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Weekly News Digest for September 22nd 2023

Updated: Oct 23, 2023


Compiled by Sara Anis Ali, Alex Hsu, Meagan McColloch, Hayes Orr, Quinn Phillips, Zoe Shepherd

Edited by Sara Anis Ali, Hayes Orr, Quinn Phillips, Zoe Shepherd, Niamh Dempsey


Asia and the Pacific

Canada Accuses India of Links to Assassination of Canadian Sikh Leader

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an Indian-born Canadian citizen residing in Vancouver. Nijjar was an active leader of the Canadian Sikh community and an advocate for the creation of an independent Sikh nation known as Khalistan. On June 18th, masked gunmen shot Nijjar outside of a Sikh community center. Trudeau claims these men have ties with the Indian government.


These allegations come at the heels of corroding relations between the two countries. Earlier this month, Canada suspended ongoing trade talks with India after Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, refused to hold formal bilateral meetings with Trudeau at the G20 Summit. Following the public allegations, Canada has expelled an Indian diplomat and encouraged India to cooperate in their ongoing investigation of the killing. India responded by expelling a Canadian diplomat while dismissing the allegations as absurd. Indian leaders have responded by accusing Canadian officials of involvement in anti-India activities.


If these accusations are true, India has committed a major violation of Canada’s sovereignty; however, Canadian authorities have refused to provide evidence to back their claim so far. Whether this will result in a lasting division between the two allies is uncertain. The situation undeniably presents an uncomfortable dilemma for Western nations attempting to cultivate a closer relationship with New Delhi. India serves as an important counterbalance against China and many Western states are still looking to secure India's support in the Ukraine conflict.


Central America and the Caribbean

President Biden Implores Security Council to Authorize Humanitarian Intervention in Haiti

In a speech made before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning, United States President Joe Biden urged the Security Council to authorize the deployment of what Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, called “a specialized armed force” to assist Haitian police in the fight against rampant gang violence. In his speech, President Biden continued to emphasize the urgency of the proposed mission, stating, “I ask the Security Council to authorize this mission now. The people of Haiti cannot wait much longer.” Despite the insistence of Haitian authorities, President Biden, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, other UN member states remain hesitant to commit the manpower, funding, and resources necessary for the operation.


According to UN data released earlier this month, over 2,400 people have been murdered in Haiti since the start of the year. Gangs and criminal organizations now control over 80% of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, which has resulted in a surge of violent crime including kidnapping, carjackings, rapes, and armed theft. With these grim statistics seeming only to grow in recent years, it is understandable why many countries are reluctant to enter such an unstable and volatile environment. It remains unclear when a Security Council resolution would be put forward to consider the possible foreign mission. The U.S. Department of State said in late July that it would introduce such a motion alongside Ecuador in the near future, but no precise date has been set. However, in July, Kenya announced it was willing to head a multinational intervention to train and assist the Haitian police, pledging 1,000 officers to the cause. Despite this pledge, the mission faces the same bureaucratic hurdles as previous proposals and would still need to be greenlit by the Security Council.


Europe

Renewed Conflict in Azerbaijan’s Breakaway Region

On Tuesday, Azerbaijan announced the launch of a new military operation against the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani defense ministry claimed that Armenian forces had launched artillery fire that killed 25 Azerbaijanis, a claim denied by Armenian officials. The current conflict began in 1988 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, as Karabakh Armenians demanded the transfer of Nagorno-Karabakh from Soviet Azerbaijan to Soviet Armenia. A peace deal was established in 2020 with a Russia-brokered cease-fire, but with the resurgence in fighting as of Tuesday, Russian military representatives are in touch with both countries in an attempt to reach a peaceful resolution.


Middle East and North Africa

Libyan Floods Highlight Fragmented Government’s Failures

From September 10th to 11th, the city of Derna, Libya experienced a vicious cyclone that brought incessant rains. The intense weather burst two dams, causing flood waters to encompass the entire city. Following the mayhem of the floods, Derna lost entire neighborhoods, with many lives lost. The current death toll has reached 3,959.


