At the gates of another era of darkness


The world is steadily entering a stage from which it could be very difficult to exit without pain.

For some time - debatable to date - a cloud has been growing like a tide that covers all light. The world is no longer at (relative) peace and seems to have entered a dangerous and dynamic spiral of war. Of different nature according to each geography, but unstoppable and irremediable. This phenomenon can be observed on every continent, except Oceania, which will not be immune if a conflict breaks out in its neighborhood.

The most combustible region, obviously, is in the Middle East. Following the terrorist massacre of October 7, 2023, Israel launched a military campaign against Hamas to root out the extremist group from the Gaza Strip. The contest has been going on for more than 100 days and has no end date, despite the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu's government announced that the intensive phase of its operations will end soon. Jerusalem faces, in addition to the jihadist threat, questions about its deployment and bombings.

It is striking, however, that those same organizations that demand "proportionality" in the use of force do not beat the table every day, every hour, for the dozens of hostages who remain kidnapped in the gloomy Hamas tunnels. Among these victims are babies, children and women who do not appear on the agendas of the organizations that have contact with the terrorist group.

But the conflict is not limited to Gaza. Israel's northern border is in permanent tension. War with Hezbollah is just around the corner and would be of even greater proportions. The Shiite group - responsible for the terrorist attacks of 1992 and 1994 in Buenos Aires - responds to the theocratic regime of Iran and has a more important, numerous and prepared military structure than Hamas. Its missile capabilities are superior, too. Tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers are deployed for defensive purposes on the border with Lebanon.

For weeks now, 150 squadrons have been attacking the other side of the northern limit where the pro-Iranian militia operates. In recent hours, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carry out combined air and artillery attacks against several targets in Wadi Saluki. In a few minutes, dozens of posts, military structures and weapons infrastructure were hit.

A few days ago, several commanders were annihilated. Among them Wissam al-Tawil, one of the highest ranks of Hezbollah, with strong ties to Hasan Nasrallah - head of the group - and with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Iran. Today, that force responded in its own way. Bombed a building in northern Iraq, killing four civilians. He argued that an Israeli spy base operated there. The Kurds, on the other hand, said that a prosperous businessman named Peshraw Dizayee was staying there. His family also reportedly died in the attack.

The war in the Middle East adds protagonists. The United States and the United Kingdom launched missiles against Houthi targets in Yemen. They are the rebels - also at the service of Tehran - who are harassing cargo ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. International trade in that critical area for the global economy is experiencing frenetic periods. To avoid this, Washington and London took a more active role. Other countries seem not to be as committed: China? Observe. He seems not to be interested in maritime disruption.

The United States is involved to such an extent that details of a mission carried out by Navy SEAL commandos to interrupt the supply of Iranian weapons to the Houthis became known. It happened this Sunday, on the coasts near Somalia. A group of members of that elite corps boarded a ship with powerful weapons. The seized items include Iranian-made ballistic and cruise missile warheads, propulsion and guidance systems, and air defense components. As a consequence of the dangerous task and the turbulence of the waves, two soldiers are still lost in that troubled sea.

Precisely in Somalia, Africa, there are no moments of tranquility. The government accuses Ethiopia of violating treaties by seeking to recognize Somaliland as an independent country. All in exchange for a port that allows access to the sea. The announcement was made at a joint press conference on January 1 between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Muse Biji Abdi, his state counterpart. The agreement also includes 20 kilometers of coastline in the Gulf of Aden and some shares in Ethiopian Airlines. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said that this pact favors the expansion and strengthening of Al-Shabab, the Islamic group of Al-Qaeda in that portion of the African continent that controls much of the rural areas of a country that lives on verge of a permanent civil war.

Sudan is another country that cannot escape a tragic fate. The confrontation between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces is in one of its worst stages since they took power by force in 2021. The internal situation is a powder keg. Since April, more than six million people have fled their homes. There are already almost ten million who have been displaced, adding to previous conflicts, according to The Economist. The evidence of a new genocide is on the table.

Nigeria, for its part, is experiencing its own tragedy. Last December 23, at least 140 people were massacred. They were Christians from 26 villages in Plateau State. A religious cleansing at the hands of Fulani Islamic extremists that is little talked about. Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) also operate in that country, controlling entire regions without a government presence. Every week, the massacres in isolated villages are repeated. Anti-terrorist militias fight alongside the Nigerian Army to combat them. If successful, these irregular forces will one day gain excessive power that they could use against the government they defend today.

But the critical and bleak panorama is not only observed in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Nigeria. Other countries, such as the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, among others, fight daily against the jihadists of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which has found fertile land for its expansion in Africa. Others, like Cameroon, suffer from separatist struggles. Two countries mainly operate in many of them: Russia and China. The first is sent to control and guard mines with the mercenaries of the Wagner Group. Beijing, for its part, runs ports, fishing exploitation rights and natural resources in exchange for debt and military vehicles of such poor quality that its soldiers do not use them.

