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APRÈS LE DÉLUGE


Un an après le feu, l'eau. Les éléments du désastre. Après l'ouest et la catastrophe de Fort McMurray, les inondations de l'est, non pas concentrées dans une seule région mais réparties au long du St Laurent et de la rivière des Outaouais, forçant des évacuations, l'état d'urgence parfois, et l'intervention de l'armée, une première depuis la tempête du verglas il y a presque 20 ans dans ce coin peuplé du pays.

Chassé de chez lui, à quelques kilomètres des immeubles du parlement, un riverain de Gatineau soupire et constate les dégâts de son habitation près de La rue St. Louis. "Ca fait deux semaines qu'on est inondés mais on se défendait avec nos sacs de sable. Puis cette semaine je suis allé au travail et quand je suis revenu ça avait monté de 3 pieds. On n'a rien eu le temps de bouger dans le sous sol, tout est perdu."

Dans son quartier plusieurs centaines de personnes ont été évacuées, plus loin dans sur la rive ontarienne, vers l'est comme vers l'ouest, des centaines d'autres livrent une lutte acharnée et parfois sans espoir contre les éléments, jusque vers Montréal, où trois digues n'ont pas tenu le coup.

Sur plusieurs centaines de kilomètres, des milliers de riverains ont été touchés en tout, jusqu'à Trois Rivières et Toronto même, après un printemps pluvieux où les cours d'eau, déjà gonflés par la fonte des neiges, ont atteint des volumes et des débits records par endroits, comme au centre de la capitale nationale.

Face au désastre, fort heureusement ils ne sont pas seuls car les volontaires accourent, des voisins - parfois faisant leur deuil après la perte de leur propre combat mais relevant leurs manches pour aider les autres - dont des enfants se joignant au groupe qui remplit des sacs de sable au milieu d'une intersection à moitié inondée de Gatineau.

À quelques pas, une auto recouverte d'eau jusqu'au capot flotte presque, abandonnée par son propriétaire depuis plusieurs jours. "Je n'ai jamais vu rien de pareil" dit-il alors qu'une équipe d'Hydro Québec s'enfonce dans l'eau jusqu'au torse et passe à côté d'une boîte postale presque entièrement perdue sous les flots, se dirigeant vers une pompe qui dégage un torrent d'eau d'une maison inondée, une lutte sans doute perdue d'avance.

Quelques jours plus tard, le bout de terrain où avait eu lieu la conversation a disparu sous les flots, ainsi que la boite postale et même l'automobile, dont la présence est signalée par un cône de circulation posé sur le toit, un baromètre de la catastrophe. Le niveau d'eau n'a alors pas encore atteint son niveau maximal. Non loin une barque transportant des riverains fait des vagues, cette venise du nord n'a rien de romantique.

La rue St Louis n'est pourtant pas en bordure de la rivière, mais à plus de cent mètres de celle ci, qui en débordant au long d'une seule transversale, a envoyé ses eaux envahir le quartier.  Ce dernier est dorénavant sans courant ou gaz, et presque plus sans énergie après des nuits passées à livrer une lutte difficile alors que les pluies gonflent davantage l'étendue du désastre.

Après celui-ci en viendra un autre, notamment le risque de champignons et de contamination, aggravant les pertes matérielles. Sans parler de l'épuisement mental. Déjà l'eau dans laquelle on trempe est loin d'être transparente, mêlée à l'essence des génératrices noyées et le rejet des égoûts.

Un riverain a même subi un choc électrique lié à l'utilisation de sa pompe. Fort heureusement peu sont blessés ou manquent à l'appel, mais il y en a, notamment un père et son enfant possiblement emportés dans les flots lorsque leur véhicule est parti à la dérive dans l'est du Québec. Entre temps l'armée arrive en renfort, plus de 2000 soldats en tout à travers le Québec, pour remplir des sacs de sable, dont le volume se compte par plusieurs centaines de milliers, atteindre des zones sinon inatteignables, et rassurer.

Même si ces simples sacs fort utiles n'offrent aucune garantie, et trop souvent, que de faux espoirs. Plusieurs murs ainsi érigés seront éventuellement submergés malgrés tous les efforts et toute la solidarité qui ont aidé à les bâtir. Mais certaines batailles symboli-ques sont gagnées. Plus de 170 communautés, dont certaines près des Grands lacs, sont touchées en tout, environ 4000 maisons englouties, après des pluies qui se sont parfois accumulées en quelques jours comme elles le font pendant un mois entier.

Comme pour faire le point sur l'ampleur du désastre, les autorités civiles au Québec font les louanges de la gestion des barrages, sans laquelle certains lacs seraient gonflés avec 50cm de plus. Déjà les accusations, nourries par la fatigue, en veulent aux autorités. Les sacs de sable n'ont pas été livrés à temps, ou sont insuffisants en raison de la demande - certains viennent d'aussi loin que l'Alberta -, ou encore l'armée n'a pas été appelée assez tôt. La grogne s'installe et l'eau redescend à peine.

Les politiciens multiplient les visites et les points de presse, et certains en viennent aux conclusions. "La fréquence des événements de météo extrême a augmenté et c'est relié aux changements climatiques, affirme Justin Trudeau de passage à Gatineau. Donc en prévision des reconstructions de nos villes et de nos infrastructures il faudra avoir une réflexion afin de mieux reconstruire, plus résistant, pour ne pas faire face à la même situation dans l'avenir".

En conséquence plusieurs observateurs souli-gnent le besoin d'améliorer les politiques en matière d'inondation, en commençant par mettre à jour des cartes hydrographiques souvent désuètes. On regrette notamment qu'un programme développé après la catastrophe du Saguenay en 1996 ait été interrompu huit ans plus tard. Risque-t-on de tirer les bonnes leçons du présent désastre?


THE GREAT CYBERT THREAT

Viruses are devastating enough when they crash your computer and corrupt your files, but the attack on major company and government systems in some 150 countries last week including the interior ministry of Russia, a country fingered for meddling in elections in the US and France, may herald future threats ahead.

The malware tricked email recipients into clicking a link which froze their system and data until they paid a $300 ransom in bitcoins, sometimes halting entire systems, from Britain's hospital network - preventing doctors from accessing important files on their patients - to Germany's rail system.

China, which has also upped its cyber game, nonetheless saw thousands of institutions affected while Japan's Nissan also faced problems to its systems, in what has been described as the first truly global cyber attack of its kind, and likely not the last. Experts blamed everything from people not upgrading their systems when prompted - Microsoft having provided a patch against the threat in March - to governments stocking up on cyber weapons to defend their countries.

This backfired when hackers stole such software from the NSA, then provided it freely online. After months of facing charges his country tried to influence the US electoral process, Vladimir Putin hit back, accusing the US of orchestrating the global cyber chaos. Experts point to North Korea. "Malware created by intelligence agencies can backfire on its creators," he said, calling on global leaders to discuss cyber security at a "serious political level." 

Certainly this has been going on in the US since the election at a time people close to the administration are under scrutiny for ties to Russia. Ironically Putin's charge is supported by Microsoft, which slammed the NSA for developing the source of the software used in the attack.

"The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake up call," the software giant stated, pointing out government vulnerabilities. "Repeatedly exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having one of its tomahawk missiles stolen."

While the original ransomware was stopped by a British security expert who registered its domain name, creating a "kill switch", new strains of the virus have spread. On the ground effects varied from delayed surgeries to car factory shut downs and trip cancellations. Russia, often blamed for attacks on Western systems, has borne much of the brunt according to experts. But European officials said so far few people had paid up.    



THE NEW RULER IN SEOUL


The incoming administration in Seoul may not be in lock step with Washington on North Korea but they do agree on one thing, that the previous approach on the hermit kingdom amounted to little more than failure, added tensions and frustration.

But while the US is looking for a bigger stick, sparking fears of pre-emptively striking the misbehaving regime and its tantrum throwing leader, new president Moon Jae-in has promoted a softer tone and rapprochement.

At least until last week's missile test, already a first challenge to the incoming administration's resolve. This latest provocative move by Pyongyang has even further raised tensions already kept high by military exercises by U.S. and South Korean forces. Many South Koreans are concerned about family members they haven't seen in years living in the North and are just as anxious about the latest turn of events.

Voters who ended years of conservative rule liked the incoming Democratic party's promise to reform the country's powerful family owned conglomerates, caught in the scandal which culminated with the impeachment and imprison-ment of president Park. Moon, who had been imprisoned himself by his predecessor's father in the 1970s,  had lost to Park in the previous election.

One of his first measures after choosing a prime minister, if tensions do eventually cool down, may be reopening a border area shared industrial com-plex, a coope-rative effort which was halted a year ago amid escalating tensions and new nuclear tests by Pyongyang.

Moon also shares Washington's aversion to the North's nuclear programme however, and has said any attack on the South would be met with a devastating response. While some statements by Trump, such as calling Kim Jong-un a "smart cookie" and possibly being "honoured" to meet him under the right circumstances, certainly puzzled Seoul, the incoming tenant of the blue house has let it known he would be willing to meet with Jong-un himself.

There at least seems to be enough to make sure the crucial ties between the peninsula and the country which has based thousands of troops there to keep the peace find common ground. "It is crucial that Trump and the next South Korean President strike up instant positive chemistry on their first meeting to help work through any bilateral differences and together deal with the North Korean challenge," analyst Duyeon Kim told Foreign affairs.

Common condem-nation of the latest tests is a start. But the administration's recent trade spats have spread concerns about a five year old trade deal with South Korea Trump has described as "horrible", a now familiar term used to describe previous trade deals at the White House.

Seoul has internal business reviews of its own to conduct, especially with the fallout of the corruption scandals involving the congromerates. "Reform of the chaebols should help to boost productivity growth across the economy," Capital Economics said in a research note ahead of the election.

Seoul will also seek to soften ties with Beijing, which were soured with the deployment of the American Thaad missile system. This week China conducted its own missile test, a clear sign of protest against the US shield deployment.

The latest North Korean missile test dismayed the incoming administration in Seoul, but didn't immediately deter its resolve to try to open a new dialogue with the North; officials stressed this required a change of "attitude" by their counterparts however. Obser-vers meanwhile anxiously noted that while the previous test had been a dismal failure, the latest had pointed to evident strides in the country's missile program.



A TRIP BACK IN TIME


A new Cold War of sorts with Russia, a missile scare with a nuclear power, neighbourly trade antagonism and even a space race with another rival power. This could be the early 1960s, but no. 

Will the next 100 days send us back to the 1930s?


The opening of a large Russian polar military base signalled they country's renewed focus on the region and military might, at a time its fighter jets are routinely escorted out of North American airspace by planes under NORAD command.


But immediate fears are out of Pyongyang, which claims to possess rockets with the range to hit North American rockets. Its latest test however ended in utter failure, but Washington is slowly losing patience with the antics of the hermit kingdoms young leader. 


The incoming administration however sees no contradiction in sharing defense efforts with its peaceful northern neighbor and launching a trade war at the same time after Ottawa said it would retaliate against punitive taxes against softwood imports which are already affecting the industry nationwide.


The issue has made the countries with the second largest two way trade relationship trade tariff blows in the past, though international tribunals have repeatedly ruled in Canada's favour.


As for the space race, it seeks to make China an interstellar power, but involves EU cooperation as the two seek to establish a permanent station on the moon. In the meantime Beijing sent its first unmanned cargo spacecraft docking with its space station. 


The Tiangong2 station should become fully operational in 2022 and is a response to being banned from the IISS due to restrictive US legislation over concerns over the Chinese programs military ties.


But officials say it's all about cooperation as we're a long way off from the race of the Sixties and hope the base can eventually serve as launching pad for further space missions, including to Mars.


C'EST MACRON

Premier tour divisé, gestes terroristes et manifestations parfois violentes, la campagne électorale avait bien donné la mesure des enjeux sur fond de crainte de Frexit.

Comme si la scène politique nationale elle-même, avec les hauts et les bas, et parfois les dates en cour de justice, d'une douzaine de candidats, dont certains aux propos plus controversés que les autres, ne suffisait pas. En fin de compte le candidat centriste Emmanuel Macron l'a emporté, mais la victoire a été accueillie avec soulagement plutôt qu'enthousiasme, et celui-ci devra fourbir ses armes en vue de ce troisième tour que l'on a baptisé les législatives du mois prochain.

L'UE a pu souffler tout de même après ce nouvel échec du populisme, même si Marine Le Pen a enregistré des résulats records pour l'extrême droite, cette rare dame du second tour, seulement la deuxième de la cinquième république, mal-gré des propos parfois incendiaires. Avec ses 65% le candidat du jeune mouve-ment d'En Marche a su faire légèrement mieux que la plupart des sondages du second tour cependant, relevé par sa prestation lors d'un débat télévisé houleux plus fort sur la forme que sur le fond. Dès le lendemain du premier tour, Macron devait déjà essuyer des reproches de triomphalisme après son discours et la fête qui a suivi dans une brasserie de Paris.

Le président Hollande s'est dit regretter qu'il n'y ait pas "eu prise de conscience de ce qu'il s'est passé" soit une percée de l'extrême droite, qui a enregistré son meilleur résultat. Macron, à 39 ans le plus jeune dirigeant francais depuis Napoléon, s'était engagé à ne pas répéter les erreurs de Mme Clinton aux Etats-Unis, après avoir obtenu 24% au premier tour contre 21% pour  Marine Le Pen. Celui-ci se défendait bien d'avoir crié victoire, et dimanche déjà le ton était nettement plus sobre: "Je ne méconnais ni les difficultés économiques, ni les fractures sociales ni les impasses démocratiques ni l'affaiblis-sement moral du pays", dit-il.

Par ailleurs il s'agit d'un rejet incontestable des partis établis, les socialistes au pouvoir croulant à 6% du vote au premier tour. Le candidat du Parti Socialiste Benoit Hamon s'est empressé d'annoncer son appui à Macron au second tour. Peu après, l'ancien favori François Fillon (19%) appuyait également le candidat d'En Marche. La fronde s'assemblait ainsi dés les premiers instants contre Le Pen, mais les manifestations traditionnelles du premier mai laissaient paraitre une certaine division, et une forte poussée d'abstentionnisme, près du quart des électeurs décidant en fin de compte de ne pas se présenter aux urnes.

Le président sortant avait également annoncé son appui en faveur du centriste mais le gauchiste Jean-Luc Mélenchon, dont la montée s'est faite dans les derniers jours de la campagne, refusait de donner son appui formel à quelque candidat au second tour. Celui-ci s'est attiré les critiques du front anti-FN, craignant un vote blanc de taille. Car de manière générale la classe politique était formelle, élire Le Pen serait un désastre. Pour le camp perdant "les Français ont voté pour la continuité," même si les résultats électoraux étaient "historiques" pour Le Pen.

Celle-ci s'engageait à mener l'opposition aux législatives après une présidentielle durant laquelle on avait assisté à "une décomposition majeure de la vie politique française, par l'élimination des partis anciens." Celle-ci avait promis "une alternance fondamen-tale" ainsi qu'une lutte contre la "mondialisation sauvage". Elle envisageait un référen-dum sur la participation à l'UE, l'abandon de l'espace Shengen et du commandement intégré de l'OTAN ainsi que l'érection d'un "protectionnisme intel-ligent".

Sans parler des limites en matière d'immigration. Macron, cet ancien banquier et ministre des finances qui en est à sa cinquième année en politique seulement, et dont le mouvement fête à peine son premier anniversaire, a vite fait appel au rassemblement après une année au courant de laquelle "nous avons changé le visage de la vie politique française." "Je me battrai de toutes mes forces contres les divisions qui nous minent, dit-il". En Marche prévoit notamment des réductions dans les dépenses publiques, des coupures fiscales et une augmentation de la coopération européenne.

Les deux candidats avaient légèrement ajusté leur ton en veille du débat télévisé, Macron indiquant le besoin de réforme au sein de l'Union européenne alors que Le Pen revenait un peu sur sa position anti-euro. Droite et gauche pendant ce temps font leur deuil dans ce nouveau monde de la politique française, la première ayant vu son candidat s'écrouler avec l'affaire des emplois fictifs. Le partage du vote a au moins permis à une alternative de se dresser face au FN après l'écroulement de Fillon dans un système politique à présent pluripolaire à quatre.

Ce dernier annonçait d'ailleurs dès le lendemain du premier tour qu'il n'avait plus "la légitimité" de mener le parti aux législatives de juin. Les marchés de leur côté ont poussé un certain soulagement après les résultats, mais l'ombre du travail des pirates de l'informatique planait sur la campagne, comme lors de celle des Etats-Unis. Selon des analystes, des hackers russes étaient bien à l'oeuvre pour faire pencher la campagne contre Macron. Aux côtés d'Angela Merkel à quelques jours du vote, Vladimir Poutine se défendait face à de telles accusations, pourtant de plus en plus documentées aux Etats-Unis.

Ironiquement nombre de dirigeants ou politiciens étrangers ne se sont pas gênés d'afficher leur préférence en vue du second tour, dont Barack Obama. Dans l'autre camp, les soutiens pouvaient être désolants, dont celui d'un ancien chef du KKK et d'une ultra-nationaliste russe. Macron rejoint à présent une nouvelle génération de jeunes dirigeants européens prêts à donner un nouveau souffle au projet du vieux continent. Du moins en attendant le prochain vote continental crucial, en Allemagne.  




PLAYING WITH FIRE IN MACEDONIA


Even at the height of the anti-corruption protests in 2015 the tiny Balkan country, whose name has at times been mangled by bureaucrats, had not faced such fury. The government in Skopje had been anything but stable since, the release of wiretaps shedding light on corruption and electoral fraud two years ago having fuelled demonstrations.


But when the ruling Social Democrats announced an ethnic Albanian would serve as speaker for the first time, finally opening the doors to a much needed coalition, opposition protes-ters entered the legislature, causing damage and injuries, and laying bare the region's ongoing ethnic tensions.


In a country where the constitution guarantees the representation of Albanian parties in government, nationalist voices are growing wary of the ethnic group making slightly under a third of the population, fearing an eventual takeover of the country by ethnic Albanians due to their higher birth rate.


The nationalist VMRO party has led the country for a decade but has been unable to form a government after last fall's inconclusive election result. Its slipping numbers were caused by corruption allegations rocking the party, but when the Social Democrats formed a coalition with two parties representing ethnic Albanians, threatening to end VMRO rule, it was opposed by the country's president, prolonging the crisis.


Nationalists fear the powerful minority could undo national unity, recalling a major crisis in 2001 following an Albanian uprising which brought the country on the edge of civil war. While international capitals condem-ned the violence, their interpretation of events varied, Moscow accusing the West of fomenting violence and "pandering to the advocates of a Greater Albania."


Pieter Feith, a NATO negotiator at the heart of efforts to restore peace in 2001, warned nationalists refusing the yield power were "playing with fire" and feared an escalation of violence. "The next step I could imagine, but God forbid, if arms are going to be handed out and circulated as they were in 2001," the told Reuters. "You are quickly on the abyss of civil war."


The country has been looking westwards for years, and an EU candidate since 2005 "but somehow we have made a U-turn and slid back towards authoritaria-nism," noted Biljana Vankovska of Skopje Univer-sity.



BACK ON THE HIGH SEAS

One could hardly argue Somalia's election this winter went off without a hitch, but it went off, and that was enough for a number of observers despite latent corruption and continuing lack of governance in a number of regions.


One of those include Galmudug, a troubled federal state thrust into the spotlight, along with nearby puntland, by the resumption of attacks of commercial ships off its coast. US officials operating in the area concede that while the isn't a trend quite yet, the number of piracy cases "certainly has increased," over the last few weeks.


