Weekly Update: September 5, 2022

Colombia and the United States Renegotiate Extraditions

By Ciara Perez

Gustavo Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla organization member, made history on June 19, 2022 as the first leftist candidate to win the presidential election in Colombia. He won the presidency by a slim margin, with forty-seven percent of the population opposed to him. His campaign addressed his desire to finalize peace efforts with the FARC, establish diplomatic ties with Venezuela, reexamine extradition policies, expand social programs, and address social and racial inequality in Colombia (Rodriguez, 2022).

On August 24th, President Petro took the first steps to make good on his campaign promise regarding the extradition of drug traffickers to the United States. In a press conference, he detailed the conditions of extradition that he had proposed to the U.S. administration. “Drug traffickers who do not negotiate with the state will be extradited, drug traffickers who negotiate with the state and re-offend will be extradited, without any kind of negotiation, to the United States. Drug traffickers who negotiate legal benefits with the Colombian state and definitively stop being drug traffickers will not be extradited,” Petro said (Acosta and Griffin, 2022).

The practice of extradition to the U.S. has become increasingly controversial as many believe it to cause interference in the investigations of war crimes and illegal armed groups. The victims of these crimes are often denied justice when their perpetrators are extradited. Most recently, the leader of the Clan del Golfo cartel, Dairo Antonio Usuga, was extradited to the U.S., which then presidential candidate Petro publicly denounced. At a rally, he said that “Otoniel wanted to say which generals in the police, in the military, which senators, which representatives, which governors, which ministers, which presidents had been allied with him” (Vargas, 2022).

With increasing feelings of frustration, this proposal comes after a series of failed attempts by previous administrations to deal with drugs within Colombia. Petro pointed out that “despite billions of dollars in security spending and decades of U.S. pressure to reduce drug production, Colombia remains a top global supplier of cocaine” (Vargas, 2022). In fact, a White House study reported in 2021, Colombia produced around 972 tons of cocaine, most of which was exported to the U.S., while 234,000 hectares were planted with coco, the plant used to make cocaine.

The President has stated that his priority will be fighting climate change and reframing drug policy around the environment. In his proposal to the U.S., he also mentioned crop substitution as a method of combatting the drug trade. Carlos Vargas reports that Petro “opposes restarting aerial spraying of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, with the herbicide glyphosate and wants to substitute coca crops with legal marijuana”. This would allow farmers to market legal products while voluntarily eradicating their coca fields.

While the proposed end to extradition isn’t official, Carolina Urrego, a political science professor at Los Andes University, says that if approved, it “could limit U.S. funding for the anti-drug fight and affect the general sense of security in Colombia” (Vargas, 2022). As of August 28th, the conversation between Colombia and the U.S. is ongoing regarding this proposed policy change, but Petro reports that his office is already flooded with peace and negotiation requests.

The Importance of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development

By William Lucht

In Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, stands Tunisian President. Kais Saied and Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi side by side at the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8), the first to be held since the start of the dynamistic COVID-19 pandemic. The conference, which has aligned developmental interests from Japan and African nations, resulted in a pledge by Tokyo to contribute $30 billion in developmental aid over the course of three years. This comes at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine has strangled global supplies of hydrocarbons and international grain shipments. Tokyo has stated a desire to increase ties with the African continent amidst these threats through future financial investments.  

Financial pledges by the Japanese government in Africa may have dual purpose and not simply be magnanimous. As the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) increases its influence in the region, it poses a continued onerous security risk for a western international audience. Prior to the assassination of the former Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, Abe warned Africa of accruing excessive debt from China as their gaming of current international circumstance concerning tech transfer has led African countries into murky waters, specifically Algeria and Egypt with Huawei localization. Tokyo’s $30 billion pledge to the African continent may prove to be an adroit economic policy move. It could also lead to nothing more than diplomatic carrots in a much larger continental bucket if Tokyo does not situate itself in a long-game strategy to combat Chinese economic expansion into Africa.   

Complicating the conference’s overarching continental goals are regional North African grievances between Morocco and Tunisia. Tunisia, which has sustained consistent and growing criticism from the international community and domestic civil society groups surrounding its newest constitution, has re-called its Moroccan ambassador. Morocco has responded in similar fashion by re-calling its ambassador as well. This action, triggered by President. Saied’s invitation to the Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali to the (TICAD8), a group seeking independence from within Western Sahara, has created contemporary problems. The invitation creates a novel front of tension in the ongoing issue which already involves Spain, Germany, Algeria, which is Polisario’s main backer, and now Tunisia. Morocco sees Western Sahara as sovereign territory and stated the invitation of Brahim was, “hostile and prejudicial to the fraternal relations that the two countries have always maintained.”

In 2020, the U.S. officially recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara for closer relations between Morocco and Israel. Spain recently dropped a stance of neutrality over Western Sahara, which is a former Spanish colony, laying precedence for further Moroccan legitimacy over territorial claims. President. Saied’s decision, which has led to agitation with a regional ally, may be in response to domestic energy and commodity shortages. Long waiting queues for petrol and limited supplies of goods, in conjunction with civil unrest over retracted democratic gains from the Arab Spring, could be pushing President. Saied into welcoming the Algerian backed Polisario, the same Algeria which Tunisia intimately relies on for energy.

