International Papers

The Death of the Cuppa?

As newspaper headlines around the world were dominated by the bomb attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, a Monday op-ed piece in Nairobi’s Daily Nation called the incident “a wake-up call.” Set to “throw Kenya into a political turmoil, it has turned out to be the unifying factor that this country has so badly needed.” After all, if Kenyans are appalled by the damage caused by outsiders, it asked, why don’t they similarly condemn the internal ethnic clashes that, despite having cost thousands of lives, “did not result in the kind of humanitarian response as has been seen in Nairobi the past few days”?

In the wake of the bombings, Britain’s Independent counsels against a precipitous response. In an editorial Monday, the paper opines, “Revenge is a dish that shouldn’t be eaten at all; certainly not by a state. The Israelis have always pursued it as a policy of deterrence as well as populist satisfaction. But can anyone really say Arab terrorism has decreased as a result? The opposite is probably true.”

In South America: Jamil Mahuad took over the Ecuadorian presidency Monday. Meanwhile, his predecessor Fabián Alarcón appears to have created a border crisis by sending Ecuadorian troops into Peruvian territory late last week. (Ecuador denies the invasion.) El País of Spain described the apparent foray as “the most serious incident since a short frontier conflict between the two countries cost the lives of dozens of soldiers in 1995.” According to Peruvian daily La República, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the United States (who together form the Ecuador-Peru Military Observation Mission, designed to guarantee peace between the feuding countries) will stand firm against the Ecuadorian incursion. A Pentagon spokesman declared that the “hemisphere’s peace and stability cannot be endangered by a confrontation that can be resolved at the meeting table.”

In addition to resolving the frontier crisis, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori must also name a new prime minister. El País reported that Javier Valle Riestra, who held the position for just two months and two days, resigned Friday. The naming of Valle Riestra had been a surprise, since he was a political opponent of Fujimori’s military-supported party, but La República suggests his short term in office indicates “the opposition, divided, weak, and confused, doesn’t take proper advantage of the government’s mistakes.”

In another Latin American transition, Andrés Pastrana assumed the presidency of Colombia Friday, as guerrilla groups FARC and ELN bade farewell to his predecessor Ernesto Samper with at least 20 attacks throughout the country. In an editorial Sunday, La Nación of Argentina was guardedly optimistic that Pastrana, who is supported by a coalition, could bring reconciliation and reform to a nation wracked by criminality, corruption, and inequality. “His success depends on the extent to which he can assimilate into the political life of the country groups that until now have been opposed to its institutions,” it concluded.

In Canada, the continued decline in the value of the “loonie” (Canadian dollar), which last Thursday experienced its largest one-day plunge since the October 1995 referendum on Quebec separation, is at the forefront of domestic concerns. Toronto’s Globe and Mail reported Saturday that the “latest slump … has reawakened calls for the country to adopt a fixed exchange rate, pegging the Canadian currency at some set rate against its U.S. counterpart.” However, the stability of a pegged rate would come at the cost of Canadian independence: “By adopting a fixed exchange rate, Canada would essentially cede control over monetary policy to the United States Federal Reserve Board, yielding one more lever of economic policy to international forces.”

The silly season is clearly in full swing in Britain. Last week a leader in the Independent called for a “campaign for real tea.” Apparently, consumption of the nation’s signature drink is slipping–a victim of coffee chic. The paper’s tone was more funeral dirge than rallying cry: “One of the more regrettable consumer fads of the 1990s has been the invasion of ersatz American-style coffee bars, all stainless steel and froth and cool. Their meretricious charms have proved all too attractive to us, especially for those who want to live out a Sleepless in Seattle fantasy lifestyle in Wapping or Wolverhampton. It looks all too much like a re-run of the grey squirrel versus the native red or McDonald’s versus the chippie. Now it is the espresso macchiato versus the cuppa.”