Half a dozen attacks have been recorded in that short period after a lull in the number of high profile cases since 2012. Poor conditions in those states and the lack of security along the coast can be blamed, but perhaps so can a certain complacency on the ships off the Horn of Africa, which had beefed up security following earlier attacks.


The spread of drought and famine in the region is also possibly a contributing factor according to officials discussing the issue when Défense sec. Jim Mattis visited  Djibouti, where the us is among a number of nations including France, Italy and china to have stationed forces in the strategic area where the Red Sea meets the gulf of Aden.


"Some of the vessels that have been taken under hijacking have had some food and some oil on them," noted Gen. Thomas Waldhauser. "Moreover these particular ships have been very small in statute and very lucrative targets for pirates."


The first major new recorded incident in five years occurred in early March with the taking of a Comoros flagged ship carrying fuel. It's still a long way from the 237 attacks to take place at the height of the pirate incidents in 2011, but then some observers point out the phenomenon may not have totally disappeared since, but simply occurred at a more low level local scale on this naval far west region.


Piracy has also occurred in corners of the west African coast and straight of Malaysia.


US officials warned about the resurgence of attacks after the online publication of a dramatic shootout in the area between private security contractors, which have become the norm on many larger vessels, and pirate speed boats.


While western naval forces operating the area are more focused on counter terrorism, Somalia has asked NATO to assist with the resurgence of attacks, specifically to tackle illegal fishing.


Puntland's Vice President has however stated NATO did not find this to be its mandate. "We told them that if they cannot take measures against the illegal fishing vessels who come under their cover and those who pour wastes into our waters then their presence is a burden rather than a benefit," Abdihakim Omar said.


Matt Brayden of Sahan Research told al-Jazeera  coastal communities are arming themselves due to growing frustration the government is doing little to solve the problem.


"Coastal communities are angry at the foreign vessels and st the authorities who they believe have licenced some of them ."

Other observers say the pirates are also resorting to smuggling, trading migrant passages for weapons.




OUI TIMIDE EN TURQUIE


Lorsque la Turquie  a brièvement affaibli le parti au pouvoir de Recep Erdogan en 2015 par la voie des urnes après des mois de révolte, l'opposition a eu le sentiment de respirer un peu et d'avoir évité le pire, soit un mandat qui aurait à coup sûr renforcé l'exécutif dans le sens de la démesure.

Mais le retour à la majorité de son AKP quelques mois plus tard laissait entendre l'inévita-bilité de la concentration du pouvoir dans les mains de la présidence turque, un poste jadis cérémonial.

Le référendum de cette fin de semaine n'était en sorte qu'une formalité. Le coup d'état raté de l'an dernier avait entre temps donné lieu à de nombreuses purges, élimi-nant des milliers de postes à travers le pays alors que la presse restait constamment sous pressiotn.

Mais le mince écart de la victoire du oui, avec à peine plus de 51%, n'a pas manqué de soulever la contestation des opposants, qui ont aussitôt repris la rue. Le pays avait-il, en donnant son aval hésitant à la nouvelle constitution, fait de son président "un sultan moin-drement obligé de rendre des comptes au parlement" pour reprendre une formule de l'Economist? Une dictature élue, comme il peut en exister dans certains pays, notamment du tiers monde, mais aussi industrialisés, comme la Russie?

Selon Erdogan, ces nouvelles mesures sont nécessaires étant données les menaces qui guettent ce pays aux croisements des mondes, et surtout, en bordure d'un Moyen-orient en guerre d'où les ennemis de l'état complotent la chute de la république. Cette paranoïa n'annonce rien de bon pour une démocratie, la campagne le laissant entendre.

Au courant des derniers mois Erdogan a traité Allemands et Néerlandais de Nazis parce qu'ils limitaient certains ras-semblements locaux sur le référendum et mis les discussions d'adhésion à l'UE au rancart. Il est allé jusqu'à menacer d'ouvrir les frontières, y déversant le flot de millions de réfugiés de la guerre avoisinante. Le prochain projet du président, soit un référendum sur la peine de mort, risque également de creuser l'écart entre ces mondes, si proches mais si différents.

Malgré l'écart de la victoire et l'attente des résultats finaux, le camp Erdogan s'est empressé de  crier victoire suite à cette "décision historique". Mais pour l'opposition du CHP et HDP (pro-kurde) des "manipulations" avaient nettement entaché l'exercice. Avant d'être continentale, la division est ainsi proprement nationale, les villes principales d'Ankara, Istanbul et Izmir votant pour le non.

"C'est une victoire pour Erdogan mais aussi une défaite, note l'analyste Soner Cagaptay, il a perdu Istanbul, là où il a entamé sa carrière politique". Cette semaine les observateurs de l'OCDE estimaient que "le référendum s'est déroulé sur un terrain inégal et les deux camps en campagne n'ont pas bénéficié des mêmes opportunités." Alors que l'opposition prévoyait un nouveau recours en justice pour faire annuler le vote, l'impartialité du judiciaire laissait également à désirer.



WITH HATE FROM...

After a long Winter, Spring has brought cold comfort in Europe where a number of cities faced terrorist attacks, and it was more than the threat of Islamist violence and the ensuing solidarity that bound them. In three cases, the attacks in St. Petersburg, Stockholm, and the discovery of an unexploded bomb in Oslo, the suspects hailed from the former Soviet Union, casting a light on the rise of extremism in former republics now living under totalitarian regimes cracking down on their Muslim minorities.

The threat used to rise from autonomous areas of Russia, such as Chechnya and Dagestan, mostly targeting power in Moscow, but has since spread to the Stans. According to the International Crisis Group some 2000 to 4000 natives of Tadjikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq over the years. Leading the way is Uzbekistan, home of 39 year old Rakhmat Akilov, who confessed to ramming  a stolen beer truck into pedestrians in downtown Stockholm before crashing it into a department store. He was identified as a failed permanent residency appli-cant who had been given weeks to leave Sweden. The attack, which killed four and injured 19, had a profound impact on the welcoming country which had accepted tens of thousands of refugees over the years, causing many to now question the nation's openness. Authorities insisted  however that Sweden would remain welcoming and open but the incident gave a new voice to the anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats.

The native of Samarkand had sympathies for extremist organizations and was supportive of a group seeking the removal of the late Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies Islamist movements in that country are decades old and moved to other nations such as Afghanistan and Pakistan under Karimov's repression, in areas IISS specialist Clement Therme says became "veritable universities of jihad". Also high on the list of countries sending fighters to jihad was Kyrgyzstan, where some 600 ISIS fighters originated.

Akbarzhon Dzha-lilov, who was in his early 20s, was from the central Asian country and linked to the attack which killed 14 in the Russian subway, a toll that would have been higher had an unexploded device gone off in another part of the underground. Authorities rounded up other suspects in the attack which occurred while President Vladimir Putin was visiting his hometown.

They said all were from central Asian countries, adding police had found large amounts of weapons and ammunition. Officials were looking into reports Dzhalilov had trained in Syria with ISIS before returning to a country source of a number of migrants fleeing poverty and lack of employment opportunities in the former Soviet republics. The situation back home has made them easy prey for recruitment according to Therme.

"Some 40% of Tadjiks who entered Syria or were heading there declared they had been recruited in Moscow by the same person identified by security services," he told France 24. Threats still hail from the territory of Russia itself. Luckily the explosive device found in Norway's capital did not go off and authorities detained a 17 year old from Russia, seeking to charge him on terror offences. He too had sought asylum in the peaceful Nordic country.

Authorities feared "it's likely that the attacks during the last year in France, Germany, Britain, Russia and Sweden are having a contagious effect also in Norway, impacting people with extreme Islamist sympathies." Broadcaster NRK said the young suspect had expressed Islamist sympathies but his counsel suggested the incident was little more than a "prank".

"Desperation and the lack of hope among the youth in these countries are feeding terrorism," Therme says, adding authoritarianism in the Stans has grown as a result of being "faced with the rise of ISIS." This has led to a crackdown on Muslims in the secular countries, in particular on the means to express themselves.

In Tadjikistan men under 45 are prohibited from growing beards and the legislature passed a law restricting Arab sounding names. The veil is also increasingly prohibited in Uzbekistan. This has provoked a spike in militancy, one former Tadjik police chief even calling for his country's armed forces to join ISIS,  vowing to bring jihad to Russia where his countrymen are treated as "slaves".

Sadly some of these attacks were preventable. Uzbekistan's foreign minister in fact says Akilov's ties to ISIS were well known and information had been "passed to one of our Western partners, so that the Swedish side could be informed." Police in Paris also say the author of this week's shooting on the Champs Elysées which killed an officer and injured others days before the first round of the presidential election was well known to authorities. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, as France braced for voting under tight security.


THE RAGE IN THE AMERICAS


There is rage building in the streets of South America amid charges of attempted coups on a continent which has seen many and thought it had turned this dark page of its history.

Clashes and world pressure amid charges the embattled government of Venezuela had staged such a maneuver when the supreme court stripped the legislature of its powers led the top court in the land to reverse its ruling.

The country which could once count on high oil prices to fill its coffers has collapsed economically, facing quadruple digit inflation, food shortages, power cuts and long lines for anything still available on store shelves.

tourWhen the Chavista government faced a new round of criticism by opposition lawmakers, who last scored a rare win in the legislature, the government appointed judges stripped congress of its legislative powers, a move widely condemned the world over as a blow to democracy in the country.

As this was going on clashes erupted in Paraguay, with protesters lighting parts of parliament on fire and accusing the government of staging a coup after a bill was introduced to lift presidential term limits, which prevent the president from serving anything more than a single five-year term.

This would change a 25-year-old constitutional rule brought in to prevent the excesses of previous decades marred by dictatorship. Amid the violence, marked by the death of an opposition activists supporters say was killed by a rubber bullet, president Horacio Cortes appealed for calm. "Democracy is not conquered or defended with violence and you can be sure this government will continue to put its best effort into maintaining order in the republic," he said. Authorities launched an inquiry into the death of Rodrigo Quintana when police stormed into the office of the opposition Liberal party. 

The chief of police and interior minister were promptly sacked. Opposition senator Desiree Masi said that with the secret vote senators cast to support the bill "a coup has been carried out. We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us." The bill has however yet to go throught the chamber of deputies. The violence was taking place as the capital Asunción was welcoming the annual meetings of the Inter-American Development Bank.

“This doesn’t look good for Cortes, but it can be no coincidence that this is happening right now while we are all here,” one foreign executive told the Financial Times. Protests sweeping the South American country over land disputes with farmers five years ago were severely repressed, bringing on the impeachment President Fernan-do Lugo. The latter called his removal a coup at the time.

The government's move to end the term limit could benefit him as well however, as he may be allowed to run again. A number of countries with a dark history of dictatorship, such as Chile and Peru, impose similar rules against re-election, though others such as Colombia and Venezuela have amended their constitutions to allow it.

The latter's problems are not just constitutional however, with thousands looking to flee the country and shortages that are such that it has had impacts on their health. World capitals and the Organization of American States widely condemned the court's initial decision to strip the legislature of its powers as a "self-coup", but government officials in turn criticized the court for reversing its decision. It was not immediately clear whether the new ruling would calm tensions in a country inflamed by the economic crisis. It did show further erosion of the governing party, prosecutor general Luisa Ortega Diaz issuing rare criticism the court's initial decision “ruptured” the country's constitutional order.

“It’s my duty to manifest concern of such event,” she said. “This clearly constitutes a milestone in recent political Venezuelan history,” opined political consultant Angel Alvarez, pointing out it is becoming more and more apparent “there are much deeper internal conflicts within Chavismo than we are able to see.” For some observers, simmering tensions are now bubbling to the surface. "Many of these institutional defects - corruption, power-hungry presidents and checks and balances that were poorly equipped to do either - were evident for years," notes Columbia professor Chris-topher Sabatini.

"People's patience has run thin." Also joining in the protest, the region's largest country. Last weekend tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Brazil to condemn reforms of the conservative government. It was a mere recital for a coming general strike expected to sweep the land. And of course the latest regional country to head to the polls, Ecuador, was not without its own demonstrations as the loser of the close contest, Guillermo Lasso, demanded a recount, alledging fraud. Despite exit polls showing him losing, incumbent party leader Lenin Moreno was declared a winner of the election with 51%.


TROIS AMIGOS... DU FOOT

Alors que les trois amigos sont divisés en veille de pourparlers sur l'Alena et l'immigration sous la présidence Trump, l'annonce d'une candidature à la Coupe du monde partagée entre les Etats-Unis, le Canada et le Mexique était aussi politique que sportive.


Il n'est plus étonnant que certains pays partagent des événements d'une telle envergure, notamment au soccer - comme au Mondial de 2002 disputé en Corée et au Japon -, mais l'organisation du tournoi dans trois pays, accueillant 48 pays participants, représente un nouveau sommet en la matière, et certainement un message de partage et d'accueil qui aurait pu être perdu lors des derniers mois.


"Ne pensez pas un instant que le climat politique américain n'ait pas joué un rôle, estime l'ancienne étoile des Etats-Unis Alexi Lalas. Une coupe du monde qui inclut le Mexique attire sans doute plus d'appui et envoie un certain message".


Voila trente ans que l'équipe nationale masculine de soccer canadienne n'a pas participe à la Coupe du monde. Et pourtant cette équipe classée 109e au monde aura sa chance en tant que nation hôte, accueillant possiblement des rencontres dans les trois villes principales et Edmonton, sites des stades les plus importants.


Alors que le niveau n'y est pas au niveau de la formation nationale, le foot y a tout de même évolué ces dernières années, deux clubs canadiens se disputant la finale de l'est de la MLS l'an dernier, Montréal attirant 61000 spectateurs au match aller.


De plus l'idée d'accueillir le prestigieux tournoi avait été soulevée lorsque le Canada a accueilli avec succès la Coupe du monde féminine en 2015, permettant du coup de rénover l'enceinte à Edmonton, datant des jeux du Commonwealth. La moyenne de 26000 spectateurs par rencontre a été très bien accueillie par les organisateurs. 


L'état des stades à travers l'Amérique du Nord est cependant moins inquiétant que celui du tournoi à venir en Russie, alors que le tournoi à du être déplacé à l'hiver au Qatar en raison du climat.


Les États-Unis en profitent du coup pour ajouter du piquant à leur 250e, ce qui a soulevé quelques suggestions intéressantes de la part des amateurs. "Imaginez la scène: etats-unis - Grande Bretagne un 4 juillet à Philadelphie..." suggère le commentateur sportif Bob Williams.


Il est également question de faire oublier deux échecs de candidature américains depuis la Coupe du monde de 1994, une année où 24 clubs participaient au tournoi.


Mais le politique n'est jamais loin de l'événement dans l'environnement actuel: "en tant qu'amateur américain les États-Unis ne devraient pas être l'hôte aussi longtemps que le président racisme et son régime sont au pouvoir," déclare T Wayward.


"Etant donné ce qui se passe dans le monde à l'heure actuelle on pense qu'il s'agit d'un signal et d'un symbole positif de ce que nous pouvons accomplir en rassemblant les gens, déclare Sunil Gulati de l'association américaine de soccer. particulièrement dans nos trois pays."


D'ailleurs selon lui la candidature a la bénédiction du président. "Il appuie pleinement cette candidature conjointe et l'a encouragée, dit-il. Il est particulièrement heureux de la participation mexicaine."


Certains au Mexique regrettent cependant le peu de rencontres disputées chez eux, les trois se répartissant les événements en laissant 60 des 80 rencontres aux Etats-Unis. "Mais entre  organiser 10 parties ou rien du tout, je préfère les 10 parties," raisonne Manuel Suarez sur Twitter.


Cette candidature est assurée à 90% de l'emporter selon le réseau ESPN, puisque les autres continents qui sont invités à organiser la compétition, L'Amérique du sud et l'Afrique, sont silencieux. Cette première est d'ailleurs presque assurée d'organiser le Mondial du centenaire en 2030, possiblement disputé en Argentine et en Uruguay.


WASHINGTON FRAPPE

Tout au long de la crise syrienne, les images violentes des victimes, surtout des plus vulnérables, ont créé des ondes de choc à travers le monde, réussissant parfois à faire bouger les choses. L'image du corps du petit Alan Kurdi au bord d'une plage a bien mobilisé les appels à la générosité en pleine crise des migrants.

Quelques mois plus tard celle d'un enfant à peine plus vieux, vivant mais couvert de blessures, le visage hagard, portait les projecteurs sur le siège d'Alep, une ville encore au cœur des combats. Cette semaine celles de jeunes victimes d'une attaque au gaz sarin ont créé l'indignation.

De nouvelles victimes qui de leur existence n'ont connu que la guerre, la fuite et le couvre-feu. Les bébés au nombre des victimes ont même bouleversé le maître de la Maison Blanche, qui jusqu'alors avait balayé la crise de la main, au nom de l'America First.

Le président Trump se disait voir d'un nouvel oeil le démon de Damas, qui n'en était pas à sa première attaque du genre. Au cœur des Nations Unies l'ambassadrice américaine se levait en demandant à l'assemblée de "regarder ces photos".

Si l'ONU n'était pas prête à agir, l'Amérique le ferait, tout un bond en matière de déclaration de la part de la jeune administration après les échecs en matière de santé et d'immigration et le silence en matière de politique étrangère. La Russie est même complice, s'exclame Nikki Haley, un pays dont les liens avec l'actuelle administration est matière à enquête.

A Moscou, les liens avec Assad restent solides, Vladimir Poutine niant que le régime ait quelque responsabilité dans l'attaque, ce "crime de guerre" condamné par les capitales du monde entier, malgré les précédents et le manque d'autres suspects.

Ne manquant jamais la chance de porter le blâme sur l'administration précédente, Trump accuse Obama d'avoir manqué d'agir quand c'était le temps, quand cette ligne rouge a été dépassée. A présent "plusieurs lignes sont dépassées" affirme Trump, après cet "affront à l'humanité", mais que prévoit-il de plus que son prédécesseur?

La riposte n'a pas tardé, les Etats-Unis envoyant plusieurs missiles de croisière détruire une base de l'aviation syrienne. Quelques heures plus tôt, le ton avait été donné, Washington n'hésitant plus de parler du départ éventuel d'Assad. Malgré les alliances, Moscou avait laissé entendre que son association avec le despote n'était pas sans condition, mais condamna tout de même cette "violation de la souveraineté d'un état", drôle de déclaration après l'invasion de la Crimée.

Le secrétaire d'état Rex Tillerson aurait certes de quoi discuter avec son homologue russe la semaine prochaine, le premier ministre affirmant que les deux pays étaient passés, malgré l'avertissement de Washin-gton, à deux pas de la guerre. Celui-ci devait déjà une certaine explication cependant: Moscou ne devait-elle pas faire disparaitre l'arsenal chimique syrien?

La suite reste à voir, mais l'administration elle-même, n'avait-elle pas donné le mauvais signal à Damas ou Moscou, avec ce ton isolationniste? Les tirs servaient-ils d'avertissement à Pyongyang? Puis, note Clinton, comment pleurer pour ces bébés en leur fermant la porte?        

CARRYING ON

The blitz, the siege, the European cities most recently targeted by terror had seen worse and were determined to carry on, but the attacks in London and St Petersburg showed that the war on terror remained very much an active one despite ISIS' losses.

For Russia, the blast which killed 14 in the subway was a throwback to the previous decade, marked by attacks on transport nodes in cities including the capital. For London however it was the confirmation of a preferred method for suspects determined to cause harm but short on the means to do so.

On the anniversary of the Brussels airport attack, the deadly rampage of a lone individual in London brought terror to a European capital anew, killing five and injuring some 40 people using methods only becoming more familiar and hard to defend against.

