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Month of riots: All eyes on protests in Cuba, South Africa, Georgia

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

This year, July turned out to be really hot. This month, international attention is focused on new anti-government protests in Cuba, South Africa, and Georgia, which are accompanied by unprecedented brutality. It unites protesters from three different countries located on three different continents, dissatisfaction with the ruling regimes, which are cynical towards citizens, demonstrate their unprofessionalism, negligence and are unable to solve pressing problems
12:06, 20 July 2021

A factory burns in the background while empty boxes litter the foreground from looted goods being removed, on the outskirts of Durban
AP photo

Cuban "counter-revolution"

Since July 11, Cuba has been engulfed in protests against President Miguel Diaz-Canel. Law enforcement officers detained over 115 people, including dissidents and journalists. Another 100 people are missing. Not without the dead. It is worth noting that after the entry into force of the new Constitution in April 2019, partial liberalization in the field of politics and economy was carried out in Cuba. On the island, private property is recognized, a free market, the presumption of innocence, all kinds of discrimination are prohibited, the posts of president and prime minister have been restored while maintaining the one-party system led by the Communist Party. The reforms were designed to attract foreign investment.

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However, the Cubans were never able to breathe. Cuba has been under US economic blockade since the communists came to power in 1959. The country is in economic downturn. Since 2016, the government has been pursuing austerity policies. There is a shortage of fuel on the island. Against the backdrop of the political crisis in Venezuela, oil supplies to Cuba have decreased. Earlier, one of the sources of replenishment of the Cuban treasury was the re-export of Venezuelan oil. The situation was aggravated by sanctions from the administration of US President Donald Trump, including bans on remittances of Cuban labor migrants, the supply of drugs of Cuban origin.

The coronavirus pandemic and the sugarcane crop failure in the last season added fuel to the fire. One of the main Cuban exports is raw materials for the production of sugar. The number of people infected with coronavirus is growing on the island, there is a shortage of food and medicine. The authorities have restricted imports of consumer goods and systematically cut off electricity in settlements in order to save money. Some Cubans are trying to flee the country and reach the United States by sea.

After the revolutionary Raul Castro, who served as chairman of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of Cuba, retired in 2018, power on the island passed into the hands of his former deputy, Miguel Diaz-Canel. In 2019, the Cuban parliament approved him as president. The new 60-year-old Cuban leader followed the path of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and accused the United States of involvement in organizing the protests, took his supporters out into the streets and called for resistance to the protesters.

The Biden administration is in no hurry to lift the sanctions imposed by Trump, but is watching the development of events on the island. The White House reckoning that the Cubans will personally overthrow the communist regime, although this may seem unlikely. Biden wants to deprive China of a key partner in the Caribbean and Central America near US borders. In 2011, Beijing wrote off $ 6 billion in debt to Havana. Since 2017, the PRC has become the main trade and economic partner of Cuba with a trade turnover of $ 1.8 billion. In 2019, Cuba joined the Chinese investment and infrastructure initiative "One Belt, One Road", which the Americans consider an instrument of China's economic expansion in the world. The communist regime depends on foreign aid. During the Cold War, the island was supported by the USSR, then Venezuela became Cuba's donor, and in recent years China.

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Zulu uprising in South Africa

Since last week, chaos has been going on in South Africa. After the ex-President Jacob Zuma, accused of corruption, voluntarily surrendered to law enforcement officers to serve a 15-month prison sentence for failing to appear in court, protests began in his small homeland in the province of KwaZulu-Natal and in the Gauteng region. They were accompanied by violent clashes with the police, ransacking shops, and looting. Over 70 people were killed. In the province of KwaZulu-Natal alone, over a thousand people have been arrested. These provinces are inhabited by the Zulu, the tribesmen of the ex-President Zuma.

They make up 20% of the South African population, have a reputation for being brave warriors who fiercely resisted the British colonists, and played a significant role in the struggle against apartheid and the rule of the white minority. The Zulu pride themselves on their identity and believe they have superiority over other tribes living in South Africa. During the presidency of Zuma, the Zulus were his main electoral base and he played up to their chauvinistic sentiments in every possible way. The Zulus really have something to be proud of. Gauteng Province is the most economically developed province in South Africa. There is Johannesburg - the largest metropolis and financial center of South Africa.

However, their favorite resigned in 2018 under pressure from anti-government protests. During the presidency of Zuma, his Indian friends, brothers-businessmen Atal, Ajay, and Rajesh Gupta, had a serious impact on the political and economic processes in South Africa. Zuma served their business interests and spent budget money on home improvement, buying cars for his several wives.

The arrest of the former president was the last straw for his supporters. Zuma and the Gupta brothers are no longer in business, but life in South Africa has not improved despite the promises of the new President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Vendian people. The South African economy is in recession. In South Africa, there is a large income gap among the population. The crisis was aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic, which the local health care system failed to cope with. The vaccination campaign is slow and has been put on hold in unrestrained provinces. Nobody is satisfied with the social and economic situation in the country.

