Where Turkey Went Wrong: Erdogan’s Rise to Power

In our last speaker event of the year, Aydoğan Vatandaş—an exiled Turkish journalist—spoke about the current state of Turkey. In his speech Vatandaş stated that Turkey, the once economically thriving democratic nation, has fallen into chaos just in the past decade. In fact Vatandaş stated that Turkey was anything but a democracy, in large part due to one man—Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdoğan was Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998 and in 1998, was imprisoned  for reciting an excerpt of a poem the Turkish government deemed inappropriate. After his release Erdoğan proclaimed himself a Muslim democrat and shortly thereafter assumed the position of Prime Minister of Turkey in 2003. His position as Prime Minister of Turkey lasted until 2014. During this time Erdoğan became determined to resurrect the Ottoman Empire. This led to conflicts with the United States, particularly in regards to the sanctions against Iran. To deal with this matter Erdoğan met with former president Barack Obama in 2012 to reach an agreement. Though the meeting showed some progress, it ultimately marked the beginning of the decline of the U.S.-Turkey relationship.

Even though Erdoğan wielded tremendous power as Prime Minister, his power reached its current height after the Turkish coup in July 2016. The coup is believed by Erdoğan to have been staged by Fethullah Gülen—a former ally of Erdoğan. The coup not only failed to achieve its goal of overthrowing Erdoğan, it bolstered his power. The coup was suppressed in a day and allowed Erdoğan to declare a Turkish state of emergency. Erdoğan began his one-person regime and ended Turkey’s long-lasting and prosperous democracy. This can be illustrated though the mass number of Turkish citizens who have fled and are still attempting to flee Turkey due to the poor conditions. As there is no legal way to leave under Erdoğan’s regime, many take to illegal and dangerous methods. Just in the past few weeks the five dead bodies of a Turkish family were found drowned in the Aegean Sea.

Erdoğan’s regime has even suppressed the freedom of the press. Upwards of ninety percent of the news broadcasted in Turkey is likely false, directly controlled by the government. Many of Turkey’s former journalists writing about Erdoğan’s corruption have either been jailed or have fled the country. According to Vatandaş, a friend of his who recently visited Turkey was arrested on the sole basis of being linked to him, who is a wanted man by Erdoğan’s government. He even cracked a joke, stating that, we, the listeners of his speech, now could not visit Turkey in the foreseeable future.

Turkey is in a state of chaos; they have even threatened to begin executing enemies of the state. As the Middle East is in turmoil, the United States is in dire need of a strong ally in the Middle East. However, with Turkey’s current government, an alliance does not appear to be an option. It is now impossible to ignore the state of Turkey.

Allen Zou, in addition to his volunteer work with the World Affairs Council, is a high school senior at Saint Xavier. He has a passion for understanding other cultures, especially through language-learning, and currently studies Mandarin, French, and German.

Local businesses, nonprofits mentoring Latin American entrepreneurs

Costa Rican entrepreneur Karen Paola Gómez López surfs on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. | Courtesy of Gómez López

Since early October, Costa Rican entrepreneur Karen Paola Gómez López has been embedded with Louisville’s professional soccer club to learn about marketing, networking and other business aspects to improve the viability of her adventure tourism startup.

Gómez López is one of 10 young entrepreneurs from Latin America who have shadowed business, nonprofit and government leaders in Louisville as part of a U.S. State Department program to foster prosperity and human rights south of the U.S. border.

Gómez López told Insider that she had learned invaluable lessons, including the importance of networking and that entrepreneurs had to take many small but critical steps to achieve success.

“I’m really grateful,” she said. “It’s a life-changing experience.”

Gómez López, 26, hails from La Cuesta, a small town near the Panamanian border. In college, she studied in Pennsylvania for a year as part of another State Department program. After completing her post-secondary studies in Costa Rica, she worked in tourism and then decided to get another degree, in social work.

She recently got together with two partners to launch Learn Experience Adventure (L.E.A.) Costa Rica, which is based in San Isidro and offers all-inclusive and customized adventure tours involving anything from hiking and rafting to surfing and snorkeling. Gómez López said the business would cater primarily to groups of foreign tourists and would welcome its first customers next year. Twenty percent of the profits will be invested into social programs the San Isidro region to help lift people out of poverty, she said.

