|Tuesday 12th of November 2019
@MoodysInvSvc Says Tide of Populism Is Putting World's Credit at Risk @markets.
A wave of social unrest -- from Chile and Ecuador to Lebanon -- has
Moody’s Investors Service worried.
The rating company said its 2020 outlook for global sovereign credit
is negative, given unpredictable domestic and geopolitical risks and a
push for populist policies that weaken institutions, help slow growth
and boost the risk of economic and financial shocks.
Governments will struggle to address further credit challenges in the
coming year, analysts including Jaime Reusche, Calyn Lindquist and
Marie Diron wrote in a note on Monday.
“‘Populist’ movements have emerged in recent years, either from the
political fringe or from within established parties, often in reaction
to years of stagnant incomes and rising income inequality,” they
“Escalating global and regional trade tensions increase the risk of
financial or economic shocks, and the weakening of multilateral
institutions dents policy makers’ ability to deal with those shocks.”
In Latin America, social demands in recent months make it harder for
authorities to target reform and fiscal programs that support growth
and public finances, they wrote.
Weaker governance undermines creditworthiness, and less predictability
means governments will be less resilient to shocks such as the
U.S.-China trade war, especially in emerging markets.
Most emerging and frontier-market sovereigns are also running out of
room to tweak fiscal and monetary policy because of their
vulnerability to capital flow reversals, Moody’s said.
The analysts expect flows to remain under pressure in 2020 and beyond,
especially if the the U.S. and China escalate their trade spat or
growth worsens in higher-debt countries.
21-OCT-2019 :: The New Economy of Anger
People have been pushed to the edge and are taking to the streets.
Paul Virilio pronounced in his book Speed and Politics, “The
revolutionary contingent attains its ideal form not in the place of
production, but in the street, where for a moment it stops being a cog
in the technical machine and itself becomes a motor (machine of
attack), in other words, a producer of speed.’’
The Phenomenon is spreading like wildfire in large part because of the
tinder dry conditions underfoot. Prolonged stand-offs eviscerate
economies, reducing opportunities and accelerate the negative feed-
Alberto Giacometti Man Pointing 1947 MOMA
Frail yet erect, a man gestures with his left arm and points with his
right. We have no idea what he points to, or why. Anonymous and alone,
he is also almost a skeleton. For the Existentialist philosopher
Jean-Paul Sartre, in fact, Giacometti's sculpture was "always halfway
between nothingness and being."
Such sculptures were full of meaning to Sartre, who said of them, "At
first glance we seem to be up against the fleshless martyrs of
Buchenwald. But a moment later we have a quite different conception:
these fine and slender natures rise up to heaven. We seem to have come
across a group of Ascensions."
The Military Coup Against Morales Won't End The Hybrid War On Bolivia @AKorybko
Law & Politics
President Morales resigned under duress following the military's
"request" that he do so after the US-backed OAS alleged that it
uncovered evidence supposedly proving that his recent re-election was
rigged, but the military coup won't end the Hybrid War on Bolivia even
in the unlikely "best-case" scenario that it ends the cycle of
violence in the country because the structural-institutional
consequences of this ongoing campaign will inevitably lead to a
reversal of the socio-economic rights that were bestowed upon the
majority-indigenous population and therefore risks returning millions
of people to their prior position as slaves to the
The Beginning Of The End?
The Hybrid War on Bolivia has thus far succeeded in removing the
country's democratically re-elected and legitimate head of state after
President Morales resigned under duress following the military's
"request" that he do so, with this coup being made possible only
because US intelligence had already co-opted the armed forces and
therefore ensured that this outcome was a fait accompli even before it
was officially announced. On the surface, it might appear as though
the Hybrid War is over after it achieved its most visible victory of
carrying out regime change in this lithium-rich and geostrategically
located state smack dab in the center of South America, but the fact
of the matter is that this campaign is far from over for several very
The Civil War Already Started
The first one is the most obvious, and it's that there might be some
uncertain degree of physical resistance from ("former") President
Morales' mostly indigenous supporters, whether in the form of street
protests or possibly even a nascent insurgency that could represent
the tangible beginning of a national liberation movement to liberate
the country from the US-backed military-oligarchic yoke that it's
suddenly been returned under after 13 years of freedom. The military
preemptively sought to offset this scenario just prior to the coup by
commencing what Reuters reported was "air and land operations to
'neutralize' armed groups that act outside the laws", which in the
country's political context could only have been a euphemism for
beginning operations against President Morales' mostly indigenous
supporters and not their right-wing opponents allied with the armed
forces who were rioting throughout the country for several weeks
This is an important detail that many observers missed amid the
fast-moving events that transpired on Sunday but one which crucially
reveals that the military went rogue even before demanding President
Morales' resignation by launching operations against what are
presumably his supporters despite not legally having the authority to
do so. In hindsight, this means that not only did a military coup
occur, but that it was preceded by what was arguably the unofficial
onset of a low-level civil war whereby the armed forces went outside
the legal chain of command (considering that they had yet to demand
his resignation at the time) in order to "confront the people" despite
previously denying that they had any such intention. This dramatic
move came after the "opposition" seized state media in the capital,
the homes of President Morales' sister and two of his governors were
torched Saturday night, and an allied mayor was lynched in the streets
by the "opposition" a few days prior.
Morales On The Lam
It's little wonder then that President Morales implored his countrymen
during his resignation speech to "stop attacking the brothers and
sisters, stop burning and attacking" since he feared for his
supporters' lives after what had recently just taken place, especially
seeing as how he would have already had knowledge of the military's
ongoing operation against them that was commenced earlier that same
day. Knowing this, he fled the capital before they could capture him
and potentially carry out a Gaddafi-like regicide while serving a
so-called "warrant" for his arrest (on the presumable basis of
something having to do with electoral or another form of alleged
"corruption") and relying on what would have been the unsubstantiated
claim that he "resisted" or was "armed" in order to "justify" killing
him in cold blood just like their predecessors did to the famous Che
Guevara a little over half a century ago.
If they don't succeed in capturing him soon, the US-backed armed
forces might even request American and/or Brazilian "anti-terrorist"
assistance after possibly claiming that he and his supporters are
connected to Iran's IRGC and/or Colombia's FARC considering President
Morales' close ties with the Islamic Republic and vehement support of
socialism, respectively. They could also "justify" their request for a
direct military intervention by reminding the region of his alliance
with Venezuelan President Maduro and alleging that the latter is
somehow involved in President Morales' so-called "terrorist" and
possibly even "drug-trafficking" activities. The deck is therefore
stacked against him and his supporters even in the event that they
resort to waging a national liberation campaign, which would be
entirely within their legal rights after external forces took control
of the state by proxy and commenced the ongoing low-level civil war.
Institutionalizing Neoliberal Slavery
That's the worst-case scenario, but the "best-case" one isn't much
better, which would see the US-backed right-wing forces rapidly
reversing the socio-economic rights that President Morales bestowed
upon the majority-indigenous population throughout his 13 years in
office without having to fight an intense civil war first. In other
words, his supporters would simply surrender and allow the process to
unfold without any physical resistance, which seems extremely unlikely
but could nevertheless still occur if the campaign of terror presently
being waged against them succeeds in scaring the population into
submission. It should be taken for granted that some members of the
riotous mobs will team up with the US-backed military in order to form
death squads that will kill anyone who resists, beginning with members
of his government (both currently serving and those who recently
resigned in order to protect their families after their loved ones
were at credible risk of being harmed) and their supporters who might
take to the streets in protest against this illegal seizure of power.
Either way, the grand strategic outcome that the coup plotters are
pursuing is to purge all state structures of socialists in order to
more easily impose a hyper-neoliberal regime as soon as possible, with
the only question being whether the population actively resists this
"lustration" or not. Some of the most likely structural-institutional
consequences would be the granting of fiscal (and possibly even
political) autonomy to the gas-rich "opposition" strongholds of the
so-called "Media Luna" lowlands where most of the mestizos live and
the drastic reduction of taxes on foreign mining firms operating in
the indigenous-populated highlands, which could altogether serve to
deprive President Morales' mostly indigenous supporters of the
resources needed to subsidize their socio-economic programs. The end
result would naturally be that millions of people risk returning to
their prior position of undignified servitude that they toiled under
prior to President Morales' ascent to office.
"The Latin American Libya"
Acutely aware of the future that awaits them if the military coup
succeeds in stripping them of their hard-earned socio-economic rights
and institutionalizing their status as slaves to the
neoliberal-globalist system supported by their country's oligarchy and
its American/Brazilian backers, it wouldn't be surprising if the
"worst-case" scenario transpires of President Morales' mostly
indigenous supporters waging a full-fledged national liberation
insurgency. That, however, also dangerously carries with it the high
risk that the state will "simplify" its "counter-insurgency" strategy
by siccing death squads on anyone of native Bolivian heritage
(especially in the rural areas), therefore leading to ethnic cleansing
against them or even genocide if this strategy is taken to its
"logical" conclusion. As such, it's way too early to say that the
Hybrid War on Bolivia is over just because President Morales was
forced to resign under duress since this campaign will never truly end
given the literally fascist outcome that it's aiming to indefinitely
perpetuate of informally returning the indigenous population to
noeliberal slavery. Considering the dynamics at play, Bolivia might
soon become known as the "Latin American Libya", and the consequences
could easily spread throughout the rest of South America just as
Libya's spread throughout Africa.
Syria's Bashar al-Assad Reflects on Civil War, Oil, Terrorism and America in Rare Interview @Presidency_Sy @SputnikInt @afshinrattansi
Law & Politics
Having endured a deadly, drawn-out civil war which is gradually
drawing to a close, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is facing the
daunting task of reuniting and reconstructing a devastated nation,
filling in the power vacuum in newly-liberated parts of the country
and overcoming a Western-imposed economic blockade.
The Presidential Palace in Damascus overlooks the Syrian capital, but
the most troubled parts of the war-ravaged country are out of sight.
The future of those lands, as well as the broader question of how to
solve the ongoing political imbroglio and rebuild Syria, are on Bashar
al-Assad’s mind as he speaks in his first interview to foreign media
in over a year.
