My good friend Ahmed El Droubi has been released!
Thank Goodness. You've been missed Droubster!
My good friend Ahmed El Droubi has been released!
Thank Goodness. You've been missed Droubster!
Ahmed El-Sharqawi and Karim El Sha’er, two recently released activists with Youth for Change, have been abducted and detained from Abdel Khaleq Tharwat Street in downtown Cairo by plain clothes security agents.
The two were taken to Qasr El-Nil Police Station after their arrest. Inside the station, security agents took turns torturing the two young activists by severely beating them. Those agents then abused Sharqawi by inserting an object up his anus.
The two have been referred to the State Security Prosecutor’s office in Heliopolis (a Cairo neighbourhood). Their lawyer has managed to see them. The last thing known is that the two detainees refused to be interrogated, demanding medical examination by forensic authorities to document their injuries and the abuses carried out against them.
The two detainees have submitted official requests to that effect but that cannot happen before saturday (probably since Friday is the one unified official holiday in Egypt). Sharqawi and Sha’er also asked to be examined by a doctor, who was present, but their request was refused by the Prosecutor who also refused to have them transferred to a hospital.
First, let me start by linking to Sandmonkey, who actually went to the demonstrations today and has a post with quotes taken from various conversations and statements during the demonstration.
Now for what I want to say.
Apparently the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and all the people the organization mobilizes, were a no-show in today's Protests. Ahmed Sharkawy wrote about this on the Kifaya website (link in Arabic).
This only reinforces rumours that there has been some sort of deal struck between the MB and the government that ensures MB compliance to government orders in exchange for… something. What's funny is that I had personally read a news piece where the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide had specifically said that the Brotherhood is 100% behind the judges. Guess 100% is a very relative issue to the brotherhood.
According to eyewitnesses, the elections only had about 150-300 protestors. That's not that large a number considering the events of the past few weeks. It reinforces the fact that the MB brought a considerable number of people to bear during these protests, but more than that, perhaps it signals the beginning of another period of demonstrating lethargy, such as the period between the parliamentary elections and the Judicial Affair.
What also caught my attention was the lack of media coverage from channels that frequently cover demonstrations in Egypt; namely Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera News Channels. Could it be that they are in league with the government as well? In the beginning, I would not have supported this claim, but after waiting for hours, switching between both channels, without nothing but a small, insignificant scrolling item showing on the screen once every five minutes.
Several news items were covered live, with and without reports. I even saw a couple of them repeated… more than once! Still, nothing about the Egyptian Judiciary. I felt betrayed. Apparently neither Al Jazeera nor Al Arabiya are beyond "looking the other way" for some reason or another. Were they threatened? Coerced? I wish they'd give some reason. Or was it because not having MB personnel and supporters made the protest un-news worthy? Again, I don't know.
For the moment, I do not have much more to say.
Since, due to my personal stupidity or that of WordPress, I haven't been able to upload images, visit My Old Blog With The Pictures Uploaded There. All these pictures are courtesy of Journalist Hussam El-Hamalawy. My sincere thanks go to him for allowing me to use his material.
I haven't posted anything for close to a week now, although I have been keepting abreast of matters, and I thought to point out those things that caught my attention or were of special interest during the course of that week.First of all comes the sentencing and jailing of 10 officials that the courts found guilty of negligence in last year's Bani Suief's theatre fire that took the lives of 46 people, many of whom were prominent and active playwrights, writers, actors and artists. More on the issue from The Daily Star – Egypt.
Secondly, my friend Ahmed El Droubi's detention has been extended by State Security Prosecutors for another 15 days. He was also able to smuggle a letter to his friends through which he infomed them of how he feels about the whole affair. More on the detention here and the full text of the letter here. There have been rumours circulating, since yesterday afternoon, that Ahmed is due to be released today or, if not today, then within the next two days. This news is unconfirmed though.
Free Droubi T-Shirts have also been made available.
More about Ahmed El Droubi and the issue in general, but specifically at AUC, here.
Thirdly, students, faculty, alumini and employees of the American University in Cairo have declared their solidarity with the Egyptian Judges and plan a teach and stand-in tomorrow to this effect. They have also released a statement declaring their solidarity with the Egyptian Judges.
