International Papers

Mugabe’s Way or Zimbabwe? 

The Post of Zambia finds the Zimbabwe election results to its liking. Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF Party maintained its parliamentary majority, but the opposition Movement for Democratic Change won 57 of the 120 contested seats. This commences the political change Zimbabwe desperately needs but prevents the country from “swinging … from one end of the pendulum to another.” The Post doesn’t think much of the 9-month-old MDC, which it called “a motley assortment of contradictory elements, some of them being outright racists with no democratic credentials whatsoever,” but the MDC’s voting bloc will prevent the ruling party from amending the constitution at whim. The paper concluded:

What we have learnt from the African experience is that the single party state, de jure or de facto, except at very rare moments in history, is a recipe for tyranny.

Several papers report that Zanu-PF legislators are pressuring the 76-year-old Mugabe to relinquish control of the party in time to allow a new leader to emerge before the 2002 presidential elections. Britain’s Daily Telegraph likened the opposition’s battle with Mugabe to a bullfight—after drawing parallels to the matador’s opening passes, the picador’s lance, and the banderillas, the editorial concluded, “The last act of the corrida, the kill, has begun.” No successor has come forward—indeed, with eight Cabinet members or party officials losing their seats, Zimbabwe’s Financial Gazette reported that “Mugabe’s unpopularity was inextricably linked to ZANU PF and its policies.” The Star of South Africa saw this vacuum as a time for “opening up opportunities for a new breed of leaders who have no sentimental attachment to Mugabe because of association with him during the liberation-struggle years.”

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who lost his bid for a seat in parliament (having chosen to fight in his rural birthplace rather than in Harare), told reporters that if Mugabe offered him one of the 30 seats the president is empowered to appoint, he would decline in order to concentrate on the 2002 presidential race. The Guardian of London summarized the situation well: “Zanu-PF sees no advantage in sharing power with the MDC, while the MDC sees no advantage in sharing responsibility for the country’s many woes with Zanu-PF.” An editorial comment in the Financial Times also described Tsvangirai’s dilemma:

Without urgent action, the country’s economy is heading for catastrophe. Mr Tsvangirai can offer to join forces in tackling the crisis, but he would have to share responsibility for the painful measures needed, including devaluation and government spending cuts, yet without the power to ensure success. Or he can bide his time, and let Mr Mugabe shoulder the burden, in the hope that as the crisis deepens, the president’s position might be further undermined—but at the cost of continuing economic damage.

Coming up: International election-watchers’ attention turns to Mexico, which goes to the polls Sunday, July 2. Widely seen as the cleanest in the country’s history, the race appears to be too close to call. The Financial Times claimed that the downfall of PRI, the party of government for the last 71 years, would be “the best way for Mexico to demonstrate stronger democratic credentials.” With a divided congress the most likely outcome, the new president will have “relatively limited powers” and will have to be disposed to compromise. Since change is “a necessary part of the democratic process,” an orderly handover of power to a legitimately elected opponent would be President Ernesto Zedillo’s “greatest achievement,” the paper concluded. (To read up on the Mexican race, see this package in the Financial Times, this op-ed in the International Herald Tribune, and this piece (scroll down) in Sri Lanka’s Island. This page offers links to 58 Mexican papers.) Who’s the Medellín cartel’s Web designer? That’s what you want to know after reading this extraordinary piece in the Argentinean daily Clarín about Extradicí, produced by “Los Extraditables,” the heirs to Medellín boss Pablo Escobar’s cocaine cartel. The site argues that members of the gang were captured for political expediency so that the “Colombia Plan,” the U.S. economic aid package that funds Colombia’s war on drugs, would gain swift approval from the U.S. Congress. The home page—Macromedia Flash Player required!—opens with an animated map of Colombia that explodes into pieces as Uncle Sam and the slogan “Colombian, you are the American dream” emerge from behind. The site, which is ugly but ambitious, presents the drug dealers’ perspective on issues ranging from violence and the peace process to the drug trade’s potential benefits to Colombia’s economy. The manifesto concludes:

Unfortunately, for the general citizen and for the governments of Colombia and the United States in particular, this viewpoint lacks the moral validity to qualify as a topic for discussion.

How popular is the site? When International Papers visited Thursday morning, the visitor count stood at 10,576. Not enough to earn a Media Metrix rating, but even the biggest Web sites started small.