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DECEMBER 2013

Will Climate Change Result in Increased Conflict? Saudi Arabian Women Protest the Driving Ban – An Overview of Chemical Weapons in Syria – Russia’s Manipulation of the Syrian Crisis – Gang Supremacy in Honduras – Food Security in Developing Nations – China’s “Old” Women – Rape Culture in New Zealand – The De Kirchner’s Argentina Volume III, Issue 2, December 2013

North Korea: Leaving The Country You Cannot Leave

The Lives of Two North Korean Defectors, Before and After Their Escape from the Hermit Kingdom 1


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CONTENTS Volume III, Issue 2, December 2013

DECEMBER 2013

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The Violence of Climate Change by John Branch

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Taking the Wheel in Saudi Arabia by Madeline Cole

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A Closer Look at Chemical Weapons by Adam Hunt

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Russia’s Syria Policy by Nick Tonckens

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Impuesto de Guerra: Gang Supremacy in Honduras by Daniel Castro

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The Problem of Food Security by Kate Herman

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Leaving the Country You Cannot Leave: The Story of Two North Korean Defectors by Minnie Kim with Dylan Devenyi

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China’s Leftover Women by Hongbei Li

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Roast Busters: New Zealand’s Rape Culture by Serena Taj

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De Kirchner Dominance by Amanda Zalk

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Letter from the Editors

Editors In Chief Dylan Hammer Mark Pizzi Christiana Whitcomb Associate Editors Evan Gershkovich Kate Herman Jin Niu Nick Tonckens Photography Editor Hannah Rafkin Layout Mark Pizzi Staff Writers John Branch Daniel Castro Madeline Cole Haleigh Collins Dylan Devenyi Adam Hunt Minnie Kim Hongbei Li Aaron Ng Viola Rothschild Chase Savage Serena Taj Drew Van Kuiken Christopher Wedeman Amanda Zalk 4

Dear Readers, In the international community there is often a disconnect between the outside perception of a conflict and the reality for those living within it. In “Leaving the Country You Cannot Leave,” our writers focus attention on the experience of defectors rather than the political disarray that has been analyzed ad nauseum. But what does it really mean to live in North Korea? Reflective, analytical journalism, which the Bowdoin Globalist seeks to provide an outlet for, exists to expose that disconnect. As the piece points out, those living in North Korea are far more concerned with the desperate living conditions they face than with their peculiar leader, a figure that Western media tends to obsess over. Many have heard of the gang violence and drug wars so prominent in Central America, but the implications for ordinary citizens caught in the cross-fire are vast. “Impuesto de Guerra: Gang Supremacy in Honduras” takes a closer look at the every day experience for Honduran citizens, from personal security measures to payments that keep local gangs at bay. Our writers strive to look at these conflicts in new ways. What is the human experience? What have others failed to see? How can we bring these questions to the Bowdoin Community? This is one of the many themes that our writers explore, and as always, we hope to hear thoughts, concerns and ideas from our readers. Please contact us at thebowdoinglobalist@gmail. com. Sincerely, Dylan, Mark and Christiana Editors in Chief

Special Thanks to the Office of the President of Bowdoin College


DECEMBER 2013

The Violence of Climate Change by John Branch In the popular imagination, global climate change is often portrayed as a force that brings with it chaotic, violent human responses. Societies are thrown into disarray. Countries go to war over water or food shortages. To many people, the prospect of global warming is apocalyptic. But what will actually happen? The scientific debate over the existence of global climate change is, for all practical purposes, over. Climate scientists continue to debate the severity of the expected temperature changes, readjusting models and analyzing new information as it arrives, while political scientists study the effects it will have on humans. But in many ways, the public remains unconvinced. The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication reported last year that while 70 percent of Americans believe in climate change, less than half believe that it is already having adverse effects on humans. Just over half, meanwhile, indicated that they are “somewhat” or “very” worried about future effects. One question that has been the subject of extensive debate is whether there is a link between rising temperatures and violent conflict. Speculation about water wars is one thing, but is there actually a body of evidence suggesting that this threat is real? For political scientists, the answer has long proved elusive. But a new study by Solomon Hsiang, Marshall Burke, and Edward Miguel claims to be the strongest evidence yet of a direct link between climate change and increasing violence. In the study, the three scientists took an approach designed to encompass as diverse a selection of conditions as possible. To do this, they used information from dozens of different studies—looking at data from across the world and stretching back to 10,000 B.C.E. While many scientific studies simply use one method to measure variables, this one embraced the idea of comparing across disciplines—looking at data on subjects as varied as

global terrorism in the twentieth century and dynastic changes in ancient China. What they found was striking. Deviations from the average in temperature, whether higher or lower, have reliably correlated with increased violence. The same holds true for levels of rainfall. On average, a change of one standard deviation in temperature or rainfall increased the likelihood of interpersonal violence (think murder, rape, assault, etc.) by 4 percent. Intergroup conflict— like terrorism or war—becomes 14 percent more likely. Marc Scarcelli, a visiting Assistant Professor in the Government and Legal Studies Department, studies international conflicts. “This study is significant as it is one of very few large, quantitative studies to show evidence of a causal relationship,” he said. Qualitative researchers tend to already be convinced of a causal link between climate change and violence. For quantitative researchers, though, the study “represents an important expansion in the scholarly evidence supporting such a causal link.” These results help to quantify a perception that many studying conflict have long had—that global warming has the potential to seriously exacerbate violent conflict. Given that climate scientists expect temperature to rise between two and four standard deviations by 2050, those percentages, which may seem small at first glance, prove to be quite significant. Interestingly, the results in the study also held true across the world. In general, climate change is expected to impact poor countries, many of which are located in tropical areas. However, when it comes to violent conflict, wealthy countries saw the same increases as poor ones. While this study may help to settle some debates within academia, Scarcelli emphasized that more research still has to be done. “To ask whether global warming causes violence, one must examine a longer causal chain in which global warming causes environmental problems which in turn cause conflict,” he said. “While the Hsiang et al. study is still interesting and important, its focus on rainfall and temperatures does not encompass all of the possible causal pathways between climate and conflict.” Indeed, no one study, no matter how comprehensive, can encompass all of the aspects of such a large question. And it is harder still for an academic study to impact public opinion or policy. “I wish I could say that stronger evidence will spur more serious action to combat climate change, but I doubt that it will,” said Scarcelli. He pointed out that many significant policymakers, like President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, were already satisfied with the existing qualitative evidence on the subject. It seems unlikely, then, that a study like this will have immediate, noticeable effects outside the world of academia. But it does begin to fill in a huge gap in the research that has hindered those trying to argue for the significance of global climate change. As more and more quantitative evidence emerges for a link between climate change and human violence, defending a path of inaction will become significantly harder. 5