The president talks to RT's Afshin Rattansi about the origins of the
conflict that engulfed his country and the role of Western governments
in it, and gives his take on the recent and future developments in
Syria and elsewhere.
Bashar al-Assad, who turned 54 in September, last gave an interview to
a foreign news outlet in June 2018.
He says he had stopped speaking to Western media completely because of
their hunt for a “scoop”, but feels now that “public opinion in the
world, and especially in the West, has been shifting during the past
“They know that their officials have told them so many lies about
what’s going on in the region, in the Middle East, in Syria, in
Yemen,” he says of the Western public. “They know there is a lie, but
they don’t know the truth; so, I think, it’s time to talk about this
On how the war started
The Syrian conflict broke out in early 2011 with anti-government
demonstrations, which coincided with violent Western-backed protests
in other Arab-majority nations, known collectively as the Arab Spring.
Foreign policy-makers and observers have blamed the Syria protests on
various factors, or a combination of thereof, from corruption and
mismanagement to a protracted drought that stressed the socio-economic
While those factors were largely internal, al-Assad believes the lever
was pulled from the outside: “The problem started when the money of
Qatar came to Syria, and we had contact with many of the labourers,
and we told them, ‘Why do not you come to your workshop?’ and they
said, ‘We take as much in one hour as we [used to] take in one week’.”
“It was very simple. They paid them 50 dollars at the very beginning,
then later 100 dollars a week, which was enough for them to live
without work, so it was much easier for them to join the
demonstrations,” he claims, adding that the Qatari government then
began arming the protesters.
The demonstrations were originally described as peaceful by Western
media, but Bashar al-Assad says this was not the case from the very
beginning because policemen were shot during the initial phase of
In the spring of 2011, the government cracked down on the protest
movement, which quickly escalated into an insurgency throughout that
year and had erupted into a full-on civil war by the summer of 2012.
Western governments, which called for President al-Assad to step down
throughout the conflict, responded with tough sanctions on Damascus,
including oil bans, trade and financial restrictions, travel bans and
On chemical attacks
As the fighting intensified, a series of alleged chemical attacks
occurred in opposition-held areas in 2013. Damascus and Moscow both
suggested that the March attack in Khan al-Assal was a false flag
operation by the opposition-aligned militias, which blamed the
government in turn.
When UN investigators arrived on the ground to investigate the
incident, their visit coincided with an even larger-scale sarin attack
in Ghouta on 21 August, which reportedly led to hundreds of
The United States was quick to accuse the Syrian government and was on
the brink of a military intervention, averted only when Damascus
agreed to surrender all of its chemical weapons.
Bashar al-Assad points out that the timing of the Ghouta attack made
no sense to him: “The funny thing about that date is that it is the
same date when the first delegation, the international delegation that
came to Syria to investigate the incident arrived in Damascus, which
is only few kilometres from this place.”
“And logically, the Syrian army, if we suppose that it has chemical
weapons, it wants to use it, it would not use it on that day, this is
first. Second, they talked about two hundred civilians killed. If you
use chemical weapons, you may kill tens of thousands in such area
where people are living very close to each other. I mean, it’s a
He calls those incidents and the West’s assessment of them “a
narrative that was the pretext to attack Syria.”
“They did not offer any tangible evidence to prove that there was such
an attack, and there were many reports that have refuted that report
or those allegations,” he maintains.
“So, it was only allegation; never, never had the Syrian army used
chemical weapons before we handed over all arsenals to the
A similarly suspicious attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib in April 2017
led the United States, based on unconfirmed claims by the opposition,
to bomb a Syrian airbase without a UN mandate.
A conflict between factions of Syrian rebels saw the rise of extremist
Islamist groups in 2014; Al-Nusra Front, and offshoot of Al-Qaeda, and
Daesh*, aka ISIS, managed to seize large swathes of the country and
sparked massive concerns over the regional security.
The United States, along with a few partners, formed a coalition in
Syria – without a mandate from anyone whatsoever – while al-Assad
invited Russia to intervene on behalf of Damascus.
On the US’ role in terrorist insurgence
The president reiterates a widespread assumption that those terror
groups emerged as a direct consequence of the CIA arming the
mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s as a counterbalance to the
He says of the American policy: “They invaded Afghanistan, they got
nothing. They invaded Iraq, they got nothing, and they started to
invade other countries but in different ways.
“The problem with the Unites States now is that they fight a survival
war from their point of view because they are losing their hegemony.
“Al-Qaeda is a proxy against the Syrian government, against the
Russian government and the Iranian government. That’s why they’ve been
using this, but you have evidence. How did ISIS rise suddenly in
2014?! Out of nowhere!.. In Iraq and Syria at the same time, with
American armaments?!.. How could they smuggle millions of barrels of
oil to Turkey under the supervision of the American aircraft, how?
Because the Americans wanted to use them against the Syrian army.”
“Don't forget that there is a war between the United States and the
rest of the world. Now, we're talking about tectonic shifting and
“So, you have rising powers like Russia, China and India and other
countries. The United States does not accept any partner in leading
the world, even UK, France, even other big countries, I wouldn’t call
them great powers because this is another meaning, they are not great
anymore. They don’t accept partners. That's why they are fighting now.
So, the war in Syria is a microcosm of World War 3, let’s say, but
without armaments; through proxies.”
On the ‘looting’ of Syria’s oil
During the war, terrorists have captured large swathes of oil-rich
territories in northeast Syria; they have since been ousted from there
by US-backed Kurdish militias which apparently continue extracting and
smuggling out Syria’s oil.
US President Donald Trump has made it clear in recent weeks that
“securing” Syria’s oil (i.e. keeping it in the hands of Kurds and away
from the Damascus government) is his major priority in Syria.
Moscow has recently exposed Washington’s efforts to keep the oil
fields under its military control, describing them as “banditry.”
“Since ISIS started smuggling Syrian oil and looting Syrian oil in
2014, they had two partners: Erdogan and his coterie, and the
Americans, whether the CIA or others,” al-Assad notes.
“So, what Trump did is just announce the truth; he is not talking
about something new. Even when some of the Kurds started looting the
Syrian oil, the Americans were their partners. So, it's about money,
and it’s about the oil, and that's what Trump said recently.”
“The Americans always try to loot other countries in different ways
regarding not only their oil or money, or financial resources. They
loot their rights, their political rights, every other right. That’s
their historical role at least after World War 2.”
On Turkey’s invasion
Fighting is still going on in some parts of the country, particularly
in the rebel-held north-west province of Idlib and in the north-east,
where Turkey recently launched an offensive against Kurdish fighters
who it designates as terrorists.
It drove the Syrian Democratic Forces – a Kurdish-led alliance of
militias that includes Arab groups – to seek protection from Damascus,
whose forces have moved into the areas vacated by American troops and
Al-Assad views the Turkish encroachment as a violation of Syria’s
sovereignty but refuses to lay the blame on the Turks altogether.
“The Turkish people are our neighbours, and we have a common history,
and we cannot make them the enemy,” he says.
“The enemy is Erdogan and his policy and his coteries. So, being
against those [terrorist] groups in Turkey and in Syria does not mean
that we see eye to eye in another aspect, especially after he invaded
Syria, publicly and formally.”
On the Kurdish deal
Al-Assad, now probably in a much stronger military position than ever
in the past nine years, has ruled out a power-sharing agreement with
He says the deal with the SDF is intended for the Syrian government to
restore “full sovereignty” over the previously Kurdish-held
territories and pull the Kurds from the Turkey border in order to
“remove the pretext for the Turks to invade Syria.”
He adds he has also invited Kurds to join the government forces; some
heeded the call and some did not.
A major issue appears to be with the Democratic Union Party (PYD),
which has formed the militarised People's Protection Units (YPG) and
is a member of an umbrella of Kurdish political groups that also
includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – an organisation responsible
for a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and outlawed by Ankara as a
Al-Assad argues that the majority of Kurds have “a good relationship
with the government, and the majority of Kurds supports the
government, but this part which is called the PYD is the one which has
been supported by the Americans publicly, their armament, their money,
they smuggled oil together.”
He claims that the PYD’s policy in the last few years was “to invite
the Americans to stay, to be angry when America wants to leave and to
say: we do not want to join the Syrian Army recently.” He did not
expand on the opportunities for a compromise with this group.
On attacks by Israel
Tel Aviv, which is at loggerheads with Damascus over the Golan
Heights, has on many occasions bombed targets in Syria throughout the
war that it believes are signs of Iran’s military presence in the
Asked if Israel provides a direct support to terrorists, al-Assad
says: “Every time the Syrian army advanced against those Al-Nusra
terrorists in the south, Israel used to bombard our troops, and
whenever we advance somewhere else in Syria, their airplanes started
committing air strikes against our army.”
In his opinion, this indicates that there was a “correlation” between
the operations of Israel’s army and Syria-based terrorists.
On Iranian tanker arrest
Al-Assad took a back seat over the summer when headlines from the
Middle East were mostly dominated by Iran’s stand-off with the US and
Syria was indirectly implicated in a spat between Tehran and London
over a tanker seized by the Royal Marines off Gibraltar on suspicion
of shipping Iranian oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
The president strikes a tone similar to that of his allies in Iran,
calling Britain’s actions an act of “piracy.” He suggested that the UK
“wanted to affect the people in Syria” in “the last-ditch attempt” to
turn them against his government.
On the rise and fall of al-Baghdadi
In one of the latest positive pieces of news for the anti-terror
efforts in Syria, Daesh chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly
killed in a night-time aid by US commandos.
The self-proclaimed ‘caliph’ – the architect behind atrocious terror
attacks and brutal executions – had spent 10 months in an American
prison in Iraq after his arrest for participation in the anti-US
insurgency in 2004.
“He was prepared by the Americans to play that role and we don't
believe this recent story of killing him,” al-Assad says.
“Maybe he is killed, but it's not about what they've mentioned. The
whole story was about whitewashing the American hand from being hand
in a glove with the terrorists during the last, not only few years,
but during the last decades.
