Catalonia’s Decisive Week for Independence

On Tuesday, Catalan President Puigdemont “declared Catalonia’s independence,” but soon after suspended its effects in favor of dialogue with Spanish authorities. His decision came after numerous international actors suggested that mediation would only be possible if he halted independence as a sign of good faith.

Nevertheless, numerous members of parliament, who were informed about Puigdemont’s decision only 45 minutes before his intervention, expressed their disagreement and threatened to boycott his speech, as well as threatening to break the pro-independence absolute majority in Parliament. They stressed that they had agreed on a different declaration earlier in the day.

To address this alarming situation, President of Parliament Forcadell decided to suspend the plenary for 1 hour. While the disagreements remained, everyone present in the meeting finally accepted Puigdemont’s changes to the speech in order to maintain unity. Additionally, they agreed to hold a ceremony to sign an unofficial declaration of independence in another building after the plenary in order to give more solemnity to the day.

Tens of thousands of people who gathered around the parliament to celebrate the proclamation of the new Catalonian Republic ended up with mixed feelings. At first, when Puigdemont declared independence, they felt very excited, but this turned to disappointment when he suspended its legal effects without setting a deadline a few seconds later.

Most experts saw Puigdemont’s move as a wise one because it served to show the international community that Catalonia is seeking dialogue until the very end, which favours future international recognition of Catalonia as an independent country.

On Wednesday, Spanish PM Rajoy refused Puigdemont’s latest offer of dialogue and activated Article 155, which can be fully implemented a few days after Puigdemont responds to a mandatory request for information as to whether he has declared independence. He was given until Monday to respond; if it is in the affirmative, this period is extended until Thursday, with the option of altering the decision.

With Article 155, Rajoy can suspend Catalonia’s government, intervene in the education system and the police, and even call for an early election while installing technocrats from the central government to rule Catalonia for at least 3 months. In parallel, pro-independence parties and organizations may also be barred from participating in any eventual general election for at least 4 years.

Major pro-independence organizations are preparing a proportionate response to the implementation of the Article 155 and the possible arrest of Catalonia’s President and vice-president, which includes mass protests, and an indefinite general strike. The main idea would be to collapse the Spanish and European economies and eventually force an international intervention/mediation in Catalonia.

The response may be precipitated by Spain this Monday, because the leaders of the two major pro-independence organizations, Cuixart and Sanchez, have been summoned by the Spanish National Court to testify about “sedition charges” (punishable by up to 15 years in prison + a fine). According to some journalists with contacts in the Spanish government, the judges who are hearing these two cases have already made the decision to jail them in order to smash their respective organizations and thus spread fear across Catalonian society.

Against this possible outcome, Cuixart and Sanchez named their replacements on Saturday. In the meantime, pro-independence organizations and parties such as the ANC, Omnium, ERC, CUP, Democrates and several MP’s from the PDECAT have called on Puigdemont to lift the suspension of Catalonia’s declaration of independence and implement its legal effects as soon as next week. If possible before the Spanish implementation of Article 155.They believe there are no longer grounds for mediation or negotiations as equals with Spain, and that the only way to bring about international mediation/negotiations is by formally declaring independence first.

With this in mind, Puigdemont will have to make the most important decision of his life tomorrow morning. He must decide whether to go all-out to respect the will of the Catalonian people and face a prison sentence of up to 15 years or to surrender, refuse to declare independence, and thus comply with the Spanish government’s will.

Whatever Puigdemont’s decision may be in the coming hours, the worsening of the conflict between Catalonia and Spain appears to be inevitable, given that if he surrenders the independence process, millions of Catalans will then feel betrayed, resulting in the radicalization of many who would rise up against the Spanish government in order to defend the newly promised Catalonian Republic.

Perhaps the only thing that can stop this upcoming clash would be Spain’s acceptance of international mediation. Although, I must admit that I do not have much hope of that happening.

 

Advertisements

The Week that Spain Lost Catalonia

The detention of 15 high-ranking officials and the suspension of the Catalan government, last week by the Spanish government, in order to halt the referendum on independence set for tomorrow appears to have united separatists, federalists, and a significant number of unionists in defense of the vote.

