The Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies

The Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) is a non-profit, non-governmental, international network, oriented to educational work related to strategic nonviolent conflict.

CANVAS produces a weekly report on several countries where nonviolent resistance can play an important role in confronting challenges to democracy.

The core of CANVAS’s work is rather to spread the word of “people power” to the world than to achieve victories against one dictator or another. Their next big mission should obviously be to explain to the world what a powerful tool nonviolent struggle is when it comes to achieving freedom, democracy and human rights.

The Organization

Headquartered in Belgrade, CANVAS is run by Slobodan Djinovic and Srdja Popovic. It operates a network of international trainers and consultants with experience of successful democratic movements. CANVAS is a non-profit institution which relies solely on private funding; there is no charge for workshops and revolutionary know-how can be downloaded for free on the Internet.

CANVAS was founded in 2003 by Srdja Popovic and Slobodan Dinovic as an organization that advocates for the use of nonviolent resistance to promote human rights and democracy. Since then, CANVAS has worked with pro-democracy activists from more than 50 countries, including Iran, Zimbabwe, Burma, Venezuela, Ukraine, Georgia, Palestine, Western Sahara, West Papua, Eritrea, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Tonga, Tunisia and Egypt. CANVAS works only in response to requests for assistance and offers free trainings to activists.

CANVAS disseminates its knowledge through a variety of media, including workshops, books, DVDs and specialized courses. Members regularly teach and present an academic version of their Core Curriculum, and hold workshops on strategy and organization of nonviolent struggle at variety of educational institutions worldwide, including at Harvard (Kennedy School Of Law), the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (TUFTS, Boston, MA), Johns Hopkins (SAIS), Columbia University, Rutgers (NJ), Colorado College (CO), and Georgetown University (DC).

In 2006, Popovic and two other CANVAS members – Slobodan Dinovic and Andrej Milivojevic – authored a book called Nonviolent Struggle: 50 Crucial Points, a how-to guide for nonviolent struggle. Srdja Popovic and CANVAS won several awards, including the Paul Lauitzen Award for Human Rights (November 2010) and the Jean Mayers Award by Tufts University (February 2016).

Srdja Popovic

Srdja Popovic was one of the founders of the Serbian nonviolent resistance group Otpor! Otpor!’s campaign against Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was successful in October 2000 when thousands of protesters took over the Serbian Parliament. After the revolution, Popovic served a term as a member of the Serbian National Assembly. In 2003, Popovic and others started the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). CANVAS has worked with activists from 46 different countries, including Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, and Venezuela, spreading knowledge of the nonviolent strategies and tactics used by Otpor! In November 2011, Foreign Policy Magazine listed Srdja Popovic as one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers” of 2011 for inspiring the Arab Spring protesters.  In 2012 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014 he was listed as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Srdja is also the author of the recent book Blueprint for Revolution, a fun and humorous look at nonviolent activism worldwide.”

Slobodan Djinovic

Slobodan Djinovic became one of the co-founders of the Serbian resistance movement OTPOR! while he was a student at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Belgrade in 1998. OTPOR! went on to topple Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic through a mass nonviolent campaign. Subsequently, Slobodan went on to found one of the first internet companies in Serbia, and currently serves as CEO of Orion Telecom. He also serves as co-founder and Chairman of CANVAS, the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, an educational organization that trains activists from around the world in the strategies and tactics on nonviolent struggle. He has co-authored two CANVAS publications: Nonviolent Struggle: 50 Crucial Points and The CANVAS Core Curriculum. Slobodan also has a certificate from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Visit the CANVAS website

Are You Really Conservative or Liberal?

When I read about clashes around the world – political clashes, economic clashes, cultural clashes – I am reminded that it is within our power to build a bridge to be crossed. Even if my neighbor doesn’t understand my religion or understand my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he’s never too far from me. It is always within my power to build a bridge. There is always a chance for reconciliation, a chance that one day he and I will sit around a table together and put an end to our history of clashes. And on this day, he will tell me his story and I will tell him mine.
— Paulo Coelho

Humanity is a polarity existence and we exist in a polarized world, but we all contain an imperfect balance within ourselves of seemingly opposing forces. The most contentious of forces that divides humanity is morality.

Our personal moral foundations cause the greatest struggles for balance between individual liberty and social order. There are three factors that determine our moral foundations and why we are, or think we are, either conservative or liberal: biology, psychology, and our worldview.

A Divided Brain

Why is the brain divided? This is what psychiatrist Dr. Iain McGilchrist has sought to understand in over twenty years of research. He aims to prove there is a growing imbalance in our brains and help us understand how this makes us increasingly unable to grapple with critical economic, environmental and social issues; ones that shape our very future as a species. He believes that one half of our brain – the left hemisphere – is slowly taking power, and we in the Western world are simultaneously feeding its ambitions. This half of the brain is very proficient at creating technologies, procedures and systems, but it cannot understand the implications of these on the people and the world around it.

