Washington Post

La democracia muere en la oscuridad. De Ricardo Avelar

5 septiembre 2018 / EL DIARIO DE HOY

La democracia muere en la oscuridad. Con esta categórica frase despertaron los lectores del Washington Post en marzo de 2017, cuando el prestigioso medio lanzó su nuevo eslogan. Como era de esperarse, una afirmación tan contundente generó diferentes reacciones entre sus audiencias. Por un lado, hubo quienes criticaron el tono alarmista y consideraron que era una alusión directa a la entonces joven presidencia de Donald Trump, quien constantemente antagoniza con la prensa y se rodea solo de “periodistas” amigos. Por otro lado, muchos celebraron la instauración de este dicho, que es un constante recordatorio de uno de los riesgos más latentes de nuestros sistemas políticos.

Esta frase formó parte de la estrategia del nuevo dueño del periódico, el también fundador de Amazon, Jeff Bezos. Al adquirir uno de los medios más importantes en el mundo, este decidió apostarle a un periodismo de investigación, a visualización de datos y a encontrar mejores narrativas para plantear los principales problemas de nuestra sociedad.

Cada una de esas palabras gana notoriedad e importancia cuando un país se acerca a la temporada electoral, cuando los asesores de campaña y mercadeo político buscan llenar de eslóganes pegajosos la mente del votante, en un ejercicio de mero posicionamiento de marca. Aunque en algunas ocasiones –me atrevo a decir las menos– hay un plan detrás de un lema de campaña, la mayoría de veces estos se extraen de grupos focales y buscan decirle al ciudadano lo que quiere escuchar, no lo que debe.

Durante los meses de proselitismo, la batalla de lemas genera un humo difuso en el que no se sabe exactamente cómo se ejecutarán los planes en cuestión, cómo se financiarán y realmente quién será el beneficiado de estos. Ante tanta ambigüedad, el ciudadano resulta desprotegido, pues debe tomar una decisión racional de a quién dar su apoyo sin saber a ciencia cierta qué puede esperar de cada candidato.

Es ahí cuando el periodista se vuelve un actor fundamental para salvar a la democracia de la oscuridad. La oscuridad de planes difusos, de origen incierto de los fondos de campaña, la oscuridad de asesores peligrosos, alianzas oscuras o de negarse a decir quiénes integrarán un posible gabinete, por ejemplo.

Ante cada promesa dicha, un periodista responsable debe como mínimo preguntar “cómo”. Con esto, debe obligar al candidato a transformar su lema en un plan concreto. Y si este último se dedica a contestar con frases inspiradoras pero no aterrizadas, quien lo interroga debe hacer uso de una poderosa herramienta: la repregunta. Es decir, insistir sobre el tema hasta que haya una respuesta franca y que permita al ciudadano interesarse más en el político o desecharlo desde temprano por opaco.

La repregunta es fundamental y muchos no la hacen. Posiblemente se piensa que una entrevista exitosa es aquella donde se cubre un amplio abanico de temas o que insistir en un punto es tedioso y aburrido. Yo discrepo. Una entrevista exitosa, a mi parecer, es la que toca pocos temas pero los deja claros y con certidumbre. Además, si a un político hay que preguntarle lo mismo varias veces es porque está evadiendo la verdad.

Por otro lado, retomar una frase sin cuestionarla y volverla titular es un ejercicio irresponsable de la labor que se nos ha encomendado. Con esto, nos volvemos altavoces cuando deberíamos ser filtros. Con esto, no beneficiamos al ciudadano, solo lo hundimos más es una vorágine de frases lindas que no significan nada y nos convertimos en cómplices del declive de nuestro sistema.

Con esto, no pretendo ser alarmista, sino advertir de cómo la pérdida de credibilidad en quienes nos gobiernan afecta la legitimidad de la democracia y lleva a muchos a buscar salvadores y mesías donde solo hay vanidad, ego, verdades a medias o incluso ausencia total en medios que no aseguren preguntas cómodas. Por eso, en temporada electoral, los periódicos pueden convertirse en murallas contra las mentiras o en cajas de resonancia de humo. En el primer caso, se apegan al espíritu del lema del Washington Post. En el segundo, contribuyen a apagar las luces y a llevarnos a más oscuridad. Es momento de decidir cuál de los dos roles queremos jugar.

P.D.: Saludos a todos los valientes periodistas que en temporada electoral no se conforman con palabras inspiradoras y repreguntan, repreguntan, repreguntan… No hasta el cansancio, sino hasta aproximarse a la verdad.

@docAvelar

Trump wants to remove these immigrants “from shithole countries”. Dos notas del Washington Post

An ugly bit of history tells us what it could do to the economy.

“Mexican men and children who live in corral.” Robstown, Texas, 1939. (Russell Lee, Farm Security Administration via Library of Congress)

Andrew Van Dam, 10 enero 2018 / The Washington Post

washington postIt isn’t cited much in contemporary debate, but one enormous, racist episode in U.S. history could forecast the potential economic fallout of the Trump administration’s decision to terminate the residency permits of those granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States.

Between 1929 and 1934, Americans were getting hammered by the Great Depression. As their anger and frustration grew, it was directed toward America’s Mexican population. During the ’30s, an estimated 400,000 and 500,000 Mexicans and American citizens of Mexican descent were sent “home,” often forcibly, by state and local officials, with the approval of the federal government.

The stated motivation for the mass expulsions was typically economic, focusing on the burden posed by poor migrants, as well as the competition for jobs.

The Trump administration’s rationale for ending TPS for an estimated 244,590 migrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Syria is also partly about economics — although President Trump has more broadly claimed his immigration policy is about safety.

Ending the humanitarian program is a keystone of Trump’s fast-rising virtual wall against migrants including so-called dreamers.

According to an official statement of immigration principles posted in October: “Decades of low-skilled immigration has suppressed wages, fueled unemployment and strained federal resources.” The report also outlines strategies for deporting those who are in the U.S. illegally or who “abuse” their visas.

TPS beneficiaries have deep roots in the U.S. economy. Consider Salvadorans and Haitians, the two largest groups who are set to lose their residency permits so far. According to a 2017 report by the Center for Migration Studies, most Salvadorans have been in the country for more than 20 years. Among Haitians, who were granted the status much more recently, the figure is only 16 percent.

These TPS recipients have median household incomes of between $45,000 (Haitians) and $50,000 (Salvadorans) per year, according to the center, and participate in the labor force at higher rates than the native population. Thirty-four percent of Salvadorans and 23 percent of Haitians hold mortgages. Tearing them out would be a massive shock to the system.

There’s been a wealth of research on how much immigrants add to an economy, but not as much about what happens if you forcibly subtract them.

In the United States, the clearest parallel may well be the mass repatriation of Mexicans during the Great Depression. It was an era of desperation, hyperbole and racist hysteria. Politicians of the time should sound familiar, a few hilarious archaisms aside. In his 1931 annual report, Commissioner General of Immigration Harry Hull bemoaned the “hardships inflicted upon the American citizen” by “exposure to competition in employment opportunities of the bootlegged aliens.”

To solve this problem, he promised “to spare no reasonable effort to remove the menace of unfair competition which actually exists in the vast number of aliens who have in one way or another, principally by surreptitious entries, violated our immigration laws.”

Hull and his allies got their wish. Almost a third of America’s Mexican population, which amounted to almost a quarter of the entire labor force in some Texas towns, were eventually expelled.

And did it work?

Economists Jongkwan Lee, of the Korea Development Institute, Vasil Yasenov, a postdoctoral scholar at the Goldman School of Public Policy in the University of California at Berkeley, and Giovanni Peri, economics chair at the University of California at Davis, looked at decades of detailed data to see if the higher wages and lower unemployment promised by opponents of immigration had materialized.

If anything, the opposite occurred.

