Colombia is bracing for another round of anti-poverty demonstrations and unrest, with large marches planned for Tuesday 20 July, Colombia’s independence day, after taking a monthlong hiatus during a surge in Covid-19 cases.
Colombia’s rightwing government, led by President Iván Duque, has said the marches are the result of “terrorist” agitators and are supported by illegal armed groups.
But the Colombian government’s tone towards dissent at home jars with its support for mass marches in Cuba, with Colombia’s foreign ministry calling on communist rulers there to “guarantee the freedom of expression” and “respect the right” to peaceful protest.
Protests in Colombia began in late April in response to an unpopular and since-axed tax reform, and they quickly spread across the country, morphing into a wider howl of outrage against deepening economic disparity and human rights abuses.
In the unrest, police kiosks and bus stations were vandalized and protesters threw up roadblocks around the country.
The police response was brutal, with officers routinely using teargas and billy clubs to quell disturbances. In some cases, authorities fired on demonstrators with live rounds. At least 44 protesters have been killed by police and dozens are still missing, according to local watchdogs.
A recent human rights commission to Colombia made up of delegates from 13 countries found that authorities used counter-insurgency tactics against protesters.
“The Duque government has zero credibility commenting on the Cuban protests,” said Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Andes director at the Washington Office on Latin America, a thinktank. “Its unwillingness to address the systemic abuses that took place in the context of the protests shows that it only considers human rights when it benefits its political agenda.”
Duque announced on Monday some reforms to the national police, including new uniforms and human rights training for anti-riot officers. Critics say the changes are cosmetic rather than practical.
And ahead of Tuesday’s planned demonstrations, police ramped up a crackdown on protesters, arresting 12 members of the so-called “frontline”, an amorphous group of mostly young protesters who have skirmished with police at marches in cities nationwide.
Celebrating the arrests as though they were a huge drug seizure, Colombia’s defense minister, Diego Molano, tweeted images of the suspected agitators and their seized equipment, including hard hats, respirators and what appeared to be homemade grenades, photographed next to a bandana emblazoned with the words “SOS Colombia, they are killing us”.
Nearly 3,000 soldiers have been dispatched to Bogotá, the capital, where they will monitor bus stations and protest hotspots on the edges of the city. In Cali, a major city in Colombia’s south-west that quickly became the center of unrest in April, a curfew and ban on liquor sales has been announced, while the surrounding Valle del Cauca province is under lockdown. Police have announced that they’ll confiscate any “shields, helmets, goggles and respirators” from protesters.
But those sympathetic to protesters say the government is fearmongering, as part of a campaign of repression against protesters.
“They’re trying to whip up fear, they’re detaining people arbitrarily. The police don’t come out to control crowds, they come out with rifles raised – they’re preparing for large-scale repression,” said Laura Guerrero, whose son Nicolás Guerrero was killed at a protest in Cali. “The right to protest exists but the police don’t respect it.”
The Syrian government has repeatedly accused Israel of conducting regular airstrikes on its territory, calling on international organizations to denounce the attacks as violations of Syria’s sovereignty and introduce sanctions against the Jewish State.
Syrian air defense systems have destroyed two missiles fired by the Israeli F-16 fighter jets toward facilities in the Damascus region, Rear Adm. Vadim Kulit, the deputy head of the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of Warring Parties in Syria, said on Sunday.
This comes just after Russian-made Buk-M2E air defense systems downed all the rockets launched at the central Syrian province of Homs in the early hours of Thursday. The Russian military added that two Israeli F-16 fighters fired four guided missiles at several facilities in the Homs province. Syrian state media also attributed the strikes to the Israeli military, which never denied nor assumed responsibility for the attack.
According to the official, in the early hours of Sunday, two Israeli F-16 fighter jets conducted an airstrike against facilities in the Set Zaynab settlement, south of Damascus, without entering the Syrian airspace.
“Both missiles were destroyed by Russian Buk-M2E missile systems that are used by the Syrian military’s air defense forces,” Rear Adm. Vadim Kulit said.
