South Sudan: A Road to Hell Paved with Good Intentions?

The youngest country in the world, born in 2011, has fallen into a cycle of violence that could lead to a civil war. The consequences would be devastating for the country and region. A fragile ceasefire agreement has been reached between the government and opposition forces that could (if respected) provide time for negotiations in Ethiopia. There are daunting problems ahead and the prospects are not good, but this may be a good moment for reflection on the past and the way ahead.

In short, the crisis erupted by mid-December as political rivalry and tensions at the highest levels of government and the South People Liberation Movement (SPLM). The dispute overlapped with previous ethnic and political grievances and evolved with armed clashes and target ethnic killings.

South Sudan faces a security and humanitarian emergency. Waves of violence throughout the country have left thousands dead. More than half a million people are fleeing violence as internally displaced and more than 80,000 are refugees. Nearly a half remain without humanitarian aid due to looting, fighting and lack of access.

How could this happen in such a short period? How in a country that fought a decades long civil war with Sudan to gain independence, and which received widespread international support to build a state and long-term peace?

Without the intention of being exhaustive, here are some the reasons that explain the descent into violence.

Internal and well-rooted fault lines and divisions

The immediate trigger of violence was the offensive launched by President Salva Kiir Mayardit against political rivals last December, after an episode of violence among members of the Presidential Guard. Last summer, Kiir had undertaken a cabinet change and Vice President Machar and other key officials were removed from office. After his incident, he ordered arrests.

Political infighting is not new. Deep divisions and splits affected the South People Liberation Army / Movement (SPLA/M) since the 90s. Prominent leaders mobilized constituencies and supporters along ethnic lines in their power competition (sometimes with support from the government of Khartoum), resulting in atrocities and human rights violations.

As a result of internal factionalism, the SPLM never developed cohesive institutions nor a social or political agenda for areas under its control. It was also prevented from transforming into a professional military army.

Reconciliation took place in the early 2000s but tensions remained, both among leadership and supporters. The rhetoric of external oppression contributed to conceal those facts.  But acute underdevelopment, limited institutional and human capacity and paramount pressures furthered stress after independence.

Political struggle in advance of the 2015 elections is now playing a role and making visible the fractures, divisions and grievances unaddressed during the liberation war. Ongoing is a political battle for control of the SPLM and power in South Sudan. Ethnic arguments are used to mobilize and gain political and military advantage, but this war is political more than ethnic.

Suffering a gun shot wound to his ankle, Diel, 28, is one of 144 Lou Nuer who were evacuated from Manya Bol to Bor hospital in Bor town, Jonglei state, South Sudan, Monday July 15, 2013. Fierce clashes between rival ethnic groups have again exploded in eastern Jonglei with aid agencies fearing more to come  © Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/IRIN

Suffering a gun shot wound to his ankle, Diel, 28, is one of 144 Lou Nuer who were evacuated from Manya Bol to Bor hospital in Bor town, Jonglei state, South Sudan, Monday July 15, 2013. Fierce clashes between rival ethnic groups have again exploded in eastern Jonglei with aid agencies fearing more to come
© Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/IRIN

International narratives… and actions

A widespread vision outside the region presented South Sudan simply as a victim of the Government (which is part of the true but not all the true). This narrative, promoted by international campaigns, celebrities and some NGO, helped to conceal social and political internal problems.

The US was a prime sponsor of the new state and a case in point. Supporters for an independent South Sudan included (for different reasons) an improbable coalition of human rights activists, celebrities, Democrats, Republicans, religious conservatives and African-American lobbyists around a simplistic narrative. There was also a post 9/11 component: Sudan is an Arab led regime that had harboured Osama Bin Laden.

To what extent international institutions (and donors) were influenced by those images is a question that remains open.

But there were warning signs. International donors made a great effort in South Sudan, taken as a test of international engagement in fragile states. But engagement was largely based in the assumption that delivery of basic services and development aid was the best contribution to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The dominant ‘theory of change’ implied that the lack of development was a major cause of conflict.

Those assumptions were fundamentally flawed, as shown in the report Aiding the peace: a multi-donor evaluation of support to conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities in Southern Sudan 2005-2010, a multi-donor evaluation on external assistance 2005-2010.

