Global Trends 2030: decline in US power, but ‘new era of democratization’

Global megatrends could be leading to a new era of democratization, according to a new report from the U.S. government’s National Intelligence Council.

But that is only one of several scenarios outlined in the report, Global Trends 2030, which warns of the potentially catastrophic impact of “Black Swans,” exceptional events that can shift the course of history, including rapid climate change, a severe global pandemic that killed millions in a matter of months. Two positive events – “a democratic China or a reformed Iran” – could generate more global stability.

“By 2030, no country—whether the US, China, or any other large country—will be a hegemonic power,” the report states. “The empowerment of individuals and diffusion of power among states and from states to informal networks will have a dramatic impact, largely reversing the historic rise of the West since 1750, restoring Asia’s weight in the global economy, and ushering in a new era of ‘democratization’ at the international and domestic level.”

“The ‘unipolar’ moment is over and Pax Americana — the era of American ascendancy in international politics that began in 1945 — is fast winding down,” the report concludes.

New communications technologies will shift political power from nation states “toward multifaceted and amorphous networks that will form to influence state and global actions,” the NIC contends.

“Those nations with some of the strongest fundamentals — GDP, population size, etc. — will not be able to punch their weight unless they learn to operate in networks and coalitions in a multipolar world.”

Nevertheless, the U.S. is most likely to remain “first among equals” in 2030.

The U.S. will remain the only power “that can really orchestrate these coalitions, including non-state actors and state actors, to really manage, deal with these huge challenges and changes” the world faces, said NIC Counselor Mathew Burrows, the report’s principal author.

In one potential scenario for global governance, “cooperation, initially based on the US and China coming together, quickly spreads. Greater democratization takes hold first with a more liberal regime in China.”

“Chinese democratization could constitute an immense ‘wave,’ increasing pressure for change on other authoritarian states,” the authors contend.

But the authors warn that sectarian violence in the Arab world, “could undermine support for democratic governance and lead to the emergence of strongman dictators—propelling these countries away from liberal democracy.”

The report outlines several scenarios, or “Potential Worlds,” for 2030, including “Stalled Engines”, the “most plausible worst-case scenario [in which] the risks of interstate conflict increase….The U.S. draws inward and globalization stalls.”

Much of the report, the fifth in a series by the NIC, an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, highlights potentially positive trends, including a healthier, more educated and more affluent global population and a shift toward greater democracy.

“We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures,” Council Chairman Christopher Kojm writes in the report.

With “economic growth, the rise of the global middle class, greater educational obtainment and better health care mean — for the first time in human history — the majority of the world’s population will no longer be impoverished,” he said.

The global expansion of the middle classes will accelerate pressure for political and social change, but democracy will not necessarily result.

“Historically, the rise of middle classes has led to populism and dictatorships as well as pressures for greater democracy,” the authors note.

Democratization may also generate severe political and social disruption, the report contends.

“Many experts believe a more democratic China would unleash growing nationalistic sentiment, at least in the short-to-medium term, increasing already existing tensions with China’s neighbors,” the authors note:

Over the longer term, as rule-of-law institutions become more rooted and the political system stabilizes and is perceived as non-threatening, Chinese “soft power” could be boosted. China’s successful transition to democratization could increase pressure on other authoritarian states as well as further burnish China’s economic development model as long as democratization did not permanently stem China’s economic growth.

“A world of surging middle classes, varying economic potentials, and more diffuse power will also exhibit an increasingly diverse ideological landscape,” says the report, with religion “at the center of these ideological debates within and across societies.”

The growing education, earning power, education and political leverage of women “will be a key driver of success for many countries,” with gender gaps closing fastest in East Asia and Latin America.

In the Middle East, the youth who led the Arab revolts will eventually contribute to a gradually aging population and as new technologies begin to supply the world with alternative sources of oil and gas, the region’s economy will need to diversify.

“But the Middle East’s trajectory will depend on its political landscape,” the report states.