Fourthly, the World Economic Forum has come to Egypt. I have mixed feelings about the issue but, in all honesty, I haven't been following it closely enough to render an educated opinion. What was found interesting by other bloggers though was Mubarak's apparently harsh not-very-friendly-towards-Americans Inaugural Speech. Here is the Egyptian Obersever's view on the matter.
That's about it for my news compilation. There are, of course, many other things that were of importance (some personal, some not): Judges Mekki and Derbala giving a two-hour talk at AUC with an overview of the situation, its history and their opinions of events along with possible future scenarios. Also, the release of some of the detainees that were incarcerated because of the recent boughts of clashes between protestors and the government… and many more.
Due to personal reasons, I will probably be posting with a much lower frequency for the coming two weeks or so.
But! That's the way I see it.
This just in, breaking news from Al-Jazeera News Channel (tv). Judge Makki has been acquitted of all charges and Judge Bastawisi has been held responsible by the Judicial "Disciplinary Council".No news about if any sentence or decision concerning Judge Bastawisi has been passed by the "Disciplinary Council", as of yet. Judge Bastawisi's trial has been postponed (possibly because he is now in Intensive Care as he suffered a massive heart attack Wednesday Morning and was obviously not present at the hearing).
According to Al-Masry El-Yoam newspaper and other news sources (before the events of today), the hearing was supposed to be delayed since Judge Bastawisi was not going to be present. They also said that Judge Makki was not going to attend the hearing today. It is unconfirmed at the moment whether Judge Makki attended the hearing today.
Note: All names placed within quotation marks " " are either unconfirmed English translations or Arabic titles/names for which a translation is not available. Also, unless mentioned otherwise, news source here is Al Jazeera TV News Channel.
Update: This just in. The Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest criminal court, has just confirmed the ruling finding Ayman Nour guilty and his sentence of Five years in jail for the charge of falsifying documents used to establish a political party (by rejecting his appeal).
Update #2: Four Hundred members of Kifaya and Muslim brotherhood arrested today including top Muslim Brotherhood figure Essam El Erian and Mohammed Morsi.
Update #3: According to a Daily Star reporter the "Disciplinary Council" has issued a 'final warning' to Judge Bastawisi; one more infraction and action will be taken. It appears that he has been found innocent as well and was severely reprimanded by the court. (The information was obtained directly from the reporter. The story is definitely not on the website or even in print when this update was posted).
Update #4: Judge Makki, on a televised phone interview, says that Judge Bastawisi has the right to continue the fight and that he will be part of his defense team. He also said that there are three cases in front of different courts and appellates contesting different decisions that led to their trial in front of the "Disciplinary council" and including the Justice Minister's decision to form this "Disciplinary Council" in the first place. From his choice of words, I couldn't verify whether Judge Bastawisi's case has been postponed or whether he was declared innocent with a warning (as I've been hearing and reading both).
He did say that the Council condemned Judge Bastwisi's actions "…Idanat Hisham Al Bastawisi"
Note: Please excuse the different facts being reported; as I get the information from different sources, the exact nature changes depending on whether I hear it from reporters, judges, professors or people who were there at the demonstrations.
Now, Sandmonkey responded to my post by saying:
Well, Faisal, let me ignore your mindboggeling comparison of those who die on the hands of terrorists and those who die from poverty for a minute, because You said you don't want a blog-bashing post and I believe you. This will be a discussion of the issue at hand and the mode of thinking. Ok? But first of all, let me correct you on 2 things: The Oil companies in Bolivia aren't US or from other developed countries, and this wasn't done for the "benefit of the people".
Hold on a second! I made that comparison for a reason… ignoring my comparison is like saying: "we'll just imagine you didn't say this". But… but… I did! I said it!
I will, of course, continue to look at the rest of the arguments that were made, but we can't just forget about the comparison. No way. I will bring this up again as I go through the post. I also want to say I'm glad that you didn't take it as a blog-bashing contest. That would have been useless and such an intellectual turn-off!
