Europe/Americas update: June 5 2018

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Ecuadorean Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés will be the next president of the United Nations General Assembly after winning Tuesday’s vote. She is only the fourth woman to hold that office in the UN’s history. UNGA president is largely a ceremonial post, but the symbolism is still important.



With recent elections in Austria and Italy bringing Russia-friendly parties to power, Vladimir Putin’s position in European politics is suddenly improving. He’s looking to keep improving it, with an eye toward getting European Union sanctions against Russia reduced, by portraying Russia as the stable ally to a Europe increasingly alienated by the United States:

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin arrived in Austria on Tuesday sensing an opportunity almost unimaginable just months ago: to overhaul frosty relations with a European Union infuriated by President Trump on a host of issues from climate and Iran to, most recently, tariffs and trade.

Never mind that Mr. Putin was until recently virtually a pariah in Europe after his military interventions in Ukraine, Crimea and Syria; after meddling in European elections and working hard to foment right-wing populist uprisings throughout the continent; after polluting the political environment with fake news; and after allegedly poisoning a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain, charges Russia denies.

Mr. Putin was now gaining considerable traction by casting himself as a reliable friend and trading partner to Europe even as the Trump Administration was treating its closest allies there as strategic and economic competitors.


The University of Birmingham’s Tim Haughton isn’t so sure that Janez Janša and his Slovenian Democratic Party are going to wind up controlling Slovenia’s next government even though they came out of Sunday’s election as the country’s largest party. But he also sees problems for Marjan Šarec’s hopes of leading a center-left coalition:

Although Jansa emerged the clear winner of the election, in echoes of the recent Czech elections, this doesn’t necessarily translate into forming a government. Jansa is a divisive figure — and has few willing coalition partners.

To become premier again, the two-time prime minister needs at least one party, probably two, to swallow its words. That may be tempting for a politician keen on a ministerial position but would be a risky move for his or her party.

The other alternative is a broad-based center-left government, with Sarec as the likely prime minister. Many parties may find it far easier to collaborate with LMS, especially with a technocratic, centrist agenda. But despite several years as a town mayor, Sarec has little political experience and would find managing a diverse coalition with several parties a challenge.


Thousands of people protested in Prague on Tuesday against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and his likely new governing coalition with the Czech Social Democratic Party. That coalition will still represent a minority government, but it’s expected to have support from the Czech Communist Party. Although Babiš’s ANO party won October’s election, he remains a polarizing figure.


Turkey flew F-16s in Greek airspace on Tuesday to demonstrate its outrage over the Greek government’s decision to release eight Turkish asylum seekers who are wanted back home on charges that they were involved in the 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The eight ex-soldiers have been released from custody but are now living under Greek protection in unknown locations. The legal case for their extradition has failed repeatedly in Greek courts over concerns that they would not be able to receive fair trials back in Turkey.



Seven centrist and center-right Brazilian parties are discussing a joint effort in October’s presidential election. Polling indicates that right-wing politician Jair Bolsonaro is the front runner in the race with 25 percent support, followed by left winger Ciro Gomes at 12 percent. The math, then, suggests that the right candidate could vault to the top of the race fairly handily. The problem, as you may have already guessed, is that nobody knows who the candidate would be. None of these parties has a candidate polling higher than seven percent. Another problem is that whoever ran as Brazil’s Centrist Hero would be tasked with defending the economic policies of current President Michel Temer, whose overwhelming unpopularity is the reason Brazil’s presidential campaign is so chaotic to begin with.


Another poll shows right-wing candidate Ivan Duque winning Colombia’s June 17 presidential run off. The poll, by YanHaas, shows Duque with 52 percent of the vote compared with 34 percent for his opponent, Gustavo Petro.


Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America:

Donald Trump’s list of crimes against humanity doesn’t just include to his singing. As Joshua Keating writes, it also extends to actual crimes against humanity:

I spent last week at an international human rights conference, a sobering experience, but also—for those of us who live in democratic countries—a somewhat reassuring one. For all the inequality in America’s economy and injustice in our political system, as well as valid recent concerns about the erosion of democratic norms and the rule of law in the U.S., hearing the stories of activists and dissidents from countries like China, Belarus, Vietnam, or Togo is an important reminder that this is still a country where the media is free to criticize the president without fear of imprisonment and where citizens will have the opportunity to vote out their representatives in November. These are rights most of the world’s population does not enjoy.

On the other hand, a trio of striking statements from international human rights observers in the past few days makes for grim reading, discussing ongoing U.S. policies at home and abroad using terms and language often reserved for tin-pot dictatorships.

Between our widening inequality at home (a trend that, to be fair, predates Trump), our horrifying mistreatment of migrants and asylum seekers, and our (alleged) war crimes in Syria and elsewhere around the world, the US is getting to the point where it can’t even convince the rest of the world to pretend we’re a human rights champion.

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