The World This Week: February 8, 2020

Asia Pacific

The coronavirus outbreak originating in Wuhan, China continues as upwards of 560 deaths and more than 28,000 infected have been reported in mainland China alone. Cruise ships off the coasts of Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan have been quarantined for testing, stranding thousands of passengers and crew, and several multinational companies are claiming production and shipping delays.

Earlier in the week, a 25-year-old Indian man was arrested in Delhi after allegedly raping a five-year-old girl on Saturday. The girl was assaulted on US embassy grounds, where her family lives and works among the local staff. Little information has been released beyond the man’s age, occupation (driver), and that he was not employed by the embassy; but this incident, along with India’s recent problems with sexual assault, could become a diplomatic issue between the US and India.

Eight-year-old climate activist Licypriya Kangujam has spoken out about her two-year campaign pushing to improve air quality and fight climate change in her state of Manipur, India. In December she attended the UN climate change conference COP25 in Madrid, along with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

Following a period of relative political turmoil in the Australian government–the resignation of two ministers–Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced their replacements in a Cabinet reshuffle. Agriculture Minister McKenzie resigned Sunday following a ministerial rule-breach, and resources minister Canavan left Monday in a show of loyalty to another Cabinet member.

Also in Australia, its eastern states and northwest coast are preparing for severe flooding and thunderstorms, as well as a tropical cyclone. One benefit: the heavy rain has slowed some of the bushfires that have ravaged almost 3 million acres of land since September of last year. However, officials warn the public that it could still take weeks of firefighting to make headway against the more than 60 fires still burning.

Latin America

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared President Juan Guaidó met with President Trump at the White House this past Wednesday after having attended the State of the Union address the night before. During the speech Tuesday, President Trump voiced his support for Guaidó saying that the “grip on tyranny will be smashed and broken.” Meanwhile, the Venezuelan capital of Caracas has seen significant changes after President Nicolas Maduro relaxed restrictions on private business. The New York Times reported that the abandonment of these socialist policies in response to American sanctions might be the end of the revolution.

Ex-President of Bolivia Evo Morales this week announced his candidacy for the Bolivian Senate from exile in Argentina. Morales was removed from the presidency last November and forced to flee after violent protests. Morales was the country’s first indigenous president and had ruled for 14 years.

In the Michoacán region of Mexico, two environmental conservationists and advocates for the protection of Monarch Butterflies were found dead. These deaths have so far not been found to be in connection with each other or their activism. Near the border, a smuggling tunnel has been found connecting an industrial area in Tijuana and San Diego. It is the longest to be discovered to date.

Protests flared up again in Chile after a police vehicle ran over a 37-year-old man after a soccer game on Tuesday. Protests which began in October over inequality have already led President Sebastián Piñera to concede the rewriting of the Chilean constitution. Despite the advances, a significant part of the Chilean public remains active in protest.

Central Asia

Coronavirus in China has impacted the tourism industry in the countries of the South Caucasus. Though the numbers of Chinese tourists is relatively small—many times smaller than the imprint of Russian tourists—the halt in this cultural and economic exchange could slow what has recently been a burgeoning cultural exchange. This exchange has been aided by very loose visa regulations from both the countries of the South Caucasus and China. Only Armenia has changed these regulations in response to the outbreak, and they have done so on a temporary basis. All parties surely hope for an improvement on this front so they can return to their normal tourism rates.

Uzbek schools are set to review the lessons and images present in school books in hopes of eliminating gender stereotypes. While women and girls are presented as demure and perform household duties, young boys are presented as being disruptive. As neither of these stereotypes is helpful in schooling, the country seeks to change these narratives so as not to limit its youth.

In Turkmenistan, the creation of an upper house in the legislature is being discussed. This body would be composed of 56 members, chosen by a mix of election by regional representatives and presidential appointment. This change is expected to have little effect on governance, as President Gurbanguly Burdimuhamedow controls the government. The new body would, however, have the potential to put Burdimuhamedow’s son in place as his successor. 


Lesotho’s first lady Maesiah Thabane has been charged with the 2017 murder of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s previous wife, Lipolelo Thabane. The couple was in the middle of a divorce settlement that would have granted her significant benefits, but Lipolelo was gunned down outside of her home in Maseru two days before the prime minister’s second inauguration in June 2017. Maesiah and the prime minister were married three months later. Immediately after the police summoned Maesiah to testify as part of the investigation into the murder in January, she fled to South Africa, prompting the issuance of an arrest warrant. After an agreement between the police and her lawyer, Maesiah turned herself Tuesday morning at a police station on the border of South Africa. She appeared in court Wednesday and remanded in custody until she was granted bail the next day. Her lawyer is arguing that she must leave the country for medical treatment, but police fear that she could attempt to flee the country again. Deputy police commissioner, Mokete Paseka, says that investigations have been “satisfactorily completed” and there is a strong case. The first lady’s trial is set for Tuesday, February 18.

Last Friday, President Trump imposed travel bans on citizens from Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Sudan, and Tanzania, as well as two non-African countries, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar. The acting homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf, said the countries targeted by these bans failed to meet US security standards by not complying with identity-verification and information-sharing rules. This comes a little over a year after the Trump administration unveiled the “Prosper Africa” initiative to counter the growing influence of China and Russia on the continent. However, this ban opposes the new US policy for Africa and has closed ties between the continent’s largest economy and its most populous country, Nigeria. Experts say that the ban will ultimately damage what progress has been made to limit the growth of Russian and Chinese presence in Africa. China has held a military presence on the continent in Djibouti for since 2017 and Russia has made significant progress through multiple agreements with African nations, including the building of a logistics base in Eritrea and utilization of Egypt’s existing bases for Russian military aircraft. Eritrea and Djibouti are strategically located along a key trade route along China’s One Belt One Road.

North America

President Donald Trump gave his State of the Union address earlier this week following his informal impeachment acquittal. Highlights included President Trump possibly denying a handshake from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi then tore up a transcript of the President’s address. The address edified the deep partisan divide reverberating through Washington D.C. and the rest of America.

In Arizona, construction on the controversial border wall is threatening Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This area holds profound significance for many Native American tribes in the area. Blasting for the border walls construction is wreaking havoc on the protected area. Arizona Democrat Rep. Raúl Grijalva visited the site last month and reported the current blasting path potentially threatens a number of sacred burial sites.

Many North American manufacturers spent the greater part of last week prepping for a possible global economic slowdown due to the Coronavirus running rampant in China. This outbreak has serious implications for international trade, up to one half of China’s economy is currently shutdown.

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