Finian Cunningham: Eurovision Song Contest!
NATO and Western Oil Giants behind the Stage of Euro Trash Spectacle: The Euro-vision Song Contest was watched by over 120 million TV viewers as a fun spectacle, a "carnival of kitsch" as one commentator put it, but off stage there are deadly serious political and economic interests at play. This year's annual finale of the 56-year-old competition comes from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where the purpose-built Crystal Hall on the shores of the Caspian Sea will project glitzy images of the Caucasus nation to the rest of the world. The autocratic government of President Ilham Aliyev has spared no expense or effort to stage the event, a spectacle that has become over the decades a byword for feelgood "Euro Trash" pop culture. In the weeks leading up to this event, Azerbaijan's state paramilitaries and secret police have been cracking down on the slightest public protest, jailing hundreds of human rights and pro-democracy activists. The majority Muslim nation saw a surge in public protests against the authoritarian Aliyev administration back in early 2011 as a spillover from pro-democracy uprisings in the Middle East. Azerbaijanis have grown weary of the Aliyev dynasty, accusing the leader's family of misappropriating the Central Asian country's vast oil wealth. While Azerbaijan, the biggest of the Caucasus nations that were formerly Soviet Republics has parliamentary elections, few consider Aliyev to have a genuine mandate from the less than 10 million population. The "president" appoints the cabinet, judiciary, has veto over the national assembly parliament, and has direct control over Azerbaijan's supposedly state-owned oil company.