“When Saddam Hussein was captured, they showed him. When he was
executed, they showed the event of the execution. When his children
were killed, they showed their bodies. The same with al-Gaddafi. Why
didn't they show us the body of Bin Laden? Why didn't they show us the
body of Al-Baghdadi?
“Just a fake story about being against terrorists and this very
sophisticated operation. Maybe he has been killed because he has
expired as a person [and] they needed somebody else. And maybe they
wanted to change the whole name of ISIS to another name to bring ISIS
as a moderate organisation to be used again in the market against the
On what’s next in Idlib
The province of Idlib, mostly controlled by the jihadist group Hayat
Tahrir al-Sham, remains the last major stronghold of anti-government
According to al-Assad, it won’t take long to liberate Idlib but the
plan now is to give a chance to the civilians to leave the area before
the final showdown.
“Our interest lies in killing the terrorists in order to protect the
civilians, not leaving those innocent civilians under the supervision
of the terrorists,” he explains.
Cornered by Syrian troops and Russian airstrikes, the Idlib terrorists
are posed to surrender sooner or later. And however preoccupied
President al-Assad may be with the restive province, a transition from
war to peace will be needed next.
That transition is complicated by international sanctions, but
al-Assad is adamant that Syria will be able to overcome it – with a
little help from its friends.
“We have the human resources enough to build our country,” the
president reassures, “so I would not worry about this embargo, but
definitely, the friendly countries like China, Russia and Iran, will
have priority in this rebuilding.”
When asked whether the EU member states would be allowed to
participate, he answeres flatly: “Every country which stood against
Syria will not have a chance to be part of this reconstruction.”
What about Britain?
24 OCT 11 :: Gaddafi's Body in a Freezer - What's the Message?
Law & Politics
I am left thinking, this dead Gaddafi business is one powerful
message. And today Marshall McLuhan’s prediction in The Gutenberg
Galaxy (1962) that ‘The new electronic interdependence recreates the
world in the image of a global village’ has come to pass.
The image of a bloodied Gaddafi, then of a dead Gaddafi in a meat
locker have flashed around the world via the mobile, YouTube and
Who is in charge of the messaging? Through the fog of real time and
raw footage, I note a very powerful message. The essence of that
‘Don’t Fxxk with us! Be- cause you will end up dead and a trophy
souvenir in a fridge.’ That same person is probably repeating
Muammar’s comment, “I tell the coward crusaders: I live in a place
where you can’t get me. I live in the hearts of millions.”
And asking ‘Really? Are You? Or are you now very dead and in a meat locker?’
A New Twist in the Horrific Massacre of American Moms and Kids in Mexico @thedailybeast
Law & Politics
The brutal killing of three American women and six children a week ago
in Mexico sparked outrage on both sides of the border. Mexican
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised justice, and
already set up a special task force to find the attackers. President
Donald J. Trump, meanwhile, has suggested American troops be sent in
to combat the rising tide of violence.
Rhetoric aside, some important facts remain in doubt, with social
media and tabloids generating increasingly bizarre conspiracy
theories. The day after the killing, the New York Post, for instance,
reported that members of the victims’ community may have been
recruited in the past by the NXIVM sex cult, although what, if
anything, that might have to do with the murders remains unclear.
What we do know is that gunmen claimed the lives of nine members of
the LeBaron family. Six other children traveling in the ambushed
convoy were wounded and some of them have given their families
accounts of what they saw, apparently confirming the thesis the gunmen
knew perfectly well that they were slaughtering women and children.
The big unanswered question is not just who did the killing, but even
more important in a land rife with sicarios and vendettas, why?
We also know the LeBarons are part of a wealthy and locally powerful
sect of about 5,000 Mormon landowners with both U.S. and Mexican
citizenship. Long isolated from their religious counterparts in the
U.S., and in some cases allegedly continuing to practice polygamy,
banned by the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
centered in Salt Lake City, the LeBarons reside on several large
ranches in the border states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Their houses
resemble those in any well-manicured gated community in the United
“The Barzón water dispute connection is the theory du jour in the
On the morning of Nov. 4, three SUVs carrying 17 family members set
out from their La Mora compound in Sonora for another ranch property
in Galeana, in neighboring Chihuahua. Less than halfway there they
were ambushed by unknown gunmen on a lonely stretch of road in that
The official version of the story, as told by Mexican authorities, is
that it was an accident involving rival drug gangs. Yet the LeBarons
claim they’d been under threat from criminal bands in the area and
they have no doubt they were targeted deliberately. Several of the
victims reportedly were shot at point-blank range.
Also, we now know the family had been engaged in a long-running land
dispute with local farmers over water rights. Both sides appear to
have acted violently—including an incident last year in which the
farmers stormed one of the LeBaron ranches and the LeBarons opened
fire on them. The conflict reportedly has continued since then.
The murder of innocent women and children would be a grotesque
escalation—and without precedent—but to understand the broader context
of the killings in that arid landscape the issue of water, as well as
the issue of drug trafficking, should be taken into account.
In the immediate aftermath of the killings, Mexican officials
announced that an organized crime group called Los Jaguares was
responsible. The theory was that the group’s leader Arvizu “El Jaguar”
Márquez had ordered the hit after mistaking the Mormon caravan for
that of another gang. The press ran with the story, and it seemed the
case was solved.
El Jaguar’s outfit is a splinter cell of the Sinaloa Cartel, formerly
run by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, and now headed by a loose coalition
between his sons and former lieutenant Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada (more
on him later).
Breakaway upstart Jaguar Márquez was characterized in news reports as
“an alcoholic cuckold,” and one member of the LeBaron family spoke of
possibly forming autodefensas [vigilante groups] to track him down.
But then the official version changed. It wasn’t the drunken gangster
with the unfaithful wife after all. Instead another band was blamed,
although the “cartel confusion” narrative carried over.
This time the massacre was attributed to a dust up between a group
called La Línea [The Line], which is affiliated with the Juárez
Cartel, and a rival faction of the Sinaloa Cartel called Los Salazar.
“In April of 2018, more than 100 members of El Barzón invaded the
LeBaron family ranch at La Mora to protest the diminished water
There had been a turf battle between the two groups in the town of
Agua Prieta, on the U.S. border, the same day the LeBaron family was
assaulted. While retreating from Agua Prieta, La Línea allegedly set
up sentinels to intercept any pursuers. And then the LeBaron convoy
blundered into the trap traveling in SUVs, the preferred mode of
transport for sicarios (hitmen) as well.
“It is assumed that this cell [La Línea ], which was sent to stop any
incursion of a criminal group from Los Salazar into Chihuahua, [is
responsible for] the attacks on the LeBaron family," said Homero
Mendoza Ruíz, chief of staff of Mexico’s National Defense Secretariat,
in a press conference.
However there are glaring discrepancies in the official reports.
Mexico's secretary of security, Alfonso Durazo, believes the women set
out at around 9:40 a.m. and came under attack at 1:00 p.m. But a
special commission ordered by Mexican President López Obrador tells a
Those investigators claim there was an initial attack on one vehicle
at 9:40, near the remote village of Bavispe. And that the second
assault against the other two SUVs came at about 11:00 that same
morning, and happened on the same rural highway, but 11 miles away
from the scene of the first attack.
“What makes the incident highly suspect is the 1.2 hour time gap
between the first incident and the second one, and the fact that it
would be relatively easy to ID the unarmed female drivers—as well as
the small children in the vehicles—as not being representative of
cartel tactical unit profiles,” Robert Bunker, a specialist in
international security and illicit economies at the University of
Southern California, told The Daily Beast in an email.
Bunker suggested that the way the murders were carried out indicates
the cartel hit teams, if that’s who was responsible, “were marginally
trained and disciplined and/or even high on narcotics. Such tactical
units could belong to a newly fragmented cartel group who were
scraping the bottom of the barrel to put gunmen into the field.”
Bunker’s description of a poorly trained, ragtag bunch doesn’t meet
the description of La Línea, however. It is known as the elite
enforcer wing of the Juárez Cartel, and the DEA estimates some 70
percent of the cocaine that enters the U.S. passes through the
Juárez-El Paso corridor, which this cartel controls, making it an
extremely well-armed, well-equipped syndicate.
Furthermore, some of the children who escaped reported that at least
one of the adult women had exited the vehicles to inform their
attackers that they were traveling with children, only to be shot
“The conclusion we’ve reached is that it was something premeditated
against the community,” Adrián LeBaron told a local news outlet. “They
knew that they were killing women and children.”
In a separate interview, LeBaron also said the family had been
receiving threats from armed groups in the area, and other members of
the family have been kidnapped and killed by the cartels.
Some 200 shell casings from AR-15 type assault rifles were found at
the scene of the ambush, and one of the vehicles had been burned, also
possibly indicating an intentional encounter meant to send a message.
The targeted attack theory might be the more credible, at least based
on what we know now—but it still doesn't explain why the family would
have been targeted.
One possibility now being reported in Mexico is that the killings are
linked to an ongoing series of violent clashes between the LeBarons
and an alliance of local farmers over land and water rights in the
semi-desert of northwestern Chihuahua.
The farming collective is called El Barzón. Its dispute with the
Mormon clan over local aquifers goes back some six decades, and had
escalated dramatically over the last few years.
The farmers accuse the family of syphoning “excessive” amounts of
water from rivers and vital aquifers for the commercial cultivation of
maguey, nopal, and walnut trees, leaving nearby communities without
enough water for subsistence farming.
Mexico’s National Water Commission (CONAGUA) also alleges the
LeBarons’ have sunk hundreds of illegal wells on their properties.
They also have reservoirs allegedly bulldozed to hold water diverted
from local rivers, leaving little or nothing for indigenous
In one high-profile investigation, in November of 2017, CONAGUA found
a dozen illegal drainages on a single property, the La Mojina ranch,
owned by Julian and Joel LeBaron. In another case, local politician
Alexander LeBaron was accused of using his influence to grant 395
water concessions to family members and illegal strawman companies.
He flatly denied the accusation. But the resulting strain on the
Carmen River Basin and Flores Magón aquifer reportedly left some 900
families in the region without sufficient water.