The right hemisphere understands the world. It sees the big picture of an interconnected world, understands relationships and body language. It is sustained, broad, open, vigilant, and alert, and creates art, intuition, interest, and imagination. The left hemisphere manipulates the world. It cannot make connections and sees the world as separate parts where details are important but not relationships, things and people are not unique and individual, and groups can organize the world into rules and bureaucracy. It is narrow, sharply focused, attention to detail, and sorts and files things into a system, perceiving people as body parts and can’t see how it all fits together. As human beings, we could not exist independently of either hemisphere, we need both perspectives through which to view and understand the world.

Dr. Helen Fisher’s research led her to understand how brain chemistry determines our personality and politics. Serotonin is more abundant in conservatives with traits including familiarity, being cautious but not fearful, calm and controlled, structured and orderly, fact-oriented and precise, having more close friends, networks, community, and an importance of belonging, being respectful, following the rules, conscientiousness, loyalty, and dependability. Dopamine is more abundant in liberals with novelty seeking and risk-taking behaviour, curiosity, restlessness, independence and self-reliance, impulsiveness, spontaneous decisions, physical and mental exploration, idea generation, mental flexibility and open-mindedness. Estrogen is the liberal with economic regulation and personal freedom, where Testosterone is the conservative with economic freedom and personal regulation. As we know, we all have these hormones in our bodies and imbalances create physical, mental, and emotional health issues.


Five Moral Foundations

Dr. Jonathan Haidt and a group of social and cultural psychologists sought to understand why morality varies so much across cultures yet still shows so many similarities and recurrent themes. Their theory, the five moral foundations, proposes that several innate and universally available psychological systems are the foundations of “intuitive ethics.” Each culture then constructs virtues, narratives, and institutions on top of these foundations, thereby creating the unique moralities we see around the world, and conflicting within nations too.

  1. Care/Harm: our mammalian evolution for empathy, attachment, kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.

  2. Fairness/Cheating: the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism, justice, rights, autonomy, and proportionality.

  3. Loyalty/Betrayal: our tribal history in forming shifting coalitions, patriotism, and self-sacrifice.

  4. Authority/Subversion: our primate history of hierarchical social interactions, leadership, followership, deference to legitimate authority, and respect for traditions.

  5. Sanctity/Degradation: shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination, underlying religious notions of living in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way, the body is a temple that can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants.

Dr. Haidt and his colleagues’ research applied this theory to political "cultures" of liberals and conservatives. They discovered the current American culture war can be viewed as arising from the fact that liberals try to create a morality relying primarily on the Care/Harm foundation supported by the Fairness/Cheating and Liberty/Oppression foundations. Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, determine morality using all six foundations.


Your Worldview

In his 1987 book, A Conflict of Visions, economist Thomas Sowell argues that the opposing moral values of conservatives and liberals are intimately linked to the vision a person holds about human nature, either as constrained (conservative) or unconstrained (liberal). Sowell argues that controversies over seemingly unrelated social issues such as taxes, welfare, social security, health care, criminal justice, and war repeatedly reveal a consistent ideological dividing line along these two conflicting visions, the Constrained Vision and the Unconstrained Vision. Depending on which view of human nature you believe to be true will largely determine how you believe issues should be addressed:

If human options are not inherently constrained, then the presence of such repugnant and disastrous phenomena virtually cries out for explanation—and for solutions. But if the limitations and passions of man himself are at the heart of these painful phenomena, then what requires explanation are the ways in which they have been avoided or minimized… In the unconstrained vision, there are no intractable reasons for social evils and therefore no reason why they cannot be solved, with sufficient moral commitment. But in the constrained vision, whatever artifices or strategies restrain or ameliorate inherent human evils will themselves have costs, some in the form of other social ills created by these civilizing institutions, so that all that is possible is a prudent trade-off.

Balance in a Complex World

Essentially, we are born predisposed to being either liberal or conservative at an intuitive and instinctual level, with our moral values predetermined by our brain structure, mix of hormones, moral emotions and reactions, and temperament. This explains why people can be predictably partisan about a range of issues that are seemingly unconnected. Yet both sides of the equation are valid, necessary, and true and can complement and balance out the negative extremes of the other.

As human beings, we have far more in common than what differentiates and divides us. We are all somewhat liberal and somewhat conservative and a person must no longer be both an economic and social liberal or conservative. All humans hold multiple contradictory beliefs and opinions at once, even when we recognize this inherent hypocrisy within ourselves.