“I have always been opposed to this referendum, because I am a federalist. However, the latest Spanish aggressions against Catalonia in order to humiliate our people is intolerable. That’s the main reason why I have decided to vote, and I will vote “YES” because I do not want to belong to a dictatorship like Turkey any longer. I think that the creation of a new state would give us the chance to build a more fair country and society” said David, a Barcelona citizen.

My family and I have always voted for unionist parties. We like Spain and most of our friends are from Madrid. Nevertheless, the Spanish repression of the Catalans this week is unacceptable. The government has violated the international law and has restricted the freedom of expression in Catalonia. They have raided printing shops, newspapers offices, and forbidden Catalan editors from advertising the referendum. Last week, they suspended our government and detained a number of our democratically elected representatives. Until this week, I was not going to vote in the referendum because I have always been a unionist, but Spain does not give me any other option. I will go to vote “YES” because this is no longer a referendum on independence, it is all about “Democracy” VS “Dictatorship,” said Marta, a Barcelona businesswoman.

The Catalan government has had serious problems in mobilizing the “unionists” for this referendum until the past week. Most of them thought that they could defeat the Catalan President by promoting a boycott of the vote. However, the latest Spanish aggressions against Catalan institutions have changed the situation, and it appears now that the vast majority of unionists are willing to support the referendum, in order to preserve democracy. This could result in a historic turnout that cannot be ignored by the international community.

The constant attacks against Catalonia by the Spanish government have also united separatists, federalists, and several unionist political parties, which are now calling on the people for mass participation in the referendum. Additionally, they are planning a social/labor indefinite general strike starting on October 3rd, in order to collapse the Spanish economy, if Spain does not recognize the results of the vote.

Although the Catalan government has always been committed to carrying out the referendum, there has always been serious doubts about the validation of the results. However, it seems that the latest anti-democratic actions against Catalonia by Spain have already guaranteed the international recognition of the results, whatever they may be.

Spain Assaults the Catalan Government

Spanish militarized police assaulted Catalan government offices and arrested 15 officials on Wednesday in order to stop the October 1st banned referendum. The Catalan president said that this action meant the suspension of Catalonia’s government and the implementation of a state of emergency across the country.

Tens of thousands of protesters crowded outside the Catalan government offices in downtown Barcelona’s tourist district, waving Catalan flags and chanting “Occupying forces out” and “Where is Europe?”.

The Spanish state has by all rights intervened in Catalonia’s government and has established emergency rule,” said President Carles Puigdemont. “We condemn and reject the anti-democratic and totalitarian actions of the Spanish state,” he said, calling on the Catalans to vote in the referendum to preserve democracy.

Spanish militarized police detained Catalonia’s junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove and 14 high-ranking local officials. The raid targeted numerous regional government departments.

Police confirmed that they were carrying out raids to dismantle the organization of the October 1st referendum.

Despite Spanish police provocations to cause riots, mass protests across Catalonia remained peaceful. Protesters bore banners reading “Democracy” and “Vote to be free”.

The FC Barcelona soccer club said in a statement: “FC Barcelona, in remaining faithful to its historic commitment to the defense of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination, condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights.”

Police efforts to stop the referendum have intensified in recent days as the Catalan government reaffirms its commitment to hold the referendum by any means. A few days ago, President Puigdemont said that he and his administration members were willing to go to prison if necessary. He added that he is not afraid of defending people’s rights.

Over the last few weeks, the Spanish police have raided printer’s shops, newspaper offices private post-delivery companies looking for the necessary material to hold the referendum, instruction manuals for manning voting stations and ballot boxes.

 

1 Million People Attend a Pro-Independence Rally in Barcelona

On Monday, one million pro-independence supporters gathered in Barcelona for the National Day of Catalonia, three weeks before the key independence referendum on October 1st.

The city’s streets were flooded with hundreds of thousands of people several hours before the rally organized by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural was set to begin. According to the organizers, up to 2000 buses from cities all over Catalonia made the journey to the capital.

The rally began at 5.14 PM with one minute’s silence held in remembrance of the victims of the Barcelona and Cambrils terror attacks. Spirits were high as the atmosphere changed from one of anticipation to eager excitement and optimism with hopes for a positive result in the coming referendum.

Four banners with messages of peace, independence and liberty were passed along by the protesters in a show of unity.

Voting has never been a crime,” President of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart, addressed the crowd of thousands. “In spite of their fears and threats, we have our own laws based on international legislation. The Spanish courts no longer defend the collective interests of the Catalan people… They want to silence democracy.”