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Taking the Wheel in Saudi Arabia by Madeline Cole The image is grainy, sometimes with limited audio—a shaky close-up of a veiled figure, hands on the wheel, gazing intently ahead. The road pans outside the windshield, its motion slowing and tilting with each turn and deceleration. Although the video itself may not show much, what it portrays is groundbreaking: Saudi women at the wheels of their own cars. For a few moments, they are no longer a mere passenger. These videos were posted on Youtube as part of a demonstration against the current ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. Activists report that on October 26, 2013, at least 60 women throughout the country defied the ban and took to the roads, with at least 13 uploaded videos to show for it. Although there has been no serious recourse regarding the banned activities depicted in the videos, at least five women were pulled over, made to remain in their vehicles until a male guardian arrived, and then forced to sign a pledge never to drive again. The women drove to demonstrate solidarity in their rejection of the ban, an active manifestation of the more than 16,000 signatures collected by the October 26 Campaign in support of its goal: compelling the Saudi Arabian government to allow women to drive. The website’s mission statement declares that “Both Islam and the legal system guarantee the right to freedom of movement for everyone, man or woman,” confronting and debunking two common perceptions of the basis and origin of 6

the oppressive ban. In fact, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are forbidden from driving. This concept, strict and singular as it may be, is not even written law. Instead, it is enforced by the mutaween, a group of voluntary, fundamentalist “moral police” who are commissioned by the Saudi government’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice to enforce the country’s strict social codes. As one demonstration participant described in a CNN article, women driving is “not against the law, simply against the current customs of our country.” Indeed, the mutaween have the power to enforce Sharia, or Islamic law, as it is defined within Saudi borders, cracking down on infractions such as women wearing the traditional abaya, the consumption of alcohol, and of course, the driving ban. These volunteers are empowered by the Saudi government to uphold and enforce social tradition and conduct to maintain social order. The October 26 demonstration is not the first time Saudi women have spoken out against the ban. A 1990 demonstration in Riyadh involving women behind the wheel resulted in a halfhour drive which, according to NPR, left the women protestors without access to foreign travel for a year, fired from government jobs and denounced in mosques. Although the demonstration sent a powerful message, the patronizing dependency on hired drivers, not to mention the financial strain the driving ban places on many families, continues. This year’s protest is the largest yet, but will it be able to change such a well-established part of the social code of Saudi Arabia? The recent demonstration renews and affirms a hopeful outlook toward driving in Saudi Arabia for two reasons. First, the recent demonstration is further proof of a growing (however subtly) trend in Saudi Arabia toward expanded freedoms. In fact, the demonstration follows the recent passage of legislation banning domestic violence. According to The Independent, this ban will make domestic violence—physical or sexual—a punishable crime for the first time in Saudi Arabia’s history, and mandates investigation and prosecution of alleged abuse. The groundbreaking law speaks to the underlying changes taking place in Saudi society–the growing shift of popular viewpoint towards expansion of freedoms and protection of rights. In addition, there are more platforms to express grassroots movements, and more people who are ready to listen. The utilization of social media by demonstrators to support their cause is an example of this. This tactic has proven successful in drawing unprecedented attention to social issues, and has had an incredibly powerful presence in uprisings across the Middle East, most notably in Egypt. Social media allows the world to access the Saudi women’s fight against this dictate and allows those images to be preserved and accessed forever. From the parody “No Woman, No Drive” created by a Saudi activist and comedian, to the more serious videos of dozens of women behind the wheels of cars, there is reason to believe that driving traditions in Saudi Arabia, like public sentiment, could be shifting in a new direction.


DECEMBER 2013

A Closer Look at Chemical Weapons by Adam Hunt

Chemical weapons use is often described in broadly referential terms by politicians who take positions on it and news sources that report it. By itself, the term chemical warfare is vague—it can describe anything from the use of a stink bomb to the dropping of a nuclear warhead. Because of this massive range in potential significance, it is a phrase that deserves intensive disambiguation. To fully understand the significance of chemical warfare, both generally and on a case-by-case basis, it’s important to approach the subject from two perspectives: first, what was the exact nature of a given attack and what specific chemicals were used as weapons, how much, and to what effect? Second, what is the historical context in which the attack stands—what precedents have been set to determine the consequences of similar actions? Determining the specific details of an attack and putting it in context is the only way to properly evaluate an incident of chemical warfare and to justly decide the course of its aftermath. On August 21, 2013, the Syrian regime deployed sarin gas in the Ghouta agricultural belt around Damascus. Sarin gas is a powerful nerve agent, a class of phosphorous-based organic compounds that disrupts the brain’s ability to send messages to the body’s organs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of sarin gas can include nausea, violent headaches, impaired vision, drooling, muscular convulsion, respiratory arrest and loss of consciousness. If somebody is exposed to the gas in high enough doses, the chemical can lead to death before symptoms even arise. In reality the exposure need

not be that high at all—inhalation of just 200 mg can be fatal almost immediately, shutting down the respiratory center of the central nervous system and, in turn, paralyzing the muscles responsible for lung contractions. In other words, it’s not that victims choke to death on the substance; rather, it takes away their ability to breath. The danger of sarin is compounded by how easily it’s spread. It can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin in its gaseous form, it can contaminate food and water supplies and infect somebody who consumes or even touches the contaminated substance, and because it’s heavier than air, it can linger in an area for up to six hours, sinking to and spreading at ground level. On August 21, over 1400 civilians, including many children, died in Damascus. For those that didn’t, there may be permanent damage–sarin gas can cause lasting impairment of the respiratory, ocular and central nervous systems. In addition to sarin gas, the air in Damascus now contains vesicants (blister agents) such as mustard gas (yperite) and possibly even VX, a nerve agent 10 times more powerful than sarin. President Obama stated, more than once, that the use of chemical weapons against civilians was the red line that, if crossed, would result in American intervention in the war-torn country. Syria promised to join the Chemical Weapons Convention nearly immediately after the attack under pressure from its strongest ally, Russia, following the US threat of intervention. The CWC is an international treaty, established in 1993, prohibiting the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons; in addition, it requires and monitors the safe destruction of chemical weapons in its co-signing states, a list that encompasses 98 percent of the world’s population. Only Burma, Egypt, Israel, North Korea, South Sudan and Angola are not participating members (the last of which, although it doesn’t have nor does it plan to produce chemical weapons, remains a non-member for logistical and economic reasons). Nonetheless, the treaty isn’t perfect—there are no real guidelines to follow or pre-established consequences in the event that a participating country violates the treaty. This is because no country has yet. In itself, this track record reflects well on the Convention, and ought to give us hope that Syria will abide by the rules as well. However, there is room for confusion and disorder the day a country chooses to stray from the group. Nonetheless, like any organizational body, the CWC is only as legitimate and successful as its members are willing to abide by the standards of conduct. Not invading Syria was a net-positive, domestically and internationally. There are times that call for physical intervention, but in this case there was a framework of reform already in place, and it is unlikely that we would have accomplished anything more regarding Syria’s chemical weapon reduction had we invaded. However, non-intervention does not mean we should forget the issue—the reduction and ultimate abolishment of chemical weapons necessitates great political effort and is an issue on which we—the country, the world—must not let up. 7