Like TPS beneficiaries, many Mexicans (defined by the authors as people born in Mexico and their children) had established themselves in their communities. Researchers found cities that sent away more Mexicans saw worsening unemployment and slower wage growth after repatriation, even when adjusting for effects such as extreme drought and localized New Deal policies.

The effect was, however, too small to be significant in all but the hardest-hit cities.

Researchers found a similar story when they looked at occupations. There was little sign that natives benefited when the Mexicans were pushed out — even among the low-wage professions, which had had a higher share of Mexican workers.

In intermediate- and high-skill jobs, the fallout was even clearer. “Skilled natives lost jobs once Mexicans were repatriated, while less skilled natives did not necessarily replace them,” the researchers found.

“The Mexicans and natives specialized in different occupations,” researcher Yasenov said. “They don’t necessarily compete for the same jobs.”

Instead, the labor market was something like a Jenga tower. The immigrants were key blocks holding up bits of the structure. Once you yank the blocks out and the tower begins to wobble, it becomes extremely difficult to push new blocks into their places without toppling the whole thing.

In their full analysis, which ranged from 1930 to 1950, the researchers found that — despite politicians’ promises at the outset — no broad group of American workers benefited from the massive, coerced repatriation of one out of every three Mexicans.

It’s telling. This period in history should have made the perfect argument for the administration’s virtual wall anti-immigration policy. Native-born workers were crossing the country in desperate search of jobs. The unemployment rate peaked above 25 percent. And yet, there’s no evidence that in the end, U.S. workers benefited from tossing out hundreds of thousands of men and women who they saw as their labor market rivals.

In fact, there are indications that they suffered the worse for it.

Parallels to the present

The labor market has evolved since the Great Depression, Yasenov said, but the economic forces behind it haven’t. “If these programs didn’t produce significant effects back then, they’re not likely to produce significant effects now,” he said.

First, if history is any guide, the areas which exclude the highest numbers of migrants will also see higher job losses and slower wage growth among local populations than similar cities that did not receive as many TPS recipients.

For Salvadorans and Haitians, that will be seen in the states below — within them, the largest enclaves are Haitians in Miami and Salvadorans in Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and the D.C. area.

Second, low-skilled occupations with high populations of repatriated workers will at best see no significant gains for those who remain behind, either in wages or in unemployment. Higherskilled occupations in those same regions will take a hit, as their employees, suppliers and customers are expelled. In this case, workers from both El Salvador and Haiti are concentrated in lower-skilled jobs, not dissimilar to those that were held by Mexicans at the onset of the Depression.

Understanding repatriation’s consequences in terms of the economy’s headline number or gross domestic product is a matter of simple math. At its core, GDP is the result of multiplying an economy’s population by each resident’s production of goods and services.

When you expel workers, like Mexicans during the Depression or Salvadorans today, you reduce the population side of the equation. But it gets worse, because you also reduce the production side as employers struggle to replace the workers, suppliers and buyers they just lost.

And if you’re reducing both sides of that GDP multiplication equation, you’re necessarily going to multiply the resulting drag on economic growth. Which is the opposite of what Trump officials are promising with their immigration overhaul.

***

Trump attacks protections for immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries

/ The Washington Post

washington postPresident Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met Wednesday.

The comments left lawmakers taken aback, according to people familiar with their reactions. Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) proposed cutting the visa lottery program by 50 percent and prioritizing countries already in the system, a White House official said.

A White House spokesman defended Trump’s position on immigration without directly addressing Trump’s remarks.

“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement issued after The Washington Post first reported Trump’s remarks. “. . .Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”

Outlining a potential bipartisan deal, the lawmakers discussed restoring protections for countries that have been removed from the temporary protected status program while adding $1.5 billion for a border wall and making changes to the visa lottery system.

The administration announced this week that it was removing the protection for citizens of El Salvador.

Trump had seemed amenable to a deal earlier in the day during phone calls, aides said, but shifted his position in the meeting and did not seem interested.

Graham and Durbin thought they would be meeting with Trump alone and were surprised to find immigration hard-liners such as Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) at the meeting. The meeting was impromptu and came after phone calls Thursday morning, Capitol Hill aides said.

After the meeting, Marc Short, Trump’s legislative aide, said the White House was nowhere near a bipartisan deal on immigration.

A new 50-state poll shows exactly why Clinton holds the advantage over Trump: WASHINGTON POST

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-12-22-26-pm

washington postIt’s a long road to the White House, so The Washington Post polled all 50 states to find out what each candidate needs to do to get there.

With nine weeks until Election Day, Donald Trump is within striking distance in the Upper Midwest, but Hillary Clinton’s strength in many battlegrounds and some traditional Republican strongholds gives her a big electoral college advantage, according to a 50-state Washington Post-SurveyMonkey poll.

The survey of all 50 states is the largest sample ever undertaken by The Post, which joined with SurveyMonkey and its online polling resources to produce the results. The state-by-state numbers are based on responses from more than 74,000 registered voters during the period of Aug. 9 to Sept. 1. The individual state samples vary in size from about 550 to more than 5,000, allowing greater opportunities than typical surveys to look at different groups within the population and compare them from state to state.

VEA: How the Post-SurveyMonkey poll was conducted

VEA: New poll shows how Trump-Clinton matchup
is redrawing the electoral map View Graphic

The massive survey highlights a critical weakness in Trump’s candidacy — an unprecedented deficit for a Republican among college-educated white voters, especially women. White college graduates have been loyal Republican voters in recent elections, but Trump is behind Clinton with this group across much of the country, including in some solidly red states.

The 50-state findings come at a time when the average national margin between Clinton and Trump has narrowed. What once was a Clinton lead nationally of eight to 10 points shortly after the party conventions ended a month ago is now about four points, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. A number of battleground states also have tightened, according to surveys released from other organizations in recent days.

The Post-SurveyMonkey results are consistent with many of those findings, but not in all cases. Trump’s support in the Midwest, where the electorates are generally older and whiter, appears stronger and offers the possibility of gains in places Democrats carried recently. He has small edges in two expected battlegrounds — Ohio and Iowa — and is close in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, each of which Democrats have won in six consecutive elections.

At the same time, however, Trump is struggling in places Republicans have won consistently and that he must hold to have any hope of winning. These states include Arizona and Georgia, as well as Texas — the biggest surprise in the 50-state results. The Texas results, which are based on a sample of more than 5,000 people, show a dead heat, with Clinton ahead by one percentage point.

Clinton also leads by fewer than four points in Colorado and Florida and is tied with Trump in North Carolina. In Colorado, other polls have shown a larger Clinton lead. In Mississippi, Trump’s lead is just two points, though it’s doubtful that the GOP nominee is in much danger there.

Electoral college advantage for Clinton

In a two-way competition between the major-party candidates, Clinton leads by four points or more in 20 states plus the District of Columbia. Together they add up to 244 electoral votes, 26 shy of the 270 needed to win.

Trump leads by at least four points in 20 states as well, but those add up to just 126 electoral votes. In the 10 remaining states, which hold 168 electoral votes, neither candidate has a lead of four percentage points or better.

VEA: How our new poll compares with past
presidential election results in every state

A series of four-way ballot tests that include Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein project a somewhat narrower Clinton advantage, with more states showing margins of fewer than four points between the two major-party candidates. But even here, at the Labor Day weekend turn toward the Nov. 8 balloting, the pressure is on Trump to make up even more ground than he has in recent weeks if he hopes to win the White House.

The poll finds Johnson is poised to garner significant support. He is currently receiving at least 15 percent support in 15 states. The libertarian’s support peaks at 25 percent in New Mexico, where he served two terms as governor. He is only four points shy of Trump’s 29 percent standing there. His support in Utah is 23 percent, and in Colorado and Iowa it is 16 percent. Stein has less support in the poll, peaking at 10 percent in Vermont and receiving at least 7 percent support in 10 states.

