Tag Archives: INSIGHT

Merkel’s final stand: how rebel states are hurting Germany’s COVID response | Instant News

BERLIN (Reuters) – It was shortly after 6 p.m. on Monday, March 22 when Angela Merkel asked for a respite after hours of dead-end discussions with her deputy and 16 German prime ministers on how to stop the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefs the media after virtual meeting with the chancellor’s federal state governors in Berlin, Germany, March 30, 2021. Markus Schreiber / Pool via REUTERS

After winning international acclaim for its initial response to last year’s pandemic, Germany is struggling. The number of patients in intensive care was approaching the peak of the first wave of the previous year, and vaccine rollout was progressing very slowly.

Merkel, in the final months of her 16-year rule, told the prime minister she wanted to extend the national lockdown and tighten movement restrictions, effectively confining Germans in their homes during the upcoming Easter holidays.

The leaders of the country are not all games. Some rejected plans for its chief of staff, Helge Braun, to impose a curfew. Others, from the north, wanted vacations on the condition that they were allowed.

“That’s not the right answer at this time,” Merkel sighed in front of a giant screen showing 14 regional leaders attending virtually the meeting.

A year after the pandemic, Germany’s patchy federal system is beginning to break down. The union between Berlin and the regions that marked the first year of the crisis unraveled as many of the state’s prime ministers, facing pressure from business and voters, urged life to return to normal.

The approach to federal elections in September has strained those political threads even further.

State leaders including North Rhine-Westphalia prime minister Armin Laschet, the chairman of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and his future successor, are more eager to open up as they await elections in September, when Merkel resigns.

Merkel, by contrast, who doesn’t have to face voter rulings anymore, wants to multiply with her push for tougher action. He even publicly criticized Laschet for the lax restriction policies in his state.

Fractured federal-state relations are not entirely to blame for Germany’s groping pandemic response: Berlin has also been accused of being cautious and investing too much faith in the European Union for its vaccine rollout. But they have become an obstacle to taking swift and coordinated action as patience is running low on all sides, resulting in policy changes and waning support for Merkel’s conservative camp.

The increasingly strained relationship between Merkel and the country’s leaders “has only exacerbated the pandemic of mismanagement and is again hurting the CDU and CSU,” said Naz Masraff of political risk consultancy Eurasia.


Irritated by the deadlock at last week’s talks, Merkel turned to her chief of staff Braun, a 48-year-old doctor with intensive care experience, and asked her other advice.

The break is planned for 15 minutes but lasts six hours. The Conservative and Social Democrat Prime Ministers split into separate chatter. Hanging on the left, Bodo Ramelow, Prime Minister of Linke’s far left in Thuringia, turns to Reiner Haseloff of neighboring Saxony Anhalt, and they spend their time exploring the different screen backgrounds of the video conferencing.

Finally, Braun came back with plans to turn off the circuit breakers for five days during Easter. Since shops in Germany are already closed on Easter Friday, Sunday and Monday, they only need to be closed for two extra days – Thursday and Saturday. Merkel implemented the plan by state leaders and Deputy Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the leftist candidate for Chancellor of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

They agreed that Merkel closed the meeting at 2.30am, and presented the plan to journalists with the prime ministers of Bavaria and Berlin.

Then the trouble started. Merkel’s own broader camp balked at it.

At 10:45 am Alexander Dobrindt, deputy leader of his conservative bloc in parliament, called for “remedial”. Then Interior Minister Horst Seehofer complained that churches would be reduced to online services at Easter.

Resistance grew and on Wednesday morning Merkel made a swift and extraordinary decision: cancel the plan. Calling the state prime minister again online, he informed them of the turnaround and at 12:30 pm spoke to the nation.

“This fault is mine alone,” he said of the chancellor. “I ask forgiveness from all citizens of the country.”


The unusual four-minute mea culpa proved to be a clever tactic. Merkel won praise from both her own camp and the opposition for her honesty, and attention quickly focused on the country’s leaders – who approved of the plan – and on the dysfunction of their meetings with the chancellor.