Between 2005 and 2009, the donors analysed in this study provided 4.2 billion dollars (including humanitarian aid). Adding the budget of the UN mission to South Sudan (UNMIS), the total is above 8 billion. Between 65-85% was directed to economic development. Issues like government and civil society only reached a 27% peak at 2009, once the absence of government capacity was fully appreciated.

Security problems remained, including proliferation of small arms. The disarmament of civilians largely failed. Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programs were promoted but did not address fear and mistrust. The incorporation of former militia members into the armed forces oversized a military with no professional training or command and control.

The component of resources was not addressed, with violent cattle raids affecting agro-pastoralist communities, and tensions over the management and consequences of oil extraction and large-scale land acquisitions.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) lacked a robust mandate and the necessary resources to carry it out. It is only authorized to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence ‘within its capabilities and in its areas of deployment”. Initially planned with 7,000 military personnel and 900 police (not enough even in the best circumstances), only now additional personnel and resources have been authorized. However it will take long until they can be deployed.

As the conflict North-South was seen as the main threat to peace, the divisions in the South and the role of ethnicity and patronage were largely ignored. The aforementioned evaluation stresses that “neither the Government of South Sudan nor donors produced a convincing nor consensual model of what Southern Sudan as a ‘state’ would look like in say, ten years. From the donors, the reticence… reflected the tendency to approach the challenge purely as a technical exercise in capacity building and service delivery.” Recently the head of the UN Development Program, Helen Clark, has recognized the misjudgement of the international community.

Some important elements to keep in mind

Civil society was a ‘missing factor’, set aside before and after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the North was signed. As the analyst John Prendergast has stated, “we already know what doesn’t work. Too many peace conferences that kept civil society, religious leaders, grass roots activists and women out of the room have failed. Partial and non-inclusive peace agreements that are negotiated among only those with the biggest guns don’t lead to lasting peace.”

Important civil society sectors have made relentless efforts for peace, including relevant and influential religious leaders with credibility and public support (irrespective of ethnic divides). They have elaborated a detailed action plan for dialogue and reconciliation and lead a National Reconciliation Committee that builds upon South African experiences. Set aside during negotiations for the CPA and after independence, their voices would be better heard now.

In terms of the neighbouring countries, much depends on Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), for brokering dialogue and potential ways forward with support from the African Union. In a worse scenario, those more likely to intervene would do so pursuing their own interests and maybe aggravating the situation. Uganda has already done so, while Kenya has abstained (although Kenyan companies are among the greater investors there).

The African Union Commission has taken steps to start a Commission of Inquiry expected to address the responsibilities for violence and victims, as well as to contribute to a comprehensive strategy of conflict resolution and nation building.

Other key external partners include the Troika (US, UK, Norway) and China (main oil investor) that could support African-led mediation efforts.

This case should encourage reflection on to how to engage peacebuilding as a political (not just technical) endeavour, based on a profound analysis of power relations, local grievances and drivers of conflict. The immediate priority, however, is stopping violence.

Check here the latest humanitarian snapshot by OCHA (UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Appeals)

How to End Mexico’s Drug War

(Cross-posted from The Knotted Gun Blog, in e-International Relations, January 21, 2014).

Policy Recommendations:

To find a peaceful conclusion to its bloody drug war, Mexico should:

1) Focus on long-term state-building efforts, rather than short-term military actions against drug trafficking organisations (DTO). 2) Create a coherent strategy to deal with DTO and self-defence organizations and, as an absolute priority, restore law and order and provide citizen security. 3) Prioritise security sector reform, as well as addressing failures of the justice system, to reduce corruption, improve governance and accountability and restore citizens’ trust in all arms of government. 4) Contribute to ongoing international debates about drug policies in the Organization of American States, and in the 2016 Special Drug Policy Session of the UN General Assembly.

Analysis:

One year after Enrique Peña Nieto took office as the new President of Mexico, violence and insecurity are still rampant in the country. The promised changes in the security strategy and new approaches to fight organized crime have been little more than rhetoric and results remain limited. The ‘war on drugs’ continues amidst widespread human rights abuses and little accountability; security sector reform is stagnated, and new self-defence armed groups have emerged in areas where the rule of law is weak or absent. Mexico will need more than promises to change the course.