Read the full Post-SurveyMonkey results

Overall, the results reflect Trump’s strategy of maximizing support in older, whiter Midwestern states where his anti-free-trade message and appeals to national identity generally find more fertile ground.

But his struggles elsewhere, including places that have long supported Republicans, illustrate the challenges of that strategy in more diverse states where his stances on immigration and some other positions have turned off Democrats, independents and many Republicans.
Demographic divisions shape the competition

To win the election, Trump must quickly consolidate the Republican vote. With prominent Republicans declaring they will not support Trump and some even announcing they will back Clinton, this represents a major challenge for the GOP nominee. In the Post-SurveyMonkey poll, Clinton is winning 90 percent or more of the Democratic vote in 32 states, while Trump is at or above that level in just 13.

As expected, the Clinton-Trump contest has split the electorate along racial lines. Their bases of support are mirror images: On average, Clinton does 31 points better among nonwhite voters than whites, and Trump does 31 points better among white voters than nonwhites.

The electorate is also divided along lines of gender and education, in many cases to a greater extent than in recent elections. Averaging across all 50 states, Clinton does 14 points better among women than men, and Trump does 16 points better among men than women. Clinton is winning among women in 34 states, and she’s close in six others. Trump leads among men in 38 states, is tied in six and trails in the other six.

It is among college-educated voters, however, where Trump faces his biggest hurdle. In 2012, white voters with college degrees supported Republican nominee Mitt Romney over President Obama by 56-42 percent. Romney won with 59 percent among white men with college degrees and with 52 percent among white women with college degrees.

So far in this campaign, Clinton has dramatically changed that equation. Among white college graduates, Clinton leads Trump in 31 of the 50 states, and the two are about even in six others. Trump leads among college-educated whites in just 13 states, all safe Republican states in recent elections.

Across 49 states where the poll interviewed at least 100 white college-educated women, Clinton leads Trump with this group in 38 states and by double-digit margins in 37. Averaging across all states, Clinton leads by 23 points among white women with college degrees.

Trump’s base among white voters without a college degree remains strong and substantial. He leads Clinton in 43 of the 50 states, and the two are roughly even in five others. She leads among white voters without a college degree in just one state: Vermont.

Overall, Clinton does 19 points better among white college graduates than whites without degrees while Trump does 18 points better among whites without degrees than whites with college educations, on average.

Trump’s challenge in the states that remain close will be to produce significant turnout among white, non-college voters to offset those Clinton margins, but it’s far from clear that there are enough of them to be decisive. Absent that, the GOP nominee must find a way to appeal to these college-educated voters during the final weeks of the campaign.
States and regions shaping the race

Trump’s strength across some of the states in the Midwest is one potential bright spot for the Republican nominee. Clinton’s biggest lead among the contested states in that region is in Pennsylvania, where her margin is just four points. In Wisconsin and Michigan, she leads by a nominal two points, while Trump leads by four points in Iowa and three points in Ohio.

Recent polls by other organizations have indicated that Wisconsin has tightened over the past month. A recent Suffolk University poll in Michigan shows Clinton leading by seven points, and the RealClearPolitics average in Ohio shows Clinton ahead by three points. Overall, among the quintet of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania, Michigan has been the Democrats’ most reliable of the group, always one of the 15 best-performing Democratic states over the past five elections.

The Rocky Mountain West is another area of fierce competition. The Post-SurveyMonkey poll shows Colorado closer than other polls there, with Clinton leading by just two points and the race tied when Johnson and Stein are included. Meanwhile, Clinton and Trump are roughly even in Arizona. In Nevada, Clinton enjoys a lead of five points in head-to-head competition with Trump but by just three points in a four-way test.

Of all the states, Texas provided the most unexpected result. The Lone Star State has been a conservative Republican bastion for the past four decades. In 2012, President Obama lost the state by 16 points. For Democrats, it has been among the 10 to 15 worst-performing states in the past four elections.

The Post-SurveyMonkey poll of Texas shows a dead heat with Clinton at 46 percent and Trump at 45 percent. Democrats have long claimed that changing demographics would make the state competitive in national elections, but probably not for several more cycles.

A comparison of the current survey with the 2008 Texas exit poll (there was no exit poll there in 2012) points to reasons the race appears close right now. Trump is performing worse than 2008 GOP nominee John McCain among both whites and Hispanics, while Clinton is doing slightly better than Obama.

Among men, Trump is doing slightly worse than McCain did eight years ago. The bigger difference is among women. McCain won a narrow majority of women in Texas while Trump is currently below 40 percent. That’s not to say Texas is turning blue in 2016. Given its history, it probably will back Trump in November and possibly by a comfortable margin. But at this stage, the fact that it is close at all is one more surprise in a surprising year.

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.

El Salvador arrests people who pushed for peace in gang war. Joshua Partlow/The Washington Post

hree hundred gangs members were transferred to the prison of Quezaltepeque, Libertad, El Salvador, on March 29, 2016. (Photo by Fred Ramos/ For The Washington Post)

hree hundred gangs members were transferred to the prison of Quezaltepeque, Libertad, El Salvador, on March 29, 2016. (Photo by Fred Ramos/ For The Washington Post)

Joshua Partlow, 5 mayo 2016 / THE WASHINGTON POST

For about two years, the bloody war between the Salvadoran government and powerful gangs abated, thanks to a negotiated truce. That agreement, which broke down in 2014, was always controversial.

But until this week, it wasn’t a crime.

washington postSalvadoran authorities announced on Tuesday that they had arrested 18 people who helped broker the peace deal — and were investigating several more. The surprise development has moved the government’s conflict with the gangs to a new, more aggressive phase. Authorities arrested Raul Mijango, a politician who was one of the main mediators for the truce, along with several prison directors, police, and intelligence officers.

The administration of President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a former leftist guerrilla commander, has steadily intensified its crackdown on the gangs, particularly MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang, that have helped make El Salvador one of the world’s deadliest countries. From moving gang leaders to higher- security prisons, to deploying a new anti-gang battalion of soldiers and police, Sanchez Ceren has pursued a hard-line approach that some observers fear threatens to exacerbate the conflict.

The Rev. Medardo Gomez, a Lutheran bishop who has been calling for dialogue between the government and gangs, said Wednesday that he was deeply unhappy with the announcement. “The truce was made with good intentions to bring peace to the country.”

“All of the people captured yesterday felt that they were serving the government, acting in society’s interests,” he added. “Perhaps errors were committed, but the intention and the goals were sincere and not malicious.”

Attorney General Douglas Melendez said at a news conference Tuesday that the truce itself wasn’t the crime, but that many crimes were committed within its context, such as using some $2 million in prison funds to give gang leaders illegal favors in prisons. Among those alleged favors: strippers were brought into prison to dance for inmates, bands came to perform at prison parties, and inmates were given video games, electronics, and more than 1,000 boxes of fast-food chicken.
Content from UPSDelivering on the promise of global e-commerce
Businesses need to address cross-border fulfillment and distribution challenges head on to compete.

The truce, which began in March 2012 and lasted for about two years, was a behind-the-scenes deal hashed out between the former Salvadoran government headed by then President Mauricio Funes, gang leaders and members of civil society, and was supported by the Organization of American States and the United Nations. The government agreed to move gang leaders to laxer prisons, where they could communicate more easily with their followers, and promised to improve prison conditions. The murder rate fell off sharply during the period, although the government contends that other crimes continued.

In El Salvador, where the public tends to be strongly critical of gangs, many faulted the former government for coddling criminals. Extortion and other crimes were still rampant and the existence of a truce seemed to give legitimacy to illegal activity, said Allan Hernandez, the director of three specialized units in the attorney general’s office that deals with gangs. “The division between the authorities and the criminals turned gray,” he said.

