[Fabian Bimmer/Reuters]

The World This Week: April 9th, 2018

Europe and Central Asia

Puigdemont, Catalonia’s exiled former leader, has been released from German custody on bail (after paying $90,000). He announced that he ultimately intends to return to Belgium and has continued calling for dialogue with Spain.

30 were injured and 2 dead in Münster, Germany after a man drove a van into a crowd of people last Saturday. It crashed into a restaurant terrace of a pedestrian-only area, so the act was clearly intentional.  The identity and motive of the man have yet to be released, but locals have commented that he was known to have mental health problems. He is not believed to be affiliation with radical Islamic groups. The suspect killed himself immediately following the attack.

As projected, anti-immigration candidate Victor Orban has been re-elected as Hungary’s Prime Minister for his third consecutive term. His victory is greeted with mixed reactions: celebration from his fellow far-right leaders and supporters and concern from members of the country’s socialist party who deem him “nationalistic and xenophobic.” Orban’s campaign focused on migration and accusations that George Soros is in part to blame for the refugee flood into their country.


East Asia and Pacific

Former South Korean President Park Geun Hye was found guilty of all but two of the 18 charges filed by the prosecution, including bribery, coercion, abuse of power and leakage of government secrets. Despite all these, Park still denies most of the charges and even challenges the authority and legitimacy of the judiciary.

North Korea is committed to the efforts for denuclearization, however, what precisely “denuclearization” would means in terms of actions still remains unclear.  North Korea has promised the US that it is ready to discuss the future of its nuclear arsenal when the two nations’ leaders meet during the Kim-Trump Summit, US officials say. The summit is likely to take place by the end of April.

Anna Chennault died last week at the age of 94, and with her the world lost one of the most influential powerbrokers it had never heard of. Also known by her Chinese name, Chen Xiang Mei, who played an important role of an unofficial diplomat who skillfully navigated the currents and eddies of 20th Century politics.  Anna’s husband, US Maj Gen Claire Chennault, the leader of the Flying Tigers volunteer group of US pilots who battled against Japanese planes to protect China.

China’s tariff announcement is a direct response to the Trump administration’s publication last Tuesday of about 1,300 listed Chinese exports, worth about $50 billion annually in global trade. The Chinese authority intends to respond with 25% tariffs. Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said at a news conference in Beijing that the period before the tariffs go into effect is the “time to negotiate and cooperate.” The market is wary as fears of a trade war remerge.


Latin America

    Brazil’s ex-president will be jailed pending appeal. A federal judge ordered former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) to begin serving out his 12-year prison sentence on a corruption conviction. Just hours after Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected Lula’s bid to remain free during appeal, a warrant was issued ordering the ex-president to surrender to authorities. The vote likely ends his chances at running again in the forthcoming election and further deepens the nation’s political and social divide.

Lula’s Workers’ Party remains confident that he will run for a third term in October, despite the Supreme Court’s split decision. “Lula remains our candidate, first of all because he is innocent. If he is jailed, we will consider him a political prisoner and we will be by his side,” said Gleisi Hoffmann, the Workers’ Party president. The ruling had no direct effect on Lula’s eligibility as a candidate in the forthcoming election as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal determines eligibility starting in August. The tribunal is widely expected to reject Lula’s bid under the “clean slate” law which bars candidates convicted of crimes who have lost on appeal. On Sunday Lula spent his first night in jail, but in a movement that could help spur his release, several judges have indicated a desire to review the 2016 constitutional ruling that allowed him to be jailed.Venezuela severs commercial ties with Panama. In a move which prompted Panama to recall its ambassador, the Venezuelan resolution named Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and several other top officials as part of a system of corruption used by Venezuelan nationals to take advantage of Panama’s financial system.According to Venezuelan officials, the individuals named in the resolution, “present an imminent risk to the financial system, the stability of commerce in the country and the sovereignty and economic independence of the Venezuelan people.” The statement came about a week after Panama declared Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and several other officials as “high risk” for financing terrorism and money laundering.

The resolution specifically targets firms like regional airline Copa, one of the few international airlines still flying to and from Venezuela. There is no word yet as to whether or not Copa will cease business in Venezuela and the company has not yet responded for comment on the issue. Venezuelan authorities have announced a suspension of all Copa flights “to and from the country” starting April 6 in order to protect “the Venezuelan financial system.”

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