One of the first measures of the new Administration was the ‘Pact for Mexico’, an agreement among the three main political parties with important provisions for security sector reform. An old aspiration to improve coordination among multiple, disperse and in some cases corrupt police forces was agreed upon, as well as a vetting system to reduce levels of corruption. The Pact also encompassed the creation of a new civilian Gendarmerie and resources to address inefficiencies in the justice system. Another element was a $9 billion commitment for a plan of violence prevention centred in education, poverty reduction and community development.

However, the government has mostly relied on the same security strategies of the past. Military forces still play the key role in the fight against organized crime and abuses remain. The Gendarmerie has been limited to a civilian special force within the Federal Police. By mid-October, the National Public Security Council extended by one year (more) the deadline for purging and certifying local and federal police officers.

Mexico is another collateral victim of the drug war ‘balloon effect’. The effort to weaken the Colombian drug cartels included the creation of the South Florida Task Force in 1982 and improvement of aerial surveillance of drug trafficking routes. When the Caribbean routes were effectively closed down, transportation shifted to the Pacific and land routes, and Mexican drug traffickers gained pre-eminence due to their control of the US border. The defeat of Cali and Medellin and decentralization of the drug business in Colombia led to a transformation of the cocaine economy with the epicentre and bulk of the business moving to Mexico.

The drug war scaled up in this country under President Vicente Fox (2000-2006) but especially with Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), who transformed this policy in the driving force of his Presidency. Corruption and lack of coordination among multiple police forces was resolved by resorting to a militarized approach to fight the drug trafficking organizations (DTO). Thousands of soldiers were deployed to seize drugs, target drug ‘kingpins’, and take over and secure areas under DTO control.

What resulted was a war against the cartels, and wars among and within them. Destabilization of the market led to fierce competition over routes, territories and local markets, while the detention and sometimes extradition of high profile drug traffickers led to violent struggles for power. The Army, a respected institution though not prepared for internal security missions, became involved in gross violations of human rights. In six years, around 70,000 people died and 25,000 more disappeared amidst soaring levels of violence.

The drug market managed to survive under pressure. Some DTO regained foot while others fragmented, the market became more decentralized and violence spread as a result. They also diversified their range of criminal activities (and sources of profit) to include migrant smuggling, extortion, kidnapping and traffic in arms and chemical precursors, among others. The main groups are heavily armed, have international alliances and ties, and spread their operations and presence in Central American countries. Currently the Sinaloa Federation reigns amidst a decentralized market composed by smaller –but very violent- organizations.

Under Peña Nieto, there have been limited reductions of the murder rates while kidnapping and extortion have soared. Violence and insecurity remain unabated.

An aggravating phenomenon illustrates the failure to regain state power and enforce the rule of law. Self-defence (vigilante) groups have arisen in a number of states, although the epicentre seems to be in Michoacán and Guerrero. Thousands of civilians have armed themselves to form self-defence organizations. In October 2013, 1,000 soldiers were deployed to Michoacán when self-defence groups clashed with members of the Knights Templar drug ring (born in 2011 as a break-up of La Familia Michoacana).

In Michoacán, vibrant economic sectors such as agribusiness and cattle owners were subject to extortion, racketeering and kidnapping, as were small businesses and ordinary citizens. The self-defence groups aim to put an end to those practices and recover security. Currently they have taken over 54 municipalities, often with local police evacuated or detained (sometimes amidst accusations of collusion with organized crime).

The citizen response may be understandable in the current circumstances but also illuminates the limits of state power. The expansion of self-defence groups adds a new layer of complexity to an already intractable conflict scene. Some analysts have warned that this movement could anticipate an evolving new dimension, towards a political-military conflict. There is no doubt that territories held by those groups are, such as others under control of organized crime, beyond any state authority.

The federal government has attempted both dialogue with and de-legitimization. But state reliance on self-defence groups is an expression of its inability to guarantee citizen security. Some of them are born of the best intentions, while others may be vulnerable to infiltration by spurious interests. The line that separates self-defence from paramilitary forces is frequently very thin, as Colombian history teaches. The more armed non state groups are at stake, the more possibilities that violence runs out of control.

