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Weekly News Digest for October 21st, 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

Australia Reverses Recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

As of Tuesday, Australia will no longer recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing the decision made by the previous government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2018. Prime Minister Morrison’s decision to acknowledge West Jerusalem was widely criticized across Australia, as polls indicate that there is majority support by the general population in favor of an independent Palestinian state. More opposition to this move came from the Labor Party, who promised to reverse the decision should they get elected in the next cycle. Thus, in an official media release, Foreign Minister Penny Wong reaffirmed Australia’s previous position and expressed that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved "as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people.” She further added that the current government under Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will not support the past administration’s decision, which reversed decades of Middle East policy and undermined the notion of a two-state solution. “Australia will always be a steadfast friend of Israel,” Wong said before concluding that, “[w]e are equally unwavering supporters of the Palestinian people.”

It should be noted that mixed sentiments regarding the decision have been felt throughout the political sphere. Many individuals across Australia celebrated the decision, with parliamentarian Adam Bandt welcoming “the reversal of this provocative move by Scott Morrison.” However, criticism also ensued from within as Federal Labor MP for the Victorian seat of Macnamara, Josh Burns, apologized to the Jewish community for the “insensitive timing” of the decision, given its announcement on the Jewish holy day of Simchat Torah. He went on to say that capital cities should be “sovereign decisions for countries.” From an international perspective, a similar variation in reaction has been noted. Supporters of an independent Palestinian state have applauded Australia’s move; however, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the Australian ambassador to a meeting to register its “deep disappointment in the face of the Australian government’s decision resulting from short-sighted political considerations.” In respect to such views, many fear the implications brought about by the potential of changing Australian policy every time a new party is elected.

Mallikarjun Kharge Elected as President of the Indian National Congress Party

For the first time in over twenty years, the Indian National Congress Party has elected a leader outside of the Gandhi family. Party veteran Mallikarjun Kharge defeated Shashi Tharoor, a former United Nations diplomat turned politician, in an overwhelming win of 7,897 votes to 1,072. Though Kharge will replace Sonia Gandhi, the party’s longest serving president, experts speculate that Gandhi gave his political support to Kharge. Ahead of this week's election, the party insisted that the new chief would not be controlled by the Gandhis. However, it is worth noting that Kharge has been endorsed by much of the family and openly expressed that he would seek the counsel of the Gandhis as "there was no shame in doing so."

The Congress Party, which led India for decades after independence from Britain in 1947, hopes to use the election to combat its own electoral decline and to challenge the dominance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). During his first news conference, Kharge was quick to target the current government by stating, "[w]e have to fight fascist forces who are attacking democratic institutions under the garb of communalism." In response, Prime Minister Modi simply extended his best wishes to the new leader via Twitter by tweeting, "May he have a fruitful tenure ahead.”

Central America and the Caribbean

El Salvadorian Judge Orders Arrests in Connection to Dutch Journalist Killings

On Sunday, several former members of El Salvador’s armed forces were presented with arrest orders after being accused of participating in the killing of four Dutch journalists in 1982. Jan Kuiper, Koos Koster, Hans ter Laag, and Joop Willemsen were television journalists covering El Salvador’s civil war when they were killed. When news of the deaths first broke, the official version of events claimed that the journalists had been killed in the crossfire between guillera fighters and the army. However, in 1992, the United Nations Truth Commission for El Salvador reported that the ambush was premeditated and set up by police officials. In March of this year, family members of the victims along with representatives of the Dutch government and the European Union urged El Salvador officials to bring those responsible for the murders to justice.

Judge María Mercedes Arguello charged many high-ranking officials for their involvement, including former Defense Minister José Guillermo García and Colonel Francisco Antonio Morán, the former director of the treasury police. Colonel Mario Adalberto Reyes Mena, the former commander of El Salvador’s Fourth Infantry Brigade, was also included in the judgment. Morán and Mena are allegedly the officials who gave the orders to kill the Dutch journalists. Former Colonel Mena, who now lives in the United States, was also ordered to be arrested, so Judge Arguello instructed authorities to start the extradition process.

