A happy Easter to all those celebrating this week!
In the latest for our new Putinology column, Anna Nemtsova reveals the unruly forces that are troubling the Kremlin's security services.
Juan Nagel bemoans the absurdity of Nicolás Maduro's presidential campaign in Venezuela.
Mohamed Eljarh assesses a weak point in Libya's media reform that is essential to the country's democratic transition.
Jonathan Morduch and Timothy Ogden advocate using microfinance to meet the real financial needs of the world's poor.
Min Zin argues that Burma's political elite have failed their country in preventing a recurring pattern of ethnic violence.
Greg Rushford argues that it's not just the world's advanced economies driving trade inequality.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
Reporting for The New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin shares the economic hardships forcing an Afghani father to give away his daughter, and the government that won't support him.
In a new paper for the New America Foundation, Philip Napoli and Jonathan Obar examine the global phenomenon where new internet users are gaining access by using cell phones instead of computers.
International Crisis Group assesses the growing discontent in Eritrea and the potential for a violent power struggle.
In a recent Issue Perspective for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Stephen Engelken argues that India and Pakistan need to expand their trade ties in order to maintain peace in South Asia.
Following Russia's latest crackdown on non-profits and activists, Russian journalist Masha Gessen writes for the International Herald Tribune, comparing the tactics to the Soviet Union.
ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images)
After we shook hands and exchanged greetings, World Chess Champion and diehard Putin foe Garry Kasparov proved to be a vigorous walker, striding so rapidly with his two bodyguards that I had to break into a semi-trot or risk losing him in the crowd gathering on Pushkin Square. Within five minutes we reached the march's designated starting point on Strastnoy Boulevard, just a bit after the scheduled launch time of 2pm. Around Kasparov assembled his supporters, members of a group known as the United Civil Front, waving long droopy white flags; to our right was former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov; to our left anti-corruption firebrand Aleksey Navalny and his seemingly seven-foot-tall hoary-haired bodyguard; further to the left (both physically and politically), and amid a phalanx of youths bearing red flags, was Sergey Udaltsov, the indefatigable leader of the Left Front, in black shades and his characteristic black jacket. Tellingly, for the first time, he had not pinned the protest movement's symbol of peace -- a white ribbon -- to his lapel.
Photo By KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images
Christian Caryl reports on the Salafi movement, which has been implicated in many of this week's protests around the Middle East.
Syrian journalist Malik Al-Abdeh argues that the Syrian National Council's lack of leadership has been a disaster for the revolt against Assad.
Political analyst Jay Ulfelder explains why Kim Jong Un may be about to embark on reform in North Korea.
Blair Glencorse and Charles Landow report on five East African nations that are working towards an economic community modeled on the European Union (but without a common currency, thank you).
In a country where consulting a psychologist is taboo, Portia Walker explores the challenge of overcoming the civil war in Libya.
Endy Bayuni examines why few Indonesians are prepared to come to terms with the darkest chapter of the country's recent history.
Min Zin wonders whether the regime will succeed in its bid to co-opt the pro-democracy opposition through appeals to nationalism amid continuing sectarian strife.
[Editor's note: Alert readers of the Brief recently brought a technical problem to our attention. It's now been fixed, but we wanted to take the occasion to let you know that we welcome your feedback.]
As the political turmoil in Egypt grows, Mara Revkin and Yussuf Auf analyze the reasons for the gridlock around efforts to draw up a new constitution.
Writing on the Egyptian economy, Peter Passell suggests a way to reform an increasingly unworkable system of subsidies.
Mohamed El Dahshan looks at an ominous military degree that has gone largely unnoticed amid the breaking news from Cairo, and also takes the measure of the government's latest effort to whip up anti-foreigner sentiment.
Hanna Hindstrom assails Burmese media reporting on the wave of ethnic violence in Burma, noting how many reporters are using their newfound freedom to indulge in xenophobia.
Min Zin explores how the conflict benefits the military junta and hinders the maneuverability of the democratic opposition.
Christian Caryl explains why hopes that Russia might soften its support for Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria are unlikely to be borne out.
We already know that drones are powerful weapons. In "Predators for Peace," Jack C. Chow depicts a not-too-distant future in which airborne robots can be used to boost humanitarian relief efforts and good governance.
As governments cut back on foreign assistance budgets, Peter Passell makes the case for a smarter approach to development aid.
Alina Rocha Menocal, noting that Latin America still suffers from gross inequality, sees the answers in sound public policy.
Julio Cesar Aguilar/AFP/Getty Images
Thirty-five years after the end of the "Dirty War," Alex Gibson shows how a trial in Argentina is struggling to come to terms with a legacy of state-sponsored violence.
Peter Reuter explains why the West won't be able to contain money laundering from developing countries unless it cleans up its own act first.
Min Zin asks whether Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is making a mistake in her latest confrontation with the powers-that-be, and also offers an entertaining primer on the politics behind the latest Burmese New Year celebrations.
Mohamed El Dahshan explores the decision that has thrown Egypt's presidential election into disarray.
Juan Nagel shows why the Venezuelan government's recent decision to subsidize beauty products will score it political points.
Endy Bayuni explains how Aceh's separatist leaders have morphed from guerillas into governors.
