Entrada destacada

viernes, 31 de octubre de 2014


The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, but Germany is still divided


It can be hard for visitors to Berlin to imagine where the Berlin Wall once separated Germany's communist East from the U.S.-friendly West. Today, commuters run to catch a metro where trains stood for nearly 40 years. Curried sausages are sold and illegal (but popular) parties are celebrated in empty warehouses just feet from where East Germans were shot by their own countrymen as they tried to cross the border to the west.
Next week, Germany will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and at first glance, it seems as if the country is more united than some nations that were never split.
But numbers and images illustrating differences in lifestyles and problems between East and West Germans tell a different story. While 75 percent of Germans who live in the east said they considered their country's reunification a success in a recent survey only half of western Germans agreed. And that's not the only distinction indicating that the separation of the past prevails today.
Before we go in-depth with the Washington Post visualizations and maps, some of them inspired by German news site ZEIT ONLINE, let's take a look at the bigger picture:
Berlin, photographed from a Space Station
The photo above was taken by astronaut André Kuipers from the International Space Station in 2012. It shows one division of Berlin: While the yellow lights are in east Berlin, the green parts mark the western part.
Daniela Augenstein, a spokeswoman for Berlin's department of urban development, explained that each side historically used different streetlights. The lights themselves reflect another difference: The streetlamps used in West Germany were much more environmentally friendly, reflecting the emergence of the western German environmental civil movement in the 1970s and 1980s. At that time East Germany was still heavily polluting, and heavily reliant on coal. Today, eastern Germany is the heart of the country's renewable energy transformation. But viewed from space, the historic differences still define Berlin's nightly appearance.
Data reveal further cleavages between east and west.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, formerly communist eastern German companies and factories suddenly had to compete with their much more efficient western counterparts. Capitalism came too fast. Many eastern German companies went bankrupt and some regions never recovered from the shock. Until today, income levels are much lower in the east than in the west.
Germany's unemployment rate made headlines when it hit a two-decade low this summer. But that rate is not evenly spread: former West German states still have far better employment levels than their eastern neighbors. That's in part because more young people have moved from rural eastern areas to the west, which has also decreased the amount of job-seeking eastern Germans.
This has led to a paradoxical situation: Many young people in rural eastern Germany say they are forced to move to the west or to larger eastern cities because of a lack of competitive wages and job opportunities. Consequently, many eastern German companies cannot find enough young trainees for entry-level positions and are now recruiting in Poland or the Czech Republic.
Demographic differences are not only the result of joblessness and income gaps. Most foreigners who live in Germany have chosen to settle in the western parts, and their arrival has decreased average ages. Several factors explain the significantly smaller foreign population in the east. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, western Germany invited many Turks to live in the country as guest workers. Many of them never left.
Furthermore, the climate is less friendly to foreigners in the east, according to a study by Leipzig University researchers who interviewed 16,000 Germans over 10 years. These findings coincide with a larger presence of right-wing neo-Nazi sympathizers. The right-wing National Democratic Party, whose members have often been accused of glorifying Adolf Hitler, enjoys particular support in the east, though they've been relatively unsuccessful at the polls.
Why did right-wing politicians prosper in the once-communist east. The explanation is complex, but scientists often attribute it to a mixture of anti-leftist worldviews after the wall fell and the economic downturn in the east. Many people were disillusioned by Western capitalism, but few wanted a return to communism. Right-wing politicians were quick to fill the void. The great majority of eastern Germans, of course, are welcoming.
The comparisons above might make eastern Germany seem like a bleak place to live -- but in some ways, it's ahead of the west. Take trash production. Why? Having dealt with constant food shortages until 1989, eastern Germans learned to economize and buy only those items they deemed necessary. This attitude seems to prevail today.
Communist East Germany also emphasized child care. While eastern German mothers were usually employed, western German women often stayed home to raise their children. So the East German government invested heavily in child-care facilities, and that legacy remains today.
This map points to another legacy of eastern Germany's communist past. In then-East Germany, agricultural fields were much larger, because they were not owned by individuals, but by a pool of farmers. After reunification, the fields' sizes rarely changed.
In the east, it was also much more common, and politically supported, to get a flu shot. Even today, eastern Germans are more committed to this practice, as the German news website ZEIT ONLINE recently noted in a comparison between eastern and western habits and beliefs that is definitely worth a read. (According to the site, eastern Germans also own significantly fewer legal small arms than citizens living in west Germany.)
Finally, if you travel Europe and you see two German groups at a campground, you might easily be able to distinguish them. Eastern Germans usually sleep in tents, while western Germans prefer to travel with trailers. We did not find a scientific explanation, but one might posit that it's rooted in western Germans' longer experience traveling the world. Furthermore, many young eastern Germans couldn't even afford a car under communism. Trying to buy a trailer would have been more expensive and nearly impossible for most eastern Germans. While those in the west were able to explore beyond their borders, eastern Germans remained practically imprisoned by their government for nearly 40 years -- until 25 years ago.


Burkina Faso: Ghost of 'Africa's Che Guevara'

In the weeks before violent protests, some Burkinabes' thoughts turned to slain leader Thomas Sankara for inspiration.

AL JAZEERA, Last updated: 31 Oct 2014 10:52
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso - In the early hours of a night in 1987, one of Africa’s youngest leaders, Thomas Sankara, was murdered and quietly and quickly buried in a shallow grave.
Now, the man widely believed to be behind it, Burkina Faso's president, has watched as his parliament was set ablaze by furious protesters who want him gone.
Many of the protesters say the history of the slain 1980s leader partly inspired them to rise against Blaise Compaore, who has been in power for 27 years and was trying, by a vote in parliament, for another five.

