October 04, 2021

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Death of a Salesman

PERU

Peru will cremate the remains of Abimael Guzmán, the founder of the Shining Path rebel group that caused tens of thousands of deaths in the South American country in the 1980s and 1990s. Guzmán died in prison on Sept.11 at the age of 86. An ex-philosophy professor and Maoist revolutionary, he was serving a life sentence on treason and terrorism charges.

As Reuters explained, the fate of his body after his death has been controversial. Peruvian authorities did not want to bury the late terrorist out of fear of creating a shrine for some who might see him as a martyr. His widow, who is still in jail on treason and terrorism charges, wanted to have his ashes but her request was denied.

Shining Path was one of many insurgencies in Latin American from the 1970s through the 1990s that began as an effort to enact leftist policies to help the poor, small farmers and others but evolved into a fighting operation. It, however, was “a totalitarian outlier, a Maoist cult of personality constructed to glorify Guzmán’s messianic fantasies,” wrote the New Yorker. On Mao’s birthday in 1980, for instance, Guzman ordered his followers to kill and mutilate street dogs in protest of then-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s tolerance of free markets.

The public debate over the cremation illustrates how Peru is still grappling with the legacy of one of Latin America’s bloodiest rebel conflicts. “What is Guzmán’s place in the history of Peru?” asked Carlos Meléndez, a political analyst at Diego Portales University in Chile, in the Washington Post. “Without statues, without tombs, without pilgrimage sites, what will be the symbolism with which we bury Guzmán in Peru’s history?”

He noted that the reckoning with the past has yet to occur: The violence is “something that we as Peruvians have not yet collectively processed,” he said. “Many of the ingredients that caused the Shining Path to explode are still present.”

Ironically, Guzmán lived long enough to see the first Marxist-Leninist president of Peru, Pedro Castillo, assume power in July, no mean feat in a country which has, thanks to Shining Path, often demonized the left. Guzmán’s acolytes are members of Castillo’s cabinet and serve in the Peruvian Congress, noted a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. Castillo has been pushing to concentrate power in his office and install more Shining Path leaders throughout government, too.

Around 40 percent of Peruvians believe that some top officials harbor sympathies for the Shining Path, according to polls cited in the Rio Times, an English-language newspaper based in Brazil. Critics are waiting with “knives out” to stop Castillo if he missteps, wrote Jacobin, a leftwing news magazine. The president, meanwhile, faces poor odds. Peru has had four presidents since 2016. Prosecutors have charged three with corruption. A fourth committed suicide before his trial, Le Monde Diplomatique noted.

Still, Castillo condemned Guzmán’s violence after his death, distancing himself, perhaps, from the revolutionary’s worst impulses, Americas Quarterly wrote. But as the publication noted, that a leftist president now leads Peru shows how much the country has already moved on.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Grains of Salt

PHILIPPINES

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced over the weekend that he was retiring from politics, suggesting that he won’t attempt to run for the vice presidency in the upcoming presidential elections this year to remain in power, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Duterte will end his six-year term in June 2022. The constitution prohibits him to run for reelection. He had initially suggested the idea of running for vice president and accepted his party’s nomination for the post.

Critics said that he was attempting to circumvent the constitution’s one-term limit and extend his grip in power: They noted that move would offer him a backdoor into the presidency if the president died, resigned or left office.

However, Duterte reversed his decision after national opinion polls indicated public opposition to his candidacy as vice president, Axios reported.

The president has come under fire for his brutal drug war that has left thousands dead.

Last month, the International Criminal Court authorized an investigation into Duterte’s war on drugs, which could result in his prosecution.

Despite his announcement, political analysts said the president has made similar statements in the past, only to later reconsider. Six years ago, Duterte, while serving as mayor of Davao City, also said he would not seek the presidency and would retire from politics. However, he later entered the presidential race and won the 2016 elections by an overwhelming margin.

“Duterte is a person whose words are really hard to count on,” said Richard Heydarian of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Sentenced to Hunger

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia ordered the expulsion of seven senior United Nations officials over accusations of “meddling in internal affairs” amid a worsening famine in the country’s war-torn Tigray region, the Guardian reported.