United Nations Vote Delayed as Violence in Haiti Continues

The United Nations' vote on a resolution that would impose sanctions on those involved in the violence and uprisings in Haiti has been delayed indefinitely. The UN is considering two resolutions to help Haiti restore order and peace. The first resolution is sponsored by the United States and Mexico and is intended to sanction anyone who threatens the peace, security, or stability of Haiti. The sanctions specifically target individuals like Jimmy Cherizier, the gang leader directing an alliance of gangs in blocking Haiti's main fuel supply. The second UN resolution, still being worked on, would authorize the deployment of international forces to help keep the peace in Haiti.

Last month, Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced the government’s decision to eliminate fuel subsidies, causing prices to rise. Gangs have since blocked Haiti’s fuel port, the Varreux terminal, for over a month, leaving millions without reliable access to power, clean water, and food. Gang violence has continued to rise while living conditions have simultaneously worsened, and last week Prime Minister Henry requested help from international partners. While the UN has finally moved to help settle the unrest in Haiti, it is still unsure when the vote will actually take place. Nicolas De Riviere, France’s UN Ambassador, told reporters on Wednesday, “I’m not sure the vote will be today -- it could take a little more.”

Some Haitians are apprehensive of UN intervention after UN peacekeepers brought cholera to the island over a decade ago, causing a deadly islandwide breakout. However, Haiti faces another outbreak of cholera today, and nearly half of the population of Haiti is also facing acute hunger. Many UN Security Council members have acknowledged the difficulties with sending aid and troops to Haiti, but no one has doubted the necessity of intervention.


Prime Minister Liz Truss Resigns After Six Weeks

Liz Truss announced her resignation on Thursday after only six weeks in office as the British Prime Minister, creating history as the shortest tenure of a Prime Minister in the state's history. This announcement came after weeks of political and economic turmoil and disconfidence within her own party and the reversal of policiesTruss outlined upon being elected by the Conservative party. Truss maintained that she will remain in office until the end of next week when a successor will be chosen by the party. Rishi Sunack and Boris Johnson are currently at the forefront of succession conversations, but both have faced public scandals in their political and personal lives in the past year.

Protestor Attacked Outside of Chinese Consulate in England

On Sunday, a man protesting outside the Chinese consulate said he was dragged inside the grounds by masked men and was kicked and punched. The attack has been disputed by Chinese officials who have claimed that protesters stormed the grounds. Social media footage supports the protestor’s version of events. The protest of 30 to 40 people was peaceful and legal, and the attack was seemingly unprovoked. A nearby police officer broke up the attack. This is the latest point of tension between China and Great Britain in recent years. The relationship has been tense since the establishment of a British program that permitted nearly 3 million people in Hong Kong to apply for visas to Great Britain. They were able to apply on the grounds of a 1997 Chinese rule that protected the freedoms of citizens when the territory was under British colonial rule. China has found this decision increasingly invasive and has accused the British government of interfering in state politics.

Middle East and North Africa

Iran’s Kamikaze Drones

As the war in Ukraine continues, Russia has begun drone strikes in Kyiv, targeting both electric lines and civilians in the area. Russia used the Shashed-136 drones throughout Ukraine targeting electrical lines and facilities. The drones’ official name is Shahed-136, but because of the drone's ability to hit programmed targets, officials have called the weapons “kamikaze drones.”

While Russia did not mention where the drones came from, the UN Security Council asserts that they came from Iran. Iran vehemently denies involvement with Russia, but the UN argues that they have sufficient evidence to prove that Iran supplied the arms, meaning the nation breached the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA, commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, prohibited the nation from selling any arms, technology, or goods unless it was approved by the UN Security Council. Furthermore, the agreement focused on descaling Iran’s weaponry construction and limiting the number of arms produced in the nation. In return, the UN, alongside other nations in the supranational organization, would alleviate their sanctions on the country.

Even as Iran maintains its position, Ukraine has now invited UN forces to inspect downed Kamikaze drones and see if they could be from the nation. Representatives from Ukraine suggested that if Iran is found to be guilty of selling arms to Ukraine, nations affiliated with the UN should break off any ties with the country. While the inspection is still ongoing, international organizations, including the EU, have increased sanctions on Iran, hoping to use economic pressure to deter similar actions from Iran in the future.

Workers Exploitation in Qatar

This year, Qatar is hosting the FIFA World Cup, a win marked by countless investments in stadiums and tourism for the nation. As the country prepared itself for the upcoming events, its past migrant abuses also came to the forefront. Abuses range from long grueling hours, months without compensation, horrible living conditions, and even physical abuse.

