Coincidence, Correlation, Causation

What does it all mean? You be the judge: on Tuesday, Comrade Bear visited Bishkek for “an informal meeting” of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance composed of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.  Ostensible agenda: post-ISAF Afghanistan and the threat of regional terrorism and religious extremism.

CSTO General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha … warned that the situation near Russia’s southern borders will worsen after the ISAF withdrawal.  A zone of instability will emerge in regions bordering Afghanistan, and the influence of extremist groups will grow, as will the penetration of Islamist fundamentalist ideas in neighboring states, Bordyuzha said.

And after all that heated discussion and impromptu saber-rattling, there’s always time for a stroll through the idyllic countryside of Kyrgyzstan’s forested mountains … perchance a stream.

headwaters of the Rubicon?

headwaters of the Rubicon?

But just three days later …

Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters besieged a Canadian gold mine in Issyk Kul Province, northern Kyrgyzstan on Friday, clashing violently with riot police.  Over 50 people were wounded and 80 detained in the clashes, authorities said.  The demonstrations began earlier this week when protesters blocked the road leading to the mine in the northern Tian Shan mountains. On Thursday night, several hundred demonstrators, some on horseback, cut off electricity to the mine for several hours.  Riot police moved in overnight, detaining about 80 protesters and restoring the power supply.

The huge Kumtor gold mine is run by Canada’s Centerra Gold.  The protesters are demanding a bigger share of the profits from the gold mine and more investment in local infrastructure.  Previously accused of causing environmental damage and tax evasion, [the mine’s management] has denied those allegations and said it has paid $1.2 billion in taxes since 1994.

Kumtor_agitprop

Kumtor, the largest gold mine in Central Asia, produced more than 8.4 million ounces of gold between 1997 and the end of 2011. Under a 2009 agreement, the Kyrgyzstan government acquired one-third of Centerra.  Centerra’s subsidiary, Kumtor Operating Company, accounted for 12 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP and over half its industrial output in 2011, and is the [single] largest revenue source in the Kyrgyzstan budget.

[After repeated clashes on] Friday, riot police used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse some 2,000 protesters who attempted to storm the Kumtor mine office.

Crisis contained?  Not hardly:

The protest quickly spread, engulfing the southern city of Jalal-Abad, where several hundred people stormed a local governor’s building, drove officials out and appointed Medet Usenov a “people’s governor,” the Interfax news agency reported.  Usenov told Interfax the protesters intend to name local mayors and district administrators throughout Jalal-Abad province. They are also demanding the release of several opposition legislators who were jailed last October when a demonstration in Bishkek to demand the nationalization of Kumtor [degenerated] into a violent confrontation with police.

Jalal-Abad_2010

Kyrgyz media speculated on Friday that the current government’s political rivals could be behind the protests.  [Kyrgyzstan has experienced] the violent overthrow of two governments since gaining independence in 1991.  In 2010, the government was overthrown as clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks killed at least 470 people.

So is this good ole Kyrgyz home cooking, or an exotic foreign recipe for direct action?  Coincidence, correlation, or causation?  You be the judge.   Lungu has his own opinion.

 

 

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