Small communiqué to the readers of the “Promise on the Belgian Left”

If you have arrived to my blog from Jacobin Magazine, this short text is for you.

First of all, thank you for visiting my blog. It is truly an honour.

As you may have noticed, the blog is set up in Spanish. However, you may find interesting articles in English if you click on the Category “English” at the bottom of the page. Topics range from Brexit, the rise of authoritarianism in the EU to the Zapatista movement in Mexico.

I am currently working to make the pages of the blog available in English and in French as well, but it might take some time. Articles are written in Spanish, French and English, depending on the topic, but I try to maintain a parity (and to translate when possible).

I will make a short introduction about myself. I am a finalist Philosophy, Politics and Economics student at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. I am Spanish but I was born in Brussels. I am interested in freelance journalism and I like writing about a vast variety of topics on my blogs. I will write a more extensive biography in the English version.

In the meantime, enjoy the articles in English and subscribe to the blog, so that you receive a notification when the English version is available. My contact details can be found in the section “Contacto” at the top of the page.

Thank you very much for visiting and feedback is very much appreciated.

P.S.: Visit also the blog of my friend and fellow interviewer and freelance journalist, Tommaso Segantini:

© Mario Cuenda García


Has the EU successfully promoted democracy in its neighbourhood?

There is a long-running debate in the European Union (EU) over where should the final borders be set and by default, there is controversy over neighbours. The question is which countries are considered potential entrants and which ones permanent neighbours. All the neighbouring countries present a fair lack of democratic governance and it is in the EU’s interest to promote democracy and stability in the neighbourhood. It proved in the past that it could do so, but can it successfully promote democracy in its neighbourhood now? To answer this question, this essay will categorise as neighbours the countries which have no accession prospections. Neither the Balkans nor Turkey are considered neighbouring countries. Russia is deliberately excluded, because of the EU special relationship program. Thus, the following countries fell into the neighbourhood category: Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel and Palestine. This essay will argue that the European Union has not yet successfully promoted democracy in its neighbourhood. It will analyse EU policies towards the neighbourhood: firstly, the European Neighbourhood Policy, followed by the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the Eastern Partnership. Subsequently, it will present a series of case studies and examples. It will analyse the Ukrainian case study and will briefly explain the situation in the Eastern states. Then, it will analyse Egypt and the particular case of the 2006 Palestinian election. Finally, this essay will conclude that the EU fails to promote democracy in the neighbourhood due to structural imbalances which do not allow it to be successful.

The most important and ambitious policy towards the neighbourhood is the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which was launched in 2003. In 2004, the EU would have had borders with Russia and Ukraine and the possibility of Turkey joining the EU was also real at that moment; it would have expanded borders even further until Syria and Iraq. Hence, the ENP was a policydesigned to achieve stability, security and prosperity in the neighbourhood as a way to minimise risks and instability across flowing across EU’s border’.There was a high degree of self-interest on the part of the European Union: Romano Prodi, the ex-President of the Commission talked of ‘creating a ring of friends’. The ENP wanted to avoid exclusionary feelings within the new neighbours but ironically, it defined de facto permanent non-members, which did not please all the participants. Therefore, the EU offered deeper political and economic integration to these states, for example through Association Agreements, in exchange of democratic reforms and moves towards a market economy. As several EU officials expressed, the long-term idea was to share ‘everything but institutions’ with neighbouring countries. When it was launched, the ENP had the potential for being an attractive policy framework; the structure used was practically the same than for the 2004 enlargement processes. This is considered the most successful EU foreign policy ever, and it was thought that the ENP could achieve similar results. Unfortunately, the ENP contains structural deficiencies which prevent its success and its ability to promote democracy in its neighbourhood. Firstly, it lacks strategic finality. The objectives proposed are vague and the final objectives of the policies are not clearly stated; it affects its credibility in the neighbourhood. Secondly, it uses an inappropriate ‘one-fits-all’ approach: Eastern and Mediterranean states are fundamentally different, for example when it comes to their accession prospects. Thirdly, the EU does not use strong conditionality incentives. Not offering the prospect of membership, for instance, weakens enormously EU’s attractiveness. Fourthly, the EU focus much more on stability than democracy. The neighbouring countries feel that as long as they maintain stability, they will not be bothered on political matters. Overall, the ENP has failed to fulfil its main objectives. Richard Whitman and Stefan Wolff even argue that the ENP has failed in minimising risks of instability in the neighbourhood.

The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) and the Eastern Partnership (EaP) are the two other relevant policies. The EMP was a partnership between the EU and the Mediterranean states signed in Barcelona in 1995. It ‘aimed at the promotion of stability, economic integration and cultural dialogue across the two sides of the Mediterranean’. The idea was to turn the Mediterranean into a shared geopolitical, strategic and economic space, based on three pillars: political and security cooperation, economic and financial partnership, and the enhancement of social and cultural ties. Once again, the EU did not mention democracy promotion as a principal objective and like the ENP, the EMP had also serious institutional imbalances. Firstly, the Mediterranean states which signed the Partnership, as mentioned by Hollis, ‘were not well placed to form a common market among themselves.’ Secondly, the EU did not remove tariffs on important goods for the Mediterranean states, neither did it allowed free movements of people. Finally, the EMP was reformulated in 2008 into the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). The idea was to ‘bring together all the Mediterranean coastal states to revitalise and strengthen cooperation across the Mediterranean’. There are two arguments on why neither the EMP nor the UfM successfully promoted democracy in the Mediterranean basin. First, the EU thinks that the promotion of economic development will eventually lead to democratisation. This is a problematic thinking: it relies on a strong liberal assumption which has yet to be proven. Moreover, dictatorships can retain much power even with a liberal economy. Second, the EU has always been reluctant to push for democracy in the Mediterranean. Long before the eruption of the ‘Arab Spring’, EU officials felt that if they pushed for regime changes in the area, their likely replacements could threaten European stability in its borders; it indeed proved right.