“There was such a negative reaction, Sanchez Ceren was adamant to say, ‘We do not negotiate with gangs,” said Adriana Beltran, a Central America expert with the Washington Office on Latin America.

Earlier this spring, the gangs announced a unilateral cease-fire, claiming they will not fight each other, prompting a drop in the murder rate. But the government has refused to acknowledge the pause and has continued to launch raids and arrests. Two weeks ago, lawmakers reformed the penal code to make negotiating with gangs a crime punishable with five to 15 years in prison.

Mijango, one of the arrested mediators, said in a recent interview that Sanchez Ceren’s hard-line policies have only fanned the flames of the conflict. With an estimated half a million people either involved in gangs or depending on them financially, the issue was more than a criminal matter, he said, but a deep social problem that required political negotiation, not blind confrontation.

“[Sanchez Ceren] is acting worse than the right-wing governments, with an even more repressive attitude, because he has been misreading the problem,” Mijango said. “To militarize the prisons, to move prisoners — we’ve already done this in our country. It didn’t give results.”

The attorney general also said authorities were investigating others who had contact with gang members, including Paolo Luers, a Salvadoran columnist. Luers said in an interview Wednesday that the recent arrests could put people in danger. Two of the police officers arrested had been given a covert mission during the truce to enter prisons to meet gang members, he said. The officers were undercover and their identities had not been revealed until Tuesday, when their names and photos were published. They live in gang-filled neighborhoods and the wife of one fears for the safety of her family, Luers said.

“Imagine if the CIA or the FBI betrayed its own men like that,” he said. “This is one more step in the current government’s attempt to destroy anyone and everyone involved in the search for an alternative policy. Basically the government wants to punish and silence anyone who has tried to reach an understanding with the gangs. They’re sending the message that this sort of action brings consequences. You’ll go to prison.”

Sanchez Ceren, along with other Central American leaders, is in Washington this week to meet with Vice President Biden and discuss U.S. aid to the region. The U.S. government has already pledged $750 million, a package that followed the surge in child migrants from Central America in 2014.

Sarah Esther Maslin in San Salvador contributed to this report.

El Salvador’s gangs call a cease-fire, but many doubt it will hold. The Washington Post

Joshua Partlow, Mexico Bureau Chief, The Washington Post

Joshua Partlow, Mexico Bureau Chief, The Washington Post

Joshua Partlow y , 3 abril 2016 / THE WASHINGTON POST

One of the gangsters, a black bandanna over his mouth and two rosaries around his neck, tapped his clawlike fingernail on the table.

Next to him was a sworn enemy, a man with a black fisherman’s hat pulled down over rainbow-tinted sunglasses.

The two rivals, and their tens of thousands of followers in El Salvador’s dominant gangs, have called a halt, for the moment, to their street war with each other and the government. On March 25, Mara Salvatrucha and two factions of the 18th Street gang announced a cease-fire, a respite from the fighting that has made El Salvador one of the world’s deadliest countries.

Inmates stand next to a police vehicle while being transferred to the Quezaltepeque prison in El Salvador on March 29. (Fred Ramos/For The Washington Post)

Inmates stand next to a police vehicle while being transferred to the Quezaltepeque prison in El Salvador on March 29. (Fred Ramos/For The Washington Post)

washington post“We’re not friends,” one of the gangsters, a spokesman for the 18th Street gang, said in a rare interview last week, alongside a Mara Salvatrucha representative. “But the three gangs are united in this effort to come together to stop the violence that’s assaulting our country.”

 Many, though, expect the cease-fire will be temporary, a lull in an ever more chaotic battle, a moment that simply shows the enormous gap that separates these gangs from the government. El Salvador’s ferocious pace of violence, with more than 2,000 murders in the past three months, has exhausted all sides. Dozens of police and their relatives have been hunted down and killed by gangsters, provoking defections from the ranks. The gangsters complain about police running death squads, their friends being driven off in pickup trucks and disappearing.

But despite the enormous toll on both sides, the administration of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén has remained defiant, vowing to tighten security at prisons and relentlessly pursue gang members.

“The government has said there’s no chance of dialogue with the gangs,” Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde, the minister of security and justice, said in an interview.

The Salvadoran gangs are descendants of gangs formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by immigrants who fled this country’s civil war. Many of their leaders were eventually deported back to El Salvador. The country is now a patchwork of gang-controlled neighborhoods. Their members extort residents, kill, kidnap, rape and serve as sentries against rival cliques. The gangs and experts who study them estimate their active ranks at 70,000 people, not including the tens of thousands behind bars.

After Sánchez Cerén was elected in 2014, he criticized his predecessor’s decision to negotiate with the gangs, and vowed to punish them with the full force of the law. The conflict has steadily escalated.

“I think there is really a fatigue with the war,” said Juan Jose Martinez, an anthropologist who studies Salvadoran gangs.

“This is not like the violence we’ve always had,” he added. “This is a crisis of violence.”

But Sánchez Cerén, a former leftist guerrilla leader during El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, has vowed to intensify the crackdown on the gangs. Following months of police raids, his government plans to transfer hundreds of jailed gang leaders to solitary confinement, and has proposed what it calls “extraordinary measures” to further disrupt gang communications. “With these cruel criminals, it is not possible to have an attitude of tolerance,” Sánchez Cerén said last week.

Ramírez Landaverde dismissed the possibility that the current pause could stretch into a more durable peace, saying the gang landscape is fragmented with hundreds of small cells and cliques.

“Often it turns out they [gang leaders] don’t have the backing of all the groups, or all of the members,” he said. “Many of them don’t participate, and you can see proof in the streets. They’re killing like nothing happened.”

‘This is kicking the hornet’s nest’

The streets, however, do seem to have calmed. Over the first six days of the gang cease-fire, initially set for 72 hours but now with no official endpoint, an average of 10 people were slain each day, less than half the rate of killing in the first two months this year.

The representatives from Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street agreed to an interview, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss their self-imposed cease-fire. They met with a reporter in the top-floor office of a Lutheran church in an industrial part of San Salvador, where they have come repeatedly to see religious and community leaders in recent months.

They said they have agreed, for now, to respect each other’s territorial limits.

“They have their territory, we have ours,” the Mara Salvatrucha spokesman said. “We are demonstrating to the Salvadoran people, the international community, that we are capable of coming here, stopping this whole wave of violence. We can stop everything.”

The gang members said, however, that they had lost faith in the possibility of negotiating directly with the government, and asked for the international community — the United Nations, the European Union, Pope Francis — to step in as a mediator.

Past attempts at ending the gang war have failed. A 2012 truce, negotiated by former guerrillas and religious leaders, with the support of former president Mauricio Funes, lasted for two years and then fell apart after the government imposed tighter conditions on jailed gang members. Critics say that the gangs used the time to rearm and grow stronger.

The current one-sided truce could quickly be followed by more violence, as the gangs seem determined to fight back if the police do not ease up.

“This is kicking the hornet’s nest,” Raul Mijango, a politician and former guerrilla who helped negotiate the previous gang truce, said of the government’s current approach. “These iron-fisted actions — today it’s total war declared against the gangs — have not been effective against these types of problems. On the contrary, what they’ve always done is increase them.”

Some of the gang members’ statements had a political flavor: They described the government as corrupt and exploitative and labeled members of the administration as hypocrites, former guerrillas who betrayed the poor people of El Salvador once they got into power. The gang members cast themselves as benefactors, offering survival in a poor job market.

“If there isn’t work, how are you going to survive? You can’t eat air,” the Mara Salvatrucha spokesman said.

They also said they were frustrated that the government has not invested more in programs to reintegrate gang members into society, or provide jobs for them. They seemed particularly outraged about the conditions inside prisons, where they said gang members are sick and dying and receive insufficient medical care. In their neighborhoods, they complained, there were indiscriminate arrests and killings.