Gómez López looked for mentors and advisers in San Isidro, a tourism-heavy city of 45,000, but found that governmental and private organizations that help entrepreneurs there focused primarily on tech businesses. She read about the State Department Program, Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, on Facebook and reached out to her embassy contacts, who encouraged her to apply.

Commerce and social change

The program this year has brought 250 fellows from Latin America to the U.S. Louisville organizations, including Superior Meats, New Directions Housing and Louisville Forward, are participating for the first time.

Laura Duncan

The council tried to pair the visiting entrepreneurs with businesses or nonprofits in similar sectors so that each could benefit from the other’s expertise and make connections that may result in additional revenue.The program, in its second year, aims to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Latin American countries, said Laura Duncan, visitor program manager for the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana. The council is the State Department’s regional partner and served as a liaison between the fellows and host organizations.

One visitor from Ecuador runs a company that produces guinea pig meat and has been meeting with local chefs, hotels and Latino grocery stores for potential export opportunities, Duncan said. Another entrepreneur, who works with at-risk youth in Suriname, got an up-close look at the operations of YouthBuild, a local nonprofit that helps disadvantaged youth obtain a high school diploma or GED while getting hands-on career training.

While the State Department has, for decades, fostered international exchanges focused on the public sector and social issues, the start of YLAI reflected an increasing interest by the agency to create greater stability in developing countries by supporting entrepreneurs who are trying to improve the lives of people in their communities by offering them work and by including in their business plan some kind of social component.

The application period for a program that will send 45 fellows from the U.S. to Latin American countries in March and April is about to begin.

The programs are funded by the State Department. Funding details were not immediately available.

Enjoying the people — not the weather

Karen Paola Gómez López, left, and Leigh Nieves

Since arriving in Kentucky on Oct. 6, Gómez López has shadowed Leigh Nieves, account executive at Louisville City FC, the local pro soccer club.

Nieves said that on a basic level both the soccer club and the adventure tourism company tried to attract and entertain people, and LouCity leaders had focused on helping Gómez López with marketing and networking skills and had connected her with local tourism-related businesses and resources to help her company adopt those practices that maximize its chances for success.

Nieves said that the club, too, had benefited from the initiative because Gómez López provided some insights into how LouCity could reach out to attract more fans from the local Latino community.

Discussions about soccer between Nieves and Gómez López came easy because it’s Costa Rica’s most popular sport. Gómez López said Costa Rican towns had at least three things: a church, a school and a soccer field.

The visiting entrepreneur also could not help but point out that the Costa Rican men’s soccer team had qualified for next year’s World Cup while some other teams did not.

Beyond the business lessons, Gómez López said that she has enjoyed meeting Louisvillians.

“People I have met have been really nice to me,” she said.

The work, activities and additional meetings and discussions with the other visiting entrepreneurs have made for busy days that often left her too tired to visit many Louisville sites, she said. Nonetheless, she enjoyed a tour of the Muhammad Ali Center and plans to visit Churchill Downs on Friday.

And, she said with a laugh, she has been able to go to the mall to buy some clothes for her family in Costa Rica, including her parents, an older sister, a younger brother and two nieces.

Gómez López said that she likes Louisville because it’s a sizable city but not so big that it’s overwhelming.

“It’s easy to get to places,” she said. “You don’t get lost here.”

She does have one complaint, though.

“I don’t like the weather,” she said with a laugh.

Costa Rica is close to the equator and does not experience seasons or significant temperature swings. Average daily temps range from 70 to 80 degrees.

Nieves said it’s been refreshing to meet someone from another culture, especially someone with such passion for her business and mission to help others.

“I have nothing but good things to say about working with YLAI,” Nieves said.

Gómez López invited Louisvillians to visit her country, which, she said, is safe, fairly prosperous, close (a four-hour flight from Atlanta) and a paradise for nature and adventure lovers. The country has active volcanoes, Pacific and Caribbean coasts and, although it covers only 0.03 percent of the planet’s surface, it holds nearly 6 percent of the world’s biodiversity, according to the country’s embassy.

