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November 9, 2009
The view from abroad on the end of the Berlin Wall

On the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Worldfocus staffers report on some of the reactions from around the world.

Ivette Feliciano translated the following blog posts from Venezuela and Cuba:

From Profeballa, a Venezuelan blogger: “It’s been 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, when will Venezuela’s wall come down? As I’ve said before, it will fall once more Venezuelans become aware of their rights and knock it down. When they destroy the mental wall that keeps us underdeveloped…”

From Elías Amor Bravo, an anti-communist political writer: “The fall of the Berlin wall 20 years ago is a very important event for all Cubans. We shared in their optimism and were happy to see how families were reunited after decades of communism that separated them. The fall also forced the Cuban government to make changes it never intended to make, due to the absence of political, ideological, and financial resources that formerly came to the Island from the USSR. The period after the fall of the wall allowed for the free circulation of money, the authorization of private activity, although it was under rigorous control, foreign investment, and tourism…It also allowed for Cubans on the island to have more contact with family members abroad, and in turn mobilized many to organize themselves as dissidents and opposed to the government, something formerly unheard of….”

A Berlin Wall commemorative stamp.

The Argentinian website INFOBAE makes note of the Cuban government’s reaction to the date: “The official press in Cuba will ignore the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. They only recognized and celebrated the 92nd anniversary of the October Lenin revolution…”

Gizem Yarbil notes an interesting story from The Wall Street Journal about a red deer called Ahornia refusing to cross the old Iron Curtain. Ahornia inhabits the area along the border that once separated West Germany from Czechoslovakia. This area is now part of Europe’s biggest nature preserve thriving with a lively combination of wild animals that roam freely across the once fortified border. But according to the article, Ahornia is the only species that stops and turns back once it reaches the barrier zone where once an electrified fence and barbed wire used to stand. It quotes a German producer of nature films who has worked in the area says, “The wall in the head is still there.”

Contributing blogger Vadim Nikitin writes about where nostalgia is the strongest for the former Soviet Union — the Global South. Read the full post here:

According to a BBC poll published on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, “Opinion about the disintegration of the Soviet Union is sharply divided. Europeans overwhelmingly say it was a good thing: 79% in Germany, 76% in Britain and 74% in France feel that way. But outside the developed West it is a different picture. Almost seven in 10 Egyptians say the end of the Soviet Union was a bad thing and views are sharply divided in India, Kenya and Indonesia”.

This despite the fact that India and Indonesia, as well as Russia, have experienced unprecedented levels of economic growth since 1991.

What could explain such nostalgia? One factor might be a general disenchantment with free-market capitalism:

“More than 29,000 people in 27 countries were questioned. In only two countries, the United States and Pakistan, did more than one in five people feel that capitalism works well as it stands. Almost a quarter – 23% of those who responded – feel it is fatally flawed. That is the view of 43% in France, 38% in Mexico and 35% in Brazil”.

Much of the global dissatisfaction with capitalism, the report suggests, stems from that system’s production and exacerbation of income inequality. While economies based on high growth models may produce more wealth as a whole, its distribution is skewed overwhelmingly in favor of a small minority.

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