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Sunset of the "Georgian Dream"

The reason for the anti-government protests in Georgia was the brutal beating and subsequent death of the 37-year-old cameraman of the Georgian TV company Pirveli Alexander Lashkarav. In early July, a rally was held in Tbilisi with the participation of Georgian ultra-conservatives and clergy against the LGBT march. Demonstrators began attacking civil society activists, foreign tourists and journalists who had gathered at the scene. 50 press workers were injured. Lashkarava was hit by a hot hand, and he was beaten so that the bones of his face were broken. The journalist died at his home on July 11.

The tragedy might not have happened if the law enforcement officers had not been idle, but had ensured security on the streets of the Georgian capital. In addition, the government is trying to present the participants in the riots in the best light and in every possible way to hush up the incident. Director of the Central Criminal Police Department, Mamuka Chelidze, said that the journalist's death could have been a drug overdose. Also, law enforcement officers opened a case under the article on bringing to suicide. Say, Lashkarava himself is to blame for his death. Although the true causes of death have not yet been established.

In fact, the current government did not care about crimes for the sake of satisfying its interests. The authorities did not disperse aggressive opponents of the LGBT march, so as not to spoil relations with a part of Georgian conservatives on the eve of local elections. Georgia is a country with long-standing Orthodox traditions and a fairly devout society, which for the most part has a cool attitude towards the values ​​of the LGBT community. Georgians have every right to do so, as the implantation of alien values ​​ultimately results in conflicts. However, the authorities had to do everything to prevent riots and bloodshed. In previous years, LGBT processions were already held in Georgia, which ended in fights, including with the participation of clergy. The Church enjoys great authority in society and influences the opinion of the masses.

In protest, the TV channels Mtavari, TV Pirveli, Formula, and Kavkasia announced a boycott and stopped broadcasting. The leadership of the Mtavari TV channel demanded that Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and other members of the government resign by 12 July noon. After the authorities did not fulfill the ultimatum, the protesting journalists broke into the parliament, where a fight broke out with the deputies from the ruling Georgian Dream party.

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The situation is not in favor of the "Georgian Dream", which is an ally of Russia. Actually, Georgian-Russian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili founded this political force in order to seize the reins of government from the United National Movement party of Mikheil Saakashvili in 2012, which was in confrontation with the Russian Federation and pursued rapprochement with the West. Formally, the government led by the Georgian Dream party declares its commitment to integration into the EU and NATO, but does not hinder the information influence of the Russian Federation, did not join anti-Russian sanctions and does not raise the issue of returning the separatist formations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, controlled by Russia, to Georgia.

"Georgian Dream" has earned the stigma of a dependent political force. Oppositionists call the rally of opponents of the LGBT march a Russian action, since one of its organizers was the ultra-right Alliance of Patriots party, which opposes Georgia's integration into the EU and NATO, takes anti-American and anti-Turkish positions and considers it expedient to strengthen relations with Russia. Some of the Georgian monarchists and traditionalists gravitate towards Moscow, support the idea of ​​unity with the Orthodox Russian people, as it was during the years of the Russian Empire. Then the Georgian nobility occupied leading positions in the Russian army and state apparatus.

The "Georgian Dream" presented itself not in the best light in the eyes of the West. EU member states condemned the violence. Answering journalists' questions about the prospect of US sanctions against Georgian officials, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Washington urges Tbilisi to investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes, and sanctions remain one of the tools for responding to cases of human rights violations. Western media described the massacre in Tbilisi as a failure of the exam for tolerance and democracy.

Considering that the administration of the current US President Joe Biden encourages the appointment of LGBT people to government posts and advocates universal equality for Americans, the behavior of the Georgian authorities certainly does not cause delight in the Democratic Party. The US Republican Party has a rather cool attitude towards Bidzina Ivanishvili and the party he founded. In June 2020, 13 Republican congressmen prepared a report on anti-Russian sanctions, in which they called the billionaire Ivanishvili a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, guilty of destabilizing the situation in the South Caucasus in the interests of the Kremlin. Then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo negatively assessed the situation in Georgia and supported the idea of ​​canceling part of the financial aid.

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In this situation, the Georgian opposition can earn points before the local elections in October 2021. The political future of the republic will depend on the voting results. If Georgian Dream loses the local elections, then early parliamentary elections will take place in 2022, according to the plan to resolve the political crisis in Georgia, which was proposed by the President of the European Council Charles Michel in April 2021. The political crisis in Georgia has been dragging on since the fall of 2020, after opposition parties refused to recognize the results of the parliamentary elections, accused the Georgian Dream of falsification and refused to start work in parliament for several months. The journalists' protests were supported by the opposition parties United National Movement and Lelo. Their leaders refused to take part in the work of parliament until the resignation of the government.

Protests in Cuba, South Africa, and Georgia are instructive for leaders of all countries, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. When there is a crisis in the yard, the extremists begin to act. Unpopular and ill-considered decisions at a difficult time for the country can provoke a social explosion.

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