The Eastern Partnership was launched in 2009. It looked for a more specialised approach towards the Eastern neighbourhood and it targeted Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The European Union understood that post-Soviet states which could still be under the sphere of influence of Russia needed a special policy. The EU had three major interests in creating the EaP. First, it allows it to deal with the special cases of Ukraine and Moldova, which have clearly stated their accession aspirations. Secondly, it needs good relations with the Caucasian republics which are important providers of EU energy, especially Azerbaijan. Thirdly, as Michalski contends, the EU has ‘an interest in encouraging a strengthening of the ties among EaP countries themselves both to deal with the EU as a group and to improve stability and economic and social development in the region’. The EaP, like the two previous policies, fells short in democratising the Eastern state and it has faced criticisms from the neighbouring and participating countries. Firstly, the participant countries have different visions of the EaP: Armenia and Azerbaijan, which do not want to join the EU are satisfied with its proposals, while Ukraine and Moldova are not. Secondly, it is a policy which focuses mainly on the governments and does not focus enough on democratic groups which already exist in the neighbouring countries. Thirdly, and this is characteristic to Eastern states, the EaP offers materially no perspectives for conflicts resolutions. Except Belarus, all the countries are entrenched in conflicts. Some are frozen, like the Transnitrian question in Moldova and some are quite recent, like the low intensity warfare in Ukraine’s eastern regions. Unfortunately then, as Nielsen and Vilson write, ‘all the partner countries remain fragile, undemocratic, economically underperforming, torn by frozen conflicts or all four at once’.

This essay’s first case study is Ukraine, which is the most populous country in the Eastern Neighbourhood. Even though it is more democratic than most of the participants in the ENP and the Eastern Partnership, Ukraine scores poorly in democracy and transparency rankings and there is still a strong economic oligarchy. Together with Moldova and Georgia, Ukraine has clearly stated its aspirations to join the EU. However, the EU is reluctant to accord membership perspectives. In fact, neither the ENP nor the Eastern Partnership offer such possibility. Nonetheless, Ukrainian officials considered the ENP as a springboard for membership. Ukraine is definitely one of the most active participants in the ENP, in spite of some significant domestic resistance. Even though the political elite has declared support for Ukraine’s integration with the EU, it has contributed little to advancing it beyond declarations. On the other hand, the EU has not yet successfully promoted democracy in Ukraine. However, it has made positive steps. It offers credible rewards in order to bring about domestic reforms, even though it does not want to use the accession incentive. The EU knows the political and economic class accept reforms as long as they fit their interests. Hence, it should pressure for these reforms to happen. However, these positive steps are somehow overshadowed by EU decisions itself. For instance, the EU postponed ratification of the Association Agreement signed in 2012 and Ukrainian officials hinted it might be due to some European countries not wanting closer links to Ukraine; it was signed, the Netherlands decided in a referendum in 2016 not to ratify it.  The lack of a unified position inside the EU puts a brake to any policy targeting the neighbourhood. Moreover, there is yet another reason why Europe does not successfully promote democracy in Ukraine. The European Union has mainly commercial interests with Ukraine; it exports more to Ukraine than it imports. It has signed free trade, financial and modernisation agreements relying again on the liberal assumption that liberalisation will bring democracy. So far, the reality is that while commercial agreements are signed, democracy has yet to come.

The remaining states of the Eastern Partnership look no brighter than Ukraine. Moldova is in a similar situation than Ukraine; Belarus is still a dictatorship and the EU does not want to give legitimacy to its executive power by interacting with him openly; Azerbaijan has severe democratic deficiencies, but it is also the largest EU trading partner in the region which means that little pressure is put over its government; Armenia is historically closer to Russia; finally, Georgia is an instable republic with two de facto independent regions. Overall, as mentioned previously, the Caucasian states are all entrenched in conflicts. Armenia and Azerbaijan fight over Nagorno-Karabakh. Possibly, if the EU was a strong actor capable of resolving these conflicts, it could gain significant leverage to promote democracy in these states. Today, pressure remains insignificant and little real progress has been achieved towards democratisation and respect for human rights.

It is important to note two main differences between the Eastern states and the Mediterranean states. Firstly, the EU has had diplomatic relations with Mediterranean countries long before that with the Eastern states. Therefore, Arab regimes have been indirectly legitimised by the EU for years. Secondly, since 2011 the Arab countries have experimented the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, a series of protests and revolutions which have brought significant regime changes in several countries and to which European policies have had to adapt. The most interesting case study in the Mediterranean basin is Egypt. As Ukraine with the Eastern neighbourhood, Egypt is the most populated country in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, it historically exerts an influence on the rest of Arab countries. Egypt was governed since 1981 by Hosni Mubarak, a dictator with whom the EU worked closely for the sake of security and stability. The EU never pressured the Egyptian government even though there were strong evidences of serious human rights abuses. The EU even withdrew funds allocated to civil society organisations over accusations of the Egyptian government that the money could be used for terrorist purposes. On the other hand, the EU heavily funded the dictatorial government in its anti-terrorism plans. Therefore, it is fair to argue that the EU has not promoted democracy in Egypt. In fact, democratisation came from the Egyptian population itself, with the ‘Arab Spring’. The EU indeed welcomed the first free elections, but was not really pleased with the victory of Mr. Mursi, from the Muslim Brotherhood. When he was overthrown in a bloody coup d’état by the Army, putting an end to the ephemeral democracy, the EU protested slightly but nonetheless legitimised General Al-Sisi as the new Chief of State by continuing the diplomatic relations. Another interesting cases study is the 2006 Palestinian elections won by Hamas. The elections were supervised by the EU and acknowledged to be fair and free; nevertheless, the EU froze help funds to Palestine, because Hamas was outlawed as a terrorist organisation. This gave a huge blow to the EU credibility in Palestine and in the Arab world because the action was interpreted by Palestinian and Arab observers as a sign of the EU ignoring the democratic expression of the Palestinian people. The contradiction was far too evident: the EU did not accept the legitimate victory of Hamas in a democratic election but it financially supported the Egyptian dictatorship.