“Mexico’s National Water Commission (CONAGUA) also alleges the
LeBaron’s have sunk hundreds of illegal wells on their properties.”
In April of 2018, more than 100 members of El Barzón invaded the
LeBaron family ranch at La Mora to protest the diminished water table.
They destroyed property, crops, and vehicles and, when they refused to
disperse, LeBaron family members reportedly opened fire on them. At
least one LeBaron and five campesinos (small farmers) were wounded in
In the aftermath, Julian LeBaron told a Mexican newspaper that he and
his family were prepared “take justice into our own hands” against the
Shortly thereafter Barzón leaders publicly announced that they’d
received death threats from the LeBarons. A few months later, in June
of 2018, two members of the ejido were murdered, supposedly for
“protecting water rights.” The crimes remain unsolved.
Then, in August of 2019, a court ruling in favor of the farmers
ordered Francisco LeBaron, Julian’s brother, to restore land allegedly
confiscated by the family from small farmers in Chihuahua.
It appears that court order was ignored by the LeBarons. In fact,
shortly before the massacre, El Barzón claimed the family was planning
to excavate 50 new wells.
As speculation that they might have been behind last week’s attack has
mounted, Barzón leaders have publicly denied any involvement. Joaquín
Solorio, a spokesman for the group who had two family members killed
while “defending the environment” in the Carmen River Basin in 2012,
has been particularly outspoken against the allegations his group was
responsible for the attack on the LeBaron caravan.
“I am a victim, too,” he told a Mexican news site. “I find it
distasteful, this finger pointing and speculation. It’s up to the
authorities to determine [who’s responsible]. The murder of women and
children is reprehensible.”
Spokespeople for the LeBaron family declined to be interviewed for
this article, so it was not possible to ask them if they considered
the conflict with El Barzón to be relevant to the attack.
However, shortly after the ranch invasion in 2018, family spokesperson
Julian LeBaron said in an interview with Televisa Chihuahua that he
was “quite worried” El Barzón would return “and finish destroying
The Barzón connection is the theory du jour in the Mexican press, but
there are still holes in this hypothesis. Barzón has a strong presence
in both neighboring states, but the main flashpoints in the conflict
between the farmers and the LeBarons centered around the family’s
compounds in Chihuahua.
Yet the Mormon convoy was attacked after departing a ranch across the
state line in Sonora. It’s also unusual for campesinos in Mexico to
possess the kind of firepower used in the ambush.
Still, it appears the special commission set up by President López
Obrador will be taking a long, hard look at El Barzón. “They’re
analyzing all the hypotheses, all of them, nothing is ruled out,” the
president said late last week.
A source within one of the local cartels, who agreed to speak with The
Daily Beast only under the condition of anonymity, said that whoever
was responsible for the attack against the LeBarons is now being
hunted by Sinaloa Cartel leader and former Chapo lieutenant Mayo
Mayo remains the most powerful capo in the Sonora-Chihuahua corridor.
And he’s supposedly deeply upset over the massacre, after having given
orders not to rock the boat after one of Chapo’s sons was arrested and
then rescued by cartel forces last month, the source said.
“If Sinaloa finds out who did this they’ll kill them immediately. Mayo
is fucking pissed. After the whole thing with Chapo’s son he wants to
lay low. And now they shoot up a bunch of blond-headed children and
put it all over the news?”
The source also said that the nature of the attack would seem to
indicate a desire for vengeance, or perhaps to drive the LeBaron
family out of the area once and for all.
“Kids? Little babies? This is more along the lines of retaliation,”
the source said. “Mexicans don’t kill a bunch of white kids for no
USC’s Bunker described cartel leaders like El Mayo as akin to
“warlords like we saw during the Dark Ages in Europe.”
In keeping with that analysis, the anonymous source implied that
Sinaloa chief Mayo is about to go medieval on those responsible for
the LeBaron massacre, be they cartel rivals or frustrated farmers
who’ve been cheated of their water rights.
“Whoever shot those kids is in for a bad ride,” the cartel insider
said. “They should hope the... government catches them before Mayo
11-NOV-2019 :: The Markets are Run by Machines, Computers, Algorithms and Bots
Once upon a time many many years ago, the markets were traded on the
Phone and a human had to speak to another human in order to trade. You
read the Paper on the way to work, the TV was always on, You relied on
a trusted network of humans in different parts of the World. That time
feels as long ago as a Fairy Tale. I recall in the 1990s when the
Internet arrived on the Trading Floor. Today, as The Economist
headlined October 5th, it is [The] ''March of the machines The
stockmarket is now run by computers, algorithms and passive managers''
Morningstar, a research firm, reported that for the first time, the
pot of passive equity assets it measures, at $4.3trn, exceeded that
run by humans. The Financial Markets are a ''Bot'' World with Bots
trading with each other. And There is clearly a convergence with
Computational propaganda The University of Oxford's Oxford Institute
Computational Propaganda Research project produced a research piece
which spoke of ''the use of algorithms, automation, and big data to
shape public life – is becoming a pervasive and ubiquitous part of
Cambridge Analytica's now infamous Andrew Nix said
“We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then
watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to
watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online
community and expands but with no branding – so it’s unattributable,
“So the candidate is the puppet?,” the undercover reporter asked.
“Always,” replied Mr Nix.
Practically every Trading day now and for over a year, President Trump
recycles the same headline.
The latest iteration ''Donald Trump says China trade talks moving
‘very nicely’, claiming Beijing wants deal more than US'' [SCMP].
Recycle the same headline over and over and over again. And each time
markets jump. And each time it means nothing tweeted @NorthmanTrader
You know why algos buy unsubstantiated headlines? Because they're
This Feedback Loop has lifted stock markets particularly in the United
States to all time highs and there has been a spillover into other
developed markets. The Human Institutional Memory has been eroded and
if you traded on the basis of fundamentals, You would have been
stopped out a decade ago. This is a House of Cards of simply monstrous
proportions and has been bulked up with the steroids of Free money,
negative interest rates and QE.
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
The Hollow Men T.S. ELIOT
Interestingly, last week, we saw a reversal of the overwhelming Safe
Haven Demand we had witnessed all year. Gold had its worse week in 2
years. G7 Government Bonds sold off. The US 10 year printed its
highest yield since mid Sep, trading above 1.90%. The German 10 year
yield was at its highest since mid July, last at -0.274%. French 10
Year Yields crossed into positive Territory.
The Global markets pirouette on the outcome of the Trade War. SCMP
news carried an article
Trade negotiator who got China into WTO is rooting for Trump’s
re-election because ‘Twitterer in Chief’ is easy to read.
Donald Trump, whose trade war with China has upended global supply
chains and imperilled the world’s economic growth, would be most
welcomed with another four years in the White House because he is
easier to read than other American politicians, said the negotiator
who led China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The US
president's daily Twitter posts broadcast his every impulse, delight
and peeve to 67 million followers around the world, making him “easy
to read” and “the best choice in an opponent for negotiations,” said
Long Yongtu, the former vice-minister of foreign trade and point man
during China’s 15-year talks to join the WTO nearly two decades ago
Now its clear that Trump is playing a Game and he has played it rather
well. And it is also within Xi's power to absolutely crash the US
market by simply pronouncing that ''No Trade Deal is possible'' and
the US stock indices will sink as far as the US Farm Economy has sunk
and with it Trump's relection chances. And my Final point is that
whilst the ‘Twitterer in Chief’ is easy to read, I am not sure he is
The risk of Bot and algorithmic mayhem is sky high and I am not sure
pumping the Patient with more QE and Free Money will do the trick next
The Bots will be waiting for Santa Claus and a Christmas rally so as
President Trump is wont to tweet
Stock Market up big today. A New Record. Enjoy!
"I was up there with him on the top of the world, and he said, 'Everything is going to be amazing,'" recalled Harrison Weber, WeWork's editorial director at the time. @nytimes
Then, Mr. Neumann picked up an old beer bottle — a remnant,
apparently, from some previous bender. He asked the employees to drink
the rank liquid. Everyone took a swig, except Mr. Weber. “It felt like
a loyalty thing,” he said. “In that moment, I felt what a deeply
persuasive person he is.”
there’s no question that Mr. Neumann’s good hair and looks helped his
cause. At 6 feet 5, he had a physical presence that could dominate a
Like Mr. Neumann, Mr. Son — known as Masa — quotes Yoda (“feel the
force”), trusts his instincts and tries to think centuries into the
future. At $100 billion, SoftBank’s Vision Fund is the world’s largest
technology investment fund, flush with cash from Saudi Arabia and Abu
Famously, in 2017, Mr. Neumann spent just 12 minutes walking Mr. Son
around WeWork’s headquarters, prompting an investment of $4.4 billion.
Afterward, an elated Mr. Neumann zoomed uptown in the back seat of his
chauffeured white Maybach, blaring rap, with an iPad open to a
rendering of the hasty digital spit-swear he’d just made with Mr. Son.
Mr. Neumann would convince employees to take shots of pricey Don Julio
tequila, work 20-hour days, attend 2 a.m. meetings. He’d convince them
to smoke marijuana at work, dance to Journey around a fire in the
woods on weekend excursions, smoke more pot, drink more tequila.
Even people who don’t really seem the tequila type would go along with
his act — including a pre-White House Jared Kushner, who imbibed while
scoping out a property in Philadelphia.
Like Mr. Neumann, Mr. Son was known to follow his gut and ignore the
naysayers. In 2000, he made a $20 million early investment in the
Chinese e-commerce venture Alibaba, now worth more than $100 billion,
because he’d noticed a “sparkle” in the chief executive’s eyes.
If a founder asked the Vision Fund for $40 million, Mr. Son might ask,
“What would you do with $400 million?”
“Masa has his own style and others might choke, but Adam would be
like, ‘$400 million? How about $4 billion, and I can do this for
you,’” said a senior executive with direct knowledge of the men’s
his first date with Rebekah. “She looked me straight in the eye and
she said, ‘You, my friend, are full of” crap, Mr. Neumann recalled.
