former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori, hid for eight months in Venezuela (Chavez denied knowing where he was) until the government eventually captured him and extradited him back to Lima. More recently,

“Venezuela’s handover of a senior member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is on hold after the man requested asylum. Guillermo Torres Cueter, also known as “Julian Conrado” was captured in May in southwestern Venezuela and the government of President Hugo Chavez said that it cannot extradite the FARC leader until his asylum request is reviewed.”

Should Gaddafi end up in Venezuela, and Chavez refuse to extradite him back to Libya or the ICC, this would isolate the Venezuelan government even more regionally. I doubt international organizations like the Organization of American States, UNASUR or the United Nations would seriously suspend Venezuela’s membership over this, but Chavez will hardly be making any new friends. In addition, such an action would give cannon fodder to anti-Chavez policymakers in the U.S. who tend to portray Venezuela under Chavez as some regional security threat (hinting that the country may be developing a nuclear arms program with Iran, its arms purchases from Russia, close ties with China etc). Chavez will still have his oil to maintain some international relevance and avoid full isolation, but he cannot continue to rely on that forever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Peru: the Coca Erradication program and ongoing civil-military and security issues

Peru: the Coca Erradication program and ongoing civil-military and security issues

W. Alejandro Sanchez
Research Fellow
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Blog Post - August 24, 2011

Some days ago, Peru made headlines when the newly elected government with former military officer Ollanta Humala as president ordered the suspension of a coca eradication program. In a surprise move, the government suspended the CORAH project (Proyecto Especial de Control y Reduccion de Cultivos Ilegales de Coca en el Alto Huallaga ). At the time Prime minister Salomon Lerner Ghitis and minister of interior Oscar Valdes stated that the measure was temporary, while the U.S. expressed concern about this new development:

U.S. Ambassador Rose M. Likins told reporters as she left the National Assembly building in Lima that she was awaiting an explanation of the government's reasons for the suspension of the manual eradication program, which began in January in the Upper Huallaga Valley region. The U.S. has spent $10 million on the effort this year.
Then, on August 21, President Humala declared that the eradication program will continue after all.

It is important to mention that the suspension of the coca eradication program was the one located in the Huallaga valley. Coca eradication operations in the VRAE (Apurimac Ene River Valley) are minimal as there is not enough security due to criminal groups operating in that area. The VRAE valley is where the last remnants of the Peruvian narco-terrorist group, Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), are located.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime annual report issued in June, Peru ranks a close second to Colombia among the world's leading coca and cocaine producers. [Peru’s] Huallaga Valley is not the country's chief coca growing region. That distinction belongs to the area known as VRAE […] an area so lawless that the eradication programs are thought to be impractical from a security standpoint.

This statement is sort of paradoxical, since as Colombia is the world’s foremost coca producer, then it should also be the major cocaine producer. One explanation to this reality is that Colombian authorities seize 40% of cocaine production compared to Peru’s only 10%. Then again, considering that it is impossible to know exactly how much cocaine is produced in either country by the plethora of illegal cocaine labs that exist, there is always the chance that these estimates could be grossly wrong.

Peruvian government officials went on to explain that Lima was not permanently suspending the eradication program, but rather wanted to take some kind “time off” to analyze the success of the operations so far and then start anew. Several government supporters went on the Peruvian media to explain their reasons for supporting the temporary suspension. As previously mentioned, President Humala has gone on record to say that the eradication programs will continue. The Peruvian Premier Salomon Lerner explained that the pause was meant “para asignar los instrumentos necesarios para el exito de las intervenciones,” (to assign the necessary instruments for the success of the operations)

In spite of what could have been the fate of the program, which is a major priority for Washington, the real story here is understanding the relations between President Humala and his military, which will shape future military and police operations regarding coca eradication and other anti-drug trafficking operations. There has already been some drama regarding the president’s relationship with his military. Humala has named General Benigno Cabrera as the head of the Region Militar del Centro (Center military region), which has caused some controversy as Cabrera was Humala’s boss when the now president was a captain in the Peruvian army in 1992 when they both were stationed in a counterinsurgency base.

Furthermore, President Humala has clashed with the current military leadership in the VRAE, when he stated that he is willing to give more funds and other resources to the security operations there, but he wants to see more results. He also seems to want a radical change in operations in that violent area. For his part, the Peruvian drugs czar, Ricardo Soberon, ambitiously declared to the media that he aimed to be rid of drug trafficking in the VRAE valley in five years.

Politics and coca eradication initiatives aside, clashes continue between Peru’s security forces and narco-groups, including Shining Path, in Peru’s Amazon and highlands. Some days ago, members of Peru’s anti-drugs police unit were attacked by criminals in the Andean region of Huanuco. The police unit did not have enough weapons and ammo and the criminals managed to steal half a ton of cocaine that the police were transporting. Unfortunately, it is not just the police that lacks equipment to carry out their duties. An august 14 article in reported that soldiers in the VRAE were eating food rations that had already expired, due to a fraudulent deal between the military and the company that manufactured them. In addition, a Shining Path member was arrested in Bolivia this past July, which shows new attempts by the narco-terrorist group to strengthen its numbers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

La seguridad en el internet y Latino America

La seguridad en el internet y Latino America

Alex Sanchez
Agosto 23, 2011
Analista de Seguridad Internacional, Consejo de Asuntos Hemisfericos ( )

A mediados de Agosto, la famosa organización de hackers conocida como Anonymous atacó a varias páginas web de los ministerios de Defensa y Educación de Colombia, asi como la pagina web del Senado de ese pais Sudamericano. Dias después, la policia colombiana detuvo a un estudiante de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, acusado de ser parte del grupo Anonymous que atacó dichas paginas, al igual que las cuentas en Facebook del Presidente Juan Manuel Santos y la cuenta en Twitter del ex-presidente Alvaro Uribe .

Este crimen se suma a una larga lista, que sigue creciendo, de actividades ilegales en el mundo cibertrónico en Latino America. En noviembre del 2007, hackers peruanos tomaron control del website oficial del gobierno chileno , poniendo mensajes nacionalistas además de la bandera peruana. Un incidente similar ocurrió en noviembre del 2009, cuando, esta vez, hackers chilenos, entraron al website official del gobierno peruano, poniendo mensajes en defensa de Santiago con respecto a un caso de espionaje que habia ocurrido entre los dos paises. Mas recientemente, aparte del incidente en Colombia, en junio pasado varios websites del gobierno y del sector privado brasileño además de otros websites de Peru y Chile tambien fueron hackeados. Grupos internacionales de hackers como LulzSec y Anonymous han sido identificados como los perpetradores de estos ataques ciberneticos. Aparte de ataques a websites de gobiernos, el tipo de ciber-crimenes está en alza en la region, ya existen reportes de cómo los criminales han entrado a la base de datos de varios bancos para robar la informacion de los clientes. Un reporte del 2009 explica que Argentina es uno de los diez países con mayores niveles de pirateria , incluyendo el uso ilegal de software.