Traditional partisan lines are changing in an increasingly polarized political arena. Most people, and likewise most Millennials, are broadly libertarian-minded progressive conservatives, where they do not necessarily feel compelled to hold others to the same value system they hold for themselves, they just want to live their lives and allow others to live theirs so long as harm does not cross the bough. When we can understand where the other person is coming from with respect to consideration of moral foundations, we are more likely to find a path forward that is more effective in dealing with the issues in a fact-based manner that can actually lead to positive developments and results.

How Millennials Can Create Political Change, Now

Serbia and Otpor!

The former Yugoslavia was a country created in 1918. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, and during the 1990s, Yugoslavia fell apart due to corruption, brutal war, multi-ethnic tensions, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, and ultimately independence declarations by Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

Former Yugoslav President and Serbian communist leader Slobodan Milosevic became President of Serbia, and his regime was marked by corruption and violence. He refused to acknowledge the clear, democratic victory of an opposition coalition in the 1996 municipal elections, which defeated Milosevic’s party, and for the next 88 days, nonviolent protests brought Serbia to a standstill. Eventually, Milosevic capitulated to internal and international pressures. Yet, many coalition members turned out to be as corrupt as the communists, and the coalition fell apart, returning free rein to Milosevic.

In 1998, Milosevic introduced new laws restricting autonomy and freedom of expression at universities, and threatened independent news media. Outraged, a group of students led by Srdja Popovic founded the organization Otpor, meaning resistance, calling for the removal of Milosevic and the establishment of democracy and the rule of law. “Our ambition is to change the political consciousness of the Serbian populace,” said Popovic of Otpor’s goal to ultimately achieve transformation of political culture, by focusing on their primary objective first – removing Milosevic at the ballot box.

Otpor learned from the failures of other resistance movements, such as Tiananmen Square's democracy movement, which demonstrated you can’t win against military and police might. Like all dictators and tyrants, Milosevic maintained control of the populace through fear – the status quo of oppressive and corrupt societies. So Otpor employed the tactic of what they called “laughtivism” – enthusiasm and humor to combat fear and apathy. With irony and sarcasm, Otpor methodically mocked Milosevic’s power, from Jorge Luis Borges’ fundamental belief that "violence is the last sanctuary of the weak." Use humor to mock the oppressor, and mock their method of trying to discredit you.

Steve York, Bringing Down A Dictator documentary filmmaker, said of Otpor, "Every nonviolent movement has as its first obstacle the problem of overcoming fear. The Otpor kids were brave. They expected to be arrested, but they prepared for arrest with all sorts of publicity stunts and by training their activists how to behave when interrogated, by recruiting lawyers to help, by building solidarity. They calculated that their arrests, combined with their use of humor and ridicule, if sustained long enough, would persuade ordinary people to overcome their fear."

Otpor studied Dr. Sharp’s strategies for nonviolence and used them for the basis of their training manuals. Instead of protest marches and occupying plazas, Otpor used street theatrics – rock concerts, a lunar eclipse event featuring the eclipse of Milosevic's face, a New Year's Eve party in 2000 where the new year was rung in with the names and pictures of those who were killed in Milosevic's wars, and giving passersby’s on a busy downtown street a baseball bat to hit a wooden barrel with Milosevic’s face painted on it. They used lighthearted, low-risk tactics, to minimize the risk of violence, such as chasing officials while banging pots and pans, and offering police flowers to encourage defections. They tried a tactic used in Chile against military dictator General Pinochet, where people drove at half speed to slow the whole country down.

Srdja Popovich, one of the founders of Otpor! and the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS)

Srdja Popovich, one of the founders of Otpor! and the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS)

Not aligning with any political parties, Otpor organized a grassroots campaign against Milosevic for the 2000 election. Shamed by Otpor’s widespread grassroots support, the opposition coalesced around a law professor candidate, Vojislav Kostunica. On election night, Otpor and other independent groups had 30,000 trained volunteers at polling stations across the country to prevent fraudulent election results. Kostunica won, but Milosevic demanded a runoff vote, in an attempt to buy time and manipulate the outcome. Kostunica called for a general strike, and Otpor organized road blockades that brought the country to another standstill. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs gathered outside the Parliament building, and the police, whom Otpor convinced were Serbian citizens first, ignored orders to respond to the crowd. Milosevic admitted his defeat.

For over a year, thousands of Serbs had supported Otpor in their calculated strategy to undermine Milosevic’s legitimacy, turn the police and army against him, and force him to call an election. After the revolution, Otpor held the new government to account in its role as a watch dog, launching campaigns on government accountability, democratic reform, and fighting corruption. Otpor’s movement then turned into a political party, and eventually merged with the Democratic Party, with many of Otpor’s members elected to Parliament.

Otpor became a model for other youth-led movements across Eastern Europe, providing training in Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. In 2002, Popovic and other Otpor members founded The Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). This non-profit, non-governmental, international network provides educational work related to strategic nonviolent conflict, and has been instrumental in training groups beyond Europe.