“The police arrive in a community and grab everyone in sight,” the Mara Salvatrucha spokesman said. “They show up, push the kids against the wall, beat them, put them in the cop car, and drive them to a rival territory, where they know they’ll be killed.”

But the gangs have also murdered police at an ever-increasing rate — at least 12 this year, plus dozens of their relatives. The growing danger has devastated police morale. Over the past year, a movement has surged within police ranks, led by lower-ranking officers who complain about poor pay, insufficient equipment and the risk of dying. Hundreds have quit, police said, many of them heading north to try to cross illegally into the United States.

In response to the rising gang violence, authorities have cut off family visits to inmates and deployed soldiers to guard prisons. The legislature approved Sánchez Cerén’s request for more power to transfer inmates to higher-security facilities, where they would have less access to phones, visitors and weapons. His government has already moved some 300 mid-level gang leaders to more secure facilities in an attempt to block imprisoned leaders from running their gangs. The president has also called for building three jails for people awaiting trial in an effort to ease the crowded conditions.

Some doubt that the government’s defiance is as strong as it seems. Throughout the conflict, governments have often denounced the gangs publicly while reaching out to them privately. The existence of the 2012 truce, revealed by the El Faro newspaper, was never supposed to have been public knowledge. Some experts suspect a new covert deal is already in the works between the gangs and the government. Religious leaders are among the only people openly working toward that outcome now.

“The whole world is opposed to dialogue,” said Rafael Menjivar Saavedra, a Lutheran pastor who has met with the gang members. “My response to them is, ‘So what’s your alternative?’ ”

– – – – – – – – – –

Two Salvadoran gangsters walk into a church

The spokesmen for the 18th Street gang Revolucionarios and MS-13 sit side by side making gang signs but discussing their truce. (Fred Ramos for The Washington Post)

The spokesmen for the 18th Street gang Revolucionarios and MS-13 sit side by side making gang signs but discussing their truce. (Fred Ramos for The Washington Post)

Joshua Partlow, 3 abril 2016 / THE WASHINGTON POST

SAN SALVADOR — For such a small country, just 6 million people, and one not in openly declared war, the number of killings El Salvador endures is hard to fathom. So far this year, there have been more than 2,000 murders (the D.C. metro region, with roughly the same population, has had 52). Many consider El Salvador’s homicide rate to be the highest in the hemisphere or the world.

That’s why the recent cease-fire declared by the country’s most powerful gangs, including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street Revolutionaries, was so important, even if it ends up being temporary. In the first days of the cease-fire, homicides have dropped by more than half. But such truces have fallen apart before.

Spokesmen for two of the gangs agreed to meet with The Washington Post to talk about their cease-fire inside an office in a Lutheran church in San Salvador. The 18th Street spokesman showed up first. He was telling us a bit about his life, how he’d joined up as a kid because he thought it was cool — “I never wanted to be president or an airplane pilot” — and how, he claimed, police had recently slammed the left side of his face into the pavement, when a spokesman from his enemy gang walked into the church office.

The two had met during the temporary truce a couple of years ago. They agreed to talk as long as they weren’t identified. Before they went on camera, they wrapped black bandannas and towels around their faces and pulled hats down low over their eyes.

The Washington Post: Could you explain why this cease-fire started on Friday, and why you’re here now?

18th Street Revolutionaries gang spokesman: We’ve arrived at a moment of reflection to see how we can control all of this. We’re seeing too much suffering, not just among my men and the other gang’s men, but also in the civilian population. It’s too much. It’s not just at our hands — people say we’re responsible for the majority of crimes in this country, and we know that’s not true. There’s also another class of delinquents. We call them political delinquents. They’re not going to sit down with us here. They’re not here, they operate in another way. And they don’t call themselves delinquents, they call themselves “representatives.”

Let’s not talk about truces. This isn’t a truce. This is a peace agreement, a reflection on everything that has happened recently, all of the injustice. It’s the people who are dying. They’ve had enough. And still, even after we declared peace, the deaths are still filling the news. It’s not us. Now it’s clear that we’re the victims of this injustice.

WP: So are the three gangs [Mara Salvatrucha, 18th Street Revolutionaries and the 18th Street Sureños] now united? Are you now friends?

Mara Salvatrucha gang spokesman: No, we’re not friends. But the three gangs are united in this effort to come together to stop the violence that’s assaulting our country, so the Salvadoran people can see that it’s not just gangs that kill. There’s another group of people that’s killing: the police, the army, and the whole world knows it. But in our country right now, human-rights advocates aren’t doing their work. They’re not supporting the people in the way they should be. They’ve been threatened so they’re staying quiet. They don’t investigate what’s happening in our country.

The rich people are living peacefully in gated communities, they go everywhere in their cars. It’s the poor people that risk their lives to travel in buses, work and go to school in violent communities.

The police arrive in a community and grab everyone in sight. In a neighborhood dominated by the Barrio 18 gang, or the Mara Salvatrucha, they show up, push the kids against the wall, beat them, put them in the cop car and drive them to a rival territory, where they know they’ll be killed. We have proof of this. It’s why we’re saying that our people are victims of abuses of the army and the police. It’s abuse of authority.

And people face discrimination for living in communities dominated by gangs. If they go to a bank and ask for a loan, they’ll be refused. If they apply for a job, they’ll get rejected. Employers ask, where do you live? In such-and-such town. If it’s a town dominated by gangs, the person will be turned down.

So, what opportunities exist for people? None. There are no opportunities for people.

WP: What is your opinion of the emergency measures the government announced?

18th Street: The governments have invented these kinds of measures before, and what I have to say about it is this: Repression doesn’t reduce violence, it just brings more repression. Because if someone’s attacking my family, I’m going to attack them. We’re demonstrating to the Salvadoran people and to the international community that we are capable of stopping all violence. We have stopped it all. We did the same thing last time. For 72 hours, we promised that there would be no homicides, and we kept our promise. Now we’re shifting the responsibility to the government, to the Minister of Security and Justice.

WP: So this effort is intended to show that the government is committing violence, too?

MS-13: Correct.

18th Street: El Salvador is so obsessed with the gangs, it forgets about the rest of the population, about health care, about everything. We believe that the country as a whole has to advance, and the gangs are sucking up all the resources — the schools, the hospitals.

WP: There was a truce two years ago. The homicide rate declined but then rose again. Some critics say it’s because the gangs used the time to re-arm and become stronger. Is that what’s happening now?

MS-13: Everyone criticizes the truce. But during the truce, there were days with zero homicides. The average dropped from 23 homicides to 15 homicides, and there were many days with four, or three. And those homicides weren’t committed by the gangs, they were committed by others. But remember, Salvadoran politics is dirty and corrupt. There are congressmen who own funeral parlors, congressmen who own private security firms. The violence benefits them.

WP: One of the principal complaints against the gangs is rampant extortion.

MS-13: With respect to extortion, it’s something that not only the gangs do. The gangs always get blamed for everything. We’re used as the towel for the whole world to wipe itself on. If you read the news, you’ll see the police is extorting, too. Other people who aren’t from the gangs — criminal bands — are extorting. People in the government. The whole world is extorting. But who gets blamed? The gangs.

WP: How do you see the future of the gangs, in the long term? Do you want to become a political party?

MS-13: We’re never going to become politicians. We are always going to be the gangs. They’re the politicians, we’re the gangs, and the only thing we ask for are reinsertion programs — for the population, for the communities, for the prisons. If you go to a prison, all you’re going to find is a storage space. You’re going to find sick prisoners. There are no doctors that prisoners can go to for treatment when they’re sick. If you go to Zacatecoluca, the maximum-security prison, they’re killing the prisoners there. This government is killing them psychologically. They’ve put sheet metal above them so the cells heat up. They can’t withstand the heat. The prisoners suffer from colon sickness, from ulcers, from terminal illnesses. But no one sees it. People are dying inside the prison, and nobody sees it.