Desafortunadamente, como escribe Southern Pulse, un website norteamericano de analisis de noticias de seguridad en Julio pasado, muchos paises de Latino America aun no tienen la capacidad, incluyendo el personal necesario, para llevar a cabo un análisis forense digital para identificar a los perpetradores de estos ciber crimenes . Brasil es una de las pocas excepciones a en esta situación. En el 2010 el ejército brasileño creó el Centro de Defensa Cibernetica del Ejercito, con el General Jose Carlos do Santos como jefe. En una entrevista a la revista Epoca, el general explica que el centro tiene 20 militares pero espera tener 30 para fines de año, además el gobierno ha donado fondos para comenzar a entrenar a mas especialistas y mejorar la infraestructura del centro.

A pesar que el número de usuarios de centros de datos y el comercio electronico en Latino America no es parecido al número en Estados Unidos y Europa, el internet es muy popular en Latino America y seguirá creciendo en los próximos años. En el 2009, un estudio de varios paises Latino Americanos deduce que el número de usuarios en la region llegará a 160 millones en los próximos 5 años . Alrededor del 87% entra al internet mediante computadoras, mientras que 22% usan o computadoras o laptops, y solo el 3% usa otros aparatos electronicos. Vale aclarar que estas cifras son debatibles, ya que un artículo en Advertising Age en Setiembre del 2010 menciona que 37% de los usuarios de Latino America usan sus telefonos para entrar al internet (Klassen, Amy. “What’s a phone good for around the world?” Advertising Age. September 13, 2010.)

En los últimos años, varios especialistas americanos han escrito articulos sobre la expansión del internet en Latino America. Algunos de ellos incluyen: “Bridging Latin America’s Digital Divide: Government policies and Internet Access” (Tawner & Hawkins, J&MC Quarterly, 80/3), “The Reality of Virtual Reality: The Internet and Gender Equality Advocacy in Latin America” (Friedman, Latin American Politics & Society, 47/3), “Cosmopolitan Aspirations: New Media, Citizenship Education and Youth in Latin America” (Blasco & Krause, Citizenship Studies, 10/4) y “Diverse Spatialities of the Latin American and Caribbean internet” (Warf, Journal of Latin America Geography, 8/2).

Una de las razones de la atención de los especialistas respecto al mundo virtual de Latino America y el Caribe es que aun son una selva virgen, con una gran población aun no conectada y con muchas posibilidades. Por ejemplo un reciente artículo en el magazine Americano The Atlantic, habla de cómo el internet puede ayudar a crear trabajos en la región . Los websites de comunicación social masiva como Facebok y Twitter son particularmente populares y hasta líderes de estado como Santos en Colombia y Hugo Chavez en Venezuela los utilizan para comunicarse con sus ciudadanos y el resto del mundo. Entre la poblacion juvenil, programas para chatear como ICQ, MSN o Skype son muy populares también.

Latino America está entrando al mundo digital, sin embargo, los incidentes en los últimos años muestran que la seguridad cibernetica déjà mucho que desear.Varios paises de esta region, desafortunadamente, no tienen mayores recursos que puedan destinar para este esfuerzo .Sin embargo, es claro que el crecimiento del internet en America Latina y el Caribe va a continuar, entonces en algun momento mas gobiernos regionales, siguiendo el ejemplo antes mencionado de Brasil, van a tener que comenzar a monitorear y cuidar el mundo virtual tanto como el real.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from this author, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bulgaria’s Todor Zhivkov: Man, “Papa,” Dictator, Communist?

Bulgaria’s Todor Zhivkov: Man, “Papa,” Dictator, Communist?

W. Alejandro Sanchez
Research Fellow
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Blog Post - August 20, 2011

*Additional Bulgaria-related article by the author: A Drop in the Ocean: A Discussion of Bulgaria’s NATO Membership and Black Sea Geopolitics. European Security. December 2008. (Vol.17, No. 4).

Todor Zhivkov was Bulgaria’s ruler for over three decades, making him the longest serving ruler of the Warsaw Pact. Zhivkov’s importance in the greater Cold War game is sometimes not valued enough as he secured the Soviet Union’s southern flank from potential threats. Even though he was not a die-hard Communist, his relationship and faithfulness to Moscow was close enough that Washington never took interest in that country, labeling it as the Soviet Union’s 16th republic. There is little that can be seen as Todor’s legacy to Bulgaria; he was a harsh ruler, without a clear political ideology, and was more interested in his own power and position than in the ideology war around him. Todor Zhivkov was Moscow’s dark but faithful knight in the Balkans, and that’s how he may end up being remembered

"[Zhivkov] served the Soviet Union more ardently than the Soviet leaders themselves did."
Georgi Ivanov Markov -Bulgarian dissident who was assassinated in London by agents of the Bulgarian secret police assisted by the KGB (September 11, 1978).

Todor Zhivkov was the ruler of Bulgaria, serving as First Secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party, from March 4, 1954 until he was ousted by the party on November 10, 1989. He was the longest serving leader of any of the Eastern bloc nations during the Cold War. I aim to make a profile of Todor, analyzing his actions as leader, “papa” in Todor’s opinion, of Bulgaria and putting him in the proper context of the Cold War and the East vs. West ideological struggle. Was Todor really a Communist? Or simply a greedy man who followed Moscow’s wishes in order to stay in power? It would be unwise to simply label Todor as a member of the “dictator’s club” that Moscow kept in power for decades, like for example Nicolae Ceacescu of Romania, without doing a profile of Todor’s intentions and motivations. He certainly was a dictator and oppressor, he ruled Bulgaria with an iron fist, much to Moscow’s liking, however at the same time he managed to create a cult around himself that gave him a degree of popularity. Indeed, many Bulgarians still refer to him as the “papa” of Bulgaria (a term that has been adopted by other iron-fist leaders, like Saparmurat Niyazov calling him “Turkmenbashi” of Turkmenistan”).

Coming to Power and Staying in Power
In 1951, Zhivkov became a full member of the Politburo, and was made first secretary of the Bulgarian Central Committee, the youngest of any of the Eastern bloc leaders. For the first two years of Zhivkov's tenure as first secretary, the Stalinist Vulko Chervenkov remained the country's real leader, but the latter was forced out of power in 1956 in the wave of Eastern European “destalinization” that followed Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Joseph Stalin.