The man ran over pedestrians with his vehicle on Westminster bridge before striking others near the British parliament and killed a police officer on foot before he was gunned down. In Berlin during the holidays the attack of a terrorist who crashed a truck in a Christmas market, killing 12, had already been called a Nice copycat, an attack which had killed 86 civilians during Bastille day.

This week a copycat attack in Stockholm claimed more lives. Promoted by jihadists this method of using vehicles as weapons has been used by lone wolves not necessarily tied to any group, such as in the October 2014 running down of a Canadian forces member in Quebec, a day before the shooting in parliament. Djihadists cele-brated the London attack for which ISIS claimed responsibility but British security services were unable to establish a proper link.

sNearly three years after the 2014 Quebec attack authorities can only shake their heads, aware of the limits in their abilities to prevent this sort of attack on a democracy, even in a city frequently struck by terror and covered by thousands of CCTV cameras such as London. 
As after the Ottawa attack, the British parliament was to reopen to resume its interrupted business the following day. "Yesterday an act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy," declared prime minister Theresa May. "But today we meet as normal." Defiance was very much in the air like a London fog.

In transit stations across the sprawling metropolis, messages of defiance and courage were posted. "All terrorists are politely reminded that this is London," displayed one. "And whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on." Parliamentarians as well as the Prime Minister had been sheltered during the ordeal.

Their counterparts in Ottawa offered words of support, stating they were only too familiar with the situation, having barricaded themselves in parliamentary buildings during the 2014 attack. Police said the suspect was British and inspired by Islamist terrorism, an indication efforts to deter future attacks need to focus both on actions in the communities and online where they are encouraged and methods shared.

Online publications associated with terrorism such as Insite have promoted the use of everyday possessions, such as cars, to carry out attacks on soft targets such as public places or gatherings, for maximum effect. A day after London the arrest of a man accused of seeking to ram civilians in Antwerp sparked concerns of a copycat and raised terror levels in Belgium anew.

Had, as in Canada's case three years before, an act of terror inspired others to act? Officials said the Frenchman arrested carried weapons in the vehicle. The Swedish case was reminiscent of the Berlin attack, as police said the truck had been carjacked before it was rammed in a department store. The driver however got away, causing the launch of a manhunt and a shut down of the downtown core.


THESE MANY WALLS


Is 2017 the year the notion of a world without walls was put to rest? From the Sahara to the Rio Grande and Bulgaria to the West Bank, physical barrier are raised to separate neighbors, often a sign of a lack of ideas. Or perhaps it's the old adage that good fences make good neighbors.

The latest to join the fray has been Pakistan, determined to somehow close itself and its lawless northwest province from the just as lawless Afghan lands, the breeding grounds of insurgents anew after the large Western military withdrawals of the last decade. Observers would say it was a long time coming, but not without questioning the merit of such an enterprise, which would divide a primarily Pashtun region.

It isn't alone in the region as India has indicated it is considering further plans of fencing itself from what used to be parts of its territory before partition: rival Pakistan and Bangladesh. Officials say 90% of the border is already fenced but say terrorists are still slipping through the cracks. Its border with Pakistan alone is roughly the size of the US-Mexico border, while it shares a longer one with what used to be East Pakistan and is now Bangladesh. India shares few land point of entries with Pakistan.

One draws patriotic  crowds daily at a spectacular closing ceremony replete with high stepping guards and a fair amount of good natured flag waving and jeering on both sides. While security has always been an issue with Pakistan, especially in the highly tense Kashmir area, it is illegal immigration that is irking Delhi on the eastern front.

Ironically Pakistan is balking at India's plans, just as Afghanistan is regretting Pakistan's move to build a fence. "Building fences or any construction is not acceptable for us and we won't allow anyone to do it," declared a spokesman for the interior ministry in Kabul.

Part of the reason is that his country has never recognized the British drawn borders in the Pashtun region. Kabul had similarly accused its southern neighbor of allowing a flow of terrorists as it struggles to rein in insurgents with dwindling military assistance from the West.

"A better managed, secure and peaceful border is in the mutual interest of both brotherly countries," countered Pakistani Gen. Qamar Bajwa. But as plans for a similar extension of America's wall in the Rio Grande are showing, geography can be an obstacle to the project. "I know that some obstacles may arise in this work, as some areas are mountainous, some have jungles, and others have rivers," Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said.

“There was no proposal with the government of India to build a wall along the Pakistan border,” clarified its Minister of State for Home, saying Delhi had in fact a multi-pronged approach for security arrangements at the Pakistani border including deployment of the border force, construction of a fence, installing floodlights, "hi-tech surveillance equipment and, providing weapons and specialised vehicles to security forces.”

The U.S. Interior  Secretary admitted that his country's own project also faced difficulties in various locations where geography defines the border, such as the Rio Grande. “The border is complicated, as far as building a physical wall,” Ryan Zinke said. “The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall? We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.”

Despite calling the region to cover "a very difficult terrain" the Indian Home Ministry is rushing to seal off the border with Bangladesh by the end of next year. But these admitted challenges are putting in doubt the success of the entreprise.

"These are permeable borders, you cannot seal them off no matter how hard you try, no matter what high technologies you try to import," Bharat Karnad, a national security expert at a Delhi-based think tank told CNN. Indian border officials say there has been some success cutting the flow of irregular immigration in heavily fenced areas of Kashmir over the years, but this may also be because the area is particularly flooded with heavily armed border troops.


NOS CHAMPIONNES DU PASSÉ

Le Canada n'a pas fait long feu à la classique de baseball ou au tournoi de rugby sevens dont il fut l'hôte et ne sera à nouveau pas au rendez-vous de la coupe du monde  de soccer l'an prochain.
Fut un temps pourtant où le Canada triompha dans une discipline d'équipe autre qu'un sport d'hiver. Le club de ballon rond féminin des Grads d'Edmonton était en fait tellement dominant il y a un siècle qu'il dut sa disparition au manque d'opposants de taille pendant La dernière guerre.

Mais les 25 ans précédents furent marqués par des exploits mondiaux extraordinaires, remportant 95% des rencontres contre ses adversaires européens et même américains, parfois par des marges presque anti-sportives. Ils firent plier une équipe française, par exemple, par le score de 109-20.

Comparable au 48-0 que l'équipe nationale de hockey était capable d'infliger au Danemark à l'époque. "Je faisais partie de quelquechose de spécial, se remémore Kay MacBeth, une membre de l'équipe, a la douceur de des 95 ans, je ne me rendait pas compte à quel point c'était spécial".

L'inventeur du sport lui-mène, James Naismith, dit d'elles qu'elles représentaient "La meilleure équipe de basket-ball qui n'ait jamais pris le court". Le club remporta son premier succès mondial en battant une équipe de Cleveland en 1923. N'étant pas encore une discipline olympique, le club fit des tournées à travers le monde qui ne firent que confirmer son statut planétaire.

"Il s'agissait d'un groupe de femmes ordinaires qui fit quelquechose d'extraordinaire," résume Annie Hall, auteure du livre The Grads are playing tonight. Il s'agissait de préposées, de vendeuses et de dactylographeuses qui devaient travailler en même temps qu'assister aux pratiques et aux rencontres ".

Ces pratiques avaient parfois lieu avec des hommes, à une époque où le sport pouvait paraître peu féminin. "On nous disait de garder des mœurs de fille de bonne famille en tout temps, dit MacBeth à la CBC, pas question de bousculer où de donner du coude". 

Leur place dans l'imaginaire national prenait donc une envergure sociétale, d'où les Minutes du patrimoine finalement préparées en cette année de 150e anniversaire de la confédération.

Depuis ils et elles sont nombreux à vouloir les imiter, comme le club féminin de basket-ball de UConn, enfilant plus de 110 gains consécutifs au collégial américain, alors que les hommes de Carleton signaient un nouveau championnat canadien cette année, remportant un septième titre de suite après une saison parfaite.


UN AUTRE VOTE BULGARE

La bonne nouvelle? En réélisant le premier ministre de droite Boiko Borisov les Bulgares évitaient une gauche qui penchait en faveur de Moscou, dans une région divisée par l'attrait de l'ancien empire. En revanche si les électeurs se retrouvaient aux urnes pour une troisième fois en quatre ans c'était en partie en raison de la crise liée à la corruption qui s'empare du pays, et le parti à nouveau au pouvoir était à l'origine de ce malaise.

Ce sont les grandes manifestations anti corruption de 2013 qui évincèrent l'homme de 57 ans du Parti du développement bulgare de l'Europe. Des mouvements du genre brassent l'est anciennement soviétique de Minsk à Moscou, où des centaines de manifestants ont été écroués récemment, dont le chef d'opposition Alexeï Navalny.

Entre temps Borisov, un ancien pompier qui a été chef de gouvernement de 2009 à 2013 et de 2014 à 2017, doit former un gouvernement de coalition avec 32% des voix. Les socialistes, l'ancien Parti communiste dont les membres on cependant tenté de rappeler leur engagement à l'UE pendant la campagne, ont refusé de joindre une telle coalition au pouvoir.

"La Bulgarie a préféré ne pas prendre de chance et ramener le parti au pouvoir, gardant leur pari en faveur de l'Union européenne, estime Genoveva Petrova du sondeur Alpha research, les socialistes n'ont pas réussi à incarner le changement." Mais ces derniers cherchaient entre autre à mettre fin aux sanctions contre Moscou et ont traité de "traitres" des membres bulgares du parlement européen qui avaient voté en faveur du traité de libre échange canado-européen.

"Ce message pro-russe s'est intensifié pendant la campagne et à en fin de compte fait peur aux électeurs," estime Petrova. En pleine crise de migrants cependant, Borisov pourrait s'entendre avec les nationalistes des Patriotes unis afin de former le prochain gouvernement. Leur popularité a grimpé suite au flot de migrants qui a envahi le pays et les voisins, se dirigeant vers le Nord du continent.

Le dernier gouvernement à Sofia s'est écroulé quand le camp de Borisov n'a pas réussi à faire élire son candidat à la présidence à l'automne, entraînant la dissolution du gouvernement en janvier. Le parti promet de s'engager à combattre la corruption malgré les ratés du passé dans ce domaine.

Mais comme ailleurs en Europe l'élection a mesuré le sentiment communautaire du pays, cette fois positif, mais a également permis à un parti populiste anti-immigrant de se faire remarquer, soit le Volya, qui a récolté 5% des votes. Selon Jane's intelligence, le pays se dirige vers une nouvelle période de manifestations et d'instabilité.

Entre temps les premières négociations en vue de former une coalition ont permis aux Patriotes et au parti de Borisov de s'entendre sur le fait que ce dernier serait premier ministre. Même si les choses vont de l'avant, les délais réguliers sont à prévoir avant la formation d'un gouvernement selon certains observateurs. "Former un gouvernement ne sera ni facile ni rapide, même si nous connaissons les partenaires dans cette coalition," estime l'analyste Dimitar Ganev.



High tension on the Korean peninsula


The leader of the hermit kingdom had thrown a firy tantrum before, he usually does when military exercises involving US and South Korean troops take place in the area, but tensions were heightened this year with a new US president less likely to keep his cool about flare ups on the Asian peninsula.

The last thing the region needed was more instability, such as the ousting of a sitting president by the legislature in Seoul , a first in the country's history. Park Geun-hye had made history in more memorable fashion when she was elected the first female president in 2012.   Despite a rising popularity at first, her presidency was always overshadowed by charges she was the "daughter of a dictator", Park Chung-lee, who ruled after a coup in 1961.  

Koreans didn't entirely agree with her assertion this was "a revolution to save the country". But her father's connections and her early childhood contacts ultimately landed her in trouble.  Among them was her mentor, a cult leader whose daughter would play a central role in her demise, leading to her eventual impeachment and removal.

Choi soon-Il was a confidante the leader often turned to for advice, but this often went over the limits of decency, joining an  inner circle as an unelected unvetted member which not only enabled her to extort funds the from country's large conglomerates but have a say in key decisions of national policy as well. After initially vowing to participate in the investigation Park blocked those conducting the probe from entering the presidential Blue House and stayed away from public hearings.

In the end eight justices of the constitutional court upheld her impeachment over a dozen constitutional violations including abuse of power and dereliction of duty. As the country dealt with recent missile tests in the North of the troubled peninsula it struggled with protests, this time from supporters vowing to launch a "civil war", and snap elections to replace Park. The crisis has jolted the business community as well, ensnaring Samsung head Lee Jae-yong, charged with bribery in connection with the presidency.

This is just the latest tragedy to befall the first family after Park's parents were assassinated in separate attacks. The political crisis is further unsettling a country perpetually on edge and technically still at war with its neighbor across the DMZ.  Observers say the latest salvo of multiple missile tests and possible assassination of Kim Jong-Un's brother in law, which had all of the hallmarks of the regime in Pyongyang, only demonstrate the recklessness and paranoia of the current leadership.

North Korea has accused the U.S. and South Korea of being behind the killing of Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur's airport. In addition a number of high ranking officials in the people's republic were recently executed to quash perceived threats to the leadership. Meanwhile the front-runner in the coming election in South Korea may be less likely to pursue the foreign policy of his predecessor and agree with all of America's plans for the region.

Washington has served notice "all options are on the table" on the highly trigger happy and unpredictable North Korean regime, including a preventive strike,   and has called Beijing to reign in Pyongyang though the U.S. has upset China by installing an anti-missile system in South Korea. The U.S. has also started to deploy attack drones in South Korea due to "continued provocative action" after the latest missile tests and last year's two nuclear tests, which now total five. 

The leading candidate in the south's election, Moon Jae In, a former lawmaker who lost to Park in 2012 and tops current polls, has called for closer ties with the North and revisiting decisions to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system which has also been vehemently criticized by China.

Donald Trump's early indications the new administration may review the One China policy and its deployment of missile technology to defend South Korea were greeted with a diplomatic chill in Beijing the two countries are working reverse. Ahead of a meeting of their leaders, China and the United States have agreed to work together to take North Korea on a "different course", but don't necessarily agree how. Washington has balked about yet another nuclear deal after what Sec. of State Rex Tillerson called "20 years of failed approach" on Pyongyang.

"(North Korea) would like to see the Americans move first and take some actions first to show their sincerity, and vice versa," said Xiao Qian of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Beijing has called for a halt of the military exercizes, but both calls were unlikely to sway Washington, especially as Jong-Un showed no will to bring down the Cold War rhetoric, warning: "If they infringe on the DPRK's sovereignty and dignity even a bit, its army will launch merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater."

Some in fact worry tensions over North Korea could bring the United States and China on the brink of war. "Broadly speaking, if you asked me a year ago if war between major powers was thinkable, I'd say no. Now I'd say yes," Ian Bremmer, the head of Eurasia Group told Business Insider. "Not imminent, not likely, but it could happen."

Observers feared yet another rocket test this weekend was an ominous development in Pyongyang's goal to eventually be able to reach the United States with its payload. "Through this test, it is found that engine function has made meaningful progress but further analysis is needed for exact thrust and possible uses," Lee Jin-woo of the South Korean defence ministry told a following briefing.



IS THE OLD DICTATOR SOFTENING?


While Europe's most powerful dictator isn't one to shy away from flexing his military muscle, is its oldest slowly loosening his grip on power? The thought may be premature but many have noticed a climb down from what used to be Alexandre Lukashenko's usual display of force dealing with popular dissent.

The ruler of Minsk uncharacteristically suspen-ded a broadly unpopular tax on the  unemployed that has brought thousands to the street in protest, braving the ever present threat of repression. He has also cancelled a controversial plan to build a business center near the site where thousands were killed in a Stalinist crackdown. 

Belarus is one part of the fallen East which never flinched when the wall came down and instead sought to reaffirm closer ties with Moscow in the age of Putin. But there are signs of wariness in Moscow, used to propping up the regional  pariah's critical finances, at a time of enduring Western sanctions and lower oil prices.

When Lukashenko booked a recent ski vacation in Russia, usually an opportunity for an unofficial get together of the strongmen, Putin kept to his business instead of partaking.   Relations aren't what they used to be. Belarus refused to recognize the annexation of Crimea and balked when Moscow sought to build a new base on its territory.

Worse than that it has worked on possible rapprochement with the West, seeking to play the middle man on Ukraine and granting visa-free travel to Westerners under certain conditions. In fact recent developments amount to "almost a revolution" according to political analyst Andrei Sudaltsev.

"The population by some sixth sense understands that the authorities can't control them and are afraid of the protests."   But critics remain cautious toppling the regime could trigger a Crimea-style intervention by Russia-backed forces. The tax would be suspended for those who worked less than 183 days per year, but not abolished, Lukashenko says.

The man who has ruled the country since 1994 and is referred to by some citizens as Father isn't entirely killing the unpopular tax. "The decree must be adjusted. The decree will not be abolished," he said. Minsk still overwhelmingly relies on its ties with and the generosity of Moscow, observers say, making it unlikely he will seek to upset Putin too much by opening up to the West.

Lukashenko is also blaming an old bogeyman for the protests that have continued despite his post-ponement, stressing "Western funds under the direction of Western security services" are trying to "inflame the situation in Belarus."


PAS CETTE FOIS


Après le Brexit et la vague Trump, mais avant la présidentielle française, l'élection néérlandaise a fait halte au mouvement populiste en redonnant victoire au premier ministre malgré les gains modestes de l'extrémiste Geert Wilders, qui a terminé second.


Le choc n'aura donc pas lieu entre les canaux, où plusieurs partis devront cependant s'entendre pour transformer le vote fragmentaire en gouverne-ment, mais le petit pays qui a su endiguer la menace populiste reste profondément divisé. Mark Rutte et son VVP remportait 33 des 150 sièges de la chambre selon les premiers estimés, loin d'une majorité mais permettant au petit pays placé sous les projecteurs internationaux de souffler quelque peu. Wilders, avec qui personne n'aurait osé former un gouvernement, promet cependant qu'il n'a pas dit son dernier mot xénophobe.


Les premiers jours de tourmente de Donald Trump et la crise diplomatique turque ont-ils porté secours au premier ministre sortant comme le Brexit avait fait réfléchir les électeurs en Espagne? Possible. Mais l'élection permettra-t-elle de renverser la vague populiste qui menace de démanteler l'Union européenne?


On retient encore son souffle en France à quelques semaines du premier tour, où les sondages laissent toujours le Front National en tête.

Questionnés à propos du deuxième tour cependant, les Français préfèrent plutôt Emmanuel Macron ou François Fillon, malgré ses déboires et sa mise en examen. 


Le rejet de l'ancienne garde est plutôt net, en commençant par le président Hollande, qui n'a pas osé se présenter, puis de son premier ministre Manuel Valls et de son prédécesseur Nicolas Sarkozy. La piètre performance du parti socialiste en dit beaucoup sur le rejet des partis traditionnels. Selon un sondage 89% affirmaient que le pays allait dans la mauvaise direction. Certains ont même fait un appel à la candidature... de Barack Obama. 


Mais autant dire que le résultat hollandais et le rejet d'un candidat qui prônait une "révolution patriotique" avec sortie de l'Union européenne et banissement du Coran a bien été accueillie par Bruxelles. Selon le président du parlement de l'UE Martin Shultz, la réélection de Rutte constituait "un soulagement" qui avait mis fin à la chute des dominos du populisme, ajoutant: "Il faut continuer à se battre pour une Europe ouverte et libre." Mais la lutte continue, alors que l'Ecosse pèse sont propre Scoxit, sous forme de nouveau référendum.


Y A-T-IL DE LA PLACE POUR LE RUGBY?


