The World This Week: February 29, 2020

Asia Pacific

New Delhi, India, has been ravaged by deadly protests between Muslims and Hindus in disputes against a citizenship law that favors non-Muslim minorities. As of Thursday, thirty-two are dead and hundreds injured; while security forces have restored an uneasy calm to the area, the dispute in question remains unresolved. A day earlier, Delhi High Court Justice S. Muralidhar was transferred out of his position shortly after hearing a petition related to the riots and voicing criticism of India’s government and police.

On Thursday, both South Korea and the US announced the plan to postpone annual joint drills given the ongoing spread of COVID-19. To date, 22 South Korean soldiers and one American stationed in South Korea have tested positive for the coronavirus, and South Korea maintains the largest number of infected individuals (about 1700) outside mainland China.

After performing a trial run in its own Xinjiang province in the coming months, China plans to ship 100,000 ducks to the areas in Pakistan most affected by a locust infestation. In the meantime, Chinese experts are coordinating with Pakistan to develop policies that will specifically target the locusts.

Latin America

Protesters continued in the Dominican Republic this week after electronic voting machines malfunctioned and forced the government to suspend municipal elections on February 16th. Many of the protesters suspect the vote to have been corrupted and have called for the resignation of the electoral board. New elections have been set for March 15th, 30 days after the original election. Presidential elections are scheduled for May and many have been left feeling uneasy about the future of their electoral process.

Brazil became the first Latin American country to report a case of the coronavirus this week followed by Mexico. The infected people had all recently traveled to Italy. This sparks particular concern because of the thousands congregated in Brazil celebrating Carnaval this month.

This week an MIT study found in its analysis of the October elections in Bolivia that there was “no reason to suspect fraud.” Last November, President Evo Morales was removed from power after opposition protesters argued that his election was fraudulent. The OAS conducted an election integrity analysis in November where they “noted irregularities.” Since the MIT study’s release, the OAS has rejected these findings. Mexico has called for the OAS to further examine the case.

Middle East & Central Asia

On the night of February 27th, 33 Turkish troops perished in airstrikes in Idlib Governorate, northwest Syria. This is only the latest installment in the quagmire of the civil war. The attacks are complicated by Russian involvement in the region. It has been affirmed by Russian officials that no Russian airstrikes were carried out in the immediate area, but that the Syrian regime undertook the attack. It has become a standard practice for both Russia and Turkey to notify the other of locations housing official military personnel, which has become muddied as Turkey supports groups Russia designates as terrorists. Turkey’s response included attacks against 200 targets, which, according to the Turks, resulted in the neutralization of 309 Syrian troops. As of February 28th, two Russian frigates, both of which have participated in that country’s initial involvement in the Levant, have been redeployed to the east Mediterranean. Presidents Erdogan and Putin have responded to the event in conciliatory tones, but the prospect of such narrowly-avoided conflict between a NATO member and Russia is cause for concern.  

The effects of the coronavirus are continually being felt in the Middle East and Central Asia. A spike in deaths in Iran is microcosmic of what many fear. Officials as highly-ranked as the Iranian Vice President have become infected with the disease. Restrictions on travel are myriad. Worry over the disease has also impacted United States military policy, as CENTCOM has suspended leave and liberty for American troops. This comes on the heels of a United States servicemember testing positive for coronavirus in the Republic of Korea.

North America

On Wednesday President Trump addressed the nation on the Covid-19 outbreak that has recently claimed its first victim in Washington State. The President compared the virus to the common flu and instructed Americans to take similar preventive measures, washing hands and covering coughs. He said, ‘not to panic’ and that the situation was under control. The deadly illness continues to disrupt international supply chains as the S&P 500 was down to its lowest levels since the recession of 2008.  Large multinationals dependent on Chinese manufacturing like Apple are projecting losses in this quarter. Adidas and Puma have reported disruptions due to the virus as well.

In Canada, the controversial Coastal GasLink project continues to be a thorn in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s side as he tries to reconcile Canadas’ struggling oil and natural gas sector with project opposition from Indigenous groups. Protestors have shut down Canada’s rail services in an attempt to pressure Trudeau to halt the project, demonstrating their solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia, who oppose the pipeline’s construction. Trudeau campaigned on claims of Indigenous reconciliation and is struggling to keep his promises amidst a stagnating oil and gas sector.


Africa had its first confirmed case of coronavirus in North Africa two weeks ago after a tourist in Cairo tested positive for the disease. The World Health Organization confirmed days ago that the individual has recovered, but now the virus has now reached Sub-Saharan Africa. An Italian citizen working in Nigeria flew into flew to the country’s largest city from Milan on Tuesday, Feb. 25. The individual showed no symptoms upon their arrival at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and passed medical screening, but fell ill the next day. The WHO has warned for months that the coronavirus would be a serious threat if it reached Sub-Saharan Africa due to its fragile health systems, and has listed Nigeria as one of 13 top priority countries for the outbreak due to the high volume of travelers from China. This incident occurred only three days after Kenya’s High Court ordered a temporary ban on flights coming into the country from China. At the moment, Nigeria is not planning to halt flights from countries that are currently affected, nor placing afflicted individuals under quarantine. As part of the Sahel region, Nigeria and the surrounding countries are already under duress from the rise of terrorist attacks over the last couple of years. Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger have been the primary locations of these attacks, with Burkina Faso currently experiencing the fastest-growing displacement crisis in the world. While this is the only confirmed case of the coronavirus in the region, the risk of the virus spreading will ultimately exacerbate instability.

In East Africa, the locust infestation continues to wreak havoc as countries are running out of ways to control the swarm. Kenya has temporarily run out of pesticides, Ethiopia has run out of planes to use pesticides, and the civil wars in Somalia and Yemen put exterminators’ safety at risk. The swarm has now reached Uganda, Tanzania, and Sudan. Communities are resorting to setting fires and making noise to scare them off, but these unsustainable solutions are only perpetuating the problem. The UN has warned the locust swarms could increase 500 times by June and the infestation has increased 400-fold since it appeared in 2018. A swarm is able to eat enough food to feed 34 million people, and in a region where millions are already facing food insecurity, this damage will lead to millions dying from starvation.

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