Though some see Sankara as an autocrat who came to office by the power of the gun, and who ignored basic human rights in pursuit of his ideals, in recent years he has been cited as a revolutionary inspiration not only in Burkina Faso but in other countries across Africa.
In the weeks before the current chaos, Al Jazeera spoke to people in the capital, Ouagadougou, and found many who predicted that Sankara’s memory, and Compaore's attempt to seek another five-year term, may soon spark an uprising.

At the time of his assassination Sankara was just 37 and had ruled for only four years.
But his policies, and his vision, are still cherished both by some locals who were around when he was in power and, significantly, by many young people who were born since his death.
His killing was the the fifth coup since the nation won independence from France and the main beneficiary was Compaore, who quickly took his place.
Until that night, the two had often been referred to as best friends.
Although there is less poverty now than back then, a growing number of Burkinabés had, in recent years, started to feel that Sankara's nationalisation policies may have made the perpetually arid nation a more prosperous and self-reliant place than it is today.
"Sankara wanted a thriving Burkina Faso, relying on local human and natural resources as opposed to foreign aid," retired professor of economics, Noel Nébié, told Al Jazeera.
"And starting with agriculture, which represents more than 32 per cent of the country's GDP and employs 80 percent of the working population, he smashed the economic elite who controlled most of the arable land and granted access to subsistence farmers. That improved production making the country almost self-sufficient."
Naming a nation
Initially known as the Republic of Upper Volta, after the river, in 1984 Sankara changed the country's name to Burkina Faso, meaning Land of the Upright People, and he soon made that name the symbol of his nationalisation crusade.
Some say the fact he authored his nation's name has kept his memory alive.
"When you wake up in the morning and you remember you are a Burkinabe, you automatically recall the person who thought up that local name and stamped it on us," Ishmael Kaboré, a 47-year-old lawyer in Ouagadougou, told Al Jazeera.
"At first, people felt the name Burkina Faso was odd, awkward and far from the modern and foreign names other countries were bearing in Africa.
"But they realised after his death that Sankara wanted to give us a unique and special identity that tells our history and depicts our character."
Sankara was a determined pan-Africanist, whose foreign policies were largely centred on anti-imperialism. His government spurned foreign aid and tried to stamp out the influence of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the country by adopting debt reduction policies and nationalising all land and mineral wealth.
Self-sufficiency and land reform policies were designed to fight famine, a nationwide literacy campaign was launched, and families were ordered to have their children vaccinated.
"Some families used to keep their children in hiding on the arrival of vaccinators for religious or ritual reasons, and that practice was sabotaging our efforts," Fatoumata Koulibaly, assistant campaign director at the country's health ministry under Sankara, told Al Jazeera.
"But when Sankara came he took a strong stand against it, which helped in the vaccination of close to three million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles, etc."
Vaccination has been common practice in Burkina Faso since then, she said.
Anger bubbles up
Sankara was often referred to as "Africa's Che Guevara" because he regularly quoted, and said he drew inspiration from, the world famous revolutionary leader. Sankara was also a good friend of former Ghanaian president, and fellow revolutionary, Jerry Rawlings.
Even for his most ardent of supporters it is impossible to know whether, if Sankara had not been killed, life would have been better, and some argue that it would not have.
But many people spoken to by Al Jazeera believed things would be better today if he was still alive, and that sentiment is partly responsible for Thursday's events.
"Young people who were not alive during Sankara’s administration are beginning to look back more at that period because something is wrong in the country today," 23-year-old University of Ouagadougou student, Ibrahim Sanogo, said.
"Sankara was not just fighting imperialism for the sake of politics but he wanted the Burkinabe people to develop themselves and their land and rely essentially on themselves instead of the West.
"Today, all the young graduates are dreaming to travel abroad to do odd jobs because of lack of employment opportunities here."
Compaore, though, has had some success. The mining industry has seen a boost in recent years, with the copper, iron and manganese markets all improving. Gold production shot up by 32 percent in 2011 at six sites, according to figures from the mines ministry, making Burkina Faso the fourth-largest gold producer in Africa.
Growth is running at seven percent. But per capita income stands at just $790, and local people say the standard of living is very poor for most. Corruption and elitism are a problem, they say, with any wealth only in the hands of the few.
"Those World Bank and IMF figures are seen only on paper and not in the pockets of the Burkinabes," Seydou Yabré, an independent rural development expert, told Al Jazeera.
"Only very few people are enjoying the wealth of the country. If you visit homes, or travel to the hinterlands, you will experience an appalling level of poverty."
Eerie prediction
Perhaps Sankara's anti-corruption campaign and exemplary modest lifestyle could have forced wealth to trickle down if he had been left alive to lead, Yabré thought.
"Sankara was Africa’s most down-to-earth president then. He lived in a small, modest house, rode a bicycle and had $350 in his account at the time of his death," Yabré said.
"He was also contested within his inner circle because he never wanted his army colleagues to embezzle public funds and lead a flamboyant lifestyle."
Famously - and eerily - just a week before his death, perhaps sensing what was to come, Sankara said: "While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas."
Burkina Faso’s progress over the past 20 years was largely due to its stability, many observers say, but, as was made clear when a crowd of the country's people converged on the parliament intent on destruction, an anger left to fester can take that away in an instant.
"Sankara had many enemies because he wrested privileges from looters in favour of the poor," Yabré said. "Maybe he did this too radically and within too short a time."
Follow Kingsley Kobo on Twitter@KoboKingsley