The World in a Flash
The Round-Up this week is very purposefully un-Trumped. Instead, we look at the new President of Haiti, continued protests in Romania, continued corruption drama in South Korea, chaos in South Africa’s parliament, & the police strikes in Espirito Santo.
1. Haiti’s New President: Jovenel Moise
Jovenel Moise was sworn in this week as Haiti’s 58th President and has a daunting road ahead of him. The tiny half-island is still in the midst of recovery from 2010 earthquake, last year’s Hurricane Matthew, the UN-assisted Cholera outbreak and the UN World Food Programme estimated that 2.5 million Haitians live in poverty. The 12-year-old UN peacekeeping force is also due to leave the island nation later this year. Though Moise also faces unresolved allegations of money-laundering which threaten to topple the new administration, many are willing to give him a chance in the hopes that the transfer of power will bring stability after a year-long political power vacuum.
2. Romania Protests Continue
The short and sweet of it: the centre-left government coalition led by Prime Minister Grindeanu approved an emergency ordinance last week that would see abuse of power offences decriminalised when sums of less than $47,500 USD were involved. Apparently, this was necessary to reduce overcrowding in prisons and “align certain laws with the constitution,” though it remains to be seen if the ordinance itself is legal. The reaction: hundreds of thousands pouring into the streets in major Romanian cities to protest what is, at best, completely and utterly misguided decision-making. A charming throwback to last days of Ceausescu, the government recalled the ordinance and will instead now seek parliamentary approval, and somehow survived a vote of no confidence on Tuesday. The government is still planning to free around 2,500 prisoners, and the protests have continued, with many seeking the resignation of ministers or the toppling of the ruling coalition in its entirety. The fight against corruption and abuses of power have long been a core element of Romania’s inclusion in the EU, though many argue that the courts have been politicised and have resulted in witch-hunts rather than cleaning up government offices.
3. South Korea’s Corruption Saga
The corruption scandal that has plagued South Korea for months, and has resulted in an impeachment trial for Park Geun-hye, claimed two more this week as South Korea’s special prosecutor indicted a former culture minister and a former top aide to the likely-ex-President. They’re charged with abusing power and coercion for blacklisting artists, entertainers, and organisations with dissenting opinions from receiving support. Choi Soon-sil, Park’s confidant and a key figure in the investigation into Park herself, remains imprisoned on accusations that she used her influence to enrich her businesses and support her daughter’s career. Park is currently using Presidential immunity to avoid prosecution and has refused to allow prosecutors to search the Blue House, citing the presence of sensitive military documents.
4. Zuma’s State of the Nation Speech Dissolves into Chaos
All hell broke loose in South Africa’s parliament as members of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party blocked President Jacob Zuma from completing his State of the Nation address by firing questions at him for over an hour. The House Speaker ordered the EFF out after their leader, Julius Malema, called Zuma “rotten to the core.” Zuma has come under fire for spending lavishly on his personal accommodations while the country’s economic prospects continue to slow, despite his frequent references to correcting the wealth distribution issues that have plagued South Africa since the end of apartheid, as well as the challenges of globalisation and low commodity prices. Zuma is also presiding over a split within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), as many blame his scandals for the loss of key metropolitan areas in recent local elections.
5. Espirito Santo Gets More Troops and Vehicles
Family members and supporters of the police in the southeastern Brazilian state of Espirito Santo continued a strike on behalf of the officers that began a week ago, demanding an increase in wages and timely payment; the officers are not legally allowed to strike themselves. They have been on strike for six days, during which chaos has enveloped the cash-strapped state, mainly in the capital city Vitoria. This has prompted a promised increase of 1,000 more military and federal police, paratroopers, armoured vehicles, and army aviation to reinforce the 1,200 soldiers who arrived earlier in the week, to make up for the 1,800 regular officers. So far there have been over 100 reported deaths in the wave of muggings, carjackings, and looting that has taken place since the strike began: more than six times the average from the last year. Bear in mind those are just the reported ones, and those numbers have yet to be confirmed. 200 cars were also stolen on one day, ten times the daily average for the whole state. There are fears that the strikes might prompt similar actions in other states suffering from the same economic afflictions.