This essay contends that the EU genuinely believes in democracy. The EU itself is an organisation composed of 28 functioning democracies and it has proven in the past that it can successfully export its example of democratic governance: it did so with the 2004 enlargement, but also with Portugal, Greece and Spain previously. However, despite a reasonable amount of good will and successful previous examples, the EU has failed in successfully promoting democracy in its neighbourhood so far. There are four main reasons. Firstly, the policies targeting the neighbourhood are inefficient. The ENP, the EMP and the EaP are structurally defective policies with important flaws. Most importantly, none of them makes democracy a main objective. It could be argued that even though the policies do not mention democracy promotion, they offer the necessary set of political and economic policies to democratise the neighbourhood. However, this assumes that democracy follows economic liberalisation, an assumption yet to be proven. Secondly, these policies are fundamentally state-oriented. The state is fundamental in transitions to democracy but historical precedents show that non-state actors are generally the ones which push for democratisation. A famous example is the Polish trade Union Solidarność in Communist Poland. By leaving these actors out of their structures, the EU does not bring real democratisation prospects to the neighbouring states. Thirdly, the EU fails in promoting democracy because it lacks a true common policy towards its neighbours. The ENP, the EMP and the EaP are attempts to harmonise such differences but they do not erase it. It is obvious that Mediterranean states have a stronger interest in its Southern neighbours while the European Eastern states have an interest in looking eastward. Until the EU do not tackle this issue, foreign policy measures will be weak, and so will be democracy promotion. Fourthly, the EU does not successfully promote democracy simply because it is subject to geopolitics contradictions. It knows that in some states where there democratic culture is lacking, it is extremely costly and long to promote a stable democracy: transitions to democracy are costly and painful, both for the country experimenting it and for the EU. Hence, a dictatorial state with a strongman can be a better short-term solution and it is not in the EU interest to remove an ‘ally’ which guarantees stability and security in its neighbourhood.

To summarise, the EU has developed several policies to deal with its neighbouring countries, but none of them has successfully promoted democracy. The ENP is the most ambitious one: it deals both with the Mediterranean and the Eastern states. It aims to bring stability and prosperity to the neighbouring states but it has important flaws which impede its success. Firstly, an inappropriate one-fits-all approach; secondly, a lack of strategic finality and thirdly, a lack of differentiation. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the Eastern Partnership tackle the differentiation problem, but they also present defects. The EU has low credibility in the Mediterranean because it has always maintained friendly relations with the dictatorships. Moreover, the EU wrongly assumes that economic liberalisation will bring democracy. With respect to the Eastern States, it aims to create a special framework for Moldova and Ukraine and to secure a stable zone between Russia and the EU. The case studies given by this essay have looked at concrete examples. On the Eastern part, Ukraine, which is an active participant in EU programs, has nonetheless failed consistently in consolidating a stable democracy. On the Mediterranean, the EU maintained a friendly relationship with the Egyptian dictator Mubarak, generously funding his government but on the other hand it cut funding to the Palestinian Authority when Hamas won a democratic election. Finally, this essay presented four reasons to sustain its claims that the EU fails to promote democracy. Firstly, the policies targeting the neighbourhood are structurally inefficient. Secondly, they focus too much on governments, leaving aside important non-state actors. Thirdly, the EU lacks a real common vision when it comes to foreign policy in the neighbourhood. Fourthly and lastly, having relations with dictatorships sometimes fits the EU geopolitical interests, when these guarantee stability and security in the neighbourhood, offering no incentive to change. In conclusion, the European Union has failed to promoted democracy in its neighbourhood so far due to structural mistakes that can nonetheless be improved in the future. Promoting democracy is a long term process. The EU might be unsuccessful in the short term, but this does not mean it cannot revert this path in the future.

Note: To make it easier for the reader, I have not included footnotes nor the bibliography. However, this can be found for further consultation on the original paper, which is uploaded and available in the website

© Mario Cuenda García

What might alternative social movements learn from the Zapatistas about transforming social relations?

The first of January 1994 marked the start of the free-trade agreement NAFTA between the US, Canada and Mexico. This very same day a group of armed indigenous peasants emerged from a rainforest occupying villages and cities in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico. They called themselves Zapatistas. For many observers, they first looked like another mainstream Latin American revolutionary group; indeed, they were immediately attacked by the Mexican Army. However, the rebels managed to get incredible popular support, until the Mexican Government had to call for a cease-fire over popular protests. These rebel indigenous peasants were so interesting and sympathetic to public opinion because they were a radically different revolutionary group: they changed their demands, their communication strategy and their organisation. Some of the Zapatista’ features can be applied to anti-capitalist struggle all over the world. Hence, this essay will address the question of what might alternative social movements learn from the Zapatistas about transforming social relations. The structure of the essay will be the following. It will first quickly introduce some background explanation, to understand the origins of the Zapatista uprising. Subsequently, in a different paragraph each time, it will explain five features of the Zapatista movement. The first paragraph will look at the relationship between power and the state. The second one will be about discourse. The third will analyse their social organisation. The fourth one will talk about inclusiveness. The fifth and last one will be about the role of women in their society. In the last paragraph, this essay will explain how these features can be turned into lessons for alternative social movements. Finally, the essay will conclude that the five main features presented here are also five lessons that alternative social movements can and should learn if they want to transform social relations.

The Zapatista uprising occurred in the State of Chiapas, which is an agricultural and mostly indigenous state in South-West Mexico. The indigenous population descends from the Mayas and is generally composed of land workers. There are also ladinos, who are Mexicans who descend from Europeans who used to be landowners.In 1994, Mexico was a corrupt semi-democracy under the rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party since 1929; the institutions in Chiapas were corrupt and heavily militarised. The Institutional Revolutionary Party had promoted a series land reforms throughout the 20th century which had important social and political implications for the Zapatista uprising of 1994.The evolution of the land reform process was the following: before the 1970s, land reforms promoted by the Mexican State were mainly redistributive. In 1970s, the redistribution promoted by the state bureaucracy started to slow down, sparking protests in Chiapas. This was followed by neo-liberal reforms in the 1980s which reverted the redistributive path, making land access even more difficult to poor people. Tired of this, the people of Chiapas decided to recover their lands by force, making land a central claim for Zapatistas. This essay will deliberately not touch the important topic of land because in Western alternative social movements, claims for land are generally not a central demand. However, alternative movements should note that men and women need a material basis to survive. In the case of Chiapas, it was land. In developed societies it could be guaranteed work or perhaps, a Universal Basic Income. Those are questions to be explored more in depth when furthering in the Zapatista influence over alternative social movements. The following paragraphs of this essay will now outline the most interesting features of the Zapatista uprising.

