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Weekly News Digest for November 4th, 2022

Compiled by Aalia Garrett, Niamh Dempsey, Trinity Gates, Sara Anis Ali, Zoe Shepherd, Riley Mied, Shekina Shindano

Edited by Stephanie Cannon and Austin Myhre

Asia and the Pacific

Over 100 Dead in South Korea Halloween Crowd Surge

Reports indicate that at least 156 people have been killed and another 103 injured in a crowd surge that occurred on Saturday night in the Itaewon district of Seoul where tens of thousands of people were gathered for Halloween celebrations. Witnesses reported that the streets were so densely packed that it was practically impossible for emergency workers and ambulances to reach the alley near the site of the incident. In turn, a pile up began, leaving hundreds stuck and on top of one another for over an hour. Officials say that this is the biggest disaster that the country has seen since 2014, when the Sewol ferry sank, killing more than 300 people. Thus, this recent tragedy will likely raise questions about public safety standards across the country. While it remains unclear how the pileup began, accusations by the public have largely been pointed at the authorities, arguing that this disaster was preventable. In a public statement, South Korea’s prime minister, Han Duck-soo, described the event as a “disastrous accident that should not have happened” amid growing public anger. Of the deceased, 26 foreign victims were identified including five from Iran, four each from China and Russia, two from the United States, two from Japan, and one each from France, Australia, Norway, Austria, Vietnam, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Sri Lanka.

Across Itaewon, citizens have laid white mourning flowers and gifts of condolence, while storefronts bear messages of condolence. In response to the tragedy, President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a period of national mourning on Sunday, which will continue through November 5th. During a disaster response meeting on Monday, the South Korean government agreed to provide 20 million won (US$14,010) in compensation to each of the deceased victims’ families as well as 5-10 million won (US$3,525-$7,049) to surviving victims, according to the severity of their injuries. This comes in addition to 5 million won granted by the government to cover funeral expenses.

South Korea Responds to North Korea’s Biggest Single-Day of Missile Launches

North Korea conducted a record number of missile launches this week as the nuclear-armed state has fired nearly two dozen various types of missiles into the ocean on Wednesday alone, the most in a single day in all of the nation’s history. These launches included seven short-range ballistic missiles, six surface-to-air shells, and sixteen others. Amid these escalating hostilities, South Korea responded to the North’s actions with at least three missile tests of its own over the disputed maritime demarcation line, the Northern Limit Line (NLL). One of these missiles landed less than 60 km (40 mi) off of the South’s coastline, a move which South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol described as “territorial encroachment” and which the United States denounced as “reckless.” While international law states that countries can only establish territorial claims of up to 12 nautical miles off their coastline, Suk-yeol has made it a priority policy position to take a tough stance on North Korea, thus labeling the move as an "effective territorial invasion." These launches marked the first time since the two countries’ division in which a North Korean ballistic missile has crossed the NLL.

The North’s provocation came as an apparent counter to the large-scale military exercises being jointly held by South Korea and the United States, dubbed “Vigilant Storm” which was described by Pyongyang as “aggressive and provocative.” While many Western analysts anticipate the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, they now share a similar concern with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In the past year alone, the country has tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile, a train-mounted ballistic missile, a new surface-to-air defense missile system, a long-range strategic cruise missile, and multiple hypersonic missiles in addition to Wednesday’s launches. Additionally, indicators point to the preparation of North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test since 2017.

Central America and the Caribbean

Prisoners Take Part in El Salvador’s Anti-Gang Campaign

On Tuesday, Salvadorian prisoners collaborated with government officials in an anti-gang campaign to demolish the graves of gang members. Authorities have removed gang graffiti from neighborhoods across El Salvador for months, and removing gang connections in cemeteries is the latest step in their campaign to crack down on gang violence. Osiris Luna, El Salvador’s top prison director, said the government chose to destroy the tombs because, he said, “no terrorist deserves any recognition.” Inmates used sledgehammers and crowbars to deface any gravestones and tombs marked with “MS,” the marking of the infamous Mara Salvatrucha gang. Known for their violent initiations and brutal murders, the Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as MS-13, is El Salvador’s most notorious gang and has even spread into the United States. Emerging in Los Angeles, California, MS-13 is now one of the largest criminal enterprises in the United States and has spread across 46 states according to the FBI.

Since March 2022, El Salvador has been in a state of emergency when President Nayib Bukele demanded special powers to reduce crime after gang members killed 62 people in one day. Under the state of emergency, certain constitutional rights are limited, including the right to assembly, and security forces have been given additional freedoms to make arrests. Over 56,000 people have been arrested for their alleged connections to gangs, and more than 80 people have died in custody. The government has been criticized for targeting low income communities in their raids as the families of these victims lack the resources to bring up complaints against police forces to their local government agencies. The state of emergency, meant to be a temporary measure, has been extended five times. President Bukele is now receiving backlash from international human rights groups as he continues to enjoy almost eight months of increased power.

