Its Xi’s Party Now
By Camden Hanley
This week the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held their 20th Party Congress. A Party Congress is a large meeting held every five years where, among other things, the people who will be on the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) for the next five years are revealed. Those who are on the PBSC are considered to be the top leaders in China. Currently, there are seven members on the PBSC, though it has fluctuated from five to eleven members in the past. Due to the one-party nature of the Chinese state, PBSC decisions effectively have the force of law behind them, which is why foreign observers follow its membership so closely.
At the 20th Party Congress, it was confirmed that Xi Jinping will serve an unprecedented third term as the leader of the PRC. It had become a political norm in China that leaders only serve two five-year terms as leader and then retire allowing a successor to take over. This started with Deng Xiaoping as an effort to prevent one man from recreating personalistic rule within China like Mao Zedong did, something Deng clearly considered bad for China. Xi set the stage for his third term at the 19th Party Congress in 2018 when he had presidential term limits removed from the country’s constitution.
However, it is not just the third term that confirms Xi’s political power, the members of the new PBSC also confirm this. Two incumbent members of the PBSC remained on this edition of it, those being Wang Huning and Zhao Leji. The four new members are Li Qiang, Cai Xi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi. All of these men are considered to be Xi Jinping loyalists. Noticeably, none of the new members are a clear candidate to be a successor to Xi, possibly indicating his intention to remain in office beyond this third term. In the previous iteration of the PBSC, there were men who were considered to from a faction within the CCP that isn’t loyal to Xi. However, these men did not return to the current PBSC despite not reaching the CCP’s unwritten age limit of 68. These include former premier Li Keqiang and Wang Yang. Their exclusion is another example of Xi’s power within the party, effectively marginalizing any factions who aren’t loyal to him.
The new PBSC was not the only interesting thing that happened at the Party Congress. During the closing ceremony, Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping’s immediate predecessor, was escorted out of the Great Hall of the People where the Congress is held. He seemed to be resistant to leaving and exchanged a few words with Xi as he was leaving. This is extremely peculiar for such an event which is normally meticulously stage managed. Explanations range from the official statement from Chinese-state controlled media outlet Xinhua stating Hu insisted on attending the closing ceremony, but was not feeling well and was accompanied to another room to recover to speculation that this was just another show of Xi’s political power to humiliate a leader of an opposing faction. We may never be certain of the true reason it occurred, but it is definitely a noteworthy event.
Something we do know for certain is that Xi Jinping is here to stay for the foreseeable future. However, some experts claim this concentration of power may cause some backlash. For example, if there is a policy failure, there is no one else to blame but Xi and his political allies. At this moment, the PRC does not lack challenges with a domestic economy that is the weakest it has been in a long time and an external environment that is growing more hostile, this newly minted administration does not have much room for error. It remains to be seen whether Xi can guide the Chinese state through the coming storms.
West Africa: Ghanian Cedi Plummets; 33 of 36 Nigerian States Flooded
By Osetemega Iribiri
The Cedi, Ghana’s national currency, has depreciated by 47% against the dollar, making it the worst-performing currency to the dollar. Further, its annual inflation stood at 37.2% in September, the worst in twenty-one (21) years. Consequently, members of the Ghana Union of Traders Association suspended commercial activities in the nation’s capital, Accra, for three days starting from Wednesday. This action was their message to the government to express their frustration over the weakening currency, surging inflation, high lending rates, over 50% reduced profit margin, and increased cost of living. Ghana’s central bank raised its lending rate by 10% to tame price growth, bolster the currency and lure back foreign investors. Unfortunately, this move increased traders’ borrowing costs.
In July, the Nana Akufo-Addo-led government engaged the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It seeks a $3 billion relief package to inject into the economy. Although Ghana’s finance ministry is trying to fast-track this process, the response has been slow as the IMF requires a debt sustainability plan before lending. Ghana has also witnessed the exit of foreign investors over concerns about the country’s debt sustainability.