“Costa Rica is one of the best places to visit,” Gómez López said.

Carlos Zamora, Costa Rican entrepreneur and partner in adventure tour company L.E.A. Costa Rica, rafts the Naranjo River. | Courtesy of Karen Paola Gómez López


Costa Rica

  • Location: Central America, north of Panama and south of Nicaragua, bordered by the Caribbean Sea in the east and the North Pacific Ocean in the west.
  • Area: 51,100 square kilometers, or slightly smaller than West Virginia.
  • Climate: Tropical and subtropical.
  • Terrain: Coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including more than 100 volcanic cones, including active volcanoes.
  • Capital: San Jose.
  • Population: 4.9 million.
  • Government: Presidential republic.
  • Background: Costa Rica’s political stability, high standard of living, and well-developed social benefits system set it apart from its Central American neighbors. Through the government’s sustained social spending, almost 20 percent of GDP annually, Costa Rica has made tremendous progress toward achieving its goal of providing universal access to education, healthcare, clean water, sanitation and electricity.
  • Per capita GPD: $16,400. Northern neighbor Nicaragua has a GDPs of $5,500. Costa Rica is a popular regional immigration destination because of its job opportunities and social programs. Almost 9 percent of the population is foreign-born, with Nicaraguans comprising nearly three-quarters of the foreign population.
  • GDP growth in 2016: 4.3 percent.
  • GDP composition: Services, 73 percent; industry, 21.5 percent; agriculture, 5.5 percent. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread. (Source: CIA World Factbook.)

This article, written by Boris Ladwig, was reposted from Louisville Insider.

Learn more about the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative on our YLAI webpage.

Louisville Company Hosts Exotic Meat Entrepreneur From Ecuador

Listen to the WFPL radio spot.

About a dozen chefs wearing white coats and white hair nets are gathered in the frigid red-floored production facility of Superior Meats on West Main Street in Louisville. The chefs are here on this weekday afternoon to learn methods on how to “take down” or cut up a lamb.

Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org
Lamb “Take Down” At Superior Meats

Superior Meats supplies meat to restaurants, hotels and medical facilities. It is the last family-owned local meat supplier in Louisville. Company President Ben Robinson says they get their beef, bison, pork, poultry, wild game and other meats from many places.

“Everywhere — we source everywhere,” he says. “Everywhere from the commoditized beef out West to our local farmer in Bardstown.”

And Superior Meats is also sourcing its talent from afar. The company is currently involved in an exchange through the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative sponsored by the State Department.

Entrepreneurs from all across Latin America are in Louisville as part of the program. The founders are hosted by small businesses and nonprofits in the city for the next few weeks.

The entrepreneur chosen to do his fellowship at Superior Meats is Jose Lema from Ecuador. At his home in Quito, Lema sells exotic meat to hotels and restaurants.

“I’m in the meat industry back in my country but I deal with different animal,” he tells the chefs. “I deal with guinea pigs.”

Guinea pig might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an ‘exotic meat’ in the U.S. But in Ecuador, this is nothing new.

“Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia share a culture because that’s where the Incan Empire was set up thousands of years ago,” Lema says. “Since we share all of these, guinea pig is eaten in these three countries.”

And to Lema, it does NOT taste like chicken.

“If you mix like a pork and a rabbit — it has a particular pork-ish flavor,” he says. “But you still can have these rabbit undertastes.”

Lema’s company is called Cuyempak and was founded in 2010. “Cuy” is the word in Ecuador for “guinea pig.” Lema works with 200 small farmers in rural areas in Ecuador on best practices on how to raise and sell the animal. That includes processes around mating, feeding them with plants that will let the animals gain weight, and composting.

Lema buys the animals from farmers at a fair price, takes them to the plant, then processes and sells them.

The vacuum-packed cuy can be bought with or without marinade. The animal is prepared with Ecuadorean spices, as well as garlic, a lot of onions, cumin, a little bit of pepper and the company’s secret ingredient. Cuts include guinea pig filet and guinea pig ribs.

