April 25, 2006 [LINK]

Turmoil in Nepal: brief respite

Much like Peru, the country of Nepal is full of huge mountains that are populated by millions of poor people, some of whom are induced to join fanatical Maoist resistance movements. In Peru's case, the threat of terrorism was mostly vanquished in the 1990s, but in Nepal the security situation has only grown worse. That was the reason cited by King Gyanendra when he dismissed parliament and assumed total control a little over a year ago. (It was much like the "auto-coup" launched by Alberto Fujimori in Peru in 1992.) The King failed to gain broad support for his emergency actions, however, and opposition to him boiled over this month. When fourteen protesters were killed by police a couple days ago, it was clear that the King's support was crumbling fast. Such lethal episodes signal that security forces can no longer maintain order, and are usually the harbinger of a despot's demise. Yesterday the King relented and agreed to permit parliament to reconvene, prompting a joyous outburst by the dissidents. See Washington Post.

Before you get your hopes up about the spread of democracy in an unstable region of the world, however, take a closer look at those now-jubilant crowds of protesters, many of whom were carrying red flags with yellow hammers and sickles. Indeed, the Maoist rebels vowed to press on with further demands, among which democracy probably does not rank high. Because of overpopulation, the fertile mountain slopes in Nepal are suffering from terrible erosion, which leaves even less for the people to live on, so many of them emigrate to India, which has a population problem of its own. Given the underlying socio-economic pressures in Nepal, and the fierce determination of the rebels, there will certainly be a resumption of large-scale political violence in the coming weeks and months.