Ghana is not just going cap in hand to the IMF; it is seeking ways to improve the economy. Ghana Statistical Services revealed, despite the economic downturn, the economy grew by 4.8% in Q2 2022, an upward progression from 3.4% in Q1 2022. This was a consequent effect of the cumulative growth in the manufacturing, crops and cocoa, mining and quarrying, information and communication, and education sectors.
Ghana is the second largest economy in West Africa, following Nigeria, the largest in the continent.
Nigeria is also facing economic setbacks. In a preemptive move, Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) declared force majeure due to Nigeria’s high flood water levels. In a tight global market, the company is temporarily cutting off its 22 million tonnes/annum production capacity export terminal at Bonny Island, Rivers State.
NLNG was developed to monetize Nigeria’s vast quantity of flared gas oilfields. Also, it became an effective alternative for Europe, especially with winter drawing near, as Russian gas supplies fell. Portugal relies heavily on NLNG gas. NLNG primarily supplies gas to Galp Energia, a Portuguese gas company. Nigeria is heavily reliant on petroleum revenue. Therefore, this shutdown will plummet Nigeria’s IGR.
The flooding began in June 2022. Currently, 33 of Nigeria’s 36 states are flooded. Over 600 people dead, millions displaced, thousands injured, and road networks cut off. Homes, classrooms, health care centers, private and commercial buildings, food storage facilities, and farmlands are destroyed, and food supply chains are disrupted. Citizens have resorted to canoes as means of transportation in affected areas. This is the deadliest flood in twelve (12) years.
In the form of persistent rainfall, climate change is partly to blame for this flood. The other factor is the release of water from Cameroon’s Lagdo Dam. The dam began operating in 1982 and is located on Cameroon’s side of River Benue. Its construction was intended to supply electricity to the parts of Nigeria and allow the irrigation of 15,000 hectares of crops downstream. Still, states in Nigeria’s North-East, namely Borno, Adamawa, and Taraba, are usually flooded whenever water is released. As a countermeasure, the Nigerian government was to embark on a similar project along River Benue. The purpose was to contain the flood water released upstream from Lagdo Dam and prevent flooding and the attendant consequences. However, the dam, which was to be in Adamawa State, was never built.
This incident affects Nigeria’s economy, security, education, and health sectors. Health authorities warn of potential cholera and malaria outbreak in affected areas. This incident compounds Nigeria’s humanitarian crisis and increases the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) already fueled by Boko Haram insurgency.
Blood of The Covenant is Thicker Than Water of The Womb
By William Lucht
In Sudan’s Blue Nile State, ethnic clashes have hit a new death toll with 150 killed including elderly, women, and children. Clashes reportedly broke out last week over land disputes between the Hausa people and other rivals. Fighting has centered around the “Wad al-Mahi area near Roseires, 500km (310 miles) south of the capital Khartoum.”
The Blue Nile has been shaken by continuing escalations in combat between ethnic minorities who receive little attention or support from the current ruling military regime. This lack of support has been criticized by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The region is home to dozens of different ethnic groups, and differences between tribal groups have continued to escalate into armed conflict. Fighting in July between the Hausa and Berta people centered on land disputes. Hausa members stated that individuals with heavy weapons had been harassing them but stopped shy of directly blaming any specific group.
The OCHA has cited conflicts in this region have displaced tens of thousands, and the most recent conflict has added an additional 1,200 displaced. Conflict in the southeastern part of Sudan seems to be spreading to nearby regions. OCHA has stated that nearby West Kordofan has suffered from killings resulting in 19 dead and dozens wounded due to armed conflict last week. Fighting conducted by the “Misseriya and Nuba ethnic groups erupted amid a land dispute near the town of Al Lagowa.” In the midst of the fighting, the West Kordofan governor visited the town but had to evacuate due to incoming artillery fire from surrounding mountain peaks.
