News from Kyrgyzstan, China and Colombia

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on November 8, 2011

KYRGYZSTAN – Casino ban pleases, irks Kyrgyz citizens

BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan has enacted a ban on casinos that supporters say will ease the negative effects of gambling on Kyrgyz society, but opponents argue will leave thousands unemployed and boost organized crime.

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva signed the legislation Tuesday. The new law requires all gambling facilities across the country to close by January 2012.

Kyrgyzstan has 21 casinos and 300 gaming clubs, according to the government. Parliamentary deputy Bakytbek Jetigenov, who drafted the bill, says those figures are high for a nation of 5.5 million.

“It feels like in Las Vegas when you walk around Bishkek [the capital],” Mr. Jetigenov says. “Every hundred [yards] you see a gambling facility — they have a destructive effect on society, especially youth, who are easily addicted to gambling.”

However, after lawmakers almost unanimously approved the ban on Sept. 29, hundreds of casino workers demonstrated outside parliament, arguing that it will devastate their livelihoods.

Parliament member Shirin Aitmatova says she was surprised to find herself alone in voting against the ban. She says the government first should create jobs for those who would be made unemployed when gambling facilities are shut down.

“The industry employs 15,000 people, most of whom are young people,” Ms. Aitmatova says. “Who will create jobs for them? Or will another 15,000 Kyrgyz citizens go to Russia to work as construction workers and janitors?”

An estimated 10 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s working-age population emigrates to Russia or Kazakhstan for jobs.

Ms. Aitmatova also notes that her country will lose tax revenue: “Sixty-five percent of the money spent in casinos belongs to foreigners. The overall tax casinos pay annually is about $11 million.”

Mr. Jetigenov says that sum is an “insignificant amount of money that does not change much in country’s budget.”

“As for people who may lose jobs, why shouldn’t casino owners move into other areas of business that would benefit the country’s economy and create more jobs?” he says.

Mirlan Tashmanbetov, president of the Association of Gambling and Entertainment Complexes of Kyrgyzstan, argues that banning casinos will lead to an unregulated, illegal gambling industry, citing what he says was the failure of similar bills passed in Russia in 2009 and Kazakhstan in 2007. …..

CHINA – Chinese government to build the world’s largest subway system

After rolling out almost 50,000 miles of expressways and 6,000 miles of high-speed rail lines, China is now turning its attention underground with the most extensive metro [subway] project the world has ever seen.

More than 1 trillion yuan ($160 billion) will be spent on building underground networks in 28 cities, according to Gao Yucai, the head of the urban mass transit committee at China’s Communications and Transport association.

Under the current projections, China will build the equivalent of 250 Circle lines* by the end of the decade. [NOTE: The Circle line is the eighth busiest line on the London Underground (subway). It forms a loop line around the centre of London on the north side of the River Thames.]

Twelve Chinese cities already have metro systems up and running – and Shanghai went from a standing start to having a bigger network than the London Underground in just 15 years.

But creating metro systems has now become an important badge of progress even for lesser cities, such as Taiyuan, Urumqi and Shijiazhuang, many of whose residents are unsure about why billions of dollars of investment should be funneled underground.

“For local governments, having a metro really polishes the city’s image and illustrates the political achievements of its officials, even though all the metro lines currently in operation are losing money,” said Zhao Jian, a professor at Beijing’s Jiaotong university.

“Of course, local governments will have to fund the projects, and they are already heavily in debt. The money will have to mostly come from bank loans,” he added.

More than 90 new lines have been rubber-stamped by China’s Reform and Development Commission, which oversees the country’s planning. And many smaller cities, including Dali, Haikou, Zhuzhou and Luoyang, are now in the process of submitting their own plans for approval.

Experts said even if there appeared little need for widespread metro systems now, China’s traffic problems would be a major issue in the years ahead. “Even the smaller cities are choked up with traffic,” said Xie Weida, a professor at Tongji university. “Urban rail is a good way to solve that.” “I am sure the local governments are not building subways just to improve their image, but also out of practical concerns. Our original plans never foresaw how many cars there would be on the roads, and there are ever increasing numbers of people moving to the cities.”

COLOMBIA – Colombians cheer killing of guerrilla kingpin

POPAYAN – Colombians rejoiced at the killing of top FARC rebel leader Alfonso Cano and hoped the biggest blow yet against Latin America’s longest insurgency could herald an end to nearly five decades of war.

In a triumph for President Juan Manuel Santos’ hardline security policy, officials said forces bombed a FARC jungle hide-out in the mountainous southwestern Cauca region.

Troops then rappelled down from helicopters to search the area, killing the widely hated Marxist rebel boss, his girlfriend and several other rebels in a gun battle on Friday. …

Nobody expected the death of Cano, 63, who had a $3.7 million bounty on his head, to spell a quick end to a war that has killed tens of thousands in the Andean nation.

Late on Saturday, the rebels vowed to fight on, saying in a statement on a website that often carries their messages that it was not the first time a top FARC leader had been killed.