WP: During the cease-fire, are the gangs going to keep killing the police?

MS-13: The gangs have never declared war on the police. The police and the government have declared war on the gangs. But the gangs on the police? On the government? No. If the gangs declared war on the police or on the government, there would be a ton of deaths every day.

WP: More than there already are?

MS-13: More than there already are. You know why? Because in the communities where the gang members live, there are also police officers and government workers. If we declared war on them, every day there would be 40 police officers dead.

This transcript has been edited and condensed.

 

En la prensa estadounidense comienza un debate autocrítico sobre el ascenso de Donald Trump

My Shared Shame: The Media Helped Make Trump. De Nicolas Kristof/ The New York Times

27kristof-master675

nicolas kristofNicolas Kristof, 26 marzo 2016 / THE NEW YORK TIMES

THOSE of us in the news media have sometimes blamed Donald Trump’s rise on the Republican Party’s toxic manipulation of racial resentments over the years. But we should also acknowledge another force that empowered Trump: Us.

I polled a number of journalists and scholars, and there was a broad (though not universal) view that we in the media screwed up. Our first big failing was that television in particular handed Trump the microphone without adequately fact-checking him or rigorously examining his background, in a craven symbiosis that boosted audiences for both.

NEW YORK TOMES NYT“Trump is not just an instant ratings/circulation/clicks gold mine; he’s the motherlode,” Ann Curry, the former “Today” anchor, told me. “He stepped on to the presidential campaign stage precisely at a moment when the media is struggling against deep insecurities about its financial future. The truth is, the media has needed Trump like a crack addict needs a hit.”

Curry says she’s embarrassed by the unfairness to other Republican candidates, who didn’t get nearly the same airtime.

An analysis by The Times found that we in the news media gave Trump $1.9 billion in free publicity in this presidential cycle. That’s 190 times as much as he paid for in advertising, and it’s far more than any other candidate received. As my colleague Jim Rutenberg put it, some complain that “CNN has handed its schedule over to Mr. Trump,” and CNN had lots of company.

Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia, says television networks “have a lot to answer for.”

“We all know it’s about ratings, and Trump delivers,” Sabato says. “You can’t take your eyes off him. When Trump is on, I stop what I’m doing and wait for the car crash.”

Sabato is particularly critical of Sunday morning news program hosts who have allowed Trump to “appear” by telephone, instead of in person.

Although many of us journalists have derided Trump, the truth is that he generally outsmarted us (with many exceptions, for there truly have been serious efforts to pin him down and to investigate Trump University and his various business failings). He manipulated television by offering outrageous statements that drew ever more cameras — without facing enough skeptical follow-up questions.

It’s not that we shouldn’t have covered Trump’s craziness, but that we should have aggressively provided context in the form of fact checks and robust examination of policy proposals. A candidate claiming that his business acumen will enable him to manage America deserved much more scrutiny of his bankruptcies and mediocre investing.

All politicians spin, of course. But all in all, I’ve never met a national politician in the U.S. who is so ill informed, evasive, puerile and deceptive as Trump.

When the fact-check website PolitiFact was ready to choose its “lie of the year” for 2015, it found that the only real contenders were falsehoods by Trump. So it lumped them together and awarded the title to “the many campaign misstatements of Donald Trump.”

That pattern of prevarication is what we in the media, especially television, didn’t adequately highlight, leaving many voters with the perception that Trump is actually a straight shooter.

The reason for this passivity goes, I think, to a second failure: We wrongly treated Trump as a farce. “The media made a mistake by covering Trump’s candidacy at the start as some sort of joke or media prank,” notes Danielle S. Allen, a political scientist at Harvard. “The repeated use of references to ‘the Donald’ across all platforms structured the conversation around ironical affection for a celebrity rather than around serious conversation of character and policy.”

“Trump was quite literally a laugh line,” says Ralph Begleiter, a former CNN correspondent and communications professor at the University of Delaware. Begleiter notes that Sarah Palin received more serious vetting as a running mate in 2008 than Trump has as a presidential candidate.

I personally made the mistake of regarding Trump’s candidacy as a stunt, scoffing at the idea that he could be the nominee. Mea culpa.

We failed to take Trump seriously because of a third media failing: We were largely oblivious to the pain among working-class Americans and thus didn’t appreciate how much his message resonated. “The media has been out of touch with these Americans,” Curry notes.

Media elites rightly talk about our insufficient racial, ethnic and gender diversity, but we also lack economic diversity. We inhabit a middle-class world and don’t adequately cover the part of America that is struggling and seething. We spend too much time talking to senators, not enough to the jobless.

All this said, I have to add that I don’t know if more fact-checking would have mattered. Tom Brokaw of NBC did outstanding work challenging Trump, but he says that when journalists have indeed questioned Trump’s untrue statements, nothing much happens: “His followers find fault with the questions, not with his often incomplete, erroneous or feeble answers.”

Likewise, Bob Schieffer of CBS tells me: “I’m not sure more fact-checking would have changed that much. We’re in a new world where attitude seems to count more than facts.”

That may be true. But I still think that we blew it and that this should be a moment for self-reflection in journalism.

Despite some outstanding coverage of Trump, on the whole we in the media empowered a demagogue and failed the country. We were lap dogs, not watchdogs.

– – – – – – – – – –

Can Paul Ryan and Donald Trump coexist within the Republican Party? De Dan Balz/The Washington Post

Dan Balz is Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post. He has served as the paper’s National Editor, Political Editor, White House correspondent and Southwest correspondent.

Dan Balz is Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post. He has served as the paper’s National Editor, Political Editor, White House correspondent and Southwest correspondent.

Dan Balz, 26 marzo 2016 / THE WASHINGTON POST

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan attempted to lift the horizons of his party with a speech last week in which he called for a competition of ideas rather than insults, and constructive political debate rather than the politics of demonization.

Ryan’s speech was aimed at pulling the Republican Party away from Donald Trump’s embrace — though he never actually mentioned Trump by name. Events quickly showed what he is up against. The speaker was quickly drowned out by a snarling argument between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas over their wives that almost eclipsed the terrorist attacks in Brussels in the U.S. media.

By week’s end, the Republican race had gone into the gutter over tabloid charges of infidelity, which the senator vehemently denied and for which he blamed the New York billionaire, who called it unfounded. A race that seemed already at the bottom managed to find another low.

Ryan’s speech was a relatively high-minded moment in the middle of this mud fight of a Republican nominating contest. His effort to rescue the party from a coming crisis is laudable, but the root causes of the condition go far beyond Trump.

washington postThe front-runner for the nomination of the Republican Party is as much a reflection of the condition as a cause, a reality that Ryan (R-Wis.) touched on only lightly in calling for a more positive and uplifting approach to politics by all sides. Which means stopping Trump alone won’t necessarily solve all of the party’s problems.

Four years ago, scholars Thomas Mann, then with the Brookings Institution, and Norman Ornstein, then and now with the American Enterprise Institute, published a book examining the breakdown in American politics. It was titled “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.”

The authors took aim at the gridlocked and dysfunctional politics of Washington and the broader issue of political polarization that has become endemic in recent years. They were unsparing but not even-handed in their critique. They were ahead of others in describing the underlying causes of polarization as asymmetrical, with the Republican Party — in particular its most hard-line faction — as deserving of far more of the blame for the breakdown in governing.

Mann and Ornstein are back again with a second and updated paperback edition, called “It’s Even Worse Than It Was.” The paperback arrives in the middle of the most raucous presidential campaign in memory, one that has exposed even more the fissures, fractures and divisions within the Republican Party coalition.