“‘She then said, ‘Every single word that comes out of your mouth is
The Great Streaming Battle Is Here @netflix is in an enviable position with a big head start @WSJ
A new era is dawning in the entertainment world and you’re about to
get a whole lot more choices—for better or worse. The streaming wars
“The next 18 months are going to be the most interesting in the
history of the entertainment business—the grounds are shifting,” said
Hollywood veteran Steve Mosko, chief executive of the production
company Village Roadshow Entertainment, which is developing projects
for multiple streaming outlets.
Price: $12.99 for most popular tier
Launch: streaming since 2007
Identity: Catch me if you can.
Portfolio overview: With a vast library of TV shows and movies and a
growing number of popular originals, Netflix doesn’t want to replace
one channel. It wants to replace them all.
Total programming: 1500 TV shows, 4000 movies
Subscribers: 158 million world-wide
Originals of note: “Stranger Things,” “The Crown,” “The Irishman”
TV to rewatch: “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men” and, coming soon, “Seinfeld”
Classic movies: “Rebel Without A Cause,” “Rocky”
Biggest asset: A giant head start
23-SEP-2019 :: Streaming Dreams Non-Linearity Netflix
I stuck ‘’non-linearity’’ in my headline for good reason and you will
need to indulge me. My Mind kept to an Article I read in 2012 ‘’Annals
of Technology Streaming Dreams’’ by John Seabrook January 16, 2012.
“This world of online video is the future, and for an artist you want
to be first in, to be a pioneer. With YouTube, I will have a very
small crew, and we are trying to keep focused on a single voice. There
aren’t any rules. There’s just the artist, the content, and the
“People went from broad to narrow,” he said, “and we think they will
continue to go that way—spend more and more time in the niches—
because now the distribution landscape allows for more narrowness’’.
And this brought me to Netflix. Netflix spearheaded a streaming
revolution that changed the way we watch TV and films. As cable TV
lost subscribers, Netflix gained them, putting it in a category with
Facebook, Amazon, and Google as one of the adored US tech stocks that
led a historic bull market [FT].
Netflix faces an onslaught of competition in the market it invented.
After years of false starts, Apple is planning to launch a streaming
service in November, as is Disney — with AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Com-
cast’s NBCUniversal to follow early next year.
Netflix has corrected brutally and lots of folks are bailing big time
especially after Netflix lost US subscribers in the last quarter. Even
after the loss of subscribers in the second quarter, Ben Swinburne,
head of media research at Morgan Stanley, says Netflix is still on
course for a record year of subscriber additions.
Optimists point to the group’s global reach. It is betting its future
on expansion outside the US, where it has already attracted 60m
subscribers. And this is an inflection point just like the one I am
signaling in the Oil markets.
Netflix is not a US business, it is a global business. The Majority of
Analysts are in the US and in my opinion, these same Analysts have an
international ‘’blind spot’’ Once Investors appreciate that the Story
is an international one and not a US one anymore, we will see the
price ramp to fresh all-time highs.
I, therefore, am putting out a ‘’conviction’’ Buy on Netflix at
Friday’s closing price of $270.75.
Oil is a 'broken barometer' and 'lagging indicator' of Middle East tensions, energy expert says @CNBC H/T @hervegogo [I look for $60.00 WTI]
Oil is a “broken barometer” and a “lagging indicator of Middle East
stress,” according to Helima Croft, managing director and global head
of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.
Investors are underestimating supply-side risks, Croft told CNBC at
the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference on
“We have a market that is singularly focused on the demand side; the
whole idea that Chinese demand is going to go off a cliff,” said
Croft, a closely-watched oil market expert.
But China’s crude oil imports are resilient, she added.
In October, crude oil imports into China rose 11.5% from a year
earlier to a record high, Reuters reported.
However, investors have been spooked by the fallout from the
U.S.-China trade dispute and a global economic slowdown, leading to a
broader market selloff and lackluster oil prices, Croft said.
At the same time, they are also brushing off supply risks in the Middle East.
“They’re looking at the Middle East saying ‘it’s noise, we’ve seen
this before, even when we had the type of attacks which are almost
unprecedented in this market. They are thinking ‘well, we can get over
this, we have U.S. production and we have demand worries,’” she said.
Considering U.S. sanctions on Iran, current oil prices are “amazing,”
said Croft. The market is “basically saying ‘we are swimming in oil,
it doesn’t matter; someone can fill every supply gap,’” she added.
India's @narendramodi has had a free pass from the west for too long @FinancialTimes @gideonrachman
The world’s democracies are desperate to believe in India. From
Washington to Tokyo, and from Canberra to London, the country is
viewed as an indispensable counterbalance to China. The two Asian
giants are the only countries in the world with populations of over
Last year America’s Defense Department renamed its Pacific command the
Indo-Pacific command — a reconception of the geopolitical map that is
clearly intended to balance Chinese power by bringing India into the
In September, Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, appeared
alongside US president Donald Trump at a Texas rally. In Europe, India
is lauded as the world’s largest democracy — a refreshing contrast to
The west’s investment in India is now strategic, emotional,
intellectual and financial. But the sunk costs of that investment mean
that western countries are reluctant to acknowledge the dark side of
Mr Modi’s India — in particular, threats to minority rights and the
erosion of democratic norms.
Since Mr Modi won a crushing re-election victory earlier this year,
the alarming side to his government has come increasingly to the fore.
On August 5, it abolished the special constitutional status of the
majority-Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir — and followed up with a
broad clampdown on civil liberties, including the
detention-without-trial of leading Kashmiri politicians.
Opposition politicians, human rights activists and Delhi-based foreign
correspondents have been prevented from visiting the region.
There is also rising anxiety about a citizenship-determination
exercise in the state of Assam that has seen 2m of the state’s
residents designated illegal immigrants, with no right to live in
Mr Modi’s government says it carried out the exercise to comply with a
Supreme Court order. But it is now building camps to hold those deemed
illegal immigrants. It talks of extending the process across the
The weight of this campaign will fall hard on India’s Muslim minority.
The administration is expected to push through a new citizenship law
that will give any Hindu deemed to be fleeing persecution in a
neighbouring country, the automatic right to Indian citizenship.
So only Muslims will be at risk of being deemed illegal residents.
The sense that the political winds are moving against India’s Muslims
will be strengthened by this week’s Supreme Court ruling that a Hindu
temple can be built on a long-contested holy site in the city of
Hindu nationalists, whipped up on social media, are delighted by Mr
Modi’s increasing boldness. But some of the country’s leading
intellectuals are sounding the alarm.
Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize-winning economist now resident in the US,
told The New Yorker magazine that his friends are reluctant to
criticise the government on the phone, adding, “People are afraid.
I’ve never seen this before.”
Alarmed by the increasingly compliant judiciary (and much of the
media), Pratap Bhanu Mehta, an eminent Indian academic, has written
that: “The noose is tightening around all independent institutions in
In its defence, the Modi administration can point to its undoubted
popularity — confirmed in this year’s elections. The government still
enjoys support from business, which appreciates the promise to cut red
tape and a recent corporate tax cut.
Mr Modi’s focus on the living conditions of the poor — in particular
through the construction of more toilets to prevent “open defecation”
— is also rightly praised.
But the economy is now slowing. Delhi and other Indian cities are
suffering a crisis over air-quality. Under these conditions, the
argument that Mr Modi’s strongman style might be a price worth paying
for economic progress is harder to make.
The Trump administration’s failure to make a fuss about human rights
reflects more than strategic and diplomatic calculation. In important
respects, Mr Trump and Mr Modi are ideological soulmates.
They are both assertive majoritarians, scornful of liberal concerns
with minority rights. They have promised to crack down on illegal
immigration and have stoked fears of Islamic extremism — partly as a
way of consolidating their political base.
Mr Modi’s many defenders argue that one of his great strengths is
that, like Mr Trump, he is in touch with “the common man” — he cares
little for the opinions of urban elites.
The Indian government could also borrow a phrase from the Israelis,
who like to remind foreign critics that they “live in a tough
There is little doubt that religious and ethnic minorities have fared
worse in many of India’s neighbours — including Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri
Lanka and China.
But India used to take pride in its status as a tolerant, multifaith
democracy. The Modi government’s increasingly strident Hindu
nationalism is putting that achievement at risk.
The west’s fear of China means that it is likely to continue to give
Modi’s India a free pass for some time. But a failure to talk openly
about the failings of the Modi model is not cost-free.
The danger is that the west is embracing a comforting illusion — that
democratic India will act as an ideological bulwark against
authoritarian China. The reality is that India’s slide into
illiberalism may actually be strengthening the global trend towards
Kabir by Swami Sivananda
When Kabir died, his body was claimed by both the Hindus and the
Mohammedans. The King of Kashi, with thousands of Hindus, wanted to
cremate the body. The Hindus claimed that Kabir was a Hindu and that
therefore his body should be burnt. Bizli Khan, with thousands of
Mohammedans, wanted to bury it.
The Mohammedans said that Kabir was a Muslim and therefore his body
ought to be buried under Mohammedan rites.
While they were quarrelling, Kabir's apparition appeared and said, "I
was neither a Hindu nor a Mohammedan. I was both. I was nothing. I was
all. I discern God in both. There is no Hindu and no Mussalman. To him
who is free from delusion, Hindu and Mussalman are the same. Remove
the shroud and behold the miracle!"
The shroud was removed. A large quantity of flowers was seen under it.
Half of the flowers was taken by the king of Kashi and burnt on the
bank of holy Ganga. The ashes were then buried and a temple was built.
This temple is known by the name of Kabir Chaura--a great place of
pilgrimage for the followers of Kabir. The other half of the flowers
was taken by the Mohammedans and buried at Moghar where Kabir died. A
mosque was built over the grave. This is a place of pilgrimage for the
India's Factory Output Posts Steepest Decline in Eight Years @economics
India’s factory output shrank to the lowest level in eight years, as a
sharp fall in capital goods production underlined weak demand in
Asia’s third-largest economy.