Malgré l'origine britannique, et je fait que le sport ait inspiré l'invention du football canadien, le rugby n'a jamais réellement percé en tant que sport professionnel au Canada, mais, au même titre que le soccer, s'agit-il d'une question de temps? 

Les débuts du Wolfpack de Toronto au sein d'une ligue trans-atlantique, quoique principalement britannique, se butaient à des épreuves plutôt décourageantes. La ville compte déjà bon nombre de sports professionnels, même si un seul d'entre eux, le hockey, trône sans véritable compétiteur, puis la distance séparant le club de ses rivaux de la Kingstone Press League 1 , avaient de quoi rendre le projet éphémère.   

Les bons départs de la formation étaient par conséquent plutôt encourageants, remportant un de ses deux matches préparatoires, puis sa partie d'ouverture, en sol étranger... 76-0, résultat d'exception dans n'importe quel sport quelque soit la forme du ballon.  

Les victimes de ce massacre signé Fuifui Moimoi, l'avant polynésien, étaient les London Skolars, bien qu'environ 1500 spectateurs seulement aient assisté à ce démantèlement au sein de cette ligue de troisième division. L'entraîneur Paul Rowley affirme qu'il s'agissait du "départ parfait. Nous avons rappelé aux gens qu'on n'est pas si mauvais. On peut jouer un bon genre de rugby."   

L'ancien international britannique affirme que voir Moimoi évoluer vaut à lui seul le prix (21$) du billet au stade Lamport. Le club ne cache pas que l'intention est de gravir les échelons en première division, et vite.   

Si cette ligue modeste peut se permettre un club outre-mer, un geste qui sera étudié attentivement par les plus imposantes LNF et LNH, c'est surtout en raison du partenaire principal des Wolfpacks, Air Transat, même si cela ne fait rien pour atténuer le décalage horaire. Malgré les doutes, Rowley est persuadé que le rugby peut se tailler une place dans le marché torontois.  

"C'est un sport poétique, gracieux et violents tout à la fois, dit-il, il n'y a aucun doute que ca peut se vendre, c'est parfait comme sport nord-américain. C'est comme des arts martiaux avec un ballon, il y a du sang, de la beauté et de la bête".

En attendant le jeune club multiplie les succès, disposant de Whitehaven 24-10 puis des London Broncos 30-26 pour poursuivre leur fiche parfaite de quatre victoires et aucune défaite après quatre rondes de la Challenge Cup. Rien ne vend comme la victoire.



TEARING DOWN ONE EUROPEAN WALL


Some build walls, others tear them down, but it's rare for the first to be so soon followed by the other. Last December Serbs built a wall in the divided city of Mitrovica, in Kosovo, citing landslide risks and sparking tensions unseen in years.

It was followed by Belgrade's attempt to send a train on which was inscribed "Kosovo is Serbia" which was promptly halted by the border police.  Last week the two meter monstrosity came down after officials in the capital Pristina, who have been accused of wanting to start "a war" by the Serb president, reached a deal with Serb officials, but the language wasn't always cordial.

Kosovo's president said that if the Serbs didn't remove the barrier they would go ahead and do it. So two months after being erected, the wall was downed by a Serb bulldozer, restoring the fragile peace for now in the state where 90% are ethnic Albanians but where pockets of large Serb minorities remain.

At a time of tense US-Mexico border discussions and rising barriers to stem the refugee waves in Europe, officials sought to assure "there will be no wall here... This shows that both parties can reach a deal when there is a political will," said the EU represen-tative in Kosovo, Nataliya Apostolova.

While the Serbs do not recognize Kosovo's independence, it being home to numerous places of historical significance, it is recognized by some 113 UN member states after the U.S. and major European countries backed independence in 2008.   NATO, the main Western player in the 1990s conflict, remains active to protect he peace in the region.

Some 4,600 troops under Italian command seek to maintain the peace in the region, but Washington's stance on NATO and the region is also raising concerns in non-Serb areas. “If Trump gives up the Balkans, I don’t believe France or Germany would fight for Kosovo without U.S. support,” said Marko Jaksic, a Mitrovica politician member of a Serb parliament which does not recognize Kosovo's independence.

“Kosovo, sooner or later, will be returned to Serbia’s arms.” Posters bearing Putin and Trump's images have gone up in Serb-held areas of Kosovo, and some see the wall and train as efforts to test Washington's stance in the region under the new administration. After the train incident Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic warned, in language more at home in the 1990s, that “I will go to war, as well as my sons,” should Serbs be harmed in Kosovo.

In Pristina meanwhile, officials were warning of a Crimea-style annexation of territory. And it isn't just Kosovo heating up. Siebo Janssen of the University of Cologne told the Globe & Mail he returned from a recent trip to Sarajevo worried that “war in Bosnia is again on the table”.

He added countries such as Turkey were looking to influence Bosnia's Muslim majority and “are not interested in a stabilized Balkans. … They’re interested in zones of influence.” Though some diplomats say the threats were just posturing ahead of this year's Serb elections.



LA ROUMANIE DANS LA RUE


Lorsque des Roumains occupent les rues de Bucarest en grand nombre, c'est la région toute entière qui tremble. Ainsi lorsque ces Latins de l'est ont envahi la Place de la victoire début février, c'était cette fois pour déposer la tyrannie de la corruption, forçant l'annulation d'un décret assouplissant la loi dans ce domaine.

Et comme pour s'assurer de la transparence des Carpates à la mer noire, le demi million de manifestants a poursuivi ses marches pendant les jours suivants, un message on ne peut plus clair au premier ministre qui s'accrochait encore au pouvoir.

Alors que Sorin Grindeanu a pu éviter les balles, il l'a pas pu éviter les volées d'appels à la démission et les cris de "voleurs". Grindeanu estime pourtant conserver "une responsabilité envers les gens qui ont voté" il n'y a pas plus longtemps que le 11 décembre.

Mais les parlementaires élus il y a deux mois n'avaient pas été consultés sur cette dernière révision du code pénal qui aurait permise aux hommes politiques de glisser entre les mains de la justice ou de faire face à des peines moins lourdes pour corruption. Le premier ministre prévoit ainsi "rapidement ouvrir des débats publics avec tous les partis politiques et avec la société civile" qui s'est emparée de la rue. 

"Nous allons garder un œil sur eux pour s'assurer à ce qu'ils ne jouent pas un tour," déclara un manifestant à l'AFP. Sur des pancartes on pouvait lire: «Nous respectons le résultat des élections. Nous souhaitons un gouvernement compétent et propre».

Mais les partisans du gouvernment ont également manifesté, contre le chef de l'état, qu'ils accusent de traitre pour avoir  encouragé les manifestations contre le gouvernement des sociaux démocrates.

Selon le sénateur Calin Tariceanu, un ancien premier ministre, l'intention du décret était honorable mais le retour au calme exigeait le retrait du décret. Le ministère de la justice avait été instruit de préparer une nouvelle ébauche à l'origine, mais le ministre n'a pas survécu à l'échec, puisqu'il a remis sa démission la semaine dernière.

Un autre membre du gouvernement, le ministre des milieux d'affaires, du commerce et de l'entrepreneuriat, avait également démissionné après l'adoption du décret pour protester contre les mesures.

On a cru que le gouvernement entier allait y passer. La semaine dernière le président de centre droit Klaus Iohannis estimait que «l'abrogation du décret et un éventuel limogeage du ministre de la Justice ne sont pas suffisants» et est passé à deux doigts d'exiger la chute du gouvernement pour calmer la crise.

Mais en raison de la forte majorité du PSD Grindeanu a pu survivre à une motion de censure déposée par l'opposition. De toutes façons, de l'aveu du président lui-même, «convoquer des élections anticipées serait excessif pour le moment» étant donnée l'élection récente. Mais les manifestants ne dérougissent pas, refusant de cesser leurs sorties à Bucarest et ailleurs, plus de deux semaines après les premières démonstrations, de peur que le gouvernement actuel tente une nouvelle manoeuvre.

"Nous résistons, nous ne partons pas", ont scandé les manifestants qui réclament le départ du gouvernement en place. Par ailleurs la cour constitutionnelle devait se prononcer sur le décret. Celui-ci prévoyait de décriminaliser des incidents d'abus de pouvoir comprenant des sommes inférieures à $50000.

Après les nouvelles manifestations de la fin de semaine, le parlement s'est engagé à tenir un référendum sur la corruption. Mais entre temps les places publiques grouillent encore de monde, armés de chants contre le pouvoir.



CLASHES ANEW IN UKRAINE


The optics weren't terribly good as the U.S. president wrapped up a phone call with Vladimir Putin and shortly after lifted some elements of America's sanctions against Russia to the sound of guns blazing anew in Eastern Ukraine. If anything Republican congressmen had asked for a tightening of sanctions after the country's invasion of Crimea, at a time bordering NATO members fretted about the president's questioning of the Atlantic alliance. In a press conference with Trump, British prime minister Theresa May made a point of stressing her counterpart still stood 100% behind NATO, but the doubts lingered.

The environment couldn't be more fluid and the state of the region more uncertain for the conflict to once more stir after a period of relative quiet. Of course it wasn't difficult to lose track of developments in that region with all stirring in the U.S. The Donbas area, a hotbed of separatist action for the last three years, blazed anew in a new set of clashes between the Ukrainian army and rebels backed by Moscow, both sides accusing each other for the new flare up.

Kiev called it "a clear indication of Russia's continued blatant disregard of commitments under the Minsk agreements," which, to be truthful have hardly held water since the ceasefire accord was reached in early 2015. The timing of the flare up could be suspicious for a number of reasons, including the recent phone call with Putin, a Russian account suggesting the leaders agreed to calm tensions of recent years and give themselves more latitude in their immediate near abroads, a terrifying notion for Kiev and other neighbors who have seen an increase in reassuring NATO cooperation and military exercises.

"Either Putin is testing Trump's reaction, or he already feels he has the new president's tacit approval for a fresh escalation in Eastern Ukraine," opined Business Ukraine magazine. "Either way the timing of Russia's current offensive is particularly ominous." Not always in step with Trump's foreign policy views, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration was "watching and very troubled by the increased hostilities." He added the president had brought up Ukraine during the phone conversation, adding "those conversations are going to be ongoing."

He did not discount notions sanctions could be repealed in the future, depending "on whether or not we see the kind of changes in posture by Russia." The previous week the U.S. allowed companies to once more have some dealing with Russia's main security agency. In a TV interview Trump deflected criticism he was seeing eye to eye with "a killer" (Putin) by noting U.S. history wasn't as innocent as it seemed and bore its own ugly actions.  

Congressmen on both sides  took aim at the president for placing the U.S. and Russia on equal footing. "There is no moral equivalency between the United States of America... and the murderous thugs that are in Putin's defense," said Repu-blican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. As this debate was taking place the wife of a Russian opposition leader said Vladimir Kara-Murza, a vocal critic of Putin's campaign to silence dissidents, had fallen into a coma after becoming ill from poisoning, the second time he has suffered this way.

Doctors could find no other explanation than poisoning, a method used before, often with deadly effect, against opponents of Putin's regime. While the Russian president's methods were coming under scrutiny at home, his actions abroad sought to play for the domestic audience as well, according to observers who suspected he could be "testing Trump" in his near abroad, namely Ukraine. "This may be true," opined analysts from the American Enterprise Institute, "But another explanation is that Putin has no choice but to escalate in order to secure a “win” in Ukraine, which is a key pillar of his regime’s domestic legitimacy.

On the stirring region, the AEI said "the war-torn Donbas was a lawless “mafia state” before Russia’s invasion, and is even more so now," though Moscow didn't necessarily want to end up having to run it. Germany meanwhile was urging Moscow to use its influence to halt the fighting in the country's East. "The German Chancellor and the Russian President agreed that new efforts must be made to secure a ceasefire and asked foreign ministers and their advisers to remain in close contact," German spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Berlin seems to have somewhat toned down its criticism of Crimea, which it did not include in the talks. Dozens have been killed in the recent flare up of the conflict, which has claimed in total nearly 10,000 lives since 2014, and among them prominent rebel leader Mikhail Tolstykh. This follows the assassination of close associate Arsen Pavlov last year and the dwindling numbers of hard core rebels left is leaving the Russophiles increasingly in the hands of commanders observers say may be more willing to strike a compromise with Kiev.

A Putin spokesman described Tolstykh's death as an attempt to "destabilize the situation" and denied any Russian involve-ment. Meanwhile the entire region has seen tensions rise as Russian troops were placed on "combat alert" during massive NATO exercises being carried out in Eastern Europe.

The Atlantic alliance is expanding operations in the region in ways unseen since the end of the Cold War with a German-led battle group of 1,000 troops in Lithuania soon to be joined by a U.S-led deployment in Poland, British-led troops in Estonia and Canadian-led troops in Latvia. German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said that despite some odd statements uttered in the past on NATO, Washington had assured her about its "deep conviction in the importance of NATO and the commitment of the Americans within NATO to what we have agreed."

After Trump's national security advisor was fired for not being truthful about his conversations with Russia on sanctions during the transition, the White House sought to reassure that, if anything, it has been tough on Crimea. "The irony of this entire situation is that the President has been incredibly tough on Russia," spokesman Spicer said. "He continues to raise the issue of Crimea, which the previous administration had allowed to be seized by Russia."

Moscow says it will not abandon the territory. Members of Congress are calling for a probe on Russian meddling, and whether illicit payments have been made. Meanwhile some 200 Canadian troops were to depart for Ukraine to support the current training mission but were unclear whether the operation would be extended at the end of the month given the current environment. Meantime Ukrainian president Poroshenko says he may put NATO membership to a referendum, an idea which is, like so much else, dividing the Eastern European country.

These days Ukrainian officials are worrying about an influx of Russian military hardware they say threatens the ceasefire. While NATO officials say they have received assurances the alliance remained a fundamental "bedrock" for the U.S., Washington is telling its members to up their financial contributions, threatening cutbacks if they do not.

THE ENDURING INSURGENCY

The defeat of Nigeria's Boko Haram was supposed to be a sure thing, according to the government's own dubious and rosy version of accounts at the end of 2016, but recent events have proven them repeatedly wrong.

In January over 200 were killed after a catastrophic blunder of the country's air force, which mistakenly targeted a refugee camp, instead of the group which has terrorized the north of the country for years. Soon after, tragically, the group claimed responsibility for a much less bloody attack on a university which killed two.

If anything the number of attacks will only increase with the end of the rainy season according to observers, which have watched leader after leader take the helm vowing to put an end to the jihadist group. If anything this may prove more complicated after Boko Haram split in two, one faction declaring allegiance to the Islamic state.

The governor of the state of Ekiti criticized the government for declaring victory prematurely, accusing it of, no less, having to answer for the death of "innocent Nigerians in Kaduna," while hiding the ugly truth of the jihadists' ongoing activities. In all fairness the country his hardly the only one in the region dealing with the terror threat, which slips through borders despite the neighbors' best efforts to seal them.

Chad and Cameroun have also had to contend with the insurgents. Further away jihadists were showing their teeth in northern Mali, another region authorities hoped had been cleared of these elements but where they roam largely unopposed. About 50 soldiers were killed when a car bomb exploded on a military base, the latest incident of the sort. A similar attack last July killed 17 soldiers.

According to Human Rights Watch the government isn't doing enough to defend its population from such attacks, which notably killed 20 in the hostage taking of a hotel in the capital in 2015. On the other coast of the continent a hotel attack by Al Shabbab militants killed 28 last week, the latest offensive seeking to maintain instability in Somalia.

The group has also showed no concern for borders, carrying out the attack of a base in Kenya, a country which has actively fought the group by sending 3,600 soldiers joining African Union forces in Somalia, claiming it killed dozens. A year before Al Shabbab had similarly targeted a Kenyan base, but then as now Kenyan authorities downplayed casualties, saying the attacks had been repelled.

But in none of these other countries had the government declared victory on the insurgents, which have claimed 15,000 victims in Nigeria over the years. One of their most publicized acts was the mass kidnapping of 274 young girls three years ago, launching a global campaign for their return, but most remain at large.

As another Boko Haram attack on a highway killed 7 this weekend, the Christian Association of Nigeria lamented the group had destroyed some 900 churches since its emergence, and urged the government to rebuild some of the churches and restablish the country's inter-religion council to calm tensions.

Meanwhile the government says documents obtained in a location once belonging to Boko Haram showed it planned to disseminate propaganda using social media tools, and urged mainstream media to deny it the platform it seeks.

UN DRAME HAINEUX

Alors que les rues grouillaient de manifes-tations suite aux mesures anti-immigration du prési-dent américain, le rapprochement était-il inévi-table? La fusillade d'une mosquée dans la vieille capitale, faisant six morts et cinq blessés graves, avait lieu après la déclaration de solidarité du gouvernement canadien avec les réfugiés à qui on venait de fermer la porte aux Etats-Unis.

L'été précédent une tête de cochon, viande proscrite par la religion, était déposée devant le Centre culturel islamique de Québec, site du massacre, alors que les groupes de droite, dont certains radicaux, laissaient leur empreinte sur cette région de la belle province. Pourtant ceux-ci se sont dépêchés de condamner la tuerie, une des plus mortelles au Canada.

Les policiers assuraient d'ailleurs depuis plusieurs années une surveillance accrue des morsquées à travers la province, mais également dans d'autres villes du pays, après des incidents racistes de Calgary à Ottawa, vite condamnés par la population locale.

Est-il inévitable de faire un lien avec les discours anti-immigrants qui secouent le continent, renforcés par les dernières mesures de Washington? Quelques jours avant celles-ci, qui  haltent l'immigration des réfugiés aux Etats-Unis, en pleine période de transition américaine, une mosquée du Texas qui elle aussi avait fait l'objet de menaces, était réduite en cendres.

Les autorités locales s'empressèrent de souligner que l'enquête préliminaire ne permettait pas de faire de lien avec la politique. Mais l'élan des manifestations contre les mesures d'immigra-tion a provoqué une pluie de dons financiers pour rebâtir l'édifice, dépassant en peu de temps le million de dollars.

Même geste de solidarité au Canada, où des foules se regroupaient pour signaler leur appui à la communauté musulmane, mais celle-ci s'avouait ébranlée par la fusillade: "Les musulmans au Québec ont peur, déclara Haroun Bouazzi d'AMAL Québec, nous attendons avec urgence l'explication de cet acte."

Pour une rare fois, celle-ci pourrait avoir lieu, les policiers détenant le suspect, un étudiant de l'université Laval sans antécédent judiciaire et dont le compte Facebook ne comptait pourtant pas de propos haineux. Celui-ci cependant suggérait qu'Alexandre Bissonnette appuyait les politiques de Trump et Marine Le Pen, et aurait même tenu des propos anti-immigrants selon une connaissance. Les deux politiciens ont promptement condamné le geste.

Fait étonnant, la Maison blanche a eu une bien différente inter-prétation de l'incident, ce "rappel terrible qu'il faut rester vigilent, voilà pourquoi le président prend des mesures pro-actives." Un suspect écroué, voilà qui est plutôt rare après un acte de ce genre, les incidents meurtriers de St-Jean et d'Ottawa en 2014 s'étant soldés par la mort des suspects.

Doit-on le geste au dérappement du débat sur les accom-modements raisonnables? Cer-tains pointent du doigt un phénomène plutôt propre à la région: la multiplication d'émissions choc des "radio poubelles" à la Jeff Fillion.

"Les mots sont importants, ils peuvent exprimer une idée mais ils peuvent également blesser, il faut en être conscient, déclara le premier ministre Philippe Couillard, le Québec est extrêmement accueillant, mais nous connaissons les mêmes démons qu'ailleurs, le racisme, la xénophobie."

