Wednesday 15 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 15/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Oscar Guardiola-Rivera

Time to talk

Almost 25 years ago, I boarded a plane in Bogotá headed for Maracaibo in Venezuela to attend what would be my first hands-on experience of peace negotiations. As a member of Colombian civil society, I sat between the two negotiating parties: the conservative Colombian government and the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN). ELN was formed in 1964, opposing the Colombian oligarchy and economic dependence on multinational oil corporations, mainly based in the US.

I remember a successful negotiating round and a peace treaty, ready to be signed at a church on the Colombia-Venezuela border. All of that was deliberately ruined by an equivocating young government emissary whom I knew from university as an advocate of armed “self-defence” by the wealthy – an ideological precursor of the notorious far-right paramilitary. A quarter of a century and thousands of fatalities later, the same negotiations resumed on Monday in Mexico City. “We seek to become partners in a durable, integral peace,” said ELN commander Pablo Beltrán (pictured, on right, with government negotiator Otty Patiño) with some justifiable hope.

Things have changed. Security in the western hemisphere is threatened not by leftist guerrillas but far-right militias and their populist leaders. Colombia’s progressive government is led by a left-wing former guerilla, Gustavo Petro, who is aiming for a ceasefire and immediate agreements similar to the ones already operating in the southwest of the country. A breakthrough is likely, assisted by clear international involvement – not just from Mexico but Brazil, Chile, Norway and even the US. “I’m optimistic that peace can advance in Colombia,” said government delegate senator Iván Cepeda. I hope that he’s right.

Oscar Guardiola-Rivera is professor of human rights and political philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London. For more global insight, analysis and opportunities subscribe to Monocle today.

Society / North Korea

Stamp of approval

A series of North Korean postage stamps is stoking debate about Pyongyang’s succession plans. Due to be released this week, the set of eight stamps will be the first to feature images of Kim Jong-un’s second child, Kim Ju-ae, who has risen to global prominence since making her public debut at a missile test in November (an event commemorated on one of the stamps). Ju-ae, who is believed to be 10 years old, has made a number of high-profile public appearances since then.

Image: Korea Stamp Corporation
Image: Korea Stamp Corporation

These have included a military parade last week, prompting speculation in Seoul that her autocratic father sees her as his chosen successor. Kim Jong-un is thought to have been singled out by his father, the nation’s former supreme leader Kim Jong-il, at a similarly young age. However, other experts in South Korea suspect that Ju-ae is part of a propaganda campaign to bolster public support for building a modern nuclear arsenal. Whatever the motivation behind Pyongyang’s message, there’s no doubt that the Kim family will continue to stamp its authority on the reclusive state.

Image: Reuters

Politics / Cyprus

Split decision

Former foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides won the second round of Cyprus’s presidential election on Sunday with 52 per cent of the vote. His election comes at a pivotal moment for the island nation, which has been divided between the Turkish-majority north and Greek-majority south since a 1974 civil war that has never officially ended. While the south, internationally recognised as the Republic of Cyprus, has joined the EU and is benefiting from a resurgence in tourism and a burgeoning education sector, the north, whose sovereignty is only recognised by Turkey, remains politically and economically isolated. As Christodoulides (pictured) has vowed to reopen negotiations on reunification, our Istanbul correspondent, Hannah Lucinda Smith, travelled to north Cyprus to report on the divide. In the March issue of Monocle, on newsstands this week, she meets the island’s leaders, explores a land frozen in aspic for almost 50 years and assesses the likelihood of reunification.

Image: Alamy

Health / USA

Fit for office?

Joe Biden will undergo a physical examination tomorrow, the results of which are expected to influence whether he decides to run for a second term in 2024. The presidential physical examination has become something of a tradition since Gerald Ford first made the results of his in-office medical tests public in 1975. Since then, presidents have generally had at least two examinations per four-year term, which have been followed by the release of information such as their weight, height and how much they drink and smoke.

These examinations have assumed added significance – or at least increased media attention – in recent years due to the advanced ages of the leading figures of Washington’s two main parties, Donald Trump, 76, and Biden (pictured, on right, with Barack Obama). The president turned 80 in November, will be 82 at the 2025 inauguration and 86 at the conclusion of a potential second term. He will be hoping to show that age is just a number.

Image: Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute

Agriculture / Japan

Grow your own

Japan’s expensive taste in food has seen the growing price of European truffles exceed ¥80,000 (€562) per kilogram. Until now the country has imported all of the truffles that it consumes but the market is changing. Following eight years of research, Japan’s Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute has announced the successful synthetic cultivation of white truffles for the first time in the country.

Using a technique deployed in France, scientists applied truffle spores to the roots of young oak trees to successfully grow 22 fungi with a taste and smell similar to those of European white truffles. For centuries the wild delicacy grew only in Europe but these new cultivation techniques have enabled the odorous fungi to be farmed in new landscapes. With truffles being produced in another continent for the very first time, their price point might at last be heading down.

Monocle 24 / The Monocle Weekly

Florian Zeller, ‘The Son’

Monocle 24’s senior correspondent Fernando Augusto Pacheco speaks to Florian Zeller, director of The Son.

Monocle Films / Sicily

Sicily’s tropical produce

Climate change is prompting fruit farmers to diversify and coffee roasters to start considering areas beyond the so-called bean belt to source their raw material. In Sicily, Morettino, a forward-looking family-run roastery, has already started growing coffee plants in Palermo, creating an espresso that is truly made in Italy. To discover more surprising business opportunities, subscribe to Monocle magazine today.


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