Zuma's failures to mediate

Today brought the not-so-surprising news that the Muammar al-Qaddafi told visiting South African President Muammar al-Qaddafi that he is not prepared to leave Libya but is still hoping for a negotiated solution to the conflict. This was Zuma's second attempted mediation effort in Libya. He and fellow African leaders met with Qaddafi last month and presented a proposed "roadmap" to peace which included Qaddafi remaining in power and was immediately rejected by the rebels. That trip featured Zuma's unfortunate description of Qaddafi as "brother leader." 

Zuma was similarly ineffective in his efforts earlier this year to mediate a conclusion to the post-election conflict in the Ivory Coast, wavering back and forth on whether South Africa was neutral in the conflict, favored an electoral recount, or supported now-President Alassane Ouattara. During a visit to the country in February, he was mobbed by angry Ouattara supporters. 

Zuma has been called in repeatedly to mediate between Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. He claims to have kept the coalition government together, but relations have continued to deteriorate and more violence seems inevitable in the next presidential election. 

It's not that Zuma should be expected to solve all of the African continent's frozen conflicts -- and, to be fair, he inherited an intractable mess in Zimbabwe from his predecessor --  but the president's high-publicity style of shuttle diplomacy and implausible claims of neutrality seem to continually set him up for failure. 

Ntswe Mokoena/AFP/Getty Images


The devil wore Ralph Lauren

The Guardian reports that cartel boss arrest photos are doing wonders for the sales of Polo in Mexico: 

The trend came to light in August 2010 with the capture of the capo Edgar Valdez Villarreal, aka La Barbie, who was brought before the press wearing an immovable smirk and one of the shirts in green. Jose Jorge Balderas Garza, known as El JJ and accused of shooting Paraguayan football star Salvador Cabañas in a nightclub, was detained four months later wearing the same model in blue.

La Barbie and El JJ were associated with the same schism of the Beltran Leyva cartel but at least six alleged members of other organisations have been arrested in the same garment this year. They include three Zetas, one from the Southern Pacific cartel and another from the Independent cartel of Acapulco.

Originals sell for about $150 (£90), but knock-off versions are doing a roaring trade on the streets at a tenth of that price. "The kids want to look like the bad guys," said Maria del Carmen Martinez, one Mexico City vendor.[...]

Last weekend, the governor of the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa said he was "enormously worried" about the number of young people wearing the shirts. "There are people who want to be like these false idols," he said, adding that he wished they would wear clothes with the images of traditional heroes such as Emiliano Zapata.

I'd be curious to know if Fidel Castro had a similar effect on the sales of Adidas tracksuits