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José Mujica: ‘We’re living in a world without political direction’ | International




Former president of Uruguay, José Mujica.
Former president of Uruguay, José Mujica.Tomas Cuesta (Getty Images)

“The UN’s prognosis is catastrophic. It scares me,” says the 87-year-old politician, referring to the global climate crisis.

Mujica – a former guerrilla who spent 15 years of his life in prison – isn’t a man who is easily intimidated. But he’s shaken by what he perceives as the ineffectiveness of politics.

In an interview with EL PAÍS at his farm on the outskirts of Montevideo, Mujica – who governed Uruguay from 2010 until 2015 – spoke about his wish for greater global understanding and cooperation.

Question. What do you think the pandemic taught us?

Answer. The pandemic revealed many of humanity’s weaknesses. We have the bad habit of appropriating knowledge – not sharing it. With better cooperation, vaccines could have reached more people at a faster rate, saving millions of lives.

Q. Did science fail us?

A. No, science didn’t fail us. Politics failed us. Governments put economic interests ahead of what needed to be done.

Q. During the pandemic, poverty increased dramatically. Today, about 800 million human beings are malnourished.

A. We have a lot of resources, but we’re not using them properly. On one hand, we have lots of people going hungry, but some estimates show that about 25% of foodstuffs get thrown away.

Q. How can society fix that?

A. The responsibility falls on politicians. They know what needs to be done, but they can’t implement helpful policies, because they’re unable to shake the vested financial interests that are behind all of these problems.

Humanity has created a remarkable civilization. We have massive productivity, scientific capacity… but we’re not able to change course. And, you know, many civilizations have failed. Just look at Rome, or the Chinese empire. Globalization is being carried out for the benefit of the market. Politics is secondary, it’s a spectator.

Q. Can politics regain its power?

A. What we need is a global government – one that is heavily scientific and technical– that is respected by everyone. The challenge is that no country wants to give up power or sovereignty.

Q. National interests tend to precede the common good.

A. Yes, exactly! And, funnily enough, with all this talk about sovereignty, there’s a big contradiction. For example, some transnational companies have more power than many states. Especially small states, like Uruguay. We’re living in a world without political direction.

Q. What do you think about the United Nations?

A. We’re ruining the UN. We desperately need a new global accord – a kind of scientific council that can take decisive action.

Q. In addition to progress, there also seems to be a human inclination towards destruction…

A. Humanity spends no less than $2.5 million dollars a minute on weapons and militaries. It’s one of the stupidest things imaginable.

Q. According to Amnesty International, 70% of global arms sales are attributed to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: Russia, China, France, the UK and the United States. How can we possibly aspire to have peace?

A. Weapons manufacturing has become a tool of diplomacy and influence… the economic strength of armaments drives governments, because there’s such a strong weapons lobby.

We’re in big trouble if this unchecked influence continues. The younger generations need to address ecological disaster, war… they simply have to change the culture.

Q. What exactly does “culture” mean for you?

A. Culture is the repertoire that makes us want to grasp at the fundamental things that surround us and our existence. Culture is a non-material good that helps us to live. Culture is the love of life.

Q. How have you seen the culture change?

A. I’m from a different generation that worshipped rationalism. But all this scientific progress has demonstrated that we humans are more complicated, more emotional. A lot of the time, our decisions are made by our subconscious – we simply find a way to rationalize our emotional decisions. That is to say, first we feel, then we explain.

Q. Where will this take us?

A. I’ve thought about that question a lot. When I was imprisoned and kept in solitary confinement, I often asked myself: What is it that drives us humans?

Q. What answer did you find?

A. We’re social creatures – we can’t live in solitude. For thousands of years, we have lived in groups. In the ancient justice system, the worst punishment – after the death penalty – was to be expelled from the group, from the society. To be exiled.

Q. The idea of cooperation, in a sense, makes us who we are.

A. It has allowed us to create societies. But of course, an individual is still an individual – nature has given us some ego. And this hyper-individualism can lead to conflict. That’s why we are animals that need politics, because the function of politics is to maintain the sense of community despite conflicts. Civilization is the daughter of cooperation.

Q. It’s hard for there to be cooperation when there is so much division. Latin America, for example, contains some of the most unequal societies in the world.