The index of industrial production fell 4.3% in September, data
released by the Ministry of Statistics showed Monday. That compares
with an estimate for a 2.5% contraction, and is the lowest since
Capital goods output dropped 20.7% from a year ago, while consumer
durables fell 9.9%
The second straight month of decline in factory output caps yet
another quarter of subdued activity, belying expectations of a quick
recovery after economic growth slipped to a six-year low of 5% in the
Gross domestic product data for the three months to September is due
Nov. 29 and will probably show a mild recovery in growth to 5.5%.
Economists, however, say that may be more because of a favorable base
Sub Saharan Africa
How Russia Meddles Abroad for Profit: Cash, Trolls and a Cult Leader @nytimes
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar — The Russians were hard to miss. They
appeared suddenly last year in Madagascar’s traffic-snarled capital,
carrying backpacks stuffed with cash and campaign swag decorated with
the name of Madagascar’s president.
It was one of Russia’s most overt attempts at election interference to
date. Working from their headquarters in a resort hotel, the Russians
published their own newspaper in the local language and hired students
to write fawning articles about the president to help him win another
Skirting electoral laws, they bought airtime on television stations
and blanketed the country with billboards.
They paid young people to attend rallies and journalists to cover
them. They showed up with armed bodyguards at campaign offices to
bribe challengers to drop out of the race to clear their candidate’s
At Madagascar’s election commission, officials were alarmed.
“We all recall what the Russians did in the United States during the
election,” said Thierry Rakotonarivo, the commission’s vice president.
“We were truly afraid.”
Of all the places for Russia to try to swing a presidential election,
Madagascar is perhaps one of the least expected. The island nation off
the coast of southeastern Africa is thousands of miles away from
Moscow and has little obvious strategic value for the Kremlin or the
global balance of power.
But two years after the Russians’ aggressive interference in the
United States, here they were, determined to expand their clout and
apply their special brand of election meddling to a distant political
The operation was approved by President Vladimir V. Putin and
coordinated by some of the same figures who oversaw the disinformation
around the 2016 American presidential election, according to dozens of
interviews with officials in Madagascar, local operatives hired to
take part in the Russian campaign and hundreds of pages of internal
documents produced by the Russian operatives.
The meddling in Madagascar began just a few weeks after Mr. Putin sat
down with the nation’s president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, in Moscow
The meeting, which has never been reported, also included Yevgeny
Prigozhin, a close confidant of Mr. Putin who was indicted in the
United States for helping to orchestrate Russia’s effort to manipulate
the 2016 American election, according to Mr. Rajaonarimampianina and
another government minister present on the trip to Moscow.
Mr. Putin has repeatedly denied any official effort to tamper with
foreign elections. But his sit-down with Madagascar’s president — Mr.
Prigozhin by his side — points to his involvement in Russia’s
electoral interference in even the smallest, most remote countries.
In some vital ways, the Madagascar operation mimicked the one in the
United States. There was a disinformation campaign on social media and
an attempt to bolster so-called spoiler candidates.
The Russians even recruited an apocalyptic cult leader in a strategy
to split the opposition vote and sink its chances.
“What surprised me is that it was the Russians who came over to my
house without me contacting them,” said the cult leader, known as
Pastor Mailhol. “They said, ‘If you ever need money, we are going to
pay all the expenses.’”
But while Russia’s efforts in the United States fit Moscow’s campaign
to upend Western democracy and rattle Mr. Putin’s geopolitical rivals,
the undertaking in Madagascar often seemed to have a much simpler
Before the election, a Russian company that local officials and
foreign diplomats say is controlled by Mr. Prigozhin acquired a major
stake in a government-run company that mines chromium, a mineral
valued for its use in stainless steel.
The acquisition set off protests by workers complaining of unpaid
wages, canceled benefits and foreign intrusion into a sector that had
been a source of national pride for Madagascar.
It repeated a pattern in which Russia has swooped into African
nations, hoping to reshape their politics for material gain. In the
Central African Republic, a former Russian intelligence officer is the
top security adviser to the country’s president, while companies
linked to Mr. Prigozhin have spread across the nation, snapping up
diamonds in both legal and illegal ways, according to government
officials, warlords in the diamond trade and registration documents
showing Mr. Prigozhin’s growing military and commercial footprint.
Last year, three Russian journalists were gunned down while
investigating his activities there.
“Prigozhin had tremendous success in 2016, and he is now the guy
everyone is watching,” said Paul Stronski, a senior fellow at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“He’s got some boots on the ground, people peddling stuff in different
countries in Africa. These are countries with authoritarian-style
leaders who need a little extra help to win. And in return, he gets
access to some of the goodies.”
But Russia’s forays abroad have been far from flawless. For all its
efforts, the operation in Madagascar missed its mark at first, plagued
by a startling incompetence and corruption that undercuts Russia’s
image as a master political manipulator.
Campaign materials were riddled with grammatical mistakes. Ballpoint
pens meant as election giveaways misspelled Mr. Rajaonarimampianina’s
Some operatives appeared to undermine the campaign for their own
personal gain, demanding fake receipts with double the actual price of
publishing the newspaper so they could pocket the difference.
“They paid well, but they were messing around,” said the printing
house owner, Lola Rasoamaharo.
One person working for the campaign described packets of gold and
precious stones piled on the bed in the room of a Russian operative,
another sign that the people entrusted with the mission were often
more interested in profit than politics.
They also chose the wrong candidate. As it became clear that Mr.
Rajaonarimampianina had little hope of winning, even with their help,
the Russian operatives pivoted quickly, dumping the incumbent, whom
they referred to as “the piano,” and shifting their support to the
eventual winner, Andry Rajoelina.
“The piano is very weak,” Yaroslav Ignatovsky, a manager of the
operation, wrote to a colleague in a text exchange obtained by the
Dossier Center, a London-based research organization. “He’ll never
make it. But we have to make it somehow.”
The maneuver worked. After the Russians pirouetted to help Mr.
Rajoelina — their former opponent — win the election, Mr. Prigozhin’s
company was able to negotiate with the new government to keep control
of the chromium mining operation, despite the worker protests, and Mr.
Prigozhin’s political operatives remain stationed in the capital to
It all started with a secret meeting.
News reports described Mr. Rajaonarimampianina’s three-day trip to
Moscow in March, 2018, as mundane: He attended an investment forum,
met a foreign ministry official and received an honorary degree from a
But at some point, his plans veered from the published itinerary.
Slipping away from the press pool, he made his way to the Kremlin.
There, in the private office of the Russian president, he met for no
more than 30 minutes with Mr. Putin and Mr. Prigozhin.
In an interview, Mr. Rajaonarimampianina explained that Mr. Prigozhin
had set up the meeting, and even met him at the airport in Moscow. But
he insisted that the presidential election, scheduled for that fall,
was not discussed.
Others remembered things differently. Harison E. Randriarimanana, a
former agriculture minister who accompanied the president to Moscow,
said that after the meeting his boss proudly announced that Mr. Putin
had agreed to assist with his re-election campaign.
“Putin said he wanted to help him,” Mr. Randriarimanana recalled the
president saying. “He was going to help us with the election.”
Just weeks later, local residents were startled by the sudden
appearance of Russian operatives in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s
The operation happened alongside an aggressive push by the Kremlin to
revive relations with a number of African countries.
For Moscow, Africa had been an important ideological battlefield
during the Cold War, and Mr. Putin, who makes no secret of his
nostalgia for the Soviet Union, views the continent as an important
front for combating the West’s global influence.
Last month, Mr. Putin played host to more than 40 African heads of
state, including Madagascar’s, at a summit meeting in the Black Sea
resort town of Sochi to showcase Russia’s growing stature as a player
in the region and present his country as a partner preferable to the
“We see how a number of Western governments have resorted to
pressuring, bullying and blackmailing the governments of sovereign
African countries,” Mr. Putin said before the meeting. By contrast, he
added, “Our African agenda has a positive, aspirational character.”
In recent years, a parade of African leaders have paid visits to the
Kremlin, seeking lucrative deals with Russia’s giant state-run
companies, including for weapons.
In dollar terms, Russia is no match for China or the United States,
which have tens of billions of dollars worth of economic investment in
But for some leaders in search of a political edge, Russia has
developed a handy tool kit, which is where Mr. Prigozhin comes in.
After being indicted on charges of intervening in the 2016 American
election, he has traveled the world, proffering his services.
In Africa, he has found a highly receptive market. He and his
operatives have been active in nearly a dozen African countries,
including Libya, Sudan and Zimbabwe, analysts say.
In the interview, Mr. Rajaonarimampianina described his meeting with
Mr. Putin as run-of-the-mill for someone of his stature. During his
tenure, he had met with the leaders of China and India, and twice
visited the White House.
But unlike those encounters, the meeting with Mr. Putin and Mr.
Prigozhin was kept secret.
Mr. Rajaonarimampianina insisted that he took “not one penny from the
Russians” for his campaign, though he did not rule out that the
Kremlin worked to assist him without his knowledge. “Everything is
possible in politics,” he said.
He stumbled a bit when shown a letter with his signature written to a
Russian political operative named Oleg Vasilyevich Zakhariyash. In the
letter, written in French and stamped “PROJET CONFIDENTIEL,” the
president requests the Russian’s help “to resist attempts by
international institutions to interfere” in Madagascar’s election.
Western diplomats had, in fact, been concerned that the president was
trying to delay the vote.
“I am convinced,” the president’s letter said, “that certain forces
will attempt to call into doubt” the election.
Mr. Rajaonarimampianina confirmed that the signature on the letter was
his and acknowledged meeting Mr. Zakhariyash in Madagascar, but he
said he did not recall writing the letter.
Mr. Zakhariyash, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment,
was later quoted by RIAFAN, a Russian news outlet connected to
companies owned by Mr. Prigozhin, blaming the United States, Britain
and France for interfering in the Madagascar elections.
Local residents hired by the Russian operation in Madagascar described
Mr. Zakhariyash as “the boss.” Likewise, one of the Russian unit’s
internal spreadsheets identified him as the “head of department.”
He is also one of two authors of a confidential report detailing plans
for the Madagascar campaign, including the creation of a “troll
factory” to focus on social media, echoing the tactics Mr. Prigozhin
is accused of unleashing on the United States.