And in his column, Christian Caryl argues that economic inequality is now becoming a hot political issue in both rich countries and poor ones.
This week's recommended reads:
In Foreign Affairs, Leon Goldsmith writes on the Alawite community of Syria and the motives for their persistent support of the Assad regime.
In an essay in the current issue of Journal of Democracy, political philosopher Abdou Filali-Ansary casts light on why many voters in the Arab world prefer Islamist parties -- and arrives at some surprising conclusions.
A new report by the International Crisis Group documents the growing fight over resources between the Iraqi central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government.
Writing for Project Syndicate, Alfred Stepan and Etienne Smith discuss the surprising resilience of democracy in Senegal.
Democracy Digest reports on the difficulties faced by Russian dissidents following Vladimir Putin's victory in the March 4 presidential elections. And the German Marshal Fund examines the recent release of imprisoned opposition leaders in Belarus. (The photo above shows activist Dmitry Bondarenko meeting his wife after leaving prison.)
And don't miss Jeffrey Bartholet's great travelogue from post-Mubarak Egypt in National Geographic.
VICTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images
Democracy Lab Highlights:
James Kirchick profiles Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, adored by his fans and assailed by opponents who fear that he is dismantling democratic institutions.
In the wake of Putin's victory in the Russian presidential elections, Anna Nemtsova's portrait of dissident Olga Romanova offers a snapshot of the difficult situation facing opposition activists.
Min Zin weighs in on the challenges opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will face in the up-coming parliamentary elections in Burma.
MOHAMMED HOSSAM/AFP/Getty Images
Ahead of Sunday's presidential elections in Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he may run for president for a fourth time in 2018. But some observers think he may face significant challenges during his third term.
At a European Union summit in Brussels, Serbia finally received official approval as a candidate for membership in the EU. At the same the EU's 27 member nations withdrew their ambassadors from Belarus.
The Spanish Supreme Court acquitted Judge Baltasar Garzon, who had been accused of violating a 1977 amnesty law when he tried to prosecute crimes committed during the Franco era.
Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images
Tensions soared in Senegal ahead of the Feb. 26 elections as security forces clashed with protestors. Opposition leader Youssou N'Dour, the singer, was injured during a political rally. At least six protestors have reportedly died over the past month. Nigerian ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo met with the government and opposition leaders in an effort to mediate the political standoff.
President Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali said that presidential elections will be held on time in April despite a heavily-armed Tuareg uprising taking place in the north of the country.
The International Criminal Court announced it will investigate possible war crimes committed in Cote d'Ivoire as far back as 2002, after Laurent Gbagbo became president. The court was previously only looking at crimes committed in the violence that followed the 2010 election when Gbagbo, currently in jail in The Hague, refused to step down.
In Burma, the largest strike since 1938 is testing the limits of the new law allowing labor unions. China's leaders urged the Burmese government to reinforce its control over the two countries' turbulent border.
Experts warned of potential security risks in the lead-up to Timor-Leste's general elections in March.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is expected to call on the Sri Lankan government next week to report its progress on investigating possible war crimes committed at the end of the civil war in 2009. The UN also wants to see an accounting of reconciliation measures taken by the authorities.
Amid the continuing political crisis in the Maldives, the Commonwealth urged government and opposition to start an immediate dialogue leading toward early elections at the end of 2012.
CAMILO PAREJA/AFP/Getty Images
On Friday, the Burmese monk Shin Gambira, one of the leaders of the 2007 protests, was reportedly detained by the authorities. Earlier this week, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi received formal approval from the election commission to run in the parliamentary elections in April and a UN envoy said Burma was considering allowing foreign election observers in to monitor the polls. The US waived one of its sanctions against the country, making it easier for Burma to get help from international financial institutions, and reports indicated CIA director David Petraeus may travel to Burma later this year. According to a report ranking countries on their respect for the rule of law, Burma ranked last out of 197 countries, offering the least legal protection for foreign companies and investors.
Thailand's ruling party submitted a plan to the Parliament to amend the country's constitution, which was drafted after the 2006 coup. A similar attempt four years ago led to large protests.
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the country's notoriously powerful spy agency, faced a rare wave of court actions against it. Although most of the cases have little chance of success, some analysts believe they demonstrate new resolve on the part of the judiciary to curb the power of the security establishment.
Two Tibetan brothers are said to have been shot down by Chinese security forces. They had been on the run since participating in January protests against Chinese rule. This comes after another Tibetan protester was reported to have set himself on fire in China's Sichuan province. A Chinese human rights group said that a dissident writer had been sentenced to seven years in jail for inciting subversion in a poem he wrote. Three other dissident writers have been sentenced to jail in the past few months.
The Maldives President resigned - under duress, according to him - after three weeks of protests and a police mutiny. Since then there have been violent clashes, and the Maldives' Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against the former president and the former defence minister. The UN arrived Friday to meet with both parties.
(As FP's Joshua Keating noted in his report on the turmoil, the incident reminds us coups have become an increasingly rare phenomenon in recent years.)
Spain's notorious international human rights judge Baltazar Garzon, most famous for indicting former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, was convicted for overstepping his jurisdiction and barred from the bench for 11 years. (The photo above shows a pro-Garzon demonstration in Madrid.)
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images
Transitions is the group blog of the Democracy Lab channel, a collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Legatum Institute.