Tuesday. 13/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Anastasia Moloney

Hired hands

When news first emerged last week that some two dozen Colombians had been arrested by Haitian police in connection with the assassination of the country’s president Jovenel Moïse, reactions in Colombia ranged from embarrassment to shock. One headline in Colombia’s largest newspaper, El Tiempo, read, “Colombian mercenaries: trained, cheap and readily available.” Several days later, doubt has been cast on the alleged role and responsibility of Colombians in the murder.

Might they have been framed? According to General Luis Fernando Navarro, the commander of Colombia’s armed forces, 17 of the suspects had retired from Colombia’s army between 2018 and 2020, including some with experience in counterterrorism. Several written and audio Whatsapp messages from the Colombians to their wives and relatives seem to suggest that they were hired by a US-based security company to act as bodyguards, not assassins. US and Colombian law enforcement and top intelligence officials are travelling to Haiti this week to help unravel the mysteries, motives and masterminds behind the killing.

Whatever their role, Colombians weren’t surprised to hear about former military members providing security services; the country’s long conflict and war against drug cartels means that its well-trained soldiers are highly sought-after abroad, particularly in Dubai and other parts of the Middle East. But their involvement has spurred a broader debate. Here in Bogotá, defence minister Diego Molano (pictured, centre, with Navarro on left) has promised an investigation focusing on the firms that hired Colombian ex-military officials and what exactly they knew about the work they were contracted to do. General Navarro told journalists that there was no law against their involvement but others say that there’s a need for more oversight of the foreign firms hiring Colombian mercenaries, along with better pensions and job opportunities for former military members to discourage them from earning dollars for private contractors abroad in the first place.

Anastasia Moloney is Monocle’s correspondent in Bogotá. For more from her on this story, listen to ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Russia & USA

Up for discussion

After Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden met on neutral ground in Switzerland last month, former US secretary of state John Kerry is following up this week with a three-day visit to Moscow, the first by a senior Biden administration official. Kerry, who is Biden’s climate-change envoy, is ostensibly in Moscow to prepare the ground for November’s UN summit on climate change in Glasgow, being one of the few subjects on which Moscow and Washington can find a certain amount of commonality. However, it’s hard to imagine that such a veteran figure won’t be sounding out Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (pictured, on left, with Kerry) on other issues too. The two officials have a long-established history, from helping to negotiate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to clashing on Syria during Kerry’s time as secretary of state under Barack Obama. Although climate change is the public focus, back-channel diplomacy between these two senior officials could help to unlock progress on a host of other matters.

For more on John Kerry’s visit to Moscow, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Business / Global

Creative accounting

The global entertainment industry suffered a 3.8 per cent decline in revenue last year in the wake of poor showings for cinemas and live events, even though streaming services and other digital events benefitted. And although there’s likely to be something of a positive response in 2021, a recent industry report by consultancy firm PWC predicts that it will take until 2023 or 2024 before the takings of concert venues and cinemas return to pre-pandemic levels.

What to do? The shift towards streaming and other digital platforms brings both promises and hurdles, according to the report. Social media and online shows have their uses in attracting younger audiences but PWC encourages artists to maintain financial and creative leverage over their work. “Across the board, creators are striving to claw back control, agency and, increasingly, revenue from employers, publishers and distributors,” the report finds. Streaming might be the big game in town but creators still have a chance to exercise control.

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / USA

Road hogging

The US has long had some of the world’s widest residential streets. Whereas newer developments in Japanese cities such as Tokyo average about 5 metres in width (just enough for two cars to pass), 20 of the most populous counties in the US continue to build streets almost three times as wide. New research this month from the University of California, Los Angeles hopes to change that by underlining the commercial potential of turning excess road space over to other uses. “The point is that desolate asphalt is doing nobody any good,” says associate professor Adam Millard-Ball, the paper’s lead author. “Cities should be making it easier to use streets for something other than roadways and parking.” The study makes a financial case for municipal governments and developers to mandate slimmer streets in new developments. This would offer the potential for freed-up land to be turned into housing, schools and parks, while US city neighbourhoods would also become more intimate, just like their counterparts in Japan.

Music / Global

Sound investments

Summer is in full swing and it’s time to make the most of it. Whether you’re planning that outdoor house party or long-awaited roadtrip playlist, we’ve selected three soon-to-be released albums and singles to cater to your listening needs.

‘Animal’, Lump. Lump is the electronica project of UK super-duo Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay from the band Tunng. Released later this month, new album Animal is a synthy and robotic delight. Listen out for an interview with Lump on Monocle 24’s Monocle on Culture later this month.

‘Bleu’, Claire Laffut. Laffut’s debut album isn’t out until 3 September but she has released plenty of singles to enjoy in the meantime. The face of Chanel’s Gabrielle perfume mixes dreamy electro beats with African rhythms; we particularly like the incessantly sexy pulses of Nudes, performed with French singer-songwriter Yseult.

‘Interblaktic’, Muzi. South African DJ and singer Muzi’s forthcoming album is out in September. Interblacktic’s title track brings together the best of Afrofuturism and excellent electro beats.

For more music, from a Brazilian pop music legend to the new release by Martha Wainwright, listen to this week’s edition of ‘Monocle on Culture’ with DJ and broadcaster Georgie Rogers and Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco.

M24 / Meet The Writers

Tahmima Anam

Tahmima Anam is a writer for publications including ‘The Guardian’, ‘New York Times’, and ‘New Statesman’, as well as a successful novelist. While her early novels painted detailed portraits of the Bangladesh war of independence through the eyes of one family, her new book transports us to the centre of the technology world. Georgina Godwin speaks to Anam about her new novel ‘The Startup Wife’ at Hay Festival in Wales.

Monocle Films / France

Making scents

A centre of perfume-making for centuries, the town of Grasse in the south of France is holding on to its reputation as fragrance capital of the world by developing new technology alongside time-honoured traditions.

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