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Russia’s Syria Policy

by Nick Tonckens

Russia rarely plays the part of peace broker. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it lost its superpower status and fell under the shadow of the now-dominant United States. Unwilling to play junior ally to Washington, Moscow has, since 1991, assumed the role of the spoiler. In the past decade alone, it has fought American-led plans to establish a missile shield in Eastern Europe and punish Iran for its nuclear program. Russia has also threatened ex-Soviet states yearning for closer ties with the West, including Georgia, Estonia, and Ukraine, which last week abandoned a free-trade agreement with the European Union at the last moment, apparently under duress from President Vladimir Putin. Until September of this year, Russia had consistently repeated this pattern of behavior in its persistent defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But then, in a strange turn of events, Russia took the reins in forming a chemical weapons deal with Syria, while the US appeared to tag along behind. So what changed? Simply put, ambivalent leadership by the Obama administration gave Putin the chance to seize the diplomatic initiative and become the chief facilitator of the Syrian peace process, a chance that he siezed decisively and dramatically. Since the start of Syria’s Civil War, President Obama and his Western allies have repeatedly demanded that Assad resign. The Kremlin has done everything in its power to prevent that from happening. Beginning in October of 2011, Russia and China used their vetoes on the United Nations Security Council to block a series of proposed sanctions on Assad’s government. Several months later, they vetoed a resolution officially demanding that Assad step down. Russia has also engaged in military efforts and outright saber rattling to demonstrate its commitment to Assad. From the very beginning of the conflict, Russia has been shipping advanced armaments and weapons systems to his regime, including sophisticated anti-aircraft defenses. And on January 6, 2013, in a warning to the Western powers considering a military intervention, Putin deployed five landing ships to the Eastern Mediterranean. This strategy has proven quite successful. The US, its allies, and the Syrian rebels would only agree to a peace treaty that re8

moved Assad. By blocking any negotiations that would remove the beleaguered dictator, Russia has bought him valuable time and demonstrated its ability to thwart American diplomatic aims. After months of futile peace talks, former UN chief Kofi Annan, acting as the UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria, resigned in protest. Explaining his decision, Annan blamed not just the warring parties, but also “finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council.” As in the case of the European missile shield and Iranian nuclear program, Russia has been able to maximize its diplomatic clout by rigorously practicing obstructionism. All of this changed when, on August 21 this year, footage surfaced of a major chemical attack on rebel-held Damascus neighborhoods. The evidence from US intelligence overwhelmingly indicated that the Assad regime had crossed Obama’s “red line” that would trigger military intervention. After wavering for nearly a week, Obama punted the issue to Congress. By slamming the breaks on the march to war that he had started, Obama threw America’s role in the conflict into serious doubt. Congress seemed likely to reject Obama’s proposal to bomb Syria, which would have dealt a massive blow to the President’s credibility at home and abroad. It was in this moment of American vulnerability that the Kremlin pounced. On September 10, John Kerry offhandedly remarked that the issue could be resolved if Assad were to turn over all of his chemical weapons to the international community. That very day, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, offered a serious proposal to do just that, apparently after consultation with the Assad regime. The Obama administration had no choice but to bite—hook, line, and sinker. A means of saving face had fallen out of the blue, right into Obama’s arms. But the deal came at the price of allowing Moscow to leapfrog from being arms dealer for a pariah regime, to the leader of a serious multilateral diplomatic process. But why would Russia propose such a compromise in the first place? The Kremlin’s entire policy towards Assad thus far had been to arm, not disarm him. On this basis, one might assume that Putin decided to throw his ally under the bus in or-


DECEMBER 2013

der to gain greater diplomatic prestige. But that interpretation ignores two key facts. First, such a move would have been completely out of character for Putin’s Russia, given its long post-Soviet history of maximizing its international influence through obstruction of American and Western goals. Second, the Assad regime itself agreed to the deal. We can assume such a desperate and brutal government would never intentionally undermine its ability to survive. Both Putin and Assad must have believed in the likelihood and potential severity of American airstrikes. If they thought such a move was either highly unlikely or would do little to hurt the regime, they would not have sought a compromise. At the same time, they would not have proposed one if they thought America would reject it out of hand—that would have made both Putin and Assad look desperate. Obama’s dithering left both a carrot and a stick dangling in the air, and thereby afforded the Syrian

and Russian regimes the perfect opening. Obama signaled his openness to compromise with his clear reluctance for an attack, while standing behind his political obligation to launch one (he had painted himself into a corner by drawing that now-infamous “red line”). This strange position probably scared Moscow and Damascus enough for them to seek a peaceful resolution with Washington, while giving them reason to believe that one could be achieved. As sponsor of the chemical weapons deal, Russia is now looked to as the most effective outside mediator regarding Syrian issues. But that position depends on the ultimate success of the deal. If the Assad regime fails to uphold its end of the bargain and the agreement collapses, Putin may lose serious credibility. With Assad now demanding to keep 12 chemical weapons factories, the outcome remains highly uncertain. All we can know for sure is that Russia will back its ally to the hilt. 9


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Impuesto de Guerra: Gang Supremacy in Honduras by Daniel Castro

In a neighborhood in Honduras’s industrial capital, a family of five wakes up at 2 a.m. to the sound of bullets piercing through their home windows. A day before, Javier Eduardo Escobar, the father, received a phone call demanding him to pay a sum of $2,000. He chose not to comply and in response, the gang executed a drive-by shooting to remind the Escobar family and all his neighbors that the “Mara 18” was in charge, and if families wished to live peacefully on their claimed territory, they had to abide by their demands. This is the rigid enforcement of the system which now dominates many communities in Honduras. It is a formalized structure of gangs who have replaced the government in performing its basic duty: the protection of its citizens. Home owners, business owners, apartment renters, and bus and taxi drivers residing in a territory claimed by one of the many local gangs must pay an impuesto de guerra, an infamous weekly tax collected by gangs, to have their protection assured. Over time, these gangs have established a well-organized and lucrative business of extortion, which has brought much distress and suffering to many individuals and families. One successful family who owns two grocery stores and a café paid 400 Lempiras ($20) weekly as impuesto de guerra to the Mara 18, one of the strongest extorters in Honduras for their first market alone. “If we didn’t pay, they would call us non-stop, extorting us to pay or our business would face the consequences,” said the mother, who wished to remain anonymous in fear that her family’s businesses will face further extortion for revealing information to the public. As the family expanded their businesses, the impuesto de guerra increased tremendously and they refused to pay it. In anticipation of the consequences they would face, the family invested heavily in private security for their businesses and moved to a home in a gated community. “We had to depend on ourselves to provide security to our home and businesses,” the father said. For families and individuals, moving to a gated community and investing in private security are the only ways