Zhivkov is one of those characters that emerged in the Cold War, a time when the fate of the globe was played like a gigantic chess game, and his place in history can be described as a pawn. But he was an astute pawn. I argue that his goal in life was not to advance and consolidate Communism or Socialism, but to consolidate his power and status in Bulgaria. He was astute in the sense that he knew the global game that was been played around him and was aware of what he had to do to please his masters in Moscow. He was not a Communist at heart, but would pretend to be one in order to stay in power. Given Bulgaria’s strategic location in southeastern Europe, any attempt by Zhivkov to draw away from Communism and Moscow’s wishes would have most likely earned him a bullet in his head; therefore the most logical option was for him not be too ambitious or daring regarding the geopolitical game.

Within Bulgaria Todor’s actions differed from other dictators around him. He had a dictatorial-type of government for most of his time, as he oppressed his people, had dissidents murdered (or who simply disappeared), while his decisions as a ruler hardly ever were for the benefit of the Bulgarian population. In 1986, when a meltdown occurred at the nuclear plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Zhivkov did not inform his countrymen in order to avoid chaos that could hurt his rule. The difference between him and others like Ceaucescu (who was summarily trialed and executed in Christmas 1989, a month after Zhivkov himself was sacked from power) is that he managed to create a cult around him in his native Bulgaria, which assured him that he had the support of at least part of the local population. Even today there are die-hard Communists in Bulgaria that see Zhivkov as a good leader and call him, as the whole country was forced to do at one point, by the nickname that he chose for himself: “papa.”

Todor Zhivkov’s place in Cold War history is that of an astute, Moscow-controlled pawn. He was not a visionary, nor an idealist, much less a Communist. Zhivkov wanted power, and he obtained it, at the cost and suffering of the people of Bulgaria.

I. Background: Todor as “papa” and dictator

Zhivkov, following the pattern of oppressive rulers the Balkans have seen for centuries, was not in any way tolerant to dissidence. He was also known for sending potential rivals as well as critics of his government to jail, or at the very least getting out of their positions of power. One of these critics was Boris Taskov, who was purged from the politburo and from his post as minister of trade during the spring of 1959 (1). Another example is what happened with Vulko Chervenkov (kown as “Little Stalin”) who had ruled Bulgaria as first secretary of the party before Zhivkov came to power. During the plenum of the Bulgarian central committee on November 28-29 of 1958, Zhivkov expelled Chervenkov, essentially his mentor, from the politburo, the central committee, and his government post as deputy premier (2).

The most famous murder attributed to the Bulgarian government was that of Georgi Markov, a BBC World Service journalist and Bulgarian dissident who in 1978 was murdered in London by being injected with ricin from the tip of an umbrella.

One event that probably helped Zhivkov’s decision to violently clash on dissidents was an attempted coup d’etat against him in 1965 when disgruntled military officers and Party members attempted to overthrow Zhivkov. This was the first ever such occurrence in a communist state. It is true that there had been over occasions where there were uprisings against Communist governments prior to 1965, most notably the Hungarian uprising of 1956, however what made the Bulgarian attempt different is that it was not a popular movement, but that it came from within the Communist party and the military. It can be argued that Khrushchev’s fall from Soviet power in 1964, greatly shocked Zhivkov and political opponents saw this as the best time to strike. According to Stefan Svirdlev, a colonel in the state security who defected in 1971, between 1965 and 1971 there were no less six coup attempts aimed at the forcible overthrow of the Bulgarian first secretary (3).

The 1965 attempt, known as the “April conspiracy,” had General Ivan Todorov-Gorunia as leader, who later killed himself to avoid arrest. He was joined by the commander and deputy commander of the Genov detachment, Tsolo Krustev and Major General Tsviatko Anev. Among the others who were brought to trial were two active-duty major generals. According to the official version of the case, the conspirators sympathized with Maoism and wished to impose a Chinese ideology in Bulgaria (4). Unofficially, rumors flew that they did not like Zhivkov’s sub-ordinance to the Soviet Union, or simply were angry about the favoritism Zhivkov had for other partisan veterans, particularly those of his own Chavdar brigade (5). In an interview with the author, Vladimir Stoinov, ex member of the BCP and deputy-major of the municipality of the Bulgarian town of Elin Pelin, mentioned that according to his memory, even a tank brigade from Sofia was involved in the coup attempt (6).

Following the 1965 coup attempt was the crash of a Bulgarian Airlines flight on November 1966. The crash killed 82 people including the Bulgarian opera singer Katya Popova. However, what made news was that among the dead was also the Bulgarian Ambassador to East Germany and the former head of the Bulgarian army’s general staff, Ivan Buchvarov. The ambassador had been for a long time on Zhivkov’s black list for being involved, even though it is not clear to what extent, in the 1965 coup attempt by Todorov. While officially the crash was blamed on bad weather, it would be very much like Zhivkov to sacrifice the lives of over 80 individuals just to kill one potential adversary (7).

Even the cultural life of Bulgaria was affected by Todor Zhivkov. In 1963 he charged writers who supported cultural liberalization as being guilty of formalism, pessimism, decadence and infatuation with Western forms alien to Bulgarian national traditions, demanding that they adhere to socialist realism and a strong infusion of partinost (party spirit) into cultural life (8). The magazine Literaturni novini (Literary News) was closed down and liberals were removed from the editorial staffs of other publications. Zhivkov also installed Georgi Dzhagarov as head of the Writer’s Union and in 1971 was promoted to deputy chairmanship of the State Council, effectively becoming Zhivkov’s viceroy in Bulgarian literature life (9). The critic Lazar Tsvetkov was jailed for circulating the works of Russian dissidents while Blgada Dimitrova, a great Bulgarian writer, suffered a campaign of denunciation in 1982 when her novel Litso (Face) offended the party leadership with its depiction of cynicism and hypocrisy among the elite (10).

Finally it is necessary to mention the existence of prisoner camps in Bulgaria, following the model of Hitler’s concentration camps and the Russian gulags. The most infamous of these camps was located in Belene, a city close the Danube River, where a major TVO, which translated from Bulgarian means labor training communities, was built and operated for most of Zhivkov’s rule. The camp opened in 1949 but closed in 1953. It was reopened in 1956 via Protocol “B” due to the Hungarian uprising and with a recently appointed Zhivkov probably still alarmed that his control could crumble like in Hungary. The individuals sent to Belene and later to Lovech were mostly political dissidents, opposition leaders and in some cases actual criminals. For the government, these 500-600 individuals were “hopeless” as there was no way that they could be freed because of their beliefs, so simply disappeared in these camps, as they were worked to death. Camp survivors reported that they were not given meat in their meals, just vegetables and 700 grams of bread. The meals were given only once in the evening while washing was done in the polluted Osam river which was close to the camp. The detainees had to use old soldier’s clothes filled with parasites; the ex prisoner Neno Hristov from Izvorovo village explained that: “I’ve never seen before sores on people’s bodies full with worms. The only thing one could do about it was to ask a friend to pee in the sores on our backs... there was no other way. (11)”

Out of the 1500 inmates that were in such camps at one time or another, around 155 died. Interestingly, there were never any written orders given at these camps, simply oral commands from one officer to another, so there is no paper trail that can be used to put on trial the officers who ran these camps and the government officials who ordered their existence (12).