Southeast Sudan has been plagued by violence in this most recent decade. This region has suffered continued and spreading conflict since the coup last year which ended a short lived democratic transitionary period. Many experts cite the increased level of violence to a power vacuum. Additionally, Sudan’s security has further been injured by compounding energy shortages caused, in part, by the war in Ukraine.
Haiti: Is U.N. Intervention Enough?
By Ciara Perez
Under Prime Minister Ariel Henry, Haiti has been in decline. “Haiti has seen worsening inflation, fuel shortages, kidnappings, massacres, displacement, and escalating clashes between heavily armed gangs” and in August, Haitians began protesting for Henry’s resignation.
Last month, armed gangs blocked the main fuel terminal in the capital of Port-au-Prince and severed access to aid routes. The people took to the streets in protest of the higher fuel and food prices, as half the country is now experiencing acute hunger. Not only are the people hungry, but the country is also combatting a cholera outbreak. “Lack of access to clean water and sanitation, pervasive food insecurity, and inadequate health care create perfect conditions for a dangerous cholera outbreak” according to researcher Cesar Munoz.
Prime Minister Henry has asked for international intervention in the form of specialized armed forces, though this idea is not welcomed by many Haitians due to a turbulent history. If this request is honored, it will be the fifth time that military intervention was needed in Haiti.
The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has also called for armed action to free the port being held by gangs and to allow for a humanitarian corridor, though the UN would not be leading these efforts. Past UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti brought an outbreak of cholera that killed nearly 10,000 people, so the U.S. is leading the talks for now. The U.S. and Mexico have drafted a resolution imposing financial sanctions on Jimmy Cherizier, freezing his assets, and limiting international travel. Cherizier leads a coalition of nine gangs, which are directly responsible for the increased violence, unrest, and economic hardship hitting the Haitian population right now.
Last week, this resolution was unanimously approved by the UN Security Council and the arms embargo was enacted. At the vote, Haiti’s UN Ambassador Antonio Rodrique said that “these measures contribute to an end to the violent and deadly activities of these armed groups, marauding in the country, and causing numerous victims and mass population displacement”. This resolution sends the message that the international community is watching and will see order restored to Haiti.
This weekend, a group of Patterson students travelled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Meridian Summit at the United States Institute of Peace. This was the first in-person Summit since COVID-19, and this year, the focus was primarily on issues facing cyberspace. The Summit was split into two locations: the Main Stage and the Innovation Stage. The Main Stage primarily focused on what was called “The Global Divide,” focusing on this incredible divide between those who have access to the internet and those who do not. The Innovation Stage, however, focused on a variety of issues including inclusivity in cyber careers as well as cybersecurity.
The Summit began with a presentation that illustrated this global divide—walking through more developed nations as well as LDCs (“least developed countries”). The numbers emphasized that while a country may be “developed,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that every citizen has access to the internet, whether through a phone or through another device. What shouldn’t be surprising, however, is how large that number became in LDCs, and this divide is further deepened when other factors like age, gender, and ethnicity are considered. For example, in some parts of the world, women have even less of a chance to gain access to the internet.
To continue with this idea of The Global Divide, a panel convened to discuss what happens when the nations finally obtain access to the internet. What stood out to me the most was this idea that while access to the internet is important, it is cybersecurity that is the key issue that shouldn’t be dismissed. If one has access to the internet but fails to have the proper defense against cyber attacks, then would that person be more vulnerable than if he never received that access? The answer to that question is quite simple: he would be. Therefore, the panel emphasized this “package deal” that would need to be presented to those without internet access. And finally, the panel addressed another key component to closing this global divide: affordability. For someone in a LDC, affordability could be the one thing that prevents them from gaining access to the internet. Logically, if one must choose between food for their family and paying for internet access, one would always choose to provide for their family.
