The World This Week 10/9

Europe and Central Asia

The discussion of Catalan independence from Spain continues to rock the region. This weekend, a pro-Spain, pro-unity rally was held in Barcelona. Until this rally, there has been a lack of public voice or demonstration representing the silent majority of pro-“stay” Catalans. Now they are speaking out against the Catalan movement for independence and shouting the cry of “Don’t be fooled, Catalonia is Spain” to convey their pro-unity stance. Members of this group have vocalized frustrations with those who have attempted to speak in the name of all Catalans without their consent and who are “destroying” their region. 

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UPDATE

Catalonia declared independence but suspended it in search of dialogue. The central government believes the Catalan premier’ speech to be a declaration of secession; Madrid may apply Article 155 instituting marshal law.

On Saturday afternoon, 11 people were injured outside London’s Natural History Museum when a car jumped the pavement and sped into the crowd. Nine of those struck were hospitalized but none had life-threatening injuries. After a string of terrorists attacks in the city and around the country, Britain is currently at a “severe” terrorism threat level. This included the deadly attacks near Westminster and London Bridge, and so London authorities have had a difficult time easing the public that the crash was not the result of a terrorist attack. A suspect believed to be the driver is in custody but not yet charged. Meanwhile, the country is pushing ahead with the Brexit as it enters into the 5th round of talks to facilitate the transition.

Relations with Turkey continue to complicate after Turkey accused a US consulate worker of being behind a failed coup and, as a result, Turkey suspended all visa services for US citizens while they pursue the investigation. In response, the US has suspended all non-immigrant visa services (i.e. visas for tourism, medical treatment, business, or temporary work/study) to Turkish citizens.

East Asia and the Pacific

Japan wants your junk. In July, China notified the World Trade Organization that it will soon prohibit the import of many types of recyclables. As a result, recycling programs and companies around the world are scrambling to find new destinations for the junk they once sent to China. Rival Japan, long a major global recycling exporter, may be the first to seize the opportunity. With long-term government support for research, some of Japan’s biggest companies are moving to deploy technologies at home and abroad that will replace some of the low-cost and polluting recycling systems long used in China. If research bears fruit, Japan could lead the world in recycling in the near future.  

Japan’s Oct. 22 snap election will be less competitive than many had thought as Yuriko Koike, head of the new “Hope” party and the populist governor of Tokyo, decided against running for parliament. Koike, a former defense minister in Abe’s government, started the Party of Hope last month specifically to compete against the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, citing corruption as a major issue, although there are few policy differences between them. The growth of the Hope party comes as the expense of the crumbling center-left Democratic Party.

Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, believed to be either 28 or 30, was elected as an alternate member of the political bureau of the party’s central committee, according to a report Sunday by the Korean Central News Agency. She is believed to be one of Kim Jong Un’s closest confidants. They were born to the same mother, Ko Yong Hui. Michael Madden, founder of the influential NK Leadership Watch website, said the appointment shows the sister’s daily activities are more substantive and more important than some analysts had contended. He said it also indicates that the Ko Yong Hui line, when taken with the killing of Kim’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam, has been “conclusively established as the sole succeeding branch of the Kim family.”

Indonesian politics are becoming less predictable: analysts blame a weak economy and rising religiosity. Since 2014 annual GDP growth has hovered around 5%. While most Muslim Indonesians take a relaxed approach to certain aspects of their religion, such as going on the haj (only 11% say that is extremely important), in other areas, however, they appear to be more doctrinaire: the majority think that women should wear a hijab and 67% think that instituting sharia would “strengthen moral values”. Religious violence surged after the overthrow of Suharto, Indonesia’s long-serving strongman, in 1998, but then appeared to dissipate. Yet, recently violence is again becoming more common.

Africa

Liberia’s Tuesday election is full of presidential hopefuls including: George Weah, one of the greatest African footballers of all time (who is running with Ms. Taylor, wife of the violent dictator Charles Taylor); Joseph Boakai, the long-time Vice President of Liberia behind Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; Macdella Cooper, a fashionista and humanitarian aid worker; Alex Cummings, an executive vice president of Coca Cola until 2016; and Prince Johnson, an ex-warlord. President Sirleaf is stepping down after two six-year terms as President, the constitutional limit. In 2011, she won a Nobel Peace Prize because of her post-conflict leadership of the country; however, her successor still has much work to do as Liberia’s economy is one of the slowest growing in Africa and corruption is still deeply rooted.