The Economy
Unlike many other communist leaders, Zhivkov proved himself a fairly acceptable handler of the economy. In 1956, Bulgaria was still an agrarian country, where the rural economy still outweighed the industrial sector. A 1957 edict of the Executive Council on one of the Sofia districts designated the specific locations where domestic animals and poultry could be bred. As Rossitza Guentcheva writes, the average Bulgarian citizen in the 1950s was most likely to be disturbed by the mooing of cows than anything else (13). The 1960s, with the country already under Zhivkov rule, saw an aggressive push for industrialization. Among the decisions carried out by Zhivkov for the “better of the people,” was building compact buildings where people would live, with a flat being 75 square meters big, as dictated by the Council of Ministers (who did not live in such flats) (14).

What occurred in Bulgaria under Todor was a state-backed program to ethnically homogenize the nation, very much like Ceausescu was doing in next-door Romania vis-à-vis the ethnic Hungarians of Transylvania. The 1971constitution -- Zhivkov’s Constitution -- spoke of “citizens of non-Bulgarian extraction” (Art. 45 (7)), while in 1977 the BCP proclaimed that Bulgaria already was ‘almost of a single ethnic type and was nearing complete homogeneity’. The term “unified Bulgarian nation” appeared in the official press in 1973. In 1977 the Communist Party daily Rabotnichesko Delo, defined Bulgaria as “almost completely of one ethnic type and moving toward complete national homogeneity.” In 1979, party leader Todor Zhivkov claimed that “the Bulgarian national question has been solved definitively and categorically by the population itself.”

In reality, Bulgaria is a very cosmopolitan country, where its citizens include not only ethnic Bulgarians by a grand diversity of different ethnic groups. During Todor’s time, one ethic group that was particularly targeted with repressive means were the Turks. There has always been an unstable relationship between the Bulgarians and the Turks as the latter were the former’s masters for close to 500 years during the Ottoman Empire. When the communists came to power in Bulgaria, a large number of ethnic Turks sought to migrate to Turkey, as their schools were nationalized and their farmlands were confiscated (15). The Bulgarian government demanded in August 1950 that Turkey accept 250,000 Turks over three months time. After many discussions the Turkish government eventually accepted and almost 155,000 Turks migrated to Turkey over a two-year period (16). Bulgaria began a campaign of forced assimilation of ethnic Turks, which included name changes, prohibition of Islamic religious customs, the closing of mosques, and the banning of Turkish music and traditional clothing as well as the use of the language in public. (The practice of using force on minorities to adopt Bulgarian names had been carried out against the Pomaks [Slavic Muslims] between 1972 and 1974 and against Turkish-speaking Roma between 1981 and 1983) (17).

In 1984 there was a radical change of strategy regarding the minorities: the Bulgarian government excluded the term “Turk” from official discourse, and replaced it by “Muslim Bulgarian citizens” or “Bulgarians with restored [Bulgarian] names,” implying that the so-called “Turks” were “Bulgarians” in origin. New history books were written to avoid the term “Turks”. During the mid 1970s most Turkish schools were closed and Turkish language newspapers and journals were terminated. In 1984 the Zhivkov government forced the Bulgarian Turkish minority to adopt Slavic names. Vladimir Stoinov explains how the Elin Pelin municipality received the order ( by word to mouth, nothing written) that if a Turk changed his name, they had immediately to find him work , a place to live and money if necessary (18). When news of the Bulgarian actions reached Turkey in early 1985, there was agitation in the Turkish media and public protests throughout the country. Bulgarian authorities attempted to deflect accusations made from Turkey by pointing to Turkish treatment of its Kurdish minority (19).

It is generally and accepted that minorities like ethnic Turks, Gypsies and Pomaks were not represented in the Bulgarian government in accordance with their number in the general population. For example, in the 1981 central committee there were 3 Jews, 1 Turk, 1 Pomak and no Gypsies (20). It would take the eventual ouster of Bulgaria’s president Todor Zhivkov in November 1989 and legislation the following year before minority groups would be allowed to restore their names and to practice their faith and customs freely (21).

II. Todor in the Cold War
Bulgaria was important for Moscow during the Cold War. Its geopolitical position made it imperative to have a very Moscow-friendly government in place as the Balkan peninsula had at the time two NATO countries, Greece and Turkey. At the same time Romania’s Nicolae Ceasescu was more of a self-centered dictator than a Moscow-ally, which made him unreliable. Moreover, Yugoslavia had broken away from Moscow’s grip, which made it a security issue. Given such a geopolitical reality, it was necessary to keep Bulgaria as very pro-Moscow to protect the Warsaw Pact’s southern flank.

Pawn of Moscow
In his memoirs, former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria Raymond Garthoff explained that “Ambassador Basovsky, as the Soviet representative in Bulgaria […] had great influence [and] event acted virtually as an adjunct member of the Bulgarian leadership. He even appeared in public along with members of the Bulgarian politburo flanking Zhivkov on the reviewing stand for parades. (22)” During the 1968 Prague Spring uprising, Bulgarian troops take part in Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to quell the rebellion. During most of Zhivkov’s rule, Bulgaria’s lack of independence was seen by the West as an example that this country was essentially the sixteenth Soviet republic (23).

An important factor to mention is how Soviet leaders continuously sought to restrain Zhivkov from some of his desires to industrialize (for example, an industry utilizing petroleum products, the raw materials for which Bulgaria obtained largely from the USSR at below-world-market prices) (24). Such small differences between Bulgaria and the Soviet Union did exist however they were never openly mentioned, hence the relationship, in the eyes of the rest of the world, continued to be that of a major power dealing with a close satellite. An additional aspect that cemented this union was the historical relationship between Russia and Bulgaria, with the latter regarding the former as their “Slavic big brother,” which can be traced as far back as the Crimean War ( a war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire) and the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 from Ottoman rule.

In general terms though, Zhivkov was Moscow’s preferred friend, particularly during the Khrushchev era. After coming to power, Khrushchev adopted an aggressive policy to “de-Stalinize” the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, namely getting rid of anything and anyone that had to do with the Stalin era. The Bulgarian leader Chervenkov was one of these leaders who simply had to be removed in Khrushchev’s time. In May of 1962 Khrushchev and a high-ranking Soviet delegation visited Bulgaria, with the Soviet leader praising Zhivkov and the “normalization” in Bulgarian party life that had taken under his leadership. It was clear that Zhivkov had become Khrushchev’s chosen instrument to rule Bulgarian, for the Soviet leader praised several times as well as stressing their “warm personal relationship (25).” In 1978, the Varna-Illichevsk ferry opened this was an important event as it permitted the movement of Soviet military forces to Bulgarian soil without having to go through Romania (26).

