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Weekly News Digest for September 17, 2021

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

North America

Officers Involved in the George Floyd Case Plead Not Guilty

Four former Minneapolis police officers charged with George Floyd’s death in the summer of 2020 have pleaded not guilty to the federal charges placed upon them on Tuesday. In May 2020, a federal grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao for violating Floyd’s rights after videos surfaced of the police officers holding Floyd face down, in handcuffs, and not resisting restraint. The federal indictment described Chauvin’s violation of Floyd’s right to “be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer.” Additionally, Thao and Keung are charged for not intervening while Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck. Further, Lane and Keung helped restrain Floyd while the 46-year-old man repeated that he couldn’t breathe. The charges faced by the four former officers are also medically related, as they have been charged with violating Floyd’s rights when they did not provide him with medical care following the altercation.

Asia and the Pacific

U.S. and China Block Myanmar’s Junta from U.N.

In February 2021, Myanmar’s military seized power, overthrowing the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party. Since then, Myanmar’s junta has sought to gain the United Nations’ recognition as Myanmar’s legitimate government. In the coming weeks, the U.N.’s General Assembly plans to announce the appointment of a U.N. credentials panel, which will determine the rightful U.N. representative of Myanmar. On Monday, however, the United States and China brokered an agreement that will effectively block Myanmar from addressing the United Nations General Assembly and delay their efforts at U.N. recognition. According to many sources, representatives of the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Russia informally endorsed the agreement.


Coup in Guinea Leads to Tension in West Africa

Early last week, military officer Mamady Doumbouya announced via broadcast that President Alpha Conde was under arrest and the Constitution was dissolved. Conde previously won the presidency in 2010 and won again last year; however, it was largely contested after political rivals and the public accused his administration of perpetuating poverty and corruption. Since the coup, the military has mandated a nationwide curfew and seized control of many government agencies. This action was condemned by many who criticized this military coup as an apparent “power grab”. On Thursday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) froze the financial assets of coup leaders and imposed a travel ban on Guinea military junta members. However, coup leaders maintain plans to meet with several public figures, groups, and business leaders, seeking to develop a transition plan for the country. Outside authorities like the ECOWAS Commission President are currently pushing for new elections to be held in six months.


UK Extends Grace Period for UK-Northern Ireland Trade Protocol

On Monday, the UK government announced the grace period for a trade agreement between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is being extended from October to allow for more details of the Northern Ireland protocol to be made. Because of the conflict involving Britain’s exit from the EU, the protocol intended to change the EU’s market rules from between the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to instead the ports of Northern Ireland. The grace period was extended twice before, first in March and then in June; on October 1, the UK government intended to introduce customs enforcement on parcels coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, as well as charges on agricultural food products on that route and increased health checks on said products. However, these changes will now be delayed while the UK and the EU discuss the protocol further and to give stability to businesses during this time, according to David Frost, Britain’s Brexit Minister.

MEPS Call for a Resolution Protecting LGBTQ+ Families and Sanctions against Poland and Hungary

Members of the European Parliament voted on Tuesday in favor of a resolution that would call on the European Commission to consider enacting sanctions against Poland and Hungary for breaking “European” values in violating LGBTQ+ rights and action against Poland for “violating principles of non-discrimination” of LGBTQ+ people.” The resolution criticized Poland’s “LGBTI-free zones” as well as “hostile rhetoric” from politicians and increases in homophobia- and transphobia-related violence. The resolution also takes issue with the possibility of transgender parents losing legal recognition of their gender when crossing a border, which could therefore make them lose their parental rights. Instead, the resolution encourages “rainbow families” to be given the same rights and freedom of movement in all EU states.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Vice President of Argentina Leads Revolt Against President

After numerous resignations by left-wing ministers in the cabinet, Vice President Fernandez de Kirchner accused President Fernandez of pursuing "mistaken" fiscal policies that exponentially worsened Argentina's economic crisis amid the pandemic. Kirchner stated that she met with the President to suggest a new candidate for the cabinet chief as part of her "government relaunch" but denied she sought the resignation of Economic Minister Martin Guzman. Now, Argentina's center-left President Alberto Fernandez is battling a cabinet rebellion, sharpened by his vice-president's criticism and former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. President Fernandez now must choose between doubling down on populist measures or taking a more moderate approach to attract middle-class voters who rallied behind the conservative opposition.

Fernandez took power from the incumbent Mauricio Macri in 2019; however, public discontent with his government had considerably grown since 2018 when a recession took place, and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dropped 9.9 percent. Argentina also has one of the largest inflation rates in the country, on top of the 42 percent poverty rate.

UN Reports Venezuela's Justice System Aided Repression

The UN fact-finding team conducted 177 interviews and analyzed the detention of 183 seen by the Venezuelan government as opponents. The report found the justice system subjected detainees to torture, including sexual violence, and some "arbitrarily deprived of life." One of those cases is student Juan Pablo Pernalete, who died after being tear-gassed by the National Guard during an anti-government protest in 2017. In May of 2021, Attorney General Tarek Willian Saab announced that 12 members of the National Guard had been arrested and charged with "complicit and involuntary homicide." This announcement came as a surprise, however, Juan's parents pointed out that "none of the accusers were detained," and "the charge does not reflect the serious nature of the killing."

The report published by the UN fact-finding mission echoed the parents' concerns and stated that there were indications that the proceedings were not conducted independently. The report also noted that this is not an isolated incident, and "the independence of the judiciary has become deeply eroded, jeopardizing its role in imparting justice and safeguarding individual rights." Marta Valiñas, the mission's chairwoman, added that the investigation found proof that the Venezuelan Justice System has played a significant role in the state's repression of governmental opponents.



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