In Europe, Vladimir Putin continues his bloody military excursion in Ukraine. The war has been frozen for a long time. In just over a month the war will turn two years old. kyiv failed, in its much-sponsored counteroffensive, to break through the Russian trenches to regain ground. This winter, the invading forces will reinforce their fortresses. The wear and tear on both sides is absolute, but with a substantial difference: Putin is not concerned about human lives and will continue to send his people to the slaughterhouse.

In the far east, the waters also move. This weekend the electoral victory of the current ruling party in Taiwan - embodied in Lai Ching-te - meant a severe setback for the disinformation and fear campaigns that it tried to install in Xi Jinping's regime. Lai will be president despite Beijing. The result at the polls poses an even more complex scenario for the region due to the rigidity that the winner presents regarding the link with the continent. It proposes maintaining the status quo, establishing a dialogue, but without undermining the sovereignty of the island. It will also seek to strengthen its armed forces and purchase weapons, something that unnerves China.

That same China will continue with its ballistic tests, the violation of Taiwanese airspace, maritime maneuvers in the Strait, harassment of Philippine vessels and its (un)diplomatic attacks. This Tuesday he ratified it. He accused the Philippines of "playing with fire" after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. congratulated Lai, with whom he promises to work more closely. "We advise you not to play with fire on the Taiwan issue and immediately stop your wrong words and actions on Taiwan-related issues. You should stop sending wrong signals to pro-Taiwan independence separatist forces," Mao Ning said. , spokesperson for the chancellery of the autocratic Chinese regime.

In this context of tension, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam, to a lesser extent, are reinforced with the security provided by the permanent maritime patrol of the United States. Nobody wants China to have a free exit and control the Indo-Pacific. India, neither. Australia, further south, remains vigilant. There were rapprochements with Beijing, but mistrust was not completely resolved and an armed conflict would immediately confront them.

North Korea, that dictatorship frozen in time, also plays on the edge. This Sunday it tested intermediate-range ballistic missiles with which it could reach North American bases in the Pacific Ocean. The same "supreme leader" Kim Jong-un helped Russia by providing it with weapons to bomb Ukraine. The North Korean dictator moves according to the air offered by Moscow and Beijing.

Meanwhile, Latin America is a pressure cooker. The region is plagued by drug terror. What was experienced in Colombia in the 80s and 90s is now replicated in other countries. A thousand Pablo Escobars flourished. At different scales, with other learning, but with the same criminal ferocity. The complicity between the cartels and some states is total. Venezuela, Mexico, Bolivia and Ecuador are clear examples of how the power of drugs infiltrates different institutional levels. A clear example: the North American justice system accuses Nicolás Maduro of being part of the Cartel of the Suns. He offers 15 million dollars for his head while other nearby leaders boost him.

The events of the last week in the main Ecuadorian cities moved the regional governments. President Daniel Noboa decreed that there was an "internal armed conflict" in the country and identified about twenty armed gangs as "terrorists." He sent the Army to the streets to control the chaos that had arisen from the takeover of urban prisons, controlled by traffickers. The drama was televised: a channel was taken over live by criminals who held the station's workers hostage for a couple of hours. Something strange happened there: the kidnappers meekly surrendered to the federal authorities who regained control of the environment without shedding blood. Who ordered (or negotiated) the surrender?

In the Bolivia of Evo Morales and Luis Arce, coca production multiplied for almost two decades with the endorsement of its rulers. Nobody was scandalized. On the contrary, over the years Latin American presidents embraced the Aymara leader with condescending European mercy. Guilt, ideology or business, or everything at the same time. Nobody is very clear. In the internal war that breaks out in the ruling Movement towards Socialism (MAS), President Arce sent the armed forces to dismantle laboratories in Chapare, Evo's stronghold. The conflict will deepen. Only Cuba, with plenipotentiary powers over La Paz - and shareholding in the business - could put an end to the Bolivian dilemma, more for capitalist than institutional reasons.

But the Ecuadorian outbreak worries other Latin American heads of state. This part of the world has not grown for almost a decade and stagnation is beginning to be felt. Discontent breeds around every corner. The outbreaks could be chained, one by one, pushed by criminal gangs that gain territorial power with chaos. These drug gangs are transnational: they operate in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. They also maintain ties with terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, which - with operations in South America - is part of the trafficking network to the other side of the globe. A while ago they were disguised as "Bolivarian breezes." It wouldn't be strange if they blew once again.

The world seems to be heading towards another era of darkness. Or maybe he's already in it and hasn't realized yet what the ending will be like.

By: Laureano Pérez Izquierdo
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