By Patrick Pierson.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo this week to discuss joint efforts to counter authoritarian regimes in Latin America. A mayor was killed in Mexico this week just hours after assuming office. The Cuban government is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the communist revolution. A Nicaraguan medical student has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for protesting against the Ortega government. The government is ramping up repression against human rights organizations. Coca production is on the rise in Colombia. A former official with Colombia’s anti-corruption agency has been sentenced in US courts for seeking bribes. In Peru, controversy continues around the ongoing corruption probe into the Odebrecht scandal. The number of slums in Chile has nearly doubled in the past 8 years. Uruguay saw a record number of murders in 2018. New Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced a massive privatization plan via Twitter.
A record number of migrants arrived in Spain in 2018. Two men have been arrested on charges of smuggling migrants across the English Channel. In France, one of the leaders of the Yellow Vests, Eric Drouet, has been detained. UFO sightings are on the rise in Belgium. Authorities in Belgium dealt with a spate of mysterious packages this week. A man in Germany drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians in a targeted attack against foreigners. The Austrian government has announced plans to purchase military helicopters. Red Cross volunteers rescue more than one dozen migrants per night on the treacherous mountain passes between Italy and France. The director of an art gallery in Florence has adopted a unique strategy to demand that Germany return a masterpiece stolen by Nazi troops during WWII. The Hungarian opposition has declared 2019 a “year of resistance.” Greece has granted citizenship to three migrant fishermen who rescued Greeks from a fire last July. In Serbia, protests against the government have now entered their fifth week.
US and Turkish officials met this week to discuss the potential extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. Rival rebel groups are vying for control in northern Syria. Eight months after general elections, parties in Lebanon are still trying to form a government. Saudi Arabia will seek the death penalty against five suspects in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Meanwhile, a new report suggests that Saudi Arabia is supporting its fight in Yemen on the backs of young soldiers from Sudan. The devastating cholera outbreak in Yemen has been traced to migration from East Africa. Meanwhile, armed groups in Yemen are manipulating food aid for political gains. The court sentence against Nabeel Rajab, a leading human rights activist in Bahrain, has been upheld by the country’s high court. Taliban attacks against Afghan security officials continue. The US is concerned about planned Iranian space rocket launches.
India has deported a second Rohingya family to Myanmar. Cow vigilantism is a serious concern in India. Massive protests took place in Kerala this week after two women entered a Hindu temple historically closed to women. After last week’s elections, Bangladesh is effectively a one-party state. Authorities in Myanmar continue to clash with armed Buddhist groups in Rakhine state. A Philippine congressman was assassinated shortly before Christmas after a rival mayor contracted a hit squad. Malaysia is protesting Norway’s decision to ban the use of palm oil. Authorities in Vietnam have introduced a new law that makes it illegal to criticize the government online and requires internet providers to supply user data when requested. China is expanding its space program. Read about China’s re-education camps for Uighur Muslims.
Here are some African elections to keep an eye on in 2019. Tunisian security forces continue their crackdown on extremist groups. Is Tunisia preparing for another revolution? Dozens were killed this week during ethnic clashes in Burkina Faso. Nearly 40 civilians were killed in Mali this week when an armed group raided a village in the Mopti region. The Liberian government has expressed outrage over a newspaper report that alleged corruption on the part of President Weah. Six Russian sailors have been captured by pirates off the coast of Benin. Massive protests are challenging the three-decade rule of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Somalia has asked a top UN official to leave the country after accusing him of “interfering with the country’s internal affairs.” The US has deployed troops to Gabon in fear of violent demonstrations once the DRC’s election results are made public. Are donkeys about to become an endangered species in Nigeria? Tanzania’s President Magufuli urged his ministers to take advantage of the economic opportunities to sell food to NGOs that work with refugees. In Malawi, albinos continue to face persecution and attacks. The US is seeking to extradite three Credit Suisse bankers on charges of bribery in Mozambique. Zambian President Edgar Lungu has fired his army chief. More than 3000 civil servants have been laid off in Zimbabwe. South Africa has assumed its seat as a non-permanent member of the UNSC.