As the floods have subsided, many Derna residents have taken to the streets, calling for the resignation of Aguila Saleh, Libya’s speaker of Parliament. Saleh adamantly denied responsibility for the flooding. He rejected accusations that the dam’s collapse was due to “mismanagement and neglect.” The lack of accountability only added to Libyans’ rage, who have long distrusted the country’s authorities. Many Libyans knew that this was yet another corrupted government failure resulting from the country’s split government.


Since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising in the nation’s capital, the country of Libya has endured continued political turmoil. The ousting of the country’s former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, ushered in a civil war, leaving two armed militias each controlling half of the city. Due to the instability of the split government, money that the government had allocated to the dam reconstruction was used elsewhere, and evacuation warnings were only given 24 hours before the flood. With proper governance, Libyan officials could have prevented damage to the city and saved countless lives. While protestors plan to conduct a mass demonstration on Friday, many Libyans feel that the government is only going to continue to fail its citizens as it remains corrupted and fractured.


North America

The U.S. allows over 470,000 Venezuelan Migrants Work Permits

The Biden Administration is granting Temporary Protected Status to around 472,000 Venezuelans who entered the U.S. by July 31st. This decision comes after intense lobbying by Democratic state officials before and after President Joe Biden’s visit to New York this week. The number of Venezuelans fleeing the South American country has surged in the past months. President Biden's program, along with a promise to accelerate work permits for migrants, is intended to take financial pressure off officials in heavily migrant-populated cities like Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, and Boston. It will also help migrants move out of city-run shelters and give them the opportunity to support themselves.


Democratic officials have particularly supported this program as they believe it is a shortcut around the U.S. law that prohibits asylum seekers from receiving a work permit for at least 6 months after applying for asylum. However, this may add to Republicans' complaints about Biden’s lenient immigration policies as the program offers Venezuelans unique deportation protections and the ability to work legally for at least 18 months. Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. after July 31 will not be eligible for this program and will be removed when they are found to be in the country illegally.


South America

Venezuelan Troops Storm “Luxury” Gang-run Prison

On Wednesday, the Venezuelan government released a statement saying that over 11,000 members of the national security forces stormed the Tocorón prison in the northern state of Aragua, the headquarters of the transnational organized crime group, Tren de Aragua. The government congratulated law enforcement officers for regaining “total control” of the prison, adding that the operation “dismantled a centre of conspiracy and crime”.


After years of government neglect, corruption, and mismanagement, the Tocorón prison had become what many media outlets described as a “luxury hotel” for members of the Tren de Aragua. Inside the prison, inmates could enjoy amenities such as a swimming pool, game rooms, a makeshift casino, a miniature zoo, and even a disco-themed nightclub. At the height of the country's economic crisis, one local newspaper reported that locals would go to Tocorón to buy essentials they could not get anywhere else.


For years, the Tocorón prison served as the gang’s headquarters, where they organized and conducted a wide range of criminal activities including kidnappings, robberies, drug trafficking, and illegal gold mining. Although President Nicolás Maduro celebrated the raid as a victory in the fight against organized crime, Ronna Rísquez, author of the book Tren de Aragua: The Gang That Revolutionized Organized Crime in Latin America made it clear that the prison raid will do little to end the gang’s criminal enterprise.


Sub-Saharan Africa

Niger Coup: Closed Borders Create Economic Hardship.

In late July, Niger’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, was ousted from power by a military coup. This coup was one of many that followed a pattern of illegitimate seizures of power in West Africa. ECOWAS, West Africa’s regional economic and security bloc, responded with economic sanctions, the closing of borders, and electricity restrictions. Niger’s junta was given the deadline of August 6 to restore Bazoum to power, if they failed to do so they would face military intervention. However, when the time came, regional powers balked, and now, nearly two months after the coup, citizens are still being hit hard by the sanctions.


Malanville, a city at Benin’s border with Niger, paints a picture of the situation many civilians find themselves in. Truck drivers delivering goods have been stuck at the border for 50 days, running out of food and money, and their cargo wasting away in immobile vehicles. Border closures have affected more than just those transporting goods. A UN report has claimed that 7,300 tons of food aid has been unable to reach its destinations, and countries have experienced rapid increases in the price of food staples. While businesses and individuals struggle to adapt to the growing insecurity, the future remains uncertain. The ruling junta in Niger announced a three-year transition plan, and other military juntas’ continued grip on power in countries across the region raises doubt about the possibility of a return to normalcy.


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