En fait depuis l'incident non moins d'une douzaine de crimes racistes ont étré signalés à Montréal, ville où   l'on a vu une augmentation de 20% de ce genre d'incident durant la dernière année.


PAS LE GOUT A LA FETE

Un peu comme l'Union Européenne, le Salvador marque un important 25e anniversaire cette année, mais l'esprit n'y est pas plus à la fiesta.  L'accord de paix de 1992 avec la guérilla gauchiste a été suivi par une période de réconciliation fort louable qui a servi de modèle ailleurs, mais le pays n'est pas parvenu à devenir un véritable havre de paix pour autant.

Le conflit armé a simplement changé de forme, la guérilla ayant été remplacée par les gangs qui font de ce petit pays d'Amérique centrale un des plus violents qu'il soit. Le Salvador a un taux d'homicide de 80 par 100000 habitants, soit plus de dix fois celui des Etats-Unis. Ainsi lorsque le gouvernement a tenté de soulever les foules avec des rassemblements publics commémoratifs l'accueil a été plutôt indifférent.  

La croissance est par ailleurs anémique et la politique rongée par la corruption, un fait étalé à la lumière du jour lorsque des dirigeants des deux grands partis ont a été écroués. Pas étonnant que presque la moitié de la population espère émigrer et que plusieurs milliers tentent leur chance vers le Mexique pour se rendre aux Etats-Unis, où    plus de deux millions de Salvadoriens ont déjà élu domicile.

On est d'autant plus pressé que le projet de mur du président entrant reste d'actualité. Les tensions sont telles, non seulement entre le pouvoir et les gangs de rue mais aussi entre les partis politiques qui semblent poursuivre la guerre civile sous une autre forme, que l'ONU a dépêché un envoyé spécial, Benito Andion, pour "se pencher sur les défis clé" du Salvador.   Parfois les échanges entre le gouvernement et Aréna peuvent paraître aussi difficiles qu'entre les gangs Barrio 18 et Mara Salvatrucha, l'opposition refusant de lever l'impasse fiscale en approuvant le budget de 2017.

Encore une fois on devait s'en remettre à une agence mondiale, en l'occurrence le FMI, pour débloquer la situation, qui a notamment bloqué des fonds forts attendus dans plusieurs municipalités.   Les violences ne font rien pour aider les caisses de l'état, puisqu'elles seraient respon-sables d'une perte de 16% du produit national brut. Les politiques du gouvernement ont signé certains succès, il faut le croire, éliminant 900 criminels et parvenant à une réduction des meurtres de l'ordre de 20% en 2015 selon l'Economist.

Mais les victimes se comptent encore par milliers, et alors que l'offensive raide du gouvernement, composé d'anciens rebelles du FMLN, a poussé au moins un gang vers la table de négociation, les excès des forces de l'ordre pourraient tout gâter selon certains observateurs. En attendant on à signé une petite victoire en janvier: une journée entière sans meurtre, alors que lors des 10 premiers jours du nouvel an 99 meurtres avaient été enregistrés.

"Nous n'arrête-rons pas et continuerons à attaquer ceux qui tiennent à agir hors la loi, résumait récemment le Vice President Oscar Ortiz, et cette année nous allons frapper encore plus fort". Alors que le Salvador n'a pas le monopole de la violence en Amérique centrale, où celle-ci frappe également le Honduras et le Guatemala, la rivalité mortelle opposant les gangs est un phénomène importé des Etats-Unis, où les gangs s'étaient développés au sein de la communauté d'expatriés fuyant la guerre civile.

Leur déportation aurait par la suite transporté cette violence de rue au Salvador. Mais ces gangs se sont répandus à la grandeur du continent, installant même un chapitre plus au nord, au Canada.

PLUS DE GESTES HAINEUX

Alors que les rues grouillaient de manifes-tations suite aux mesures anti-immigration du prési-dent américain, le rapprochement était-il inévi-table? La fusillade d'une mosquée dans la vieille capitale, faisant six morts et cinq blessés graves, avait lieu après la déclaration de solidarité du gouvernement canadien avec les réfugiés à qui on venait de fermer la porte aux Etats-Unis.

L'été précédent une tête de cochon, viande proscrite par la religion, était déposée devant le Centre culturel islamique de Québec, site du massacre, alors que les groupes de droite, dont certains radicaux, laissaient leur empreinte sur cette région de la belle province. Pourtant ceux-ci se sont dépêchés de condamner la tuerie, une des plus mortelles au Canada.

Les policiers assuraient d'ailleurs depuis plusieurs années une surveillance accrue des morsquées à travers la province, mais également dans d'autres villes du pays, après des incidents racistes de Calgary à Ottawa, vite condamnés par la population locale. Est-il inévitable de faire un lien avec les discours anti-immigrants qui secouent le continent, renforcés par les dernières mesures de Washington?

Quelques jours avant celles-ci, qui haltent l'immigration des réfugiés aux Etats-Unis, en pleine période de transition américaine, une mosquée du Texas qui elle aussi avait fait l'objet de menaces, était réduite en cendres. Les autorités locales s'empressèrent de souligner que l'enquête préliminaire ne permettait pas de faire de lien avec la politique.

Mais l'élan des manifestations contre les mesures d'immigra-tion a provoqué une pluie de dons financiers pour rebâtir l'édifice, dépassant en peu de temps le million de dollars. Même geste de solidarité au Canada, où des foules se regroupaient pour signaler leur appui à la communauté musulmane, mais celle-ci s'avouait ébranlée par la fusillade: "Les musulmans au Québec ont peur, déclara Haroun Bouazzi d'AMAL Québec, nous attendons avec urgence l'explication de cet acte." Pour une rare fois, celle-ci pourrait avoir lieu, les policiers détenant le suspect, un étudiant de l'université Laval sans antécédent judiciaire et dont le compte Facebook ne comptait pourtant pas de propos haineux.

Celui-ci cependant suggérait qu'Alexandre Bissonnette appuyait les politiques de Trump et Marine Le Pen, et aurait même tenu des propos anti-immigrants selon une connaissance. Les deux politiciens ont promptement condamné le geste. Fait étonnant, la Maison blanche a eu une bien différente inter-prétation de l'incident, ce "rappel terrible qu'il faut rester vigilent, voilà pourquoi le président prend des mesures pro-actives."

Un suspect écroué, voilà qui est plutôt rare après un acte de ce genre, les incidents meurtriers de St-Jean et d'Ottawa en 2014 s'étant soldés par la mort des suspects. Doit-on le geste au dérappement du débat sur les accom-modements raisonnables? Certains pointent du doigt un phénomène plutôt propre à la région: la multiplication d'émissions choc des "radio poubelles" à la Jeff Fillion. "Les mots sont importants, ils peuvent exprimer une idée mais ils peuvent également blesser, il faut en être conscient, déclara le premier ministre Philippe Couillard, le Québec est extrêmement accueillant, mais nous connaissons les mêmes démons qu'ailleurs, le racisme, la xénophobie."

En fait depuis l'incident non moins d'une douzaine de crimes racistes ont étré signalés à Montréal, ville où   l'on a vu une augmentation de 20% de ce genre d'incident durant la dernière année.

DIRIGER, MEME APRES LA MORT


Certains dirigeants s'accro-chent désespérément au pouvoir, même si la tentative gambienne, comme celle du Burkina Faso il y a quelques années, a été vouée à l'échec. En Algérie, Bouteflika à peine vu en public en raison de sa piètre santé, semble même voué au poste jusqu'à la mort. Mais après?


Selon la femme de l'éternel tyran de Harare, il n'y a aucune  raison de se limiter au monde des vivants. Grace Mugabe, qui a 41 ans de moins que son mari et espère bien conserver tous les avantages qui reviennent à la première femme du pays, ne voit aucun inconvénient à présenter le corps de Robert Mugabe aux prochaines élections si "dieu décide de nous le prendre."


Après tout, poursuit-elle "toute personne qui était avec Mugabe en 1980 (au moment de l'indépendance) n'a aucun droit de dire de lui qu'il est trop vieux." Le chef d'état fêtait son 93e anniversaire en février, ce qui a donné lieu à multes célébrations à travers le pays. Il a déjà déclaré vouloir vivre jusqu'à 100 ans et s'accrocher au pouvoir jusqu'à la mort.


Sa femme quant à elle prévoit lui acheter une chaise roulante afin qu'il puisse poursuivre son règne avec son aide. Insensé? Fait intéressant, 10 des 13 chefs d'état morts alors qu'ils étaient en fonction entre 2009 et 2013 étaient africains.


L'année précédente, 2008, c'était au guinéen Lansana Conté de rendre l'âme, et la transition fut particulièrement chaotique, l'armée s'emparant du pouvoir. Quelques jours avant sa mort un journal avait fait paraître une photo peu flatteuse, montrant un président au bout de ses forces et visiblement malade.


Ceci suscita un tollé politique, la publication se voyant obligée de présenter une photo plus grande montrant un président en pleine santé en première page le lendemain. Or celle ci était évidemment vieille, et son sujet expira quelques heures plus tard.


Ce repli défensif camouflait un manque de planification à propos de la succession, qui entraîna le désastre; c'est un exemple qui hante encore le continent. Plus récemment c'est le Nigéria qui se fait du souci vue la convalescence prolongée de son chef d'état. Muhammadu Buhari est à Londres depuis plusieurs semaines, et son absence suscite bien des inquiétudes, son prédecesseur Umaru Yar'Adua ayant été de ceux qui sont morts au poste, en 2010.


Plusieurs pays africains ont certes vu la transition bien se passer, notamment au Malawi, après la mort du septuagénaire Mutharika en 2012, un pays dont on entend peu parler, ce qui en soi est rassurant. Mais quel avenir au Zimbabwe, pays de crises éternelles? La réponse nous vient-elle d'Azeribaijan, où le president a nommé sa femme vice-présidente? Selon les nouvelles mesures constitu-tionnelles, c'est elle qui hériterait du poste si...



FAMINE, IT'S BACK


Famine, for a while it seemed eradicated from the landscape, leaving in the past images of emaciated infants with bloated tummies such as Ethiopia's in the middle of the 1980s. To a large extent large scale famines have disappeared, but after a six year hiatus, famine is back, in a country which has never had it.

That's because South Sudan didn't exist then, but the young history of the world's newest country has been, to say the least, a troubled one. Tensions with its northern neighbor and internal clashes between rival tribes have rocked an already poor nation, creating a humanitarian crisis amid fears of genocide. 

Now 4.9 million people, 40% of the population, are in urgent need of food according to The United Nations' World Food Programme, a million on the brink of famine and 100,000 facing starvation.  "Our worst fears have been realized," said Serge Tissot of the Food and Agriculture Organiza-tion.

The region as a whole is under threat of famine, including other war wracked countries such as Somalia and Yemen and parts of Nigeria where the Boko Haram insurgency endures. In all some 20 million people are threatened with famine over the next six months in a series of emergencies crossing borders.

The criteria for declaring famine are strict, and therefore the situation alarming, especially in parts of the state of Unity.  They include a minimum 20% of households facing extreme food shortages, malnutrition rates  exceeding  30% and a death rate over two per day per 10,000 people. 

The threat of contagion was being stressed in the alarming UN report. "If sustained and adequate assistance is delivered urgently the hunger situation can be improved in the coming months and further suffering mitigated," it said, local aid officials blaming "man made" conditions for bringing famine back to Africa.

These parts of Sudan have already been struck by famine nearly a decade ago, while they were fighting to independence, which, once attained, only allowed civil war to break out, dividing early on the freshly minted government in Juba, affecting everything from crops already struggling with drought to the economy.

The African Union has previously detailed accounts of bloodbaths, mass rapes, and even forced cannibalism. The United Nations maintain 10,000 troops in the country. Among the victims, the most vulnerable, in a country already plagued by the use of child soldiers. "If we do not reach these children with urgent aid many of them will die," warned Jeremy Hopkins of UNICEF.

But even if it arrives, bringing emergency aid to afflicted regions is daunting in itself. "There's only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security," told the New York Times Joyce Luna of the World Food Programme. "At this time it's more necessary than ever for everyone to not just stop with words, but take concrete action so that food aid can reach suffering populations," weighed in Pope Francis.

At a time the U.S. is considering scaling back its United Nations and aid backing, word of financial woes providing aid relief sparked particular concern. "The situation is dire," said U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a desperate appeal for funds. "We need $4.4 billion by the end of March to avert a catastrophe."

Of this amount, under $100 million had been pledged. Famine last struck the continent six years ago in Somalia, a country now afflicted by severe drought, then killing a quarter million people in two months at the time. But U.S. researchers warn this bout is simply "unprecedented in recent decades." Much of it was preventable had governments taken heed, observers say. A proposed arms embargo in South Sudan may have stemmed some of the violence at the source of the emergency.

The crisis now "underscores the complete failure by government, opposition forces, and international actors to end the cycle of abuse," says Human Rights Watch researcher Jonathan Pedneault. In the Lake Chad region alone, at the crossroads of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, some 3 million people need immediate assistance, a recent donor conference gathering a third of the $1.5 billion required to assist them.

In Somalia, al Shabab attacks continue to claim victims, but, as in nearby Kenya next door, it is a drought which is principally responsible for placing half of the population of 10 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the U.N. humanitarian office. In parti-cular some 363,000 acutely malnourished Somali children "need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished," USAID says.

TRAGEDY ON THE HIGH SEAS

It was another tragedy in a sea of despair. The bodies of 74 migrants who had perished when their boat capsized were placed in body bags under white blankets on a pebbled beach on the Libyan coast of Zawiya before they were collected one by one by members of the Red Crescent. A sole survivor had made it, clinging to the remains of a shredded dingy.

Others were never recovered because of the choppy seas. Only half of the bodies washed up on the shores. This sort of scene has been a constant in the last few years along the Mediterranean, and is in fact getting worse.

In January alone over 1,300 had already died trying to reach European shores, more than a dozen times the number of the previous January. And this is the quiet season when fewer try this treacherous route because of the weather. The ill fated passengers lying lifeless on the beach were all African men.

Little seems to stem the flow of migrants heading north, neither the walls put up in Europe nor the squalid conditions of the camps where many end up. It's colder, but it isn't necessary worse than at home, and despite at times poor welcoming conditions, there's still hope to find a better life, eventually.

"While the number of people taking the eastern Mediterranean and west Balkans route to travel into Europe (has) obviously significantly dropped since last year, there hasn't been a fall in the number of people ... traveling through the central Mediterranean routes from Libya to Italy," says Stephen Ryan of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

"And in fact, although still early, the numbers of people that have successfully made the journey is higher than it was last year." This will have policy implications on a continent already strained by the weight of migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

But what makes things worse are the methods used by the smugglers organizing these passages to transport the migrants. While they are putting them on boats, they don't necessarily make it to European shores, or any shores, just part of the way. 

"What we hear from those rescued is that routinely smugglers are putting them to sea and then follow them later and take the engines away saying you don't need them anymore because you'll be rescued," says Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.

"In this case they were left to drift and were not rescued," he said, adding "Those who died appeared to have been dehydrated for days." The coast guards patrolling the Mediterranean have their work cut out for them.

Days after the tragedy Rescuers found 332 people in a single day in three separate rubber boats traveling north of the Libyan coast. On the eve Italy's coast guard said some 730 migrants were rescued during seven different operations.

And as daunting as it is, nature is hardly the only barrier to their progress northwards. Hungary said it is going to erect a second barrier on its border with Serbia in anticipation of this year's wave of migrants, moving north in greater numbers, if this is even possible, as the weather becomes warmer.

And the greeting that awaits them in the nations of refuge, including a particularly generous Germany whose leadership may suffer a poll setback this year as a result, isn't always pleasant.

According to the Interior ministry some 10 migrants were attacked every day last year, a year some 1 million made their way to the country fleeing persecution and war. And the EU has had to threaten with fees countries not willing to take in their share of migrants.

The rush of the first days

There was shock, incredulity and outrage, even division amid the ruling party, but not really much surprise. The translation of political promises, some criticized as outrageous, into executive action upset leaders from Mexico to Iraq, key allies in America's war on drugs and on terror, and people at home, as the incoming U.S. administration rushed to bring in a sea change of policies. Perhaps it was the furious pace that caught so many off guard.

Even border officials scrambled to understand the reach of the controversial ban of travellers from seven Muslim countries, enforced hours after the executive order was signed. With the announcements has come a steady stream of protest in the streets, but also grumbling from troubled members of Donald Trump's own party. Senior Republicans inclu-ding John McCain feared the measures could in fact backfire, and undermine security.

Would they use their legislative powers to limit the scope of these executive actions? The term was off to a rough start when Mexico balked at suggestions it would pay for a wall on its border, leading to the cancellation of a planned meeting between the two leaders, even if they later spoke by phone to ensure continued dialogue.

Being a major campaign promise, the issue was nevertheless a sticking point  between the president and congressional leaders, who panned the idea of taxing incoming Mexican products to pay for a barrier estimated to cost $20 billion.

There were others instances of clashes between Trump and his party. Among them the president's push for an investigation into previously debunked claims of millions of cases of voter fraud. This was received with concern by Republicans who form a majority in both houses but was driven by a president still disappointed he lost the popular vote by over 3 million voices.

Trump's views on torture, which he has stated "works", but congressional  leaders slammed as "illegal", was another area where he and party officials clashed. Trump later said that despite his personal opinion he would let his defence secretary, one critical of enhanced interrogation, overrule him on this. Trump's penchant for  lifting some sanctions against Russia, as he did this week, also met with GOP opposition. Still the GOP insisted, as they held a retreat in Philadelphia last week, it was "on the same page" as the White House.

While Trump's busy first days pleased supporters by carrying through a number of campaign promises, opposition was plain to see in the streets of the city of brotherly love, overrun by protesters, and back in Washington. There public servants and scientists balked at some of the measures announced by the incoming administration, setting up alternate social media accounts to bypass efforts to muzzle them.

By then end of Trump's first week in office, a number of senior management officials at the State Department had gone. This week 1000 departmental officials signed a dissent memo on the immigration measures. Word is now widespread the incoming administration will seek to slash bureaucracy, and the number of bureaucrats in DC, imposing a freeze on hiring and possible mass cuts down the road.

Meanwhile the president's cabinet nominations were moving forward with a trickle. Like much about the man himself Trump's picks for secretaries largely escape the traditional mold, a third having had no previous major public service experience.

The White House accused Democrats of delaying approvals for a number of cabinet positions including an education pick with little experience and an EPA secretary billed as a climate change denier. Among the first changes of the incoming administration was the removal of references to climate change on the White House's website, soon followed by executive orders to approve pipelines and expedite environmental approvals for major projects.

Trump lamented he would have to act as his own Commerce Secretary in his first meeting with a foreign leader, Britain's Theresa May, because his candidate was still stuck in the approval process. Democrats and Republicans were also sure to square off on Trump's Supreme Court judge nominee, revealed this week as Neil Gorsuch, who should break the current deadlock between conservatives and liberals in the high court.

Trump instructed officials to "go nuclear" if necessary to defend his pick. Meanwhile groups of protesters have gathered near Trump events and beyond ever since the mass world demonstrations for women's rights that followed his inauguration. 

In contrast Trump's election was noticeably well received by financial markets which have steadily risen since his election, the Dow breaking 20,000 for the first time ever. U.S. companies and trading partners have scrambled early on however as Trump scrapped plans to join the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal and warned the U.S. may get out of Nafta if it couldn't be renegotiated under better terms.

Again this measure didn't particularly endear America with its southern neighbor, which was especially targeted for running a $60 billion trade surplus. Companies such as the major automakers have also been served notice they could face stiff tariffs if they looked to export production to reimport into the U.S. Trump's take charge approach to his first days may have further endeared him with supporters, his take no prisoners attitude however raised the ire of opponents.

