Algeria: Can't Buy Me Love


October 16, 2011: The government will cut spending by 10 percent next year, largely to reflect a 25 percent increase in spending this year to blunt popular unrest and prevent an "Arab Spring" type uprising. Algeria was vulnerable to such an uprising, as it is one of the more incompetent dictatorships in the Arab world. Politics and the economy is dominated by a few dozen families, most of them headed by a prominent leader in the 1950s rebellion against French colonial rule. But the undemocratic government the rebel leaders set up in the 1960s, simply replaced foreign overlords with local ones, and less competent ones at that. But a rebellion led by Islamic militants in the 1990s was defeated after a decade, with great bloodshed (by both sides). Most Algerians are not in the mood for another rebellion, not just yet. Meanwhile, the corruption and mismanagement continue. There is enough oil money to allow the ruling families and their supporters to live well, but not enough to keep most Algerians happy. The government has done as little as possible to address demands for reform. A new law to eliminate restrictions on media is mostly a sham, and the secret police still discourage public opposition to the government.

There is growing violence by Islamic conservatives. Not like in the 1990s, but rather calls to outlaw alcohol and some forms of entertainment. Several bars have been attacked in the capital.

October 12, 2011:  The new al Qaeda leader, Ayman al Zawahri, released a video in which is urged Algerians to rebel against their government. This had little effect.

October 9, 2011:  Police dispersed a crowd of several hundred people, who were gathering near the presidential palace to protest high unemployment. At least 25 of the protestors were arrested. There are not enough Algerians willing to demonstrate, in numbers large enough to overwhelm the police.

The government revealed that police had intercepted a suicide car bomb last July, as it was on its way to bomb the parliament building. Three men in the car were shot dead before they could detonate the explosives.

October 5, 2011:  At least 17 people were arrested, as a demonstration was dispersed in the capital.

October 2, 2011: Along the Niger border, police intercepted a convoy smuggling in arms from Libya. An hour long gun battle left eight Islamic terrorists dead, and three arrested. Several Libyans were involved.


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