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to escape the existing structure. The many others who can’t afford private security for their businesses are stuck in this dangerous system. The Bonillas are one such family. “We couldn’t afford to allocate money for security. Our profits are simply not that large,” expressed David Bonilla, “But, we were fortunate to have never received a phone call demanding an impuesto de guerra. That all changed the night of December 13, 2009.” As David’s father and mother, Juan and Gladis Bonilla, prepared to close their store, a man walked in, took out a 9mm pistol, and demanded a payment. As Juan Bonilla opened the cashier box to give the man the money, the man shot him without hesitation in front of his wife, took the money, and walked away. The family was destroyed. These are just three families in a population of near eight million people. There are hundreds of thousands of other individuals who everyday have to comply with the demands of well-organized and dangerously powerful gangs or risk their lives. Many have had to abandone their homes, businesses, families, and friends for fear of the gangs. Some, like the Bonilla family, have lost loved ones. The worst part is that these people cannot trust their law enforcement officers to deliver justice. The business of extortion is so lucrative that it allows the gangs to buy off police officers and local officials. This leads to the endemic corruption of the institutions that are supposed to provide security to the citizens. “We knew justice was never going to be delivered for the murder of my father. It’s sad to think about it, but we were hopeless,” David Bonilla said. Altagracia Escobar, mother of Javier Escobar, expressed a sentiment shared by many of her compatriots. “It is a corrupt system,” she said. “We can’t go to the [police officers] with the confidence that they will act and find the people responsible for these acts of terror. Some of them end up informing the gangs that you’ve tried to get in contact with the police. We can’t trust them.” At the local level, organized crime controls the decisions of individuals and small businesses with their extortions, dangerous enforcement of punishment, and deteriora-


DECEMBER 2013

tion of the basic trust between police officers and its citizens. Local gangs, however, are backed-up by narco-trafficking organizations, an even greater threat to the Honduran macro-economy. The two are intertwined in a symbiotic relationship that has corrupted the government from both the bottom up and the top down, created an unstable, violent civil society, and negatively affected the economy. There are two main reasons for the increasing role of narco-trafficking organizations: economic and political instability and Honduras’s strategic geographic location at the center of Central America. Honduras, a former “banana republic”, depended on the export of bananas and other agricultural goods to provide jobs and revenue for the country. But from 1985 to 2002, Honduras witnessed its banana exports decrease at a cumulative rate of 4.5 percent annually, thereby leaving a large hole in the economy. The 2009 coup d’état also created great economic turmoil. According to Ricardo Martinez, the Minister of Tourism for the overthrown government, after the coup the tourism industry, the economy’s main driving force, plummeted by 70 percent, greatly affecting its 155,000 workers. Foreign aid was also suspended because nations did not recognize the new government. Most importantly, however, the coup created great political instability and chaos across the nation. Honduras was then in perfect condition for drug trafficking organizations to strengthen their presence. People were abandoned, afraid, and pessimistic. Many turned to what quickly became one of Honduras’s strongest markets: drug trafficking. This market quickly filled the economic gap by providing many illegal jobs. Since 2009, 20-60 percent of the Honduran economy is estimated to be laundered money, a broad range that only serves as an estimate because of the dangers that can be incurred by collecting such data in the country. The credibility of this estimate, however, is supported by the large number of businesses, such as hotels and agricultural corporations, which are used for money laundering and have been seized by the government over the past year. The most recent operation has led to the seizure of $500 million worth of as-

sets from one drug trafficking organization, Los Cachiros. These assets included Honduras’s largest zoo and a mining company, among other businesses. If one organization’s investments amount to $500 million, the aggregate amount of investments by all narco-trafficking organizations must be a frighteningly large number. Along with their large economic influence, drug trafficking organizations have exacerbated the violence in Honduras’s civil society. They financially support the local gangs of the country, who nurture the chaos and instability necessary for drug trafficking to prosper. In 2010, the year after the coup, Honduras’s homicide rate increased from 66.8 per 100,000 residents to 85 per 100,000 residents, earning Honduras the world’s highest homicide rate, a title they have held to this day. The decision government officials must now make is whether to crack down on these large narco-trafficking organizations and their local puppets, at the expense of a significant portion of the economy, or allow them to continue and bring large capital into the economy, at the expense of its citizens’ security. In the past year, the Honduran government has made it clear that it will do everything possible to secure its citizens and regain political and economic stability independent of the trafficking of narcotics. In 2013, however, despite strong endeavors by the National Police to secure the nation from the crime these illegal organizations advocate, Honduras is still plagued by systematic corruption, maintains the world’s highest homicide rate, and serves as the most important cocaine transit point. The Honduran people, however, are very persistent, as made evident by their pressure on the judicial courts and military to execute the coup in 2009. Because the older generation has grown familiar with the violence and fails to be politically active, Honduras must rely on its youth to address and eliminate the corruption and violence that has overshadowed this country’s recent past.

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The Problem of Food Security by Kate Herman

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DECEMBER 2013

You hand a man a fish and he eats for a day. You teach a man to fish, maybe hand him a fishing pole and some waders, and he will eat for a year. So sayeth the logic of knowledge-sharing and technological inputs –the prevailing understanding of international development work as it is now enshrined in the G8’s new campaign: food security. In order to ensure a stable, resilient food market in any given country, a comprehensive system of technology and innovation must be imbedded into the current systems of food production for the sake of maximizing both efficiency and capacity. This, needless to say, requires a massive influx of funds to the countries in question, and the private sector has provided the answer: food enterprise. What had long eluded economists and philanthropists alike has now become suddenly, seductively clear. If all a man needs are some fishing poles and waders, who better to provide them than the bait and tackle shop down the street? Now while this quaint analogy may serve to illustrate a point, it does little to illustrate scale. The man is, of course, representative of millions of subsistence farmers across sub-Saharan Africa, while his fishing pole and waders are the fertilizer and seeds necessary to propel him into mass production. The charming bait and tackle shop then becomes Yara International, Monsanto, or any other multinational corporation that has insinuated itself into the development community. This confluence of interest in the farming practices of sub-Saharan Africa from both the private and the public sphere is far from fortuitous. A slow, deliberate interweaving of funds and foundations, policy and pocketbooks has led to the formation of an iron triangle in the international development community. Private capital now binds the policymakers to the implementers as everything from logos to board members is shared through a growing web of interdependence. Food security itself seems to represent a venerable attempt to frame food provision solely in terms of a moral imperative. Unfortunately, its association with food enterprise usurps its credibility, and its broad claims as to the responsibility of the international sphere fall flat as the concern for profit move to the fore. The two work in tandem: while food security, as a construct, provides the problem, food enterprise provides the solution. Before we vilify multinational corporations simply for their presence in development work, let’s consider the relationship between the farmer and multinational giant. What was before a simple transaction between a fisherman and a store has become a contract between governments and international businesses –the farmer isn’t even at the negotiating table. The contracts of the G8 Food Security Summit give physical form to such a relationship.