On Monday morning, hundreds of people in Kenya took to the streets to protest the electoral process in their country. The politician James Orengo led the multi-city protests and said of the protesters, “We will only participate in an election where we know the outcome will be free and fair.”Following the 37 deaths in August following election day, in a surprise move, the Kenyan Supreme Court ruled that the election results were “Invalid, null and void.” Raila Odinga, who came in second after the first vote behind the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta, has also said that he will not take part in the follow up vote if key election reforms are not made. The vote will be held once again on October 26th.

The Middle East and North Africa

The Gulf crisis continues as Qatari PM Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani announced this week that he would provide measures to the private sector to help ease the financial impacts of the sanctions by the Gulf states. Qatar has also recently announced that the blockade will not pose a risk to the 2022 World Cup held in Doha. Qatar is working on eight buildings for the World Cup and construction is reportedly running on schedule.

US President Donald Trump has announced that he wants to give peace ‘a shot’ in Israel and Palestine before moving the US Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem was a campaign promise made by then-candidate Trump. President Trump announced this on former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s show, Huckabee. He has not yet announced plans for a peace deal.

Latin America & The Caribbean

In his latest immigration action, President Trump has linked his plan to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), other wise known as “Dreamers.” In a wish list released on Sunday, Trump asserted that funding the U.S.-Mexico border wall was of paramount importance and “must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of DACA recipients.” This comes after Trump allegedly promised Democratic House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer that he would not make his wall contingent on DACA reform. Both leaders have stated that they were open to discussing DACA alongside “reasonable border security measures” but believe that Trump’s latest demands fall short of “reasonable” and “fail to represent any attempt at compromise.” Despite Republican leadership in both chambers of Congress, Trump has had little luck passing even top legislative priorities and it is unclear that this project will garner the requisite support to be passed.

Brazil’s Southern states seek independence. In a referendum-style vote on Saturday, Brazil’s three southernmost states – Parana, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina – have asserted their desire to secede from the country. Likely drawing inspiration from their Catalonian contemporaries, the referendum vote was organized by a movement known as “The South Is My Country.” Setting up polls at more than 1,00 municipalities across the tristate area, voters expressed their distaste with the federal government and political corruption in Brazil.

The three states, which border Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, make up a generally wealthier, whiter region of the country and have expressed their frustration with the “unfair” tax-benefits ratio. The South Is My Country organizers sympathize with their Catalonian counterparts however, their secession effort is likely in vain as Article 1 of Brazil’s constitution does not allow separatism.

Argentine Airlines has suspended flights to Venezuela. Joining Delta, Avianca and several other airlines, Argentine Airlines will no longer offer flights into the South American nation of Venezuela. Citing increasing security concerns, criminal violence and political uncertainty, Iata (trade body for the world’s airliners) Vice President, Peter Cerdá said, “Venezuela is becoming disconnected, it’s practically disconnected from the rest of the world, above all by air, and we can’t see any solution in the short term.”

Since 2003, Venezuela has attempted several government controlled currency exchanges. Airline companies have tried to change the local currency (the bolivar) for US dollars, but the government strictly controls the amount of foreign currency allowed into the Venezuelan market. Mr. Cerda also stated that passenger traffic in Venezuela had dropped by 75% and many flight crews were unwilling to spend the night in Venezuelan cities, leading many foreign airliners to leave the country.

South Asia

Pope Francis scheduled a meeting with Myanmar’s top Buddhist monks, military generals, and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi this coming November. According to news releases by the Vatican, the pope will see two major Masses in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and one in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. Pope Francis will be the first pope to visit Myanmar and the second to visit Bangladesh, where Pope John Paul visited in 1986.
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There will be a Berlin Wall-style dividing between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan is building a fence to prevent militants from crossing the 1,500-mile frontier along the disputed colonial-era Durand Line, which was drawn up by the British in 1983. As a result, Kabul and Islamabad accuse each other of providing safe havens for Islamist group who carry out attacks near the disputed borders.

Flooding continues to affect Bangladesh and Myanmar according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which began distributing 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine on Tuesday to deal with outbreaks among Rohingya refugees.

On October 4 2017, Pakistan’s foreign minister on Thursday described comments made by U.S. senior officials as “hollow allegations”. While U.S. views and has long been critical of its regional strategy toward Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis said the U.S. will offer another chance to work with Pakistan before “take whatever steps are necessary” according to Trump to change Pakistan’s behavior, in the regard of border disputes. 

 

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