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Weekly News Digest for August 27, 2021

Compiled by Kelly Dobso, Trinity Gates, Dinah Gorayeb, Austin Myhre, and Charlotte Smith


Global


G7 Leaders Discuss Conditions for Engaging with the Taliban

Last week, the G7 leaders met to discuss a path to handle the Taliban in Afghanistan and allow fleeing citizens to safely leave the country where western troops have been stationed for the past 20 years. However, President Joe Biden did not agree with Europeans on the timeline of said path, or “roadmap” as the G7 referred to this plan, opting instead to have troops leave Afghanistan sooner than the proposed August 31 deadline. It seems that more dissension characterized this meeting, as a European Union Official reported that a clear “roadmap” was not established to deal with the situation. The main point of agreement was strict conditions for discussion with the Taliban. The situation was complicated further when last Tuesday Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid remarked that foreign nationals would be allowed to leave Afghanistan by the end of August, but not citizens of Afghanistan itself. Moreover, the lack of clarity in the plan proposed by G7 leaders and the subsequent slowness of the evacuation process has led to questions of whether western powers will be able to remove their citizens and Afghan refugees in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover less than two weeks ago.


Asia and the Pacific


U.S. Vice President Visits Southeast Asia; Criticizes China

This week, United States Vice President Kamala Harris visited multiple Asian countries to bolster relations between nations in Southeast Asia and the United States. During her visit to Singapore, Harris delivered a speech, where she emphasized the administration’s plan for Indo-Pacific engagement and the U.S.’s commitment to the international order. However, she criticized China for its attempts to “coerce and intimidate” countries in the South China Sea. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded by invoking the U.S.’s messy involvement in and withdrawal from Afghanistan. Harris intended to travel to Vietnam before departing the region on Thursday. However, U.S. officials delayed their flight to Vietnam due to a “possible anomalous health incident” in Hanoi. Early reports refer to Havana syndrome, which allegedly sickened hundreds of U.S. officials in recent years. There is no update on her travel status yet.

Philippines’ President To Run for Vice President in Next Election

After members of PDP-Laban, the Philippines' ruling party, called for President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte to run as vice president in next year’s presidential election, he finally agreed. Previously, President Duterte stated that he might, instead, let his daughter, Sara Duterte, run for the position. The Philippines’ constitution limits a president to one six-year term. As a result, it is likely that Duterte's most trusted aide, Go, who received significant endorsements from PDP-Laban, will run for president, but the now-senator has yet to announce his decision.


Africa


Hakainde Hichilema Sworn in as Zambia’s President

Hakainde Hichilema made waves on Tuesday by being the first opposition leader to be sworn in as president in Zambia’s modern history. Mutale Nalumango was also officially inducted as Vice President, and she is the second female to hold this position. Hichilema is part of the United Party for National Development (UPND), and this was his sixth attempt to secure the presidency. Before his swearing-in ceremony, Hichilema made statements and optimistic remarks, saying it was “a new dawn in Zambia.” However, Hichilema has many obstacles and issues for his administration to tackle, including lead pollution, corruption, and an ongoing economic crisis. Hakainde Hichilema’s victory is seen as a democratic victory by opposition leaders of other African nations due to the proper execution of the democratic process and smooth power transitions in Zambia during this election.


Europe


Polish-Belarusian Border Crisis Instigates Political Quandary

Several dozen Afghan refugees have been stuck at the Polish-Belarusian border for the past two weeks, which has led to political turmoil in Poland. Polish border guards won’t allow refugees into the country, and Belarusian soldiers are refusing to allow the refugees to retreat. The state of affairs is made more difficult considering that the Belarusian government plans to fly refugees from the Middle East and send them across Belarusian borders to other European countries to exert pressure on the European Union.


Last week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki even stated that this plan is a way for the “regime of Alexander Lukashenko,” Belarusian president, to create a migration crisis. However, the Polish political party Law and Justice, or PiS, is finding it easier to cement support for tougher border control and migrant laws in the wake of this predicament, furthering the anti-immigration stance it carried during the 2015 Syrian refugee migration crisis. While deputy interior minister Maciej Wąsik remarked that letting the refugees into Poland would be “dangerous,” Donald Tusk, opposition leader of the Civic Platform party, criticized PiS by stating that Polish borders must remain protected but that the border was crossed by a “record number of illegal migrants” under PiS. On the other hand, other members of the opposition have taken a stance in favor of assisting those stuck on the Polish border, such as Gabriela Morawska-Stanecka, deputy speaker of Polish Senate with The Left party, who declared that she was ashamed of the lack of any help being given to the refugees neglected at the border.


Latin America and the Caribbean


Protests Erupt in Brazil as Indigenous People Fight Against Landmark Ruling

Approximately 6,000 Indigenous people from 176 different tribes camped out in Brasília, the capital, to press the court to reject a proposal backed by the farming sector. The said proposal states that powerful farming companies would have firmer legal ground to challenge Indigenous land claims. In addition, the Brazilian Congress would have further liberty to write a restrictive definition of Indigenous lands into federal law. The ruling would affect 230 pending land claims, many of which offer a bulwark against deforestation in the Amazon Forest. A defeat in court could roll back many Native rights, which Brazil’s President Bolsonaro constantly advocates for; he states that “too few of them live on too much land” and that it “blocks agricultural expansion.” Xukuru chieftain Ricardo from the northeastern region of Brazil states that “the Bolsonaro government wants to do away with us. If it were up to him, there would be no Indigenous people left in Brazil.”

Warm Ocean ‘Blob’ Leads to Chile’s Megadrought

A ‘blob’ of warm water in the southern Pacific fuels a long megadrought in Chile, and according to scientists, climate change is partly to blame. The ‘Southern Blob’ east of New Zealand is driving hot and dry conditions in Chile. With snowcaps melting on the Andes, reservoirs running low, and landscapes withered, the government of Chile was forced to truck water to more than 400,000 people living in rural areas. The massive ‘blob’ is now 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than it was 40 years ago, which, along with the heatwave, impacts pressure trends, rainfall, and causes dry conditions in the country. While drought is not uncommon, the current megadrought has persisted since 2010, and some scientists and politicians believe in long-term water shortages in the central region.

Bolsonaro’s Request to Impeach Alexandre de Moraes Rejected

The leader of Brazil’s Senate announced on Wednesday, August 25th, that he did not accept Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro’s request to impeach Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes. Bolsonaro wanted to impeach Moraes after the Supreme Court Justice opened an investigation against the President for allegedly leaking to the media a secret federal police report of hacking that backed up his views against Brazil’s electronic voting system. The President of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, stated that Bolsonaro’s request did not “meet technical and legal requirements [for impeachment].” However, he continued that he “hoped his decision would be an opportunity to re-establish dialogue and better relationship between the executive and judiciary.”


Middle East


Suicide Bombing at Kabul Airport Kills Dozens

On August 26, a suicide bombing at the Abbey Gate outside the Kabul airport killed around 170 Afghans and 13 American troops and wounded 200 others. The Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility for the attack, further challenging the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. Before the attack, various intelligence sources warned about the imminent threat of terrorist attacks in rocket attacks and vehicle bombings as countries warned their citizens to stay away from the airport. The U.S. military and the Taliban continue to assert authority over the airport in their cooperation agreement to allow evacuations and access to the airport. However, the deadline to withdraw American troops is on August 31. The Taliban opposed an extension while American politicians and other western governments ask Biden to stay longer to safely evacuate all citizens of other countries, including Americans and Afghan allies.

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