Tunisia and the Dignity Revolution

The term Arab Spring was coined in 2011, following the successful Dignity Revolution in Tunisia, to describe the wave of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East. Unlike revolutions in other nations in the region, only Tunisia was successful in overthrowing their dictator and transitioning to a functional, democratically elected government.

Over the past few decades, the population of the Middle East has exploded, with two-thirds of people currently under the age of 30. Tunisians, like many in the Middle East, face high and increasing levels of poverty and unemployment, with political corruption and repression. The Dignity Revolution began when a 26-year old street vendor lit himself on fire, later dying of his injuries, in a public square in response to police harassment, sparking nationwide protests. Like many young Tunisians, his university degree was not enough for him to find a job in a country with high youth unemployment, so Mohamed Bou'aziz began selling fruit to support his family, when police demanded bribes and then confiscated his vending cart.

In the initial protests, armed forces fought back and dozens of protestors were killed. As protests spread, however, they became more difficult to control, and despite President Ben Ali giving concessions to protestors, clashes and protestor deaths continued. After a month, a state of emergency was declared and President Ben Ali fled the country when armed forces refused to crack down on the nationwide pro-democracy protests. Protestors did not support the interim government, which disbanded Tunisia’s secret police force several months later before a Tunisian court dissolved Ben Ali’s political party, liquidating their assets and banning them from running in future elections.

After nearly a year of interim government, the first parliamentary elections were held in late 2011 to select a new assembly and draft a new constitution.  At nearly 70% voter turnout, a moderate Islamist party and their coalition with two secular parties won more than 40% of the vote.

Tunisians demanded employment, freedom, and dignity. Six years later, young Tunisians are still waiting for poverty relief, job creation, and improved economic conditions, and a fresh wave of protests have begun against the democratically elected government leaders’ failure to implement tangible improvements. Unlike the spontaneous initial protests of 2010-2011, these protests are organized by mainly university graduates facing long-term unemployment. Protestors are camping outside of the governor’s office and main intersections in a southern region of Tunisia, where they have shut down a key oil pipeline. They demand a quota for jobs filled by locals at the oil companies drilling in the region, the creation of jobs at an environmental agency, and an investment fund for job creation programs.

Like Millennials everywhere, the protestors of this “Second Revolution,” as they’re calling their leaderless, democratic movement, distrust the mainstream media, and are utilizing social media to organize. They reject involvement and alignment with any political party.


Hong Kong and Demosisto

Hong Kong became a British colony in 1842, and the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed between the People’s Republic of China and the United Kingdom in 1984 led to the transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty back to China in 1997. Due to the vast cultural differences that had developed over 155 years, Hong Kong, in theory, exists under the principle of “one country, two systems,” whereby Hong Kong maintains political and economic independence from mainland China. This arrangement to maintain the existing way of life will continue for fifty years, until 2047. In practice, however, the Chinese government has been incrementally exerting its influence in Hong Kong.

Joshua Wong was fourteen years old when he started the student organization Scholarism in 2012 to protest the National Education curriculum the Chinese government wanted introduced in Hong Kong public schools, which Scholarism viewed as an attempt at brainwashing. After ten days of protests, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive announced schools would hold autonomy over the decision whether to implement the new curriculum or not. Scholarism had won the battle.

In 2014, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council was engaged with the Chinese government in an electoral reform consultation process, where the Chinese government decided its Nominating Committee would pre-screen and determine who the final slates of eligible candidates would be in Hong Kong elections. By the fall of that year, Scholarism was leading protests and strikes against the decision. Hong Kong citizens did not want to see the development of incremental conditions that had led to the Chinese military killing thousands of peacefully protesting students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

What became known as the Umbrella Revolution later that year, named for the movement’s supporters using umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas, was an impromptu merging of Scholarism with Occupy Central, who were organizing in response to the Chinese government’s decision. For nearly three months, upwards of over 100,000 protestors peacefully occupied the city’s main financial and business district, including the main roads. Initially, the movement had the support of a huge proportion of Hong Kong citizens, but as time passed, with transportation blocked and businesses in the area losing revenue, support gradually slipped. People wanted to know what the movement was accomplishing, and the Chinese government knew they only needed to wait out the situation. Scholarism had won an early battle, but ultimately lost the war against the Chinese government when police cleared the protestors and their encampments.

Regardless of the outcome, Scholarism had applied the principles of nonviolence in their movement successfully. Wong and his fellow activists announced Scholarism was folding, and in its place, the launch of their Millennial-led, pro-democracy political party called Demosisto. In the 2016 Legislative Council election, 23-year old Nathan Law, one of the founders of Scholarism, was elected. He is Hong Kong’s youngest ever legislator. Like Otpor in Serbia, Demosisto realized societal change occurs through the political system, not occupying streets. Demosisto is calling for a referendum to take place in 2047, to determine Hong Kong’s future.