“What some commentators see as a sign of weakness is actually a way to go from the point of defense to attack,” said a person close to Merkel, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The point of attack was aimed at the state prime minister. Even Laschet did not escape.

In her talk show Sunday evening, Merkel accused her and several other state leaders of ignoring a March 3 agreement on how to manage the national lockdown.

As federal territories hold power over health and safety issues, Merkel, still Germany’s most popular politician, uses such name-and-shame tactics to persuade the country’s leaders to take tougher action.

His popularity is helping: a survey by Civey’s poll for the Augsburger Allgemeine daily showed two-thirds of the 5,002 people questioned this week supported Merkel’s approach and believed she should intervene more strongly in the state’s pandemic response.

He gained traction.

On Tuesday, Brandenburg tightened its guidelines and Laschet said his country had imposed a so-called “emergency brake” by asking people to test negative before visiting several shops.

While the politicians are fighting, time is running short.

German vaccine supplies will increase from April, although changing guidance on AstraZeneca injections has led many Germans to stop doing it. The country’s leading virologist has warned that tougher lockdowns will be needed. Nothing to see.

That determination hurts the CDU / CSU alliance, which has dropped 10 points in opinion polls since early February.

“We are in a very sad state at the moment, and we have to get out of it,” complained a conservative lawmaker. “I’ve never had a mood like this in our ranks before.”

Written by Paul Carrel; Edited by Alexandra Hudson


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In Brazil, an indigenous woman joins Bolsonaro in the struggle for mining | Instant News

RAPOSA SERRA DO SOL, Brazil (Reuters) – Irisnaide Silva is female, Brazilian and native.

Irisnaide Silva, 32, an Indigenous leader of one of the two main indigenous groups in Roraima state in the Amazon, gestures at the Raposa Serra do Sol reservation, Roraima state, Brazil, October 5, 2020. Image taken October 5, 2020. REUTERS / Leonardo Benassatto NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

And for once, in her sight, she was heard.

For decades his family selected and panned the border near Venezuela, scouring the hills for diamonds and gold.

They continued digging even after Brazil marked the land in 2005 as indigenous territory, an act that banned mining despite protests from his family and other wildlife in his Macuxi tribe.

Now, Silva is none other than the ear of Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil.

A nationalist who deeply resents the global green movement for his desire to develop the Amazon rainforest, Bolsonaro has twice met Silva in the Brazilian capital.

He first saw him, along with several like-minded tribal leaders, soon after taking power in January 2019 discussing a bill that would allow mining on native land.

“Some people want you to stay on indigenous territories like prehistoric animals,” Bolsonaro said at the meeting. “Below the ground you have billions or trillions of dollars.”

Silva, 32, heads one of the two main indigenous groups in the Amazon state of Roraima. But other groups, and many other indigenous associations, see him as traitors manipulated by greedy intruders seeking to seize land and resources.

He doesn’t care.

“I’ve been called a white Indian,” Silva told Reuters of the chicks chirping in his steel-roofed home in the Raposa Serra do Sol reserve. Although his mixed-race background was unusual, critics used it to question his credibility.

“Others say I can’t lead because I’m a woman.”

His drive for development – and Bolsonaro’s desire to activate it – goes far beyond questions about mining and material wealth. It challenged decades of government policies trying to deter intruders and sparked a historical debate over whether some of the world’s most isolated tribes should be integrated into modern society or left alone, along with the Amazon.

Larger than Western Europe and home to nearly all of Brazil’s indigenous lands, the world’s largest rainforest is a bulwark against climate change, its vegetation serving as a giant filter for greenhouse gases.

The native land makes up 13% of Brazil – a protected area roughly the size of Egypt. But with indigenous people making up less than 0.5% of Brazil’s population, agricultural and mining groups have long watched this low-population area voraciously.

It is unclear whether Bolsonaro’s bill will pass the tough Brazilian Congress or how profitable mining is on this land. But the timing has never been more favorable for the president, with allies recently winning leadership in both assemblies and the COVID-hit economy desperately in need of investment. Bolsonaro has made the bill a priority for 2021.

