Europe/Americas update: November 4-5 2017


There’s been a new massive leak from a big Caribbean law firm/offshoring factory akin to the 2015 Panama Papers leak. This new material, called the “Paradise Papers,” comes primarily from Appleby, a law firm that specializes in offshore tax havens and has several offices in the Caribbean and in a couple of British crown dependencies in Europe. As was the case with the Panama Papers it could be months before the fallout from this leak really shakes out and we could be seeing the results for years to come, but so far the documents highlight a lot of corporate tax avoidance and a number of offshore accounts held by, for example, Queen Elizabeth and several members of Donald Trump’s cabinet. Of particular interest are documents showing the extent of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s business dealings with Russian oligarchs, which would be unsavory even if there weren’t an ongoing investigation into the Trump administration’s ties with Moscow.



As many as 5000 people had to be evacuated from several buildings in Moscow on Sunday due to a bomb threat. The threat was eventually determined to be a false alarm, but it’s part of a series of such threats that Russian authorities have been getting in recent weeks.

More than 200 people were arrested on Sunday over an obscure right-wing movement calling for a “new Russian Revolution” on the 100th anniversary of the last one. Presumably this revolution would be a little different than the 1917 one, seeing as how its leaders are far-right nationalists.


Thousands of Romanians took to the streets of Bucharest and several other cities on Sunday in a renewal of the anti-corruption protest movement that was active earlier this year. This time around they’re demonstrating against legislation that would allow someone with a past criminal conviction to be elected president and that would make the country’s justice minister, rather than its president, responsible for appointing prosecutors.


While Angela Merkel tries to bring libertarians, conservatives, and leftists together to form perhaps the most unwieldy governing coalition in human history, the relative positions of her would-be partners has shifted a bit. A new poll finds the libertarian Free Democrats losing a point to fall to 10 percent support, while the Greens gained a point to climb to 11 percent. Whether this will give the Greens a little more leverage to push its environmental and/or immigration policies in the potential coalition remains to be seen.


Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont turned himself in to Belgian police on Sunday, beginning the legal process that could see him returned to Spain to stand trial over sedition charges related to the Catalan independence referendum. Meanwhile, new polling in advance of the upcoming Catalan election sends some mixed messages:

Two polls on Sunday suggested pro-Catalonia independence parties will together win December’s regional election although they may fall just short of a majority of seats in parliament needed to revive the secession campaign.


Parties supporting Catalonia staying in Spain would divide seats but garner around 54 percent of the vote, the polls suggested.



According to a GAD3 survey of 1,233 people conducted between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3 and published in La Vanguardia newspaper, pro-independence parties ERC, PDeCAT and CUP would take between 66 and 69 seats in the 135-seat parliament.


A second poll taken over the same period for the conservative newspaper La Razon echoed the GAD3 survey, showing pro-independence parties would capture the most votes though still fall just shy of a parliamentary majority with 65 seats.

If pro-independence parties can’t win a majority in the election, then it sure would seem that intention of a majority of Catalan voters would be to remain in Spain. Yet those same pro-independence parties will outperform every pro-union party, so in that sense they’ll have won the election. If the pro-union parties could maybe unite if only for this one election, that might bring clarity to the situation. But that’s probably not going to happen.

One thing Madrid may want to keep in mind moving forward: the GAD3 survey found that almost 60 percent of Catalan voters think it would be unjustified for Puigdemont to stand trial over the referendum and, maybe more importantly, almost 70 percent think that putting him on trial will increase support for independence. It’s unlikely that it would move the needle very much–people are rarely swayed from their deeply held views by those sorts of things, but Catalonia seems so divided on this issue that it might only take a shift of a point or two to fundamentally change the situation.



Since it’s clear that he will be facing charges imminently for, well, something, opposition leader Freddy Guevara has sought asylum in the Chilean ambassador’s residence in Caracas. Guevara is barred from leaving the country and will likely have his legislative immunity stripped by the Constituent Assembly fairly soon.


Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly preparing to indict former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his son as part of his investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign. Mueller is investigating Flynn’s work as a lobbyist for foreign interests, his possible failure to fully declare that work, and potential money laundering, akin to the charges he filed against Paul Manafort last week. Flynn’s indictment would bring the Mueller investigation into Donald Trump’s administration, rather than just his campaign.

Trump, unfortunately, keeps on being president. He’s sending negotiators to the COP23 climate change summit in Bonn this week, where they’re expected to argue that up is actually down:

According to reports, members of the Trump administration will lend their support to an event to promote fossil fuels and nuclear power as solutions to climate change.


Speakers from coal giant Peabody Energy, among others, will make a presentation to highlight the role that coal and other fuels can play in curbing the impacts of rising temperatures.


A White House spokesman said in a statement that the discussion aimed to build on the administration’s efforts to promote fossil fuels at the G20 meeting this year.


“It is undeniable that fossil fuels will be used for the foreseeable future, and it is in everyone’s interest that they be efficient and clean,” the spokesman said.

If these people aren’t literally laughed out of the conference then there’s really no justice in the world.

Finally, I think you should all read Graham Fuller on America’s Middle East policy. He’s not a fan:

Washington media, think tanks, various commentators and now John McCain continue hammering on an old theme— that the US has “no policy towards the Middle East.” This is fake analysis. In fact the US very much does have a long-standing policy towards the Middle East. It’s just the wrong one.

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