Nonviolence in Established Democracies

There are issues in this world bigger than ourselves and our opinions about them, bigger than the circle of people and corner of the world we identify with. Everyone who supported Otpor, the Dignity Revolution, and Demosisto is as varied within their nation as they are compared across regional lines. Political polarization, partisan bickering, and ideological hatred is antiquated and, frankly, boring. This is not what humanity is meant to be or to be focusing on. Millennials have so much potential available to us to create the future, not destroy and divide. Variety and diversity of thought, opinion, and experience is an invaluable element of humanity. When we first unite in what we share, then the differences among us are much more understandable and can be addressed in a positive way.

The mainstream media often reports revolutions as spontaneous uprisings, but successful movements only occur after years of a shift in societal consciousness and organization behind the scenes.

Building a movement takes time and must have the buy-in and support from all segments of society. Successful social movements appear to be, and often are, led by youth. But success only comes when the rest of society supports those youth, because essentially youth leaders are the face of a society’s sentiment, and have the energy, and even at times naivete, to take on threats older generations have fought before or didn’t have the opportunity to. The people of a society must be capable of engaging in the movement, not too busy just trying to survive to be able to mobilize. Revolution itself is also not enough, we must be prepared for the work that comes afterward to retain the gains and continue to move forward, toward new goals.

What do these successful examples of nonviolence movements in Serbia, Tunisia, and Hong Kong have in common?

  • Internal resistance, not external intervention, is the best driver for political change.

  • The core principles of nonviolence are unity, planning, and nonviolent discipline.

  • Don’t be predictable or confrontational.

  • Have a vision and clear plan of action, with tangible goals for supporters to build a strategy around.

  • Target the right pillars of support – the turning point in every successful nonviolent movement is flipping certain key institutions in your favour.

  • Expand the battlefield and pull third parties toward your goals.

  • Join forces with religious institutions – the church has been an important pillar in many successful movements.


When Nonviolence Fails

The leaders and supporters of the nonviolence movements in Serbia, Tunisia, and Hong Kong, and many others, made their decisions to organize with the expectation they would meet a violent response. There is no guarantee of success, or that there won’t be arrest, torture, or death. Dictators don’t give up without a fight, especially in societies where democracy and personal freedoms are not the cultural norm.

In the case of terrorist movements, research by political scientists Audrey Cronin and Max Abrahms shows these almost always die off without achieving any of their strategic aims, such as the failed independence movements in Puerto Rico, Ulster, Quebec, Basque Country, Kurdistan, and Tamil Eelam.

You have the choice to accept continuing to live in a system that does not meet your democratic expectations and needs, or you can do something to change it. What options for change do you have – meet violence with violence, guaranteeing violence, or meet violence with nonviolence, reducing the chance of violence?

Assuming the World Health Organization’s definition of violence as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation," it could also be argued that our democratic government and capitalist societies are already nonviolent, so if we don’t like the way things are, what use is more nonviolence?

Abuse and neglect are also forms of violence, and the non-physical psychological application of violence also aims to exert power and control, whether intentional or as result of incompetence, which leads to both mental health and physical health problems. The impact of psychological violence can be just as significant as that of physical forms of violence, where the actions humiliate and degrade, limit or monitor access to things or people, and threaten or exploit vulnerabilities, leading to anxiety, stress and stress-related physical pain and illness, and depression. If you’re underemployed or unemployed, possibly for an extended period of time, with limited or no future prospects despite your best efforts, you’re likely to criticize the negligence of your government in creating those poor economic conditions. Even moreso if you question the abuse of power by politicians and bureaucrats who continue to benefit while you continue to suffer. 

In their book based on their 2011 study, Chenoweth and Stephan found almost three-quarters of nonviolent movements get either some or all of what they demanded, compared with only a third of the violent ones. They also show that the success rate of nonviolent protest movements has steadily climbed since the 1940s, while that of violent movements has fallen since the 1980s.

There are no guarantees in life, about anything. At least the odds with nonviolence are in your favor.

Mexico’s fuel theft results in a gasoline pipeline blast that kills 79

Nearly a month after Mexico’s new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office and launched an ambitious plan to stamp out growing fuel theft, 79 people died on Friday from a powerful explosion at a gasoline pipeline in central Mexico that had been punctured by fuel thieves. Relatives of some of the victims said fuel shortages stemming from the government’s crackdown led people to risk their lives filling plastic containers from the leak.