With the advent of perestroika in the Soviet Union, the first cracks began to appear in the thirty-five-year regime of Bulgaria's former dictator Todor Zhivkov. After 1985, opposition groups began to form, despite the still-powerful and repressive government. At the behest of the Soviet Union, Zhivkov initiated reforms in 1987, but these measures were half-hearted and largely ineffective. There are some plausible theories that the Soviet Union encouraged Zhivkov's ouster as the Soviets had become increasingly unhappy with the pseudo-reforms undertaken by Zhivkov during his last four years in power, and it is possible that they instigated or supported BCP attempts to remove the dictator. While the Soviet Union almost certainly did not bear full responsibility for the overthrow, President Gorbachev could not have been displeased with the fall of the Bulgarian leader (27).

Bulgaria in the Cold War
During the Cold War, Bulgaria was part of Moscow’s sphere of influence, particularly when it came to foreign policy. Bulgarian support for Third World national liberation movements included financial backing, paramilitary training and sanctuary for members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization as well as several radical African movements (28). At a personal level, Todor Zhivkov was friends with leaders like Fidel Castro, Muammar al-Qaddafi and Yasser Arafat.

We also have to discuss relations with Turkey, Bulgaria’s southern neighbor as well as Sofia’s relationship with other Balkan countries. Sofia’s Balkan policy was also another issue that sometimes put the country at odds with the Soviet Union. Relations with Greece had been particularly tense after the Hellenic country joined NATO and agreed to have American missile bases on its soil. To tense relations even more, the Greek government was upset that Bulgaria allowed its territory to be used as a refuge by leftist opponents of the Greek regime (29). Only in 1964 did relations improve, when the Bulgarian foreign minister visited Athens to sign different agreements, including one in which Bulgaria agreed to pay Greece $7 million in reparations for World war II. The 1967 Greek military coup did not change much relations between both governments, but relations did improve when the military regime in Athens fell and Andreas Papandreou won the Greek elections in 1981 (30).

Relations with Romania were generally good because of the personal friendship between the two dictators, Zhivkov and Ceausescu. In the late 1970s, both leaders began the tradition of an annual exchange of visits and agreed to take joint projects along like development along the Danube (31). An interesting historical fact is that when Ceausescu, with the support of Bulgaria, called for developing a Balkan “nuclear-free zone,” the Turkish government rejected the proposal as it remained firmly committed to NATO.

Regarding Turkey, as previously mentioned, the issues of Bulgaria’s Turkish minority was the main obstacle preventing normal relations between both countries (not to mention that Turkey was a NATO member like Greece). Relations improved after a 1969 agreement where Turkish Bulgarians where allowed to emigrate; between 80 and 90 thousand individuals, about 10% of Bulgaria’s Turkish minority, left the country (32). In December 1975, Turkey and Bulgaria signed a Declaration of Principles of Good-Neighborliness and Cooperation, which included pledges of nonaggression and respect for their common frontier, assurances similar to the ones Bulgaria had given Greece a few months earlier (33). Following the Turkish military coup in September 1980, the Soviet media attacked the regime as being repressive and all too willing to collaborate with the United States; yet state-to-state relations remained generally normal and Turkish-Soviet trade increased. Turkish-Bulgarian relations were also business as usual; when Turkey was under military rule, there were mutual visits betweenr Zhivkov and his Turkish counterpart, General Kenan Evren (34). It is important to note that although Bulgarian foreign policy under the communists reflected that of the Soviet Union, such was not necessarily the case during Gorbachev’s rule, especially regarding bilateral ties with Turkey. Even as early as December 1984, months before Gorbachev came to power, Turkish-Bulgarian relations were deteriorating as a result of the Bulgarian government’s treatment of its Turkish population (35).

Finally, relations between Sofia and Belgrade were at odds during the 1960s and 1970s, coming from several declarations by Zhivkov about the historical Bulgarian character of Macedonia and denying the existence of a separate Macedonian nationality (36). Both Zhivkov and Tito were stuck in a war of words over this issue, however not even Tito’s death improve the situation. In August 1983, the Bulgarian press suggested that only in the Bulgarian Pirin region do Macedonians enjoy genuine freedom (37). The controversy never took a higher dimension than just a word of words between the authoritarian leaders of the two countries. For Bulgarians, as John Bell argues, emphasis on the Macedonian question promoted patriotism and diverted national feeling away from resentment for Zhivkov and the government being subjugated to the USSR (38). In addition, since Moscow was at odds with Belgrade because of Tito’s breaking away of the Warsaw Pact, it is not difficult to believe that policymakers in Moscow saw with happy eyes tensions between its satellites and Yugoslavia, further isolating the latter country.

Washington connections?
Throughout the Cold War, Bulgaria was regarded by Washington as firmly in Moscow’s sphere of influence, hence there was no major attempt to improve relations between both countries. Relations had been severed by the U.S. in 1950 after the Bulgarian government had accused a U.S. diplomatic official of being a spy and contact for a Bulgarian political opponent who was executed (39). Relations were only restored in 1959 but even after their restoration, there were constant incidents that kept relations cool. In the late 1970s, for example, the Bulgarian government continuously jammed the broadcasts of Voice of America in the country (40).

In the 1970s the U.S. embassy in Sofia was a fairly small mission, with a staff numbering only some sixty-one people, of whom 26 were Americans and 35 local Bulgarians (41). In 1979 the staff of the American embassy was lowered to a class- IV (42). This is an internal way of organizing the importance of missions abroad by the State Department; a higher ranking embassy simply meant that the country was given more attention by the State Department ( for example Bucharest was a class II). Vladimir Stoinov adds that it was Todor’s daughter Ludmila who kept contacts open with Washington, but Moscow was always an obstacle. He adds that an example of this occurred when the Bulgarian politician Ognjan Doinov was taken from power because he tried to bring Bulgaria closer to Japan and West Germany (43).