What played out primarily in the party’s congressional wing has come to consume the presidential nominating contest. In their own ways, Trump and Cruz have brought to the surface the economic and cultural anger among many of those in the party’s base as well as the distrust of the party leadership — the same motivating forces behind the Freedom Caucus rebels in the House Republican conference.

The current campaign only adds fuel to the Mann-Ornstein thesis of a Republican Party at war with itself in ways that have helped cripple the governing process. Trump and Cruz reflect the yearning within the Republican base for anti-establishment outsiders to topple the insiders in Washington.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the third remaining candidate for the nomination, is a dissenting voice, calling for cooperation and compromise. At this point, he is not just a dissenting voice; he is a minority voice in the presidential competition, unless he can start winning more primaries.

Trump and Ryan represent bookends in a political debate that has considerable consequences for the Republican Party and for the country. Trump’s position as front-runner not only highlights the degree to which the party is being taken over by anti-establishment forces but also foreshadows the possibility of a significant defeat in November if, as the GOP nominee, Trump is unable to reverse his standing among women, Hispanics, African Americans and other voting groups.

Ryan represents something far different, politics grounded in ideas and policies and an attitude of goodwill toward the opposition that he inherited from his mentor, Jack Kemp, the former House member from Buffalo who prodded his party to be more open and inclusive.

Yet Ryan’s speech left unanswered key questions about his capacity to change the behavior of his party’s conference in the House and in particular the degree to which he is willing to find a governing coalition apart from the hard-liners in the Freedom Caucus.

As the country’s highest-ranking Republican elected official, Ryan symbolizes the establishment’s backlash to Trump’s candidacy, a backlash that has so far failed to stop the New York businessman’s march to the nomination. The resistance might yet succeed. Whether it does or doesn’t, it raises the question of whether this presidential campaign ultimately will produce a true course change for the party or merely end up intensifying the forces that have brought it to this moment.

I put that question to Ornstein in an email exchange Friday: “This really is, I believe, an existential crisis for the Republican Party,” he wrote. “Will it be a Ryan-style conservative, problem-solving party, or will it be either a Trump-style, authoritarian, nativist and protectionist party, or a Cruz-style radical anti-government party content with blowing things up as they now stand? Or, just as possible, will the party break apart, with no clue as to what will replace it or how the pieces will fit into the broader political system?”

The prospects for a crackup are real, given what Trump’s candidacy has revealed about the party’s fractured coalition. Trump’s views on issues, outlined on the campaign trail and in a recent interview with The Washington Post editorial board, represent a fundamental break with many of the conservative ideas that have been at the party’s core for years.

Trump’s constituency finds his support for protecting rather than transforming Social Security and Medicare appealing. His words of praise for the work of Planned Parenthood, apart from performing abortions, are anathema to many religious conservatives. His views on trade run counter to the free-trade philosophy of the GOP elites. His comments about reevaluating the U.S. role in NATO shocked many in the Republican foreign-policy establishment.

That’s the threat Ryan and others in the party see as they watch the nominating contest move into the next rounds of primaries. But it isn’t clear that what the speaker advocated in his speech would be enough to put the Republican Party in a better place, even absent Trump. House Republicans are still an unruly group and, with some exceptions, the GOP still prefers to try to do business with itself.

The Republican Party remains a party of protest. It continues to struggle to demonstrate that, on the national level, it can be a true governing party.

Tres columnas desnundando a Donald Trump

Donald Trump embodies how great republics meet their end. De Martin Wolf/Financial Times

© James Ferguson

© James Ferguson

The Americans will have to decide what sort of person they want to put in the White House.

martin wolf

Martin Wolf, associate editor and chief economics commentator at the Financial Times.

Martin Wolf, 1 marzo 2016 / FINANCIAL TIMES

What is one to make of the rise of Donald Trump? It is natural to think of comparisons with populist demagogues past and present. It is natural, too, to ask why the Republican party might choose a narcissistic bully as its candidate for president. But this is not just about a party, but about a great country. The US is the greatest republic since Rome, the bastion of democracy, the guarantor of the liberal global order. It would be a global disaster if Mr Trump were to become president. Even if he fails, he has rendered the unthinkable sayable.

Mr Trump is a promoter of paranoid fantasies, a xenophobe and an ignoramus. His business consists of the erection of ugly monuments to his own vanity. He has no experience of political office. Some compare him to Latin American populists. He might also be considered an American Silvio Berlusconi, albeit without the charm or business acumen. But Mr Berlusconi, unlike Mr Trump, never threatened to round up and expel millions of people. Mr Trump is grossly unqualified for the world’s most important political office.

Yet, as Robert Kagan, a neoconservative intellectual, argues in a powerful column in The Washington Post, Mr Trump is also “the GOP’s Frankenstein monster”. He is, says Mr Kagan, the monstrous result of the party’s “wild obstructionism”, its demonisation of political institutions, its flirtation with bigotry and its “racially tinged derangement syndrome” over President Barack Obama. He continues: “We are supposed to believe that Trump’s legion of ‘angry’ people are angry about wage stagnation. No, they are angry about all the things Republicans have told them to be angry about these past seven-and-a-half years”.

Mr Kagan is right, but does not go far enough. This is not about the last seven-and-a-half years. These attitudes were to be seen in the 1990s, with the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Indeed, they go back all the way to the party’s opportunistic response to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Alas, they have become worse, not better, with time.

Why has this happened? The answer is that this is how a wealthy donor class, dedicated to the aims of slashing taxes and shrinking the state, obtained the footsoldiers and voters it required. This, then, is “pluto-populism”: the marriage of plutocracy with rightwing populism. Mr Trump embodies this union. But he has done so by partially dumping the free-market, low tax, shrunken government aims of the party establishment, to which his financially dependent rivals remain wedded. That gives him an apparently insuperable advantage. Mr Trump is no conservative, elite conservatives complain. Precisely. That is also true of the party’s base.

Mr Trump is egregious. Yet in some respects the policies of his two leading rivals, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, are as bad. Both propose highly regressive tax cuts, just like Mr Trump. Mr Cruz even wishes to return to a gold standard. Mr Trump says that the sick should not die on the streets. Mr Cruz and Mr Rubio seem to be not quite so sure.

Yet the Trump phenomenon is not the story of just one party. It is about the country and so, inevitably, the world. In creating the American republic, the founding fathers were aware of the example of Rome. Alexander Hamilton argued in the Federalist Papers that the new republic would need an “energetic executive”. He noted that Rome itself, with its careful duplication of magistracies, depended in its hours of need on the grant of absolute, albeit temporary, power to one man, called a “dictator”.

The US would have no such office. Instead, it would have a unitary executive: the president as elected monarch.

“It is unwise to assume constitutional norms in the US
would survive the presidency of someone
who neither understands nor believes in them”

The president has limited, but great, authority. For Hamilton, the danger of overweening power would be contained by “first, a due dependence on the people, secondly, a due responsibility”.

During the first century BC, the wealth of empire destabilised the Roman republic. In the end, Augustus, heir of the popular party, terminated the republic and installed himself as emperor. He did so by preserving all the forms of the republic, while he dispensed with their meaning.

It is rash to assume constitutional constraints would survive the presidency of someone elected because he neither understands nor believes in them. Rounding up and deporting 11m people is an immense coercive enterprise. Would a president elected to achieve this be prevented and, if so, by whom? What are we to make of Mr Trump’s enthusiasm for the barbarities of torture? Would he find people willing to carry out his desires or not?

It is not difficult for a determined leader to do the previously unthinkable by appealing to conditions of emergency. Both Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt did some extraordinary things in wartime. But these men knew limits. Would Mr Trump also know limits? Hamilton’s “energetic” executive is dangerous.