By working with several indigenous people, activists say he is exacerbating tensions within tribes through division and conquest methods that have historically helped destroy native lands around the world.

“Bolsonaro is using a colonial strategy,” said Antenor Vaz, a former veteran field agent for Brazil’s customary affairs agency Funai.


The prospect of legalization has led thousands of prospectors to venture into indigenous territories.

The Bolsonaro bill lays down a regulatory framework to open up this area to legal mining for the first time. Controversially, it will not give indigenous peoples veto power.

Many indigenous communities continue to lead rural lifestyles, pursuing little modern development beyond small-scale agriculture. But Silva and people like him believe that natives have the same rights as other Brazilians to exploit their resources.

The state of Roraima, with a small mining industry due to its large reserves, is already attracting investors. Anastase Papoortzis, head of state development company Codesaima, told Reuters the company had 29 exploration permits in indigenous territories and would attend a mining fair in Canada this year.

“It’s been set for us to go and present Roraima as a new mining frontier, the new El Dorado,” he said.

Lust for treasure, and the destruction it causes, has shaped this northern part of the Amazon basin since the Europeans arrived in the 18th century. Early maps even place El Dorado, the legendary city of gold, somewhere between green hills and scarred purple stone.

Since then the seekers have come.

In the 1950s, Silva’s grandfather arrived from northeast Brazil to try his luck. He married a local Macuxi woman and started a family. Silva Celson’s father, now 68, has been out digging with his father since the age of eight.

Silva was also looking forward to his childhood, but only during the holidays because his father insisted he stay at school, walking three hours a day to attend class. “I’m still mine sometimes,” she said, “but it’s bad for my nails.”

In the 2000s, when he finished school and was trained to become a teacher, indigenous factions competed over how to protect their homeland. The struggle at Raposa Serra do Sol has become a symbol of the Brazilian debate on indigenous policies.

While the larger Roraima Adat Council (CIR) wants sustainable nature reserves that remove outsiders from the area, Silva’s Society for the Defense of the United Indians of Roraima (Sodiurr) believes peasants should be allowed to stay, defining tribal areas as islands in around them. property.

Sodiurr argues that rice and cow farmers, who moved there in the previous decades, brought jobs and development.

After April 15, 2005, when the government ratified the Raposa Serra do Sol as a sustainable nature reserve, many farmers resisted eviction. Sporadic attacks on indigenous enemies raged for several years, injuring more than a dozen people.


Silva didn’t fight, but it did inform his politics.

After a tenure as a city councilor, he won the leadership election of Sodiurr in 2019 and amplified his pro-development, pro-integration message. As he put it: “Nobody here wants to walk around with their sobs.”

He has expanded their social media presence and aligned organizations with right-wing state and federal governments.

Membership has also increased, according to Silva. Seven communities have changed allegiance, leaving CIR to join him, while eight others are in conversation, he said. There are about 350 indigenous communities in the state.

Edinho Batista de Souza, a CIR leader, said he was not aware the community was changing sides.

“The presidency (Sodiurr) does not speak the same language as the people,” he told Reuters. “The government is trying to manipulate some of the leaders, including the president, but the bases don’t agree with this idea.”

Although Sodiurr’s membership is less than half the CIR, smaller organizations now have support in Brasilia.

“It’s an old problem, but they used to be in the minority, now they have the President of the Republic … now they are in power,” said Marcio Meira, a former head of Funai who worked closely with both sides during the demarcation.

Funai, responding to a Reuters question, said he did not know the size of each group or how they might change. He declined to comment on the competition, other than saying it did not condone violence.

Bolsonaro’s agenda appears to trigger change before a vote on his mining bill.

Near Napoleao, a customary town of 1,200 people in the mountains south of Raposa Serra do Sol, workers sweat from dawn to dusk, cutting deep into the rocks.

Some have pneumatic workouts, but most chase purple veins with only muscles and pickaxes. Miners of wood from the rock face, bent under the lucky sack.

The “mountains”, as the five feral cat mines are known, have been running since July 2019. It has driven the change that Silva so desperately wants.