Firstly, the Zapatistas correctly identified one of the major neo-liberal forces: the state. Historically, liberalism has always considered the state as a negative actor, but in the 1980s there was a shift in neo-liberal ideology: in economically weak countries like Mexico, the state needed to be a strong actor to enforce the law. Hence, the state became an important actor of the neoliberal forces. The Zapatistas understood this and in opposition to 20th century left-wing Latin American guerrillas, such as the FARC or the Cuban revolutionaries, which wanted to win state power, the Zapatistas renounced to this objective. In fact, when the Mexican government announced a cease-fire and proposed negotiations, they collaborated and exposed their demands. The Zapatistas did not want to win state power because they understood that the state was so embedded in the emerging neo-liberal global structure, that winning it did not mean the possibility of achieving significant change. The Zapatista revolution was thus destined to be radically different:  a revolution without seizing state power. They created their own structures of government, such as the Juntas del Buen Gobierno. Using Olin Wright’s rhetoric, the Zapatistas achieved an interstitial transformation and proved that important achievements can be accomplished at the margin of the state.  Hence, the Zapatistas understood an important characteristic of the modern nation-state: winning ‘the state’ does not mean winning power. Alternative social movements should be aware of this observation and understand that winning the state should no longer be the only and principal objective. The Zapatistas also proved that social relations can be transformed at the margin of the state. Therefore, social movements should aim to build alternatives outside its boundaries. This observation proved to be accurate when the left-wing party SYRIZA gained state power in Greece in January 2015. It appeared to many observers that the problems of the country were going to be solved, but embedded in the nets of international finance and the European Union, the state failed to find a solution.

Secondly, the Zapatistas achieved a significant change in discourse. Throughout the 20th century, revolutionary groups or communists parties used traditional Marxist and Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, with terms such as ‘vanguard’, ‘proletariat’ or ‘class struggle’. The Zapatistas overcame this traditional discourse and used an alternative language to promote their own revolution. With a strong emphasis on the term ‘dignity’ as the central claim, they built an alternative rhetoric to the traditional Marxist one and most importantly, a rhetoric which undermined the legitimacy of the Mexican state. They used broader terms along with ‘dignity’, such as ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. Through the use of communiqués, full of poetry and traditional histories, they promoted an immense sympathy for their cause. Furthermore, there is a confrontation between a culture of ‘talking’ by Marxist-Leninists and the Zapatistas, who want to inculcate a culture of ‘listening’. The Zapatistas were not talkers, they were listeners and by listening they learned to think ideas in a different way. In fact, alternative social movements have already started to use Zapatista rhetoric.  In 2013, more than two million people marched to Madrid, in a movement called “Marches for dignity” (“Marchas de la dignidad”). They shouted “Pan, Trabajo, Dignidad” (“Bread, Jobs and Dignity”) instead of “Pan, Tierra, Trabajo” (“Bread, Jobs and Land”), the classic Leninist chant. Thus, alternative social movements should note that Marxist and Marxist-Leninist rhetoric are completely obsolete and marginal in the 21st century. Nevertheless, the Zapatistas proved that the use of an appropriate language to transmit a message is crucial. Alternative social movements should develop a language which mobilises people.

Thirdly, the Zapatistas developed a new social organisation. They came from an indigenous background, where the feeling of community was strong and deeply embedded. Thus, there was a sense of collective responsibility when it came to taking decisions. Everyone had the right to participate in the decision-making process and ‘all important decisions were discussed by the whole community to the point where a consensus was reached’. The Zapatistas organised assemblies and forums to discuss, where everyone was allowed to participate, rejecting any form of centralist organisation. Back in 1994 they obviously had leaders like Comandante Marcos; but they were just an expression of popular will, who represented the larger community. They were always subject to the decisions taken by the assemblies and they were immediately recallable if they did not satisfy the community. They called this radically democratic decision-making procedure mandar obedeciendo (‘ruling by obeying’). This decision-making procedure also acknowledged that there was not a single ‘grand’ vision driving this revolution. The Zapatistas believed that they could only go forward through a process of collective questioning and debating. They would listen to all opinions, debate them and only if a consensus was reached, would the decision be adopted. The Zapatistas did not invent this radical vision of democracy and decision-making through assemblies, but their example was especially successful and has often been replicated. In 2013, in the State of Michoacán, also in Mexico, citizens decided to defend themselves without help from the army against the drug cartels. They called themselves Autodefensas and all decisions were taken collectively in squares. In Europe, the Spanish 15-M movement which emerged in 2011, took all its decisions through assemblies in squares; the Nuit Debout movement currently happening in France, also takes all its decisions in assemblies where 4/5 of approval is needed. Organising through assemblies empowers people who were voiceless before and it gives the genuine possibility of taking decisions collectively instead of letting the decision-making in the hands of a few ones.

The fourth feature of interest is Zapatista’s ‘transversal nature’. The Zapatistas were ‘transversal because their demands were not only valid for Chiapas, but for many social change actors around the world. It is true that they called themselves Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and at first sight, they could look like a National Liberation Army, which always has strong nationalist components and claims of independence. Even though the Zapatistas were fiercely nationalistic, constantly mentioning Zapata, the Mexican revolution and using the Mexican flag, their movement was not merely a Chiapas-based autonomist or indigenous movement. There are two main arguments to sustain the claim that they were a transversal force. Firstly, they were an inclusive and open force; they invited diverse actors to interact with them in the negotiations and since the beginning, they were open to suggestions and propositions from different external actors. Secondly, some of their demands were universal, demands to which everybody could subscribe. For instance, their demands for indigenous rights where echoed by different indigenous groups in Mexico but also in South America. Furthermore, their demands of justice, democracy and freedom were demands that could be echoed by all the people of the world. The Zapatistas understood that in order to be effective, they needed to mobilise national and international support. Furthermore, solidarity is not sufficient to successfully transform social relations: there need to be active participation from many fronts at the same time.