Now, you said you wanted to make two corrections. Let's take the first; that the oil companies in Bolivia are not from the US or other developed countries. This is factually incorrect. I actually quoted an Exxon Mobil spokesperson in my first post. But, more information about the "nationalities" of these companies here, here, here and here. Brazil's PetroBras has the highest share and then come the three European companies (or joint venture in one case) and Exxon Mobil. That's three major operators from developed countries.
As for the "benefit of the people" argument, I guess my whole post will go through that.
Sandmonkey also said that "Brazil isn't exactly what someone would call a rich or developed country. And do you know how much the bolivian government stole, sorry, i meant nationalized from them? 1.6 Billion dollars worth of investment . That's money the brazilian people will never see ever again. Is that, in your opinion, right?"
This is a bit tricky to answer, I must admit. On one hand, and straight off, I would have to say Hell No! Of course, it isn't right. $1.6b is quite a large amount of money, especially for countries like Brazil and Bolivia.
But, again as I mentioned in my original post, Morales clearly stated that the contracts would have to be re-negotiated within six months or the companies would be nationalized. I'm guessing what he is doing, at this point in time, is ensuring that no foul-play (as far as he is concerned) or some form of sabotage takes place. Whether I support his decision or not, it would be reasonable to suppose that these companies might decide to take action that Morales would not want; dismantling equipment beyond the abilities of the Bolivians to put back together, shipping equipment and other forms of capital out in secret etc.
Keep in mind that the statements in the previous paragraph refer to matters from Morales' point of view… regardless of whether I (or anyone else) agrees with his decisions.
Now, this re-negotiation (assuming it occurs and matters do not deteriorate drastically – which I do not believe will occur with the way both the Brazilian President and Morales have been handling the situation after the announcement) will probably end up changing the current contracts in such a manner as to benefit the Bolivians (through their government and respective agencies and institutions) more.
Oops. Noticed I didn't answer the $1.6b question. Open a notepad file or something next to your browser so that you don't forget, I will be getting to this question in the next part of my post, but I will say this: If there is proof that a certain party was complicit in any action or whatever that involved depriving another party of their economic rights and thus their right to live a dignified life where their needs are satisfied (because of work they do, of course) then I support nationalization 110%. (Please keep in mind that I am not, at this point, claiming that the companies, related to this specific topic, were in fact party to any such behavior. I was merely declaring my view on this matter).
Moving on. I need to make sure that something is clear; Morales, during his campaigning had always mentioned that the nationalization of energy/hydro-carbon industries was a main and important point on his political agenda. The people voted for him based on this agenda. In fact, that vote had one of the highest voter turnouts in Bolivian democratic history. Morales won a clear and comfortable victory. Conclusion: A large portion of Bolivians wanted this. The Majority wanted this. Morales, as a man/human being/living entity or whatever, is merely a representative of this group of people. He didn't seize power through force or through illegal practices.
Sandmonkey then said:
Second of all, does it strike you as odd at all that the moment they seized the companies, it was venezeulan technicians who went in and ran the sites ? Does it not seems suspicious at all, that the bolivian candidate that was supported by Chavez all the way , suddenly nationalizes the industry and hand it over to the technicians of his "ally"?
As about the Venezuelan technicians part, I honestly see no relevance to the topic at hand; if that post was in fact a response to my post, then it's the nationalization and its disadvantages/advantages to Bolivia and its people that was under discussion. Excuse me if I think that the attempt to tie Morales to Chavez is an attempt at sensationalization by linking Morales to someone who is not quite liked by many countries in the west.
Either way, let's say it wasn't an attempt to sensationalize and it's relevant and all that. Well, I hate to say this… but most of the sources I've attempted to check online mentioned nothing about Venezuelan technicians taking over these facilities. It might be that I missed that fact while browsing through, literally, at least 90-something news and opinion pieces on the matter.
Either way again, if he enlisted the help of another country's technicians because his couldn't manage on his own, I honestly see no problem with this. As about Chavez… well of course he'd support Morales. Their "economic reform/policies" agaendas seem to have found a common point, an intersection if you will, where they both see eye-to-eye. I'd support him if I were Chavez: LOOK! LOOK! I'm not alone! Third world countries tend to do that.