The city gets 4% of mining profits, according to Carpejane Lima, 38, the town’s traditional leader and ally of Silva. The diggers took 74% and those with the machines to extract gold took the last 22%.

“The power company has cut off electricity because we can’t pay the bills,” said Lima, in the shade of a mango tree. Now a cavalry of diesel generators is turning next to the general store which is reopening. Across the street, there is a stand selling replica soccer shirts.

“We can make this a prosperous city,” said Lima, a 48 gram gold bracelet gleaming on her wrist.

But mining brings in outsiders. Some tribes have the skills or capital needed to crush and process ore. This arrival, say critics, brought drugs, prostitution and disease. Mercury, which is used to separate gold, also appears at alarming levels in the blood of some indigenous people.

Since Bolsonaro was elected, CIR said 2,000 miners had trespassed on Raposa Serra do Sol to work on mines like this. Silva emphasized that only the native wild in the country.

In a hole by the river near Silva’s house, where his father lived under a tarp for weeks, a small group dug in the scorching sun.

“We will fight for what is ours,” said Celson. “If people who don’t belong come here to try and stop us, there will be blood.”

Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Additional reporting by Leonardo Benassatto; Edited by Brad Haynes and Andrew Cawthorne


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Divided on to Draghi, the Italian 5 Star is experiencing an identity crisis | Instant News

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s 5 Star Movement, once the prototype for successful populist and anti-establishment parties across Europe, is at a crossroads. Is it fully embracing the political mainstream, or turning back to being an outsider?

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi drinks during a debate in the Senate ahead of a vote of confidence for the government, in Rome, Italy, February 17, 2021. REUTERS / Yara Nardi / Pool / File Photo

With support dwindling, his fate could shape Italian politics for years to come, and the battle lines for his future have been drawn.

When the head of state asked the former head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi on February 2 to try to form a government, and end the Italian political stalemate, the 5-Star leadership immediately shelved its support.

But its founder, 72-year-old former comedian Beppe Grillo, had other ideas. Four days later, he was rushing from his home in Genoa to attend a crisis meeting in Rome with some 30 top 5-Star MPs.

At a meeting in a conference room in the capital’s labyrinthine Deputy Chamber, he explained that the original 5-Star decision had to be overturned, according to a lawmaker present.

“When we walked in Grillo was pretending to be talking to someone on the phone; It’s a kind of comedy act, ”said the source, who declined to be named because the meeting was closed. “He’s discussing … why we should be part of the government.”

Some 5-star politicians and voters were very unhappy with the demands imposed by Grillo.

At Draghi’s first parliamentary vote on Wednesday, 23 of 92 5 Star senators opposed the party line and refused to support him. The interim leader of 5-Star Vito Crimi said most of them would be expelled.


If the 5-Star emerges from its crisis further weakening or turns into a mainstream progressive party, it could mark the end of the populist wave that swept through Italy in the last election and which worries financial markets and its European partners.

Matteo Salvini’s league has shifted out of the right flank to get behind Draghi.

In some ways, 5-Star follows a similar trajectory to other populist parties in Southern Europe such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain.

The three of them attain strength, but have been absorbed into the mainstream they vow to fight and watch their support wither.

“I don’t know what to call us now. Maybe an anti-establishment party ?, ”5-star lawmaker Raphael Raduzzi told Reuters. “We have to ask ourselves what we want to be.”

Grillo gave up day-to-day involvement in 5-Star affairs some five years ago, but when the big decisions had to be made, he was still the one to decide.

Shortly before his meeting with 5-star lawmakers, he wrote a blog post calling on the new government to appoint a transitional ecology minister with full responsibility for energy policy.

Grillo has spoken with Draghi and received assurances that this ministry will be created in exchange for 5-Star support, a source close to the 5-Star founder told Reuters.

Grillo, who communicates with the public primarily through his blog, declined to comment for this article.

Draghi’s spokesman confirmed Grillo and Draghi were talking about forming a government.

“They agreed on the importance of creating a government with a strong emphasis on ecological transitions,” he said.


Ecology has always been a central part of the 5-Star platform. It is one of the five “star” policies from which it takes its name. Sustainable transportation is another.

