Saturday, May 16, 2015

Affairs of State, Corruption and Protests: The Current Political Situation.

          For the past several months I've been adjusting to my new life here in Macedonia.  I've shown you beautiful landscapes, great food and interesting cultural differences.  Despite that, Macedonians are having a very different experience. 

          Before I list the facts of the current political situation I'm going to explain the emotions here.  Keep in mind that as a Peace Corps Volunteer I'm a-political and this post doesn't reflect the position of the US Government.  For those of you in the UK or South Africa you'll easily relate to the complicated history and emotions of the Balkans but we Americans have a much harder time doing so.  

          So imagine the entire United States is the size of New England.  That's the Balkans and Macedonia is Vermont. Within that area history goes back not 400 years but 4,000 years.  Within the past 1,000 years that same area of New England would be invaded and conquered by the Spanish, (the Byzantines) a little by the Vikings and a lot by the Aztecs, with New York City, Constantinople/Istanbul, as their capital and Mexico City, Mecca, their religious capital. (That's the culturally and religiously distinct Ottoman Empire). Additionally, within New England every state and some city-states would invade, pillage and conquer their neighbors without mercy. (Think Game of Thrones).   Now, within the past hundred years imagine that a stable state was formed following more conquest, that's Yugoslavia. Following it's collapse emotions that our own Civil War released would cause a civil war here but it would be combined with a movement that was the opposite of the Civil Rights Movement and became an ethnic cleansing. (That's the Bosnia Serb-Muslim war of the 1990's).  Lastly, while we were dealing with 9/11 Macedonia was in a ethnic civil-war with in-country Albanians.

          That is a simplified explanation of the very complicated religious, ethnic and political history here.

          Well in Macedonia those emotions have been directed at the government.  The fact is there's been a wire tapping scandal that would dwarf Watergate's and has sparked protests from the opposition party, and university students, for months. Click on the link to read an article by the NY Times. 

          The facts are:
  • The wiretaps have tapped conversations of party members and it's leaders, including the Prime Minister
  • The conversations include nepotism
  • Corruption 
  • Discussions of an attempted cover up due to the murder of a 22 year old by an off-duty police officer in 2011
  • Information on the death of an anti-government journalist
  • Voter fraud against Macedonians and Albanians  
          The government insists that the it hasn't made the alleged recordings because an "intelligence service" of an unnamed foreign government is trying to work with accomplices in the Ministry to topple the government.

          Additionally, you might have heard about a terrorist group that was cracked down on by the government in the northern city of Kumanovo.  It occurred last weekend and ended with several police and special forces members being killed, who were both Macedonian and Albanian.  Sunday and Monday were national days of mourning.

          A final release of information by the opposition will occur tomorrow, a massive but hopefully peaceful protest will occur in the capital and it has no end date.   We PCV's are all safe and I hope that there won't be any escalation, the opposition leader has said the protests will be "Ghandi style", because I want to us to stay here and continue our service.  I'll post an update when it's appropriate.  

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