Interestingly enough, when I followed one of the Sandmonkey's links I found this (it was the last paragraph of the article):
Under Monday's decree, foreign companies must sell a majority stake of their participation to YPFB. Yet it remains unclear how Bolivia will come up with the several billion dollars needed for that deal.
Pssst! There's the bit about compensation. It isn't exactly hardcore, confiscate-nationalization if you're buying the shares/stake, is it? (The YPFB is Bolivia's state-owned natural gas company).
Aaaah! Now we get to the meat of the matter; the war of ideologies. I've noticed that many of the comments on Sandmonkey's post are screaming against socialism. Well, I'm not going to defend socialism because, in all honesty, Im not rooting for socialism. What I'm going for are certain ideas that I believe can be integrated into any system; the fact that they bear close resemblance to socialism is… well, it is what it is. I have no explanation for it.
When sandmonkey says
Do you know what Morales now wants? He demands that any company that comes in to get only 18% of the profits, and give the other 82% to the Bolivian government. And they are wondering why the hell no one has stepped up to take them on that offer yet. Man, I work in the Oil and Gas sector, and let me tell you, that kind of profit margin is beyond unacceptable. The return on the investment would take forever to actualize itself, and let's face it, any government that sees it well in its right to nationalize your investment whenever they see fit, is a government that you can not trust with your investments. So yeah, sure, they did take over the facilities, but no one who actually knows how to run the business will touch it with a 10 foot pole. Morales, if he really wanted to help his people and raise their income level, has fucked up big time. Bolivia doesn't have much oil to begin with, so the return is not even close to the risk.
… all I can say is:
1. Don't you think that the number, 82%, is a bit of a strange number? I did. First thing that came to mind was: Why on earth did this guy not say 80 or 85? I mean come on, I sincerely doubt that they went to great pains calculating some sort of cost-benefit analysis and came to the conclusion that with the 82/18 combination they will get the right number of investors. First thing I did was check things out and, then I found this. Now, I can begin to understand the number:
The state assumed the majority control (51% of the actions) of all the oil-producing companies in the country and two refineries of the Petrobrás (brazilian state company); decreed an increase of the gas tax of 50% for 82% and gave a period of time of 180 days for the companies accept the measures, otherwise they will have to leave the country… Formerly, in the beginning of the privatization process, the companies stayed with 82% of the invoicing and the state with 18% left. In that time, the executives of the company Repsol YPF (Spain and Argentina) celebrated the fact that, for each dollar they put in Bolivia, the company got 10 dollars of profit.
So basically, the situation was reveresed when the companies were privatized. Hell, it isn't even fully reveresed because before privatization, the state owned 100% of all assets. Even more, I came across this article. This is the bit which caught my attention:
Although Mr. Morales said on Thursday that no compensation would be paid because there was no confiscation of energy companies' assets, Bolivian officials have said that if the new contract talks fail, expropriations are possible, and in that case, restitution would be made.
As always, its the little stuff that is mentioned by some anonymous officials that usually goes unnoticed… no matter the significance of the declaration or statement they made.
As about Socialism and Capitalism and all that. I am surprised at how much people do not realize the complexity of things like Socialism and Communism. Idealistic as they are, these theories came out as by-products of events like the Industrial Revolution where Capitalism reigned supreme and workers were treated like shit.
A simple response to this would be: but hold on a second, if Capitalism is simpler, then just apply its tenets and you're safe. Occam's Razor you idiot! Sadly, that isn't the case. But, what also isn't the case is that socialism failed… as a system. Look at Sweden for god's sake! That, is what I am arguing for. Russia was a perfect model of State Capitalism; the state was responsible for the distribution of resources and production. The State, and not the workers or peasants, was the owner of property.
Cuba have some of the best doctors in the world. If that's Socialism, then to hell with the Scandinavian Model and let's go Socialist!
