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The reality of Obama’s interference in Egypt

Here's President Obama's statement in response to Mubarak's announcement that he will not stand in the elections planned for September.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, there is a contrast between Obama's rhetoric of support for Egyptian self-determination and the reality of US interference in the country. This continued in today's events. At his press conference, Obama says: "Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders.  Only the Egyptian people can do that." But then he immediately goes on to place conditions on the transition: "The process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties.  It should lead to elections that are free and fair.  And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles, but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people."

Furthermore, the US is making demands on Mubarak behind the scenes. Given the history of US support for the dictator, many people in Egypt understandably do not trust the US, and read into the latest negotiations that the Americans are once again pulling the strings.  New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof, reporting from Cairo, says he fears 

This choreography – sending former diplomat Frank get Mubarak to say he won’t run for reelection — will further harm America’s image. This will come across in Egypt as collusion between Obama and Mubarak to distract the public with a half step; it will be interpreted as dissing the democracy movement once again. This will feed the narrative that it’s the United States that calls the shots in the Mubarak regime, and that it’s the United States that is trying to outmaneuver the democracy movement. In effect, we have confirmed to a suspicious Egyptian public that we are in bed with Mubarak and trying to perpetuate his regime (even without him at the top) in defiance of a popular democratic movement. 

Indeed, the Mubarak statement is hardly going to placate the protesters. As relayed by Robert Mackey of the Times, an Egyptian activist commented:

What has Mubarak left out in his speech:

1. Emergency law is still effective, which means oppression, brutality, arrests, and torture will continue. How can you have any hope for fair democratic elections under emergency law where the police have absolute power?

2. Internet is still not working, no talks of lifting censorship.

3. No talks of allowing freedom of speech, freedom to create political parties, freedom to participate in politics without the risk of getting arrested. FYI to start a political party you need the government's permission. How do you expect democracy to come out of this?

4. He said he will put anyone responsible for corruption to trial right? What about putting the police who killed 300+ to trial? What about members of NDP who are the most corrupt businessmen/politicians in the country. Do you think he'll put those to trial? Think again.

5. He didn't even take responsibility for anything that went wrong in the last 30 years. Not even his condolences to the martyrs who have fallen in this revolution

The protesters know that Mubarak is not going far enough, that he is still denying democracy in Egypt. And, many will say the US is his accomplice, thanks to its still-evident close ties with Mubarak.

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