For Lema, this isn’t just about cuy or guinea pigs. According to the World Food Program, chronic malnutrition affects nearly 24 percent of children under the age of five in Ecuador.

“It needs solutions for that,” Lema says. “So guinea pig is part of our culture and that’s the response for that.”

Lema wants to use Cuyempak to help small farmers. He says the goal is to use local resources to solve a problem.

“So we’re trying to help a little bit for this problem and give these families a chance to have a better life, a better economy,” says Lema.

The same goes for Ben Robinson of Superior Meats.

“We’re sitting here in a state that’s the number one producer of beef cattle East of the Mississippi,” says Robinson. “We care about our community we care about our farmers and we want to help be a piece of this industry going forward.”

Although they may work with different types of meat, Lema and Robinson say they have a lot to learn from each other.

This post, written by Roxanne Scott, was reposted from WFPL News

Area Nonprofit Wants To Help Young People Become Global Citizens

About 11 percent of Kentucky students in grades K-12 were enrolled in a foreign language course in 2014-15. That’s according to the American Council of International Education. That statistic is one of the reasons a local organization wants to get more high school students in the commonwealth to become more globally competent.

The World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana is now taking applications for its new Global Citizenship Certificate Program. Beth Malcom, president and CEO of the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association, served on the education committee that designed the program.

“Global competency is being aware of the world around you and that there are other lenses, perspectives, experiences, traditions that may differ from your own,” Malcom said.

She said the program would complement almost any field of study, including science and high-tech fields that are heralded by some as more lucrative and essential for the future.

Malcom said along with cognitive benefits, having a global mind and being multilingual can be beneficial for college admissions.

“There is a sense that Kentucky is not an international place but if you look at the manufacturing that’s here we have a huge, large number of international companies with plants and factories here,” said Xiao Yin Zhao, executive director of the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana. That includes companies like Toyota, she said.

Zhao said the council — a nonprofit based in the Portland neighborhood — is investing approximately $50,000 into the pilot program.

The Global Citizenship Certificate Program is a free, two-year program for high schoolers in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Students complete requirements such as language learning and attend events such as the Model U.N., culminating in a capstone project. The program will accept about 100 students.

Progress is tracked by an online application. Zhao said it is not lost on officials that some students may not be able to complete the program because of inadequate internet access or because some may not have globally-minded events nearby that meet requirements.

“When we did this we wanted to do something that is easily done by students and that’s why we went through a mobile application,” said Zhao. “We are completely aware of that digital divide.”

She said at least in this first year, more remote areas may not be ready for a program but coordinators can gauge interest from the number of applications from those areas and try to help those students in the future.

The application to the Global Citizenship Certificate Program asks for basic information about prospective students, questions about their interest and what they think they’ll get out of the program.

Applications are being accepted until October 15.

This article, written by Roxanne Scott, has been reposted from WFPL News.

Meet Some Iraqi Exchange Students Who Want To Change The World

Listen to the WFPL radio spot.

Thirteen exchange students from Iraq are in Louisville this week. The teenagers are part of the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. While they’re here, the students visit education institutions and attend workshops on youth activism.

They’ll go back to Iraq and work on a community project around an issue they’re passionate about.

I caught up with the students on their break at the Big Four Bridge. I talked to them about their projects, what they do for fun at home, and about misconceptions some may have about their country. Listen to what they had to say in the player above.

Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org
Ali Al_Behadili

“My project is about designing a dialogue group to inspire others about being more open-minded and celebrate the diversity. Because Iraq is so diverse. We have people from different backgrounds, different languages, different religions.” —Ali Al-Behadili, 16.







Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org
Zainab Al-Hilfi

“Just to be honest I want to be a pilot. But my mother said no so I have to be a doctor. I don’t have an opinion about my life. It’s all about your parents, the community. And I will work on that, actually. Like, through doing some dialogue groups.” —Zainab Al-Hilfi, 16.







Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org
Awab Abdulhadi Majid

“Here’s the thing: not all Iraqis are Arabs. Not all Arabs are Muslims. And not all Muslims are terrorists.” —Awab Abdulhadi Majid, 15.