Millions of dollars of investment are promised in the form of fertilizer and seeds while countries agree to provide land, labor, and the very bones of their economic infrastructure to facilitate this massive investment in primary crops—often in the complete reorientation of their markets. The issue here is blatant coercive force. The short-term gains in production levels overshadow increasing dependence on imported fertilizer and seeds while the reliance on primary good exports perpetuates the same vassal relationship that has frozen the development of these states since the colonial era. Where is the farmer in all this? Because of the need for land, indigenous groups without formal claims to their land are displaced by the thousands. Because of the need for labor, previously self-sufficient farmers are pushed into the formal economy –no longer providing food for their families, but for the urban class. As the Green Revolution taught us, increases in production capacity always fail to reach the most vulnerable in society, falling instead into the urban or external markets. This serves to demonstrate that the construct of food security not only fails to accomplish its promised conclusion to hunger, but instead works to perpetuate it. The discourse of food security is actually detrimental in itself as it only serves to play into the same myths that we, as potential donors, have been told about food provision since we were young –the same myths that made us feel guilty for throwing out our peas after dinner. Food provision is not a question of output capacity, but the distribution of the food that is already being produced. The idea that the mere production of food would ensure the end to hunger does little but veil the mechanics of food enterprise that is at work beneath. Food security and its operative partner, food enterprise, have now become the new models that buttress the structures and institutions in which hunger has become systematically ingrained. Through signing food security contracts, governments not only absolve themselves of the issue of food provision to their own citizens, but also then profit from the expansion of their export markets. What was previously gross negligence has become calculated profit. For the signators of these contracts, multinational corporations and governments alike, this is an expansion of their profit margin; for millions, it is their livelihood. Perhaps the greatest irony still remains in that we are not dealing with a continent of people who don’t know how to fish. Food security has succeeded in constructing a narrative of the incapable fisherman to which it simultaneously purports to be the only solution, making its presence in the international development community all the more egregious.

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Leaving the Country You Cannot Leave

By Minnie Kim with Dylan Devenyi

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DECEMBER 2013

On one side, a rainbow of flowers lines the trails of lush green peaks; on the other, raw dirt blows from abandoned fields. North Korea’s Tumen River is a natural boundary between two vastly different worlds. Flowing northeast from the summit of Mount Baekdu towards the Sea of Japan, the Tumen is more than a geographic landmark—turning to the south for the last stretch of its 324 miles, it forms the border between North Korea and its neighbors, China and Russia. Like any political barrier separating one realm bursting with vitality from another that is slowly decaying, it attracts the desperate and the disaffected. Less than five feet deep on average, and as narrow as two hundred feet across, more lightly guarded than other of the country’s borders, the Tumen River tempts North Korean defectors hoping to escape to a better life. For them, the Tumen becomes a divide of a different sort: mortal. For thousands it has been a road to freedom attained. For too many others, its icy waters have brought death in the attempt. Life under a totalitarian regime, seclusion from the rest of the world, starvation, and immeasurable poverty have led as many as 300,000 North Koreans to defect since 1953, the year of the Korean War ceasefire. Now, 60 years after the armed conflict ended between the Republic of Korea (usually abbreviated South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), the countries haven’t normalized relations. Crossing the border between the two nations over the 2½-mile wide strip of the “Demilitarized Zone,” more commonly referred to as the DMZ, is impossible. Consequently, the majority of 15


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North Korean defectors look north to the Tumen River. The dangers of the route into China may be less spectacular than the million land mines that pepper the DMZ. But the Tumen is nonetheless treacherous. Kim Eunju, along with her middle-aged mother and older sister, defected during the middle of a bitter December night in 1999. “I felt like I had been encompassed by a hole of darkness. I had to rely on my sixth sense to manage my way ahead. I was the youngest. I held onto my mother’s hand ahead and my older sister’s hand behind me. As silently as possible, we inched our way forward.” The river was frozen. “Our main concern was to not slip,” Kim recounted. “We could not make any sort of sound whatsoever out of fear of being spotted by residents near the border or even worse, the guards.” The cold immobilized Kim in seconds. “My limbs began to feel painfully numb and the blasts of wind sent chills throbbing all throughout my body.” Her only warmth was the feel of her breath against her neck. “I felt like I was walking through a nightmare.” Sitting at a rectangular office desk in the yellow-toned back room of a refugee center in Seoul, South Korea, Kim, sporting a crisp white t-shirt and some dark denim, spoke to me of her ordeal in 2010. The 1999 escape was the family’s second attempt to slip into China, she said. The first time, they’d been caught by Chinese guards and repatriated, then sent to a North Korean forced-labor camp. They were lucky; some deported defectors have faced mass public executions. Instead, Kim Eunju and her family were forced to toil at superfluous make-work in a “reeducation” camp, weeding for end16

less hours or transporting giant blocks of wood on their shoulders. “At the time, I was underage and so I wasn’t forced to do a lot of work,” she remembered, “but all of the labor they didn’t give to me they gave to my mom and older sister. To this day, I still feel horrible for putting them through that.” For the most part, the only method of getting out of these camps alive is a monetary bribe. For those who are destitute, family members on the outside must give up the little they have in order to free their loved ones. Even with such great risks, Kim and her family had no option but to try to defect again for fear of starving to death. “There was no hope for a better future,” Kim said, looking blankly into space, emotionless and detached. Thirty-three percent of defectors from North Korea state that their primary reason is economic. “We were living like beggars, constantly in search of food in order to appease our starving stomachs,” Kim said, describing a type of painful hunger beyond the comprehension of most people in the developed world. “My sister and I never had enough energy to go to school. I don’t even remember most of the chilly winter months, because, to be honest, my brain was probably frozen since our tiny shack of a house had no heating.” Following her father’s death when Kim was a young age, she, her mother, and older sister wanted to start a new life together in a new location. “Sometimes, all three of us wished to die so that we could all be reunited together as a family in a better place.” In the West, most media coverage of North Korea is fixated on its peculiar leaders and despotic oppressive government. North Korean defectors, however, emphasize the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in their home