The fifth and last feature social movements should learn from the Zapatistas is the role of women in the Zapatista uprising. It is not widely mentioned, which can give the misled idea that the Zapatista uprising was mostly a men-lead movement. This is not true. In fact, some of the Zapatista leaders were women: Comandante Ana María was responsible of occupying San Cristóbal in 1994 and one of the first laws drafted by the Zapatistas was the Revolutionary Women’s Law. The Zapatistas encouraged the political participation of peasant women and their rebellion against their subordinate position in society.  Thus, they empowered them by supporting their struggle for emancipation. Since then, indigenous peasant women from Chiapas have become increasingly empowered, and have begun to participate in the struggle for gender rights. Furthermore, as Mercedes Olivera writes, ‘the gender specific advances that have been achieved have been made by women for themselves’. Probably the most important achievement of empowering peasant women and introducing them into the EZLN was the legitimisation of female participation in politics. It is interesting to note that the Zapatista influence not only achieved more female participation in Zapatista communities. They have also improved it on non-Zapatista’ ones. Since then, in Chiapas, it not uncommon to see women, both in Zapatistas and non-Zapatistas areas occupying positions of power. Obviously, in Western societies, women have more rights than women had in rural Chiapas. However, it is the idea behind the inclusion of women that we should retain. The Zapatistas included a marginal actor in their structure and empowered them; alternative social movement in the West should also include marginal actors and empower them.

The Zapatistas opened a whole new spectre of possibilities to achieve significant changes in social relations. The five main features of Zapatismo this essay has explained can be extrapolated to many other anti-capitalist struggles around the world. Firstly, transforming social relations can and should be done at the margin of the state, because the state itself is now part of the problem. Secondly, language is fundamental to transforming social relations. Old Marxist rhetoric is no longer attractive, thus alternative social movements should work on an alternative mobilising language. Thirdly, transforming social relations implies transforming the decision-making procedure: social movements should organise themselves in assemblies. As previously mentioned, this is a way of organisation which offers an enormous amount of participation and empowerment to people. It allows to take decisions collectively, attending to the needs of everybody and it avoids power concentration. Fourthly, alternative social movements should be transversal and inclusive. Small and inward-looking movements are totally ineffective in bringing changes. Alternative social movements should include the most progressive actors possible and the most progressive demands. And it should be done in collaboration and solidarity with other movements. Fifth and lastly, social relations will only be transformed when all elements of society are included in such transformation. The Zapatistas included women; in the rest of societies, other marginal actors should be included in the force wishing to transform social relations.

To summarise, the Zapatista uprising occurred in the region of Chiapas, a region where there had been historical disputes over land. The Zapatistas presented five interesting features which can be learnt by alternative social movements to transform social relations. First of all, the Zapatistas understood that the state was no longer an actor of change, but another neoliberal actor. As such, any transformation should be done at the margin of the state. Secondly, they understood that Marxist and Marxist-Leninist language was obsolete. Therefore, they used an alternative one which granted them worldwide support and sympathy. Thirdly, their decision-making procedure was collective, through assemblies. This empowered people and avoided abuses of power. Fourthly, they were a transversal force. This means that they were open to many different actors and that they demands were not exclusive for themselves, but that everybody around the world could subscribe. Fifthly and finally, they included women in politics in a macho society, showing that transformation can only be achieved when all the marginal actors participate in the transformation process. In conclusion, these five features explained throughout the essay are also lessons that alternative social movements should and can learn from them if they wish to transform social relations.

Note: To make it easier for the reader, I have not included footnotes nor the bibliography. However, this can be found for further consultation on the original paper, which is uploaded and available in the website

© Mario Cuenda García

Brexit: lessons for the future

Britain has decided to leave. I am sad, slightly shocked and worried. This is a huge blow to European integration, probably the biggest setback in 60 years of European project. I would like to write about the causes of this result, but also its consequences and the lessons we can learn from it.

Let’s be clear: the European Union is a positive project with plenty of benefits, but it is also is an imperfect construction full of mistakes which still needs reform. Among its problems, it faces a democratic deficit and an excessively liberal structure which privileges financial interests over citizens’ concerns. As such, we cannot remain uncritical about this EU; more and more people are asking the correct questions but unfortunately, many are not giving the rights answers. Brexit is probably the worst one so far.

Yes, the EU has its part of responsibility. But do not fool yourself, the results of the referendum have little to do with a rational criticism of the EU and its policies. There are the consequence of two factors which have been visible in the last years. Firstly, the rise of the nationalist, xenophobic and reactionary far-right which disguises its true ideology behind a well-calculated Euroscepticism. Secondly, the passivity of national governments, which have desisted in their defence of EU and even worse, allowed it to be used as a scapegoat to avoid responsibilities for policies taken at home. This is especially true in the UK, paradoxically the less integrated country of the EU. It is undeniable that David Cameron was comfortable with the social anger targeting the EU instead of the British government and that he even encouraged this attitude.

The referendum itself was not a mistake, but there was no need of convoking it. As The Economist writes, “Back in 2013, the public opinion was not clamouring for it”. It was a short-term gamble to silence noisy Eurosceptic backbenchers and to maintain the unity of the Conservative party. It was an irresponsible electoral move thought on party terms, not national. Three years later, the country experiences its worse political instability ever and David Cameron resigns with leaves a disastrous legacy.

The campaign and the results

Then came the campaign. The ‘Remain’ side was poorly led. David Cameron was overconfident in his convincing capacities and he wrongly thought that his February deal with the EU would suffice to convince undecided voters. He is not an Europeist and he was uncomfortable defending a position which was unnatural to him. He campaigned for the EU because he knew that the alternative was worse. In consequence, the arguments were more about the catastrophic consequences of leaving than about the positive effects of remaining. Thus, the ‘Remain’ campaign had absolutely no capacity of illusion: it relied too much on the politics of fear. Jeremy Corbyn was not very active in the ‘Remain’ campaign either, but he is not to blame: the ‘in or out’ debate was nothing but a civil war within the Conservative Party which spread to national and European politics. No wonder that he did not want to be stuck in it. On the other hand, the ‘Leave’ campaign was even worse. It was full of lies and contradictions. The Brexiteers, especially Nigel Farage, dragged the debate into the recurrent topic of immigration, until it became the core of the campaign, eclipsing all other considerations. As Owen Jones wrote, the campaign focused on immigration as if “migrants and people fleeing violence and poverty were the cause of the multiple problems afflicting European society, from the lack of secure jobs and houses to stagnating living standards to public services ravaged by cuts”. Unfortunately, this xenophobic and nationalist campaign won. Traditionally working classes worried about immigration, ended up voting ‘Leave’, proving that nothing had been done to counteract the dominant and false argument on immigration.