“On the one hand, if the Islamic Republic maintains power in Iran and is able to develop nuclear weapons, the Middle East will face a highly unstable future. On the other hand, the emergence of moderate, democratic governments or a breakthrough agreement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could have enormously positive consequences.”

The region “will be a very different place” in 2030, the authors contend. “But the possibilities run a wide gamut from fragile growth and development to chronic instability and potential regional conflicts.”

Chronic instability will be a feature of the Middle East because of the growing weakness of the state and the rise of sectarianism, Islam, and tribalism”:

The challenge will be particularly acute in states such as  Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria where sectarian tensions were often simmering below the surface as autocratic regimes co-opted minority groups and imposed harsh measures to keep ethnic rivalries in check. …. Under any scenario, Yemen is likely to be a security concern with weak central government, poverty, unemployment with a young population that will go from 28 million today to 50 million in 2025. Bahrain could also become a cockpit for growing Sunni-Shia rivalry, which could be destabilizing for the Gulf region.

“Over time,” the authors suggest, “ongoing violence could undermine support for democratic governance and lead to the emergence of strongman dictators—propelling these countries away from liberal democracy.”

The use of new communications technologies and social media will empower citizens, but it will also provide governments “an unprecedented ability to monitor their citizens,” the report said.

“The widespread use of new communications technologies will become a double-edged sword for governance. On the one hand, social networking will enable citizens to coalesce and challenge governments, as we have already seen in Middle East,” the report states.

On the other hand,…

“Connective technologies will give governments—both authoritarian and democratic—an unprecedented ability to monitor their citizens,” the NIC notes. “If threats and challenges to state control escalate, IT use in statecraft presents opportunities for middle and emerging powers to project soft power and increase their influence through new IT-enabled strategic communications relative to bigger countries.”

Many currently fragile states—such as Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia—are “likely to remain highly vulnerable during the next 15-20 years.”

“These countries will most likely continue to have weak governance, security, and economic performance while facing demographic and environmental challenges,” the report suggests.

In Asia, the report envisages a “consolidated regional order in which an East Asian community develops along the lines of Europe’s democratic peace, with China’s political liberalization a precondition for such a regional evolution.”

“Such a pathway for regional order presumes that Asian regionalism will develop in a pluralistic way that preserves the autonomy of smaller Asian states. A pluralistic and peace-loving East Asian community might require the continued role of the United States as the region’s security guarantor.”


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Defending Human Rights in Belarus: Two Years after the Crackdown

Russia is trying to “re-Sovietize” Eastern Europe and Central Asia under the auspices of a Eurasian Union, the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe heard last week.  

“We know what the purpose of these efforts is and we are trying to find effective measures in order to slow down or stop this process,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She stressed how “distressing” it is that 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, “so many of the hoped-for indicators of progress are retreating.”

Political space for civil society and human rights groups is shrinking, and “governments are becoming much more aggressive in trying to stifle dissent, [and] prevent the free expression and exchange of views.”

But Soviet-style controls never really ended in one part of the former Soviet Union.

“The Soviet Union disappeared from the world map, but it is preserved in Belarus” one activist told a weekend conference.

The human rights situation in Belarus is “difficult and stable,” said Valyantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of the Vyasna (Spring) NGO, said on the occasion of International Human Rights Day.

“Our biggest concern is that the government voluntarily made a number of human rights commitments within the framework of the United Nations and the OSCE and now openly ignores them,” he said.

The second anniversary of the December 19th crackdown in Belarus offers an opportunity to weigh the costs of and responses to “Bloody Sunday.” The human toll has been harsh. After a peaceful protest against a flawed presidential election, Alexander Lukashenka’s regime beat, imprisoned and tortured more than 700 of its citizens, raided dozens of civil society organizations, and forced scores of activists into exile.  

Related demonstrations in 2011 led to the repression of thousands more. Students have been expelled, young males forcibly inducted into the military, workers and professionals fired, and families split. The regime still holds and mistreats more than a dozen political prisoners. A combination of US, European and Belarusian support has helped Belarusian human rights groups to provide legal, medical, material, humanitarian, technical and other assistance to more than 1,000 cases of persecution.  

