All posts by noah

Afgangistan

For decades, Afghanistan has been plagued by a myriad of problems. Although things have been looking up in recent years, most of the underlying troubles remain. The Taliban has regained ground and corruption runs rampant. Although in the past Afghanistan has been controlled by various extremist, terrorist, and insurgent groups, the country is now finally on the brink of having a democratic government. They held an election in 2014, and the voter turnout was nearly 100%. Unfortunately, this was not the end of their problems. Although most news sources focused on the record turnout in the 2014 election, they often left out the fact that much of the election was rigged, and voting regulations were broken all over the country.

The previous president, Hamid Karzai was extremely unpopular, and the record voter turnout was primarily the result of people wanting to prevent him from throwing the election to his prefered successor Abdullah. Although they were successful, and the the election went to Ghani, the extreme level of corruption led to US intervention to broker a deal between the two. This deal makes Ghani the official president, but gives Abdullah a Prime-Minister-like position. This means that the country is now led by two opposing parties, trying to work together. While the people now have the president they voted for, they are still dissatisfied with the outcome of the election. Despite the number of people who voted to prevent Abdullah from taking office, he still gained a powerful position, and many feel that their votes are meaningless, as the election was only determined by US intervention. Many people believe that this cobbled together government may in fact be worse that the Karzai regime, as it will plunge the country into political gridlock.

The same corruption that has plagued the elections can be seen elsewhere as well. In fact, bribery is a force that influences nearly every aspect of life in Afghanistan, from police, to judges, tax officials, customs officers, and legislators. According to a UN study in 2012, 50% of Afghans reported paying a bribe in that year. Despite the dramatic changes in the government in 2014, the increasing trend of corruption has seen no noticeable change. This corruption is so ingrained in Afghanistan’s system, that it cannot even be considered a threat to the government, but rather an unstable foundation that the government was built upon.

After the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1987, the country was broken into “fiefdoms” controlled by various warlords. These warlords and their followers operated like gangs, working primarily for themselves, but also bringing local peace. Unfortunately, these warlords have not gone away with the formation of a centralized government, but have instead become guerrilla factions who still hold significant power among both the people and the government. Although the Afghan government itself is not gang-like, much of the government is controlled by these warlords. The Afghan military has taken steps to try to eliminate this corruption, however the military is not free from influence of these warlords either, making them almost impossible to remove. In some ways the country is still shattered, with local rulers controlling their own territory. In some areas, the government has even given these warlords permission to act as local government, although some of them are deemed too violent to be unopposed. Even with aid from the US, Afghanistan’s government is still extremely weak, allowing gangs and guerrilla groups to establish their own territories and take control of them.

Although it has gone through several different governments, Afghanistan has remained a fractured state since the fall of the USSR. The warlords who once controlled the country as local rulers still hold power through fear and government corruption. While they are not the only source of corruption, they use it quite effectively to their advantage. Afghanistan is ranked in the top three most corrupt countries in the world, and despite the new government, this seems unlikely to change. While the new government is neither gang-like or in support of corruption, they are divided, and unable to effectively control the various criminal elements in Afghanistan.

They sent “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” The Lawyers Got Rich, and the Guns Got High.

Peru is doing alright, for now. Their economy is booming, they’re relatively democratic, and next to their neighbors, they have a manageable level of terrorism. What’s to hate? Well, a report released in September by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime announced that Peru has surpassed Columbia to become the world’s number one producer of coca and cocaine.

Why is this? Well it is due it part to the efforts of the US to eradicate cocaine production in Columbia. The problem is, as the US begins fumigating coca crops in Columbia, the producers simply move back across the boarder into Peru; squeeze one end of the balloon and it bulges at the other. While the US’s war on drugs has been somewhat successful in Columbia, it has taken a large toll on the countries relations with the US, as spraying herbicides from the air inevitably damages crops other than coca, and severely endangers the lives Columbian farmers. This damage also drives many farmers to join the ranks of any of the various rebel groups fighting the Columbian government. As Peru does not allow this aerial herbicide bombardment, and is opposed to such extreme measures, the drug war in Peru must be conducted more surgically.

Another difficulty in fighting coca production in Peru, is that unlike in Columbia, where the FARC accounts for a large portion of coca farming, Peru’s “Shining Path” rebels consist of only around 500 fighters, isolated to one of 14 coca producing regions in Peru. Because of this, there is no one entity to target, as coca farmers work independently from one another. This particular problem is only going to get worse, after the arrest of Gerson Galvez, known as “The Snail”, the biggest drug lord in Peru. His arrest will likely cause the members of his operation to disperse, making them harder to find.

Perhaps the hardest problems to combat are those inside of the government. Although Peru is significantly less corrupt than many of its neighbors, it is certainly not immune. Peruvian police officers often take bribes or work with drug smugglers, and recent President Garcia is said to have sold presidential pardons to smugglers for $150,000 each. One army general was discovered to have fabricated a payroll for 620 soldiers who did not exist, which he instead collected himself. To make matters worse, many wealthy drug lords from Mexico and Central America have moved their operations to Peru, as they find themselves in the US’s line of fire.

Because Peru will not adopt the extreme measures being used in Columbia, the US and Peru will have to fight the drug war more strategically, and more carefully. The problem with this, is that the further the drug is removed from the plantation, the harder it is to track and find. Drug traffickers have a plethora of methods at their disposal to transport their product, including planes, boats, trucks, and even submarines. However, one of the most common methods in Peru is by backpack. Each year, the US estimates one third of cocaine produced in Peru is carried by backpack. This is because roughly 60% of the country’s coca is grown in remote valleys, hidden by mountains. Some of this is flown out by plane, however, the planes are expensive, and not reliable in bad weather. The rest of this coca is carried on foot, hundreds of miles over the mountains, by young hikers with little to no chance of employment elsewhere. During the hike, they must also contend with rival smuglers, corrupt police officers, and armed gunmen looking to take the drugs for themselves.

All of these problems compound themselves to make Peru one of the hardest drug economies to eliminate. Life is comparably good in Peru, so many people are content with the way things are, making them resistant to the idea of starting a drug war there. Because of the complications of fighting the war on drugs in a healthier country like Peru, the cocaine trade has been able to thrive, working under the cover of the intricate web of bureaucracy.