Since late December, the Mexican President has closed six major pipelines where criminal gangs and other thieves have siphoned off stolen fuel worth billions of dollars. The veteran leftist won a landslide election victory on promises to root out endemic corruption, strengthen ailing national oil company Pemex, and ensure stable fuel prices.

Fuel theft has been a problem in Mexico for decades, but it has been growing in recent years. The crackdown on the drug war has caused gangs to turn to other forms of theft, and the nation’s network of pipelines proved to be ripe targets. Theft escalated in recent years following reforms to the country’s oil sector by previous President Enrique Pena Nieto, who liberalized the industry for foreign investment. In turn, retail prices rose, giving cartels an opportunity to undercut those prices through black-market sales of gasoline.

Mexico’s fast-growing motor fuel market is the world’s sixth biggest, according to energy ministry data, featuring a total daily demand of nearly 1.18 million barrels of gasoline and diesel. The Mexican government’s lack of attention has allowed organized groups to open clandestine taps along Pemex’s main pipelines. Internal complicity at Pemex refineries and terminals have also opened the door for theft of entire trucks loaded with fuel. Thieves tap into pipelines and are currently siphoning off the equivalent of around one-fifth of total national gasoline consumption, about 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) and then re-sell mostly to complicit gas stations. Pemex documented more than 12,500 illegal taps to its fuel pipeline network during the first 10 months of 2018, more than in the previous year. The widespread theft costs Pemex more than USD $3 billion annually, according to official numbers.

President Lopez Obrador has said upwards of 80 percent of the theft is organized by Pemex employees, though he has not provided evidence. He has also pointed to reports that the union has been restricting access to parts of the company’s operations. Central and western states including Queretaro, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Michoacan, and Jalisco are most afflicted by the pipeline theft, as well as Pemex’s Salamanca refinery, which has been especially plagued by organized crime and violent disruptions.

Mexico has grown increasingly dependent on fuel imports in recent years, with imported gasoline, distillates and liquefied petroleum gas growing last year to about two-thirds of total demand. In 2016, imports and domestic production each accounted for roughly half. Mexico has sixteen marine terminals capable of receiving imported fuel, plus 74 storage facilities and over 8,800 kilometers of pipelines. The imports flow mainly through the Pajaritos, Tuxpan and Veracruz terminals on the country’s Gulf coast, which have recently turned into bottlenecks for the imports.

Mexico is a critical export market for U.S. refiners and trading firms and is the biggest buyer of U.S. gasoline and diesel. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in October, the United States exported 621,000 bpd of gasoline to Mexico, accounting for roughly 60 percent of the 1.03 million bpd exported that month.

While the volumes are much lower than supplies transported by sea, rail shipments of fuels across the U.S.-Mexico land border have also grown substantially as U.S. firms have capitalized on Mexico’s growing demand, hitting record highs several times since early 2017, according to data from the Association of American Railroads, the largest U.S. rail trade group. The new government began the closure of major fuel pipelines on December 27. Production at Pemex’s Gulf coast Madero and Minatitlan refineries has also been partially or completely halted, which contributes to the need for imported fuels as a replacement.

President Lopez Obrador hopes some 5,000 tanker trucks can distribute supplies to over 11,000 gas stations scattered across the country. While the vast majority of the stations are Pemex franchises, a growing number belong to new private entrants, including giant Exxon Mobil Corp and trading firm Glencore Plc, which in some cases import their own fuel.

The cost of transporting gasoline and diesel by tanker trucks is nearly 14 times more expensive than via pipelines, according to a study by Mexico’s Federal Commission for Economic Competition, or Cofece. Both Pemex and Lopez Obrador have sought to assure an increasingly restless public that there is plenty of gasoline and that refineries and other key installations are being supervised by 4,000 soldiers. He has also pleaded with citizens to be patient while the new distribution system is normalized.

Global wave of new political parties comes to Canada with the People’s Party

Canadian Member of Parliament (MP) and former Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leadership candidate Maxime Bernier created a new right-of-center federal political party called the People’s Party on Canada (PPC) on September 14, 2018. As of Friday, January 18, 2019 the PPC is officially registered with Elections Canada. Between Friday evening’s announcement and Sunday evening, the PPC raised nearly CAD $200,000 in private donations to ready their campaign for the October 2019 federal election.

It’s the fastest growing political party in Canadian history. Just before Christmas, the new party already had nearly 34,000 members and constituency associations in every riding across the country, complete with full boards of directors and founding meetings. The PPC has nominated four candidates to date, including Mr. Bernier. Its policy platform is still in development, which is anticipated to largely reflect the platform Mr. Bernier campaigned on as candidate for leadership of the CPC.


A leader for Millennials and democracy and freedom advocates

Leader of the PPC Maxime Bernier is a libertarian who fits the ‘fiscally conservative, socially liberal’ political archetype, one which resonates strongly with most Canadian Millennials’ political values.