Mexico cannot afford to address old problems with already failed strategies. Neither to support well-intentioned short-term solutions that may worsen things at later stages. There is no alternative to state building in the long term. The government needs a coherent strategy to deal with DTO and self-defence organizations and, as an absolute priority, restore law and order and provide citizen security. This is a daunting and long term challenge that requires resources and high levels of political will. Security sector reform is urgent, as well as address failures of the justice system and improve governance and accountability.

But Mexico can do something else. The experience of this country both with the drug trade and the war on drugs makes it a more than legitimate voice to join ongoing international debates about drug policies. Due to the high market value of cocaine (produced only in the Andean region) and the proximity of the main market in the US, Latin American countries have suffered a great range of consequences of the US-led drug war. It has caused militarization, violence, human rights violations, and in some places aggravated state fragility. Now, a number of these countries are ready to take the lead in debates about international drug policies. There are opportunities at the Organization of American States, and in the 2016 Special Drug Policy Session of the UN General Assembly. Mexico has a good option in joining them.

Mabel González Bustelo is a journalist, researcher and international consultant specialized in international peace and security, with a focus on non-State actors in world politics, organized violence, conflict and peacebuilding.

New Report: Organized Crime Trends in 2014

The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime has presented the annual report ‘What to Watch in 2014”. Traditionally considered an internal issue, to be addressed with the tools of law enforcement and criminal justice, organized crime is step by step being included in analysis about global trends in conflict and peace. What we have here is the inverse situation: an analysis of organized crime shows several points of contact and friction with instability, weak governance and conflict.

Given the transnational scope of many networks; the multiple crimes in which they are involved (from drugs to trafficking in persons and human smuggling, counterfeit goods and documents, weapons and wildlife, among other valuable items), and the huge financial profit they attain, it is no surprise that TOC may add to threats to governance, peace and democracy in a number of regions and countries.

And what are the forecasted trends for 2014? Let’s centre in a few of them for their potential significance and impact:

Organized crime has taken advantage of conflicts, instability and social unrest in some North Africa and Middle East countries, particularly Libya and Syria. These territories have been incorporated into criminal routes (and markets) for drugs, arms and other items, and in the way these operations contribute to fund parties in conflict and supply arms. Southern Libya is a case in point, as well as states surrounding the area.  Libya is a gateway to Europe and part of the corridor East-West (and vice-versa). Militia violence in some areas has to do with control over routes and a nascent market for protection services. Syria has become a market for arms and for smuggling of food, medicine and people.

The markets for illicit drugs are soaring in Gulf countries, accounting for over 60% of the world methamphetamine consumption and growing rates for heroin and cocaine. Trafficking finds the way there through the weakest points and routes. This means more vulnerability for North African states such as Lybia and Egypt.

International missions face a breadth of new challenges. One case in point is the double French-UN mission in Mali, where local conflict, organized crime and terrorism are present. Most peacebuilding missions are not designed to understand (not to mention address) the local and regional dynamics of illicit economies and their actors, and often fail to provide communities with alternatives, as well as to address corruption.

Psychoactive Substances, prominently including amphetamines, are booming: they are cheap, easy to manufacture and highly addictive. Consumption is on the rise in East Asia and the Middle East (Gulf countries). But the next hotspot is expected to be Africa, already home of key trafficking routes and increasingly involved in meth production in countries like Nigeria.

Piracy is no longer a Somalia issue, but has increased and expected to do so in the Gulf of Guinea and East Asia. Coastal densely populated areas with availability of weapons, scarce economic opportunities and little if any state control, provide the most likely hubs for maritime crime.

Despite international and national regulation and law enforcement efforts, poaching and traffic in wildlife (particularly those species highly valuable in affluent markets) continues to feed organized crime and put in danger some of the most vulnerable species over the planet (and in the way, feeding corruption and undermining governance).

Last but not least, new approaches are being tested in Latin America after decades of punitive strategies. The first outcomes could be seen this year: 1) Levels of homicide due to gang territorial fights have led Honduras and El Salvador to negotiate and seek a truce with gangs to lessen levels of violence; 2) Uruguay (as well as the US states of Colorado and Washington) have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, among other factors to curb the power of illegal networks and put the issue under state control.

