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Visit from Hungarian Ambassador, His Excellency Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky & TALK: In the Spirit of Rubik’s Cube – Hungary’s Smart Transition to a Knowledge Based Economy, Cardiff University School of Business, 23.11.18

His Excellency, Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, is the ambassador to the court of St James. His background is in finance, industry, publishing, armed forces and politics. His hobbies include polo, showjumping, shooting and sailing. Kristóf was pleased with the attendance of his lecture. He enjoyed the fact that so many people had gathered to hear about his ‘strange little country’. Hungary covers 93000 square kilometres and has a population of 10 million which when you include the diaspora of Hungarians living abroad in neighbouring countries, reaches 15 million. In Hungary they are concerned for their survival. Hungarians are non-Slavic, non-Germanic and non-Latin. Their language is a secret code, although increasingly in his travels across Britain, Kristóf is always meeting fellow Hungarians, be it in hotels or posh private clubs. Hungary is in a strategic location. There are opportunities and advantages in this location but equally it can be like sleeping next to a motorway. The Magyars originally invaded, coming from the East on horseback in the 800s around the time of the Vikings. Mongols and Ottomans were camped out on their doorstep and Hungary has only recently shaken the yolk of occupation from the Soviet Union. In modern times Hungary is at a commercial crossroads and it benefits from being central to the energy pipelines running across from Russia into Europe. In 2010 a new government came into power and it is this government’s mission to focus on economic stability. In 2010 it was indebted 86% of GDP and had to be bailed out by the IMF. This figure is now 73% and dropping. 12% unemployment has, by publics works schemes, dropped to an excellent figure of 3.6%. There had been stagnant economic growth but now, for the last quarter this year, growth is at 5%. There is comfortable regular growth of 3.6%, 3.8% and 4%. Corporation tax has been increased and there is a policy of strict financial vigour. The Maastrict criteria has been fulfilled although the government do not wish to currently take on the Euro. There has been a change in the tax system with a revolutionary flat tax system being introduced. Income tax is fixed at a universal 15% and corporation tax is at 9%. VAT is 0% for food and 27% for luxury goods. The economy is now more sustainable and stronger. A new ministry has been created of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. Hungary is looking…

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Review: El Sicario – Confessions of a Cartel Hit Man – by Molly Molloy and Charles Bowden

el sicario

This is an explosive book, real revelations from a sicario or hitman for the Juarez cartel in Mexico. In the murky world of narcotics enforcers are employed by the cartels to assassinate and extort owed money from victims. This sicario was trained as a policeman with this training funded by the narcos. In the law enforcement school he learnt all the surveillance tricks and how to use the necessary weapons that he could employ in the narco world in a Mexico that was careering out of control. Often holed up for weeks or months on end with kidnapped victims, the sicario often had to execute people in an instant at a moment’s notice. Very often he was high on drugs (cocaine) and drink and his world of ultraviolence is revealed in a brutal and honest narrative. As the sicario rose up the ranks and became ever more embroiled in the dirty work, he ultimately found a way out through zealous missionaries who protected him and allowed him to seek repentance for the insidious murders he had committed. This is a journey in a world that is stranger than fiction and the tale is well worth the read.  

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Contemporary Francophone “Afropean” Writers: From Francophonie to the Banlieue – Christopher Hogarth. School of Creative Industries, University of South Australia – Cardiff University MLANG 21.11.18

“Afropean” is a term that has its origins with David Byrne, the Talking Heads front man. It was used to describe a music fusion. Silvia Brancato on “Afro-European Literature” as “New Discursive Category”. This talks of the “Reciprocal embeddedness” of Africa and Europe. “Afropean narratives reveal a Europe which has always been transcultural.” (2011) Francophone Cameroonian novelist Léonora Miano, Afropean Soul. Multiple Belongings vs Republican Frenchness. Popularity of spaces of multiple belonging, especially in African context. Artificial nature of European-created nation-states in Africa (imagined in Berlin in 1884) and the history of inter-ethnicity there. Nature of contemporary European Union with the movement and employment opportunities. In France the notion of multiple or hyphenated identities is rarely discussed. In France there is no social vocabulary to designate descendants of postcolonial immigrants. Postcolonial vs Francophonie in academic criticism “Littérature française” shelved separately from “littérature étrangère” “Littérature francophone” now includes Francophone authors from all backgrounds. These backgrounds include authors from postcolonial France and Francophone writers. Limited identification in the public sphere which in turn influences everything from popular media to academic work in France. Some social scientists use ‘issu(e)(s) de la diversité’, but also an umbrella term Looking at texts in Liverpool University Press on Francophone Afropean literatures: Authors were born and spent significant portions of their childhood in Africa. African culture whose education system was heavily influenced by France. Exception: N’Sondé as a post-migratory Afropean. Work focuses on geography of French banlieues. Quite different from cosmopolitan authors such as Mabanckou and Miano. Post-migratory Afropeans. 2nd and 3rd generation authors with postcolonial heritage can be seen as “post-migratory” artists. They have stronger links to France than the African continent. Criticisms include: “Afro descendance” and “Double exclusion”? Post-migratory Afropeans – Borderless and brazen? They do not enjoy the same international acclaim as cosmopolitan figures. eg. Mabonckou’s publicity machine. Popularisation of post-migratory Afropeans – they publish with smaller, specialist publishing houses. There is an importance of transmediality – Slam poetry, rap, CD ROMs, CDs. They have prefaces written by more famous scholars and stars eg. Lilian Thuram. Reading as a duty towards “social justice”. Representations of mobility across Afropean texts. Most works are stuck in Europe, in cities, in suburbs, with little chance of escape. There is a wide variety of ethnicities and experiences. Focus on marginalisation, economic problems, violence, struggle to escape through sport and education. Emphasis on lack of mobility to which some…