A former businessman and lawyer, Mr. Bernier was elected to the House of Commons as a CPC MP in 2006 with the largest majority outside of Alberta and appointed to Cabinet under Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Minister of Industry, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism. Mr. Bernier was re-elected for a fourth time in 2015, earning more than 59 percent of the vote. Anticipated to win, with strong polling, fundraising, and caucus support, at nearly 49 percent Mr. Bernier narrowly lost out on becoming CPC leader in May 2017 to Andrew Scheer, who then removed Mr. Bernier from the CPC shadow cabinet for publicly challenging the Party on supply management in Canada’s dairy sector.

On August 23, 2018, Mr. Bernier left the CPC to sit as an independent MP and announced the launch of a new party. In his news conference, Mr. Bernier said, "My leader told me and every other Canadian that I don't have any influence in the party," referring to Mr. Scheer's statement that Mr. Bernier didn't speak for the Conservatives. Political tribalism drew the ire of those including CPC MP Michelle Rempel, who told reporters that Mr. Bernier had to pick a side: Scheer or Trudeau.

In his resignation letter, Mr. Bernier stood firm on his principles:

“How can we expect this party to adopt any conservative reform when it comes to power, if it cannot even articulate a clear stand and defend them before it is elected? I am now convinced that what we will get if Andrew Scheer becomes prime minister is just a more moderate version of the disastrous Trudeau government.

I have come to realize over the past year that this party is too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed.

I know for a fact that many in the caucus privately oppose supply management. But buying votes in a few key ridings is more important than defending the interests of all Canadians.

The whole strategy of the party is to play identity politics, pander to various interest groups and buy votes with promises, just like the Liberals.

... If we want conservative principles to win the battle of ideas, we have to defend them openly, with passion and conviction.

That is what I want to do. And this is why as of today, I am no longer a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. I want to do politics differently. I will find another way to give a voice to millions of Canadians. And I will continue to fight for Freedom, Responsibility, Fairness and Respect.

Death of traditional political parties in the West

Many will argue the creation of the PPC will only result in a split right-wing vote in the October 2019 federal election, which would otherwise be an easier potential win for the CPC against Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is weak in domestic and foreign influence and ineffective when not destructive in public policy decisions, losing the support of many who otherwise would not have backed the Liberals.

However, the rapid acceleration and growth of the PPC in terms of membership numbers (impressive for even a provincial start-up political party), donations reaching CAD $200,000 in two days over a weekend, having already established constituency associations in every riding across the country with boards of directors and founding meetings, and nominations underway, should not be understated.

Should Canadians vote the way they actually want to instead of strategic voting, there may be a healthy surprise for the PPC’s ambitions. At a time when voters in western democracies are increasingly fed up with the politically correct, politically safe, and stale political parties that have not evolved or taken intelligent risks with their policies, let alone determined a real vision for the future, Mr. Bernier may be better informed regarding his goals than his detractors credit him with. It is questionable whether Mr. Scheer, someone whom the majority of Canadians cannot easily recognize and attribute actions to, has the personal brand or policy fortitude to earn Canadians’ confidence, particularly in the face of significant economic and social challenges across the regions of the country.

There have been several upsets in recent elections that have gone against the grain of establishment politicians and mainstream media from ‘Brexit’ in the United Kingdom, President Emmanuel Macron’s election in France under a new political banner, and Millennial Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Austria also with a new political party.


Disavowing the Conservative Party, but not conservatives

Currently named the Conservative Party of Canada, the country’s federal conservative politics split into two factions in the late 1980's between the existing Progressive Conservatives and the offshoot Reform Party, which later became the Canadian Alliance. Unity between the two factions came through a reunification agreement between Alliance leader Stephen Harper and PC leader Peter Mackay under the new banner of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003.

With the creation of the People’s Party of Canada, center-right or conservative Canadians again have a choice between two political parties. However, unlike the split a generation ago that was based predominantly upon moderate versus religious social values, whereas Reform was led by the far-right Social Credit manifestation known as Preston Manning that never grew beyond its narrow base, Mr. Bernier is leading a movement predicated upon libertarian values that focus on economic issues first and foremost. This comes when all 9.5 Canadian Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000 and aged 19 to 39, are now eligible to vote in the upcoming federal election.

In his article, entitled Why my new political movement? Because Canada has been hijacked, Mr. Bernier stated,

“As I said when I resigned, I have come to the conclusion that the Conservative party cannot be reformed and that if I want to do politics differently, I need to do it elsewhere.

How do I plan to do this? By systematically reversing the dynamic described by public choice theory. That is, by taking positions based on principles I believe in and that accord with what I think is the public interest; and by resisting pressure from interest groups seeking favours, despite the short-term political cost.