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and representative of the Tunisian Human Rights League Ahmed Galai was also present. A key supporter of Catalan independence, he inspired crowds with his speech stating that “referendum is democracy.” After key speeches made by organizers and pro-independence politicians, crowds began to disperse at around 7 pm.

This year, the annual pro-independence rally was more crucial than ever, since it came in the context of an all-out confrontation between the Spanish and Catalan governments. A few days before the rally was held, the international community said that a low turnout would weaken the legitimacy of the Catalan government‘s disobedience of the Spanish government and Supreme Court in holding the independence referendum set for October 1st.

Nevertheless, the spectacular turn out of 1 million people demanding that the Catalan government hold the referendum, no matter what, appears to have given the necessary legitimacy to the Catalan President to disobey the politicized Spanish Supreme Court and the Spanish government.

After Monday’s mass rally, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said this morning during an interview that he and his government will not accept a hypothetical suspension of their mandate by the Spanish Supreme Court. He added that from now on, he will only follow the Catalan legislation which stipulates that he can only be suspended by the Catalonian people. He also stressed that not only is holding a referendum on independence not illegal, but a right spelled out in the two 1966 UN Conventions on Human Rights which the Spanish Constitution recognizes as the supreme law of the land.

Last week, Catalonia’s parliament passed two crucial laws: the law of the referendum, which allows the government to hold the unilateral independence referendum in October, and the law of “transitorietat” that will only be applied if most Catalans vote in favor of the independence in the referendum. This law would serve as a new constitution until the new one is written, approved, and voted via referendum by the Catalonian people.

It is expected that the tension between the Spanish and Catalan governments will grow to limits never before seen in democracy during the days prior to the referendum. The Spanish government will try to prevent the referendum from happening by all means, but, if it is held in the end, the most important indicators for the international community to validate the results will be the turnout, the opinion of the international observers, and the transparency of the process.

Yemen: The Forgotten Conflict

Since Yemen’s civil war began in 2015, the Saudi-led coalition has regularly conducted lethal air strikes throughout the country, killing thousands of innocent Yemenis. Further, Saudi Arabia has implemented a blockade of basic supplies against Yemen, including drinkable water, resulting in rampant cholera, leading to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition was initially created seeking to support the deposed President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, after the Houthi rebels had taken key positions all across the country, including the capital Sana’a and his Presidential palace, forcing him to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Since then, Saudi Arabia has justified its lethal attacks on civilians by accusing the Houthis, without any evidence, of being endorsed by its arch-enemies, Iran and Hezbollah.

According to the UN, the Saudi-led coalition regularly kills innocent people, including children. For example, a Saudi air strike killed 140 people and injured some 600 mourners at a funeral in Sana’a last October.

The United Nations’ World Health Organization has reported that the outbreak of cholera in Yemen caused by the Saudi blockade of drinking water has already infected more than 300,000 Yemenis; killed 1,500 people, 55% of them children.

The Red Cross has predicted that one out 45 people in Yemen will contract cholera. More than 600,000 people are expected to contract the disease before the end of the year. Some worrying reports show that a child dies in Yemen every 10 minutes from preventable causes like diarrhea, respiratory infections and malnutrition.

According to the UN, since March 2015, 3.2 million Yemenis have been displaced; 13,000 civilians have been casualties; 2 million children cannot attend schools;  and nearly 15 million people have no access to basic medical care. Out of 27 million people in Yemen, 20 million are starving, including 400,000 childrenand some 2.2 million are in need of urgent care.


“In the last two years, more children have died from preventable diseases than those killed in the violence. This is why vaccination campaigns are so crucial to save the lives of Yemen’s children and to secure their future,” said Dr. Meritxell Relaño, UNICEF Representative in Yemen.

Children are dying because the conflict is preventing them from getting the health care and nutrition they urgently need. Their immune systems are weak from months of hunger,” said Dr. Relaño.”

Saudi Arabia has also imposed a strict journalist embargo on Yemen, seeking to hide its acts of barbarism. It only grants sporadic access to the country to a few journalists from the mainstream Western media. On many occasions, they are indirectly endorsed by the Saudi-led coalition.

Despite the embargo, some independent journalists have risked their lives to enter the country covertly. They regularly show the Western world what the mainstream media refuses, the Saudi atrocities in Yemen.