Italy, unlike Germany and France, has never had a successful Green party and Grillo is looking at the loophole in hopes of saving his party from gradual extinction.

Huge numbers and high aspirations were involved. The European Commission has ordered that policies to fight climate change should cover 37% of the Recovery Fund set up to help the bloc’s hard-hit economy, its single largest component.

In Italy’s case, that means 70 billion euros ($ 85 billion) to spend on the green transition over the next six years.

“Now the environment. Whatever it takes, “Grillo tweeted this week in the style of Draghi’s Andy Warhol, referring to the former ECB chief’s famous pledge in 2012 to do” whatever it takes “to save the euro.

The 5 star is the biggest force in parliament thanks to its victory in the 2018 election when it won 33% of the vote, double the tally of its closest rival.

It now has less than 15%, making it the fourth largest party in Italy, and is in dire need of a new identity.

He has four ministers in Draghi’s newly formed cabinet, but for many members, supporting the government of the former head of the ECB is unacceptable. Doing so in coalition with sworn enemies made matters worse.

Founded in 2009 as a channel for protest against alleged corruption and the cronyism of Italy’s political and business elite, 5 Bintang supports internet-based direct democracy and vows never to form alliances with traditional parties.

In the past three years it has ruled in two coalitions, with center right and left, and is now set to rule with both at once.

“For me this is a step too far,” said Raduzzi, the lower house deputy who opposes joining the technocrat government and career politician.


Raduzzi did not leave the party, unlike one of its most popular figures – Alessandro Di Battista – who frequently wrote articles attacking Draghi or members of his government.

Di Battista, a charismatic 42-year-old man, left after the decision to support Draghi, but his followers expect him to return when the time is right and see him as a future leader.

The battle for the future of the 5-Star will most likely be contested over the opposing visions of Di Battista on the one hand and Grillo on the other.

Grillo, for now in the driving seat, wants to turn 5-Star into a neighborhood, pro-EU party allied with the center-left Democrats to compete with Salvini’s right-hand bloc.

Di Battista wants 5 Stars to avoid structural alliances with the left and regain his old anti-establishment fervor, with a more critical attitude toward the EU and big business.

“I believe this government is committing suicide for the 5 Star Movement and bad for Italy,” Di Battista told Reuters. He did not rule out a return to 5 Star rank in the future.

The risk of the 5-Star, currently in the hands of the uncharismatic Criminal, is that whatever path the party takes, at the next election in 2023, its decline is irreversible.

The slump in 5-Star support is hardly surprising, given that they are also the anti-establishment party in government. Without enough seats in parliament to govern itself, the movement also joins either the left or the right.

Unlike the left-wing Syriza and Podemos, or the right-wing National Rally in France and the Austrian Freedom Party, the 5-Star has always presented itself as an ideological free movement with voters from the left and right alike.

Some political commentators believe that the best chance of a revival lies with former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who has no party affiliation but is close to a 5-Star.

The message Conte posted on Facebook on his final day as prime minister received more than a million likes, a record for an Italian politician. He vowed to “continue the path” of his 16-month, left-wing rule in the future.

Millions of 5-star voters, and some of his politicians, expect him to do so as their leader.

($ 1 = 0.8275 euros)

Written by Gavin Jones; Edited by Mike Collett-White


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[INSIGHT] The German-FPI incident: What happened to the trust? – Opinion | Instant News

The recent controversy over the visit of German Embassy staff to the headquarters of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) demonstrates what happens when a diplomatic event intersects domestic politics. This is what we know. On 17 December 2020, an employee of the German Embassy visited the FPI headquarters in Petamburan, Central Jakarta. His entry into the compound and the car he came in to, which had diplomatic number plates, was photographed, most likely by an intelligence officer assigned to witness events at the compound. Two days later, FPI Secretary General Munarman confirmed his visit to the media and the incident went viral. Reports began to emerge that the woman was a member of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND). The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not verify the speculation, only confirmed that the woman was registered as a German diploma …

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Draghi’s capitalist model of restructuring Italy ran aground | Instant News

ON June 2, 1992, then Italian Finance Ministry official, Mario Draghi, boarded the Queen Elizabeth II, England cruise ship docked near Rome, to enlist the help of a group of British bankers in reducing the country’s swelling public sector.