This article, written by Roxanne Scott, was reposted from WFPL News.

Op Ed: Diplomacy Is the Only Option with North Korea

by Thomas Graham Jr.
This article originally appeared in U.S. News and World Report.

The great Cold Warrior and international negotiator Ambassador Paul Nitze once said to me “Whenever I enter one of these negotiations (U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms negotiations) I try to imagine the narrow strip where both sides can stand comfortably. Then I try to steer U.S. policy toward that place.” That is a good construct for important and sensitive negotiation with an adversary. And it could work with North Korea as well. Whatever one thinks of North Korea, with their horrible record of human rights and disregard for human life, they do have interests, which they acknowledge, and they will negotiate if approached correctly and very carefully.

North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a dangerous state with a long track record of being willing to sell anything to anyone for its own benefit, and a history of state terrorism against South Korea. As such, it poses a double danger. First, the DPRK could sell nuclear weapons to Iran or to terrorist organizations, or it could transfer bomb production technology as it did to Syria during 2005-2007. Second, a nuclear-armed North Korea, with ballistic missiles currently capable of reaching targets throughout Northeast Asia and likely capable of reaching the United States within a few years, is a grave threat to South Korea, Japan and America.

However, Pyongyang’s policy over the years has also included a certain realpolitik and willingness to negotiate. The North Korean regime, which has few allies in the international sphere and grapples with crippling domestic problems, is above all interested in survival, economic benefits and a diplomatic relationship with the United States. Military action against North Korea is not an attractive option; the huge North Korean artillery and rocket forces amassed along the Korean Demilitarized Zone pose a serious threat to Seoul that is less than twenty miles away; and in recent years, uncertainty has developed about what the DPRK might do with its nuclear weapons. Diplomacy is the only practical option.

Some say that the North Koreans are irrational but the track record does not necessarily bear this out. The United States utterly crushed North Korea during the Korean War but 64 years have passed since the end of that conflict, and the Kim family remains in control. The North Koreans have a weak hand and they have played it with skill. Their objectives have always been clear: survival, economic benefits and a relationship with the United States. In the past, to the extent the U.S. was prepared to pay this price, agreement with the DPRK was possible. Playing on this the Clinton administration made real progress: the DPRK nuclear program was essentially shut down – not eliminated but shut down – and an agreement ending their ballistic missile program was close.

For its own purposes, the Bush administration decided to abandon all the Clinton progress, adopt a confrontational position toward North Korea and include North Korea in the president’s axis of evil speech in early 2002. Later that year, just before North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, a U.S. delegation was in Pyongyang. There, among others, the U.S. delegation met with First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Sok-ju who accused the United States of singling out North Korea for nuclear attack and, among other memorable statements, said “We are part of the axis of evil, and you are gentlemen. That is our relationship. We cannot discuss matters like gentlemen. If we disarm ourselves because of U.S. pressure, then we will become like Yugoslavia or Afghanistan’s Taliban to be beaten to death.”

The hardline was back. Over the next 15 years arms limitation was largely abandoned. North Korea conducted five nuclear weapon tests and many ballistic missile tests. The DPRK has become a direct threat to the United States. And the new ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, had raised the stakes. Arguably, negotiation is still possible but now in addition to survival, economic benefits and a relationship with the United States, the DPRK wants to be recognized as a nuclear weapon state, something the United States cannot and should not do.

However, if catastrophe at least at some level is to be avoided, negotiations have to be attempted. The North Koreans likely will be open to making an agreement that they perceive to be in their interest. The trick will be to find the terms of such an agreement that would also be in the interest of the United States. The alternatives are not attractive. Leon Sigal, a long-time, non-government expert on North Korea has suggested an approach of seeking a temporary suspension of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program while both sides discuss reciprocal steps that the U.S. could consider in order to address North Korea’s security concerns. There may be interest in this in North Korea. This could be a place to start.


Thomas Graham Jr. served as a senior U.S. diplomat involved in every major international non-proliferation and arms control negotiation in which the United States took part from 1970 to 1997. Ambassador Graham is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and also serves on the Board of Directors for the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana.