OPINION | Hard times

Publisher’s note: Roberto Izurieta is director of Latin American Projects at George Washington University. He has worked on political campaigns in several Latin American countries and Spain, and was an advisor to presidents Alejandro Toledo of Peru; Vicente Fox, from Mexico, and Álvaro Colom, from Guatemala. The author is also a contributor to CNN en Español. The opinions expressed herein are solely theirs. See more at cnne.com/opinion

(CNN Spanish) — I haven’t written since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because I didn’t feel it necessary to list all the problems we all know. What an analyst tries to achieve is to make sense of those events in order to contribute ideas to solve them, avoid them and adapt to move forward.

The bottom line is that society has not had a break from this sequence of serious crises since the pandemic began. At times, we thought they were exaggerations of a more interconnected society, especially with social networks. After all, technology helped us survive and manage covid-19, but social networks, with their tendency to polarize and group between extremes, continue to undermine important pillars of society: especially those of democracy.

They live underground in Kharkiv: the story of a photojournalist in Ukraine 1:24

With the pandemic also came the disruption of the supply chain of products and the aggravation of inflation. With Russia’s ruthless invasion of the Ukraine and the subsequent rise in oil prices (and above all gas prices for Europeans), inflation got even worse.

Now, the zero covid policy in Shanghai and other cities in China will further aggravate the supply chain and, of course, inflation. The Federal Reserve will continue to raise interest rates to alleviate these effects, and the prospects for a decline in economic growth forecasts for this country increase, because we must also consider the effects of the pandemic on China’s economic growth.

This entire sequence leads us to predict that this year will also be very difficult: including the mid-term elections in the US. The opposition (in this case, the Republicans) always tends to blame all the problems on the president, while Government supporters (in this case, Democrats) tend to blame government communication for these problems. But the truth of the facts is exactly that: facts and not words. It is very difficult to be popular when there is inflation, insecurity and low growth.

The US and Europe are doing the right thing, which is correcting the bad years of having supported Putin, helping to finance a totally corrupt government with the payments of its energy bill (especially the gas bill) and with it, arming an army ready to invade and try to change, with its paranoia and tsarist airs, the borders of Europe.

Hell is living in the Mariúpol steel plant 3:52

Correcting years of these mistakes in international energy policy will not be easy, and the highest cost continues to be paid by the Ukrainians, who are fighting on the front lines of this war to prevent Putin’s imperialist intentions.

“In politics you have to eat a lot of frogs” said an old Mexican politician (Adolfo Ruiz Cortines). That is why I agree with CNN analyst Fareed Zakaria’s proposal that the US and Europe should seek a real alliance with Saudi Arabia to inject even more oil into the market and lower its price. Dependence on gas will be more complex, as Gita Gopinath of the IMF said, but we must start working on a new energy equation in Europe so as not to have to trust a neighbor like Putin again and perhaps in the same Russian policy.

Putin exemplifies how fatal authoritarian governments, concentrators of power, and dictatorships can be. Democracy and, above all, freedom of expression make their governments grow because they give their rulers information, which many times they do not want to listen to or are not willing to admit.

For me, China has a more complex and more advanced political structure than Russia. It is not ruled by a dictator per se, but by the rule of a single party. In this sense, it also lacks that capacity for reflection that generally comes from outside the central government. Only in this way could China question the enormous cost that continuing with that zero policy against covid-19 could mean. But as in almost everything that has happened in this pandemic, there has been more politics than true independent and professional analysis. I am afraid that China will continue with its zero covid policy in Shanghai with serious logistical, economic and social consequences. Just as many did not want to enter that discussion because it is a very sensitive and personal matter: neither will Xi Jinping for political reasons.

Economically and politically, I think this year is pretty lost. How will the next? We will most likely know in a few weeks if Putin fails to conquer Odessa and is forced into an agreement, and if the pandemic does not get more complicated in China (or worse, in the rest of the world). Only then can we have a good 2023.

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