A. Latin America is the descendant of two feudal countries: Portugal and Spain. This has marked our colonial and republican histories. A small upper class owns almost everything.

Q. In the 21st century, can cooperation be a remedy for inequality?

A. The best of capitalism must be maintained. But we still need to build another system of human organization. This will require us to convince the great majority of humanity that cooperation – co-management – is better for us all.

Q. What does it mean to be a rebel in these times?

A. Not following everything that the popular culture tells you to do. For example, some will say that I’m poor, when, in reality, a poor person is someone who needs a lot. Or, as the Aymara people say: poor is the one who has no community. I’m rich because I have many friends and I have enough to live.

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‘Destitution is almost inevitable’: Afghan refugees in Greece left homeless by failed system | Migration and development




Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli, 70, looks at his five-year-old granddaughter, sitting on the floor next to him watching cartoons on a phone. They live in a two-bedroom flat in a suburb of Athens. “Even tomorrow, we don’t know what will happen to us,” he says.

The former judge and legal adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Justice, who had a role in putting together the 2004 Afghan constitution, is facing eviction with his family, including his three grandchildren. This is in line with regulations in Greece, which state that once someone has obtained refugee status, they must leave the accommodation provided for them within 30 days.

Since being evacuated to Greece last October, the family have been in limbo, hoping to join relatives in the UK and grieving for lives left behind in Kabul. Due to Rasooli’s high-profile work, as well as that of his daughter, a former journalist, and his son-in-law Fazel Sultani, a prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice, the family had gone into hiding after the Taliban stormed Kabul.

“We had a lot of problems, because the Taliban were saying if somebody had worked with NGOs or international organisations we’d be killed. It was very difficult for me to be there; we went to hide in a few places until we got evacuated,” says Rasooli. He scrolls through his phone to show photos of his home, pointing out books on the shelves, including legal texts he wrote, which he has been told have since been destroyed by Taliban soldiers.

The family has tried to make the best of things and the children are in Greek schools, but until recently, Rasooli feared to go outside in case his papers were checked. They had to wait until this month to receive asylum seeker ID cards.

They struggled to navigate a catch-22 system whereby access to rent subsides requires having a rental contract, while landlords will not rent without proof of the subsidies.

Rasooli and his family are not alone, says Minos Mouzourakis, an advocacy officer at Refugee Support Aegean (RSA). “Destitution is almost inevitable for refugees recognised in Greece. Expecting them to promptly leave accommodation despite exclusion from social welfare and protracted, often year-long, delays in renewing documents is a policy choice breaching the country’s legal obligations according to jurisdictions across the continent,” he says.

Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens, Greece.
Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens. Photograph: Anna Pantelia/The Guardian

RSA has gathered more than 100 testimonies of recognised refugees in Greece who have turned to jobs such as collecting waste cardboard around Athens to sell to recycling companies. For such work they may earn between €10 and €20 a day.

RSA has recorded cases where refugees returned to Greece have faced destitution, such as Soraya* and Somaya* from Afghanistan who were sent back from Sweden in June this year. They are now reliant on soup kitchens and solidarity networks and must wait until January 2023 to get identification documents. Some courts, in countries such as Germany, have halted returns of refugees to Greece judging that they are likely to face inhumane or degrading treatment.

“The situation for recognised refugees in Greece is dire. It is commonplace that people granted protection status in Greece face destitution and homelessness following their positive asylum decision,” says Lucy Alper, a legal coordinator with Refugee Legal Support in Athens.

“The only integration programme, Helios, funded by the EU and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is not fit for purpose. Many people enrolled in the Helios programme cannot access the limited rental subsidies offered, as they must first open a Greek bank account, pay a deposit on a flat and sign a house contract via the government’s online platform. Barriers are at every turn, exacerbated by the bureaucracy of the Greek asylum system.

“Notwithstanding these failures, people are being evicted from their accommodation. There is no safety net,” says Alper.

The IOM says 19,000 people had leased an apartment so far, which spoke to the “feasibility of the requirements”. They added there are, “all the necessary services to support recognised refugees in finding and leasing apartments … IOM in coordination with its partners ensures support and interpretation in issuing all required documents … whenever obstacles are encountered, targeted support is provided to solve possible problems.” It says it had no “recorded cases” of difficulties from those who applied within the appropriate time frame due to bureaucracy.