On Monday, state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV reported that the Syrian air defense was repelling an air attack from Israel on the Syrian city of as-Safira in the Aleppo Governorate. The Russian military confirmed later that seven missiles fired by Israeli F-16s at Syria were destroyed by the Pantsir-S and Buk-M2 systems of the Syrian air defense.
Air Defense soldiers during exercise, Ashuluk firing ground
While Israel avoids commenting on foreign reports, as it says, in December, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi did acknowledge that the Jewish State had conducted numerous attacks on Syrian territory to counter what he called Iran’s “retrenchment” in the Arab Republic.
It is also reported that Israel uses Lebanon’s airspace to launch strikes against Syria, while some of the rockets are launched from the occupied Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 war.
Jehan Sadat, who has died aged 88 of cancer, spent most of her life promoting social justice and women’s rights in Egypt. She continued to campaign decades after her husband, President Anwar Sadat, was assassinated, on 6 October 1981, by militants in the army avenging the imprisonment of fellow Islamists and condemning the 1978 Camp David accords that he had signed with Israel.
As a girl in Cairo, Jehan had explored the streets of her neighbourhood of Al-Manial, attributing her self-confidence to her supportive parents. She said that her fight against gender inequality started during her schooldays, when she was encouraged to focus on subjects such as sewing and cooking in preparation for marriage rather than the sciences that would lead to a university career. “I have always regretted that decision. I would never allow my daughters to close off their futures that way,” she wrote in her autobiography, A Woman of Egypt (1987).
Jehan had married Sadat in 1949 at the age of 15; a former army officer, he was twice her age and active in the fight against British control in Egypt. Three years later, he was a key player in the military coup that toppled King Farouk and later brought Gamal Abdel Nasser to the presidency. Sadat took a series of senior positions in the government and after Nasser’s death in 1970 was elected president.
Jehan had begun her work for women’s rights in the years before she became first lady. She was vocal in condemning female genital mutilation and played a crucial role in the 1960s in the formation of a co-operative in the village of Talla in the Nile Delta that helped local women become skilled in sewing and therefore economically independent of their husbands.
She also headed SOS Children’s Villages, an organisation that provides homes for orphans in a family environment. In 1975 she led the Egyptian delegation to the UN international conference on women in Mexico City and to the 1980 conference in Copenhagen.
Most crucially, she was involved in a campaign to reform Egypt’s status law that would grant women new rights to divorce their husbands and retain custody of their children. The 1975 film Oridu Hallan (I Want a Solution), starring Faten Hamama, illustrated the struggles of Egyptian women under a conservative legal system that suppressed their rights.
“Over half our population are women, Anwar,” she told her husband, as she recorded in A Woman of Egypt. “Egypt will not be a democracy until women are as free as men.”
The attempts of some liberal clerics to defend the limited legal amendments supported by Jehan were undermined by the growing influence of Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. Despite the backlash from conservative Muslims, in the summer of 1979 her husband granted her wish and issued decrees improving the divorce status of women, as well as a second law that set aside 30 seats in parliament for women. These measures, which were later passed through parliament, became known as “Jehan’s laws”.
She was born Jehan Raouf in Cairo, into an upper-middle-class family, the third child of Safwat Raouf, an Egyptian surgeon, and his wife, Gladys Cotrell, a British music teacher, who had met in Sheffield when Safwat was studying medicine at the university. Jehan was raised as a Muslim, according to her father’s wishes, but she also attended a Christian secondary school for girls in Cairo.
She met Anwar at a summer party at her cousin’s house, not long after he was released from prison for the second time for his revolutionary activities; he was also recently divorced. The idealistic Jehan was impressed, despite her mother’s initial misgivings and the 15-year age gap. They married the following year, and went on to have four children.