America's millions of immigrants shuddered as the administration gave its marching orders to build the wall with Mexico and clamp down on immigration, notably banning travel by citizens of a half dozen Middle Eastern countries accused of being hot beds of terrorism, including Syria and Iraq. Trump has blamed losing the popular vote on massive fraud cases but also illegal immigration, neither of which have been demonstrated.

Particularly outraged by this file, California is one state which has notably been vocal in its criticism of the incoming administration's policies, its governor Jerry Brown promising to defend immigration in the largest state, which harbors a strong Hispanic minority. Another area Sacramento will seek to defend is healthcare. Repealing Obama-care topped the president's busy agenda, but Republican governors and congressmen have expressed alarm at the lack of alternative and often hoped of maintaining some elements of the Affordable Care Act which has insured over 20 million additional Americans since it came into effect.

Americans were adjusting to the new measures, but so were countries around the world, Canada and the Netherlands looking to set up a fund to provide the services denied by new U.S. cuts to fund overseas maternal care and abortions. Mexico, Iraq and Iran considered retaliatory action against border taxes and immigration bans, while France and Germany looked to do more in the face of America's temporary ban of refugees. It was for them to remind the U.S. president that welcoming the poor huddled masses was more in line with his country's democratic traditions.


That Nordic ingenuity

Cutting edge and progressive, Nordic countries aren't shy to experiment with innovative approaches to work and living, but are they sometimes pushing the envelope a little bit too far? After having revolutionized child care with the distribution of "the box" to young parents, containing everything they need in their infant's early stages, including the packaging which serves as baby's first bed, Finland started distributing a guaranteed income in January to certain citizens.

Some 2,000 unemployed Finns will receive 560 euros a month, enough to live with but hardly a windfall for the poorest in this relatively expensive country, for a two year trial period. Officials hope the measure will actually reduce poverty and boost employment.  Currently some 8% of the country's 5,5 million citizens are unemployed, and officials are curious to see how this will affect workers' habits. "It's highly interesting to see how it makes people behave," said Olli Kangas of KELA, the agency running the program. "Will this lead them to boldly experiment with different kinds of jobs? Or, as some critics claim, make them lazier with the knowledge of getting a basic income without doing anything?" 

If successful the experiment could be extended to other sectors, such as freelancers or part-time workers.  Work experiments aren't always successful, and their neighbours are well aware of this. A six-hour work day experiment in Sweden was expected to boost productivity, health and satisfaction, but was far from conclusive. In one trial, such results were recorded.

Nurses working in the Svartedalens retirement home working six-hour days on an eight-hour salary took less sick time and were also much less likely to take any time off.  But another experiment in Umea however found sick leaves had gone up, not down, while a third longer experi-ment in Kiruna between 1989 and 2005 was scrapped after failing to show any benefits. But this hasn't discouraged others from trying.

Finland meanwhile is also experimenting with the phase preceding work: education, and so far the reviews of recent reforms have been met with enthusiasm world wide. Finland's  recent curriculum reform emphasizes a multi-disciplinary approach to education by eliminating individual school subjects from the curriculum such as math and geography.

Instead of this segregated approach its curriculum seeks to promote understanding various topics, such as global warming, through a number of approaches, such as scientific, mathematical and historical. Further West Norway has launched a rather controversial experiment of its own sure to capture the world's attention: becoming the first country to entirely quit FM radio and go digital, sparking concerns by some it could undermine emergency broadcast services. 

While 66% of Norwegians opposed the move and 2 million cars aren't equipped with the right receivers to get digital, the government was going ahead with the project, also being considered in Denmark and Switzerland.  "We're the first country to switch off FM but there are several countries going in the same direction," said Ole Joergen Torvmark, head of Digital Radio Norway. But some politicians have come out passionately against the FM radio silence, which started in one area on January 11.  

"We are simply not ready for this yet," Ib Thomsen, a Progress Party member of parliament told Reuters. "There are two million cars on Norwegian roads that don't have DAB receivers, and millions of radios in Norwegian homes will stop working when the FM net is switched off. So there is definitely a safety concern," he said.

Ton dur en haute mer

La période de la transition à Washington était bien mal partie du point de vue sino-américain lorsque la présidente taïwanaise a daigné féliciter le président entrant lors d'un appel téléphonique. Les rapports se sont guère améliorés lorsque le candidat de Trump au poste de secrétaire d'état à laissé savoir que les activités de Pékin en mer de Chine du sud devaient cesser.

Voilà des années que les deux capitales se surveillent en haute mer dans la région, où Pékin a pris l'habitude de developper des îlots habituellement vides en véritables bases militaires flottantes. Lors d'une audition pour la confirmation de sa nomination Rex Tillerson s'en engagé à "envoyer un message clair" à Pékin à propos des îles disputées entre la Chine et nombre de pays régionaux, soutenus par Washington.

On n'en était pas à la première anicroche, Trump ayant déjà critiqué son premier importateur à propos du niveau du yuan et  du deséquilibre des échanges entre les deux géants du pacifique. "Les constructions des îles doivent cesser, " déclara Tillerson, laissant même entendre que l'accès aux îles lui même pourrait être remis en question.

"C'est une menace pour l'ensemble de l'économie si la Chine est capable d'imposer des volontés" dans cette région matière à dispute avec une demi douzaine de pays ainsi que Taïwan. "Construire des îles et ensuite installer des équipements militaires sur ces îles c'est la même chose que la prise de la Crimée par la Russie".

Une déclaration étonnante qui à la fois élève les tensions diplomatiques et montre une certaine divergence avec la position de Trump sur la Russie, avec laquelle le président entend plutôt améliorer les rapports. Une autre divergence est apparue au sujet de la politique de Chine unique, que Trump se proposait de revoir.

D'autres pays qui contestent l'accès à la région sont plutôt d'humeur à baisser le ton. Manille, qui conteste notamment certaines des îles Spratly, a décidé de remettre à plus tard ses projets de modernisation des installations, question de ne pas davantage provoquer un empire du milieu déjà piqué au vif.

Ceci malgré avoir remporté la décision d'un tribunal sur son grief territorial l'an dernier dans ce qu'elle appelle la mer des Philippines occidentales. Les Philippines y sont installées depuis 1990. Taïwan, la Malaisie, la Chine et le Vietnam y sont également implantés.

Quelques jours avant la déclaration de Tillerson des bombardiers stratégiques chinois survolaient les Spratly. La cour permanente d'arbitrage avait statué contre la Chine l'été précédent, une décision rejetée par Pékin. Selon des analystes du Center for Strategic and International Studies l'instal-lation récente de batteries anti aériennes par les Chinois signalaient une "préparation en vue d'un conflit futur". 

Le Global Times chinois quant à lui signait un éditorial provocant cette semaine, avertissant que: "Si l'équipe diplomatique de Trump prépare des relations sino-américaines futures similaires à ce qu'elle fait en ce moment, les deux camps doivent se préparer en vue d'un choc militaire."


THE WAR AT HOME



While the world braces for more Islamic terror in the wake of the latest carnage in Turkey, it keeps ignoring a well known ticking time bomb. One often confused, in the early moments of bloodshed, with the actions of jihadists.

In Nova Scotia Afghanistan war veteran Lionel Desmond shot his wife, daughter and mother before killing himself days into the new year. Family members and friends said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had been having domestic issues. Right before the massacre he said he would take care of his problems, but nobody expected his solution to lie at the end of the barrel of a gun.

Days later a U.S. Iraqi war veteran, who family members said was suffering from mental issues and was undergoing treatment, flew from Alaska to Florida, where he fired on passengers in the baggage claim area, killing five and injuring eight before dropping his weapon.

As a new administration takes over in the U.S. and the Liberals settle in for a new year in Ottawa, cries of better support systems for veterans abound. Last year alone some 15 Canadian Forces members took their lives, 54 since 2014 and, according to a Globe & Mail tabulation, 70 over the years after serving in Afghanistan, the deadliest Canadian mission since Korea.

In the U.S., the staggering number of 22 suicides of veterans per day has been used by government departments as reference for years, but also creeping up has been the suicide rate among active members, which reached 265 in 2015, marking the seventh year of steady suicide growths.

This is a sharp increase from the 145 in 2001, when the U.S. began operations in Afghanistan but before it embarked in a new Iraq war. In Canada and the US army ranks are the most heavily affected, as militaries struggle with providing services for the growing legions of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress, such as Desmond, and other mental health issues.

“We’ll never get the number down to zero, but we will have to do better,” said Glynne Hines, head of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Operational Stress Injury Special Section. “The way we are going to do better is by having an effective suicide prevention framework that can be implemented for Canadian forces members and veterans and the fact that we don’t have one contributes to the suicides that we are seeing.”

The Canadian military says it will have a draft of a suicide strategy for veterans by the fall. In the U.S. meanwhile, where a new Veterans Affairs secretary was taking over under the new administration, officials are developing algorithms to predict which soldiers are the most likely to commit suicide and focus immediate efforts on them. 

On both sides of the border there's a realization military culture has developed soldiers still hesitant to call for help even in their darkest hours.  “They are still plagued by the stigma that it’s weak to ask for help,” said Tema Counter Memorial Trust Director Vince Savoia. “The ones that do ask for help don’t necessarily receive the care and help that’s provided.” Some don't even realize they need help, while those who do and ask for it can come across difficulties getting some of the rare mental health spaces available by the facilities able to provide them.

Esteban Santiago had been receiving help but family members said he was "not OK" after returning from mission in Iraq. His brother said Esteban had received help for just a few days before being sent home. "Nobody changes his mind in four days," he decried, saying the government had failed him. Desmond meanwhile struggled with PTSD and did not receive what he needed when he sought help at a hospital in Antigonish days before he carried out his act, family members said.

Cases like these show the work that remains to be done to come to the help of those who put their lives on the line says Michael Blais, president and founder of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy. “Suicide has been an issue that has not been a priority,” he said. “We have veterans coming forward and they are being put into a system where it takes months if not years to get the effective treatment that they need.”

Former Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire, who chronicled his own struggle with PTSD in this book Waiting for First Light and founded the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative, said Desmond's case left him distraught and provided a "powerful warning to the senior policy makers in our country." "The wars that soldiers fight do not end when we return home; they stay alive within us, and without urgent treatment our injury will destroy us," he wrote in the Globe & Mail.

"Desmond's actions were reprehensible; but so too was the lack of care he and his family received when he returned from his mission. This was a soldier that was lost in a system that is grievously inadequate to handle the load and complexity of these injuries or to provide the urgent support required for vets and their families."

Veterans Affairs in fact does not systematically review suicides by former soldiers, something Assistant Deputy Minister Michel Doiron says the government wants to start doing. “We want to make sure that if there is something for us to learn from a [suicide] event, that we do learn it and we rectify accordingly.” In a town hall tour of the country this month, Prime Minister Trudeau. sympathized with the families and promised to do more.

"How we treat and support those who put their lives in peril in order to serve their country is part of a sacred trust, a sacred covenant that we make that if we are going to send out bravest men and women in harms way we are going to take cats of them when they get home," he said. But in the mean time cases such as Desmond's only augment the need for support.

In the days that followed veteran support groups in nearby PEI were flooded with calls of veteran shaken up as they attempt to deal with their own cases of PTSD. And getting qualified personnel to help across the country is also an issue because dozens of positions at the military's Joint Personnel Support Unit, serving ill and injured service members, still need to be filled. In December the unit established at the height of the Afghan war was short 73 staff, or 17% of its work force.

"There's an awful lot more to do in making investments in PTSD treatment and a culture that is going to help first responders and Canadian Forces members and others who go through these difficult situation to deal with this," Trudeau said. A review of the often criticized system was ordered last year but is yet to be released.


ANOTHER REVOLUTION?

It's 2017 and a century after the Great revolution is it time to make Russia great again? This was certainly the thought of a Kremlin official who during the holidays deplored the state of breakaway republics and called for a reunification of the old USSR. Is Putin, who has brought back many of the thinking of the old Soviet days, the man to achieve this?

Moscow can certainly boast a successful year past, having been on the winning side of the Syrian war and having successfully meddled in American politics. By some accounts it may be ready to do the same in this year's French presidential elections, not necessarily by hacking socialist accounts but by backing Russia-friendly candidacies, of which there is no lack.

Republican François Fillon and the Front National's Marine Le Pen have both opened the door to better Russia ties, possibly willing to put the ugly Crimean chapter behind them, to the horror of frontline NATO partners. Militarily Russia is back to its old swaggering, which it was doing during the Syrian conflict in that region and elsewhere around the world, from Europe to the Arctic. Russia has also been warning NATO countries such as Canada about posting forces on its borders in countries such as Latvia.

Praising the military's performance for the Syrian effort in December, which he declared was able to defeat any invading force, Putin called for a boost to the country's nuclear arsenal to "neutralize any threat". The president is certainly eager to respond to the development of a U.S. missile shield on its European borders, blaming it for any arms escalation. The Russian leader also downplayed Trump's reference to an "arms race" and strengthening the U.S. nuclear arsenal as "nothing unusual", but added: "If anyone is unleashing an arms race it's not us... We will never spend resources on an arms race that we can't afford.

If anything, Trump and Putin seemed to be the two leaders least concerned about a possible nuclear arms escalation. Putin says in fact he counted on "constructive and pragmatic" relations with the United States under the incoming administration, dismissing the outgoing one altogether. One official claimed Moscow had severed links with Washington until the transition, something denied by U.S. officials actively engaged at various levels. But there was a feeling the current flock in Washington was being sidelined.

For Putin the Syrian conflict was certainly quite the power play, making Russia a key actor once more in the Mideast, where Moscow managed to keep the U.S. on the outside looking in the post-Aleppo diplomacy, which brought Russia, Iran and Turkey to the table, with assurances the Russian ambassador's assassination in Ankara would not disrupt relations. Over the holidays a new ceasefire tenuously held, as Russia started pulling forces from the field.

But the Syrian conflict was also about good business at times of lower oil prices and Western sanctions. "We must take maximum advantage of this," Putin said in an end of year speech. "We know there is interest in modern Russian weapons from foreign partners." This could even include countries with traditional ties with Washington such as the Philippines, denied access to U.S. weapons due to the ongoing bloody crackdown on drug users which is drawing the attention of UN investigators.

Obviously the Syrian military effort showcased more than small weapons, but jet fighters and missile defences as well, though the year ended with tragedy when a passenger jet carrying 92 crashed. But Russia may be touting its cyber warfare skills as well after having been blamed of intruding in the U.S. election and having hacked into the Ukrainian military for years, according to a recent report.

All this know how did nothing to save Russia from the embarrassment of being shunned on the world sports stage as a result of its fraudulent drug program however. Perhaps its rage on the global scene is only an attempt to recapture some of the glory sports once provided. It at least sought to distract Russians from the country's poor economy, which has slipped into a recession, an admission made by Putin himself.

The Russian president however forecasted a bit of a return to growth in 2017, with industry, transport and agriculture leading the way. No good revolution in Russia is worthy of the name without agrarian success.  But it would have to deal with more U.S. sanctions as Washington booted 35 suspected spies and clamped down on two Russian intelligence agencies for their hacking role during the U.S. elections.

Trump sought to downplay the move, urging the U.S. to "get on with our lives", but, not for the first or last time, he found himself going against top ranking republicans. "Russia... has consistently sought to undermine" U.S. interests, Paul Ryan said, adding it was "sowing dangerous instability around the world." This week a U.S. intelligence report stated Putin himself had ordered a campaign to influence the vote. While Trump denied the election was influenced in any way he announced a special team would seek to deter such cyber threats in the future.

Putin meanwhile was weighing an "appropriate" response to the expulsion of its diplomats, but said he would not imitate the deportations, a decision praised by Trump, who said it showed the Russian president's intelligence. In fact Putin's was an "incredible chess move" which further provided insight into his cunning, and kicked the outgoing administration on the way out, according to analyst Lauren Goodrich of Stratfor.

"Putin deciding not to retaliate and say I'm going to wait for the Trump administration, delegitimizes Obama's decision on one side and then also puts extra pressure on Trump to act more conciliatory when he comes in," she said. But for all its military and diplomatic prowess, Russia still enters 2017 under painful sanctions that will continue biting, and it hopes will go away. "The sanctions that Obama put on Russia in 2014 are the real sanctions," Goodrich said. "Obama really hit Putin where it hurts.".                          


TROUBLE FOR GERMANY


What comes after three's a charm? Germany's Angela Merkel hopes it's a fourth term, but the year is off to a difficult start after a 2016 marked by terror attacks and a rising extremist wing accusing her immigration policies of being behind them. The December 19 truck attack which killed 12 and injured dozens more at a popular Berlin Christmas market further fuelled speculation the chancellor could meet the fate of French counterpart Francois Hollande, whose presidency was marked by rising concern about migrants and bloody terror attacks.

The truck attack was in fact reminiscent of the Nice terror crash which killed 86, months earlier, using a heavy vehicle as a weapon to crush bystanders during Bastille Day. This is a method hard to defend against which has been pushed by jihadists to claim victims in the West.

Two years earlier the killing of a Canadian soldier in Quebec, a day before the shooting in Parliament, used similar methods. Berlin's was the latest terror incident on a day marked by the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey and the shooting of an Islamic center in Switzer-land, though they were not connected.

It closely followed an ISIS attack which killed a dozen in Jordan, including a Canadian. On the same bloody day ISIS claimed responsibility for a truck bombing killing 48 in war torn Yemen. ISIS would later go on to claim the Berlin attack, releasing the video in which the suspect pledged allegiance to Daesh. In November ISIS also claimed responsibility for the Ohio state attack, which was another one using a vehicle as a weapon.

For Germany, where extremists blamed the attack on Merkel's immigration policy, the incident was the latest to rattle a country months from going to the polls. Just days earlier police had foiled a possible terror plot by a 12 year old. They hadn't always been so lucky or effective. In July a 17 year old Afghan refugee hurt four people on a train using knives and an axe, an attack claimed by ISIS.

Less than a week later a Syrian wounded 15 people blowing himself up at a musical festival in another move claimed by the terror group. As the holidays neared police across Europe planned to prevent possible attacks, the U.S. State Department warning they could occur anywhere across the continent but likely near Christmas gatherings.

As in the case of Belgian officials deploring the 2016 Brussels attack, officials in Germany conceded that what they feared had occurred, though they were initially fuzzy whether an early suspect who had emigrated from Pakistan was tied to the dead Polish citizen found in the truck after the attack. He was later let go.

This meant German police were in a race against time searching for a dangerous and armed man on the run. Similarly officials in the Turkish investigation doubted that the killer acted alone, security forces bracing for more attacks. As the earlier Paris attacks had shown, fleeing perpetrators would at very least go on to plan more terror activities. But the suspect, a Tunisian, was eventually gunned down in Italy, after crossing at least two borders.

The death toll in Berlin spelled trouble for the incumbent, according to Daniel Hamilton of the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies. "Germany hasn't had an attack like this that's killed a lot of people in a long time so clearly there will be pressure on her," he told Bloomberg. "But there will also be a sense that Europeans are in this together, that it's a common threat." Protests by the country's Alternative party accused Merkel of having her people's blood on her hands.

There was no need for further reminders the continent was facing the same sort of threat after the last few years which saw attacks in France and Belgium in particular. The similarities were alarming. As in the case of the Paris and Nice attacks, the suspect was known to authorities and under watch for an extended period of time, even placed on a most dangerous list, before slipping through the cracks ahead of his deportation only to resurface to cause terror.

He was eventually killed in a shootout in Italy when cornered during a routine check. As in the case of the Nice attacker, he was from Tunisia, which sent a disproportionately large amount of youths to train.