As with Abdel Nasser… I can't even begin to talk about Abdel Nasser. You're Egyptian Sandmonkey… I don't think I have the patience nor stamina to enter into another discussion about him. Suffice to say that I agree with you whole-heartedly, it is a fact after all, about the gold, the Egyptian Pound and the state of the economy before-hand. Let me also tell you that my own mother (who hails from the landed-aristocracy – before Nasser obviously – and whose family lost a WHOLE LOTTA LAND because of his nationalization) had this to say about Abdel Nasser: Shoof ya Faisal. It's true that we didn't get to eat Apples every year. It's true that he took the land and all that. BUT, the poor people who lived miserably at the time of the king had food on their table every night.
I'm not a huge proponent of Human Rights and all that… in the sense that it isn't really something that I think about all the time or associate with athoritarian regimes and all that. I am a Political Economist, so I think Politics and Economics. I want people to have land (I want to own land myself!), I want people to invest and enjoy the returns on their investments (the more the better, I say!) But, I cannot accept that people do this while others cannot find food, or clean water, or clothes or shelter and are not given a fair chance of obtaining them. Again, if that is Socialism, then I'm all for it.
As about the approaches… well, again, I'm all for micro-financing and micro-banking. I'm all for lending money to SME's and households so that they'd start their own projects and make money off that. I'm also all for free education up and until University levels, an efficient public health-care system (in addition to private health care) and public utilities (or at least the option of some… in some way or another).
What I am not in favor of are entities like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund who send their smiling, suit-clad, theory-toting representatives/employees to my country and "forcing" the government to "Go West". That is exactly what happened. They come and they decide that Egypt, as with most other countries they've attempted to help, needs to restructure its economic system in order to 1. Repay all its international debt 2. Thrive economically.
What happened is that they forced the government to spend less money by hiring less people and removing subsidies from foodstuffs and other products (most of them essential products that are used on a daily basis – salt, sugar, flour etc). You know, this would have been totally fine were it not for the fact that there was no one in the Egyptian market to replace the government as the LARGEST SINGLE employer in the economy and, of course, poor people's purchasing power does not increase because subsidies are cut. And Egypt boomed for a bit and the people suffered.
If you want to say that socialist governments have only brought misery and doom unto their people, I will generally not disagree with you. I will say thought that the whole truth goes a bit beyond that; it isn't their socialist tendencies or whatnot that doomed them, it was their (generally) authoritarian, totalitarian system of rule that stripped their citizens of all their rights, freedoms and ability to prosper and/or achieve social mobility. THAT, I am definitely against.
Let me just say this about Bolivia, I just remembered something someone had said, if foreign investors do not go to Bolivia, then Morales will learn his lesson the hard way and he'll obviously have to change the way he deals with the world. Let me just say this: I sincerely doubt that any wide-spread boycott of investment in Bolivia will occur. They might face a bit of a problem in their energy sector for a couple of years (maybe!) but no more.
As for me benefiting from capitalism, well… I never said I did not. Even if I hated capitalism, I am not in a position personally to change the International Economic Order or World System generally. Having said that, I don't think that pure capitalism works for me (in terms of what I think would be best for all or at least most of the people). And sure the Chinese benefited from Capitalism… they couldn't afford not to. They "got with the system". Notice though that the chinese only have a couple of cities that have non-socialist laws and exemptions for foreign countries.
Also note that it's free trade (another concept which scares the living hell out of me) that the Chinese utilized most intelligently to get where they are now.
TAKE NOTE: My first post was entitled: "Why I'm a SOCIAL LIBERAL" (not Socialist or Capitalist-hater)
I also believe that Socialism and its pretext of working for the public good has always been and still remains the ultimate excuse for tyrants and dictators to validate their powers and control.
Couldn't agree with you more. The fact that it can be used to sway the hearts of men (and women of course) to help the tyrant, dictator or whatnot entrench himself further is something that I cannot deny. But, I can definitely say that Socialism (as a theory and not a living entity) cannot be blamed. That's like saying it's the bread-knife's fault that it was used to kill someone.
In Short: I am NOT a socialist! Nor do I support Capitalism! People who think life is just Socialism and Capitalism really need to read-up on the way this world is run. It's much, much more complex than that. I support certain policies, most mentioned above, that I believe should be applied in any state. If you wish to call it Socio-Capitalism, Communism or friggin Geography… please do so.
