The World This Week 10/16

Latin America and the Caribbean

Socialists win governor seats in Venezuela despite claims of fraud. President Nicolás Maduro claimed the results as a victory for Chavismo, his particular party’s style of socialism. His victory is not, however, undisputed. The Democratic Union Roundtable coalition has refused to recognize the election results and has called for an election audit. In a fit of frustration, Campaign director Gerardo Bylde said, “neither Venezuelans nor the world will swallow this fiction.”

The claims of fraudulent results arose due to the fact that polls indicated that Nicolás Maduro’s party was poised to lose most of the seats prior to the election. In a pleasant change of pace, voting did occur peacefully; however, the results left many Venezuelans surprised by the results. Maduro has overseen, and a perhaps been the catalyst for, much of the political and economic unrest that has taken place in Venezuela over the years.

Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, killing at least 45 people, the U.S. territory is still struggling to recover. Drinking water is alarmingly scarce, prompting many Puerto Ricans to go so far as using water from wells at hazardous Superfund sites. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a statement saying it, “advises against tampering with sealed and locked wells, or drinking from these wells, as it may be dangerous for people’s health.”

To make matters worse, Puerto Ricans remain skeptical that President Trump will provide them the necessary aid for complete recovery. Trump recently warned the territory that aid wouldn’t last “forever” and threatened to pull back relief workers. Critics have accused Trump of victim blaming the US territory for the damage it sustained as a result of the natural disaster.

The five living former presidents will attend a concert this Saturday as a part of their joint-fundraising effort, the One America Appeal.

The UN has called for an investigation into the cause of a deadly prison riot in Mexico.  The riot took place inside Cadereyta jail in Nuevo Leon on Wednesday, leaving at least 17 dead. The UN cited the riot as reason for a “complete and exhaustive” report. State government spokesman, Aldo Fasci, said the prisoners were killed by bullets fired by state and federal police and that the riot was likely fueled by “fights between rival gangs.”

Europe and Central Asia

News this week has centered around pivotal elections. Kyrgyzstan recently held a historic election. It is unique from its authoritarian Central Asian neighbors because it boasts a democracy though, until this week, it has not had a peaceful transition of power. Sooronvai Jeenbekov won handily over his opponent and had the support of the incumbent President. Since its 1991 independence, Presidential power has not been transferred peacefully, some even being “ousted by riots.” This election hopefully represents a new precedence in the country.

Meanwhile, two weeks after Catalonia voted in favor of independence from Spain, the whole country waits for the Monday, October 16th deadline. Spain’s president set this in order to force the Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont to clarify whether or not his government has declared independence. If they have, it clear that Spain is willing to impose direct rule, thus taking away its current limited autonomy. Puigdemont has until 10:00am to clarify Catalonia’s stance.

Austria held its general election Sunday, and its conservative People’s Party is projected to win. The party’s charismatic leader is Sebastian Kurz who has served as Foreign Minister since 2013. He became their leader recently in May 2017 and is being referred to as the “Wunderwuzzi” (aka Wonder hot-shot) for his youth and success in breathing new vitality into a formerly stagnant party. His platform focused on limiting migration, a popular topic as the country’s voting base has recently shifted right, but will likely need to join with the Freedom Party in order to gain a majority in Austria’s parliament and form a coalition. If his party wins as predicted, the 31-year-old politician will become the youngest national leader in the world.

The Middle East and North Africa

Last Saturday there was a deadly car bomb attack on Somali capital Mogadishu. The attack, located in a busy part of the city, killed over 200 people. Currently, no group has taken responsibility for the attack. There are suspicions that the Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab is to blame. Many governments and organizations have condemned the attacks and offered their support to Somalia.

President Donald Trump has given Congress 60 days to decide to reinstate sanctions on Iran. This move is a continuation of President Trump’s distrust of Iran and his dissatisfaction with the Iran Deal. Other parties, including France, to the Iran Deal have expressed their concern over President Trump’s decision.

The Kurdish people continue to struggle for legitimacy in the region. Iraqi forces have called for the Kurds to leave its base in Kirkuk. The situation remains ongoing.