Another interesting panel included a discussion on how governments and the private sector can work together to improve what is called “tech diplomacy.” Tech diplomacy is essentially collective action between government and the private sector to maintain regulations and innovation in our evolving world. Tech diplomacy not only involves expanding access to LDCs, but it also includes keeping the internet “open and free”—even in authoritarian regimes. Moreover, we cannot discuss keeping the internet “open and free” to all people without mentioning the private sector’s responsibility in helping keep the internet affordable for all people—regardless of where they live. The panel concluded by emphasizing the importance of tech diplomacy being at the forefront of modern diplomatic policy.
That night, we realized a few students in our group had never visited D.C. before, so we met up with a few Patterson alum and took the metro out to the National Mall to see the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. As we read Lincoln’s words along the walls, we were reminded of our patriotism and dedication to continue moving toward a more inclusive and equal society.
On October 7th & 8th, the Patterson School and the Army War College participated in the annual negotiation exercise. This exercise consisted of several countries working together to overcome issues facing the South China Sea. The countries that participated in this simulation were the United States, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Japan.
The simulation began as confronting Chinese aggression in the region. China, contrary to international law, claimed the Paracel and Spratly Islands as their own, which caused tensions among its neighbors. China’s neighbors heavily relied upon countries residing outside the South China Sea—the United States and Japan—to counter China’s aggression, and as a result, the United States was able to draft a massive multilateral agreement on principle that included intertwining of the economies, planning of joint military exercises, establishing an exclusion zone around the contested islands, and affirming that any and all contested claims to the islands would be settled within the ASEAN coalition at a future date.
The United States realized its role was to simply push back against China’s agenda in the South China Sea while enforcing international law and the freedom of navigation, and the United States utilized its relationship with the smaller Asian nations to do so. As a result, the United States was able to not only address each nation’s concerns relating to China, but the United States was also able to establish further economic and military ties that resulted in less reliance on the Chinese.
Of course, the Chinese delegation did everything it could to prevent this multilateral agreement from forming, and perhaps their most clever strategy was setting up meetings with all delegations with the intention of not following through on any of the planned outcomes arising from these meetings. For example, in its second meeting with the United States, China proposed a “green deal,” which included details on tackling climate change and global warming. When asked how China could propose such an agreement given China was the number one polluter in the world, China could not provide an adequate response—indicating China’s intention of simply stalling the multilateral agreement. The United States used this discovery against the Chinese delegation and pressed into the multilateral agreement by informing the smaller Asian nations of China’s true intentions: to prevent progress from taking place at this Summit and continue its aggression in the South China Sea. Ultimately, the Chinese delegation’s tactic failed as the United States was able to secure the multilateral agreement within the last hour of the simulation. Once all nations involved signed the agreement, the United States had achieved its overall goal: to push China back from its illegal claims and unfounded aggression.
When the United States finally personally presented this multilateral agreement to China, the two Heads of Delegation met one-on-one in the presence of three mentors. The United States intended for the meeting to be short—simply layout the foundations of the four-part agreement and to inform China that the United States would working with the other Asian nations to counter China’s objectives. However, the United States and China quickly found themselves in a shouting match that resulted in the Head of the United States’ delegation enforcing his position by shoving his finger into the Head of the Chinese delegation’s shoulder. As he did so, the Head of the United States’ delegation stated that this was the future China should have foreseen and that China needed to face the consequences of its actions. Shortly after the encounter, the Head of the Chinese delegation walked through the halls, shouting that the United States had assaulted the Chinese delegation. The Head of the Chinese delegation filed a complaint to the United Nations, and the United Nations Special Representative met individually with both Heads as part of his investigation into the incident. However, with these meetings falling so close to the end of the simulation, the UN Special Representative did not formally reprimand the quarreling Heads.
The simulation officially ended when the Heads of each delegation gave their closing remarks. Because every country apart from China had agreed to the multilateral agreement on principle, their closing remarks were quite similar and spoke of immense cooperation with the United States and Japan. China, however, did not echo that sentiment. The Head of the Chinese delegation, in a homemade sling to emphasize the alleged assault, gave his closing remarks, and his remarks reflected a sense of betrayal from its neighbors as well as open hostility to the United States. Despite China’s attempt to gain favor from its neighbors, the United States and other Asian nations enforced international law and illustrated a united front against China and its aggression in the region.
