Compass World: Albanian PM Gets Face Full of Ink
LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN
Brazil Faces Cabinet Controversy
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s aide and secretary general Gustavo Bebianno has come under scrutiny for misuse of campaign money in the 2018 elections. Observers believe the controversy could dampen the momentum behind a plan to overhaul Brazil’s pension system. Bolsonaro and his economy minister Paulo Guedes planned to discuss a sweeping overhaul that to Brazil’s pension system that the administration claims will save 1 trillion reais ($265 billion USD) over the next decade. President Bolsonaro campaigned on cracking down on corruption that was harming Brazil and said Bebianno would have to leave his government position if found guilty. Bebianno, however, continues to maintain that he is innocent.
U.S.-China Trade Talks Begin
High level trade talks have begun in Beijing between China’s Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trade talks started at a lower level, but have moved up to this point over time. President Trump and the US government have previously imposed a March 1 deadline in which tariffs would be raised to an even higher extent - from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of goods - but he has shown a willingness to extend that date if the trade talks appear to be going successfully. The trade war began due to the Trump administration accusing the Chinese Communist Party of inhibiting foreign firms' access to the Chinese market and engaging in intellectual property theft toward American companies.
MIDDLE EAST & CENTRAL ASIA
Controversial Amendments Proposed in Egypt
Newly proposed constitutional amendments to the Egyptian parliament featuredchanges that would allow current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (pictured) to serve until 2034. The proposed rule changes received support from 485 of the Egyptian parliament's 596 members. The amendments would also transfer control of the judiciary to the executive, with the president being given the power to appoint the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court and the prosecutor general. Critics noted how the proposed amendments violated the separation of powers under the constitution by shifting power to the executive branch.
EASTERN EUROPE & RUSSIA
Albanian PM Gets Face Full of Ink
An opposition member of parliament (MP) splashed ink in the face of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama during a session on February 13. The opposition MP, Edi Paloka, ran up to the dais and splashed what appears to be blue ink in Rama's face (see video below). Prior to the incident, the Kuvendi unanimously voted in favor of Macedonia's NATO accession. Paloka was suspended for ten days as a result of his actions. Despite the incident being investigated by the National Guard, Rama made light of the situation, saying "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity." Paloka currently serves as the Deputy Chairman of the Parliament.
Somalia Seeks Debt Cancellation
Ahmed Isse Awad, Somali minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, said in a statement on February 12 that the government is seeking cancellation of all its external debts. The African Union also declared its support for cancellation of all Somali debts, citing the need to ease access to financing for the war-torn country. Since the 1980's, a civil war in Somalia has generated political instability and economic destruction, pushing government debt to unsustainable levels. Officials in Mogadishu are also attempting to convince the IMF to support its debt cancellation efforts. If approved by the IMF, Somali officials would have to individually negotiate with private creditors to secure cancellation.
WESTERN EUROPE & CANADA
Belgium Cancels Flights Amid Strike
All flights in and out of Belgium were cancelled on February 13 as a result of strike action among the country's air traffic controllers. A national strike was called by three major trade union federations. The strike was prompted by stagnant wage growth, which was pegged to rise by just 0.8% over the next two years. Ground transportation was also disrupted by the strike, with the demand for train tickets suddenly increasing. The trade unions are seeking an improvement in wages, pensions, and work conditions for all air traffic controllers.