LA CONTESTATION EN GAMBIE


Après une année marquée par la résistance de politiciens déterminés à demeurer au pouvoir en Afrique, deux élections permettaient à l'origine de remonter le moral d'un électorat souvent floué sur le continent.


D'une part le Ghana poursuivait sa lancée d'exercices démocratiques paisibles et réussis, et, cerise sur le gâteau, le président au pouvoir depuis 22 ans en Gambie avouait la défaite, une déclaration étonnante qui permettait tant d'espoir après des années d'abus dans ce brin d'Afrique occidentale. C'était trop beau pour être vrai.


Après réflexion l'homme fort de Banjul se ressaisissait et revenait sur sa décision antérieure, exigeant même un nouveau scrutin. Selon certains observateurs même cette déclaration laissait à désirer, doutant que Yahya Jammeh ait jamais eu l'intention d'abandonner le pouvoir.


Ce serait s'exposer à une justice locale et inter-nationale au fait des abus de son régime depuis 1994. Le revirement de cap et le contraste entre les deux pays blessent, le Ghana s'étant engagé sur la voix de la liberté deux ans plus tôt, en 1992.


Des "erreurs inacceptables" s'étaient glissés dans les résultats, déclara Jammeh, un rappel que le pays constitue une déchirure géographique au sein d'un Sénégal modèle d'Afrique occidentale. Or malgré l'échec initial des efforts de médiation de la Communauté économique des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, le voisin restait optimiste, le président Macky Sall espérant qu'à la longue "la médiation de la Cédéao permettra à M. Jammeh d’entendre raison".


Mais entre temps la police fermait le QG de la commission élecorale et le camp Jammeh saisissait la Cour suprême pour faire annuler le vote, une décision attendue en janvier. Ailleurs, les chefs d'état cherchent à mettre fin à la crise de manière paisible, mais décisive, soit en poussant Jammeh vers la sortie.


Mais certains craignent le pire, la guerre civile même, dans ce petit état d'environ deux millions d'habitants. On prévoit en conséquence des "sanctions draconiennes", voire des mesures militaires même. Les dirigeants qui s'étaient déplacés pour tenter de régler le conflit, la présidente libérienne Ellen Sirleaf et ses homologues du Nigéria et du Ghana, s'avouent un peu à court de solution.


Le déplacement de ce dernier était cependant un message on ne peut plus clair, ayant avoué sa défaite quelques jours plus tôt. Pendant ce temps les pressions diplomatiques de toutes parts, notamment de capitales occidentales, s'intensifient et les rapports se corsent. Jammeh a notamment rappelé son ambassadeur au Sénégal après de celui-ci ainsi que dix autres diplomates gambiens aient signé une lettre publique lui demandant de se plier aux résultats.


PAS CE QUE VOUS CROYEZ


C'était trop beau pour être vrai. Un pays frontalier avec des nations qui ont plutôt mal accueilli les réfugiés syriens et érigé des murs, choisissant comme premier ministre une femme, une première, et musulmane en plus, un véritable coup d'éclat. Après réflexion, le président décida cependant de rejeter le choix de Sevil Shhaideh par les Sociaux démocrates, grands vainqueurs des dernières élections. Mais pas pour les raisons qu'on aurait tendance à penser.


Son genre et son origine, tirée de la minorité turco-roumaine, n'auraient pas été des facteurs en particulier. Il s'agissait plutôt de son mari, un ancien ministre et supporter du clan Assad, que l'OTAN aurait peut-être mal vu si près du pouvoir chez un membre de l'alliance. Du moins c'est la raison évoquée par l'analyste Andrei Taranu à l'AFP. "Je suppose que ce rejet est lié à une question de sécurité nationale et parce que les États-Unis auraient mal accueilli ça." 


Pourtant celle-ci devait faire figure de compromis pour  mettre fin à une impasse politique: l'impossibilité de désigner le chef du parti, Liviu Dragnea, à cause de son casier judiciaire. Sélection surprise, Shhaideh n'était même pas sur la liste courte des candidats potentiels à l'origine, surprenant les observateurs de plus d'une façon.


Mais celle-ci était également proche de Dragnea, qui avait été témoin lors de son mariage et qui lui avait cédé la place  lorsqu'il dut quitter son poste après avoir reçu une peine avec sursis, laissant flotter des rumeurs de manipulation. Selon un éditorial de HotNews.ro, celle-ci avait été un choix surprenant pour d'autres raisons, notamment à cause de ses liens douteux avec des politiciens locaux arrêtés pour abus de pouvoir.


Le président Iohannis a donc en fin de compte plutôt penché en faveur du second choix de la coalition dirigée par les Socio-démocrates, soit Sorin Grindeanu, mettant fin aux tensions provoquées par le refus antérieur. Cet homme de 43 ans était ministre des communications au sein du gouvernement de Victor Ponta, qui a dû rendre sa démission après des manifestations anti-corruption.


Grindeanu n'a eu aucune difficulté à se faire confirmer par l'assemblée mais s'est vite cogné à l'Union européenne en raison de sa politique agricole favorable aux subventions, ce qui est mal reçu à Bruxelles. Un porte parole de l'UE a notamment critiqué son intention d'appuyer les éleveurs de porcs. Mais le premier ministre refuse de changer de voie, notant que "nous importons 230000 tonnes de viande porcine et en exportons que 20000", un deséquilibre des échanges "hautement anormal" selon lui. Et un rappel, à l'heure où plusieurs pays de l'est épousent des mesures protectrices semblables, que l'UE est en veille de connaître une année passablement difficile.  


Autrement il faut dire que des femmes musulmanes ont déjà été choisies du poste de chef de gouvernement en Europe, après des cas en Turquie et au Kosovo. Mais le contexte actuel aurait été particulièrement intéressant, en pleine crise de migrants et montée de l'extrémisme nationaliste dans plusieurs régions, notamment en Hongrie et Bulgarie. Surtout si l'on pense que les Sociaux démocrates avaient fait une campagne plutôt nationaliste, accusant le premier ministre et le président de ne pas être "véritablement roumains" ou chrétiens orthodoxes.


Nouvelle contestation

Après des mois de délai et le passage d'un ouragan dévastateur sur l'île, les élections haïtiennes ont livré un résultat préliminaire apparemment concluant dès le premier tour, évitant, espérons-le car rien n'y est jamais sûr, une nouvelle prolongation de l'incertitude politique.

Le protégé du président sortant Martelly, Jovenel Moise, un entrepreneur agricole de 48 ans, a obtenu 55% des voix, soit en principe assez pour éviter le recours à un deuxième tour coûteux. Près de 350000 voix séparent ce nouveau venu de la scène politique de Jude Célestin, arrivé second avec moins de 20% des voix.

Malgré l'état encore frêle du pays et de ses institutions, c'est sans incident important que le scrutin a eu lieu, permettant, si Dieu le veut telle se veut l'expression sur l'île, de tourner la page des contestations antérieures. En effet c'est suite au rejet des résultats de 2015 par Célestin (25%), arrivé second derrière Jovenel (32%), que le pays a dû relancer le processus électoral.

Selon la commission électorale indépendante, l'exercice a été marqué par des "fraudes massives". Mais l'écart du dernier vote n'a pas vraiment permis au pays de souffler après cette turbulente période d'incertitude politique jumelée à une nouvelle catastrophe naturelle. La participation a d'ailleurs été faible, soit d'environ 21%.

L'ouragan Matthew du mois précédent avait fait plus de 540 morts et à nouveau repoussé la tenue du vote, rallongeant le mandat du président provisoire Jocelerme Privert suite au départ de Martelly, premier chef d'état après le terrible tremblement de terre de 2010. Pas moins accablé par la tâche de relever le pays le plus pauvre de l'hémisphère, Moise a fait "un appel à la jeunesse du pays, à tous les Haïtiens qui habitent à l'étranger, à tous les professionnels du pays, de s'engager à mes côtés pour mettre le pays debout, car Haïti est à genoux".

Il a également enjoint les 26 autres candidats de la présidentielle à travailler avec lui. "Mes frères et sœurs c'est ensemble que l'on va changer Haïti, c'est ensemble qu'il faut qu'on travaille pour permettre à chaque Haïtien et Haïtienne de vivre mieux". 

La plupart des autres candidats ont reconnu les résultats du vote, mais ceux-ci ont provoqué la colère dans certains camps, notamment celui de Fanmi Lavalas, déplorant de nouveaux cas de fraude. "Nous rejetons les résultats du vote parce que des votes non valides ont été comptés, explique par ailleurs un avocat du camp Célestin. Jude Célestin va contester les résultats".  

Ceci a entraîné des manifestations violentes dans certains quartiers, notamment celui de Cité Soleil dans la capitale. Trois des neuf membres du conseil électoral  provisoire ont également refusé de signer la feuille des résultats, qui doivent être finalisés à la fin de l'année. C'est à voir. Entre temps le pays se retrouve avec un homme d'affaires sans expérience politique à la tête du pays, à moins qu'une nouvelle contestation ne prolonge l'incertitude poli-tique sur l'île.

Celle-ci est d'ailleurs tellement habituelle qu'il faut mieux garder son souffle avant de proclamer Moise vainqueur, selon Dady Chery de Global Research: "Ce serait répéter les erreurs du passé que de confondre les résultats préliminaires avec les résultats finaux," dit-il.

Is France the next source of shock?

The French presidential election is months away but concern about the direction the country is about to take is growing as a former prime minister looks to take on right wing extremist Marine Le Pen to head one of the world's most powerful countries.

As the right wing républicains chose François Fillon to face Le Pen, while the left looked on in disarray after years of socialist presidency, there was growing concern France could provide the next global upset by an anti-immigrant party, in a country with a large Muslim population and a refugee lodging crisis which has created squalid camps in the capital and north of the country.

Fillon has had strong words on immi-gration, warning about the risk of "Islamic totali-tarianism" one year after the Paris attacks, and appealed to right wing voters on matters from the economy to social policy, setting up new battles with the country's powerful unions. Will this be enough to take on the extremist National Front in an expected run off?

Sadly, such a second round duel, which caused nationwide shock in 2002, is widely anticipated in 2017 after the collapse of the left seen under the François Hollande presidency. The outgoing president is highly unpopular and only announced recently he would not be running for the socialists, a rare call after just one mandate which speaks volumes about his slide.

In 2002 voters largely rallied to counter the FN in the second round, and it is hoped a Fillon candidacy would have the same effect next year. But Fillon's rivals and socialists alike have attacked his economic plans, calling them "violent" and "dangerous", pointing to his praise of Thatcherite economics and planned cuts to public service. Fillon has indicated an openness to reengage with Russia which would alter the country's policy towards Moscow since the Crimean invasion.

He would by current accounts easily defeat Le Pen in a run-off, but such early prognostication has spectacularly failed in the United States, leaving many observers to shudder. The socialists meanwhile looked to select their own leader in an attempt to remain in power, but the odds are stacked against them.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls stepped down to run for the leadership of the party at a time of sluggish popu-larity. The Barcelona-born Valls is seeking to unite an “inde-pendent France unyielding in its values, in the face of the China of Xi Jinping, the Russia of Vladimir Putin, the America of Donald Trump and Erdogan’s Turkey.”

Not only is a wave of populism sweeping much of the West, so is a collapse of the left in general, with the exception of a few countries hoping to carry the torch of progressive politics. French political scientist Laurent Bouvet claims “cultural insecurity” is shaking many citizens, wary of falling or stagnant wages, outsourcing, growing immi-gration and terrorism, all contributing to a “profound and insidious doubt about what and ‘who’ we are.”

Unemployment, terrorism and the refugee crisis have all marked Hollande's painful mandate, leaving him to make an early exit. Le Pen meanwhile is making clear what the major topics will involve in 2017, looking to strip undocumented children of their right to a free education in France.

EU deconstruction?

Nearly a quarter century after the Maastricht treaty established the European Union, the continental group's future and that of the single currency looked bleak as the year ended after populist gains in key countries from the United Kingdom  to Italy. Would a populist double-whammy end the year, throwing the old continent into turmoil after Brexit?

Not if a small Alpine nation had anything to do with it, one with little weight overall but sending a message of hope to those hoping to preserve the EU. Confirming a vote held earlier in the year placing a former head of the Greens in line for the largely ceremonial presidency, the election was closely watched after the expression of populist sentiment on both sides of the Atlantic since, and threatening to elect the extreme right wing in Austria for the first time in decades.

In the end Alexander Van der Bellen declared his election "pro-European", a relieved German vice-chancellor calling it "a clear victory for reason against right-wing populism." But the anti-establishment did turn out in nearby Italy however, ousting prime minister Matteo Renzi, a hardly unfamiliar turn of events considering the usual chaos of Roman politics, but one which in the current environment shook an already weakened Euro even more.

His plan to reform the constitution was defeated by over 50% of the electorate, populist parties lining up to penalize the government leader and backing the no side. The results indicated "victory of the people against the strong powers of three quarters of the world," declared Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League.

As expected the results further emboldened right wing parties across the continent, France's Marine Le Pen saying "Italians have disavowed the EU and Renzi. We must listen to this thirst for freedoms of nations." Italy had seen flashes of anti-establishment much earlier with the rise of Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement, one which is calling for another plebiscite, this one of the euro currency, which took another beating after yet another result at the polls not boding well for the EU.

The latest referendum sought to reduce the power of the Senate, once the mighty authority of ancient Rome, to make the country's legislative process more efficient, cutting into some of the powers from the regions, but ended up being a referendum against Renzi's tenure, to some casting new doubts about the wiseness of consulting the people.

Opponents called for immediate snap elections though president Mattarella may choose a successor to hold the fort until a vote in the new year. The battle over Brexit was taken to Britain's Supreme court meanwhile, which will have to determine who has the right to trigger the country's exit from The EU, the government, with the support of the referendum's results, or parliament.

As an indication of the emotions running high in the aftermath of the vote, the most senior judge condemned "threats of serious violence and unpleasant abuse" directed at claimants asking for parliamentary approval of any decision to leave the EU. Supporters of the victorious leave side claim the case before the top court seeks to suppress their referendum victory.

While Austria has half of Italy's unemployment rate it has seen a growing immigration inflow, some-thing the boot in the Mediterranean has long been used to due to its location. Austria's Freedom Party complained being labelled extremist, and even occasionally Nazi, by detractors,  caused the loss at the polls.

Growing unemployment and the refugee crisis in France is sparking concerns the Front National will not only be in the second round again, as it did in 2002, shocking many, but has a chance of causing a Trump like upset. The Netherlands also go to the polls in 2017, and their political scene has been marked by anti-immigrant populism going back years, with Geert Wilders' top polling Party of Freedom looking to make a breakthrough based on policies of intolerance such as closing all Muslim schools and clamping down borders to Muslims, a policy candidate Trump would have approved. This week Wilders was convicted for making a hate speech but faces little penalty.

Despite the Italian result "there is no reason to talk of a euro crisis and there is certainly no reason to conjure one up," said Angela Merkel, who will seek a fourth term in Germany, and the euro did rebound from early losses after the results.   

But times are tense as Europe has seen another important flow of refugees from North Africa and shuddered as growing tensions with Turkey over EU membership left Ankara threatening to open the floodgates of millions of migrants. A number of countries have balked about the EU's resettlement policies, Hungary narrowly defeating calls to ban the resettlement of migrants there recently. While the proposed constitutional amendment won a majority of votes it came short of the two thirds majority, ironically in part due to the boycott of the far right Jobbik party, seeking more measures affecting foreigners.

As the 25th anniversary neared some saw a need to sound the alarm rather than celebrate. "Those who think the time has come to deconstruct the EU, to put the EU in pieces, to subdivide us into national divisions are totally wrong," said European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, warning no European nation would be a G7 member on its own 20 years down the road.

Is the verdict out on the ICC?


During the almost 15 years it's been around the International Criminal Court has gone after suspects for the worst crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, some of its subjects having died in the mean time while others include still sitting heads of state. But now it's increasingly coming under fire from world capitals, including some which have never ratified its treaty. Is it because it's doing something right?


A number of African countries, because they are disproportionately targeted by the court, have announced their withdrawal from The July 2002 Rome statute, the treaty which established the ICC, for its perceived bias, but the latest to pull away from the court is Russia, even though, like most major powers like China and the United States, it has decided to keep its distance from the court. Not surprisingly this was right after the court published a report calling the annexation of Crimea "an international armed conflict between the Ukraine and the Russian Federation."


Russia says the annexation was approved by referendum. Invasion, annexation and occupation falls under the court's category of crimes of agression. Moscow slammed the court as "one-sided and inefficient", charges it has faced before.  "The court has unfortunately failed to match the hopes one had and did not become a truly independent and respected body of international justice," its Foreign Ministry said. It noted only four verdicts were handed in all that time at a cost of $1 billion.


Russia had signed the treaty but never ratified it, therefore called the withdrawal decree a mere formality. One of the reasons cited by Washington for withdrawing its own signature was fears GIs could be prosecuted for military action. Great Britain has been facing allegations its soldiers were responsible for torture deaths in areas they controlled during the Iraq war. A recent ICC report has accused the US of war crimes in Afghanistan by torturing detainees.


The report further accused the CIA of subjecting detainees "to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape" in Poland, Romania and Lithuania. The U.S. State Department panned the report as "inappropriate," saying America had its own system to prosecute possible war crimes. Until now Africa has been the continent mainly coming under the court's microscope, pursuing sitting and former heads of state such as Omar Bashir of Sudan, a fugitive still ensconced in his presidential palace, and Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast, currently in custody in The Hague, for crimes.


As a result a revolt has stirred against the court in a number of African countries, who barely suppressed the idea of stepping away en masse last year, but remain reluctant to hand over suspects when they should travel to their countries, such as Bashir. Some observers claim the recent Russian and American reports may only be an attempt to show the court isn't solely focused on Africa, symbolic efforts certainly as the two are veto-holding permanent members of the United Nations Security Council not likely to allow the international court to prosecute its own citizens. 


But Amnesty International pointed out, as signatories gathered this week, that efforts to restrict the court's funding by major funding nations such as Canada, France, Japan and eight other states, can only limit any effort to increase the ICC's reach, panning the move as pure "hypocrisy." Recent non-African investigations include two concluded probes on Honduras and Venezuela and an ongoing study of Colombians during the bloody  conflict just now reaching its end. Russia's move, it is feared, may inspire other nations to quit the court, especially if it has shown an interest in them. 


Among them the Philippines' controversial president Rodriguo Duterte has announced he may follow suit, calling the ICC "useless" and primarily concerned his tough on crime agenda will turn the court's attention his way. Previously an ICC prosecutor had opined the ruthless war on drugs which has claimed some 4,000 lives in mere months could lead to a probe on those responsible for the killings.


At the outset the court enjoyed widespread support, endorsed by 124 countries. When it started to turn its attention to heads of states, notably Sudan's Bashir, this changed. To date only Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Germain Katanga, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, all Africans, have been convicted, and nine of 10 currently investigated are from that continent. Not having the immunity of major powers, African countries have been pushing back, Gambia, Burundi and South Africa having pulled out this month.


But some observers note the reason for the protest may lie elsewhere, consi-dering African nations often asked the ICC to launch its probes. "These charges of racism and neocolonialism are essentially to avoid accoun-tability," noted Erna Paris, author of The Sun Climbs Slow: The ICC and the Struggle for Justice.


Une dame conspuée


Alors que le nord de la péninsule coréenne est sous l'emprise du culte de personnalité du dictateur de Pyongyang, le sud est-il dirigé par une présidente sous influence occulte?  Voilà le scandale qui semblerait secouer la maison bleue, siège de la présidente Park Geun-hye, dont la confidente Choi Soon-sil, une amie de longue date, est la fille d'un mystérieux pasteur qui aurait à sa mort hérité de son influence.