Elections and the Peaceful Transfer of Power in Africa

By Osetemega Iribiri

The peaceful transfer of power is not a reality in all African countries. For instance, some elections result in military coups in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Sudan, and protests in Eswatini. Nevertheless, the situation is not all gloomy as countries like Zambia and Malawi have had peaceful elections. Similarly, other African countries are also making similar strides to ensure the gains in periodic elections are not reversed. However, in subsequent months, many Africans will be heading to the polls to elect their new leaders.

The most recent is Kenya. Kenya has the largest economy in East Africa. Therefore, the result of its election is very significant for national and regional stability. Kenyans went to the polls on August 9, 2022, with two (2) presidential candidates in mind: Raila Odinga and William Ruto, the vice-president. This election is particularly intriguing. The vice-president was in the opposition, while Raila Odinga, previously the opposition candidate to the current Uturu Kenyatta-led government, became the favorite of the seating president after years of vilification. Nevertheless, on August 15, 2022, Mr. William Ruto was declared the winner of the presidential election by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Although this election was described as peaceful, it was a sharp contrast to previous elections. Raila Odinga has described the election as marked with irregularities and challenged its authenticity at the Supreme Court.

Amidst these controversies, Kenyan youth are not particularly excited about the presidential elections, which is evident through their low participation. “Only 39.84 percent (8.8 million) of the total registered voters were youth, a decline of 5.17 percent from the 2017 figures,” said Ernest Bai Koroma, former Sierra Leone president, and leader of the African Union and COMESA observer team. This apathy stems from their dissatisfaction with the state of national affairs, including the high cost of governance, corruption, severe drought, rising debt, and inflation, with food prices soaring by fifteen percent in the last year. The close affiliations both presidential candidates have with the current government responsible for their harsh economic realities also contribute to the apathy. No matter how the Supreme Court decides, some wins can still be counted in the parliament. The general election saw the rise of new, young faces into the political landscape. Linet Chepkorir, 24, is the youngest female elected parliamentarian, and Martin Wanyonyi Pepela, 37, is the first elected parliamentarian with albinism.

This voter apathy is not common to Kenyans alone. Nigerians will head to the polls in February 2023. Like Kenya, the outcome of Nigeria’s election is significant as Nigeria is the most populous black nation and largest economy in Africa. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the institution constitutionally responsible for the conduct of elections in Nigeria, reported that it added 10.49 million new voters to its 84 million registered voters, with 84 percent of them aged 34 and below. Unfortunately, this increased voter registration is met by large numbers of young Nigeria leaving the country daily in droves due to a phenomenon called Japa. “Japa” is a term that describes the disillusionment of enterprising young Nigerians in the prosperity of their country due to persistent national insecurity and harsh economic realities leading them to seek favorable opportunities in other climes. According to Africa Polling Institute, seven (7) in ten (10) Nigerians are willing to leave Nigeria if given the opportunity. This further shows their dissonance in the governance system and hope for improvement. As young professionals continue to leave the country, a gap forms at various levels of society and the electoral system.

As Kenya awaits the verdict from the Supreme Court and the Nigerian election results, governments in Africa must begin to prioritize the use of technological solutions for the efficient, transparent, and swift collection of election results. It is also important to note that the use of technology is not a replacement for a system of integrity. Citizens must be confident in the democratic process and in the judicial and executive systems, who are obligated to defend their votes.

It is also vital that governments and civil societies do not slack in the continuous empowerment and education of voters. The leadership of national and regional bodies such as the African Union (AU), East African Community (EAC), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is usually selected among presidents and leaders of represented countries. Therefore, if as a continent, development is desired, citizens should not be shortsighted in the selection of their representatives. Young people have a huge role to play in the development of Africa. With a sense of optimism, as this consistently happens, the flow of civilization in Kenya, Nigeria, and the whole of Africa will not flow backward.

The CCP Congress & China’s Human Rights Abuses

By Camden Hanley

Two major events occurred in Chinese news this past week that require attention. The date of the 20th Party Congress has been announced and the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights office released its report on the PRC’s actions in Xinjiang.

The 20th Party Congress will be held on October 16th in Beijing. A CCP Party Congress is held every five years and the top leadership roles in the party are determined for the next five years. At the 20th Party Congress, it is widely expected that Xi Jinping will be given an unprecedented third term in office as leader of the PRC. In the 1980’s, Deng Xiaoping instituted a two-term limit to prevent one man rule or the creation of a cult of personality forming around future leaders. This third term will further cement the powers Xi has been accruing over his tenure in office. New members will also be elected to the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee as several members have passed the unwritten CCP retirement age of 68–something Xi (69) has conveniently bypassed. The congress will occur as the PRC faces a myriad of issues domestically and internationally including heat waves, a property market crisis, the UN report, Taiwan, and more.

