Compass World: Trump-Kim Summit 2.0
According to CNN, the next meeting between U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is scheduled to be in late-February in Vietnam. The two met last year in Singapore in June 2018 with the stated goal of "working toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Critics, however, noted that Trump failed to secure specific concessions from Kim, thus making the substantive achievements of the previous summit unclear.
LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN
Dam Collapses in Brazil
Authorities in Brazil arrested five people after a dam collapse that killed 65. The dam collapsed in southeastern Brazil on January 25 and engulfed a town in brown mine waste. The dam was operated by Vale SA, an iron ore producer who also owns the dam. Among those arrested were three Vale employees and two consultants with a German company, all of whom certified that the dam was safe. Vale’s chief executive, Fabio Schvartsman, has blamed the German inspectors for the dam's collapse. The dam collapse also resulted in the pollution of the nearby Paraopeba River, which was later filled with dead fish, according to the Associated Press. Local indigenous people who used the river for their daily water needs were told by authorities to stop using the polluted water.
Tornado Strikes Havana
Three people were killed and 174 more were injured after a tornado struck the capital of Cuba. Many neighborhoods in Havana suffered from blackouts after many telephone poles were knocked over by extreme winds. Pictures reveal crushed and flooded cars throughout the city. President Miguel Díaz-Canel tweeted photos of himself and rescue workers seemingly at the scene, but state media has said little about the event.
China’s Economic Struggles Continue
Amid the U.S.-China trade war, Chinese factory activity has contracted for a second straight month, marking the weakest growth for the country in 28 years. International companies like Nvidia and Apple are reporting that China’s struggles have also hurt their own revenue. Chinese and American officials will meet, aiming to reach an agreement that will end the trade war, but the Chinese government also hopes to help its economy transition away from its reliance on foreign trade.
UN Advises Against Repatriation of Rohingya
The United Nations has again warned against the return of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to Myanmar, with a representative warning of the international implications of the crisis. At the same time, rebel groups unrelated to the Rohingya are showing signs of possible unification for the first time ever. These rebel groups have failed to negotiate with the government for decades, but have never worked together in their efforts.
MIDDLE EAST & CENTRAL ASIA
Kyrgyz Woman Detained
A woman in Kyrgyzstan was arrested and charged with inciting ethnic hatred following a protest against the internment of Uyghurs by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang. A court in Bishkek ordered that Guljamila Saparalieva be held in pretrial detention for two months. She was among the 500 protesters that gathered in Bishkek’s Ala-Too Square on January 17. Kyrgyzstan’s government has remained uncritical of Beijing’s internment camps in western China. As a major site of investment and development under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Kyrgyzstan has abstained from criticizing Beijing’s policies for fear of retaliation. As a landlocked country, Kyrgyzstan is reliant upon foreign direct investment by wealthier countries, like China.
MBS Eases Anti-Corruption Campaign
Saudi Arabia announced that it has ended its anti-corruption campaign, which had spooked the international investors it is looking to attract. In 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman imprisoned hundreds of Saudi businessman and princes in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton to compel them to settle politically motivated corruption charges. The Saudi Treasury announced that it had recovered $100 billion, which was exactly the dollar amount the campaign had targeted. Saudi Arabia has begun releasing these captives while, at the same time, seeking to raise $426 billion from foreign investors to diversify its economy.
EASTERN EUROPE & RUSSIA
Nagy Statue Removed
Authorities in Hungary removed a much-beloved statue of mid-20th century activist Imre Nagy. Nagy was a prime minister and leader of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 against the Soviet-backed dictatorship. He was executed in 1958 for his involvement in the uprising. Critics say that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government is rewriting history by moving the monument to a different area in Budapest. The statue originally stood outside the parliament building. A monument to victims of the short-lived communist regime of 1919 is taking its place.
A Controversial Parade
Russia marked the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union lifting the siege of Leningrad (today, St. Petersburg) during World War II. The anniversary was marked with a military parade through St. Petersburg. The city was under siege by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944, with approximately 800,000 people dying from hunger, disease, and in the fighting. Critics cited that the parade was excessively militaristic and suggested the money would’ve been better spent by providing survivors with aid money. President Vladimir Putin was not in attendance, opting to visit a memorial just outside the city. Putin, however, has personal connections to the siege. Although not alive at the time, his infant brother died during the siege and his mother nearly died of malnutrition.
Ghanian MP Defends Unmasking Journalist
Ghanaian Member of Parliament Kennedy Agyapong defended his decision to reveal the identity of undercover journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale, who was later shot and killed by unidentified men on motorbikes. Hussein-Suale was murdered in early January in what police believe was retaliation for his investigative journalism uncovering corruption in Ghana’s soccer leagues from 2018. Hussein-Suale worked as an investigative reporter for Tiger Eye Private Investigations. Agyapong, offended by the investigative work of Hussein-Suale, subsequently released photos of Hussein-Suale and his home address. He also called for supporters to assault Hussein-Suale if he showed up to his home. The murder is still being investigated by police in Accra. BBC News quoted Malawian journalist Henry Mhango as saying, “[Hussein-Suale’s] death is not only a loss to Ghana, it is a loss to all of Africa. He was a journalist for Africa.”
Trouble in Dodoma
Tanzania’s parliament passed legislation on January 29 granting the government extensive control over political parties. Under the new law, a government-appointed registrar will have say over the registration status of political parties and authority to inflict legal punishment for “unauthorised civic education.” Critics say the new law will help ensure a one-party dictatorship and reinforce the rule of the Party of the Revolution (CCM) in next year’s elections. CCM lawmakers claim that the legislation enables the registrar to prevent the embezzling of taxpayer subsidies by political parties. President John Magufuli’s CCM government has already banned certain newspapers and shut down opposition rallies.
WESTERN EUROPE & CANADA
U.K. and Social Media
A cross-party report by Parliament’s Science and Technology Committeeargues that social media companies have a legal “duty of care” for children and called for regulatory enforcement if social media apps do not comply with British law. The report concluded that social media damages sleeping patterns and contributes to bullying and body image issues in children. It recommended establishing a regulatory body to minimize these harms; create partnerships among government, law enforcement, and tech firms to stop the exploitation of minors; and harmonize rules across platforms. Public health and children’s rights advocates praised the report.
Canadian Embassy Staff in Cuba
The Canadian government announced that it is pulling up to half of its diplomatic staff out of Cuba after another diplomat experienced symptoms that have affected American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba since 2017. Numerous American and Canadian diplomats stationed in Cuba encountered symptoms of “dizziness, insomnia, hearing loss, and nausea when using a computer.” The cause of these symptoms is unknown, but fourteen Canadian government employees and their family members have experienced these symptoms. Canada is keeping its ambassador and consular officers in Cuba and did not issue a travel warning as the U.S. has.
Writing contributed by Ben Richmond and Benjamin Barth.