The mainstream Western media regularly ignores the Yemeni conflict by ensuring that it is not attractive enough for the Western audience, which supposedly prefers those in Iraq and Syria because there are more parties involved.

Nothing is expected to change soon; the Saudi-led coalition will still commit atrocities across Yemen. The Houthis and the official Yemeni government will repress and kill thousands of innocent people, worsening the living conditions of innocent Yemenis. In addition, Al-Qaeda and ISIS are expected to increase their influence by taking key positions across Yemen, leading to a possible further American military intervention in the country.

One Year after Turkey’s Failed Coup Attempt, the Purge Continues

One year after the failed coup in Turkey, the situation in the country has worsened significantly and Erdogan has begun a transition from ”democracy” to dictatorship, backed by fanatical supporters willing to die for him.

Taking advantage of this situation, Erdogan has criminalized and jailed all critical voices by linking them to the coup and Fethullah Gülen’s movement, who is considered the coup’s mastermind by Erdogan.

To that end, Erdogan has detained 118,235 people, arrested 55,927, including 269 journalists, sacked 138,148 people, including some 4,424 judges and prosecutors, and around 9,000 teachers, and has also shut down 2,099 schools, dormitories, and universities, and 149 media outlets. The co-leaders of the second-largest opposition party in the Parliament are also in prison.

More recently, Erdogan has detained eight human rights defenders, Amnesty International’s Turkey Director Idil Eser and two international trainers on the absurd suspicion of being members of an ‘armed terrorist organization.’

In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt, Erdogan believed he would be able to keep Turkish society united behind his authoritarian project while directing a purge against the opposition and critics.

However, his authoritarian actions, like the rigged constitutional referendum to grant super powers to him in April, and the increasing repression against anyone who criticizes him have divided Turkish society to levels never seen before.

Numerous voices have arisen across the country stating that Erdogan could have directed last year ‘s failed coup attempt against himself to have a pretext to install a dictatorship, extend his mandate, and get rid of the most prominent opposition leaders who could have disputed his leadership of the country.

Erdogan administration has not yet proven the link between Gulen and the failed coup. And Erdogan’s claims that the coup was organized without his knowledge by hundreds of thousands of people during more than a decade is absurd.

Keeping a secret in a small group for years is hard, and it is impossible to do among hundreds of thousands of people, especially while Erdogan was leading the country and had many of his supporters infiltrated in all governmental institutions.

World precedents show that, at first stages, coup d’États are always organized by a small number of people until things are up and running and people see that the coup can succeed. This is then when a large number of people join the project.

Despite the fact that Erdogan is installing a dictatorship and jailing teachers, judges, and journalists on a regular basis, the Western world is still endorsing him and indirectly his actions.

Numerous European leaders have suggested that Merkel keep a “friendly” position with Erdogan due to the fact that the EU and Turkey have an agreement on immigration, which prevents thousands of immigrants and refugees from entering the EU annually. And Erdogan has suggested that he could break this pact, causing a flood of immigration in Europe.

Trump has also venerated and congratulated Erdogan for overweening superpowers in the constitutional referendum in April. Trump, who has also shown to be an authoritarian, speaks the same language as Erdogan. And unless this affects the US, he appears to be willing to allow Erdogan to install a dictatorship in Turkey.

With the endorsement of the Western world, this coming year will be harder than the previous one in Turkey. Erdogan will continue deploying his superpowers, repressing the Turks, firing thousands of teachers, judges, and will continue his purge against the opposition, human rights activists and the independent media.

Unless the international community led by Trump and Merkel take action to stop Erdogan’s authoritarian drift, hundreds of thousands of innocents will soon suffer the devastating consequences of Erdogan’s actions.

Although initially the US and the EU will not help the Turks reinstating democracy in Turkey, the firm determination of the Turkish opposition to challenge Erdogan and bring back democracy to the country will cause tensions, and if as predicted, Erdogan reacts by using force against millions of peaceful people, the US and the EU will have to decide then between allowing this to happen or intervening to return the power back to the Turkish people.

As usual, the future of the Turks will be in Western world’s hands, and perhaps, this time, they will not make the same mistakes made previously in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, by choosing to defend democrats instead of villains.