The UN report had much to say about the PRC’s actions in Xinjiang. It confirms much of the reporting that has been done about the PRC’s treatment of Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. It refers to “human rights violations” and says the PRC’s actions “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.” Notably, the report does not use the word genocide as some activists and the US government have in the past. It makes several recommendations including the PRC release individuals who have been “arbitrarily deprived of their liberty” and clarify the whereabouts of people missing in Xinjiang whose families have been seeking information about them. A spokesperson for the PRC said, “This so-called assessment is orchestrated and produced by the U.S. and some Western forces and is completely illegal, null, and void,” calling it “a patchwork of disinformation.” Other foreign leaders have called on the PRC to act on the report’s recommendations.

Military Clashes, Narcotics, and Convictions in the Middle East

By Bushra Bani-Salman

Iranian naval ship releases U.S. sea drones into the Red Sea

Thursday, September 1st, an Iranian naval ship seized U.S. sea drones in the Red Sea and released them on Friday, per U.S. Navy request. U.S. officials stated that cameras were missing from the sea drones, but it is unclear if they were taken by the Iranians or fell off when being pulled in or out the water.

Narcotics confiscated in Saudia Arabia

Eight people were arrested by Saudi Arabian authorities after confiscating close to 47 million amphetamine pills buried in a flour shipment at a warehouse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

Militia clashes in Libya leave more than 30 killed and 150 injured

Rising tensions between rival militias of different political standings left at least 32 killed and more than 150 injured in Tripoli, Libya on Saturday, August 27th. Conditions returned to normal the next day, but civilians are growingly concerned with the possibility of another civil war.

Clashes in Iraq

Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia Iraqi political and religious leader, announced his withdraw from politics, which led his supporters to protest in the streets of the Green Zone, Baghdad, Iraq. Things turned violent when Sadrists stormed the government palace, clashing with Iraqi security forces. At least 30 have been killed and hundreds are injured. Sadr later called for his supporters to retreat from the Green Zone and would remain on a hunger strike until the violence stops.

Gazan aid worker convicted of diverting funds to Hamas, sentenced to 12 years in prison in Israel

Mohammed El-Halabi, Director of World Vision International’s Gaza branch was convicted in June for funding an approximated total of $50 million to Hamas for over 5 years. Halabi spent 6 years imprisoned awaiting the court’s decision and will spend 6 more incarcerated, per the verdict. While a great deal of the evidence remains classified, World Vision International and the Australian government ran their own audits showing no irregularities in funds. Halabi says he will appeal the verdict.

Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit Raises Tensions

By Cameron Chambers

Tensions are on the rise in the Pacific following U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. This visit intended to signal the ties between the United States and the island of Taiwan, which is ahead of the 20th Party Congress in Beijing. As a result, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has responded by imposing military drills around the self-governed island.  The military drills have resulted in an unprecedented situation in which Taiwan is in the middle of an active live-fire drill, which seeks to influence its decision-making. 

While the visit occurred in mid-August, tensions are ongoing, and in response to the PRC’s military drills, Taiwan has responded by issuing a warning that any aircraft violating its airspace will be shot down. This comes as Taiwan shot down an unidentified drone that was within its airspace near one of its inlets. Per a response, the PRC foreign ministry discredited the concern suggested that the drones were “nothing to fuss about”.  Taiwan issued warnings that the PRC is likely engaging in grey-zone activities, using civilian drones and other covert measures to provoke and intimidate the island from acting more aggressively.   

Taiwan has further signaled its resolve to defend itself with a $1.1 billion arms package from the United States. This package includes radar warning systems, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Sidewinder surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles–to name a few.  The PRC responded to the arms sale forcefully, stating that relations between the U.S. and the PRC are “severely jeopardized.”  However, the U.S. contends that the arms sales are in response to aggressive PRC moves within the region, as the sale was essential to Taiwan security.

The tensions between Taiwan, PRC, and the U.S. are likely to continue in the near future. Some worry that the current situation might lead to dangerous escalations. Furthermore, tensions within the region may contribute to a dangerous miscalculation by any party involved. This comes with the backdrop of great power competition in which the U.S. and PRC seek to undermine the other on the global stage. 

Amending Chile’s Constitution

By Elliott Cochran

On September 4th, the people of Chile will vote on a new constitution. The new constitution will grant rights to the indigenous population and correct inequality.  The constitution will shift the voice of Chile to the edges of the nation and away from mining operations. However, there have been protests across the country as they worry over water rights, giving authority over mining rights to the state, and the possibility of corruption. Chileans still remember the days of Salvador Allende, Chilean president in 1970, calling for state land seizures. The constitution comes at a time when Chile is falling behind in lithium production. The need for lithium has caused the price to rise by 750%. Chile is a part of the lithium triangle, which includes Bolivia and Argentina. Chile dramatically cut its lithium production because of its role in creating nuclear weapons. However, now that car manufacturers are backing electric cars to combat climate change, Chile can fill a global demand.  Many companies have attempted to break through and open operations in Chile. LiCo left Chile before it began producing in 2019. Chinese giant BYD is in trouble as indigenous protests are targeting them.

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