Tag Archives: Sweden

USA may benefit from Cablegate

The leaking of thousands of diplomatic cables from USA by Wikileaks is of course an embarrassment for USA of giant proportions. However, it may actually benefit the country – especially its diplomatic service.

Now that a significant number has been released, we have got a number of revelations. An example: the US ambassador to Honduras, Charles Ford, considered in May 2008 then president Manuel Zelaya a threat to democracy. This was long before the latter started attempting to overthrow the Constitution of his country. In March 2009 Zelaya issued a decree about holding a referendum on a referendum on a Constituting Constitutional Assembly. The word “constituting” implies of course that the old constitution is thrown out first, which – self-evidently – is unconstitutional, undemocratic, illegal, and treasonous.

While it is encouraging to see that the US had so much insight into what was going on, the really revealing part is what does not appear in the cable. There is no suggestion or hint that the US should interfere in any undemocratic way itself. Rather, Ford’s advice to his successor is simply to stay close to Zelaya and keep repeating what the US interests are. Not to stab him in the back, but to keep behaving like a friend, albeit without trusting that he is a friend, because Ford did not consider Zelaya a friend of the US.

Where is the “smoking gun” for the “coup d’état”? Nowhere to be found. If anything, this indicates that Zelaya was the architect of his own destiny, intent to follow his secret mantra: “Socialism or Martyrdom – as long as I get rich in the process”.

What this and many other cables show is that the authors of them are, in general, well intentioned, and that they really believe in democracy and development to mutual benefit. The authors being persons in the US diplomatic service.

The lack of indication of any conspiracy should put those theories to rest. They are not helpful. They just lead to frustration.

During the Honduran political crisis in 2009 I had the opportunity to see this from the receiving end, when I as a blogger was in close contact with the Micheletti administration, trying to get first-hand news. The Micheletti administration was, as we all know, the target of the mother of all conspiracy theories, that of a military coup supported by the US, with all its implications. I could see how this conspiracy theory was created by hostile propaganda, and then distributed around the world by well-meaning, but uncritical media, bloggers, twitters, opinion-makers, politicians, and so on.

From the cables we now know that the US diplomatic service was aware of the activities of their enemies (the Castro-Chávez-Ahmedinajad axis), but the global public opinion was not. The public opinion bought into the axis’ propaganda. The leaking of these cables thus offer an opportunity of transparency, that will enable Americans, Europeans, Australians, Indians, and citizens of all other democracies, to erase the conspiracy theories from there mental maps. The more of the cables are released, the stronger this effect, but for full effect all have to be released.

Here is the conundrum. Consider Julian Assange. He should know what the content is, and if there are traces of conspiracies. He is right now spreading a conspiracy theory that he was set up in Sweden, as a way to get to WikiLeaks. However, the facts of the matter do not support that interpretation (see earlier posts here the last week). Why does he spread a conspiracy theory to his followers, if he wants to promote transparency and the truth? It doesn’t make sense.

The simplest explanation is probably that Assange himself cannot make sense of the Swedish accusations. Genus relations in Sweden are a bit different, women are much more assertive of their right to their bodies – and especially women who have or are working with those issues. Which is the case for one of the women he had casual sex with. She has every right to do what she did. Without knowing all the facts nobody should conclude that there is a conspiracy behind this; on the face of it, it all makes perfect sense. And as Assange’s Swedish lawyer told the press, justice does work in Sweden, he is not worried about the outcome.

As I see it, Assange would have been much better off accepting to be sent to Sweden, do the interview with the prosecutor, and trust that the case will be dismissed for lack of evidence. Unless, of course, he got someone pregnant. The Swedish legislation is quite strict about fatherhood and responsibilities. Or if he is HIV-positive; to get him tested for this was the original reason why the women went to the police, but Assange has steadfastly refused. If he has nothing to hide, why doesn’t he cooperate? And if he has something to hide, it is disingenuous to spread conspiracy theories designed to bolster his image among his followers. Bad taste. Assange seems to be falling prey to the very corrupting influence of power that he claims to be fighting against.

In all of this, the US diplomatic service comes out the winner. I take my hat off to them, and hope that foreign relations is moved entirely back to the diplomatic service and away from the “empire’s” military, since they have lost a tremendous amount of goodwill after previous leaks.

Why it was good that Sweden left Honduras

This summer Sweden closed its foreign aid office in Tegucigalpa. It was a move that was decided when Zelaya was president, and motivated by the corruption in his administration, from what I have heard. Although this means the gradual termination of assistance to human rights (including the ombudsman for human rights, who the zelayistas love to criticize), women’s groups, and higher education (millions go to UNAH, the strongly left-leaning national university), it may actually be for the better.

Why? Because foreign aid often cements the existing structures, much like government efforts to promote innovation tends to strengthen the existing market structure rather than lead to a re-orientation. It also corrupts.