But it will further damage the drug trade-funded rebels’ ability to coordinate high-profile bombings, ambushes and kidnappings that have brought them worldwide notoriety.

“It is the most devastating blow this group has suffered in its history,” Santos said, speaking at a military base in Popayan, a mountain town close to where Cano was killed.

“I want to send a message to each and every member of that organization: ‘Demobilize’ … or otherwise you will end up in a prison or in a tomb. We will achieve peace.”

……………..

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at WashingtonTimes.com on Nov. 4, London’s Telegraph.co.uk on Nov 3 and ChicagoTribune.com on Nov. 5.)

Questions

1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
a) location/the countries that share its borders
b) the religious breakdown of the population
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch] e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to worldatlas.com for a list of continents.]

2. For Kyrgyzstan:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Why does Parliamentarian Bakytbek Jetigenov say he proposed this law?
c) Read the “Background” on Kyrgyzstan below the questions.  Consider both sides.  Do you think banning gambling will be good for Kyrgyz society?
d) Do you think casinos have a negative effect, or no effect on society in the U.S.?  Explain your answer.

3. For China:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Read the contrasting opinions of professors from Jiaotong Univerity (para. 6-7) and Tongji University (para. 9) on the pros and cons of such a large underground project.  Do you think in the long run, constructing subway systems in 28 cities will be good for the citizens and local governments?  Explain your answer.

4. For Colombia:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What ideology does FARC follow?


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a weekly email with answers.

Background

KYRGYZSTAN CASINOS: 

  • “When neighboring Kazakhstan and Russia banned gambling facilities, they all went underground,” says Mirlan Tashmanbetov, president of the Association of Gambling and Entertainment Complexes of Kyrgyzstan, who helped organize the protest against the bill. “This must be an indicator to our lawmakers that it is better to keep casinos legal and transparent.”
  • The bans on gambling facilities in Russia and Kazakhstan applied only to cities, forcing casinos to relocate to remote areas. Kyrgyzstan’s new law requires all gambling facilities across the country to close by January 2012.
  • Mr. Tashmanbetov says the government has not researched the effects of gambling on society, adding that gaming clubs in which slot machines are the main attraction are likely to remain open.
  • “Ironically, the bill will not affect these facilities, as they can easily re-profile into entertainment houses just as they did in Russia,” Mr. Tashmanbetov says.
  • There have been accusations of corruption on both sides of the debate.
  • Mr. Tashmanbetov says the speed with which the ban was drafted and enacted points to members of parliament having vested interests in it.
  • There have been lingering concerns that some parliament members could benefit from keeping casinos outside of the law through links to organized crime.
  • Mr. Jetigenov denies that he stands to gain financially from the ban.  “If I had any personal interests, I would have accepted the bribes I was offered by those who are involved in gambling industry in Kyrgyzstan,” he says. “Yes, I was offered money several times, a good sum of money both from legal and criminal sources to take the bill down. But I did not accept it, as I think we are doing the right thing.” (from the washingtontimes.com article)

————————————————-

COLOMBIA: FARC

  • FARC is a guerrilla organization, self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist.  The FARC is considered a terrorist group by the Colombian government, the United States, Canada, the Latin American Parliament, and the European Union. (from wikipedia.org)
  • The FARC continues to wage a war of words devoted to Marxist principles, despite the fact that many of its battles are fought with the less idealistic motive of controlling the illicit drug industry. (from tkb.org)
  • FARC is responsible for most of the ransom kidnappings in Colombia; the group targets wealthy landowners, foreign tourists, and prominent international and domestic officials. FARC stepped up terrorist activities against infrastructure in cities before Colombia’s May 2002 presidential election. (from cfr.org)
    (Read about FARC at cfr.org/publication/9272/.)

Resources

Kyrgyzstan:  Read about the previous presidents’ ousters at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurmanbek_Bakiyev, and below:

(from the CIA World FactBook website):

  • Most of Kyrgyzstan was formally annexed to Russia in 1876.
  • The Kyrgyz staged a major revolt against the Tsarist Empire in 1916 in which almost one-sixth of the Kyrgyz population was killed.
  • Kyrgyzstan became a Soviet republic in 1936 and achieved independence in 1991 when the USSR dissolved.
  • Nationwide demonstrations in the spring of 2005 resulted in the ouster of President Askar Akaev, who had run the country since 1990.
  • Subsequent presidential elections in July 2005 were won overwhelmingly by former prime minister Kurmanbek Bakiev.
  • Over the next few years, the new president manipulated the parliament to accrue new powers for himself.
  • In July 2009, after months of harassment against his opponents and media critics, Bakiev won re-election in a presidential campaign that the international community deemed flawed.
  • In April 2010, nationwide protests led to the resignation and expulsion of Bakiev.
  • Bakiev was replaced by Acting President Roza Otunbayeva who called for new elections in six months time.