DECEMBER 2013

country, where the effects of malnourishment and vast poverty are prominent. “A lot of people miss the most imperative thing that needs to change. For me, and a lot of other defectors, it’s less about who the leader is or who his father was, but rather, about the hard lives that the North Korean people are constantly faced with each and every day,” said Kim. “There is not a single drop of freedom in the country and even worse, limited ways for people to provide food, shelter, and other necessities for their families.” Northern Korean citizens live in a state of fear. “The fundamental thing that I hope people begin to focus on is not about getting rid of the current regime, but rather, helping the North Korean people and getting them the provisions they need. For me personally, as long as people have freedom, a sturdy roof over their heads, and food on the table, then it doesn’t really matter who the leader is.” Park Youngho is another North Korean defector who, faced with chronic poverty and malnutrition, fled to China. “My parents had never been able to afford sending me to school, not even nursery school.” After his mother died, “my dad thought that it would be best for his sons to defect, even to China, where we at least would not be starving.” The decision meant indefinite separation between father and sons. “To be honest,” Park said, “at the time, I didn’t really understand why we were leaving. Because I was so young, I didn’t even know that South Korea was a nation.” He followed his older brother and did whatever his brother told him to do. “All I wanted was to not be hungry anymore.” Through a distant family friend whom Park refers to

as his “uncle,” he and his brother were able to buy the help of brokers on their journey to South Korea. Brokers are individuals who help refugees like Park get to a specific destination. Their services are invaluable to expediting the voyage of many defectors towards South Korea. “Yes, we pay them a lot of money, but at the end of the day, it’s all about a sense of trust. We had to place our lives in their hands.” The Park brothers made their way through China and Thailand in the short span of six months. “We didn’t use the same broker the entire way simply for safety reasons. My brother and I were very lucky. Unlike many other defectors, we were not forced to stay in one place for a prolonged period of time. As soon as we arrived at a specific location, our brokers were preparing to send us off to the next.” Kim and her family did not have as simple or as short a journey as Park. They didn’t use any brokers to get to China, she said, “since there wasn’t really anyone that we trusted enough at the time.” They also didn’t have the finances to employ their services. “Brokers are expensive!” It took her and her family almost nine years to make it to South Korea. Eight of those were spent in China. “Not having the aid of a broker made things exponentially slower and more difficult, from not having the money to bribe the patrol guards while crossing the Tumen River to not having a somewhat safe place to stay while in China.” The Chinese government does not grant North Korean defectors any sort of legal or refugee status, seeing them only as illegal migrants. “Living in constant dread of getting caught was so frightening,” she 17


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recalled. “Sometimes, I would not be able to sleep at night because I was so paranoid of every footstep and sound I heard throughout the silence of the night.” Kim’s greatest fear was being deported back to North Korea. “I knew that the second time around, my family and I would for sure be publicly executed.” Another reason Kim and her family were hesitant to hire a broker was their fear of being separated. “We knew that if we stuck together, we would be less vulnerable to mistreatment or manipulation, usually from male traffickers hoping to take advantage of naïve, defenseless defectors,” Kim said. More than two-thirds of people who defect from North Korea are women. An astounding number of these women, close to eighty percent, are deceived or threatened into sex trafficking. Even after they escape, many defectors, feeling exploited, exposed, and without any sort of legal status in China, continue to face countless violations of their human rights. “Fortunately, during our long eight years in China,” Kim said, describing their odyssey from place to place, “we were able to save up sufficient money to employ a broker’s help,” to get them securely through the second leg of their journey, “traveling to Mongolia and eventually, making our way down to South Korea”. Kim and Park are among the best off of amongst North Korean defectors. The majority of those who defect never make it to South Korea. Since 1953, an esti18

mated 25,000 defectors have successfully completed their journey to the South, only a fraction of the number that tries to escape the dictatorial regime. Not having any sort of legal status in China, many continue to live in destitution and dejection, face death along their journey, or are caught and expatriated back to North Korea to face penalties. It might seem as though making it safely to South Korea means the end of all problems for North Korean defectors, but there are many new problems to face. “In the beginning, the hardest part about acclimating to life in South Korea was the loneliness,” Kim stated. “We didn’t have any friends or relatives here and not having anyone to depend on for help for the first few months was extremely nerve-wracking and challenging. I felt so uncultured and out of place.” In China, Kim had heard more about South Korea through TV shows, the news, and movies, but hearing about the hectic environment and actually living in it were very different matters. “Being so unfamiliar with so many aspects of life, from the currency to the public transportation system to the number of foreigners, was quite overwhelming,” she said. “Having to fend for myself was extremely difficult.” Coming from an atmosphere so secluded from the rest of the world, Kim took some time to adjust to the fast paced, westernized, and modern culture of South Korea. With his easy-going personality, Park had an easier


DECEMBER 2013

time acclimating: “When I started school, one of the main things I focused on was making friends. I have to admit, however, that it was hard sometimes. Some of classmates treated me differently once they found out I had defected from North Korea, and their parents even forbid them to hang out with me, out of fear that I would be a bad influence on them. Others judged me for being not as well off– that was the worst.” Not having attended school before, Park also struggled with staying motivated and balancing his academics and social life. “To be honest, for the first few years, I really did not have much incentive to keep up with my schoolwork.” Even the simplest of concepts took him forever to understand. “I had virtually no foundation whatsoever. As a result, my grades suffered a lot.” Although Park does wish that he had put a bit more effort into harmonizing his academics with his social life, at the same time, for him, making friends was crucial in easing his adaptation into South Korean culture. “If I had just decided to study all the time, it would have been much harder for me to get used to living in this completely foreign environment.” Now, Park and Kim are both attending distinguished colleges, something that, just a few years ago, neither of them ever considered a possibility. From when I first met them four years ago in the brightly lit, cramped office of Citizen’s Alliance of North Korean Human Rights, the NGO at which I was interning, both individuals have changed

significantly, not simply in terms of physical appearance but, more importantly, regarding their hopes for the imminent future. When I met with Kim for coffee in Seoul this past summer, she had just returned from a year abroad, studying English in Missouri. With her sleek new haircut, dainty jewelry, floral-patterned dress, and taupe strappy wedges, Kim was almost unrecognizable. “Do you want an Americano or a Vanilla Latte?” she asked me. “Personally, I savor the crisp taste of black coffee.” Apparently, during her year away and while touring Europe, she had also become a coffee connoisseur. Park also has prospects of traveling abroad within the next year, hoping to perfect his English. While dining on some juicy Korean barbeque at one of Seoul’s most popular chain restaurants, Park told me of his expectations for the future. “After I graduate from college, I want to be the one who manages companies,” he eagerly stated. He already looked the part, smartly dressed in a simple light blue button-down and navy khakis. “Maybe I will even be the CEO of my own business.” Like many other defectors whose perilous journey across the Tumen River ends in South Korea, both Kim Eunju and Park Youngho are optimistic for the future, not only in terms of their personal lives, but also, for the North-South relationship. Park disagrees with the overseas notion that North and South Korea are two distinctive countries. “We share the same history. At the end of the day, we are one people.” It is only because of their preconceived notions, he says, that “some people become aloof and withdrawn when they find out that I’m originally from North Korea.” This hesitation hinders many from forming deeper relationships with Kim, Park, and other defectors. “I hope that by getting to know us as individuals, separate from the oppressive regime under which we were forced to reside, people will come to realize that we are just like everyone else. North Korean or South Korean, we want and deserve the same things – freedom and lives in which we don’t have to worry about starving to death or being executed.” For both Kim Eunju and Park Youngho, the journey is not over. They are optimistic for the potential reunification of the two brother nations. During our coffee date, Kim, firmly gripping her half-empty mug of Americano, expressed her hope of returning to her home village with her mother and sister. “What I miss the most about being back in the North are my memories with my father, such as playing outside in the fields and lying outside at night to gaze at the stars. I wish he could have escaped with us so that he too could have had a life with more freedom and comfort. Once the two Koreas are reunited, the first thing I plan on doing is visiting my father’s grave with a bottle of his favorite liquor and a bouquet of lilies to pay my long-due respects.”