The human rights sector has been one of the best performing parts of Belarusian civil society, helping all of those in need, regardless of political or other orientation. Nevertheless, repression continues and human rights groups remain under great pressure as they attempt to respond. Please join us for an update on the human rights situation in Belarus and a discussion how organizations can better assist the work of human rights defenders there. 

The National Endowment for Democracy, together with Freedom House, the Belarusian Human Rights House, and the International Federation for Human Rights cordially invites you to a roundtable discussion:

Defending Human Rights in Belarus: Two Years after the Crackdown 

Wednesday, December 12

11:30 am – 1 pm

(a light lunch will be served) 

1025 F Street, NW, Seventh Floor Conference Room

Washington DC 20004  

Zhanna Litvina, Chair of the Belarusian Association of Journalists

Natallia Pinchuk, wife of political prisoner and President of the Human Rights Center Viasna Ales Bialiatski

Tatsiana Reviaka, President of Belarusian Human Rights House,Board Member of the Human Rights Center Viasna

Speaker Biographies: 

Zhanna Litvina is an award-winning Belarusian radio journalist, chair and co-founder of the Belarusian Association of Journalists. BAJ has been hailed as the “single most important organization for keeping the world informed about what goes on in Europe’s last remaining dictatorship and for keeping Belarus’ besieged journalists a bit more sane and safe than they would otherwise be,” and was awarded the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for acting “as a champion of the independent media” in 2004. Litvina has advocated for freedom of speech for decades despite pressure from a regime that consistently threatens and detains journalists. Litvina was awarded the Louis Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism in 2004, and the Ebert Foundation Human Rights Award in 2008.

Natallia Pinchuk is the wife of political prisoner Ales Bialiatski, who is Vice-Chairman of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and President of the Human Rights Center Viasna. Since Bialiatski’s trumped up conviction in November 2011, Natallia has been the link between her husband and the rest of the world, speaking frequently about the conditions of his imprisonment.

Tatsiana Reviaka has been the President of the Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius since 2010 and is a Board Member of the Human Rights Center Viasna. Viasna is a leading Belarusian human rights NGO, established in 1996 during mass demonstrations by the democratic opposition to help the arrested protest participants and their families. Currently, it has about 200 members across the country and was the main organization assisting those arrested during the demonstrations that followed the flawed presidential election in December 2010. In 2003, Viasna’s state registration was groundlessly cancelled due to its nonpartisans observation of the 2001 presidential election. Despite the 2004 decision of the UN Human Rights Committee declaring the liquidation of Viasna illegal, the organization remains unregistered. In 2006, Tatsiana Reviaka’s commitment to human rights was recognized by the 2006 Anna Lindh Award. Instituted by the Anna Lindh Memorial Fund Foundation, the award demonstrates that violence must never quell our belief in the ability to achieve change with peaceful measures and democratic channels.

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‘Tyranny of the majority’ in Egypt, as Morsi empowers military?

President Mohamed Morsi has ordered Egypt’s army to assume police powers, including the right to arrest civilians. The move comes on the eve of mass rival demonstrations on the controversial draft constitution.

It orders the military to fully cooperate with police “to preserve security and protect vital state institutions for a temporary period, up to the announcement of the results from the referendum,” according to a copy obtained by AFP.

“I don’t know what to make of it,” said Nathan Brown, a Middle East expert and professor at George Washington University. “When I read the text of the decree it looks like the military’s job is to provide security during the voting process at a time when security has been compromised, when there is the possibility of disruption at the polls and clashes. But in Egypt, anytime you bring in the military, it has political overtones that set people on edge — for good reason.”

Other analysts will likely seize on the move as confirmation that Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is adopting the same methods as Hosni Mubarak.

“Recent developments suggest that Morsi and his band of illiberal brothers are supporting free elections to perpetuate their own brand of illiberal democracy,” says Mohamed Elmenshawy, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C, who writes a weekly column for the Egyptian Daily Alshorouk.

A statement issued by the military over the weekend said a solution to the political crisis should not contradict “legitimacy and the rules of democracy”.

