Europe/Americas update: April 20 2018



World War II is back in the news this week, and good for it I guess. Not only was there that massive unexploded bomb discovered in Berlin, which was disarmed on Friday after forcing a major evacuation of part of the city, but four smaller unexploded Soviet bombs were discovered in a field in the Slovakian town of Sturovo. Authorities are evacuating much of the town while the bombs are moved.


The Czech Republic’s Social Democrats say that they have decided to reconsider forming a governing coalition with Andrej Babiš’s ANO party. Babiš has apparently opened by offering them five ministries including the interior ministry, so I don’t want to say he’s desperate to make a deal but…well, let’s just leave it there.


The prospects for a governing coalitions seem substantially dimmer in Italy. Former prime minister and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi on Friday ruled out joining with the Five Star Movement. Now, since the Five Star Movement had long since ruled out joining with Berlusconi, this is more a face-saving thing by Berlusconi than a major new development. But it does reconfirm that Italy only has a couple of narrow pathways toward a government right now.


In your final bit of Commonwealth of Nations news–because, really, who gives a shit–its member states have recognized Prince Charles as their next leader whenever Queen Elizabeth crosses the rainbow bridge to be with her corgis. So congratulations to him I guess? I mean, I don’t know what else they could’ve done, the queen wants him to succeed her and the Commonwealth is kind of a monarchy thing. And I really don’t know why it matters to anybody anyway. Let’s move on.

Yeah, OK dude, we get it



Mario Abdo Benítez, the man who is likely to be elected Paraguay’s next president on Sunday, has a bit of a checkered family history. His father was the private secretary for Alfredo Stroessner, the dictator who ruled Paraguay from 1954 through 1989. And people are a little worried about how much his formative years have influenced his current politics:

But the rise of “Marito” – championed by the church and a rural Colorado base disgruntled with Cartes’s liberal economics – is a painful reminder of how little Paraguay has reckoned with its past. Abdo Benítez has called for the enforcement of obligatory military service – another Stroessner legacy – and promised to fill all public positions with Colorado faithful.


“Even though he was a kid at the time, he defends that era,” said Guillermina Kanonikoff, a former leftwing guerrilla whose husband, Mario Schaerer, was tortured to death by the regime.


“He doesn’t have to carry the sin of his father,” she added. “But he never asked for forgiveness, or showed shame … he’s creating the platform for a dictatorship.”


A new candidate has entered Brazil’s presidential race, and he could shake things up a bit in a race that’s already up for grabs with its leading contender in jail:

Just as former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the front-runner in Brazil’s presidential election, was surrendering to start serving a 12-year sentence for corruption this month, a former Supreme Court justice quietly made his debut on the political stage, quite possibly upending the contest.


Joaquim Barbosa, who made history in 2003 when he became the country’s first black Supreme Court justice, registered with the center-left Brazilian Socialist Party on April 6, one day before the deadline for potential presidential candidates to join a party.


While he has yet to formally begin a campaign, party leaders have spent the past few weeks building a strategy that draws on Mr. Barbosa’s remarkable biography. Having overcome poverty and discrimination to reach the pinnacle of the legal profession, Mr. Barbosa became a crusading figure in the fight against corruption, which is the top concern among Brazilian voters.


Large-scale public protests stretched into a third day on Friday, with thousands of people demonstrating in cities all over the country. At least three people have been killed in violent flareups so far, one of them a police officer, though there were two more unconfirmed reports of fatalities on Friday. The protesters are upset with President Daniel Ortega and it seems like their issues run pretty deep:

The political situation in Nicaragua had been deteriorating since the re-election of Mr. Ortega in 2016 to a third consecutive term amid charges of electoral fraud. “Since then, there’s been an open wound in society,” Mr. Orozco said.


The Ortega administration further alienated more constituents by a raising the possibility of censoring social media sites and by its widely criticized handling of a major wildfire that burned out of control for days, destroying parts of a protected tropical forest, Mr. Orozco said.


Among the modifications to the pension system, both employees and employers must contribute more to the social security system, and retirees will see a reduction in their pensions, as more money will be taken out to cover medical expenses.


The State Department issued its global human rights report for 2017 on Friday, and it turns out once again that all of America’s enemies are bad but our friends are very good. Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan released the report, and called out China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela for getting the worst grades, along with Turkey, who we only pretend to like, and Myanmar, and who really knows if we like them anymore or not. Sullivan singled out Liberia, Mexico, and Uzbekistan for improving their human rights records, and Saudi Arabia…was just kind of blissfully ignored, I guess. Egypt too, it would seem. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sends his police out to merk people routinely, but we still sort of need him to contain China so he’s cool. Israel…well, are Palestinians even human? I mean come on, am I right? Anyway, it’s best not to think too much about these things and just let the Trump administration, which definitely cares about human rights for sure, handle everything.

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