In any case, relations with the U.S. as well as with the West in general reached were generally strained due of a number of issues, like for example Bulgaria’s support for the USSR’s interventions in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979. Furthermore there was the murder of dissident Maikov in London. Finally, in May 1981, Pope John Paull II was victim of an assassination attempt while he was in St. Peter’s Square. The would-be assassin was a Turkish militant named Ali Agca who stated that the Bulgarian government hired him to kill the Pope. No concrete proof ever came that proved Bulgaria’s, and by default Zhivkov’s, role in the assasination attempt, however in 1984 the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution branding Bulgaria a “terrorist nation (44). ”

III. Todor the Megomaniac or Communist
In the spring of 1956, Todor Zhivkov proclaimed the end of the personality cult but, in reality, he became a generator of an even more oppressive cult about himself. This dictatorial sort of ruler was exactly what was favored in the conditions of the socialist system and the Kremlin-imposed political and social order in the countries of Eastern Europe. Todor Zhivkov and his associates were never lacking in ideas about Bulgaria's economic development. At the numerous party congresses, they molded their ideas into resolutions but the inherent wrongness of the very foundation of the totalitarian system and the rules of the Kremlin-directed game doomed those ideas to failure, no matter how promising they might have seemed at first glance.

Zhikov was a power hungry individual. In the 1971 tenth party congress, a new constitution was approved to replace the Dimitrov constitution of 1947. Thanks to the new constitution, the Council of Ministers became a subordinate to a State Council, whose chairman became the official head of state; Zhivkov resigned his post as prime minister, the title he had held until then, to assume his new post (45). Zhikov’s ability to replace his subordinates like an expert chess player greatly helped stabilize his power to minimize new potential coups against him.

Communist ideologies
Even though Todor was Moscow’s most trusted pawn in the Balkans, it is not appropriate to call him a Communist. His decision to go into the Communist path and, as head of state, continuously follow Moscow’s wishes (either in Czechoslovakia in 1968 or Afghanistan in 1979), had more to do with him recognizing who his masters were that kept him in power than ideological respect. Any attempt to follow another course of action, like breaking away from Moscow’s influence, might have earned him a bullet in the head. Furthermore, seeing how repressive the Bulgarian government was against dissidence, one could speculate that Todor was continuously afraid of any kind of movement that could take him from power (like almost happened in 1965) and stayed with Moscow because he did not think he could survive as ruler of the country without outside help. Vladimir Stoinov mentions that he did not think Todor was a Communist or Socialist; he highlights decree 56, which allowed for private property, as an example of this (46).

The Bulgarian leader’s reluctance to follow with perestroika and glasnost during the late 1980s, as dictated by the head of the Soviet Union Mikael Gorbachev is another prove of Todor’s reluctance to follow all of Moscow’s orders. If Zhikov had been a true communist, he would have followed the orders at once as dictated by Gorbachev himself, but he only did so with great reluctance. Todor probably guessed that these processes could undermine his rule and could eventually help him losoe power –which ultimately became true.

The “Papa” Cult
John Bell writes that “despite his steadily firmer grasp on power, Zhivkov did not introduce a personality cult like those of Stalin, Chervenkov or his northern neighbor Nicolae Ceausescu (47).” Bell explains that Zhivkov, or “Bai Tosho” ( which is Bulgarian for “papa,” as he came to be widely called), cultivated a common touch that, whether natural or feigned, was in line with the country’s egalitarian tradition. In this author’s point of view, Bell’s statement is not correct. While perhaps Zhivkov was not as fancy of building statues of himself or making shrines out of places where he had been before, he slowly became regarded as the “papa” of Bulgaria. Reviewing his achievements, he argued that in 1956, when he assumed power, Bulgaria had been 'the most backward of the members of the Warsaw Pact and CMEA'. Under his rule it rose to third place in per capita income and on the eve of his fall Bulgaria was producing more in three days than in the whole of 1939. This was made possible by 'socialism' but, in Zhivkov's view, it also needed his own enlightened leadership (48).

He also placed his kids, particularly Ludmila Zhivkova and later Vladimir Zhivkov in government positions, essentially trying to make a dynasty that would maintain power. For example, Ludmila was, until her untimely death, the head of Bulgaria’s cultural policy, spending millions to buy works of art from around the world. Her husband, Ivan Slavkov, was made a boss of the state-controlled Bulgarian Television, and later President of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee. Meanwhile, Vladimir led a playboy style of life. His drinking bouts made it impossible to promote him further than the top ranks of the Komsomol. Ludmila also introduced strange ideas related to Far Eastern philosophy which were not welcomed by the Bulgarian old guard; some sources maintain that her death in 1981 was due to Soviet meddling.

IV. Conclusions
Towards the end of his reign, Zhivkov made several limited attempts to modernize Bulgaria, such as scaled down versions of glasnost and perestroika, while keeping the country under his control. However, these failed to prevent the collapse of Communism and his ultimate own ouster. In 1989, he was expelled from the Bulgarian Communist Party, and arrested in January 1990. Two years later, Zhivkov was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to seven years in prison. However, due to his frail health, he was allowed to serve his term under house arrest. Todor Zhivkov died of pneumonia in 1998.

Todor Zhivkov’s legacy to Bulgaria and the world is fairly direct and simple. He was Moscow’s pawn in the Balkans, loyal and securely tied to the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. While Todor was not as harsh as some of his contemporary rulers (i.e. Ceaucescu in neighboring Romania), the decades he spent in power hardly ever benefited the Bulgarian people. The “papa” name, as some Bulgarians still remember him by today, may diminish in the coming decades if more information of Todor’s actions becomes more widely known and people realize that the cult was not created by the masses out of love, but imposed from above. Todor Zhivkov was a non-Communist, authoritarian and egomaniac ruler; unfortunately that might not be the way he planned to be remembered after this death.

Allen, Peter. “Transitions and the Global Implications in Greece, Bulgaria and France.” Reviews in Anthropology. Vol. 32. Pp. 239-52.

Anson, Jon; Todorova, Elka; Kressel, Gideon; Genov, Nikolai. Ethnicity and Politics in Bulgaria and Israel. Avebury. Aldershot. 1993.

Bell, John D. The Bulgarian Communist Party from Blagoev to Zhivkov. Hoover Institution Press. Standford, California. 1986.

Bishku, Michael B. “Turkish-Bulgarian Relations: From Conflict and Distrust to Cooperation.” Mediterranean Quarterly. 2003. Spring. 2003. Pp.77-94.

Chiodini, Steven. “Bulgaria: An Eastern European Revolution in Suspension.” Harvard International Review. Vol. 13 Issue 2. Winter 1991. Pp. 47.

Conquest, Robert. “Sofia Diary: Back to Bulgaria.” The National Review. January 24, 1994. Pp. 52-59.

Dobrinsky, Rumen. “The Transition Crisis in Bulgaria.” Cambridge Journal of Economics. Vol. 24. 2000. Pp.581-602.

Eminov, Ali. Turkish and other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria. Routledge. New York. 1997.

Ex-Communist Party in Bulgaria whitewashed and ready for the EU. Agence France Press. November 9, 2004.

Garthoff, Raymond L. A Journey Through the Cold War: A Memoir of Containment and Coexistence. Brookings Institution Press. Washington D.C. 2001.