The documents — along with text exchanges and emails between Russian
operatives — were obtained and analyzed by the Dossier Center, a
London-based investigative organization founded by Mr. Putin’s
longtime nemesis, the former oil billionaire Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky.
Through interviews with officials, candidates and local operatives in
Madagascar, The New York Times independently confirmed much of the
information in the documents, which the Dossier Center said were
provided by moles working within Mr. Prigozhin’s organization.
The spreadsheets name more than 30 Russians working in the country
ahead of the election, calling them media managers, lawyers,
translators and a “counterpropaganda technologist.”
People in Madagascar hired by the Russians to work on the campaign
verified many of the operatives’ identities.
Many of them appear to be from St. Petersburg, where Mr. Prigozhin’s
so-called troll factory is based. But not all. Several worked for the
Russian-backed separatist government in eastern Ukraine.
One attracted attention earlier this year when his wife posted a photo
of her battered and bruised face on Facebook, accusing her husband of
Few appeared to have much expertise on Madagascar, or on Africa at all
— and it showed, locals said. They often used a translation
application on their phones to communicate and had little
understanding of local politics.
“They’re always going around with money, they’re always going around
with women,” said one Malagasy man who worked with the Russians and
“They just thought it was all very simple in Madagascar. They arrived
and that’s it, let’s go. That’s why it all fell apart.”
Nearly two decades ago, André Christian Dieudonné Mailhol, the founder
and pastor of the Church of the Apocalypse, said he received a message
from God that he would be president of Madagascar one day.
He did not predict, however, that three Russians would turn up like
Magi on his doorstep 18 years later with an offer to help fulfill that
“They said that they came here to help me with the presidential
election,” he said.
The three gathered in his brightly painted living room in 2018,
peppering him with questions: “How old are you? Why do you want to run
for the presidency?”
Pastor Mailhol explained God’s plan for him, and they offered him
cash, promising to fully fund his campaign.
They never fully explained who they were, he said, beyond giving their
first names — Andrei, Vladimir and Roman — and never said what they
wanted in return. Pastor Mailhol didn’t ask.
“I just thought, a powerful country came to my house and suggested
helping me. Why would I bother them with questions like, ‘Who are you?
What are you here for?’” the pastor, 59, recalled.
“No other foreign countries came to help me. They were the only ones,
so I did not want to ask much. I was O.K. with that.”
The strategy of supporting so-called spoiler candidates is another
echo of the 2016 plot to subvert the American election, in which
Russian social media bots encouraged support for figures like Jill
Stein, the Green Party candidate — as a way, officials say, to draw
votes away from Hillary Clinton.
Pastor Mailhol said his Russian team wrote some of his speeches and
paid for campaign posters and television advertising. On one internal
spreadsheet, the “Pastor Group” is identified as Andrei Kramar,
Vladimir Boyarishchev and Roman Pozdnyakov.
Shown photos of the men from Facebook, Pastor Mailhol and his
assistants confirmed they were the men who worked with his campaign.
They made for a curious team. A photo of Mr. Boyarishchev posted to a
Russian social media site in 2012 shows him shirtless, flexing his
biceps and wearing the blue beret of a United Nations peacekeeper.
Other social media posts suggest he served in a United Nations mission
in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pastor Mailhol said he spoke
excellent French, which many educated Malagasy know well.
The other two have equally colorful histories. In a Facebook post from
a decade ago, Mr. Kramar describes himself as a member of Mr. Putin’s
political party, United Russia, but later he popped up in eastern
Ukraine as a functionary in a Kremlin-backed separatist enclave that
has been fighting a war against Ukraine since 2014.
Ukrainian authorities say the third operative, Mr. Pozdnyakov, is also
involved with the pro-Kremlin rebels. His wife, once a United Russia
member of Parliament, is the head of the separatist government’s
Other presidential candidates in Madagascar gave similar accounts of
Russians turning up out of the blue, some with bags of cash.
Onja Rasamimanana, who worked for a history professor-turned-candidate
named Jean Omer Beriziky, said she coordinated with a Maksim, an
Anastasia and a Margo, who was the interpreter. “And then a Grigori
showed up,” she said.
“They were looking for fresh faces,” she said. “They didn’t explain
anything. They didn’t mention anything regarding their motivations.”
She said that her candidate, Mr. Beriziky, later told her the Russians
offered $2 million in campaign funding, but ultimately provided less
than half a million.
Two Russians also approached a pop megastar running for president,
Rasolofondraosolo Zafimahaleo, also known as Dama. Over four meetings,
Mr. Zafimahaleo said, the Russians tried to pressure him to support a
delay in the election so that the incumbent had more time to campaign.
“They made big promises,” Mr. Zafimahaleo said. “‘If you do what we
want you to do, we’ll help your campaign,’” he said they told him. He
refused, he said, suspecting that the Russians had come to exploit
Madagascar’s natural resources.
Only three of the Russian operatives identified by local hires of the
campaign responded to requests for comment. All acknowledged visiting
Madagascar last year, but only one admitted working as a pollster on
behalf of the president.
The others said they were simply tourists. Pyotr Korolyov, described
as a sociologist on one spreadsheet, spent much of the summer of 2018
and fall hunched over a computer, deep in polling data at La Résidence
Ankerana, a hotel the Russians used as their headquarters, until he
was hospitalized with the measles, according to one person who worked
In an email exchange, Mr. Korolyov confirmed that he had come down
with the measles, but rejected playing a role in a Russian operation.
He did defend the idea of one, though.
“Russia should influence elections around the world, the same way the
United States influences elections,” he wrote. “Sooner or later Russia
will return to global politics as a global player,” he added. “And the
American establishment will just have to accept that.”
‘We Were So Dumb’
As the election approached, the Russians grew nervous and frustrated.
In one text message, Mr. Ignatovsky, who helped oversee the operation,
describes Madagascar as a “black hole.”
One of his colleagues complains that “everything is ass-backward,” and
that the “unhappy locals” were impeding the team’s work.
But the Russians were setting off alarms, too.
An op-ed in a local newspaper warned that after meddling in the United
States, Russia had set its sights on Madagascar.
“Russia badly wants to make good use of its impressive experience in
destabilization” by intervening in Madagascar, the article said.
“Vodka will flow like water if they achieve their goal.”
Relations with the various candidates the Russians were backing began
to sour. By September, they had dumped the incumbent, Mr.
Rajaonarimampianina, deciding he was too unpopular to win, according
to internal communications.
In the interview in Paris, Mr. Rajaonarimampianina said he was aware
the Russians were supporting other candidates and became indignant
when told of the Russians’ conclusion that he was a losing bet.
“How could they know that I will lose the election?” he said.
In the first round, he received less than 9 percent of the vote,
finishing a distant third.
The Russians shifted their support to Mr. Rajoelina, a young former
mayor who had been Madagascar’s transitional president after a coup in
In the campaign’s final weeks, Pastor Mailhol said, the team of
Russians made a request: Drop out of the race and support Mr.
Rajoelina. He refused.
The Russians made the same proposal to the history professor running
for president, saying, “‘If you accept this deal you will have
money,’” according to Ms. Rasamimanana, the professor’s campaign
When the professor refused, she said, the Russians created a fake
Facebook page that mimicked his official page and posted an
announcement on it that he was supporting Mr. Rajoelina.
The members of the so-called Pastor Group — Mr. Kramar, Mr. Pozdnyakov
and Mr. Boyarishchev — were arrested and deported last year after
organizing a protest in front of the French Embassy.
They left without fully paying what they owed their local operatives,
said Niaina Rakotonjanahary, the pastor’s campaign spokeswoman.
“It happened to all of us who worked there,” she said. “We were so dumb.”
As in the American election, it is not clear whether the Russians
directly colluded with the eventual winner, Mr. Rajoelina, or simply
operated a parallel campaign to support him.
Before switching sides, the Russians had local hires write articles
disparaging Mr. Rajoelina, according to one of the people who worked
“They asked me to write bad things about Andry Rajoelina — that he
sold our lands to the Chinese,” said the person, speaking anonymously
for fear of reprisals.
“During the second round of the presidential election, though, they
asked me to write good things about Andry Rajoelina.”
Mr. Rajoelina declined to comment, but an official from his campaign
said that his team was aware of Russian payments to other candidates
In the end, the Russians retained their prize — control over the
chromium operation. They now maintain a staff of 30 in the country,
including engineers and geologists.
The contract gives them a 70 percent stake in the venture, said Nirina
Rakotomanantsoa, the managing director of the Malagasy company that
owns the remaining share.
“The contract is already signed,” he said. “I am thankful the Russians
Not all the Russian operatives appeared satisfied. In a moment of
doubt, Yevgeny Kopot, a Prigozhin functionary who appears to play a
coordinating role for operations in different African countries, sent
a text message to a colleague in Madagascar in January.
“Do you think that we’re disgracing our country?” he asked, according
to texts obtained by the Dossier Center. “Or devaluing her name?”
The colleague told him not to worry. “If you think about it,” she
replied, “the whole planet is disgraced. Not the planet, precisely,
Foreign diplomats and political colleagues have told Tundu Lissu, 51, that "the order is out that I be killed on arrival", he told @thetimes from Belgium, where he has been recuperating
He predicted that unless Mr @MagufuliJP’s campaign of terror was
checked “we are looking at Zimbabwe and all that entails — the
complete breakdown of economy and society”
Two years after he survived being shot 16 times by unknown assailants,
Tanzania’s best-known opposition figure has been warned that he will
be killed if he returns home to challenge the autocratic president for
Foreign diplomats and political colleagues have told Tundu Lissu, 51,
that “the order is out that I be killed on arrival”, he told The Times
from Belgium, where he has been recuperating.
The former MP and chief whip for the main opposition Chadema party has
approached foreign governments to provide diplomatic protection so
that he can return to campaign against President Magufuli, 60, in next
year’s general elections amid a climate of fear in the former British
New independent reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights
Watch paint an alarming picture of Tanzania’s descent into tyranny
since Mr Magufuli took office in 2015.
It had been a stable, liberal state of 57 million people in a region
strewn with autocracies before he introduced draconian laws designed
to silence critics.