The government said the individuals which include staff from the UN human rights office and the children’s agency, UNICEF, have to leave the country within 72 hours.

The decision came following warnings from UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths over Ethiopia’s blockade of aid in the northern Tigray region, causing widespread famine affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Griffiths said that children have been dying of hunger and medicine stocks have been running out.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the expulsion and said the UN staff in Ethiopia was “delivering lifesaving aid… to people in desperate need.”

In recent months, the international community has criticized Ethiopia’s handling of the situation in the Tigray region. Since November, the federal government has been engaged in a bloody conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Thousands have died.

The Ethiopian government has halted food, medicine and fuel deliveries from entering Tigray in an effort to block support for the TPLF.

However, the blockade, locusts swarms decimating crops and a potentially poor harvest risks worsening the situation in the region. Griffiths warned that child malnutrition is at its highest rate since the Somalia famine of 2010-2012, which killed up to 260,000 people.

Meanwhile, the United States criticized the Ethiopian government and urged the international community “to employ all appropriate tools to apply pressure on the government of Ethiopia and any other actors impeding humanitarian access.”

You May Leave

AUSTRALIA

Australia will drop some restrictions on international travel next month after more than a year of strict border closures that have won the nation monikers such as “Fortress Australia” and the “Hermit Kingdom,” the Washington Post reported.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the country will reopen and vaccinated Australians will be able to travel abroad as soon as the country reaches an 80 percent vaccination rate – likely within weeks.

The changes will also allow inoculated Australians to return to the country without the need to spend two weeks in a hotel quarantine – they still have to isolate at home for seven days. Unvaccinated citizens and residents, meanwhile, will have to wait to travel abroad, while those returning will need to hotel quarantine for two weeks, according to Australia’s ABC News.

The move ends more than 18 months of border closures that have split families, left some residents trapped in their own country and stranded thousands of Australians overseas. Morrison admitted that people “suffered” during the restrictions.

Many Australians stuck abroad rejoiced at the changes but others were frustrated, hoping for an immediate loosening of restrictions.

The announcement also confused temporary visa holders in Australia, who were told they can leave the country but risk not being able to return.

It’s unclear when tourists can visit the country but Morrison said foreigners would likely be welcomed before Christmas.

DISCOVERIES

When Size Matters

The scientific community agrees that Mars had flowing water at some point in its history and recently scientists determined what exactly caused the water to vanish: the planet’s small size, NPR reported.

Mars is about half the size of the Earth and has slightly more than one-tenth of the mass.

In their study, the research team suggested that the red planet’s low mass and gravity made it easier for volatile elements and compounds to escape from the surface into space.

They studied 20 Martian meteorites dating back 200 million years to four billion years. They focused on the ratio of two potassium isotopes – potassium-39 and potassium-41 – found in the space rocks.

Their findings showed that Mars’ lower gravity caused the lighter potassium-39 to return to space unlike the heavier potassium-41. Water would have also behaved the same way, which means it disappeared during the planet’s formation.

The team also analyzed potassium isotopes from the moon and an asteroid – both of which are smaller and drier than the Earth and Mars. They again found a direct correlation between mass and the volatiles – or lack thereof – in the samples.

“Mars’ fate was decided from the beginning,” co-author Kun Wang said in a statement.

Other researchers, meanwhile, said the study could help astronomers fine-tune their search for other habitable exoplanets.

“This does probably indicate a lower limit on size for a planet to be truly habitable,” Bruce Macintosh, who was not involved in the study, told NPR.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 234,930,445

Total Deaths Worldwide: 4,801,920

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 6,300,360,529

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 43,683,076 (+0.06%)
  2. India: 33,834,702 (+0.06%)
  3. Brazil: 21,468,121 (+0.04%)
  4. UK: 7,937,810 (+0.38%)
  5. Russia: 7,474,850 (+0.34%)
  6. Turkey: 7,208,851 (+0.38%)
  7. France: 7,120,214 (+0.05%)
  8. Iran: 5,624,128 (+0.22%)
  9. Argentina: 5,259,738 (+0.01%)
  10. Colombia: 4,962,054 (+0.03%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours