An Albanian intellectual named Erion Veliaj has the following post on Huffington Post, whose managing editor recently informed me he was not interested in this subject (at least not from a conservative):
(Tirana, Albania) - When US President George Bush visited Albania earlier this month, my little Balkan country made international headlines for the first time in a very long while…
But here’s what the press didn’t report: our government, led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha, has abused this relationship with Washington, using it as cover to shore up his increasingly tyrannical rule. Today’s Albania is the closest European resemblance to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. With seemingly unconditional US support, Berisha is slowly undermining respect for human rights and democracy.
Media crackdowns have become a routine, and most of the public is only exposed to governmental airwaves, which often accuse critics of being ‘jews’ and ‘faggots’.
Nah, Albania isn’t like other majority-Muslim countries at all! Well, so much for those great Jew lovers that Albanians keep promoting themselves as. Though I guess as far as the “Jew” comment goes, you’d really only be offending 10 people in that country. Speaking of which, I wonder why the Jews of Albania felt they needed to be airlifted out of there after communism fell?
Berisha talks about progress and reform, but these are euphemisms for cracking down on the independence of the judiciary, redistributing private property, solidifying his grip on secret services and stacking the public administration with hardcore supporters of his Democratic party irrespective of their competence. He has used so-called anti-corruption legislation to purge the government of opposition and has even gone as far as taking control of leisure institutions such as the Albanian Football Federation.
Redistributing private property? Good thing the Albanians stood up against Communism, huh? (FYI: Defeating communism, as usual, wasn’t the end game, but that’s how it was sold to the West — so that we’d help advance the actual end game of a Greater Albania, which we’re still doing.)
There are no McDonalds or ClubMeds in Albania, and not because we oppose globalization. On the contrary, we welcome it — but businesses here are constantly harassed, extorted and shut down if not found favourable with the ruling regime. Tourist resorts, gas importers, detergent producers and telecom operators are being strangled to close shop under pressure of the financial police.
This is not the first time Berisha has acted to curtail fundamental democratic freedoms in Albania. In the 1990s, he was our president (politicians in this part of the world don’t retire — they reincarnate) and he proved very adept at jailing his political opponents, shutting down newspapers and stacking the security services with party loyalists.
Back then, Washington viewed Albania as critical in its effort to contain the conflict in the former Yugoslavia by putting a lid on Albanian support for their restive brethren across the border in Kosovo. So long as Berisha did not fan the flames of nationalism, Washington turned a blind eye to his autocratic tendencies.
This policy came back to bite the United States, however, because Berisha’s government became so corrupt and abusive, that it eventually imploded. In 1996-97, a string of fraudulent pyramid investment schemes collapsed, bilking tens of thousands of people out of their lives’ savings. They took to the streets and demanded his resignation, but not before they raided the country’s armories. Many of these weapons they looted eventually wound up across the border in Kosovo, provoking yet another war in the former Yugoslavia — stopped only by a $45 billion NATO intervention. Exactly what the US wanted to avoid happened.
Washington learned the hard way what the costs are of turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuses. America should be reminded of its past mistakes. We Albanians would be grateful if Washington would remember the principles and values that so many of us have come to admire about the United States of America.
Ready for the punch line? Here it is in the first comment (and subsequent ones) to Veliaj’s post:
Dude, you must be paid a pretty penny by the Serbs, or Greeks to talk like that about Albania, its political past and future under Sali Berisha or any other Albanian leader. You should be ashamed calling yourself Albanian…
May God protect Erion Veliaj as his group does its important work. But still I have to point out that even a breakthrough Albanian like this has his limits, as seen in his response to the negative comments to his blog post:
Many of us worked with refugees at the border, helped the relief efforts in Kosova [sic] proper in 1999-2001, and are still working with civic movements there to attempt to accelerate the process of independence and keep Kosova [sic] intact. Which unity is this hurting?
Why is even this Albanian on board independence — and independence without border compromises at that — especially given what he says next:
Shouldn’t we in Albania fix things here first, before trying to ‘export’ our despotic regime elsewhere?
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