Interested in those trends? Here is the full report by the Global Initiative against Organized Crime.

For a challenging study on the role of illegal criminal networks in current affairs in Mali, and the challenge for international missions, check Illicit Trafficking and Instability in Mali: Past, present and future, January 2014.

For an innovative approach to criminal actors in conflict, check James Cockayne, Strengthening Mediation to Deal with Criminal Agendas, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Oslo Forum, 2013.

Peace Talks in Havana

The Colombian Government and the FARC have resumed in Havana their peace talks aimed to put an end to war in Colombia. The peace process started November 2012 and has not been without problems. In the last episode, the FARC threatened to make public some confidential contents of the talks and the Government with a total breakup if that possibility materialized.

Every peace negotiation is difficult, for reasons that range from the substantive issues in the agenda and the different positions of stakeholders to more ‘mundane’ motives like different political times.

The war in Colombia has lasted for decades. Multiple and diverse armed groups have taken part in it, including a State that has not always behave according to the rule of Law and International Humanitarian Law. It is a dirty war that has included massacres, targeted killings, kidnapping for ransom, use of landmines, forced displacement of population and illegal appropriation of property, mainly land. A recent report has estimated that 80 per cent of the victims have been civilians.

Problems associated with the property and use of land were the origin of this conflict and still permeate many of its dimensions. The rural and agricultural model is based in huge land properties devoted to extensive cattle and agriculture for exportation. There are millions of farmers without access to land or no property rights over they lands where they live. The forced displacement of civilians and the appropriation of the abandoned territories have culminated an agrarian counter-reform which has only added to an already unequal system.

Drugs and narco-trafficking appeared at a later stage. The new illegal economy found fertile ground in remote and isolated areas with little or no State presence and vulnerable people. It enriched the cartels and trafficking groups and allowed the armed actors to fund the war. Even more, it permeated the legal economy and businesses and also benefited sectors of the elite. That never-ending influx of money sustained and funded violence by all parties and the war escalated as a result.

Those are difficult and substantive issues with no easy solution. But negotiation faces other obstacles. A short-term issue is the management of political times. The Government started conversations having in mind a more expedite process, and the president Juan Manuel Santos faces elections next year amidst declining popularity rates. He has also encountered fierce opposition of some powerful sectors, notably those behind the former president Alvaro Uribe. The FARC fear time for other reasons: what guarantees do exist about the future of the process if this Government is not re-elected?

Second, the parties are negotiating what concept of democracy and political representation will define the future of Colombia: based in political parties, as happens today, or with a wider concept that allow for the participation of social movements (as the FARC demand).

Third, what balance will Colombia get in terms of truth, justice and reparation for victims? The war has been so long that the number of victims is staggering. Parties have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, as defined in the Rome Statute of the ICC. Last summer, the chief prosecutor contacted the Colombian Government to clarify issues of international justice and jurisdiction. There are negative precedents in this regard. The last one, the demobilization of paramilitary groups in 2006, in which they managed to get minimum penalties and short-sighted reparation provisions.

Sectors of the Colombian establishment (especially at the rural level) appear to demand no less than an absolute FARC surrender. This group claims for guarantees to join the political system (without facing another massacre like that of the Patriotic Union in the 80s and 90s). A possibility which is on the table is the call for a Constitutional Assembly to uphold the agreements and define the future of the political system.

Illegal drugs and narco-trafficking will be another huge obstacle. Colombia has applied the US drug war policies in their hardest versions. It has militarized the countryside and sprayed millions of hectares of land, without putting an end to a business that has always manage to react and adapt. This issue is politically sensitive in Washington DC and any agreement, be it temporal or definitive, will need support of at least non-interference by the US.

The good news: there is agreement on the first item of the agenda -land- which is also the most difficult. The agreed formula consists in the delivery of property rights among peasants, for actually non-productive and / or abandoned land (and properties decommissioned to cartels and kingpins). If an agreement over land has been possible, the others should be easier.

The voices critical with the process are many and wide-ranging. Civil society sectors claim for more participation and for channels to canalize their demands to the dialogue table. The victims demand justice, truth and reparation for the violations committed. Economic and political elites, especially in the countryside, are extremely reluctant to any attempt to change the status quo.