Rasooli hopes to go to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) but has a rejection that is under review. His initial rejection letter, seen by the Guardian, states that since he has asylum in Greece, he will have access to medical care and is in relative safety – facts disputed by NGOs who have documented the precariousness of life for refugees in the country.

For now, the family remains in Athens, hopeful for an offer of an apartment for the short term. Nothing about the future is certain.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

* Names have been changed to protect identities

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Europe Lost Russia as Energy Supplier, Russian Envoy Says





MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“


Sputnik International


MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“



Sputnik International


MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

Sputnik International


MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

russia, international energy agency (iea), mikhail ulyanov, envoy, energy supplies

russia, international energy agency (iea), mikhail ulyanov, envoy, energy supplies

VIENNA (Sputnik) – Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier.

“Isn’t it vice versa: Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier to get the opportunity to buy the US LNG at a much higher price? Great achievement!” Ulyanov wrote on Twitter.

It was his response to a user post that quoted the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying Russia had lost Europe as its largest energy client “forever.”

IEA chief Fatih Birol said in October that Russia had lost the European oil and gas market forever and would face a drop in production. The West stepped up sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine, which led to higher prices for electricity, fuel and food in Europe and the United States.

A view shows gas metering units at the Gazprom's Amur Gas Processing Plant near the town of Svobodny, Amur Region, Russia. The plant was launched on June 9, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.11.2022

Russia Determined Not to Sell Energy Resources to Those Who Set Price Caps: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said cheap and reliable Russian energy resources were Europe’s competitive advantage, and even a partial rejection of them already had a negative impact on its economy and residents. The US, pushing through the EU’s complete rejection of Russian energy carriers and other resources, is leading to the de-industrialization of Europe, he said.

Putin, commenting on the West’s idea to limit prices for Russian energy resources, said Russia would not supply anything abroad if this was contrary to its own interests.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Russia would not supply oil to countries that set any price cap. He added that such restrictions were interference in market tools, and Moscow was prepared to work with consumers ready for market conditions.

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Kirchner: Argentina’s vice-president blasts ‘firing squad’ overseeing her corruption trial | International




“Last words…” said Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from her office in the Senate, staring at the camera. She paused for a second, smiled and delivered the line she had already envisaged as a headline. “Never has a judicial term been so appropriate to define what this court is: it is a firing squad.”

Her words were aimed at three federal judges who on December 6 will decide whether she is guilty of leading an alleged scheme to divert state funds through public works contracts. The prosecution wants Fernández de Kirchner to spend 12 years behind bars and be permanently barred from holding public office.

Fernández de Kirchner, 69, has been charged with “illicit association” and “aggravated fraudulent administration” in connection with a corruption case involving 12 other defendants and known in Argentina as the Vialidad Case. The 51 contracts under scrutiny were awarded in the province of Santa Cruz, the political cradle of Kirchnerism, to companies owned by a friend of the Kirchners, Lázaro Baez, over a 12-year period (Baez has since been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering). Prosecutors said many contracts were inflated and some were never carried out. They have estimated that the scheme cost the state around $1 billion. The defendants include officials accused of collecting bribes and businesspeople suspected of paying them.

But the vice-president claims to be a victim of political persecution.

“A government that was democratically elected three times is not an ‘illicit association’,” she said, alluding to the government of her late husband Néstor Kirchner (2003 -2007) and her own two terms in the president’s office between 2007 and 2015.

On Tuesday, the vice-president spoke for less than 20 minutes, a far cry from the long speeches she has given in the past in court. At her first hearing on December 2, 2019, she claimed to be the victim of a case in which the sentence had been decided ahead of time. The ultimate goal of the trial, according to the vice-president, is to remove her from politics and erode Peronism, the movement she represents.

“The sentence is written, but I never thought it would be so badly written,” said Fernández de Kirchner, accusing the two lead prosecutors in the case, Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola, of spreading lies about her. To reinforce the idea of the firing squad, she recalled the assassination attempt against her outside her house in early September.

Kirchner has maintained throughout the trial that the entire investigation against her is a set-up by the opposition to imprison her. Her lawyers have uploaded a document entitled “The Twenty Lies of the Vialidad Case” to social media.

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