Trump’s Connections With Dictators

Trump’s connections with a large number of dictatorships has raised several questions about his morality and political convictions. Since he became president, numerous human rights organizations have protested against him for welcoming human rights violators onto US soil. However, Trump has always denied those accusations, claiming that classic tyrants such as Al-Sisi (Egypt) and Erdogan (Turkey) are US allies who lead free countries.

Despite Trump’s efforts to manipulate public opinion, the recent visit of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan caused a political earthquake. During his visit to the Turkish embassy in Washington DC on Monday, Erdogan ordered his bodyguards to attack people who were peacefully protesting against him. As result, a number of protesters were injured and needed medical assistance. A few hours before that regrettable incident, Trump said:

We have had a great relationship and we will make it even better.”

Today, we face a new enemy in the fight against terrorism, and again we seek to face this threat together.”

Amnesty International said the meeting was, “an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the way that President Trump and President Erdogan are contributing to a global climate of toxic and dehumanizing politics.”

President Trump recently praised President Erdogan for winning a referendum in which dissenting opinions were ruthlessly suppressed, yet President Trump has been silent on Turkey’s alarming crackdown on the media,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

“The world will be watching, hoping that both presidents will reaffirm their commitments to protecting human rights.”

Despite Erdogan’s criminal act onto US soil, Trump said,

it was a great honor to welcome the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House today.”

Numerous Republicans and Democrats have come together to condemn Erdogan’s crime. Senator John McCain said,

We should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America. This is the United States of America. This isn’t Turkey; this isn’t a third-world country, and this kind of thing cannot go un-responded to diplomatically.”

McCain added: “It should have repercussions, including identifying these people and bringing charges against them.After all, they violated American laws.”

Later in the day Wednesday, McCain and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sent a joint letter to Erdogan to express their “grave concern” with the behavior of his security detail.

“The actions of your staff violate the constitutional protections of freedom of the press and freedom of assembly enjoyed by all Americans. Your staff’s blatant violation of these rights on American soil is an affront to those freedoms, and reflects poorly on your government,” the letter said. “We have long supported Turkey as a member of NATO and a key US ally in the region, and we expect conduct more appropriate to our decades-long partnership.”

Also on Wednesday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., called for the arrest and prosecution of members of Erdogan’s security detail.

If Erdogan’s bodyguards who participated in this attack have entered the country on diplomatic visas, those visas should be revoked right away,” Lofgren said, slamming Erdogan as “authoritarian” and “an oppressor” and said that it was “unwise” for Trump to meet with him.

The United States needs to send a strong message that we will not stand by,” as Erdogan brings “thuggish tactics to our nation’s capital,” Lofgren said

Despite the demands presented by Republicans and Democrats, the government said it will not take further actions against Turkey. The Department of Justice added that it will further investigate the facts and will notify Erdogan of its concerns about the incident.

Days after the incident, the Trump administration announced its intentions to strengthen its ties with Erdogan because according to them, he is an ally and represents a free country.

Two months ago, Turkey held a rigged constitutional referendum which gave Erdogan super powers. The international observers concluded that the referendum did not comply with international standards. Under the new constitution, Erdogan can approve his policies without the previous approval of the parliament.

Before the referendum, Erdogan was already abolishing human rights in Turkey. Since July 15, Erdogan’s regime has sacked 138,147 citizens, detained 102,247, arrested 50,987, shut down 2,099 schools, dormitories, and universities, fired 8271 teachers, dismissed 4,424 judges, shut down 149 media outlets, and arrested 231 journalists. Furthermore, detainees are repressed, oppressed and in numerous cases executed without any trial.

Looking at these numbers, it is clear that Erdogan is a cruel dictator who has Trump’s approval. Erdogan’s has not been the only visit of a dictator to the US.

On April 3, Trump welcomed the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the White House (Obama always refused meeting him as long as he was a human rights violator.) During his meeting, Trump said,

we agree on so many things.” He said Egypt’s leader has “done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.”

He added: “We will fight terrorism and other things. We’re going to be friends for a long long period of time. We have a great bond with the people of Egypt.”

In a later press conference, Sean Spicer said,

Trump made clear that this is a new day in the relationship between Egypt and the United States and the president affirmed his strong support of the Egyptian people,” “It was a candid dialogue during which they discussed both areas of cooperation and of concern.”

Numerous human rights organizations protested against Al-Sisi’s visit:

Inviting al-Sisi for an official visit to Washington as tens of thousands of Egyptians rot in jail and when torture is again the order of the day is a strange way to build a stable strategic relationship,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch.