And thus, I await to see what Morales will really do after all the attention that he wanted to get, and did obviously. I want to see if what he did will help his people, like he said it would and based on the fact that his people voted him into power because of these promises.
So, about the $1.6b? Well, if he covers any losses (in terms of money invested until that point) then I'm personally cool with it. If not… well, then I'd have to see how that company treated the Bolivian market and government when it comes to the contract and so on and so forth. So basically, I have no conclusive view on the matter.
That's the way I see it.
[This post was originally written and meant to be published on the 6th of May. Real life events forced me to save it as a draft and I was only able to continue it today.]I have political views. A lot in fact. The way I see it has been dedicated to commenting about various socio-political and economic ideas that I've been exposed to, mainly in Egypt and the Middle East. I dabble in the occult [Read: International Affairs] when I can draw parallels with events of the Middle East.
My previous post was about President Evo Morales of Bolivia nationalizing the countries Energy sources, mostly those owned by foreign corporations. Not everyone shared my view that his actions would lead to a situation which is more socially equitable. Sorry, I still think it is. It was mentioned that there were people who invested money into these projects. Obviously, they expect (and deserve) a return on their investment. Sandmonkey, whose post I linked to in this paragraph, believes that Morales' decisions were immoral.
This is not meant as a blog-bashing post, rather, I am criticizing a mode of thinking. This same blogger, along with all those who share his views, clobbers "suicide-bombers" and all groups/individuals who carry out acts of "terrorism" because of their "murderous nature". He clearly states that he is "sick of the people dying".
So, it's not alright if people die violent death in bombings, shootings or stabbing incidents and it's completely alright if their country is sucked dry of its resources, because other people payed money to make profits from these resources, effectively killing hundreds and thousands over a longer period of time. That makes complete and utter sense; Bolivia needs the gas and petrol to sell in order to make money to fund their resource and money starved government (whichever government it is).
What happens is that these companies come from the US, or other developed countries, and then sign contracts which award the Bolivians an amount significantly lower than half of the profits or revenues generated. I can understand how someone can expect to make money by helping you do something that you wouldn't be able to do other-wise; the Bolivians wouldn't get any revenue at all if these companies weren't there… but come on! Less than HALF! Half!
For someone who's pre-occupied with human rights quite a bit, I would have expected that that single fact would have caused Sandmonkey to shout: STOP! You need to see how things are there! He also works in the field of finance, according to his bio, so he understands the numbers and the terms. But, apparently the forces of capitalism which the glorious United States has been adamant on sowing everywhere in the world either directly or through one of its proxies [Read: IBRD, IMF, IFC etc.] are much too blinding.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) [which all anti-islamists/ anti-Hamas/ anti-"suicide bombers" apparently know word for word] has a numer of articles that I think might be relevant when discussing Bolivia.
Let's take it from the top (and I'll try to take only the most relevant articles of the Declaration):
First, there is the preambulatory clauses;
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
[Note the bit with freedom of speech, belief, fear and want.]
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
So, "rule of law" is important against tyranny and oppression and also to prevent people to rebel against any possible tyranny and oppression. Keep in mind, this law has to be Just.]
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
The crowning piece really. Why do people seem to believe that the dignity and worth of the human being is violated only when they're killed? It's as if kicking them out of their homes and depriving them of equal opportunities to get a job and "allowing" their government enough resources to spend on public projects and so on is not a demeaning of these persons; that they can still maintain their dignity and feeling of self-worth when they're homeless, destitute and ravished by disease.
What about promoting Social Progress? What about those better standards of life? What is the western world going to do about this? And why should they do something about this? I'll tell you why; it is their financial and developmental organizations that help perpetuate the state of affairs in the developing world. I'm not even going to shout history. I'm not going to scream foul and say: what about all the years of servitude and highway robbery that most developing countries had to go through.
I won't do that, but not because these things are not true. They are true. It is because other developing countries proved themselves capable of improving their situation and implementing correct economic and developmental policies (sustainable ones too!) that I will not scream history.
[Continued in next Post]