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THE BOWDOIN GLOBALIST

China’s Leftover Women by Hongbei Li

Since last year, my childhood friend Huang has been avoiding her mother’s phone calls. At 25, Huang has only been out of college for three years, yet she has worked hard enough to achieve the position of HR manager at a large real estate development firm. However, Huang’s success at work does not seem to satisfy her mother. “For over a year, nearly every phone call would end with the same question: why don’t you have a boyfriend?” Such stories are common in contemporary China. Around 2006 the word Shengnu, literally translated as “leftover women,” rose to prominence in Chinese people’s everyday lives, appearing in news, tabloids, TV shows, movies and books. In 2007, the word Shengnu made it into the list of 171 new words published by the Education Ministry. The Chinese version of Wikipedia, Baidu, describes Shengnu as single women over the age of 27. The entry continues with an analysis of the reasons for being a leftover women: “A professional woman’s high level of education and high income has also caused her to have high standards for men. Because she has high expectations for her future husbands, she could not find an ideal man to marry and gradually became one of the leftover women.” The Shengnu phenomenon has spread across all spectrums of society, creating anxiety and conflict in families. Young girls like Huang born after 1980 were the first generation born under the one-child policy. Unlike previous generations, they no longer needed to sacrifice their rights to education for their brothers and were expected to do well in school. However, as soon as they got out of school and entered society, old cultural attitudes rose up to haunt these women. During the years of Cultural Revolution, women in China were instantly liberated from top to bottom after Mao issued his famous slogan: “women hold up half of the sky.” Yet women in China have never fully, if at all, escaped the pressure of their traditional social roles and the standards that come with it. 30 years after Mao’s slogan, women are still expected to be subordinate to their husband, whether in terms of income, education or physical height. Such social realities are hard to ignore; the title “female PhD” has already become a pejorative term. It is fair to say that well-educated and professionally successful women have become more “unmarriageable” than women with less education and lower income. 20

Yet one has to wonder, how did Shengnu become such a prevalent term when the one-child policy and sex-selective abortions in China have caused a noticeable disproportion in the country’s gender balance? In order to understand Shengnu’s rise to public attention, one must trace the word back to its inception. Surprisingly, as much as Shengnu seems like a grassroots term, the word was officially crafted and introduced by the Chinese Women’s Federation, a state agency that ironically focuses on women’s rights. In 2006, the Women’s Federation in China started a media campaign about those they termed “leftover” women. According to the New York Times, articles with titles such as “Overcoming the Big Four Emotional Blocks: Leftover Women Can Break out of Being Single,” “Eight Simple Moves to Escape the Leftover Women Trap,” and “Do Leftover Women Really Deserve Our Sympathy?” have consistently appeared on the Women Federation’s official website. These articles had an urgent and accusatory tone, bluntly claiming that the new generation of highly-educated women are promiscuous and have no moral standards. One article states: “Many highly educated ‘leftover women’ are very progressive in their thinking and enjoy going to nightclubs to search for a one-night stand, or they become the mistress of a high official or rich man…Therefore, most ‘leftover women’ do not deserve our sympathy.” Such ill supported arguments and vindictive words flood the Shengnu campaign, creating a false sense that women in China are empowered by education in a negative way and that they are deserting their morals and traditional values. Why would the government so harshly target the educated women in China and portray them as a morally corrupted group? The answer lies in another campaign, launched not by the Women’s Federation but China’s State Council, the highest-ranking political institution in China. On December 17, 2006, the Chinese State Council, issued a statement of principle to solve the population crisis created by the one-child policy. These urgent problems include the “shortage of labor,” the “low quality of general population,” and especially the imbalanced gender ratio, causes great “instability.” In this mandate, the Women’s Federation is designated as one of the organizations to solve the challenges. Since 2005, the Chinese leadership has promoted the notion of a “socialist harmonious society”—a socio-economic vision that is said to be the result of Chinese leader Hu Jintao’s signature ideology. As the first generation born under the one-child policy enters the adult world, young men who are of suitable age but cannot find a partner to marry are becoming one of the greatest impediments to the “harmonious society” the government wishes to build. Considering the situation, it is not surprising that the Women’s Federation in China pressures educated young women to marry, hoping they will tie down the young men with families and at the same time procreate, alleviating the anticipated labor shortage. Two birds killed with one stone.


DECEMBER 2013

Roast Busters: New Zealand’s Rape Culture by Serena Taj

New Zealand police are being fiercely criticized as details surface that officials responded ineffectually to allegations against a self-styled rape club, going so far as to ask victims what they were wearing when they were attacked. The so-called “Roast Busters” are a group of high school boys in the Auckland area whose goals are to select underage girls, get them drunk, gang rape them, and then post videos of group members slut-shaming their victims on social media. The group has been in operation since 2011, and police have had access to evidence of the group’s activity since it began—until the scandal broke, the group had pages on Facebook, Twitter, Spring.me, and other social media platforms on which they publicly named and harassed their victims. Despite this massive accumulation of evidence, police say that charges could not be filed against the Roast Busters for their “inappropriate” behavior because none of their victims had yet been “brave enough to come forward with a formal complaint.” Much to the discomfort of New Zealand officials, however, reports are now surfacing that since 2011, four of the group’s victims have given the names of their rapists to the police. Furthermore, those who tried to report their rapes were treated poorly—officers told one 13-year-old who came forward that she had no case because of what she had been wearing when she was attacked. Since the Roast Busters scandal has come to light, New Zealand’s government has suggested a number of remedies in response to the public outcry. One such move has been to propose a bill that would more harshly regulate and prosecute cyber bullying. Unfortunately, this does nothing to educate the public on the nature of the harassment involved in this particular case— harassment that involves assigning blame to rape victims rather than to their rapists. This reaction of the criminal system is indicative of what is referred to as a rape culture: a general understanding of rape in society that functions to undercut the victim and, to a large extent, legitimize the crime by reframing rape as a lesser crime. The proposed bill serves to reframe the issue in this case