Unless the aid is given in very specific ways, and with a high degree of understanding of what is going on behind the scenes, it is, IMHO, more often than not counter-productive. For instance, if UNAH gets $8M they are likely to use it for salaries first, building maintenance second, and only the crumbles left over will go to the thing that in the long run is most important: The library, the information, the communication.

Personally I would rather see the money spent on buying subscriptions and the infrastructure needed to use the electronic subscriptions. Also, supporting a domestic high-quality journal would seem important, so that Honduran scholars can start rising to the level where they become a force to count with. That is something that in 20 to 30 years really can make a difference, propelling the country forward as an innovative entrepreneurial center of excellence. Salaries, on the other hand, will just go to buy Chinese imports in the local mall.

During the time of transit all forces must be directed towards creating the conditions for change, for entrepreneurship, for innovation, for starting new businesses, for research. This requires using domestic resources, and the process must be driven by domestic forces. Foreign aid should only amount to goods or services that cannot be made in the country, or purchased for the local currency. Furthermore, it must never compete with local business. It is a problem that the US donates so much goods and services, as it undermines and corrupts the local economy. That has to be phased out, the sooner the better.

I realize that those involved with foreign aid of that kind are going to get on my case now, but somebody has to point out that the emperor is naked. Everyone making a living on aid to Honduras has a vested interest in Honduras remaining poor. For Honduras to rise to glory, she has to say “I am too proud to accept donations!”

Therefore, it was a blessing in disguise that Sweden and ASDI left Honduras, since that leaves the agents of change with a better chance of succeeding. The former US ambassador accurately analyzed the dynamics in June, 2010.

The right-wing push led by IMF over the past few decades was met with a backlash, a leftist, populist, pseudo-democratic movement led by Venezuela and Cuba. However, what happened in Honduras was the first step of a third way, a reaction to both the strong right policies, and the leftist-popular movement; a New Center that is based on the rule of law, strong democratic institutions, liberal trade agreements, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

This Nuevo Centro as I would like to call it is based in the white shirts of 2009, a movement that is full of energy, albeit under the surface at present, acting silently but efficiently to gradually transform the ugly duckling into a swan. They need to be in the shadows because they have no international backing.

USA apparently is split between supporting the IMF and FTAA order on the one hand, and punishing Honduras hand in hand with Chavez on the other. All the ALBA countries are of course for the populist leftist backlash. But wait and see. Honduras is not sleeping. A new center is growing in the ashes of last year’s crisis.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister under Scrutiny

Sweden’s right-wing foreign minister Carl Bildt is under scrutiny for his links to the oil company Lundin Petroleum that apparently did business in Sudan when the alleged genocide took place. In a debate article today in the nation’s largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, co-signed by two former foreign ministers, Mr. Bildt is accused of mishandling his job, and of risking to damage Sweden’s reputation in the human rights arena.

Since the prosecutor has started an investigation of Lundin Petroleum for its role in the human rights violations in Sudan, the political opposition of Bildt is urging him to come clean about his role and what he knew, since he was a board member of the company at the time. In Swedish corporate law the board is responsible for staying informed about the activities of the company, but the question is apparently how much the company knew about the human rights situation in Sudan.

The opposition is also accusing Bildt of neglecting his job, of not understanding his role, and of not understanding the importance of diplomacy. As an example they mention that for years Bildt has opted not to deliver the yearly Swedish speech in United Nation’s General Assembly, and that he has ordered the closing of a number of embassies and consulates abroad.

Why Sweden took side for Zelaya?

Honduras president Manuel Zelaya was executing an autogolpe, a self-coup, and for that he was deposed by the Supreme Court and the Congress. Still Europe sided with Zelaya, not with the institutions charged with preserving democracy in Honduras. To understand why, let’s look at the European Union.

Recently the EU (UE in Spanish) has changed its “constitution”. The member states had to approve that change. Take Sweden as example. The organ within the parliament that has to evaluate the legality of proposed legislation is called “Lagrådet”. Their analysis can be found here, in Swedish.

In short, they conclude that the proposed legislation violates the Swedish constitution by enabling the parliament to pass laws that have the effect of neutralizing parts of the constitution, without following the procedure required for changing the constitution. This is tantamount to a self-coup, a coup d’état executed by the one in power at the time.

So why did they not stop it? Well, they gave an argument that this change had in effect already been made, why this was not new. The creeping changes of the constitution that had been made in 1994 and 2002 had, according to them, already foreseen that more would come. At what point does it become a coup d’état? That is the question. Some say that the decision to pass this law was in fact a coup d’état in Sweden. It would be interesting to have this tried before the Supreme Court, to see if they agree.

