World update: April 19 2018



The government of Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sapar Isakov lost a very lopsided confidence vote in parliament on Thursday. The move is less about his government’s performance, though it’s hit a couple of rough patches, than about the fact that Isakov is a close ally of former President Almazbek Atambayev. This made him unpalatable to current President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, whose relationship with Atambayev is strained to say the least.


Outrage over the rape and murder of an eight year old Muslim nomad girl by a group of Hindu men earlier this year continues to fuel protests in Jammu and Kashmir state:

Local medics told Al Jazeera on Thursday that at least 30 students were injured over the past two days during clashes with security forces in various parts of the restive region.


The demonstrators are demanding justice for the girl, whose killing sent shockwaves across the Muslim-majority region.


The minor was grazing cattle in Rasana village in Jammu’s Kathua district when she was abducted in January.


She was kept heavily sedated in a Hindu temple, where she was gang-raped by at least three men over the course of four days, according to a police investigation. She was later strangled and her body was found in a forest near the temple.


Eight men, all Hindu, have been accused of being involved in the raping and killing of the girl. According to the police report, the suspects’ actions were aimed at driving away the Muslim nomads from the area.


At least when it comes to bringing China and Japan back together after many years apart, never let it be said that Donald Trump is not a uniter:

China and Japan have resumed a high-level economic dialogue after an eight-year hiatus, in the latest sign of a thaw in long-strained relations. This week’s visit to Tokyo by China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi also locked in plans for further diplomatic exchanges, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s travel to Japan for a trilateral summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in next month. This will pave the way for Abe and President Xi Jinping of China to visit each other’s countries at a later date.


At a time of increasing domestic political pressure, Abe has made no secret of his desire to bolster relations with Beijing this year, which marks the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China. While there is no shortage of difficult issues, including the territorial dispute in the East China Sea, the countries found some common ground during Monday’s economic talks regarding the dangers of a trade war fueled by U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist instincts.


South Korean President Moon Jae-in says that Kim Jong-un wants the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula and isn’t demanding that the US remove its military forces from South Korea in return. Which is fine, but the thing is he will demand something, and until we know what that is or what he means by “denuclearization” there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical about Kim’s summit with Donald Trump. Trump, for his part, keeps talking about how ready he is to just walk away from the talks if he and Kim can’t find common ground. Moon is scheduled to meet with Kim next week in a summit that is itself historically significant, but now has kind of turned into the prelim for the Trump-Kim meeting.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe went to Mar-a-Lago this week with one goal: to remind the Japanese people that he’s buddies with Donald Trump and bring home a big trade win so that people might stop talking about his burgeoning corruption scandal. Things…didn’t work out so well for him:

President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday they had failed to reach a deal that would exempt Japan from new U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, as Abe had wanted.


Instead, the leaders announced they had agreed to start talks on a new “free, fair and reciprocal” trade agreement between the two countries following two days of talks.


“If we can come to an arrangement on a new deal, that would certainly be something we would discuss,” Trump said when asked about the tariffs during a joint press conference at his private Mar-a-Lago club.


But he said the current trade deficit between the two countries was too high to merit an exemption now. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the trade deficit was $56.1 billion last year.

Several other countries have already secured exemptions from the tariffs, so Abe’s failure here kind of makes him look like a chump. Which isn’t going to make anybody back in Japan forget about the corruption stuff.



Rockets struck Libya’s Mitiga airport early Thursday morning, with one of them actually hitting a Libyan Airlines plane and several others hitting the arrivals hall. There were no casualties, presumably because it happened at around 2 in the morning. It’s believed that the rockets were fired by a militia that has a running feud with the militia that controls security at the airport.

The battle–and I do mean battle–to succeed the ailing and/or dead Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya looks like it may have already started. Remember, you heard it here first. Er, well, you did hear it here, anyway. Probably not first, but whatever.


Swaziland is actually “the Kingdom of eSwatini” now, I guess? King Mswati III announced the name change on Wednesday, and he is the absolute ruler of Swaziland eSwatini so I guess that makes it final. The word means “land of the Swazis,” and actually it sounds like he had good reason to make the change:

He explained that the name had caused some confusion, saying: “Whenever we go abroad, people refer to us as Switzerland.”

OK, yeah, I can see how that would get irritating.



Basque news outlet ETB reported on Wednesday that the militant independence group ETA will formally disband next month. ETA swore off violence in 2011 and disarmed last year, but both the Spanish and French governments have been demanding a complete dissolution.



Polls show conservative Mario Abdo Benítez running as much as 25 points ahead of the second place candidate in advance of Paraguay’s presidential election on Sunday. However, his Colorado Party looks like it will lose seats in congress as leftists appear poised to make gains there.


With Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in jail, there’s a new frontrunner in Brazil’s presidential contest. It’s Jair Bolonsaro, and he seems like a really, really good guy:

Since the Pinochet-praising former paratrooper entered politics three decades ago, he has repeatedly called for a return to the kind of military rule Brazil endured until 1985. “I am in favour of a dictatorship,” he boasted during the first of seven terms as a congressman.


Such incendiary remarks were long dismissed as the ravings of a irreverent and irrelevant extremist – as were his equally inflammatory attacks on women, black people, gay people, foreigners and indigenous communities, for which he was last week charged by Brazil’s attorney general with inciting hate speech.

And you thought re-electing Michel Temer was the worst choice Brazilians could make, when here they’ve got their very own Donald Trump right down to the latent prion disease:

His speeches, like Trump’s, are often rambling, fact-light assaults on syntax that appear nonsensical when transcribed but are strangely captivating when watched up close.


Asked by the Guardian at a press conference following his Amazon motorcade what his first act as president would be, Bolsonaro replied: “You’re from the Guardian, OK? You’re here because you are interested in Brazil and in this area. If you were poor you wouldn’t be here. If you were poor you wouldn’t be here. Right? This is such a rich area and open your eyes because the Chinese are buying Brazil. OK?”

OK! I don’t know what the fuck that means, but OK!


Raúl Castro was officially replaced as Cuban president by Miguel Díaz-Canel on Thursday, a monumental transfer of power that probably doesn’t signify all that much because Castro is still going to be running the Cuban Communist Party. But still, congrats to everybody involved.

Visita de VicePresidente de Cuba
New Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel (Wikimedia)

In his inaugural address Díaz-Canel promised not to switch Cuba over to a capitalist system, but instead to keep doing what Castro’s been doing–gradually introducing more and more capitalism into the economy while still calling it socialism. Er, I mean he’s going to stick with socialism all the way. In his farewell address, meanwhile, Castro promised he’s not going anywhere. He expects Díaz-Canel to succeed him as party leader at the next party congress in 2021, but of course that’s still a long way off.

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