The World This Week: October 15th, 2018

Latin America and The Caribbean

A large caravan of Hondurans are headed towards the U.S. – Mexico Border. Approximately 1300 individuals fleeing rampant political violence in their homes are traveling north through Guatemala and Mexico in hopes of entering the U.S. The Trump administration revoked temporary protected status back in May for Hondurans currently in the U.S. Thursday, several key figures of the administration met with world leaders at the second Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America to address the situation.

U.S Treasury Department warned American banks to be watchful for money laundering from Nicaraguan President Ortega and his regime. The announcement comes as the U.S.Senate prepares to unanimously approve the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2018. The bill would result in significant sanctions against the Nicaraguan government.

A runoff election has led to partisan violence and hate crimes in Brazil. Last week’s national election showed Congressman Jair Bolsonaro with a sizeable lead over his competitor coming into the runoff presidential election. Since the results came in, several violent attacks have been reported, including one where a gang of men drew a reverse swastika onto a woman’s body. Bolsonaro’s opposition and observers alike have placed the blame on his sexist, racist, and homophobic rhetoric throughout his campaign.

 

South Asia

The US Special Adviser to Afghanistan, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, has completed a 10-day tour across the Middle-East and South Asia in Afghanistan, where he briefed President Ashraf Ghani on his progress. The US Special Adviser has also met with officials in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Pakistan as he seeks to re-energize peace talks and bring the Taliban to the negotiations table. The ambassador’s introductory meeting with the Taliban’s political office in Qatar concluded with an agreement to continue meeting in the future, though the Taliban seems unwilling to agree to anything without the immediate withdrawal of foreign forces and the release of its fighters from Afghan jails. The Taliban continues to escalate its attacks, as at least 8,050 civilians have died in the first nine months of 2018.

Delhi is bracing for severe smog levels in the coming weeks as farms in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana burn their fields in preparation for planting season. Last year, the burning of fields forced officials to shut down schools, ban diesel-run generators, burning of garbage and non-essential truck deliveries. With pollution levels at 12 times the recommended limit, Delhi’s chief minister declared a public health emergency last year, calling the city a “gas chamber.” Although the government has sought to provide Farmers with alternatives, such as subsidies for equipment that shred field residue, farmers have said that field burning remains the cheaper option. City officials are trying other measures to mitigate pollution, such as enforcement of a supreme court ban on urban fireworks in advance of Diwali and large-scale tree planting.

 

Middle East and North Africa

The Saudi consulate in Istanbul is set to be searched on Monday afternoon by a joint Turkish-Saudi team of investigators, according to a Turkish diplomatic source. King Salman has also ordered an internal probe into the disappearance of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, who left Saudi Arabia in a self-imposed exile over a year ago, entered the consulate on October 2, and has not been seen since. President Trump is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with King Salman about the situation.

After being closed 3 years, the Nassib border crossing between Jordan and Syria has been reopened. This crossing used to carry billions of dollars of trade to countries in the region. The route was originally cut off in 2015 when the area was taken over by Syrian rebels.

Researchers claim that if the current climate trends continue, the Middle East and North Africa could become “uninhabitable” by the end of the century.  Director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Joe Lelieveld, claims that increasing temperatures could cause dramatic increases in the number of climate refugees.

 

East Asia and Pacific

The Pakistani government has been forced to request a bailout from the IMF despite initial reluctance from Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan. The move comes after Pakistani officials sought to first close their $12 billion budget shortfall through loans from the U.A.E. Saudi Arabia, China, and Pakistani remittances from abroad. According to Pakistan’s information minister the Gulf States and Riyadh put unacceptable conditions on possible loans, and while he did not specify what those were, these have included pressure to support their war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and a stronger stance towards Iran in the past. A loan would potentially antagonize relations with Beijing, which has invested heavily in infrastructure projects in the country, and which the US has accused of “debt trap diplomacy.” Imports from China are the largest nonfuel contributor to the country’s trade deficit. An IMF bailout package would likely include cutbacks to China’s infrastructure projects in the country and closer scrutiny of Pakistan’s financial obligations to China. Pakistan has called for a free trade agreement between the two countries to lessen the trade imbalance. The bailout request deals a severe blow to prime minister Khan’s vision of an “Islamic welfare state,” as the Pakistani rupee is set to be devalued further and austerity measures to be put in place.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has extended an invitation to the Pope to visit Pyongyang according to an announcement from South Korea’s presidential office. Pope Francis becomes the second Pope to receive an invitation to the North Korean capital after Kim Jong-il invited Pope John Paul II in 2000. No papal visit has ever actually occurred to the Hermit Kingdom. North-Korea’s constitution promises a “right to faith” and state-controlled churches do exist although this has largely been called a façade. A 2014 UN report found Christians face severe persecution if found practicing their faith outside of state-controlled churches. While North Korea is purported to maintain a Catholic church in its capital, and the UN estimates 800 Catholics preside in the country, no official ties to the Vatican exist. In 2000 the Vatican insisted a papal visit would only occur if Catholic priests were accepted in North Korea.

Europe and Central Asia

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, insists that a Brexit deal is still achievable. She says it is “frustrating” that the two sides could not agree how to guarantee a hard border with Northern Ireland. Despite this, “she said she did not think the two sides were far apart, adding: ‘I continue to believe a negotiated deal is the best outcome for the UK and the EU and that such a deal is achievable, and that is the spirit in which I will continue to work with our European partners.’”

A 15-year old Kyrgyzstani herder, Temir Issakunov, has died of bubonic plague after being bitten by a flea. It is the first case of Black Death in the country for over thirty years. In an effort to calm fears of an epidemic, an emergency quarantine zone has been set-up in order to contain approximately 100 people thought to have contracted the disease. An official from Kyrgyzstan’s health ministry, Tolo Isakov, has said that teams of pest control agents have been sent into the area to kill rats and other rodents which may have been harboring the disease. Approximately 2,000 local people now face compulsory tests to see if anyone else is infected. Antibiotics have been handed out to anyone that has tested positively. Checkpoints have also been set up to monitor and contain the movement of livestock across the borders into Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China.

Sub Saharan Africa

At least 180,000 Congolese migrants have been expelled from Angola since October 1st. The numbers are likely higher than reported as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola share more than 186 miles of border. Many migrants are saying they were kicked out despite having documentation to live in Angola and there are unconfirmed reports that a number of them have been brutalized and even killed by Angolan forces. There is not a confirmed reason for this policy change.

Two International Red Cross Society aid workers were kidnapped by a faction of Boko Haram in Northeast Nigeria may be executed Tuesday. The ICRC issued requests to the Nigerian government to negotiate the release of the workers, adding that, “speed and urgency are critical.” The aid organization received an ultimatum from the militants on September 16th and have confirmed the date of her death sentence as October 16th.

Sierra Leone has cancelled plans to build a controversial $318 million airport outside the capital of Freetown with a Chinese company and funded by Chinese loans. The mega project, which was due to be completed in 2022, had been commissioned by the previous president Ernest Bai Koroma in March of this year. Sierra Leone’s decision is the first time an African government has canceled an already announced, major China-backed deal.

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