Giving more money to the Sisi government is to the detriment of US and Egyptian interests,” Margon said. “Neither side in this relationship seems interested in promoting human rights, but the gross abuses being committed by Egyptian authorities should compel Congress to keep limiting support.”

As Defense Minister, Al-Sisi overthrew the country’s first freely elected president in 2013. He also killed 1150 protesters in the following weeks. Since then, his security forces have arrested tens of thousands of Egyptians, committed abuses, tortures, enforced disappearances, and extra-judicial executions. According to several human rights organizations, Al-Sisi has arrested 60.000 innocent citizens and accused them of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 2014, Al-Sisi arrested an American citizen who founded the “Belady Foundation For Street Children.” Last February, Al-Sisi shut down several human rights organizations, including a center for rehabilitating people who have been tortured by the government. Al-Sisi alleged that these organizations were funded by foreign countries. As a result, numerous human rights defenders are now liable to face a 25-year sentence. This decision contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR.)

Despite all these facts, the Trump administration contends that Egypt is a free democratic country that is fighting Islamist terrorism. However, the above-mentioned violations of human rights indicate that Egypt is actually, the harshest dictatorship in the Middle East.

Since 1987, the US has provided 1.3 billion of dollars in annual military aid to Egypt in the form of equipment, training, etc. Obama suspended the program when Al-Sisi became “president” in 2013. However, two years later, he reinstated military aid although now limited to training. When Trump became president, he announced that he would resume military aid to Egypt again.

If that were not enough, Trump visited Saudi Arabia to sign a 100 million dollar arms deal on Friday. On Sunday, he gave a speech on Islam and peace. When asked if Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship, a government spokesperson said,

Saudi Arabia is a democratic country and our most important ally in the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.”

On Saturday, Trump scandalized his supporters when he bowed to the Saudi King while receiving a medal. Until then, Trump had always been one of the most prominent anti-Muslim speakers in US politics. However, it appears from the fact that Trump went there to sign a massive contract that he has changed his mind. By bowing to the Saudi King, Trump has supported one of the worst human rights violators in the world.

In the past, Saudi Arabia has curtailed the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly by detaining and imprisoning critics, human rights defenders and minority rights activists on vaguely worded charges.

Coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia have committed serious violations of international law, including war crimes, in Yemen. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombed thousands of Yemenis, including children. It also caused a permanent shortage of basic supplies, water, and electricity across the country, leading to outbreaks of diseases and starvation.

Security officials continued to torture detainees with impunity, and imposing and administering corporal punishments, particularly floggings. In February, the Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to 800 lashes and eight years imprisonment.

Women remain legally subordinate to men with respect to marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. They cannot access higher education, take paid employment or travel abroad without the approval of their male guardian. Women also remain banned from driving.

Courts have continued to impose death sentences including for non-violent crimes. Many defendants are sentenced to death after unfair trials by courts that convict them without adequately investigating allegations that their “confessions” were coerced, including with torture. On January 2 authorities reportedly carried out 47 executions, 43 by beheading and four by shooting, in 12 locations around the country.

With this record, it appears that not even Trump could deny that Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship. He is not the first president to have good relations with the Saudi Kingdom: Obama and Clinton also had strong ties with the dictatorship, but never at the current high level.

Trump’s motivations to strengthen his relationships with dictators are unclear. Moreover, he criticized this style of politics until he became president. Perhaps Trump has realized that dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia are more powerful than the US.

What is clear is that by strengthening his ties to dictators, Trumps is indirectly endorsing their violations of human rights. For that reason, there is increasing concern that Trump may try to install a new dictatorship in the US. It is important to remember that the US system was created to prevent these scenarios. But if most republicans support his mental gymnastics, he may soon turn the US system into a “Banana republic.”

So far, Trump has appointed a republican as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. This greatly strengthens his position with respect to the judiciary, increasing the likelihood of ultimate success for any laws passed by his Republican allies in Congress. However, US citizens will be crucial in stopping Trump’s plans. Bad results for Republicans in the mid-term Congress and Senate elections in 2018 would open the door for an internal rebellion, leading to Trump’s impeachment. Given what we have seen so far, the words “IMPEACHMENT” and “DICTATORSHIP” will be the most popular words of the coming year.