“The armed forces affirm that dialogue is the best and only way to reach consensus,” it added. “The opposite of that will bring us to a dark tunnel that will result in catastrophe and that is something we will not allow.”

The military’s statement was addressed “as much to the Muslim Brotherhood as to the liberals,” said analyst Hassan Nafaa.

Growing opposition to Morsi’s rule probably prompted the generals to “inform him that they cannot continue to keep the peace and that he should make serious concessions to the opposition,” said Wayne White, a former senior US State Department intelligence official now a policy expert with Washington’s Middle East Policy Council.

But direct military intervention is unlikely, says Hassan Abu Taleb of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

“They realise that interfering again in a situation of civil combat will squeeze them between two rocks,” he said.

Three preconditions for dialog were outlined by former liberal MP Amr Hamzawy:

Firstly he demanded that the referendum be postponed and the timeframe for the process of ratifying a constitution, which many have claimed to be rushed, be reconsidered. Secondly, he rejected the president’s approach in his address, which did not condemn the Muslim Brotherhood for the violence and deaths that took place. Thirdly, he disapproved of the president’s failure to reconstruct the Constituent Assembly to make it more representative.

Egypt’s opposition has three options, says the Atlantic Council’s Michele Dunne, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy: boycott the referendum, galvanize the “no” vote, or keep demonstrating to prevent the referendum taking place.

Opposition factions are still discussing whether to boycott the referendum or call for a “no” vote, said Lamia Kamel, a spokeswoman for former Arab League chief Amr Moussa:

“Both paths are unwelcome because they really don’t want the referendum at all,” she said, but predicted a clearer opposition line if the plebiscite went ahead as planned.

“We do not acknowledge the referendum. The aim is to change the decision and postpone it,” said  a spokeswoman for Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.

The deteriorating constitutional crisis demonstrates that majority rule “might be healthy in a well-functioning democracy, but not when a country is still trying to design a widely accepted system — it creates many sore losers and shuts out voices that need to be heard at the beginning of the process,” says a leading analyst.

Egypt’s Muslin Brotherhood has been “willing to throw some concessions to their rivals but not enough to truly bring them along,” notes GWU analyst Brown, an expert on Egyptian constitutional law.

“Even had the Islamists been willing to give more, it is not clear that there was any good-faith bargain to be had, since some members of the opposition have simply rejected earlier electoral outcomes as ‘unrepresentative,’” he writes for Foreign Affairs.

Whether the controversial draft constitution becomes “the basis for a pluralistic system or a tool for a standing Islamist majority depends on five key factors,” Brown contends:

First, the laws that are developed to give the constitution’s clauses concrete meanings are important. The document’s more liberal provisions will require the rewriting of large areas of Egyptian law that are currently authoritarian, such as those governing the press and nongovernmental organizations……

Elections will be a second battleground. If opposition forces that reject the constitution boycott future polling, they will leave the field open to Islamists. Even if they do compete, however, the payoff for them might be slow. Non-Islamist groups have shown a great ability to galvanize thousands of protestors, but they have not yet shown any inclination to begin the hard work of mobilizing millions for the polls. As long as elections are tilted toward Islamists, steps toward democracy will be steps toward continued Islamist rule.

Third, the ways in which Egypt’s elected rulers reshape state institutions — the military, religious institutions, and the courts — will be critical for determining the constitution’s meaning in practice. The military won considerable autonomy in the constitution, much more than 2011′s revolutionaries had hoped. The Brotherhood has been clear about its intentions: civilian oversight is a long-term goal, not an immediate priority. And perhaps over time, the generals, who are fairly conservative, might grow accustomed to Islamist rule…..For now, the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court will retain its chief and its ten most senior justices……The court has clashed with Egypt’s rising Islamist forces several times this year. But as the court’s judges gradually retire, the parliament might write a law ensuring that more pliable figures take their places.

The fourth key point is the question of who will interpret and apply the constitution’s Islamic provisions. There are, at first glance, few differences between the clauses in this draft and those in the 1971 constitution. But the meaning of constitutional articles can change according to who is in charge of upholding the document. …..

