February 4th, 2008 11:00 EST
World Chronicle: February 4
AFRICA: Chad on the Verge of Collapse
N'DJAMENA, Chad. News agencies differ in their reports on the current situation in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad. The Associated Press alarms that the rebel forces which reached the capital on Friday were in numbers large enough to pose serious danger to President Debby's government. Unconfirmed reports speak about 2,000 insurgents who could have entered N'Djamena. A statement issued by the leading rebel group read that it was “ready to facilitate, with the guarantee of the African Union, the negotiated departure of President Idriss Déby and avoid a pointless blood bath.” But according to the Chadian ambassador to Washington, quoted by the New York Times, “Everything is under control. President Idriss Déby is in the palace. The Chadian military forces are chasing the insurgents.”
Most rebels left the capital on Monday; motives behind this decision are disputed.
The European Union announced last Friday that it would postpone the deployment of its humanitarian force to Chad. Planned for last week flights with Irish and Austrian peace keepers were canceled; it remains unknown when the 3,700-strong military contingent will begin its mission. So far, only France has a considerable force in Chad as part of its post-colonial policy in Africa.
Years of internal wars drove most foreign investors out of the country, turning Chad into the world's fifth poorest nation. President Debby came to power in 1991, when his rebel army forced the incumbent government to step down.
AMERICAS: Tourists and Sex Reign in Brazil
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil. Hundreds of thousands of tourists and natives alike thronged the streets of Rio de Janeiro in a wild procession, marking the last weekend before Lent. With a history as old as the first half of the 19th century, the Brazilian carnival has turned into a world holiday for everyone hungry for fun, dance, and unfettered sex. According to the figures provided by Rio de Janeiro's officials, the number of free condoms distributed by various organizations may reach 20 millions. “Everybody has the right to have fun and enjoy themselves,” President Lula da Silva told the Reuters news agency, adding that “it is important to remember that the next week we have to work and look after our families.”
Looking at half-naked (and in some cases completely uncovered) women spasmodically shaking their bodies on colorful platforms, one could forget that this is the country which boasts the greatest Catholic population around the globe. Although the carnival is supposed to prepare people for the chores of 40-day-long Lent, it has become a symbol of free sex, attracting thousands of tourists (mostly male) from around the world. A tourist from Argentina told the Associated Press: “Alcohol, women, the floats: Everything is perfect.”
Such a liberal policy towards sex and contraception has antagonized the Brazilian Catholic Church. The clergy reminds that some 800,000 Brazilians are HIV positive, but only one fourth receive proper treatment. One of bishops told the Reuters news agency that free condoms “will only serve to diminish inhibitions and encourage orgiastic behavior.”
ASIA: India and Pakistan on a Peace Path
NEW DELHI, India. Surrounded by the plethora of cameramen and reporters, the interior ministers of India and Pakistan signed a deal on the exchange of security information. The agreement paves the way for contacts between military experts from the two countries, something that until very recently would have seemed impossible. An Indian official told the Agence France-Presse that “the purpose is to build channels of communication at the level of scholars, because exchanges of security studies had been limited because of the strained ties we have had.”
Considering the fact that the two nuclear powers have waged three wars, with the fourth looming large, the Monday decision marks a new period in the mutual relations. It can also boost support of the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, whose party will run in the parliamentary elections later this month.
EUROPE: Serbia Chooses Europe
BELGRADE, Serbia. The incumbent president Boris Tadic, who is considered pro-western, was elected on Sunday for the second term. In a highly contested run-off, Tadic defeated ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic by the margin of only two percent, the clearest evidence that Serbia is divided like hardly ever before. One Balkan scholar told the Reuters news agency on Monday that “the situation in Serbia is obviously very problematic, society is deeply split. There will be little reformist potential and a government crisis is almost certain.” Both politicians wrangled in the previous presidential elections; in 2004 Tadic won by nine percent.
Tadic's victory guarantees that Serbia will fasten its ties with the European Union. Although membership is still a matter in the distant future, EU officials worry that Nikolic could have pushed Serbia to the embrace of Russia.
Among all the differences between both candidates, Tadic and Nikolic shared one position: that Kosovo is and should remain a Serbian province. As Kosovo's authorities are expected to announce independence as early as the end of this month, Tadic may face strong pressure within his country to act decisively.
MIDDLE EAST: Saddam's Faithfuls Can Work
BAGHDAD, Iraq. Opposed at first, but later supported by the Bush Administration, amendments allowing rank-and-file Baath Party members to apply for governmental positions were voted through by the Iraqi presidency council on Sunday. According to the constitution the provisions came into effect at once even though they lacked the signature of the Sunni vice president. Apart from opening job opportunities to some 38,000 former party apparatchiks, the new law provides around 7,000 officers of Saddam Hussein's notorious secret police with retirement possibilities. Unlike other workers of the ancient regime, security men were widely recruited to the new service. With the new legislation, however, most of them will be obliged to retire.
The original law, implemented by the American authorities soon after the US-led coalition forces took control over Iraq, banned all Baath Party members from seeking positions in the newly established Iraqi army and governmental offices. The amendments, the Bush Administration hopes, will move the reconciliation forward among Iraqi Shiah, Sunni and Kurdish communities.