The results are worrying in many ways. Look at the politicians who have celebrated the outcome of the referendum: Marine le Pen, Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders, Matteo Savini and so on. It is a victory for scaremongers, bigots and xenophobes. Furthermore, the statistics of the referendum project the image of a truly ‘Broken Britain’ (how ironic…) with four major cleavages. First, an impressive generational one. Second, a cleavage between nations. Third, one between educated and less educated people. Fourth, one between well-off and less well-off people. It would be easy to blame the uneducated poor for this result, but the causes are far more profound. Look for the reasons in the rising inequalities provoked by liberal and austerity policies, which have left many people impoverished, disenchanted with politics and felt abandoned by a political class which does not look for their interests.  

european stars

Europe is crying

The consequences for the UK

The list of consequences is too long for this post, but I would highlight one word: uncertainty. The short-run economic effect will be affected by this completely new situation. Understandably, firms will delay investments and important decisions until the new status of the UK is agreed with the EU. Once the agreement comes into force, firms might fly and relocate elsewhere in Europe. This will likely throw the UK into a recession and hurt employment numbers. The British Union is likely to suffer: Scotland will push for independence and Northern Ireland might push for reunification. Universities are also big losers. EU students wanting to study in the UK will now probably rethink their choice until the uncertainty dissipates: this means less talent and less money will come to the UK. Diversity on campuses will diminish. British students will lose access to the Erasmus program which allows them to study abroad in Europe. Overall and without getting into details, it will become harder for everyone to work or study in the UK until the uncertainty dissipates. The same applies to Britons in the EU. The long-run forecast is more difficult. As EU trade treaties will not apply anymore once it leaves, Britain will have to renegotiate all of them. Eventually, the economy will stabilise and recover, but it will lose attractiveness. Foreign investors, start-ups, young talents and so on see the UK as a fantastic place to invest or set up partly because it is part of the EU. With this door closed, they will look for alternatives in the continent. Many will leave and many more will just not come in the first place.

The relationship between the UK and the EU

Now here comes the crux of the matter. The Treaty on the European Union contemplates exits in its Article 50. The procedure is the following: the UK has to notify the European Council its desire to leave. Then, the UK and the European Council negotiate an ‘exit agreement’. Once it is reached, the European Parliament has to approve it by a qualified majority. Then, ‘The Treaties cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement’. There is a very important point here: the European Council negotiates the new situation with the UK as an outside actor, not a member of the Council anymore. Whatever the final agreement is, the UK is not in a position of strength and stands to lose. If it wants to remain part of the internal market, as many ‘Leave’ supporters argued, it will have to accept European standards, allow free movement of people and contribute to the European budget, like Norway does. The Article 50 is not the only possible outcome; other agreements can be reached. However, if the EU wants to be credible, it must strictly stick to the Treaty provisions. Any concession will undermine its legitimacy, create a dangerous precedent and give wings to Eurosceptic forces around the continent to further disintegrate the union. Sadly, the first divisions are already arising. Several finance Ministers, François Hollande, Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schultz have asked the UK to start the procedure as soon as possible, saying it won’t be an amicable divorce. On the other hand, Merkel says there is no need to be nasty on the UK, opening the door for a more favourable agreement. This is dangerous for the whole Union (I will develop the possible outcomes and the relationship-in another post).

The consequences for the EU

They are contradictory. For instance, Brexit could actually be positive. The British conception of the EU as a big economic market has done much harm to European integration. The UK has constantly slowed down European initiatives, filibustered many actions that could have led to a closer union and has an important part of responsibility in the frustration created by this EU. Many pro-European actors will be happy to see such a burden leave. But as I mentioned in the introduction, it is also the biggest setback in European history. For the first time, a member state leaves the European project and menaces to trigger a dangerous domino effect. The Austrian election was already a worrying sign. If Britain reaches a successful deal with the EU, nationalist parties in the EU will probably push for the same, endangering the whole project. Hopefully, this could be the major catharsis the EU needs to reform. Unfortunately, none of the actual national leaders has the European vision to lead a major reform project. A truly and rare European actor is Guy Verhofstadt. Unfortunately, he is in a weak position (he is just an MEP) and he is alone. Some of his policy proposals are right, but I believe the EU has to take a more social turn, not a liberal one.

What the EU must do is to stand up with courage for its core values, to take a battery of measures and to set a grand project for the next years. First, it has to stand up against right-wing nationalism. This means opening borders for refugees, equally redistribute them in European countries and fight the anti-immigration discourse. The measures that could be taken to relaunch the morose European integration include: enhancing transparency, public inversion in transport infrastructures, the end of unnecessary austerity policies, restructuration of the Greek debt, redefinition of the ECB status, dropping the unpopular TTIP negotiations and many more. My idea for a grand project which could reconcile the EU with its disenchanted citizens would be fighting fiscal evasions and tax heavens. It is politically feasible, economically positive and it will show that the EU is effective in tackling today’s world problems and that it works for its citizens.

I will end up on a positive note. It has been said that our generation is disenchanted with the European project. That we take everything for granted and that we do not value what has been achieved. Yet, on the 23rd of June, more than 65% of people aged between 18 and 24 voted ‘Remain’. This does not mean that they agree on everything with the EU, as I do not, but it genuinely acknowledges that the European project is right and that the future of the people of Europe is together. The creation of a truly European youth is succeeding. These voices may have been silenced today, but they will come back stronger. I have no absolutely no doubt that the UK will, as an equal partner, be part of the EU once again in the future. We will welcome them with our arms opened to continue the construction of this outstanding project: the European Union.

© Mario Cuenda García

EU countries are taking an authoritarian turn – and we have to stop it

Since the fall of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc in 1991, the European continent has not experienced any dictatorship, with the exception of Belarus. When the Eastern European countries joined the European Union, many saw this threat disappearing. Indeed, to enter the EU, member states had to commit to democracy and to a certain degree of liberal values and personal liberties. On the other hand, the EU was seen as the enforcer of the new democracies. Meanwhile, neighbouring countries like Russia and Turkey shifted slowly but surely towards authoritarian regimes.