Of course, given that this very questionable creeping change had been made in Sweden, how could the Swedish government then with a straight face say that Zelaya was not allowed to do the same thing? In fact, Sweden supported civil organizations in Honduras, and may even have encouraged this creeping change, I don’t know. All I know is that the judicial system in Honduras acted correctly in stopping it at the doorstep.

Human Rights under Attack in Sweden

Sweden’s largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, which plays a similar role in the Scandinavian country as the New York Times does in USA, has published an article apparently aimed at ostracizing a candidate for parliament. In the article, the candidate for the Center Party (which is politically similar to Wellstone Democrats) is accused of expressing anti-Semitic opinions on his website. A named party official is quoted as saying that they are looking into removing him from the ballot this fall, even though he has already been moved down so far, compared to the last election, that chances are very small that he will be elected.

The problem with the article is, though, that the accused it not given any opportunity to defend himself. The newspaper (which has Jewish ownership) quotes him as saying anti-Semitic things, but they are not offering the reader any opportunity to fact-check the claims, since they do not reveal his name. They just print a CYA statement that the unnamed person categorically denies that he or his statements are anti-Semitic.

It is clear that what they want to accomplish is a media campaign against this person so that he is removed from any chance of getting elected, while keeping his name hidden so that normal people, the electorate, are unable to judge for themselves, and make up their own mind. It is an insidious attack on the civil and political rights of the Swedish people, perpetrated by the country’s largest newspaper.

Beware, my countrymen back home. You country is not as free as you think it is.

PS. Of course they will accuse me of being anti-Semitic for writing this. It is their standard operating procedure. That is why there is no serious debate; they peel of one debater after another with that argument. It succeeds as long as honest and decent people do not stand up for each other, but believe what they say without an independent fact check. If that is you, listen to my advice: Assume that all they write is spin and propaganda, until you have been able to get independent confirmation. Some of it is true, but you have to start by assuming that you have no idea what is true and what is false. It is no conspiracy, it is just the effect of everyone acting in his own self-interest, spinning things in the way that benefits himself the most. Palestinians, Jews, everyone does that – anything else would be noteworthy. What is noteworthy is not that DN is spinning the news, what is noteworthy is that they are so unwilling to admit it, accusing those with another point of view of being anti-Semites.

Footnote: The withheld name in the article is Ove Svidén, and you can make up your own mind about his opinions by going to his web page: peace.se

Bristande fantasi hos Fk och domstol

En dom i Stockholms Tingsrätt har slagit fast att Försäkringskassan gjort rätt då de betalt över 100 tusen kronor i vårdbidrag till mamman, men inte ett öre till pappan, trots att de skilda föräldrarna delar lika på vårdnaden av deras autistiske son och har honom en vecka var. Domaren hänvisade till att lagen säger att bara en förälder kan få vårdbidrag, och då är det rimligt att den får det där barnet är skrivet. Barnet är nämligen bara skrivet på en address trots att det bor omväxlande på två.

Bristande fantasi, säger jag. Fk och domstolen hade ju kunnat säga att visst, bara en förälder i taget kan få vårdbidrag, men det behöver ju inte vara samma förälder hela tiden. Det kan vara mamman vecka 1, pappan vecka 2, mamman vecka 3, osv.

Typisk hjärnförstoppning.

EU criticizes the Honduran “resistencia’s” use of violence

The Swedish presidency has issued a statement which criticizes the use of violence by the self-labeled resistance movement in Honduras. It does so in this sentence:

“The European Union … calls upon all political groups in Honduras to abstain from acts of violence.”

While triggered by a murder of a relative to a journalist, the statement is a clear indication of dissatisfaction with the behaviour of the regime critics. Before the November 29 elections, several buses belonging to interim president Micheletti were bombed, resulting in passengers being brought to hospital with injuries. Furthermore, the president’s nephew was murdered, several electrical power poles were destroyed, and dozens upon dozens of bombs and grenades were exploded. Recently the general in charge of fighting drug smuggling was murdered, shot dead in his car in broad daylight in the middle of the capital.

It is a sad fact that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, the smallest police force in Latin America, a completely under-resourced judicial system, a huge problem with gang violence and drug smuggling. The country is in a critical situation and needs all the help it can receive, to get the upper hand on criminals, and those who take the law in their own hands. Sweden has helped with this until recently (although it now seems that the previous president was playing a double game by also helping the smugglers), and one can only hope that Sweden and the EU continues to support democracy and the rule of law.

This should include respecting the democratic institutions of Honduras, the constitution of the country, and the will of the people as expressed in the general elections. It should also include respecting the agreement between the various parties in Honduras, signed by Manuel Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti. The agreement said that it was for the Congress to decide whether Zelaya should be re-instated or not, and Congress has confirmed that their original decision stands. Therefore, if Sweden and the EU respect the sovereignty of Honduras, they will acknowledge that the government of the country is democratic, constitutional, and legitimate.