Celle-ci, dénom-mée «Raspoutine» par la presse, a été arrêtée par la justice coréenne et inculpée pour fraude et abus de pouvoir. Soon-sil se serait servie de ses liens avec la présidente pour obtenir des documents secrets et participer à des prises de décision.  Sa proximité à Park et son influence lui aurait permise entre autre de forcer des conglomérats à verser des dizaines de millions de dollars à deux fondations dont elle aurait bénéficié par la suite.


Secouée par le scandale et les manifestations qui se sont emparées des rues de Séoul, Park a, les larmes aux yeux, avoué avoir fait preuve de faiblesse, citant son «existence solitaire» et ses insomnies à la tête de l'état. «Rétrospec-tivement, je me suis permis de baisser la garde alors qu’elle était à mes côtés dans des moments difficiles, dit-elle lors d'une allocution en direct sur les ondes. J’avais confiance, mais j’ai été négligente, pas assez dure envers mes connaissances. Ces derniers développements sont tous de ma faute.» 


Elle s’est dite «prête à répondre avec sincérité aux enquêtes des procureurs», qui ont également épinglé deux de ses conseillers.  Elue première présidente de l'histoire coréenne en 2013, Park est la fille de l’ex-dictateur Park Chung-hee et aurait dans sa jeunesse eu comme mentor Choi Tae-Min, père de Soon-sil et chef religieux proche du pouvoir.


Le scandale a suscité un vif émoi au sein de la société coréenne, craignant que la direction du pays soit sous influence, alors qu'elle doit faire preuve d'une grande vigilance face à la menace qui pèse à quelques kilomètres au nord de Séoul, de l'autre côté de la zone démilitarisée.  «Personne ne sait réellement ce qui se passe au sein la présidence Park, explique à Libération Lim Ji-hyun de l'université Sogang à Séoul.


Le système présidentiel a dégénéré vers une concen-tration du pouvoir dans les mains de quelques-uns. La culture extrêmement hiérar-chique au sein de la société coréenne rend difficile toute démocratisation des insti-tutions. Et toute la dimension chamanique dans cette affaire-là choque aussi beaucoup les Coréens, y compris parmi les électeurs de Park."


Park nie cependant qu'il y ait eu quelque rite chamanique à la maison bleue, tel que véhiculé par la presse nationale. Les enquêteurs ont beau se pencher de plus en plus sur elle, et l'opposition faire appel à sa destitution, son immunité la protège, et le manque d'alternative et la division des autres partis rendent ce départ difficile. Mais voilà qui ne décourage pas la rue.


Giving America a miss?


Buildings marked with racist graffiti, kids taunting foreign-born fellow pupils in school, and actual acts of violence against minorities, is the U.S. melting pot becoming unsafe for visible minorities?  


Following reports of minorities being taunted there since the election of Donald Trump, some visitors say they are reconsidering U.S. travel in the near future due to the tensions that remain after the divisive campaign. Racial incidents have been rare but increasing, though some incidents reported on social media have been proven to be hoaxes. 


Separately anti-Trump protests have led to clashes in the streets of major cities. Last week the Turkish government, which struggled with its own tensions after this year's failed coup attempt, warned its citizens about travelling to the U.S. "due to protests".  "Some-times the protests turn violent and criminal while protesters are detained by security forces," according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which also noted "racist and xenophobic incidents increa-sed in the USA."


Advisories about U.S. travel are rare but health warnings have been issued by some countries including Canada following the spread of the Zika virus this year. Also this year violent protests following police shootings prompted three countries to warn their citizens about travelling to the U.S., Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and the Bahamas, which are located close to U.S. shores.


The Southern Poverty Law Center has registered hundreds of cases of "hateful intimidation and harassment," since Trump was elected.  While the president-elect has toned down some of his campaign rhetoric, on matters from Obamacare to building a wall with Mexico, which may be limited to fencing in some areas, he has reiterated intentions to deport illegals, some 2 to 3 millions who "are criminal and have criminal records." 


"Our nation's leaders, and particularly president-elect Donald Trump, need to speak out forcefully against the wave of anti-Muslim incidents swee-ping the country after Tuesday's election," CAIR-MI executive director Dawud Walid said. CAIR also expressed concern about Trump's decision to bring Steve Bannon into his inner circle. His Breitbart News service has at times carried headlines critical of minorities, including Jews.


“The appointment of Stephen Bannon as a top Trump administration strategist sends the disturbing message that anti-Muslim conspiracy theo-ries and white nationalist ideology will be welcome in the White House,” said CAIR’s Nihad Awad. “We urge President-elect Trump to reconsider this ill-advised appointment if he truly seeks to unite Americans.”


In one of his first interviews after his election win, Trump said he was disappointed to hear there were racial incidents. "I am so saddened to hear that," Trump told CBS. "And I say, 'Stop it.' If it -- if it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: 'Stop it.'" Less than a week after the election the Southern Poverty Law Canter told CNN that there have been more that 300 incidents that their organization has recorded.


"Don’t be afraid,” Trump said addressing minorities. “We are going to bring our country back. But certainly, don’t be afraid.” While there have been no other travel advisories, some travellers in the UK are speaking with their online searches, those for the US down since Nov. 8. Mexico's Foreign Ministry meanwhile has instructed its citizens in the U.S. not to "panic" as it nervously awaited the transition. But some regular visitors are meanwhile giving the country a miss.


"This is why going to the U.S. is off my list right now," Montrealer Terese Ho said commenting on the story of a racial incident. U.S. colleges looking to recruit overseas are also facing nervous candidates willing to look elsewhere for their top dollar education, according to the New York Times. "In his campaign he is discriminating against Muslims and other brown people," says Aman Kumar at a college fair in Delhi. "I'm thinking of applying in Canada." And he is hardly alone.

The art of the upset


After a bitter and divisive campaign reaching new levels of toxicity replete with name-calling, outrage and scandals, American voters delivered the most shocking finale on election night, ushering into power the populist billionaire outsider and dashing his opponent's hopes of becoming the first female U.S. president.


The Republican candidate's victory defied almost all projections and polls by providing a swing of the pendulum once deemed too unlikely due to his controversial nature. Donald Trump however managed to tap into the anger and frustrations of a largely white working class electorate feeling left out of the country's advances, pledging that those who had been ignored by the political elite would be "ignored no more."


The results were catastrophic for Hillary Clinton, the career politician touted as the most experienced and level-headed candidate of the two, but seen as a typical insider when the mood of the country called for change, eight years after a similar calls ushered in President Obama.


Republicans maintained their hold on the House and Senate and took more governorships despite losing the popular vote. Beaming GOP personalities who had so recently criticized Trump's outbursts, pledged the new commander in chief would lead a united party, ready to forget a strange lead up to election day during which so many had distanced themselves from their own nominee. House Speaker Paul Ryan praised Trump for his vision of tapping into the nationwide anger of voters who saw the country heading in the wrong direction, enabling him to pull "off an enormous political feat" the likes of which he had never seen.


Democrats knew they were in trouble during the evening when Republicans picked up their usual states while races remained too close to call in key battlegrounds the Democrats were hoping to hold on to. Trump victories in Texas, Florida and Ohio made the path to the presidency more difficult for Clinton as the evening wore on. When Pennsylvania, another key battleground state, went to the Republican, there was nowhere for the candidate hoping to become America's first female president to go.


"We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead," she said the following day, but adding Americans had to defend their values, embracing diversity and acceptance. In an emotional speech she evoked the hope a woman would eventually be elected president sooner rather than later.


Trump's victory was greeted by shock and groans abroad, and left many to wonder and worry how much he would follow through in his campaign promises, which included cancelling a nuclear deal with Iran, bowing out of the Paris climate accord, and going after Clinton for her alleged mishandling of confidential documents. His victory speech did not mention ending Obamacare, building a wall or renegotiating trade deals, but Trump said he would put America first in all its foreign dealings and would harness the country's potential to create jobs, double growth and rebuild its infrastructure, a tall order for even the most gifted politician.


And despite the stated support, Congress may not always be so keen to rubber stamp his agenda. "Maybe Trump really believes this stuff that he really can 'fix' all of this," says Steve Billet of George Washington University. "But he's going to come to the conclusion shortly that Congress can very easily shut down anything he wants to do." On Nov. 9 Trump took a conciliatory tone, reached out to those who did not vote for him and said he would work to foster unity.


The humbled tone managed to calm financial markets that had initially reacted in fear as the votes came in. Ironically the election of the businessman initially sent markets reeling across the world, driving oil prices and currencies down. But by dailight in the U.S. markets seemed to have adjusted, turning negatives into positives, and later outright triple-digit rallies.


This was welcome news for a sector deadling with a second surprise anti-establishment vote this year with serious financial ramifications, after the Brexit vote, still making waves across the pond, reflective of similar anxieties. But uncertainty persisted, as observers eagerly awaited to find out the make up of a Trump administration. Meantime President Obama, who had campaigned heavily for Clinton - a former rival he had made Secretary of State -, said he would work to ease the transition into office, as his predecessor had eight years before, despite his significant differences with the incoming head of state.


"We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country," he said. That task seemed daunting after an acrimonious campaign that left the president-elect looking to mend fences even before stepping into the Oval Office. But Trump has already surmounted great odds, his demise having been repeatedly predicted by critics from the first primaries leading to Super Tuesday and all the way to the convention, which he reached surprisingly the last man stranding in a long list of candidates.


Getting elected was unlikely at best. He did this spending little money and getting no major print endorsements, against a much better funded and organized Democratic campaign which however failed to mobilize its base after weeks of leads in the polls. A controversial figure from the moment he launched his nomination, Trump was nonetheless warmly greeted by some foreign leaders, notably Putin's Russia, seeking to end sanctions following the invasion of Crimea, and Israel, two countries that saw U.S. ties deteriorate over the last mandates.


But mending ties had to start at home, where protests erupted in various cities against the president elect, while some Americans took Canada's immigration website by storm, causing it to crash for hours. Canadians took to social media to respond with humor, some offering "a citizenship mar-riage" for money. Californians even started their own "Calexit" campaign. Meanwhile racial incidents were reportedly on the rise. Was Trump the disturbing  campaigner an act? Would he tone down his policies like he did his post-electoral language? The suspense remains unset-tling well after election night.


Abordage en Islande?


Lorsqu'est venu le temps de régler les comptes avec leurs tortionnaires, les Islandais ne sont pas allez de main morte après la crise financière de 2008: ils ont envoyé plusieurs banquiers en prison et presque même le premier ministre de l'époque, qui a dû promptement quitter son poste.


Faut-il s'étonner que cet électorat insulaire ait permis au parti de la piraterie de faire une percée lors des dernières élections afin guider le navire fondé par des vikings? Branché, promoteur de la transparence, quelque peu anarchiste et plutôt hors norme, le parti a triplé son nombre de sièges, bien qu'avec 14% des résultats il soit tombé bien à court des prédictions.


Mais autant dire que l'appel au changement avait pondu un résultat plutôt concret. Fortement sanctionné, le parti de l'indépendance, qui tentera de former le prochain gouvernement, a obtenu 30% des suffrages, suivi du mouvement des verts et de la gauche avec 16%. Le premier, le parti de centre droite qui a dirigé le pays pendant la plus grande partie de son histoire, souffre encore d'avoir été au pouvoir pendant la crise de 2008.


Il reste cependant favori pour jouer un rôle clé dans le prochain gouvernement de coalition, comme il l'a fait dans le précédent. Les pirates refusent cependant de travailler avec cette ancienne garde. Selon Brigir Armannsson, membre du parti, la solution à long terme reste bien entre les mains du parti de l'indépendance, d'autant plus que les pirates "peuvent vous dire ce qu'ils rejettent mais il est difficile de savoir ce qu'ils veulent vraiment."


Le résultat avait tout de même de quoi surprendre la fondatrice du parti pirate Birgitta Jonsdottir. "Les gens veulent le vrai changement et savent qu'il faut changer le système, il faut moderniser notre manière de faire les lois".


Celle-ci n'a nullement l'intention de devenir premier ministre, mais déclare son parti prêt à former le pouvoir avec d'autres formations qui prônent "un changement fondamental du système", donc excluant les partis établis de longue date: "l'Islande en a marre de la corruption et du népotisme," dit-elle.


Les idées du parti son plutôt modernes, privilégiant des référendums par voie électronique pour initier les politiques, formant une petite Suisse électronique au nord du soixantième parallèle. Les fuites des documents de Panama ont davantage enragé une plèbe encore blessée par la crise financière, rappelant les liens douteux entre le pouvoir et les compagnies offshore.


Le premier ministre a dû quitter ses fonctions en conséquent. "Le manque de confiance qui germait a finalement explosé, explique au Washington Post la politologue Ragnheithur Kristjandottir, les pirates sont portés par cette vague". Les pirates font partie d'un mouvement pan-national né en Suède en 2006, propulsé par le débat sur le changement des droits d'auteurs. Un chapitre a vite vu le jour aux États-Unis et en Autriche la même année. Il y en existe même un enregistré au Canada depuis 2009. 


Le parti avait précédemment obtenu ses meilleurs résultats en Suède en récoltant 7% des intentions de vote. Lors de l'élection précédente il avait obtenu 5% en Islande. Le pays isolé, se porte, il faut le dire, tout de même beaucoup mieux, une poussée du tourisme dopant une croissance de 4,3% cette année.


La force des Wallons


Nous sommes en 2016 et l'Europe toute entière se prépare à signer une entente de libre-échange avec le Canada. Toute? Non. Une petite région d'irréductibles Wallons résiste toujours et encore à cette idée. Du moins quelques jours.


Le libre-échange trans-Atlantique, ce rêve vieux de plusieurs décennies, ce rapprochement supposément naturel entre deux âmes assez semblables, s'est bûté à une embûche francophone à quelques pas de la ligne d'arrivée. En premier lieu, comme les indiens du Chiapas avant lui, ce petit groupe minoritaire d'irréductibles s'est levé contre l'entente, même s'il est plutôt proche des cousins canadiens.


Seulement les Wallons tenaient dans leur petit camp retranché une potion magique qui faisait défaut au Chiapas lors des manifestations contre l'accord de libre-échange nord-américain: un véto.  Pourtant le non francophone belge avait peu à faire avec le Canada mais tout à faire avec le rejet des poussées capitalistes dans une région fortement gauchiste.


"Il n'y a évidemment aucun sentiment d'hostilité envers le Canada en Belgique, tentait de rassurer le politologue Marc Hooghe, surtout pas de la part d'une Wallonie francophone". La gauche travailliste est fortement enracinée en Wallonie, et les socialistes qui y règnent sont fiers de pouvoir damner le pion aux instances internationales, et surtout aux rivaux nationaux.


"En Wallonie on calcule que le traité va être à l'avantage des Flammands plutôt que des Wallons, et ils ont sans doute raison, explique à la CBC André Lecours de l'université d'Ottawa, à l'heure actuelle si vous regardez où les multinationales vont s'implan-ter elles ont tendance à privilégier la région du nord" en raison de la relative faiblesse des syndicats et du taux d'instruction plus élevé.


L'entente mettrait fin à 98% des tarifs entre le Canada et l'UE, ce qui selon ses promoteurs ferait grimper les échanges d'un bond d'environ 20%. Le président Wallon n'a cependant pas fait l'impasse sur l'entente, préférant parler du besoin d'y apporter des modifications. En l'espace de quelques jours voilà qui semblait avoir été fait alors qu'un nouvel accord était présenté.


Mais restait la question de la ratification des parlements nationaux, qui risquaient parfois de contrevenir à certaines constitutions. Le mécanisme de règlement des différends entre les investisseurs et les états risquerait de privilégier les "investisseurs internationaux (donc canadiens) au détriment des investisseurs nationaux", explique notamment Domi-nique Rousseau, professeur à la Sorbonne.


Celui-ci souligne également le manque de précaution en matière d'environnement dans le texte, ce qui va à l'encontre de la charte de l'environnement en France. Même son de cloche en Allemagne où 200,000 personnes ont déposé une plainte selon laquelle l'entente serait anticonstitutionnelle. Le gros est terminé après sept années de travail acharnées, mais reste, comme toujours, de mettres les points sur les "i"s.


Duterte's regime


After a few months in office, he has launched an anti-crime agenda resulting in the deaths of thousands of suspected drug dealers, made smoking illegal in public spaces and announced a realignment of the country's foreign policy away from the U.S. and closer to China and Russia. Some fear he's just getting warmed up.


Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte has walked the talk, his first 100 days still in full swing, and this has shocked countrymen only too aware of his penchant for lewd comments and foul language. Elected for a get-tough approach on crime which he applied during his tenure as mayor of the southern city of Davao, Duterte has brought fear to criminals big and small, sometimes targeted by vigilantes only too happy to cash in on his policies, winning him some public praise.


“All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you,” he warned during the campaign. Adding later: “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.” When actions followed the words, few were surprised the Philippines had taken up with a hard line seen before on the continent, where severe punishment for drug-related offences has been served from Thailand and Indonesia to Vietnam and China.


The death toll, some 4,000 people including two city mayors, which grew following the announcement of cash and reward programs, has alarmed international rights groups such as Amnesty International and local politicians, who sought to launch an inquiry into the extrajudicial killings. The head of the Senate’s Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Leila de Lima, however faced severe backlash by supporters of a politician enjoying sweeping support for his policies.


In October Duterte announced another controversial policy, banning smoking in 100% of public places, to again reflect policies he had instituted in his 22 years as mayor. There again he was expected to face little opposition. But when Duterte announced he was "separating" from the United States last month, after a state visit to China, government officials scrambled to clarify he didn't mean Manila would sever ties with Washington, but rather realign, or "balance" a foreign policy heavily invested in U.S. ties. Manila is after all certainly closer to the U.S. than China on the issue of contested waters in the South China Sea.


But both countries seemed to be willing to talk each other out of these tensions, while Duterte focused his animosity towards the U.S. A month earlier Obama had cancelled a meeting with Duterte after he had reacted harshly to indications the U.S. president would raise the issue of extrajudicial killings: "I am no American puppet," he had told a rally. "Son of a bitch I will swear at you," he added, referring to Obama.


This sort of outburst has left a number of Filipino lawmakers shaking their heads early into the highly popular Duterte presidency.  "(He) has a really inflated, if not delusional, view of himself as a strongman at the level of China and Russia's leadership," Senator Lima said in a statement. Others such as former foreign minister Albert del Rosario expressed concerns about reaching out to other countries who do not necessarily share "our core values of democracy (and) respect for human rights."


"Casting aside a longtime reliable ally to hastily embrace an aggressive neighbor that vehemently rejects interna-tional law is both unwise and incomprehensible," he said in a statement. Softening the tone one day did nothing to change Duterte's tune on U.S. relations, warning he could put an end to the Enhanced Defence Coo-peration Agreement "If I stay here long enough." "I do not want to see any military man of any other nation except the Filipino," he said, later setting a timeline of two years for the departure of American soldiers. Last week when the U.S. decided to halt plans to sell 26,000 assault rifles to police because of the drug killings, the news didn't go down so well in Manila, where Duterte called U.S. officials "monkeys" for blocking the sale, saying he may look to China instead. 


"Son of a bitch we have many home made guns here," he said, breaking a recent promise to cut the cussing. But much of this seemed to evaporate this week after Donald Trump won the presidency, Duterte finding in him a like-minded anti-establishment populist. After congratulating him on his win Duterte said the quarrels he had with the U.S. would end under the new presidency. That's still  months away.