United Nations Votes to Condemn United States Embargo on Cuba

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the United States’ economic embargo on Cuba for the 30th year in a row. The embargo against Cuba began in 1962, and United States President Joe Biden has continued to uphold the sanctions on trade and financial transactions between the U.S. and Cuba. 185 countries out of the 193-member General Assembly voted to support the condemnation of the American embargo, a similar ratio to previous years. In 2015, former U.S. President Barack Obama moved to remove the trade restrictions against Cuba; however, the Trump Administration reinstated heavy sanctions against Cuba after designating the country as a state sponsor of terrorism in 2021. President Biden is continuing former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy against Cuba despite the island suffering its worst economic and political crises of the century.

On Wednesday, eighteen former Latin American leaders signed a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, requesting that the United States end the embargo against Cuba. Hurricane Ian hit Cuba on September 27 of this year as a category 3 hurricane, causing critical power outages across the island and sparking civil unrest. Despite the tensions between the two countries, the Biden Administration recently provided $2 million in emergency relief aid to Cuba to help the country rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.


The Netherlands Accuse China of Operating Illegal Police Stations in Europe

Last week Dutch media reported findings of Chinese overseas service stations that claimed to offer diplomatic services. However, evidence suggests that these stations were operating separately from the Chinese embassy and were acting in a way to silence and intimate Chinese dissidents in Europe. The investigation took place after a report was released by the NGO Safeguard Defenders which showed that the public security bureaus from two Chinese provinces had established 54 of these service stations across five continents and 21 countries. The Safeguard Defenders found evidence of these stations acting to coerce those suspected of speaking against the Chinese regime and sending them home. The Netherlands has ordered the closure of two police stations in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

One Chinese dissident claimed he was being pursued by Chinese police in the Netherlands, experiencing a systematic campaign of harassment and intimidation. These kinds of operations violate the territorial integrity of the host country by overstepping national jurisdictions and the protections a state offers under domestic law. A national Anti-Telecom and Online Fraud Law was adopted two months ago in China, establishing a claim of extraterritorial jurisdiction over all Chinese nationals worldwide suspected of types of fraud, which leaves dissidents on foreign soil at odds over state jurisdiction. China has denied all claims of secret police stations.

The U.N. Finds No Evidence of Nuclear Use from Ukraine

The International Atomic Energy Agency debunked Russian claims that Ukraine was using nuclear energy to prepare a dirty bomb after inspectors were sent to three different Ukrainian nuclear sites. Western officials and diplomats have supported findings from the IAEA, a U.N. nuclear watchdog agency. They have also accused Russia of attempting to worsen anxieties in the West and to distract attention from Russia's occupation of Ukraine and their own military failures on the ground.

Middle East and North Africa

Netanyahu Takes Back Office

After serving 12 years in office, a unique coalition of centrists, right wingers, left wingers, and Islamist groups worked to force Netanyahu out of power. Soon after accomplishing this goal, the various groups failed to come to a consensus, causing the Israeli parliament, or Knesset to vote to dissolve itself. The differences between the various representative groups made it impossible for a unified coalition to continue to represent Israel. The fragmentation of the coalition paved the way for Netanyahu’s new coalition to unite and regain power. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party was set to win 65 of the 120 seats, and with 84% of the voting results to be in, many project that Netanyahu is set to serve his fifth term as prime minister.

Since 2019, Israel has voted five times for its national leadership, revealing the great internal divisions within the country. Many of these divisions stem from differences in religious and constitutional interpretations rather than economic or military division. Netanyahu’s bloc concentrates right-wing, ultra orthodox parties, which raises concerns from both secular Israelis and many Palestinians. Previously, Netanyahu has steered himself away from larger issues on foreign policy and religion, but because his bloc aligns themselves with stronger conservative ideals, his political views on these issues remain uncertain.

Pope’s Visit to Bahrain For his Papal tour, Pope Francis took Bahrain’s invitation to attend a conference to expand dialogue between the east and west and to visit the Bahraini Catholic community. The Pope hoped to also expand conversation and connection with the Muslim world. During his visit, however, the Pope found himself in the cross-fires of the Sunni-Shia rights debate.

Since the 2011 rise of Arab Springs, Bahrain vowed to crush any dissenters after seeing a rise in the Shia community’s pro-democracy protests. Bahrain imprisoned many protestors and journalists, while also deporting many Shia activists and stripping them of their citizenship. Despite the previous actions of the government, Bahrain maintains that it respects human rights, people’s religions, and free speech. Bahrain hoped to cement this view by inviting the Pope and showing him how accepting the nation is of its minority Christian population. Many members of the Bahraini Shia community saw this as a chance to plead for the Pope to push for the extension of religious tolerance to all religions within Bahrain.

