All posts by cmarks

Death, Taxes, and Urbanization

Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, the capital of one of the most nomadic Asian nations, has also become one of the world’s most densely populated cities today. It has struggled to cope with the inevitable urbanization that the rest of our planet is being faced with, and in response to the nearly seven month long winters, poor schooling, and lack of opportunity in the rural areas of Mongolia, many Mongolians have begun to relocate to Ulaanbaatar. This rapid movement has caused serious infrastructure issues in the capitol as well as serious pollution, and poverty issues throughout the city.

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The overpopulation that came with urbanization has resulted in the development of what is known as “Ger” areas; small huts and yurts that are tightly surrounding the industrial and developed part of the city. Ger areas epitomize the struggle that Mongolia is dealing with. Ger households are roughly 45% below the poverty line and have very little access to resources relative to the rest of the city. Ger areas account for nearly 60% of Ulaanbaatar population, and Ulaanbaatar as a whole accounts for roughly 40% of the national population.

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When it was designed, Ulaanbaatar was only designed to hold 500,000 people. Today it holds 40% of the nations 3.1 million. When the population density gets high there are bound to be problems that spark not only including overpopulation. Road and traffic issues have become a larger issue since the mass migration to the cities. Pollution is another issue that has emerged as one of the largest threats to the city as it surpassed Beijing in pollution levels in late 2016.

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Coal plants are the main reason for pollution levels in Ulaanbaatar and it has resulted in Ulaanbaatar becoming one of the leading producers of black smog. In 2016, when they surpassed Beijing they exceeded the safety level for pollution by a factor of 80. The smog and dangerous pollution levels have resulted in a spike in respiratory issues throughout the cities, and in Ger area, where healthcare is almost nonexistent and the hygiene is minimal due to lack of resources, health problems are far more serious to the people especially living in such close quarters to others.

The efforts to combat the issues that have risen through drastic urbanization have included land laws, banning migration to certain areas, and forcing mayors and other political leaders to form policy, but the issue still remains. Urbanization has been on the rise for decades and is only becoming more popular. The only way Mongolia can deal with such rapid urbanization is to embrace the pull factors to the city and fight against the issues in which they have control over such as pollution, lack of resources, and the infrastructure.

Hugo Chavez: Venezuela’s “Savior”

In many aspects, Venezuela today is one of the worst off countries, not only in South America but around the world. This struggle inside the Latin American nation dates back decades, but there actually was a slight sign of hope around the country in the late 1990’s and into the early 2000’s, and its symbol and agenda were based solely on the then rising socialist populist politician Hugo Chavez.

Chavez came to power after a string of military coups which led to his imprisonment then release where shortly after, he boasted a leftist populism which was said to be the savior of democracy in Venezuela. Chavez won support easily due to the immense corruption and dysfunction that plagued the government as he went around the nation gaining followers and making promises of a more democratic and socialist nation. On Chavez’s journey to being elected in 1998, his party (The Movement of the Fifth Republic) made more promises to the poor such as increasing in funding to villages and reorganizing the wealth to aid them and also boasted of an increasingly socialist agenda. Chavez intended on carrying out the Bolivarian Revolution and campaigned that as he was a fan of fellow socialist Simon Bolivar who preceded him over a century before and was known as the “Liberator”.

Chavez won the 1998 election and took no time in beginning his long list of changes which he had promised repeatedly throughout his campaign. He started at the judiciary level where he promised to replace the corrupt officials under the previous administration. He replaced nearly all members of the supreme court and gained power with his new appointments. Chavez then used his overwhelming support to pass more laws and rewrite old ones in order to give him more power and more time in office, as he most notably repealed term limits so he could be elected with no end. These moves he made at the judicial level may have kept true to his idea of completely revitalizing the courts, but it also took advantage of the support he had going into his time in office as the people of Venezuela looked to him as the last chance at saving their democracy.

As Chavez’s time in office went on and he gained more power as president, the promises he was making to the poor and the working classes were unrealistic and irresponsible. He took over 90% of the assembly seats and virtually every elective office available in what was called a mega election. At this point in the early 2000’s, it was clear that he was taking on more authoritarian motives and the promises he had made to those who voted for him were merely empty promises which he never planned to fill. He monopolized the oil industry and grew Venezuela’s budget nearly eight times larger than it had been since he first took office, but the money he promised for building up the impoverished areas and aiding the working class, was going elsewhere for the benefit of him and his officials.

By Chavez’s second full term, the leftist socialism which the people voted for to save their democracy, was completely gone and Chavez had implemented an authoritarian rule as he concentrated his power, was responsible for the erosion of some human rights, and the prosecution of Venezuelans critical of his party. Chavez had made an appearance of being a “savior” to the democracy and to the people of his country, but after expanding his governmental power, the socialist democracy which made so many Venezuelans praised and supported, had turned into a just as corrupt and authoritarian rule.