It was the ultra-conservative president Paul von Hindenburg who made Hitler chancellor of Germany in 1933. What made the new ruler so destructive was not only that he was a paranoid lunatic, but that he ruled a great power. Trump may be no Hitler. But the US is also no Weimar Germany. It is a vastly more important country even than that.

Mr Trump may still fail to win the Republican nomination. But, should he do so the Republican elite will have to ask themselves hard questions — not only how this happened, but how they should properly respond. Beyond that, the American people will have to decide what sort of human being they want to put in the White House. The implications for them and for the world of this choice will be profound. Above all, Mr Trump may not prove unique. An American “Caesarism” has now become flesh. It seems a worryingly real danger today. It could return again in future.

martin.wolf@ft.com

– – – – – – – – – –

Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein monster. Now he’s strong enough to destroy the party. De Robert Kagan/Washington Post

Robert Kagan es un ensayista político neoconservador estadounidense, dedicado al comentario político. Es asesor del expresidente estadounidense George W. Bush y del candidato republicano a la presidencia de Estados Unidos, John McCain.

Robert Kagan es un ensayista político neoconservador estadounidense, dedicado al comentario político. Es asesor del expresidente estadounidense George W. Bush y del candidato republicano a la presidencia de Estados Unidos, John McCain.

Robert Kagan, 25 febrero 2016 / THE WASHINGTON POST

When the plague descended on Thebes, Oedipus sent his brother-in-law to the Delphic oracle to discover the cause. Little did he realize that the crime for which Thebes was being punished was his own. Today’s Republican Party is our Oedipus. A plague has descended on the party in the form of the most successful demagogue-charlatan in the history of U.S. politics. The party searches desperately for the cause and the remedy without realizing that, like Oedipus, it is the party itself that brought on this plague. The party’s own political crimes are being punished in a bit of cosmic justice fit for a Greek tragedy.

Let’s be clear: Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker. Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements, the persistent calls for nullification of Supreme Court decisions, the insistence that compromise was betrayal, the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at? Was it not Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among others, who set this tone and thereby cleared the way for someone even more irreverent, so that now, in a most unenjoyable irony, Cruz, along with the rest of the party, must fall to the purer version of himself, a less ideologically encumbered anarcho-revolutionary? This would not be the first revolution that devoured itself.

Then there was the party’s accommodation to and exploitation of the bigotry in its ranks. No, the majority of Republicans are not bigots. But they have certainly been enablers. Who began the attack on immigrants — legal and illegal — long before Trump arrived on the scene and made it his premier issue? Who frightened Mitt Romney into selling his soul in 2012, talking of “self-deportation” to get himself right with the party’s anti-immigrant forces? Who opposed any plausible means of dealing with the genuine problem of illegal immigration, forcing Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to cower, abandon his principles — and his own immigration legislation — lest he be driven from the presidential race before it had even begun? It was not Trump. It was not even party yahoos. It was Republican Party pundits and intellectuals, trying to harness populist passions and perhaps deal a blow to any legislation for which President Obama might possibly claim even partial credit. What did Trump do but pick up where they left off, tapping the well-primed gusher of popular anger, xenophobia and, yes, bigotry that the party had already unleashed?

Then there was the Obama hatred, a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified. Has the president done a poor job in many respects? Have his foreign policies, in particular, contributed to the fraying of the liberal world order that the United States created after World War II? Yes, and for these failures he has deserved criticism and principled opposition. But Republican and conservative criticism has taken an unusually dark and paranoid form. Instead of recommending plausible alternative strategies for the crisis in the Middle East, many Republicans have fallen back on mindless Islamophobia, with suspicious intimations about the president’s personal allegiances.

Thus Obama is not only wrong but also anti-American, un-American, non-American, and his policies — though barely distinguishable from those of previous liberal Democrats such as Michael Dukakis or Mario Cuomo — are somehow representative of something subversive. How surprising was it that a man who began his recent political career by questioning Obama’s eligibility for office could leap to the front of the pack, willing and able to communicate with his followers by means of the dog-whistle disdain for “political correctness”?

We are supposed to believe that Trump’s legion of “angry” people are angry about wage stagnation. No, they are angry about all the things Republicans have told them to be angry about these past 7½ years, and it has been Trump’s good fortune to be the guy to sweep them up and become their standard-bearer. He is the Napoleon who has harvested the fruit of the revolution.

There has been much second-guessing lately. Why didn’t party leaders stand up and try to stop Trump earlier, while there was still time? But how could they have? Trump was feeding off forces in the party they had helped nurture and that they hoped to ride into power. Some of those Republican leaders and pundits now calling for a counterrevolution against Trump were not so long ago welcoming his contribution to the debate. The politicians running against him and now facing oblivion were loath to attack him before because they feared alienating his supporters. Instead, they attacked one another, clawing at each other’s faces as they one by one slipped over the cliff. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie got his last deadly lick in just before he plummeted — at Trump? No, at Rubio. (And now, as his final service to party and nation, he has endorsed Trump.) Jeb Bush spent millions upon millions in his hopeless race, but against whom? Not Trump.

So what to do now? The Republicans’ creation will soon be let loose on the land, leaving to others the job the party failed to carry out. For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.

– – – – – – – – – –

To defend our democracy against Trump, the GOP must aim for a brokered convention. Editorial/The Washington Post

washington postEditorial Board, 16 marzo 2016 / THE WASHINGTON POST

DONALD TRUMP’S primary victories Tuesday present the Republican Party with a stark choice. Should leaders unite behind Mr. Trump, who has collected the most delegates but may reach the convention in July without a nominating majority? Or should they do everything they can to deny him the nomination? On a political level, this may be a dilemma. As a moral question, it is straightforward. The mission of any responsible Republican should be to block a Trump nomination and election.

We do not take this position because we believe Mr. Trump is perilously wrong on the issues, although he is. His proposed tariff on Chinese imports could spark a trade war and global depression. His proposed tax plan would bankrupt the government while enriching his fellow multimillionaires. But policy proposals, however ill-formed and destructive, are not the crux of the danger.

No, Mr. Trump must be stopped because he presents a threat to American democracy. Mr. Trump resembles other strongmen throughout history who have achieved power by manipulating democratic processes. Their playbook includes a casual embrace of violence; a willingness to wield government powers against personal enemies; contempt for a free press; demonization of anyone who is not white and Christian; intimations of dark conspiracies; and the propagation of sweeping, ugly lies. Mr. Trump has championed torture and the murder of innocent relatives of suspected terrorists. He has flirted with the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. He has libeled and stereotyped wide swaths of humanity, including Mexicans and Muslims. He considers himself exempt from the norms of democratic contests, such as the release of tax returns, policy papers, lists of advisers and other information that voters have a right to expect.

Does a respect for democracy require the Republican Party to anoint its leading vote-getter? Hardly. We are not advocating that rules be broken but that they be employed to maximum effect — to force a brokered convention and nominate a conservative candidate who respects the Constitution, or to defeat Mr. Trump in some other way. If Mr. Trump is attracting 40 percent of Republicans, who in turn represent about one-quarter of the country, that is a 10 percent slice of the population — hardly a mantle of legitimacy.

There are some Americans, Democrats in particular, who are happy to watch the Republican Party self-destruct with Mr. Trump at the helm. We cannot share in their equanimity. For one thing, though Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, would be heavily favored, a Trump defeat is far from sure. For another, the country needs two healthy parties and, ideally, a contest of ideas and ideology — not a slugfest of insults and bigotry. Mr. Trump’s emergence already has done grave damage to American civility at home and prestige abroad. The cost of a Trump nomination would be far higher.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump offered what was meant as an argument for his nomination. If he reaches the convention with a lead short of an outright majority, and then fails to win, “I think you’d have riots,” Mr. Trump said. “I think you’d have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen.”

A democrat disavows violence; a demagogue wields it as a threat. The Republican Party should recognize the difference and act on it before it is too late.