As a result no one expected the rise of authoritarian measures,  which is currently taking place inside the European Union. Some of this measures are happening in Eastern European countries where the relatively ‘new democracies’ are now with conservative and nationalistic governments, which do not embrace European values and impose authoritarian measures nationally. It is indeed one more expression of the East-West cleavage in the EU. Western European countries are also imposing authoritarian measures at home and there are two reasons for this. First, there is fear of terrorism. Facing the threat of massive and indiscriminate attacks, some governments have slowly but surely headed towards authoritarianism, sacrificing liberties over security. Secondly, the economic crisis has increased poverty and made many people worse off. A climate of elite distrust has grown and this has led to social unrest and protest, with some restricting it.

The first warning sign came a couple of years ago, when Viktor Orban became the Prime Minister of Hungary. His years in government have been marked by illiberal measures such as a restrictive media law, and marginalisation of the Roma population, among many others. But as Hungary was only a small country out of the 28 member states, the European Union was not greatly concernced. However, in October 2015, the conservative party Law and Justice won the general election in Poland. In a matter of months, it passed laws that weaken constitutional checks and balances, as well as restrict media freedom. In December, the ministers of Justice of Hungary and Poland manifested their opposition to the legalisation of homosexual marriage in a Council of Ministers of the European Union. Poland and Hungary are giving headaches to the European Institutions and to the member states. Indeed, the EU has already expressed concerns both in public and in private. Some MEPs have suggested a temporal expulsion of Hungary or the suspension of their right to vote in European Affairs. Last month, the Commission decided to put polish democracy under evaluation.

The refugee crisis contributes to these problems. Hungary built a fence this summer and its treatment to refugees has been poor and violent. The new Polish government claims that refugees carry diseases and do not want to welcome them, in spite of the agreement reached by the previous government. But this time, they are not the only countries to act in this way. The Czech Republic voted against the refugee redistribution schema and Denmark has passed a law which allows the government to steal goods of the refugees to pay for their maintenance costs.

The country, which has implemented authoritarian measures due to the terrorist threat, is obviously France. After the 13th of November terrorist attacks, the President François Hollande imposed a State of Emergency. The National Assembly approved it by nearly unanimity, as it was seen as a temporary measure following the attacks; European member states and the French public opinion were supportive to a large extent. Three months later, not only is France still under the State of Emergency, but the Assembly has approved a further enlargement. What are the implications? The executive power has been granted more powers over the judiciary. Demonstration are prohibited; indeed during the COP21 conference in Paris, ecological activists were confined to home arrest. Indiscriminate searches can be carried out in homes without judiciary permission at any moment of the day or the night. A plan of mass vigilance have been approved. Finally, French MPs have voted in favour of removing the nationality to citizens with double nationality having committed a crime against the nation. The State of Emergency threatens civil liberties and France cannot use terrorism as a justification of such liberty cuts. Neither Spain nor the UK implemented such measures after the terrible attacks they suffered in 2003 and 2005 respectively. The Commission is worried, as Jean Quatremer, a journalist for the French newspapers Libération, writes in his blog: if France was not a member the EU and wanted to join it under the State of Emergency, it would not fit the democratic criteria!

Governments restricting protest is the last kind of authoritarian measures I have identified. This is especially visible in Spain, which last year introduced a ‘gag law’ aimed at criminalising social and pacific protest. The ‘gag law’ restrains the right to protest and impose harsh sanctions on whoever breaks it. International newspapers such as Le Monde or The New York Times have denounced it as an intolerable freedom cut in a democratic country. Its editorials have described it as ‘ominous’ and ‘with smells of Franquism’, asking for the Commission ‘to condemn the new law’ and urging Spanish lawmakers to ‘reject the measure’. This paragraph of The New York Time explains best what the ‘Gag law’ is about:

“The law would define public protest by actual persons in front of Parliament as a ‘disturbance of public safety’ punishable by a fine of 30,000 euros. People who join in spontaneous protests near utilities, transportation hubs, nuclear power plants or similar facilities would risk a jaw-dropping fine of €600,000. The “unauthorized use” of images of law enforcement authorities or police – presumably aimed at photojournalists or ordinary citizens with cameras taking pictures of cops or soldiers – would also draw a €30,000 fine, making it hard to document abuses.”

The criminalisation of social protest reached worrying grounds last week. Two puppeteers (yes, you read it right, puppeteers) were arrested and sent to prison, allegedly accused of praising terrorism. In Spain, where the Basque terrorist separatist group ETA killed more than 900 people between the 1970s and 2011, it is strictly forbidden to praise terrorism. Later on it has been proven that the two puppeteers were not praising terrorism; in fact, they were denouncing police manipulation. In their representation they used a banner with the inscription ‘Gora Alka-Eta’, which in Basque means ‘long live Al-QuaETA’, mixing the names of the two terrorist groups and playing with the names. The banner was placed by a policeman near an unconscious protester, precisely to accuse him of terrorist allegiances (how ironic!). Clearly, the banner was part of their representation and they were therefore not praising terrorism. As it was denounced by politicians, journalists and cultural personalities censoring critical fiction is something which happens in dictatorships, not in democracies. Even more worrying, in the last four years more than 1000 persons have been accused of praising terrorism. Some of these accusations were right. However, given the really high number, it is legitimate to ask if unfounded accusations of praising terrorism are not becoming a way of intimidating and criminalising social protest in Spain.

It is undeniable that due to different factors, some European member states have taken authoritarian measures unimagined a couple of years ago. In this post, I have mainly talked of governmental actions, but I believe a much bigger threat lies outside power, mainly in the far-right parties, which are growing in France, Austria, the Nordic countries and have a strong presence in Greece, Germany and some Eastern states. Actually, they already influence national politics by weighting the balance in their direction. More worryingly, their increasing electoral support shows that some people are actually ready to support the implementation of authoritarian measures. This is really scary and it throws us back to the worst years of the last century. A radically democratic solution has to be proposed to oppose the rise of authoritarianism in Europe. Civil society, from social movements to the press, have to keep denouncing and pressing. Citizens should reject authoritarian laws in the streets and in the ballot box. Politicians have to adopt inclusive discourses which illegitimate authoritarian parties and oppose them with more democracy. It has been proven: the best way to weaken authoritarianism is democracy. For, France must end its State of Emergency and Spain’s new parliament has to abolish the ‘gag law’. Finally, the European Institutions have a huge role to play as well. It is not enough to condemn what is happening. European politicians and technocrats should be more visible and offer as well more democracy and transparency. Get closer to the people and make them participate. Otherwise, they will fall down in the arms of undesirable parties and individuals. Clearly, those are not easy times for Europe, nor is the solution easy, but it is time to act against this growing authoritarianism. The first step is denouncing. Then will come the protest, and we well might be in this process soon.