 

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Reunion de Trabajo Equipo Binacional, Visita Oficial China, 07 Enero 2015 by Cancillería del Ecuador, Flickr Creative Commons

East Asia and the Pacific 

On October 18, the Chinese Communist Party will begin its 19th Party Congress to install the country’s next generation of leaders. This twice-a-decade leadership transition is particularly noteworthy given China’s expanding economic ambitions and increasingly active role in global governance. It also comes ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s highly anticipated first visit to the region, at a time when tensions are reaching a climax on the Korean Peninsula. The international community is watching to see how China, under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, will chart its future course.The personnel appointments to China’s top political body will provide indications of Xi’s consolidation of power and the popularity of his policy agenda.

A conservative two-party system, is emerging in Japan. If the polling for the snap election on Sunday the 22nd is correct, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will likely strengthen his position. Abe’s “Take Back Japan” agenda, which promotes a “stronger” Japan both economically and militarily with a distinctively nationalist tone, glorifies Japan’s past and seeks changes to the pacifist constitution.

The Philippines say they have eliminated a top Islamic State leader. Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf militant seen as Islamic State group’s leader in southeast Asia, was killed in Marawi. The city has been partly held by insurgents since a rebel attack in May. The reported deaths came amid an army push to end the siege after months of fighting between troops and militants. The region is home to a number of Muslim rebel groups, many of which have in recent years sought alliance with the Islamic State.

In preparation for hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, Qatar is undertaking many construction projects. Qatar’s need for wood in the context of this construction boom has presented a strategic opportunity for timber-exporting Malaysia. Since the Saudi-led blockade was imposed on Qatar in June, Malaysia has replaced Saudi Arabia as a steel supplier to Qatar. In 2016, total trade between the two countries amounted to $566m, according to Malaysian local media figures. Today, the trade volume amounts to nearly $1.1bn, according to the Qatar News Agency.
New Zealand is facing a potential chips shortage this summer in a snack crisis being labelled the “chipocalypse“. Persistent wet winter weather on the islands has hit potato production, resulting in higher prices. In some places, up to a third of the crop has been lost.

South Asia

India advances talks with Sri Lanka to operate an airport on the southern tip of the island. This change comes as geoeconomics pressure rises due to China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) policy, which invested largely in the Indian Ocean including Sri Lanka. “It was during this time India came up with a proposal,” Siripala, Sri Lanka’s civil aviation minister, said Monday. “They were ready for a joint venture with the Airport and Aviation Services Limited,” he said, referring to the state-run company that runs Sri Lanka’s main airport in the capital Colombo and the one in the south, in Mattala. A Sri Lankan town called Hambantoa, sits near one of the world’s busiest shipping yards and it is a part of the OBOR initiative. China runs the seaport with a 99-year lease and is planning to expand its footprint in the area with the refinery, which would be Sri Lanka’s largest, and an investment zone of about 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres). The rise of Chinese presence in Indian Ocean makes the Indo-Sino geoeconomics competition inevitable in the near future.

Nepal enjoys international praise for rapid improvements in reducing hunger and is nearing the ‘moderate’ category, largely due to declines in undernourishment, growth stunting, and child mortality. According to the 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI). Nepal is ranked 72nd out of 119. Among South Asian countries, Nepal is ahead of Sri Lanka (84th), Bangladesh (90th), India (97th), Pakistan (107th) and Afghanistan (111th).

An Indian court chooses clean air over firework for Diwali. According to A. Asaithambi, president of the Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association, India spends an estimated $500 million on fireworks annually. About $100 million of those fireworks are purchased in Delhi. “People want fireworks, and we want to sell,” said one local retailer, who refused to give his name. “Maybe all we need to do is pay more money to government workers to close their eyes.”

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Bashir Arrives by Al-Jazeera English, Flickr Creative Commons

Sub-Saharan Africa

Last Thursday, the United States lifted sanctions on Sudan. These sanction were first levied on the country by Bill Clinton in 1997 due to genocide. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir still has a warrant out for his arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for being a co-perpetrator in genocide. The sanctions had little effect for many years, as vast oil reserves kept Sudan relevant for other countries. However, after South Sudan declared independence and took 75% of those oil reserves and the U.S. locked Sudan out of international financial markets, the blows started to land. This decision is deeply controversial, not least because President Omar al-Bashir has not increased access for humanitarian workers in his country, a requirement then-President Obama had laid out in a 2017 guide for a lifting of sanctions. Another controversy is President al-Bashir’s involvement in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. This gives further proof that the U.S. will continue to support Saudi Arabia in their campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Featured Image: Nicolas Maduros by Global Panorama, Flickr Creative Commons 

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