Nearly three decades later, and a year since he left as president of the European Central Bank, what was to be one of the region’s largest privatization programs is now reversed.

Companies from Draghi’s sell-off were unveiled later that day to boost growth and reduce debt, like toll road operator Autostrade, which is being clawed back in a new era of state intervention.

Unlike that privatization, the current expansion is not matched by a coherent vision other than fighting the coronavirus crisis, an omission that is weakening the governing coalition. The political battle to define it will determine the extent to which Italy recreates the state-driven capitalist model it previously sought to discard.

“The role of a more active state in the economy is warranted in transition, but it must have a clear program with an exit plan,” said Nicola Nobile, senior eurozone economist for Oxford Economics in Milan. “It’s very Italian to turn something temporary into something permanent.”

The list of recent interventions by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government is long, with the Five Star populist movement in particular pushing his left-wing Democratic Party partners to take on a more state role.

Telecom Italia, Autostrade per l’Italia and the Italian stock exchange have all been targets recently, with the minister encouraging state-backed lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti to take or expand stakes in all three. CDP also has a major stake in digital payments giant Nexi SpA and has been given a 40 billion war chest to do more.

Meanwhile, the government has used its so-called “golden power” to veto foreign acquisitions and is trying to stop France’s Vivendi SA from exercising voting rights to Silvio Berlusconi’s media company Mediaset SpA.

It has also put pressure on lender UniCredit SpA to find buyers for bailed lenders Banca Monte dei Paschi in Siena SpA.

The crisis has provided a window of opportunity for such action, giving rise to a push to restructure the battered economy.

That push has been helped by the suspension of EU restrictions, both budgetary and regulatory, which in the past have limited government action.

“This is a temporary situation,” Italian Minister for European Affairs Vincenzo Amendola insisted in a December 4 interview. Everything will return to normal, and freedom of competition will remain a fundamental part of the EU identity. “

Such state activism stirs unease among international investors.

Minority shareholders in Atlantia SpA, the parent company of Autostrade, have complained about threats from members of the government, and that the sale to CDP would not offer fair value. The EU’s antitrust regulatory agency is looking at several other operations, in particular Alitalia.

But at a time when governments are given the freedom to save a pandemic-hit economy, and as countries in the region see a need to build a global champion to rival China and the United States, the bloc has not deterred Italy’s plans. far.

The new intervention is a source of tension in Conte’s controversial coalition, as allies grapple with governance and top positions in companies. One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also complained about a lack of coordination and planning.

But the entire trajectory is widely shared, with many politicians looking back on the days of IRI, or the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction, a state holding company founded under a fascist regime in 1933 that carried out a mission revived after the war and owned many of the major Italian companies. company until the 1990s. But for others, such a nostalgic scene was rose-colored.

“The problem is, it appears that no cost-benefit analysis has been carried out on which sectors to invest in beyond sudden political necessity,” said Rosamaria Bitetti, an economist and lecturer at Luiss University in Rome.

crown jewels

Such a situation would confuse British passengers, discussing how to help Italy get rid of the legacy of unproductive, inefficient and bureaucratic state-owned enterprises that have long been a costly burden.

Draghi left the ship before setting sail on an afternoon cruise on the Mediterranean Sea that has become more important than anyone on board could imagine.

A worldly business event has become emblematic of selling Italian crown jewelery to conspiracy theorists who see it as an Illuminati gathering – a rug image that alone helps motivate today’s interventionist impulse. However, there is a load of evidence from politicians who have made the push to prove that Italy can this time refuse to re-create a system that was previously a dead burden on its economy and public finances.

“The system is state-centered at first, like the one that happened after World War II,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the Luiss University School of Government in Rome.

“But it’s degenerating rapidly.” – Bloomberg

Alessandra Migliaccio and Alessandro Speciale are Rome bureau chiefs for Bloomberg news. The views expressed are those of the author.


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