Many thanks to my friend Paula García Domingo and my dad for revising this post!

© Mario Cuenda García

Corbyn 2020 (English)

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new Labour leader has put British politics in shock. In a period of only four months, it is already the second political earthquake that hits the island unexpectedly. The first took place during the General election on May 7th; the Conservative party obtained a resounding victory, despite all polls forecasting the necessity of a coalition to govern. According to some analysts, the 326 seats of the Tories were the biggest surprise since the equally unexpected victory of Clement Atlee in 1945.

The defeat of Ed Miliband weakened the Labour Party tremendously. Nearly all commentators and critics agreed on the same point: Miliband did not follow the Third Way path and paid a high price for it. Weeks before in an interview granted to The Economist, even Tony Blair said that the Labour Party was committing “mistakes from the past”. Miliband is not a radical, but his social-democratic and progressive tone during his speech sounded revolutionary compared to the ones of Blair or Cameron.

However, Miliband’s real problem was that he stood in no man’s land. His discourse and his propositions were not liberal enough to attract Conservatives or Liberal voters nor did he try to use a different and more radical speech to gain back the disenchanted Labour voters. He played in Cameron’s arena and he lost. If one adds to this the electoral explosion of the Scottish Nationalist Party and the amount of votes obtained by the Greens and the UKIP, Labour’s debacle seems less of a surprise now.

While Miliband disappeared from the political scene, the primaries for General Secretary started. The candidates in favour of New Labour presented their candidatures, and in the last moment, a 66-year-old North London MP joined the competition; with 31 years of experience in Parliament, he was known for his rejection of the Third Way, his defence of Trade Unions, his pacifism and his activism against the NATO, the apartheid, Pinochet and many more: Jeremy Corbyn.

In only two months, he has achieved what seemed impossible: winning the primaries and becoming the new General Secretary of the Labour Party. This is a total breakdown from Blair’s Third Way. It is thus no surprise that during the entire campaign Blair, as well as the liberal and conservative press have aimed to discredit it. With a progressive program and a clear popular vocation, Corbyn has managed to involve a lot of people in his campaign. Now that he is the General Secretary and the earthquake has passed, the real hard work begins.

Referendum 2017

The referendum on whether the UK should remain a member or leave the EU will be the first issue to make Corbyn face the ballot box. David Cameron announced that he would campaign to remain in the European Union. Ed Miliband defended the same position when he was still the leader and it appears like Corbyn will follow his predecessor. Furthermore, Hilary Benn, appointed shadow foreign secretary, has announced that Labour will defend the EU membership under any circumstances. In July, however, Owen Jones, the current reference of the Britannic left who publicly supported Jeremy Corbyn during his campaign, published an article favouring the cessation of UK membership in the EU.

Starting from today until 2017, David Cameron will negotiate with Brussels and try to obtain liberal/conservative ‘reforms’ that he could present as positive changes to the British electorate. If Cameron achieves his goal, Corbyn will have to defend the European relationship, but not the reforms obtained by the Prime Minister, as their ideological positions differ. I would not rule out a change in Corbyn’s position regarding the EU if he starts perceiving that the policies proposed by Cameron are harmful for the British lower classes. (Note: this is a long and controversial topic, which in the future I will tackle in more detail in this blog).

Objective 2020

However, the first obstacle that Corbyn will have to face before the referendum will be his own party. For the past two decades, the Third Way has embedded the doctrine and conduct of the Labour party. Incorporating members who share Corbyn’s view whilst moving out Third Way supporters without causing any ruptures in the party will be difficult.

Moreover, Corbyn faces another colossal challenge. 5 years remain until the next general election in 2020, but meanwhile, British working class will suffer cuts, austerity, and impoverishment.  Nonetheless, it is a positive thing that Corbyn has 5 years ahead before the general elections. Instead of only focusing on the winning of the elections, he will now have time to focus on the real issues Britain faces. In fact, winning the elections should not be the ultimate end of these five years; rather it should be a step forward in the re-construction of a social mass in the UK. These concepts successfully appeared in Spain with the anti-austerity party Podemos, but unfortunately much of the party’s essence diluted due to the recent Spanish elections. Corbyn does not face an imminent pressure, and thus can construct these ideas in the next five years.

He will have to recover the votes of the working class that has stopped voting in the last years. Where today there is an abstention of 82 per cent in the depressed areas of Manchester, in 2020 there should be an 82 per cent of participation. Who yesterday voted for the SNP or the Green party because it represented the anti-austerity vote, in 2020 has to vote for the Labour Party to make it efficient. The English white working class man (Owen Jones dixit) who votes UKIP because he thinks that the immigrant is the problem has to vote Labour when he finally understands that austerity is the real problem.

However, Corbyn would commit a mistake if his only objective would be to gain votes back. He has to construct a social structure that goes beyond electoral considerations. To do this, he will have to involve all the British population. Corbyn should consider what happened in Scotland, where the SNP in spite of having lost the independence referendum, afterwards multiplied by three its number of members and then had a huge victory in the general elections. The number of party members, however, is only one of many factors that permits one to measure the degree to which society involves itself. For the participation to be at its highest potential, in order to become tools of effective change the demonised Trade Unions have to modernise with structures suitable for the 21st century. Furthermore, the Labour Party should consider the creation of assemblies, something that was fundamental in its creation, making use of new technologies, developing digital interaction, encouraging support groups in universities as primary structures giving voice to the young, etc. A vast array of measures not only to recover an electorate, but a whole social actor: the citizen.

Corbyn has awakened hope during his campaign and his first week as General Secretary: 400 000 people voted for him in the primaries and 62 000 people have become members of the Labour party. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win”. Ignored for years in the Labour Party, and mocked during the campaign, Corbyn has now reached the third stage: he has become a fighter. The next five years represent a colossal challenge in a hostile environment where the success of Corbyn and its (ironically) New Labour Party will depend on its capacity to construct a social structure and where the interaction between political and social agents will determine the possibilities of winning the next elections.

Many thanks to my friend Paula García Domingo for her big help in the translation of this text.