The final issue will be whether the constitution is used to whittle down the country’s domineering presidency. From the first days of the Egyptian uprising, all political forces agreed that the authoritarianism that had ruled their country uninhibited for six decades should be curbed. But it is not clear that the drafters have provided many tools for that job. The constitution is more presidential than might have been expected, and it leaves some powerful mechanisms in the president’s hands.

All of the main protagonists claim democratic credentials, “but the viability of Egyptian democracy depends not on real or claimed intentions but on healthy processes, accepted rules, and well-designed structures. And that should give us little reassurance,” Brown argues:

Already, the institutional wreckage and political damage is extensive and will be difficult to overcome. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s decision to take on absolute authority — even on an interim basis — and the rushed production of a final draft of the constitution have not only led to clashes in the streets but also to contests among Egyptian state bodies.

For one, the country’s professional associations are badly split between supporters of the Islamist government and their opponents. Civil war in the labor unions might be brewing. The judiciary has risen in protest, and it is difficult to see how the institution, which had managed to maintain some autonomy even during Egypt’s most authoritarian periods, could emerge unscathed. In turn, the country’s electoral machinery might be badly damaged, because it depends on the oversight of the deeply offended judges.


“The Muslim Brotherhood believes that it has majority support so it can win the constitutional referendum,” said Eric Trager, analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

If that happens, he warned, it would “set up the country for prolonged instability.”

The current conflict “isn’t really about Morsi and his surprise decree” but more fundamental divisions over Egypt’s political trajectory, says Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Centre: should Egypt become more Islamist or remain a largely civil state with “secular, more neutral underpinnings?”

“The (draft) constitution has a few Islamically-flavored articles, but for the most part it is a mediocre — and somewhat boring — document, based as it was on the similarly mediocre 1971 constitution,” Hamid said.

“‘Islamists’ and ‘non-Islamists’ may hate each other, but, on substance, the gap isn’t currently as large as it might be … In the longer run, however, the consensus that so many seem to be searching and hoping for may not actually exist.”

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Not so smart ‘sympathy for Africa’s despots’?

“Women take more readily to the ‘smart power’ approach to foreign policy,” pioneered by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, says a prominent analyst.

“In a nutshell, this approach entails using a wide spectrum of tools in addition to the hard power of military and economic might to address global problems,” says Princeton University professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning for the State Department:

It is an open secret in Washington that national security meetings in government or think tanks are overwhelmingly male; development meetings are at least 50 percent female. For whatever reasons, men focus more on state-to-state issues, while women pay a great deal of attention to broader social matters. It is thus not unreasonable to think that a female secretary of state would be more adept at handling the full portfolio.

Call it multitasking foreign policy: the ability to look at what is happening across the Middle East, for example, and to recognize that addressing unemployment, resource scarcity and the oppression of women is just as important for the safeguarding of U.S. interests as monitoring geopolitical rivalries between Shiite and Sunni states.

Another prospective female Secretary of State is coming under fire for allegedly showing “a surprising and unsettling sympathy for Africa’s despots”?

Susan E. Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN, recently delivered a eulogy for a man she called “a true friend to me,” Salem Solomon writes in The New York Times:

Before thousands of mourners and more than 20 African heads of state in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Ms. Rice, the United States’ representative to the United Nations, lauded the country’s late prime minister, Meles Zenawi (right). She called him “brilliant” — “a son of Ethiopia and a father to its rebirth.”

This record dates from Ms. Rice’s service as assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President Bill Clinton, who in 1998 celebrated a “new generation” of African leaders, many of whom were ex-rebel commanders; among these leaders were Mr. Meles, Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jerry J. Rawlings of Ghana, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Yoweri K. Museveni of Uganda.

“In fairness, in her eulogy, Ms. Rice said she differed with Mr. Meles on questions like democracy and human rights,” writes Solomon, an Eritrean-American journalist who runs the Africa Talks website:

But if so, the message did not get through; under Mr. Meles during the past 15 years, democracy and the rule of law in Ethiopia steadily deteriorated. Ethiopia imprisoned dissidents and journalists, used food aid as a political tool, appropriated vast sections of land from its citizens and prevented the United Nations from demarcating its border with Eritrea.