In 1977 Anwar flew to Jerusalem to propose a peace settlement to the Israeli Knesset, and the following year he signed the Camp David accords, the first peace treaty between an Arab nation and Israel, with the prime minister Menachem Begin and the US president Jimmy Carter. Jehan, who was a far more visible first lady than President Nasser’s wife had been, later made a point of saying that she had stood by her husband even though the peace agreement was highly controversial in Egypt.
When people were looking up at the Egyptian air force planes flying in formation and doing aerobatics, Jehan noticed an army truck pulling out of the line of artillery vehicles and stopping in front of the reviewing stands. Then she saw soldiers with machine-guns running towards the stands. Her husband stood up, was riddled with bullets, and fell. The glass through which she and her grandchildren were watching was likewise splintered by bullets, and her bodyguard pushed her to the ground.
Jehan spoke of the shock of losing the man who was not only “my beloved husband whom I loved all my life, but … my partner”.
Her aspiration to higher education had eventually been realised, with a BA (1977) in Arabic literature and an MA (1980) in comparative literature at Cairo University, and she followed these with a PhD (1986). In later years she was a visiting professor at several US universities, and continued to promote international peace and women’s rights. A second book, My Hope for Peace, followed in 2009.
She is survived by her three daughters, Lubna, Noha and Jehan, her son, Gamal, and 11 grandchildren.
Last year, 2020, saw seismic energy policy shifts across the industry. The global gas-market remains bearish and extraordinarily oversupplied, with gas prices seeing increasing downward pressure and volatility. Whereas, in the face of global turmoil, the offshore wind power industry continues to thrive.
The unprecedented year of new offshore wind farm installations resulted in a total of over 35 GW capacity operating across the globe by the end of 2020.
From the long-term perspective, the Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC) has set a goal of 1,400 GW by 2050, which means an accelerated pace of global roll-out of offshore wind generation projects.
On 14 July, the European Commission unveiled its long-awaited ‘Fit for 55’ package, seeking to overhaul EU regulation that lines up with the bloc’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030. This involves a new 2030 renewable energy goal. According to the latest European Commission’s impact assessment it ought to be at least 38-40 percent, in place of the current 32 percent renewables target.
That means that the EU requires 433-452 GW of wind energy capacity by 2030 – a threefold increase on the 179 GW installed today.
Wind power will be the principal delivering technology of the Green Deal in the European Commission’s strategic long-term vision for climate-neutral economy.
Hitting the bloc’s decarbonisation goal will require a 25-fold increase in offshore wind capacity. And an even bigger build-up in the number of new onshore wind capacity.
Industry can deliver the volumes pending a robust EU industrial renewables policy that guarantees that such a grand huge wind power expansion is made in Europe and that the industry is cost-competitive both within and outside the EU.
Technology is not the main barrier to the deployment of wind energy needed for the Green Deal however.
The European energy market is quite complex, serving millions of households and business round the clock. Presently, there are no market mechanisms for offshore grid development projects to be bankable. Countries have diverse capital programmes and market operation rules which hinder investment flows in offshore hybrid projects from being discharged.
The vagueness on future market design and revenues for offshore wind farms prevents the process of an integrated offshore grid deployment.
Today, Europe invests about €40bn a year on grids, which is not enough. In order to expand and optimise Europe grid infrastructure. annual investments in grid infrastructure shall go up to €66-80bn per year over the next 30 years.
Efforts will be needed at offering clarity via regulatory changes to the EU Electricity Regulation, particularly it shall be better addressed how offshore wind projects will be dealt with when it comes to congestion income distribution and cross-border capacity allocation.
The benefits of an accelerated development will be substantial. The EU wind energy sector generates €37bn to EU GDP, operates 248 factories across the EU, and each new wind turbine installed in Europe would contribute €10m of economic activity.
Offshore wind energy is one of the most promising and cost-competitive source of power generation in Europe.
But present policies will not deliver these numbers – neither on volumes, nor on economic benefits. Higher goals are necessary but not sufficient.
Europe requires stronger delivery, monitoring, and enforcement mechanisms to make sure that 2030 is a stepping stone towards a climate-neutral energy system.