Over Easy

(Picture courtesy of mhaithaca at flickr.com.)

The roundup of foreign media and news this week is headlined by the recent death of longtime U.S. bête noire Hugo Chavez.

According to Venezuela specialist George Ciccariella-Maher interviewed by FRANCE 24, the depth and scope of many Venezuelans’ grief cannot be underestimated.
“No matter what we may individually think of Hugo Chavez, the reality is he was a massively popular political leader,” he said. “[He was] someone who was able to generate a powerful, charismatic connection with the Venezuelan masses.”

As for the future of Chavez’s leftist policies, which won him the adoration of poor Venezuelans but infuriated opponents who denounced him as a dictator, much depends on Vice President Nicolas Maduro, the man he tapped to succeed him.

Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader, will probably face Henrique Capriles, governor of Miranda state, in the next election in the OPEC nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

The stakes are huge for the region, given the crucial economic aid and cheap fuel the Chavez government supplied to allies across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Authorities said the vote would be called within 30 days, as stipulated by the constitution, but did not specify the date.

The election of a new Pope evoked quarrels of U.S. cardinals’ speaking out and using social media in what is usually a highly secret process.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, was quoted as saying there were “two schools of thought” in the college of cardinals: those who felt the Roman curia would be best reformed by someone within it, and those who believed an outsider was needed. Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, was quoted as saying the cardinals wanted to be briefed on the Vatileaks scandal in order to make the right choice.

U.N. observers were taken into custody by rebel forces in Syria.  In confused fighting, the U.N. forces had come under fire.  Syria’s military demanded their release.

In the video published on the internet, the gunmen identified themselves as the “Martyrs of Yarmouk”.

They are heard saying that the UN personnel would not be released until forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad withdrew from the village of Jamla in the area.

The rebels later admitted taking the monitors to try to stop the Syrian army from firing on them and civilians in the areas.

The rebels added that the UN team were their guests.

After only 500 years, Sephardic jews were invited to resume their role in Spain.   In the inquisition, they were ejected and properties confiscated; the Seville cathedral contains a work of art made from confiscated gold.

In November, Spain’s justice minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon announced a plan to give descendants of Spain’s original Jewish community – known as Sephardic Jews – a fast-track to a Spanish passport and Spanish citizenship.

“In the long journey Spain has undertaken to rediscover a part of itself, few occasions are as moving as today,” he said.

Anyone who could prove their Spanish Jewish origins, he said, would be given Spanish nationality.

The leading country producing maize for lands in Africa, South Africa has recently been suffering from drought that threatens its crop for this year.

Dry weather conditions have hit the main maize growing areas in South Africa, wilting the crop and dashing prospects for better yields this year.

South Africa’s provinces of Free State and North West, which together produce more than half of the country’s total maize crop, have been the hardest hit by the dry conditions in recent weeks after good rains earlier in the growing season.

The lessons of U.S. mistakes in invading Iraq have begun to show in Europe’s new approach to the region, and to its relations in the southern continent.

It has been 10 years since the US-led invasion of Iraq, which marked a turning point in the West’s so-called war on terror.

The pretext of the Iraq war was security and freedom, but the bombastic and openly pronounced objective was no less than remaking the greater Middle East region.

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And as Africa becomes the new frontline in the ‘war on terror’, have the Europeans learnt from America’s mistakes?

Shortly after sending fighter jets and troops into Mali, French President Francois Hollande said: “We will stay…for as long as it’s necessary to ensure victory over terrorism.” That is the same socialist president who recently told his people that there would be: “no men on the ground, no engagement by French troops” and that France would only provide “material support” to Mali’s armed forces.

The twists and turns of the West’s endless ‘war on terror’ continue to confound and confuse.

As Southern Dragon reminded us daily at Lakeside Diner;  Never.Give.Up.