In essence, the goal of the simulation was to resolve the dispute diplomatically, and while tensions rose over the two days, students were able to work together to form firm, yet reasonable, solutions facing the South China Sea.
Peruvian President Faces Constitutional Complaint
By Ciara Perez
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo is facing a constitutional complaint alleging that he is leading a corruption ring within the government. This complaint was filed by Attorney General Patricia Benavides. Whereas presidents typically have immunity against criminal charges, the filing of a constitutional complaint gives Congress a loophole to carry out its own trial. The complaint “will be examined by parliament and could lead to President Castillo’s suspension from office if more than 65 of the 130 members were to vote in favor”.
In the last week, five of his allies have been arrested for corruption allegations. President Castillo’s sister-in-law, Yenifer Paredes, is currently under pre-trial detention while investigators make inquiries into allegations of influence peddling. No official charges have been made against her so far.
Despite Congress being controlled by the opposing parties, President Castillo has made it through two impeachment attempts and five criminal investigations in the year since he took office. Peru has had five presidents since 2016 – “one of them was ousted through impeachment, another resigned before an impeachment vote and a third one resigned after street protests”.
President Castillo has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and vows to finish his term in 2026. He says that the constitutional complaint, raids, and detentions targeting his allies are a “coup d’état” orchestrated by the Attorney General’s Office.
This Week in the Middle East
By Bushra Bani-Salman
In recent years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been less forgiving to political dissent and has even called social media a threat to democracy. The new law allows the government to jail journalists and social media users for spreading information the government deems as false or misleading. Publishers may face up to three years in jail. Opposers of the legislation, like lawmaker Burak Erbay, said this law limits freedom of expression. Erbay took to the parliament’s podium, and told lawmakers that they will truly feel dissent when young Turks become of voting age within the next few years and vote the party out.
The U.S. Biden administration requested the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to delay its reduction in oil outputs in hopes to deprive Russia’s President Vladimir Putin of oil money, further weakening the country’s position in the Ukraine War. However, Saudi’s Foreign Ministry stated the Biden administration asked them to delay the cuts by one month – suggesting that a month would alleviate any concerns of a price spike before the U.S. midterm elections. Regardless of reasoning, the Saudis rejected the request, saying it would have economic consequences.
The protests sparked with the death of Jina Mena Amini, a 23 year old Kurdish woman who died in police custody after being arrested for allegedly breaking the country’s modesty law. Women are at the forefront of these protests and risking their jobs, freedom, and especially their lives in hopes to change the government’s strict restrictions and imposed laws that negate self-autonomy. One protestor says, “It’s not just about the scarf. It’s about the whole life they have built for us.”
The occupied West Bank is experiencing its deadliest year since 2015. In a morning raid in the Jenin refugee camp, Israeli security forces went to arrest a man accused of terrorism. Palestinian gunmen fired, and Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers, as well as wounding at least 11 others. The camp is known to have Palestinian resistance fighters and the Israelis have raided it numerous times. Al Jazeera’s reporter states that there have been more than 114 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of 2022 in the occupied West Bank.
Following his swearing in, President Rashid appoints senior Shiite politician, Mohammed al-Sudani to assemble a cabinet within 30 days and get it approved by Parliament. This may prove difficult with the government’s different religious and ethnic sectarian groups. Additionally, Mr. Sudani said in an interview last week that there may be discussions of removing a number of American forces off Iraqi soil.
Hamas & Fatah Meet in Algeria: Peace or Continued Rivalry?
By William Lucht
Algeria is preparing to host 12 Palestinian groups at an upcoming two-day summit. Rivaling leaders of the Palestinian groups, Hamas, and Fatah are planned to attend. The proposal to invite both was drawn up after, “months of effort by Algeria to reach a common vision for boosting the Palestinian national action”, Palestinian ambassador Fayez Abu Aita said on Saturday. This latest initiative is another attempt at mending years long distrust and eroding relationships amongst Palestinians and their leadership.
