woensdag, mei 11, 2005

Georgie does Georgia

So cute. A blonde little Georgian girl sitting atop her daddy's shoulders, waving the Stars and Stripes as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili tells the visiting George Bush: 'We welcome you as a freedom fighter,' in front of a crowd of some hundred thousand citizens, and, um, what looked to me like a stadium full of KKK Grand Wizards arranged on the seats to form a massive human St. George's Cross.

Laura Bush gives hubbie a hand with his package
of diplomatic initiatives in Eastern Europe.

I could be wrong about that last bit, as I was on the treadmill at the gym some distance away from the TV when I was watching CNN's coverage of Bush's visit to Georgia today, and I get a bit squinty sweating away on that dang gadget that after six fucking months has done nothing at all to diminish my decidedly non-dishy love handles. But I'll tell you what was clear enough: shots of Georgie in Georgia being welcomed by a pretty five-year-old Aryan and thousands of others and hailed as a freedom fighter. (I wonder if Saakashvili thought that line up himself, or if the boys that did up that nice Mission Accomplished banner a while back were behind it) Makes a nice break from all those shots of millions of protesters in 'old' Europe that always pop up whenever the President visits. Oh…wait, no, we never get to see those on CNN.

In any case, from the piccies, one would think that not only is George Bush massively popular in Georgia, but that so remains the country's revolutionary leader and president, the Soros-bankrolled Saakashvili.

However, as it turns out, Misha has seen his support drop by over 25 per cent in the last six months, and the country, according to Jaba Devdariani, writing in Transitions Online, is beset with regular protests once again.

'Of late, people have been protesting frequently, very frequently in Georgia. Some have taken to the streets with purely social demands: a lack of electricity in most provinces, social hardships in Armenian-populated Javakheti, and disruptions to the water supply in Imereti. Also linked to social issues are the "bazaar protests" by traders in Georgia's near-ubiquitous open-air markets. They are up in arms at the prospect of being relocated from the center of Tbilisi and other cities to newly allocated suburban plots, a move that will, they fear, lose them customers.

'Then there are the protests against reforms: Traders are refusing to comply with better-enforced safety, sanitary, and licensing requirements. Medical students have launched a hunger strike against new national examinations intended to replace university entry exams…'

'Most of the socially motivated protests were inherited from Shevardnadze's administration. In fact, this is the very same wave of social discontent that propelled the Rose Revolution and brought down President Eduard Shevardnadze. So, seen against that backdrop, the government should worry lest this unrest turn into an explosion.'

Devdariani's not especially sympathetic to the protests, and his prescription, similar to that of Simon Tisdall, writing in the Guardian, is to push still further with Saakashvili's reforms. Certainly going further in tackling the corruption in the government at all levels will go some way to placating this same anger that led to Shevardnadze's overthrow.

However, the word 'reform' has taken on something of a dun, Orwellian tincture over the last few years, meaning not change that will improve people's lives, but instead privatisation and deregulation, and I'm not sure this perennial prescription from the neo-liberal lemmings will do much to ameliorate such concerns as lack of electricity, disruptions to water supply and 'social hardship'.

Such swindles rather tend to intensify these sort of problems, and, indeed, opposition to governments.