While the Pope has not spoken about expanding religious tolerance to all, he has spoken out against the death penalty in the country, which typically targets minorities and migrant workers. Often migrant communities remain overrepresented in prisons, and this is in part due to the country’s stringent laws and their unwillingness to properly compensate workers. As his conference in the country kicks off, many migrants and religious minority groups hope the Pope will help act as an advocate for them.

North America

Canada's Plan to Welcome Record Numbers of Immigrants

Canada set a record-breaking goal to bring in 1.45 million immigrants by 2025. The Canadian government is looking to boost the labor market due to almost a million job vacancies following the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan is to take in around 465,000 immigrants in 2023 and increase that number to 500,000 immigrants in 2025. The Canadian public has held a positive view of immigration for the past few decades because of the government's efforts to embrace diversity as the national identity. There were 405,000 people admitted last year according to the Canadian Immigration department. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hoping this number continues to grow each year as he believes immigration is crucial in growing the economy.

New permanent residents are able to enter the country under four main categories: the economic process, family sponsorship, protected persons or refugees, and humanitarian. Canada is also open to asylum seekers as 4,000 of them entered the country in 2020 and were not criminally prosecuted because they claimed asylum. With immigrants making up 23% of the population in Canada, they are crucial to their economy and population.

There has been a very different approach to immigration in the United States in the past few months. Rising immigrant numbers have been at the forefront of U.S. policies with Republican governors shuttling migrants to Democrat-led cities in protest of policies implemented under the Biden administration. Canada's government is determined to keep its view of immigration positive, and government leaders will go as far as altering pandemic-related policies that disrupt migration.

The Attack on the Pelosi Residence is a Wakeup Call

On October 28, an intruder broke into the San Francisco home of the U.S. Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi. This attack underlined fears about the growing number of threats against members of Congress and the lack of security surrounding these lawmakers. DePape broke into the residence in the early morning and attacked Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi with a hammer. The U.S. Capitol Police released a statement shortly after the attack, stating their command center has 1,800 cameras and around-the-clock monitoring when Speaker Pelosi is in the residence. Since she was away on October 28, security officials were not monitoring the cameras as strictly, allowing DePape to enter the residence unnoticed..

After the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, San Francisco Police Department stationed a car outside the residence to monitor it 24/7. However, the car was not outside the residence when the break-in occurred. The United States Capitol Police chief reminded the country of the dangerous threats elected officials face in the current combative political climate, with Congressional members receiving 10,000 threats in 2021. This current climate requires an increase in security measures, which lawmakers will now begin receiving in their homes and offices.

South America

Lula Wins Brazilian Run-off Elections

On October 30, Luiz Inàcio Lula da Silva won the Brazilian presidential run-off election against Jair Bolsonaro with 50.9% of the vote. Despite concerns that Bolsonaro would contest the results of the election, Bolsonaro publicly stated on November 1 that he will follow the constitution. Bolsonaro reportedly directed his Chief of Staff, Ciro Nogueira, to “begin the transition process.”

In Bolsonaro’s speech, he celebrated supporters who blocked roads throughout the country in protest of his loss. However, he discouraged the destruction of property. Bolsonaro’s loss is the first time since Brazil’s democracy renewal in 1985 that a sitting president has lost re-election. This election also represents a significant first test of a peaceful transition of power after an election loss, which is crucial for a strong democracy. Brazil has passed this first test but da Silva will likely face many challenges in office to achieve objectives in a highly polarized country. His leftist objectives largely focus on decreasing deforestation and social justice. To begin forging unity, da Silva proclaimed in his victory speech that he would be a leader for all Brazilians, not just the Brazilians that voted for him. Da Silva will be inaugurated on January 1.

Sub-Saharan Africa

UN Peacekeepers Withdraw from Democratic Republic of Congo Military Base

On Wednesday, the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission decided to withdraw troops from Rumangabo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) eastern military base. As tensions between the DRC government, the M23, and civilians continue to rise, the UN views its decision to withdraw as “tactical and strategic.” The decision to withdraw comes after two UN peacekeepers were attacked with stones and a vehicle was set on fire by angry protestors.

The conflict began in mid-October, when the M23 accused the DRC government of failing to honor an agreement to integrate more M23 soldiers into the Congolese military. Conflict then spread across the DRC’s North Kivu province, which has historically been a place of military turmoil. Since the start of the conflict, more than 90,000 Congolese civilians have fled from Goma, the capital city of the North Kivu province. UN troops have been supporting Congolese forces against the M2, but prior to this decision, the Congolese military and the M23 had remained peaceful. After months of peace, the rebel group seized the town of Kiwanja. In order to “prepare for the next steps,” the UN mission known as MONUSCO, has been put on hold. The UN has not provided further details, but East African heads of state have scheduled a meeting with defense chiefs to address the rising security crisis in the DRC.



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