The World This Week: January 21, 2019

North America

Tensions between Canada and China have worsened since Canada acted on an American warrant to arrest Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. She was arrested in the Vancouver airport last month, and since then Chinese officials have punished Canadians arrested in China in apparent retaliation. Robert Schellenberg, a Canadian arrested in China for drug smuggling, was retried this week. His original sentence of 15 years in prison was replaced with the death penalty. Canada is struggling with two of its strongest partners now, China and the United States. The Trump Administration has expressed frustration with Trudeau in the past and has now pushed them into a standoff with China over economic conflicts.

The Trump administration faces its own standoff in the U.S. as well. As the partial government shutdown continues, more TSA workers are calling out of work. Unscheduled absences of airport security employees have risen to 10%. Airports are still functioning without major passenger delays, but more and more employees are struggling to come to work without pay due to financial hardships. To end the shutdown, President Trump indicated he would be willing to extend DACA for three years. He was firm that this would not be amnesty for “dreamers” but a compromise in the interest of border security.

In Mexico a new caravan of 1,800 migrants is heading north, and Mexico is implementing a new strategy to handle the influx of migrants. People crossing the border between Guatemala and Mexico are given registration wristbands and humanitarian visas that allow them to stay and work in Mexico for one year. Also in Mexico, an explosion at a central Mexican Pemex oil farm on Friday killed 85 people and hospitalized 58 more. The oil farm is in Hidalgo state’s Tlahuelilpan district. More than 800 people were there collecting oil from a leak. According to Security Minister Alfonso Durazo, the military discovered the leak hours before the valve was closed but did not act because it was not considered an “important” task.

Middle East and Northern Africa

Israel carried out an air-raid on Syria early Monday morning. Prime Minister Netanyahu said Iranian military positions were the primary targets of the attack. This marks the second day of military exchanges between Israel and Syria. Israel states Iran fired a missile at a ski resort in Golan Heights first, while Syria claims it was Israel who began the attacks. Israel considers Iran to be its biggest threat, which has turned Syria into a battleground between the two nations.

The Taliban met with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday in Qatar, according to Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. The meeting comes hours after a Taliban attack that killed 100 members of Afghan security forces in the central Maidan Wardak province of Afghanistan.

Lamia al-Gailani, an Iraqi archaeologist who helped rebuild the National Museum in Baghdad, passed away on Friday at the age of 80. Al-Gailani, who was one of the first women to work on archaeological sites in Iraq, helped select the artifacts that would be displayed at the National Museum when it reopened in 2015. The museum was looted and damaged in years following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Al-Gailani also helped open a new antiquities museum in Basra in 2016. Her daughter said that al-Gailani hoped to make archaeology accessible to ordinary people.

Asia and the Pacific

In China, new numbers released by the National Bureau of Statistics show that economic growth has slowed by 0.2% off the last year to 6.6%, the slowest growth rate in 28 years. The numbers matched the expectations of global economists, as China has been experiencing sustained slowing of its economy for a number of years and has been embroiled in an ongoing trade war with the United States. A number of other international observers have estimated the growth rate to be much lower than the Chinese government has reported, around 5.3%. The new statistics released did paint a brighter picture in some areas – industrial output was higher than economists expected, showing a healthy 5.7% growth off the last year. Nonetheless, the slowdown has increased pressure on Chinese President Xi Jinping to finalize a trade resolution with U.S. President Donald Trump, as layoffs across the country continue, primarily in the retail and car sectors.

The Sabarimala riots have continued in India, as clashes between women and Hindu fundamentalists have grown in intensity and in scope over a court decision mandating women be allowed in the Sabarimala temple, one of the holiest places in India that has traditionally restricted entry to men. The ruling BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, has refused to wade in on the issue as violence continues in Southern India. The issue has put a spotlight on India’s ongoing struggle between conservative elements in society and long-standing issues with violence and oppression against women. Hard-liners have encircled the temple, beating, throwing rocks and threatening women, police, and first responders who attempt to enter the temple. Tensions reached a new flashpoint Monday, after news emerged the temple had been closed for a purification ritual after a number of women were able to break through the line of protesting men and enter the temple.

Latin America and the Pacific

PEMEX Pipeline Explodes; Kills 85. Last Friday, a pipeline 70 miles north of Mexico City exploded as a large crowd of nearly one thousand were collecting gas from an illegal tap. The detonation resulted in at least 85 dead with many more missing. Fuel theft by both cartels and regular citizens has been pervasive on Mexican pipelines as gas shortages rise. Videos have also emerged of the Mexican army overseeing, but not interceding in gas theft. Mexico has deployed 4,000 troops to secure and protect the pipelines from further incursion.ELN Bombs Colombian Police Academy. A rebel group called the ELN detonated a vehicle-borne IED at a Bogota police academy. The explosion killed 20 cadets and injured dozens of others. ELN’s terrorist attack occurred amidst an ongoing Cuban-negotiations between the Colombian government and ELN. Colombian President Duque has requested Havana extradite rebel commanders involved in the talks, but also believed to have directed the terrorist incident. Meanwhile, the attack has triggered a large march for peace by citizens in Bogota who fear a return to the bombing campaigns during Pablo Escobar’s reign.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Congolese opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, has slammed African leaders who have congratulated winner of the contentious December 30, 2018 polls. According to him, the presidents are encouraging electoral fraud. The Constitutional Court in the DRC capital Kinshasa on Sunday ruled on the poll petition brought by Martin Fayulu, dismissing it as one without basis.

Ten UN peacekeepers from Chad were killed in an attack by suspected Islamist militants in northern Mali. Another 25 Chadian troops were injured when the gunmen stormed the UN camp in Aguelhok early on Sunday. The UN mission in Mali was set up in 2013 to fight Islamist militias operating in the country. Militants have regularly attacked UN and Malian troops since then. Al-Qaeda’s North-African branch said it carried out the latest attack, local media report. Large swathes of northern Mali were seized by jihadists in 2012 until they were pushed back in a French-led military operation the following year.

Europe

The head of France’s main farmers’ union has warned that a no-deal Brexit could have a severe impact on French agricultural exports. French wine and spirits producers would be hit the hardest, as their sector had a $1.5 billion annual surplus in trade with the UK. A UK no-deal exit from the EU would bring new customs checks and rules.

Central Asia

Kazakhstan is ready to cooperate with Zimbabwe in the mining industry and in the supply of agricultural products. This is the first meeting between the two heads of state since 1992. The meeting was set to strengthen diplomatic relations and cooperation between the regions of Central Asia and South Africa. The trade turnover between the two countries in January-October 2018 amounted to $637,000, which is 24.7percent higher than in the same period of 2017.

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