Rice’s relationship with Rwanda’s authoritarian regime is also the subject of a New York Times  report today, alleging that she has frequently intervened to protect Rwandan president Paul Kagame from criticism for backing the Democratic Republic of Congo rebel group M23, which has been accused of gross human rights abuses, including mass rape and the use of child soldiers.

In a private meeting with her French and British counterparts, Rice reportedly objected to the idea of “naming and shaming” Kagame, saying, “This is the D.R.C. If it weren’t the M23 doing this, it would be some other group.”

“The M23 would probably no longer exist today without Rwandan support,” said Jason K. Stearns, author of “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of Congo and the Great War of Africa.” “It stepped in to prevent the movement from collapsing and has been providing critical military support for every major offensive.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter is a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group. 

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Cuba reforms fail because regime ‘not ready to let go’

Cuba’s efforts to promote small-scale private enterprise are floundering due to the government’s innate authoritarianism, say analysts.

The failure of a new agriculture exchange near the capital, Havana, “is a vivid sign of both how much the country has changed, and of all the political and practical limitations that continue to hold it back,” The New York Times reports:

Because of waste, poor management, policy constraints, transportation limits, theft and other problems, overall efficiency has dropped: many Cubans are actually seeing less food at private markets. That is the case despite an increase in the number of farmers and production gains for certain items. A recent study from the University of Havana showed that market prices jumped by nearly 20 percent in 2011 alone. And food imports increased to an estimated $1.7 billion last year, up from $1.4 billion in 2006.

“It’s the first instance of Cuba’s leader not being able to get done what he said he would,” said Jorge I. Domínguez, vice provost for international affairs at Harvard. “The published statistical results are really very discouraging.”

The reforms are failing to inject much dynamism into the island’s moribund economy, demonstrating that the regime has ‘has lost the ideological battle’, observers claim.

The project’s failure highlights the tensions within the ruling Community Party’s attempt to reconcile free markets with authoritarian politics, along the lines of the Market-Leninist regimes in Vietnam and China, analysts suggest:

“It’s about control,” said Philip Peters, a Cuba analyst with the Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based research group.

Other analysts agree, noting that though the agricultural reforms have gone farther than other changes — like those that allow for self-employment — they remain constrained by politics.

“The government is not ready to let go,” said Ted Henken, a Latin American studies professor at Baruch College. “They are sending the message that they want to let go, or are trying to let go, but what they have is still a mechanism of control.”

Desperate for foreign revenue, Cuba’s government is suppressing news of a major cholera outbreak for fear of alienating tourists.

“We have to question whether the Cuban government today prioritizes their need for tourism … more than local public health demands,” wrote Sherri Porcelain, a public health expert at the University of Miami and researcher at its Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies.

Worst hit by the cholera has been eastern Cuba, where Sandy came ashore last month halfway between Manzanillo and Santiago, the island’s second-largest city and capital of a province with the same name.It damaged water, electricity and sewer systems, flooded latrines and left behind puddles where dengue-carrying mosquitoes easily bred.

“There is tremendous worry in Santiago,” said Clavel, one of a dozen Cubans contacted for this story. Many were dissidents, unafraid to talk about the epidemics. Their versions coincided in many ways, but could not be individually confirmed.

The regime’s recent crackdown on pro-democracy dissidents has prompted the head of Spain’s ruling party to call for the democratization of Cuba.

“I want to say very loudly and clearly that for the citizens of the western countries, for all the citizens of the democratic countries that share the same cultural roots and the same moral and political values, the existence of the Communist dictatorship in Cuba is a reason for embarrassment and a call to our sense of freedom and responsibility,” said Esperanza Aguirre.

Her country’s historical and cultural bonds with Cuba mean Spaniards have “more responsibility than anyone else when it comes to taking on the dictatorship, and when it comes to collaborating with the dissidence in order to achieve, once and for all, a return to a free Cuba,” she said.

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