Sunday, February 6, 2011

Finally . . . What Mubarak Must Do Before Stepping Down

Connect to this link and read the Washington Post column by Hossam Bahgat and Soha Abdelaty of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. They have written an article in the Washington Post that clearly states what has to happen in Egypt now. For the details please read the link above.

I'm delighted someone is spelling out to the public what should happen -- based on the existing constitiution:

If Mubarak were to leave the country for "medical reasons" the interm president would be the current vice president. On the other hand, if Mubarak were to resign, the speaker of the People's Assembly would become president, and the current speaker would be an even worse choice.

So Bahgat and Abdelaty suggest that Mubarak, prior to resigning, must issue decrees giving all authority to his vice president and lifting state of emergency which has held many people in detention. They also say that prior to Mubarak's resignation, an independent commission should be appointed to rewrite the Constitution to esnure that presidential elections be open to all candidates, that the elections be supervised by judicial and civil monitors. The amendments, they claim, could be drafted and then put to a referendum in a short period of time.

A caretaker government would be appointed to work with the interim president.

As you can see, their article definitely gives an outline for the next steps, something for which I have been searching over the past couple of weeks since the reform protests began. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Having recently returned from a visit to Costa Rica for the first time, I was amazed to learn that Costa Rica has no army, having abolished it in 1948 after a devastating war. The leader at that time Jose Figueres declared the abolition of the Army and turning over of military installations to the educational system. The 1947 Rio Treaty with the U.S. probably made this possible since the U.S. agreed to help defend any of the Central or South American countries, including Costa Rica, who were part of the pact. (see information on U.S. Department of State webpage.) Nevertheless, Costa Rica has not had to spend its resources on an army and instead has focused on education. (According to a 2009 United Nations Development Report, Costa Rica has a
95.9 Literacy rate; the U.S. has a 99% rate.)

President Oscar Arias Sanchez, president 1986-90 and 2006-2010, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end civil wars in other neighboring nations. (Laura Chinchilla, the first female president of Costa Rica succeeded Arias last year.)

According to the State Department, Costa Rica's main exports are pineapples, bananas, ornamental plants, sugar, coffee, seafood, electronic equipment and medical equipment. The U.S. is a primary trading partner, and about half of its tourism dollars come from the U.S. Still its median income is only about $6500. On my trip, I noticed the many poor rural homes as well as areas in the cities that appeared impoverished.

One place we visited was a field station for CATIE (Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza) in Turrialba, established for scientific research of agricultural economy. I was surprised to see a building titled "Henry A. Wallace" and asked our guide if this was named for Henry Wallace, who was Roosevelt's Secretary of Agriculture from 1932-1940s. Yes, the guide replied, he was one of the founders.

I have since learned that CATIE was first conceived at a scientific conference in Washington, D.C. in 1940. Wallace was one of the visionaries who saw the need for research on tropical agriculture. By 1942 CATIE had been established by the Pan American Union, later the Organization of American States.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Tonight on PBS' Newshour, Tarek Masoud, an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard who just returned from Egypt, noted that the Egyptian Constitution is relevant to how a transitional government can occur. Should Mubarak resign, elections would have to be held within 60 days -- it's unclear what would happen during those 60 days: Who would run the country?

In addition, the Constitution establishes a president who is all but a dictator. To change powers of the presidency, the Constitution would need to be amended by the parliament, but this body is run by Mubarak's party, which hardly has the confidence of the masses. So what to do?

Unfortunately, another commentator on the show, when asked these follow up questions, didn't have the answers and stuck with the "power to the people" line. It still seems to me important to address how to accede to the will of the people under a rule of law.

Hopefully, the US government and even more important, the Egyptian protest leaders are seeking answers to these issues. President Obama states correctly that the U.S. government cannot decide for the Egyptians, but we, as interested citizens of the world, should ask how this transition can happen. Sphere: Related Content