On the table for discussion, will be how to move forward with Palestinian elections – the first to be held since 2006, payment of salaries for approximately 30,000 Hamas employees, and the future of the contentious militant arm of Hamas, the Qassam Brigade. The military wing of Hamas is set to be a bitterly divided talking point as both Fatah and Israel want to see it completely dismantled.
Those with vested interests in the talks, specifically civilian’s and those living in the West Bank and Gaza, have low expectations these talks will amount to anything fruitful. Previous talks have failed to come to positive conclusions, and now that differences are at an even higher level, successful deliberation is ever more out of reach. Hamas’s control over the Gaza Strip is unlikely to be something they will let go of, especially after their victory coming from the defeat of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. This political victory was not recognized by Fatah, and what followed was armed conflict. The Palestinian leadership has since been divided, with a Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) governing the occupied West Bank and Hamas running the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007.
Roots In Murder and Distrustful Partnerships for Democracy
By William Lucht
Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemeti by the Sudanese, has recently attempted to align himself with the pro-democratic movement which still seeks peaceful democratization in the wake of decades of tragedy.
One may recall the rule of Omar Al-Bashir who took power in a military coup in 1989 and ruled Sudan for the next 30 years. A regime hated by many, the country revolted and attempted to oust Bashir. During the uprisings Bashir found no quarter from within the military ranks which aided in his rise. The military turned its back and the regime of Al-Bashir toppled. Though, democracy alluded the Sudanese people yet again as the army took over in the absence of the former autocrat.
The Transitional Military Council (TMC) served as a committee of ruling military elites. Protests which once moved to remove Al-Bashir turned their gaze, eventually erupting into what was known as the Khartoum Massacre where many men and women were sexually assaulted, raped, and dead bodies were thrown into the Nile. With protestors pressuring the TMC, and violence mounting, the TMC and eventually the military leaders accepted to share leadership with the group which basically represented the protestors, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC).
TMC and FFC agreed to a 39-month transition period in which the government would there after hold democratic elections. Both sides had seats on a joint committee called the Sovereign Council. General. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan lead the military coup as well as the military leadership, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok represented the civilian aspect of the cabinet. Though during this transition period General. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan seized power.
Enter stage left, Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo who backed the coup a year prior. A paramilitary leader who finds himself continuously avoiding the hangman’s noose, now is attempting to pawn himself off as a useful character to the pro-democracy groups across Sudan. “In recent weeks, Dagalo has declared the October 25, 2021 coup a failure due to the ongoing protests and a spiraling economy, and touted his efforts to reduce violence in Sudan’s neglected peripheral regions. But as the leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a group widely blamed for killing more than 120 protesters in the capital of Khartoum in June 2019, many in the pro-democracy movement do not trust Hemeti.” It is more likely that Dagalo is seeking to align himself with a faction he sees as having the highest probability of offering him a gift. In this case, a role in governing peripheral regions in return for paramilitary support and protection offered to protestors. Regions Dagalo could run as mini fiefdoms with little oversight.
Women at the Forefront: Protests in Iran Surge and Spill Into Iraq as Kurds Mourn the Loss of Jina Mahsa Amini
By Bushra Bani-Salman
Protests continue for nearly two weeks after the death of Jina Mahsa Amini. Amini was a 22 year old from East Kurdistan/ Western Iran who died in Iran’s police custody after she had been accused of violating the country’s modesty laws. Amini was allegedly beaten by the police and went into a coma. She passed soon after.
What began as a protest against the morality police and the strict modesty laws in place for women, became a demonstration for Iranians and Kurds to express their grievances with the repressive Iranian government. The regime has made attempts to subdue these demonstrations through blocking the internet, detaining protesters and sympathizers, tear gas, rubber and real bullets on protesters. While these efforts have made it difficult for protesters to organize, they have not been able to stop the protests from spreading.