Hristov, Hristo. "The crimes during the time of communist regin and the tryes for their investigatememnt after the 10th of november 1989.” In Bulgarian. 13.11.2004.
Available at:

Karpat, B.H. (Editor). The Turks in Bulgaria: The History, Culture and Political Fate of a Minority. The Isis Press. Istanbul. 1990.

Lampe, John R. and Mazower, Mark (Editors). Ideologies and National Identities: The Case of Twentieth-Century Southeastern Europe. CEU Press. Budapest. 2004.

Marantz, Paul. “Prelude to Détente: Doctrinal Change under Khrushchev.” International Studies Quarterly. Vol. 19. No. 4. December, 1975. Pp. 501-28.

Mason, David S. “Glasnost, Perestroika and Eastern Europe.” International Affairs. Vol. 64. No. 3. Summer, 1988. Pp. 431-48.

Nedeva, Ivanka. “Lyudmila Zhivkova and the Paradox of Ideology and Identity in Communist Bulgaria.” East European Politics and Socities. Vol. 18 No. 2. 2004. Pp. 278-315.

Temkov, Boris. “I was a Conspirator”. In Bulgarian.
Available at:

Palairet, Michael. ““Lenin” and “Brezhnev”: Steel Making and the Bulgarian Economy, 1956-90.” Europe-Asia Studies. Vol. 47, No. 3. May, 1995. Pp. 493-505.

Schopflin, George. “The End of Communism in Eastern Europe.” International Affairs. Vol. 66, No. 1. January, 1990. Pp. 3-16.

Stoinov Vladimir, ex member of BCP and vice - major of Elin Pelin `s municipality. Interview with the author. November 17, 2005. Special thanks to Anita Georgieva for arranging this interview.

Todor Zhivkov: Statesman and Builder in New Bulgaria. Second Revised Edition. Pergamon Press. Oxford. 1985.

1. Bell. The Bulgarian Communist Party from Blagoev to Zhivkov. pp. 119.
2. Bell. pp. 123.
3. Bell. pp. 125.
4. Bell. pp. 126
5. Bell. Pp. 126.
6. Stoinov Interview.
7. Temkov. “I was a Conspirator”. In Bulgarian.
8. Bell. pp. 138.
9. Bell,. pp. 139
10. Bell. pp. 140
11. Hristov. "The crimes during the time of communist reign” In Bulgarian. 13.11.2004.
12. Ibid.
13. Guentcheva. Sounds and Noise in Socialist Bulgaria. Pp. 212.
14. Guentcheva. Pp. 215.
15. Bishku. “Turkish-Bulgarian Relations: From Conflict and Distrust to Cooperation.” It should be noted that with Bulgaria’s annexation of southern Dobrudja in 1940—recognized by the Soviet Union in 1947—Bulgaria acquired between 100,000 and 150,000 additional Turks. Thus the Turkish ethnic group in Bulgaria totaled about 750,000, more than 10 percent of that country’s population.
16 Ibid. A former Turkish ambassador to Bulgaria notes,“This haste could be explained by the fact that the Bulgarians were probably acting on behalf of the Soviets, who wished to ‘punish’ Turkey for its participation in the Korean War.” Turkish authorities could afford to take in only about thirty thousand immigrants to start with. They protested that the action by the Bulgarians would result in a mass expulsion and a flagrant violation of Turkey’s 1925 treaty with Bulgaria concerning the voluntary exchange of populations. Nevertheless, the Bulgarians sent Turks across the border without entry visas, and by October 1950, Turkey closed its frontier. In December the Bulgarian government accepted Turkish conditions that it wait for entry visas to be issued and that it allow illegal immigrants to be returned, but it sent Roma across the border using forged Turkish visas and refused to readmit them. Turkey was forced to close its frontier once again in November 1951; in retaliation, Bulgaria issued no more exit visas.
17. Bishku. Pp.89.
18. Stoinov. Interview.
19. Bishku, Pp. 89.
20. Bell. pp. 131. Also Stoinov Interview. Stoinov explained how there were attempts to appoint Gypsies to the local militia, however these individuals would go on robbery rampages where a Gypsy policeman would provide cover while the other Gypsies would rob stores. The Gypsies were kicked out because of this. Interestingly, when it came to housing, there was a rule to appoint one Gypsy family to live in each building with Bulgarian families.
21. Bishku, Michael B. “Until then, Turkey brought up the issue of Bulgaria’s treatment of ethnic Turks at international conferences and in its diplomatic discussions with Western and Islamic countries as well as the Soviet Union. Such moves did bring some action prior to Zhivkov’s ouster; Azeris in the Soviet Union held demonstrations of sympathy for Bulgarian Turks, while the Soviets at the urging of Turkey attempted to reconcile matters between it and Bulgaria. Prior to the Bulgarian leader’s ouster, in May 1989, he expelled some two thousand Bulgarian Turk activists and demanded that Turkey open its border; when Ozal did so, about 310,000 Turks entered Turkey until August, when Turkey reestablished visa requirements and, in effect, closed its frontier. As it was difficult to provide shelter for the masses of immigrants, Turkey desired an agreement that would regulate their numbers. By January 1990, with a changed political climate, some 130,000 of the immigrants returned to Bulgaria.
22. Garthoff, Raymond L. A Journey Through the Cold Warpp. 308.
23. Bell . pp. 142.
24. Garthoff . pp. 317
25. Bell. pp. 123.
26. Bell. pp. 143.
27. Chiodini. “Bulgaria: An Eastern European Revolution in Suspension.” Pp. 47.
28 Garthoff. Pp. 312. Also read Todor Zhivkov’s speech: Internal and Foreign Policy of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. Speech delivered at the Tenth Session of the Seventh National Assembly Sofia, 27 April 1979. Available: Todor Zhivkov: Statesman and Builder in New Bulgaria. Second Revised Edition. Pergamon Press. Oxford. 1985. pp. 235-63.
29. Bell. pp. 144,
30. Bell. pp. 144.
31. Bell. pp. 145.
32. Bell. pp. 144..
33. Bishku. Pp. 88.
34. Bishku Pp. 88.
35. Bishku. Pp. 89.
36. Bell. pp. 145.
37. Bell. pp. 145.
38. Bell. pp. 146..
39. Garthoff. pp. 310
40. Garthoff. pp. 311.
41. Garthoff. pp. 305.
42. Garthoff. pp. 306.
43. Stoinov Interview.
44. Bell. pp. 147.
45. Bell. pp. 129.
46. Stoinov Interview. Decree 56 was passed on 01.01.1989 - the decree for the private property. There’s a following Government’s decree No36 , 28.06.1989 that says that the state manufactures become shared property.
47. Bell, John D. pp. 127.
48. Ex-Communist Party in Bulgaria whitewashed and ready for the EU. Agence France Press.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

An Amoral Relationship: Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov and the People’s Republic of China

An Amoral Relationship:
Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov and the People’s Republic of China

W. Alejandro Sanchez
Research Fellow
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Blog Post - August 19, 2011

The government of the People’s Republic of China has increased its interest in recent years in Uzbekistan, specially the Central Asian nation’s oil and gas reserves, commodities which are highly valued by Beijing to ensure China’s continued growth in different areas in the short and long term. The relationship between both countries resembles a new-age tributary-system, where China receives goods from Uzbekistan, and, in, return Beijing has expressed growing support for Uzbek leader Islam Karimov, particularly during the aftermath of the May 2005 Andijan massacre. Through its dealings with regional nations like Uzbekistan, China has become the newest player in the Great Game for influence in Central Asia.