I recognize this is a risky enterprise. It certainly explains why none of my caucus colleagues were interested in joining me. But the payoff for Canadians could be huge.

And what gives me hope is that with the Internet, it is now much easier and less costly to find relevant information and mobilize around an issue. A small group of motivated citizens can potentially have as much influence as a lobby group spending millions of dollars.

I know many Canadians are fed up with the traditional way of doing politics. We’ll see if enough of them are ready to follow me.

Vision for Confederation

Mr. Bernier hails from Quebec, but rather than following the tradition of pitting the East against the West, he seems genuinely interested in doing right for all Canadians, not just those in his home province, and seems unmoved by the possibility of angering a Francophone base.

In a speech given Thursday last week, Mr. Bernier outlined the failures of Confederation that are threatening the country's unity, highlighted by economic policy and consequence.  He proposes greater autonomy for the provinces in terms of taxation and delivery of public services such as education and healthcare, supports energy security and scrapping the carbon tax, and the end to an “equalization” transfer system as we know it that weakens the economy instead of strengthening it – a policy that has primarily benefited Quebec since its inception to detriment of economic engine provinces.

For a party that has accomplished so many significant milestones within five months, it will be interesting to watch its path unfold as it prepares for the autumn election and reveals its complete vision for all Canadians. Even more interesting to see will be whether the PPC can attract and harness a generation of young adults, many with young families and established careers, intent on contributing positively to society and searching for a vehicle that resonates with them to help them do so.

PM Trudeau shuffles his Cabinet, nine months before the federal election

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister shuffled his Cabinet, moving three current Ministers into new portfolios and appointed two new Ministers to Cabinet. The shuffle puts the size of the federal cabinet at 36 members, including PM Trudeau. This is the largest number of seats around the cabinet table during this government's term in office. PM Trudeau’s adamance of an equal gender balance has been retained with the changes. The Prime Minister called the shuffle an "opportunity to put strong performers in important files and continue to demonstrate our capacity to deliver on a broad range of priorities for Canadians."

Ontario MP Jane Philpott

Minister Philpott moved into the newly-vacated role as President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, after long-time MP Scott Brison announced last week that he was resigning from Cabinet because he will not be seeing re-election in 2019. The priority for this portfolio is overseeing the federal public service and intergovernmental spending. Minister Philpot has been seen as a strong performer in Cabinet. PM Trudeau called her a "natural choice" for the new job given her experience as Vice-Chair of the Treasury Board Cabinet Committee.This is now her third cabinet post, starting as the health minister in 2015.

Newfoundland MP Seamus O'Regan

Minister O’Regan filled Minister Philpott’s vacancy as Indigenous Services Minister, a cabinet post created in 2017 as part of an effort to reset the nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous people.He'll be continuing the work on delivering programs to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, including education and housing, as well as chipping away at clearing the drinking water advisories in First Nation communities. MinisterO’Regan is moving out of the Veterans Affairs portfolio, a job he's had since joining cabinet in that same 2017 shuffle.

British Columbia MP Wilson-Raybould

MP Wilson-Raybould was moved out of Justice and into Veterans Affairs. Minister Wilson-Raybould and PM Trudeau downplayed any suggestion that her move is a demotion. The Minister said she feels she accomplished most of her mandate letter tasks, from legalizing cannabis and putting in a new regime for physician-assisted dying, to advancing legislation to reform the criminal justice system.

Quebec MP David Lametti

Mr. Lametti was promoted to Cabinet and becomes the new Justice Minister and Attorney General. He has been serving as a Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation. In his new position the Minister will have the final decision on the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou. First elected in 2015, Minister Lametti said he's not sure how much law-making he'll be able to accomplish before the end of this Parliament in June.

Nova Scotia MP Bernadette Jordan

Ms. Jordan was also promoted to Cabinet in a newly created portfolio as Minister of Rural Economic Development. She had been serving as a Parliamentary Secretary for Democratic Institutions. Minister Jordan will be responsible for overseeing a new rural jobs strategy, implementing high-speed internet to more rural areas, and handling the infrastructure needs of these communities. Minister Jordan becomes the first female to represent a Nova Scotia riding in cabinet. She had previously been chair of the Atlantic Liberal caucus. Prior to being elected in 2015, she was a development officer for the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore in Nova Scotia.

Speaking to how the coming election factored in to Monday's changes, PM Trudeau said the shuffle is "an illustration of the depth of bench strength" that his majority caucus holds. "We're very excited about being able to show how we step up as a team," he said.

Twelve of the current Cabinet Ministers are in the original positions they were appointed to in 2015, or have very similar positions with a few modifications. Another dozen members were not on the first Cabinet roster but have been added in over the years; with the remaining eleven (excluding the Prime Minister) being members of the original Cabinet that have been moved into different roles over the course of this government.