Protests have grown to reach the semi autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, Erbil. Iranian forces have attacked the region with drones and artillery. Kurdish officials state there have been at least 18 deaths and more than 50 people have been injured, including children after one of the strikes hit a refugee camp. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp blames the Kurds for the unrest in Iran. Authorities in Iran said that 41 protesters have been killed and more than 1,200 people were arrested. According to Reporters Without Borders, nearly 19 journalists have been arrested across Iran.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said on a televised interview that the demonstrations were orchestrated by foreign enemies who want to further divide the Iranian people from the government. US President Joe Biden publicly sided with protesters in his speech to the United Nations and imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police. Additionally, the US administration allowed for satellite links and internet services to activate in support of the protesters’ access to information, after the Iranian government blocked the internet. This is different from previous President Barack Obama’s uncertainty to back the anti-government rally back in 2009.
Hurricane Ian & Persona Non Grata
By Elliott Cochran
Cubans have taken to the street after days without power post Hurricane Ian. Hurricane Ian hit Cuba on Tuesday and knocked out power for the entire island, by Friday half of Havana had electricity back. However, many people began banging on pots and pans in protest because of food spoilage. In Latin America it is common for citizens to express their frustration by banging on pots and pans. On Saturday, October 1, the protests continued as the blackouts continued. Cuban officials claim that 82% of customers in Havana have power but many more around the island are still without power leading to food spoiling, and citizens suffering in the heat during the day. The protests are a rarity in Cuba, a communist country that has not seen anti-government rallies since 2021 and before then 1959 when Castro rose to power. Due to the power crisis the Cuban government has requested emergency assistance from the Biden administration. Cuban authorities requested aid in order to focus on critical infrastructure like hospitals, water pumping facilities and sanitation. President Biden promised to work closer with Cuba upon his election, but the 2021 protests put a stop to the re-engagement. Depending on how Cuba handles the current protests will most likely have an effect on the aid request.
Nicaragua on Wednesday declared the European Union ambassador a “persona non grata” after the EU urged Nicaraguan president to “restore democracy.” On Friday the Nicaraguan government cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands ambassador and denied a the approval of an US ambassador.
Cuba Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage
By Ciara Perez
The referendum on Sunday, September 25th, was a vote on Cuba’s proposed Family Code. The Family Code is a 100-page document that proposed the legalization and allowance of same-sex marriage, same-sex couples to adopt children, surrogate pregnancies, the redefining of children and grandparent rights, the codification of domestic violence penalties, and the promotion of equally sharing domestic rights and responsibilities between men and women. There have only been four referendums since the 1959 Revolution in Cuba, and this is the second time that the government has tried to push for same-sex marriage. The first attempt in 2019 was shut down by the campaigning of religious leaders.
According to President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who was a big proponent for the Family Code, the hope behind this referendum was to abolish “prejudices and taboos that have been ingrained in Cuban society”. Prior to the election, the Family Code had undergone 25 drafts and had incorporated several thousand suggestions of what the public hoped to achieve. Concerns regarding the Code focused on the fact that it would outlaw corporal punishment, require parents to educate children and to respect authorities, and would “make it easier for anyone to report physical or verbal abuse of minors to law enforcement”.
Although the government led a campaign to show their support for the referendum in the weeks leading up to the vote, there was still strong resistance to the Code among religious groups, particularly among the Evangelical movement. There has also been criticism of the government for leaving the Code up to a popular vote rather than passing it through legislation. Critics believed that by leaving it to a popular vote, the government was shedding its responsibility to address the issue of gender and sexual discrimination if the referendum didn’t pass. Other critics believe that the government was trying to boost its image as a system of democratic centralism through the vote.