Nowadays all parties in this conflict are aware of one key fact: none of them has real options to win by military means. Uribe tried hard for 8 years as other Governments had done before. And nobody managed. The FARC had their best military and strategic options more than 10 years ago, but were severely weakened by Plan Colombia.

All the support and the contributions aimed at improving the quality and results of the process should be welcomed. The more the support, the greater the legitimacy and the possibilities of success. But it should also be clear that the dilemma is not between negotiations or peace, but between negotiations and more war.

Originally published in Spanish in The Huffington Post.

The changing faces of violence

Around 750,000 persons die each year due to violence, according to the Control Arms campaign. But the nature and the features of organized violence in our work are constantly changing.

Interstate wars appear to be (fortunately) waning and their numbers drop every year (although episodes like the Syrian war should remind us that geopolitics is still there). Most of the current war are internal and take place within the States and not between them. Many of the victims of armed violence take place in these contexts.

But an even bigger number (2 out of 3) die in situation of violent peace. In countries that are not at war, but that face high degrees of violence, be it social, criminal, transnational or different mixes of all them. A number of Latin American cities are examples of these situations. In some cases, common and sociopolitical violence merge to the point that it becomes difficult (or impossible) to understand where the limits are.

It has been said by many institutions and organizations but the World Development Report 2011, by the World Bank, is remarkable in this regard: “1.5 billion people live in countries that face repeated cycles of political and criminal violence. No fragile, low income country or country in conflict have managed to achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Providing a solution for fragile States trapped in economic, politic and security problems that hamper development and trap them in cycles of violence require institution strengthening and good governance, in ways that give priority to citizen security, justice, and jobs”.

The institutions of global governance and the States are best prepared to face classic conflict: wars between States. They have a range of tools, from diplomacy and negotiation to sanctions, incentives or threats, that are most designed to face violence as it was in the 20th century. And the same happens with humanitarian action for victims of crisis.

More than 60,000 persons died in Mexico during Calderon war on drugs, as a result of violence between the Government and the narco-trafficking groups, among those, and within then. But the application of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), even in internal conflicts, is restricted to armed groups with some structural requirements and political nature.

What application could the IHL have in the Mexican context? Could the ICRC negotiate application with a narco-trafficking network in spite of the damage and victims it causes?

Those situations are more complex than conflicts between States (where objectives are clear, at least in part). Their main actors are non-State armed groups, some of them without political nature like organized crime.

A number of global processes contribute to these violent situations and act as causes or drivers. Among them I want to mention pressures of globalization: the weakening of States and changed balances of power with non-State actors; accelerated path of urbanization; irreversible damages to the environment and an economy that integrates parts and segments of the world while excluding others.

It is not by chance that fragile and conflict States have performed badly with regard to achieving the MDG. Violence is one of main obstacles for development. This fact is widely recognized, but responses are slower in terms of the creation of tools and mechanisms to engage those situations with global vision and through internal changes and external support. The year 2015 and beyond place an opportunity to face the interrelated challenges of peace, development and human rights.

Peace and development: The debates

The United Nations General Assembly is holding its 68º edition nowadays. Among the key issues to be debated and agreed on is the definition of the future of global development policies. 2015 marks the end of the period agreed to reach the MDG. Since they have been only partially achieved, by September 2015 a new agreement and framework for action should have been agreed on to replace the MDG.

The MDG were approved in 2000 and cover a number of key issues, but they did not include others like peace, human rights and good governance. This is a mirror of the ‘traditional’ agenda in which development and violence were considered (and worked on) in separate ways. But in the years since then, a certain consensus has been achieved about the close (and complex) links among them.

Last May, the UN High Panel delivered its report about MDG, and included peace and security as key elements for development. The Panel is far from having the last word but proposed four objectives for the future: reduce the rates of violent deaths and eliminate violence against children; take into account external drivers of internal violence (including organized crime); create and/or strengthen independent justice institutions, and improve the capacities and accountability mechanisms for Law enforcement institutions.

The debate about how to include issues of conflict, violence and human rights in the post-2015 development framework includes many actors and positions. A good number of them can be found here.
Cross-posted from The Huffington Post.