Europe/Americas update: November 29 2017



Kiev and leaders of the Donbas rebellion have agreed on a prisoner swap including roughly 470 prisoners on both sides. The exchange is supposed to happen before the end of the year.


A truly wild scene played out at The Hague earlier today:

A former Bosnian Croat military commander swallowed what he said was poison in a U.N. war crimes courtroom on Wednesday and died shortly after losing an appeal against his 20-year prison term.


Slobodan Praljak’s apparent courtroom suicide, which was broadcast on a video feed, came in the final minutes of the last judgment at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which closes next month after 24 years.

Praljak was convicted in 2013 for atrocities committed against Bosnian Muslims during the war. It’s not clear how he got poison into the courtroom.


Don’t look now, but Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and her once-and-future (?) coalition partners, the Social Democrats, are already at odds with one another over the issue of deporting Syrian refugees who commit crimes in Germany. Something about sending a shoplifter back to a place where he’s likely to starve to death, I don’t know. Anyway it’s good to see coalition talks are getting off on the right foot.


France’s conservatives seem to be having a difficult time coalescing behind a figure who can oppose President Plutus Emmanuel Macron. Seeing as how there’s very little apparent difference between the allegedly “centrist” Macron and pretty much anybody else on the French center-right, one wonders why they’re bothering to oppose him at all. Many of them, in fact, are not, which is part of the reason why the French right is so fractured.



What a difference a couple of days and a suspiciously delayed vote count can make. Though he was five points down on Monday when the country’s elections commission inexplicably decided to stop updating everyone on the election results, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández now looks like he might be about to claim victory in Sunday’s vote. A lot of Hondurans–especially his opponent, Salvador Nasralla–are already starting to cry foul, and when you read about what’s actually gone down over the past couple of days you can start to understand why:

By 2 o’clock on Monday morning, the day after national elections were held in Honduras, two Presidential candidates had declared victory. One was the heavily favored incumbent, Juan Orlando Hernández. The other was Salvador Nasralla, a former sportscaster and political neophyte who spoke, as one journalist put it, with “the cadence of the game-show host he once was.” The results were partial but striking: with fifty-seven per cent of the vote tallied, Nasralla had a five-point lead. Blindsided but undeterred, Hernández assembled a small group of anxious supporters in Tegucigalpa, the capital, to insist that he was winning. But, as he spoke, the chief magistrate of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal—the four-person body that certifies the results—who had remained curiously silent for hours after the voting ended, announced numbers that contradicted the President. The chief magistrate added, however, that it was too early to call the election. (The Electoral Tribunal is aligned with Hernández’s party, the Partido Nacional, which controlled the vote counts at individual polling places, per an election law that party members had recently modified in Congress.)


Then, on Tuesday, the third candidate in the race, who had finished last, threw his weight behind Nasralla, saying that the results were clear. That morning, I called Nasralla’s campaign director, a Georgetown-educated political strategist named Rodolfo Pastor, to ask him what he thought was happening. He told me, “Hernández has control over the Electoral Tribunal. The moment is no longer electoral; it’s political.” A few hours later, the tribunal provided an update: there were 2.4 million ballots that still needed to be counted. The chief magistrate alluded to a technical problem, but didn’t elaborate. The military was bringing the ballots in question to the capital in trucks. “It is hoped that they arrive in the next few hours,” he said. If all went according to plan, the results would be announced on Thursday.

Ah, yes, see, the emergency ballots had to be factored in. All elections commissions keep a couple million ballots around in one of those glass “break in case of emergency” boxes just in case something terrible happens, like if there’s a chance the incumbent might lose.

It will come as no surprise that there are a bunch of folks inside the Trump administration, particularly White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who love Hernández. Authoritarians get along better with other authoritarians. But Honduras is now on the verge of a very serious political crisis, one that could easily turn violent, and as with pretty much every other issue in world affairs, you can expect Washington to put itself on the wrong side of this one.


Should we see which grotesquely bigoted shitpile of an organization Donald Trump is retweeting now? No? Yeah, I didn’t actually want to either.

Finally, here’s Foreign Policy in Focus’s John Feffer on the question of whether progressives can reasonably form an alliance of convenience on foreign policy matters with anti-intervention conservatives like the Koch Brothers. He’s not in favor of the idea:

 progressive anti-war position is part of a larger internationalist program that supports global peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction, robust environmental programs, transnational anti-poverty efforts, and human rights mechanisms that hold countries and individuals accountable. The Kochs aren’t interested in any of that.


All of the prescriptive elements of the progressive internationalist agenda require strong states. The Kochs believe that the invisible hand of the free market will solve all problems, without any state guidance or interference. In the same way that Margaret Thatcher didn’t believe in society, only individuals, the Kochs don’t really believe in the international community. The only transnational force that has any import for them are transnational corporations. Their anti-war funding thus comes with some serious (if often hidden) ideological strings attached.

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