The 2005 massacre in the Uzbek city of Andijan was the catalyst that brought Uzbekistan and China together. While the rest of the world, particularly the U.S., condemned the Karimov regime for the massacre of around 800 Uzbek civilians, Chinese officials were quick to welcome the Uzbek leader for a state visit to China in order to win his goodwill and gain access to his nation’s resources and market. The visit was complete with a 21-gun salute for Karimov in Tiananmen Square in Central Beijing. During the visit, Beijing said it ‘firmly’ backed his actions in crushing the anti-government demonstrators. Chinese President Hu Jintao went as far as calling Karimov an ‘old friend of the Chinese people.’ By diversifying his pool of allies, Karimov looked to Washington and Europe as means of moving away from Moscow’s sphere of influence.

In principle, Beijing’s interest in Uzbekistan can be summarized in its ventures for oil and gas, in addition to a continuous goal in gaining allies worldwide. Uzbekistan, as well as other Central Asian states (particularly Kazakhstan) have large quantities of these resources, which are seen by the Chinese government as vital to the country’s future growth. In recent years, China has led an aggressive foreign policy to secure a constant supply of oil and gas.

From a domestic point of view, Islam Karimov and his entourage want to remain in power indefinitely and for this they need the support of some world power. After the Andijan crisis other despotic states like China and the Russian Federation have publicly proclaimed support for the Uzbek government’s crackdown on insurrection. Therefore it is in Karimov’s interest to continue amicable relations with such governments so he can continue living in his luxurious lifestyle.

Furthermore, Uzbekistan is in a perpetual state of competition with the other Central Asian states to become the regional hegemonic power. In favor of Uzbekistan’s goals are a homogenous population, a strong military and a shared border with the other Central Asian nations. Therefore, from Tashkent’s point of view, becoming allies with a world power, whichever it may be, will help assert its position as a regional hegemon.

Uzbekistan has a great amount of oil and gas supply. For example the Ferghana Valley has fields that have been used for more than 90 years. There are more than 500 such small low-yield fields of 1,000-2,000 tons of crude oil a day. Overall, the country has known oil reserves of 600 million barrels.

Gas and oil are goods that China greatly needs According to the U.S. Department of Energy, China is the second-largest consumer of petroleum products in the world, importing roughly two million barrels of oil per day, half of which comes from the Middle East. . On July 19 2005, barely a month after the Andijan massacre, the Chinese oil firm Sinopec planned to invest $106 million in exploration and extraction in Uzbekistan. In May of that year, the Uzbek-state company Uzbekneftegaz signed a deal to set up a joint venture with Chinese oil company CNPC worth $600 million to explore oil fields in the western Bukhara and Kivia regions. The deal was signed when Karimov visited Beijing.

It seems that Beijing’s approaches to Tashkent are beginning to have a positive effect. In early May 2007, Uzbekistan announced plans to build a 530km gas pipeline to China with a capacity of 30
billion cubic meters a year, equivalent to half the Central Asian state's gas production.

China’s export to and import from Uzbekistan reached $70,443,000 in February 2007, and the trade in January-February reached $157,948,000. The Chinese Huawei Technologies company has agreed to provide the joint-stock Uzbektelecom company with telecommunications equipment worth $18.3 million on a leasing basis. In addition, Beijing has also announced plans to build a number of highways connecting it to Central Asia, including one from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, to Tashkent.

Also, in the 2005 Sino-Russian military exercises (code named “Peace Mission 2005”) in Chinese Wiefang , Uzbek military officers were present. An article by Xinhua News quotes Cao Gangchuan, vice-chairman of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) Central Committee Military Commission as saying that Uzbekistan is China's partner in Central Asia and an important member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Friendly military cooperation between China and Uzbekistan is an integral part of the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Beijing also wants stability in the former Soviet states of Central Asia, a region globally considered as a tinderbox of extremist Islamic militancy that could spread to its own territory. Beijing has stressed the importance of maintaining stability in Central Asia through the China-backed Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The group has set up an anti-terrorism center in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. At the same time, Beijing claims ethnic Uighur separatists are fighting for an independent Islamic state in its western region of Xinjiang, which is about 120 miles from Andijan and shares Uzbekistan's Muslim religion and Turkic language roots. In an extreme scenario, it is possible, and Chinese officials probably believe this, that Islamic insurgents from Central Asia, like the Taleban or the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), could develop ties with the Uighur and aid them in their ‘violent’ struggle for independence. The Chinese government also probably saw parallels between Karimov's position regarding Andijan and Beijings’ own bloody crackdown on antigovernment protesters in 1989.

The popular uprisings in recent years in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Ukraine, not to mention the ongoing “Arab Spring” must be a source of concern for Karimov. His oppressive rule is probably the sole thing that keeps him in power and prevents a popular uprising from overthrowing him and putting his dictatorial entourage in trail for his actions over the past two decades as rulers of the country. With China on his side, Karimov can be sure that no major action will be taken from organizations like the United Nations (since China is a permanent member of the Security Council) that can in any way threaten his rule.

Oil and gas will continue to be a cornerstone of the Sino-Uzbek relationship. However, Tashkent would be wise not to overestimate Beijing’s necessity for these two goods in order to obtain as much revenue as possible. Beijing has shown its teeth and demonstrated that it will not concede to Tashkent’s demands for greater revenue. An example of this has been the recent withdrawal of Dongsheng Petroleum Development Co Ltd, a unit of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec), from the Uzbekistan market due to high exploration costs. This case demonstrates that while China has great interest in Uzbekistan, the Central Asian nation should not overestimate its importance to China’s foreign policy.

The Sino-Uzbek relationship can be defined as an amoral, tributary relationship. China is not interested in Karimov’s human right record, it simply interested in its resources. It is a relationship of interests, in the purest realpolitik vision. It might not be acceptable to most individuals, particularly Uzbek citizens who have to live under the dictatorship. However, for China’s politburo and Karimov’s entourage, so far this relationship has proven to be a win-win scenario.

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