Mr Lissu had 22 operations after the shooting, which took place
outside his home on a secure compound for senior parliamentarians in
the capital, Dodoma. Six bullets were taken from his stomach. One is
lodged near his spine. No arrests have been made.
“No one is safe in Tanzania while Magufuli is in power and I pose a
significant threat to him,” Mr Lissu said. “Multiple local and
international contacts have heard of the order out to get me as soon
as I return.
“The thinking of the government is that ‘yes, there will be a fuss for
a few weeks rather like Jamal Khashoggi [the journalist murdered in
the Saudi consulate in Istanbul] but then it is a return to business
as usual’. The risk of killing me is seen as manageable.”
His Chadema party will not contest this month’s local elections,
accusing the ruling Party of the Revolution (Chama Cha Mapinduzi, or
CCM) of cheating and terrifying its candidates.
However, Mr Lissu is determined to challenge Mr Magufuli next year to
prevent him winning a second five-year term.
In its report Amnesty condemned the regime’s “record of ruthlessly
disembowelling” human rights.
As well as a crackdown on political opponents, journalists and critics
have been silenced with beatings, arrests, disappearances and
draconian new laws.
The 2015 Cyber Crimes Act has given police the right to monitor
citizens’ digital communications, while the wide definition of
sedition in the 2016 Media Services Act has made it effectively
illegal to criticise the government in any way.
Mr Magufuli, known as “the bulldozer” for his fondness for ambitious,
expensive infrastructure projects, has stated publicly that he is
monitoring conversations between his ministers.
The president’s tyrannical tendencies are hurting his country’s
economy, the International Monetary Fund has said.
Foreign direct investment fell to 2 per cent of GDP in 2017, down from
about 5 per cent in 2014, according to the World Bank. Foreign
exchange reserves have dropped by 20 per cent in the past year.
Mr Lissu said he had been shocked by Britain’s “selfish silence” as it
continues to channel millions of pounds in aid to the country, much of
it through the government.
he predicted that unless Mr Magufuli’s campaign of terror was checked
“we are looking at Zimbabwe and all that entails — the complete
breakdown of economy and society”.
Zimbabwe Bourse CEO Bemoans 80% Currency Crash Ravaging Market @markets
When it comes to adverse conditions for stock-market trading,
Zimbabwe’s bourse belongs in a special category for extreme cases.
Consider the challenges confronting Zimbabwe Stock Exchange Chief
Executive Officer Justin Bgoni: a local currency that has crashed more
than 80% since a peg to the U.S. dollar was ended in February and
annual inflation that the International Monetary Fund estimates at
While Harare’s Industrial Index is at a record high and market
capitalization in local currency terms has surged by 169% from a year
ago to Z$31 billion, in dollar terms they have crumbled to the lowest
in a decade, at $1.9 billion.
In the past, investors have used the stock market as a shelter to ride
out economic turmoil in the southern African nation, but its haven
status has been shaken by the return of the Zimbabwe dollar and
“Our market capitalization in U.S. dollar terms -- that’s just been
worse, we are almost half of what we are normally at,” Bgoni, in the
job since March, said in an interview in his office in the capital,
Harare. “If it was a normal country, where things are not indexed in
U.S. dollars, things wouldn’t be so bad.”
When it comes to assessing individual stocks, hyperinflation skews the
picture for traders, said Lloyd Mlotshwa, head of equities at IH
Securities, a Harare-based brokerage. While companies are showing
significant gains in revenue, actual volumes of products sold are down
and overall performance is deteriorating.
“The massive devaluation of the currency has also caused a dislocation
in stock market valuations,” said Mlotshwa. “Some firms are trading
below the replacement values of their plants. At the same time,
sentiment is so negative that this isn’t necessarily being interpreted
as a buy signal.”
In February, the 1:1 parity peg between so-called bond notes and the
U.S dollar was removed. In June, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube
abolished the use of the multicurrency system and reintroduced the
Zimbabwe dollar as sole legal tender, almost a decade after it went
out of circulation because of hyperinflation.
The Zimbabwe dollar on Friday was trading at 15.85 per U.S dollar,
compared with the February rate of 2.5 adopted at the end of parity.
Economic conditions in Zimbabwe, its struggling companies and
inconsistent government policies all make local stocks less attractive
to foreigners, Bgoni said.
In terms of market development and options for investors, he estimated
the bourse trailed African peers in Botswana, Kenya and Nigeria by
about 10 years.
“We are really down on foreign investors and we almost have no new
money coming in,” he said.
Foreigners accounted for 15% of trades in October, the lowest in three
years, and down from the record 82% in February this year.
“We want foreign investors, especially when you have a devaluation of
this sort, because they would be able to see bargains and bring up the
prices,” Bgoni said.
“But then, they can’t take their money out,” due to foreign-exchange
controls and other Treasury regulations, he added.
@Visa is paying $200 million for 20% stake in @InterswitchGRP Nigeria's largest electronic payments company, @SkyNews reports @qzafrica
The investment places a billion-dollar valuation on 17-year old
Interswitch and is a major boon ahead of a proposed initial public
offering slated for the London Stock Exchange next year.
Interswitch declined to comment on news of the investment.
While Visa’s stake purchase would confirm Interswitch’s unicorn
status, the company was reportedly set to be valued at as much as $1.5
billion ahead of a planned IPO next year.
The company’s previous plans for a 2016 IPO were scrapped amid a
recession in Nigeria. Interswitch would not be the first
Africa-focused tech company to achieve the billion-dollar so-called
Jumia, the e-commerce company, led by a mix of international
executives and investors listed for over $1.4 billion in April.
The company’s services range from powering online payment platforms
and point-of-sale terminals to a debit card network with 19 million
active cards. Given its sheer size, strength and lifespan, Interswitch
is often thought of as part of the establishment, alongside
traditional banks, that fintech startups might be looking to disrupt.
In fact, numerous new entrant startups in online payments launched on
the premise of providing alternative online payment platforms to
Interswitch which was deemed inflexible and too expensive for
For its part, Interswitch has already signaled its appetite for
acquisitions in African markets. Last week, it bought a majority stake
in e-Clat Healthcare, a health-tech company. It also acquired VANSO, a
financial services startup, in 2016 and acquired a majority stake in
Paynet, an East Africa-focused payments provider two years earlier.
Their so-called Building Bridges Initiative envisions an end to a winner-take-all electoral system, watering down the executive's powers and an enhanced role for parliament, according to a draft seen by @business @herbling
A plan championed by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition
leader Raila Odinga to end ethnic animosity may end up widening fault
lines that have triggered sporadic violence in the East African
The two men commissioned a study on how to promote reconciliation in
the wake of a disputed election in 2017 that threatened to reignite a
conflict in which more than 1,100 people died a decade earlier.
Their so-called Building Bridges Initiative envisions an end to a
winner-take-all electoral system, watering down the executive’s powers
and an enhanced role for parliament, according to a draft seen by
The document was verified by people with knowledge of the report, who
asked not to be identified because the information is still private
and could be amended.
While most politicians initially welcomed the rapprochement between
the one-time foes and their attempts at nation-building, it’s caused
ructions in the ruling Jubilee Party because it could pave the way for
Odinga to become president in 2022 and leave Kenyatta’s deputy,
William Ruto, out in the cold.
“Ruto is deeply suspicious of BBI because he sees it as a vehicle to
create a coalition that excludes him,” said Nic Cheeseman, a professor
of democracy at the University of Birmingham in the U.K.
“The threat is that this then raises the political temperatures, and
each side starts to prepare for the worst.”
Kenyan politics have long been a minefield, with largely ethnic-based
coalitions determining who wields power.
The five biggest groups are Kenyatta’s Kikuyu, Ruto’s Kalenjin,
Odinga’s Luo, the Luhya and the Kamba, and whoever secures backing
from at least three of them is almost assured of winning the
Allegiances are consistently shifting. Ethnic violence, mainly between
Kenyatta and Ruto supporters, flared up after a disputed 2007 vote and
both men were indicted by the International Criminal Court for their
alleged roles in the bloodshed until the cases were thrown out for
lack of evidence.
The two then joined forces to win elections in 2013 and 2017. While
Ruto backed Kenyatta for the presidency on the understanding that he’d
be next in line for the job in 2022, their relationship has soured
since Odinga entered the fray.
“The intention from the word go is to give Raila a safe route to
power,” said Herman Manyora, a political analyst and lecturer at the
University of Nairobi. “For as long as it destroys Ruto’s presidential
dream, he won’t support it.”
Odinga, 74, who leads the Orange Democratic Movement and has
unsuccessfully run for office four times, has also had a fractious
relationship with Kenyatta and accused him of stealing the last two
elections. They reconciled in March 2018, but the terms of the deal
they reached were never publicly revealed.
Odinga last year said he’d continue to push for a raft of reforms
including the reintroduction of the role of a prime minister -- a post
he held under a power-sharing accord that helped halt the 2007-8
A final version of the Building Bridges Initiative report will be
presented to Kenyatta and Odinga this week, according to Martin
Kimani, the secretary of a panel that’s drafting the plan. He
described its contents as “monumental,” but declined to reveal
Besides proposing changes to the way the government is structured, the
panel will also make recommendations on how to tackle corruption and
share out the nation’s prosperity, according to its nine-point brief.
The initiative will be subjected to a national debate and possibly a
referendum before being formally adopted.
If a referendum does happen, it will likely be a dress rehearsal of
the 2022 vote that will pit Odinga against Ruto, according to Manyora.
Ruto will back the new plan if it benefits the Kenyan people, but will
oppose it if it only creates positions for a few, his spokesman David
Mugonyi said by phone.
Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango said he couldn’t talk about the BBI
report because he hasn’t seen it, while Kenyatta’s publicist Kanze
Dena declined to comment.
It’s unclear whether the new initiative will have the desired effect,
said Bobby Mkangi, a lawyer who helped draft Kenya’s current
“In a sense, it could either be burning bridges or building bridges,”
he said. “We may have to engage in a trial-and-error journey in the
quest of nation-building and trying to find what works best for us and