Banana Wars and Chaste Cheerleaders

Article excerpt

Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

Talking Turkey

Bashar al-Assad, Syria's embattled potentate, has turned his scorn on Turkey, describing its ruling politicians as being "carried away by dreams." Assad said of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government that "there are those among them who think themselves to be very smart. You may be very smart, you may be using a state-of-the-art computer, but your efforts will be in vain if you try to run an obsolete program on it." One doesn't have to endorse Assad's ungainly metaphor to grasp why he is displeased. In the days since the Syrian uprising began, Turkey has closed its embassy in Damascus, advised its citizens to leave Syria, hosted Syrian opposition groups and offered them "non-lethal aid," imposed sanctions on Damascus, and--et tu, Erdogan!--called on Assad to step down.

Don't Cry For Me, Brazil

Dilma Rousseff is hardly the lachrymose type, but the Brazilian president shed very public tears last week as she swore in members of a national Truth Commission, tasked with investigating crimes committed during the country's long dictatorship. "We are not moved by revenge or hate, or the desire to rewrite history, but by the need to show what happened, without camouflage or vetoes," she said of the commission's mandate. The Truth team might start by hearing out the president herself. She was, once upon a time, a youthful Marxist known as "Comrade Dilma," and was tortured in jail in 1970.

Beijing Goes Bananas

A maritime spat between China and the Philippines, which began in April when a Philippine warship attempted to detain Chinese fishing vessels in Philippine waters claimed by China, has taken an unpalatable twist. In an apparent attempt to put the uppity Filipinos in their place, Chinese authorities detained 1,500 containers of Philippine bananas at Chinese ports, refusing customs clearance for reasons of "sanitation." If the banana war continues for much longer, the effects on small farmers in the province of Mindanao could be devastating. Is the standoff ripe for resolution?

A Fragment of Fuentes

In the deluge of tributes that followed the death last week of Carlos Fuentes, one anecdote--from the Mexican literary sage's school days in Washington, D. …