as a more general problem of cyber bullying, but a rape culture exists with or without social media as a platform for its transmission. Another suggested solution has been to designate a female police officer to head the Roast Busters case. This is a fine gesture, but again, does nothing to address a society that views both the rapists and their victims as responsible parties. It also has the detrimental effect of framing sexual violence as an issue that is exclusive to women. Both measures are problematic because they can placate the public without establishing any real change, and attempt to reframe the case as a much lesser crime. Outside of the legal realm, the public response to the scandal has been divided. Although protesters have taken to the streets to criticize the official response to the allegations, the Roast Busters and the culture of victim-blaming that they represent are not without support. Internet commentators have expressed hostility toward the victims, arguing that “they went to the parties”, and therefore deserved to be raped. Friends of the Roast Busters have also come to their defense, saying, “I don’t think they’re rapists. They’re really cool dudes. They can make really dumb decisions, but they’re being teenagers.” Meanwhile, the Roast Busters have not only defenders but also admirers—officials have observed the presence of online copycat groups. The Roast Busters themselves remain cavalier about their actions. One Roast Buster’s Facebook status, directed at one of his victims, is emblematic of this attitude: “Go ahead, call the police. They can’t un-rape you.” The Roast Busters scandal sheds light on rape culture in New Zealand, but it cannot be designated as only New Zealand’s problem. Last August, a young woman in Steubenville, Missouri reported being raped by two football players. Rather than being supported by her community, she faced a largely hostile response for “ruining these poor boys’ bright futures.” Currently, the media is featuring reports of a gang rape in Maryville, Missouri in which the victim was also blamed for her rape because she had been drinking that night. These incidents directly parallel the Roast Busters case in that the communities placed the interests of the rapists ahead of those of their victims. It is encouraging that the Roast Busters case has been so prominently featured in the New Zealand media and faces widespread public disapproval. Still, it would be overly optimistic to expect lasting change in its aftermath. The public tends to respond to cases like these with brief spurts of outrage that fizzle as quickly as they arise. In the Roast Busters case, the measures taken in response to national anger have been insufficient, but manage to comfort the public into believing that some change has been accomplished nonetheless. Instead of designing roundabout “solutions”, policymakers and the public alike need to focus on changes that address the problem of rape culture specifically. Unless legitimate changes are made, cases like these will continue to drift in and out of the media because of the fickle nature of public interest, and rape culture will carry on uninterrupted in New Zealand and elsewhere. 21


THE BOWDOIN GLOBALIST

De Kirchner Dominance by Amanda Zalk

On November 18, 2013, the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, returned to work after a six-week leave of absence following an emergency surgery to remove a blood clot in her brain. This polarizing and once all-powerful leader has dominated Argentine politics with a populist zeal comparable to the country’s beloved political legend, Eva Perón. However, Cristina’s obstinacy in her protectionist policies, despite the changing world markets, has caused a steady decline in her popularity as crime rates rise and economic growth stagnates. Following her absence, Cristina is now returning to a very different government, one where she is politically weakened and facing the harsh reality of the end of her reign over an economically-crumbling Argentina. The Kirchners have monopolized Argentine politics for over a decade with their tag-team approach to the presidency. Cristina’s husband, Néstor Kirchner, gained recognition through his affiliation with the Peronist party and endorsement by former president, Eduardo Duhalde, to secure a victory in the 2003 presidential elections. During his four-year term, Néstor consolidated power through popular legislative actions that allowed Argentine military officials to be charged for human rights abuses committed during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” and economic policies that brought growth to the then struggling economy. However, corruption scandals, an energy crisis, and high inflation during his last year in office caused him not to seek reelection and instead support his wife’s candidacy as a way to maintain his dominance over the presidency. Cristina had established herself as a leader of Néstor’s newly founded Peronist party, Front for Victory, and a growing political influence when she defeated her opponent in a high-profile election for senator to the politically important Buenos Aires province. This victory insulated her from claims of inexperience during the presidential election and, in 2007, Cristina succeeded her husband, winning 45 percent of the vote and becoming the first female elected president of Argentina. However “Queen Cristina,” as she has been nicknamed by her multitude of critics, has not enjoyed the same popularity 22

as her husband and, for most of her time in office, has presided over a deeply divided Argentina sinking further into economic collapse. Following her 2007 election, Cristina’s government imposed a new tax system to significantly increase export taxes on grains in an attempt to control Argentine food prices. This was met with large-scale strikes and protests by farmers’ unions throughout the country, causing a decline in both her and her husband’s popularity and dividing the country among those who supported the government and those who advocated for the farmers. Still, a fragmented opposition and a booming economy allowed the Kirchners to rebound from their political setback, and in the 2011 presidential elections Néstor was regarded as the likely candidate. However, his sudden death in October 2010 triggered widespread sympathy for Cristina who ran in his place and was reelected for a second term with 54 percent of the vote and a reclaimed majority of her party in Congress. Since her providential reelection, Cristina has enjoyed largely unchallenged political power because her party’s majority in Congress enables her to easily push through policies. This has fostered her transformation into an authoritarian leader whose out of touch government has isolated itself both domestically and internationally. Cristina has remained intransigent in her extravagant social spending programs as a tactic to maintain her popularity among the poor and her adherence to Peronist policies. However, without a strong world market for farm exports to support the programs, Cristina’s administration abandoned all common sense and began lying to the public about inflation rates. Economists independent of the Argentine government estimate the true current annual inflation rate to be 25 percent, the highest it’s been since 1991 and more than double the official rate released by the government. To make matters worse, beginning in early 2012 the government imposed strict price controls on goods, and restricted the public sale of dollars to stem the outflow of foreign currency as a way to insulate the government’s eroded foreign-currency reserves following its expropriation of Repsol’s controlling stake in YPF, the country’s main oil company. This has not only created an enormous black market in which a dollar currently commands nearly 10 pesos while the official exchange rate remains at 5.9 pesos, but is also the driving force behind the country’s growing energy deficit. The sustained turmoil under Cristina has caused many Argentines to lose faith in their government and take to the streets in protests outside the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace in the capital of Buenos Aires. However, to the joy of many disillusioned Argentines, Cristina’s leave of absence forced her to abandon campaigning for mid-term congressional elections, and her allies suffered heavy losses in the October 27 vote. As a result, Cristina’s party had its majority in Congress reduced. This not only put an end to concerns that she might try to amend the constitution to allow her to run for a third term in office, but also significantly weakened the President’s political monopoly and, for many, has marked the beginning of the end of the Kirchner era.


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Photography Credits Front Cover: Photo Courtesy of Joe Doe, Page 5: Photo Courtesy of Rob Holden, Page 6: Photo Courtesy of CNN, Page 7: Photo Courtesy of the Brown Moses Blog, Page 8: Photo Courtesy of The World Economic Forum, Page 10: Photo Courtesy of Neil Palmer, Page 14: Photo Courtesy of Joe Doe, Page 16: Photo Courtesy of flickr.com user Wifarm, Page 17: Photo Courtesy of Thomas Bougher, Page 18: Photo Courtesy of flickr.com user Steve_Uritours, Page 20: Photo Courtesy of Craig Cloutier, Page 21: Photo via 444.hu, Page 22: Photo Courtesty of Presidencia de la RepĂşblica del Ecuador. Page 23: Photo Courtesy of flickr.com user groucho, Back Cover: Photo by Mark Pizzi

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The Bowdoin Globalist – Issue 5 December 2014