Like many Arab Gulf nations, Qatar has an employer sponsorship system. Under this system, migrants can legally come into the nation and work for the company or organization, but because of the extreme power the companies wield over the migrants, there is often room for abuse. Employers can renew work visas and residency, and they must approve of a migrant’s request to leave the country by providing an exit permit. If migrants complain about workloads, employers can report the work missing, leaving the worker immediately undocumented and at risk for deportation or arrest. Because of fears of deportation or jail time, migrant workers often bear abuses, and it wasn’t until 2017, that Amnesty International documented these abuses, that FIFA weighed in.

FIFA forced Qatar to make major reform laws surrounding wage protection and promised to improve the health and safety of workers. The country also enacted a policy for worker’s welfare that helped compensate some of the abused workers. By 2018, Qatar had created several compensation systems, but Amnesty International still argues that FIFA should’ve had a clearer message about what is considered a human rights abuse and prevented Qatar from abusing migrants in the first place.

North America

U.S. and Canada Assist Haiti in Controlling Security Crisis

Recently in Haiti, there has been a rise in gang activity with Haiti’s most powerful gang enacting violence across the country. The Haitian government requested the immediate deployment of troops from the U.S. and Canada. Saturday, October 15 the U.S. Air Force and Royal Canadian Airforce dispatched supplies and armored vehicles to Haiti. The Haitian government purchased these reinforcements from both countries to assist Haiti’s national police fight against these gangs. These supplies arrived one month after the most powerful gang closed in on a fuel terminal and demanded the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Haiti is also in the midst of a health crisis as a cholera epidemic is infecting more than 560 people and killing at least 35. The lack of government control across the region is exacerbating these problems of gang violence and cholera.

Mexican Activists File Criminal Complaints on Disappearances in Mexico

After more than 80,000 people have gone missing in Mexico beginning in 2006 at the start of the war on drugs, activists are finally successfully pursuing legal action. In the state of Veracruz, hundreds of people have gone missing over a 6-year period. The International Federation for Human Rights initially filed a criminal complaint on behalf of activists group at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. Many activist groups are arguing that police officers complied with or permitted drug cartels to abduct people. There are previous patterns of police corruption in Veracruz including a member of one police unit convicted of carrying out illegal detentions and disappearances of people. This same police corruption is suspected to be involved in the kidnappings across Mexico. The case filed by the International Federation for Human Rights is accompanied by evidence of 22 cases with similar patterns of disappearances. There are reportedly similar cases filed in the Mexican states of Coahulia and Nayarit that have not been decided on yet.

South America

Colombia Increases Budget to Boost Education, Health Care, and Agricultural Funding

On October 18, Colombia’s Congress approved the country’s budget for next year, making it the largest budget in the state’s history. Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo praises the 85.5 billion dollar budget for its increased focus on social wellbeing. The new budget expands funding for education by 10.3% and funding for healthcare by 19.9%. The budget is considered by many Colombians to be a reflection of leftist President Gustavo Petro. In accordance with Petro’s desire to shift focus from oil and mining developments, the budget boosts funding for the agricultural sector by 62.6%. The budget was approved in the Senate with 7 votes against and 71 votes for. In the lower house, the budget received 13 votes against and 144 votes for. Meanwhile, Petro’s approval rating is 46%, a 10% decrease from August 2022. Many Colombians do not think their top concerns of increased inflation and unemployment are being addressed sufficiently.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Chad Declares State of Emergency Due to Floods

On Thursday, Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby, declared a state of emergency in an effort to manage the disaster caused by floods in Chad. The two main rivers of Chad are the Chari and Logone. These rivers flow through the southern provinces and empty into Lake Chad, the largest lake in Africa. Heavy rainfall has caused water levels of this and other large bodies of water to increase significantly in Chad which has led to excessive flooding. Chad is not the only country that has been affected; this recent heavy seasonal rainfall has affected more than one million people in Central Africa. The southern provinces of Chad are the worst affected regions, but this week hundreds of people evacuated from N’Djamena, the capital city. The United Nations estimates that 5.5 million Chadians need emergency humanitarian assistance. President Deby has called on friendly countries to help support the government’s efforts.


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