The results of Sunday’s vote, where roughly 8.4 million Cubans participated, demonstrated that an overwhelming majority were in favor of the Family Code. The results showed that almost one third, about 66.9%, of the Cuban population voted to ratify the code, while only 33% opposed it. This was a victory for the government, as there were two main concerns for voter behavior: 1) that people would choose not to vote as an act of dissent, or 2) they would vote, but they would vote ‘no’ or cast a blank ballet in opposition of the government. Many had hoped to prevent the government from gaining a victory and distracting from the economic and social crisis taking place in the country. Amidst these political changes, the government has been cracking down on civil society and political opposition. Since the July 11, 2021 anti-government demonstrations, over 1,400 people have been arrested for participating, which has led to a record high number of Cubans leaving the country.
Another Military Coup in Burkina Faso
By Osetemega Iribiri
In the early hours of Friday, September 30, 2022, sounds of gunfire were heard near the Baba Sy military camp, near the presidential palace in Kosyam. Military vehicles were deployed in several strategic locations in Ouagadougou and Radiodiffusion Télévision du Burkina (RTB), the national television station, had its programs interrupted, throwing the nation into a state of confusion. After hours of confusion, on Friday evening, military men in fatigues, bulletproof vests, and red berets, surrounded by hooded and helmeted men, appeared on the Radiodiffusion Télévision du Burkina (RTB). They announced that Captain Ibrahim Traore of the Movement for SafeGuard and Restoration (MPSR) had taken over. Consequently, the new junta dissolved the government, the transitional charter, and the National Assembly. The country’s land and aerial borders have been closed, with a 9 pm to 5 am curfew.
This coup is coming less than a year after Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba’s successful coup on January 24, 2022. Burkina Faso became the epicenter of the violence that began in neighboring Mali in 2012. This violence has now spread across the arid expanse of the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert. Lt Col. Paul-Henri Damiba took over power with the promise to restore security after years of violence carried out by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The new government, disappointed at Lt Col. Paul-Henri Damiba’s ability to stabilize security, promised to end the country’s security challenges. At the time of writing this report, Lt Col. Paul-Henri Damiba is at Camp Kamboinsin, the Burkinabe special forces base, and he is said to be doing well.
ECOWAS and the AU have issued a statement condemning the forceful takeover of power by calling it “unconstitutional.” Additionally, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chair of the AU, called on the military to restore the “Constitutional order by July 1, 2024, at the latest,” refrain from any violence against civilians, and assured Burkinabes of the continued support of the African Union to ensure peace, stability, and development of the country.
To understand the wave of military coups in West Africa, listen to the Patterson Perspectives.
VP Harris Goes to South Korea & the North Korean Response
By Camden Hanley
This week US VP Kamala Harris visited South Korea to meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. The trip “underscored that the United States is committed to defending [South Korea] …and welcomed [their] close co-operation.” The two leaders criticized North Korean proactive nuclear rhetoric and ballistic missile launches. In the spirit of this co-operation, the US and South Korea held joint naval exercises around Korean peninsula this week as well. Responses to potential further North Korean provocations were discussed, including trilateral co-operation with Japan.
In response to these exercises and the visit, North Korea launched ballistic missiles on three separate occasions. The first were fired on Sunday before the naval exercises began, the second two were fired on the eve of VP Harris’s visit, and the last two were launched hours after she left. This year, North Korea has launched a record number of missiles, launching more than 30 total. At the UN General Assembly, Pyongyang criticized the US and South Korea for their military exercises, saying they were bringing the peninsula to the “brink of war.” For their part, the US and South Korea defeat the exercises saying they aim to stabilize the region.
North Korea’s assertiveness over its nuclear weapons is growing, worrying the US and South Korea. Pyongyang recently passed a law declaring itself a nuclear weapons state. Kim Jong-un has vowed his country will not give up their weapons or engage in nuclear disarmament. The law allows for North Korea to use nuclear weapons to strike first, a deviation from previous policy that stated their nuclear weapons were only a deterrent for preventing war. US and South Korean intelligence worry the North Koreans may conduct a nuclear test soon. They believe they are waiting on a politically opportune moment, possibly between mid-October and early November.