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Review: Escobar: The Inside Story of Pablo Escobar, the World’s Most Powerful Criminal. as Told by His Brother Roberto Escobar

escobar

Much has been said about Pablo Escobar, who was the richest criminal in history and the head of the Medellin cartel in Colombia. This book is written from the heart and is an intimate portrait of the great man as remembered by one of his closest associates and a member of his family – his brother Roberto Escobar. Often Roberto will refute some of the more macabre details of Pablo legend as he aims to place the truth into history. We hear the inside story of Pablo’s early years, his breaking into the cocaine trade through contraband trafficking. It is clear how ruthless Pablo could be and even in the early years his business acumen can be unquestioned. There are enlightening tales from Hacienda Napoles. Always there is an emphasis on Pablo Escobar’s Robin Hood qualities with his care of the poor and needy in the slums of Medellin. We see how war was brought to the Colombian government through the Extraditables and also against the Cali cartel. The struggle against the Pepes in latter years is brutal and Roberto has to face a crippling injury after a letter bomb explodes in prison. The whole saga of La Catedral – the prison where they negotiated surrender is revealing. The tale of Pablo Escobar is one of extremes. The amounts of profit and money changing hands are astronomical. Roberto, as a chief accountant of the organisation, is in a position to give some clarity on the range of investments and the inside details of the massive narcotics shipments that were taking place. At the end of the day, this was a business like any other and the violence associated with the hunting down of Pablo and in maintaining his massive empire is out of this world. I think that through this biography we see more of Pablo the Saint and family man than the terrorist and criminal. A great five star read.

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‘A Tribute To Venezuela’ at Kapu, Cardiff, 14.11.18

Once the richest country in Latin America, Venezuela is now broke thanks to the collapse of the oil industry and general mismanagement of the economy. For the last 6 years people has been starving, Caracas has been the most violent city in the world and the government has been focusing on changing the constitution to give itself more power rather than focusing on its population’s well-being. The Latin American Society invites you this next Wednesday November 14th from 6 to 10 pm at KapuCardiff to honour the Venezuelan people that lives in Cardiff and its surroundings with a social night. A talk by Dr. Joey Whitfield related to social-political shifts in Latin America over the years, Venezuelan music, traditional food sell by The Queen Pepiada • Original Venezuelan food and Canaima Coffee and a discussion forum with Venezuelan people living in the UK sharing their personal experiences and beliefs regarding this humanitarian crisis. We have conjoined efforts with Unicef on Campus Cardiff University, Cardiff Volunteering and Made in Venezuela Stroud to raise funds for “Barriguita Llena” campaign that collects funding for the people with major need in Venezuela, such as the elder, the children and people living on the rural places. Bring any donation in cash you may like to contribute with as we are going to collect some fundings that day. Come, have a drink and listen to first-hand experiences told by Venezuelans. Being aware of what is happening in Latin America is the first step to drive change.   When I walked through the doors of Kapu nightclub in St Marys Street to attend this Venezuela night I couldn’t at first believe the size of the audience. The club was packed with a vibrant healthy assortment of mostly Latin Americans with plenty of authentic Venezuelan ex-pats. I took up a seat next to my university friend and for the first two hours of the night we were graced with three lectures followed by a group debate / discussion. Dr Joey Whitfield – International Solidarity and the Decline of the Pink Tide Joey, a lecturer in Cardiff University, opened proceedings with a more general look at the politics of the Latin America region. Hugo Chavez was the extreme socialist leader that was elected into power in Venezuela in 1999. Chavez, who aligned himself closely with the communist Fidel Castro régime in Cuba, was not alone in being a left wing Latin American leader. A pink tide engulfed the region with…

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Review: Drug Lords – The Rise and Fall of the Cali Cartel – by Ron Chepesiuk

drug lords

If the Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel can be regarded as the Henry Fords of the Drugs business then the Cali cartel with its corporate business acumen can certainly be regarded as the McDonalds. This well-written, detailed biography tracks the rise and fall of the most successful drug cartel in history. Closely focusing on the cartel leaders: Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, Chepe Santacruz and Pacho Herrera – we see how a criminal enterprise can spread its tentacles across the globe. Gilberto the Chessplayer manipulates the board, Miguel’s micromanagement combined with Chepe’s ultraviolence and Pacho’s style, turn this bunch of bandits from the southern Colombian city of Cali into a most feared and efficient drug exporting organisation. There are links to the Italian Mafia and other international gangs such as the Yakuza. Cali were always one step ahead of the law and the DEA had to face unremitting work in order to bring this cartel down over several decades of watching them dominate the markets. They had control of the lucrative New York City cocaine trade from way back in the 1970s and went on to control 70-80% of Colombian cocaine exports. There was war with the Medellin cartel but an uneasy truce with the Colombian government with a web of corruption extending right to the top with Ernesto Samper’s Presidential campaign allegedly being infiltrated by large inputs of Cal narco-dollars. The story could be that of any large multinational corporation – the Cali Godfathers were experts at laundering their money in conventional businesses. The tale is ultimately a massive success for law enforcement but the amazing true narrative will shock readers and leave you in awe of what can be deemed as the ultimate organisation in the world of narco-trafficking. A five star read.

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