Welcome to Friday, where Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky insists that Europe is still unified in its support for Kyiv, Peru will have its fifth prime minister in the past 16 months, and meet Flossie the 27-year-old cat. Meanwhile, we look at the uptick in Russia’s spying on its Nordic neighbors.
[*Tswana, Botswana and South Africa]
The Latin American left is back, but more fractured than ever
The Left is constantly being hailed as the resurgent power in Latin America. But there is no unified Left in the region. The "movement" is diverse — and its divisions are growing, writes Farid Kahhat in business daily America Economia.
Lula da Silva's reelection to the presidency in Brazil is the 25th consecutive democratic election in Latin America in which the ruling party has lost power. There appears to be general discontent with ruling parties, caused partly by external factors: the world's worst pandemic in a century, the worst recession since the 1990s, and sharpest inflation rate in 40 years.
Leftist forces in opposition generally benefit electorally when there is discontent with the ruling party, but suffer that same discontent when in government. So, left-leaning governments lost the presidential elections in El Salvador and Uruguay in 2019, and in Costa Rica in 2022. They lost legislative elections held in Argentina in 2021, a constitutional plebiscite in Chile, and regional elections in Peru in 2022.
It is not just a matter of the Left coming to power today in conditions quite different to, and worse than, the 2003-13 period (when the region saw a boom in its exports and commodity prices). And more to the point, there is no single "Left" in Latin America.
The movement has become more varied both in basic forms and its nuances since the last wave of socialist victories that hit the continent in the early 2000s. Just one proof of this is in the stark differences between the Left that ran Uruguay (between 2005 and 2020) and the socialist regime in Venezuela.
The NGO Transparency International's 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Venezuela as one of the world's most corrupt countries (168th out of 180). Similar listings by other agencies on justice, open government or press and economic freedoms yield similar results. Uruguay is always at or near the top in the region, and Venezuela at or near the bottom.
So while both governments were broadly speaking socialist, explanations are needed for the vast gap in their political and economic performances. One might cite the history and evolution of their institutions as more important than the viewpoints of sitting governments.
Venezuela had a mediocre evolution in this sense under various governments, though none have ever performed as badly as its socialist governments have since 2013. U.S. sanctions in turn only began in 2018, which would not explain the country's degradation in recent years.
If leftist movements were always varied in Latin America, their differences have grown in recent years. Today, for example, they are more divided than 20 years ago by their relationship with feminism. While Chile's Gabriel Boric defines his foreign policy as feminist, Ecuador's former president, Rafael Correa, referred to efforts to give a gender perspective to educational curricula as "gender ideology."
That is a terminology used by the conservative Right and it shares its goal — to discredit these new ideas. Lula also changed his position on abortion rights in the second round of recent elections to reduce the opposition of evangelical voters.
So there is no unified Left in this region. Its differences have grown on a range of issues and have to be discussed separately.
— Farid Kahhat / America Economia
• Zelensky says “no schism” in Europe: Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky insisted that Europe is still unified in its support for Ukraine, and against Russian aggression. In a virtual address Friday to “The Idea of Europe” conference, Zelensky said “There is no split. There is no schism among Europeans. We have to preserve this so this is our mission number one this year.” The statement comes at the end of brutal week of Russian air strikes on Ukraine, and as some signs of Western opposition to continued support for Kyiv amid a deepening global economic crisis.
• Netanyahu picks far-right Ben-Gvir as national security minister: As part of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to strike coalition deals and return to power, his Likud party has announced that it would appoint controversial far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir as Israel’s minister of national security, a newly created role.
• Iran arrests protest-supporting former footballer: Voria Ghafouri, a former international soccer player who backed the ongoing protests against Iran’s regime, has been arrested for spreading “propaganda” against the Islamic Republic. Meanwhile, confrontations between Iranian pro and anti-government fans are being reported outside the stadium where the national team is playing against Wales this morning for its second game at the World Cup in Qatar.
• Writer who accused Trump of rape files new lawsuit: E. Jean Carroll, the Elle magazine columnist who had accused former President Donald Trump of raping her in the 1990s, filed an upgraded lawsuit for battery and defamation, after he denied the allegations last month. Carroll is relying on the new Adult Survivors Act, which allows sexual violence victims to sue over attacks that have passed the statute of limitations.
• Peru’s prime minister resigns: Peruvian President Pedro Castillo has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Anibal Torres after his call for a confidence vote to challenge the opposition-controlled Congress was declined. Castillo is set to name a fifth prime minister since taking office in July 2021.
• Musk to offer “amnesty” to Twitter’s suspended accounts: Twitter owner Elon Musk announced the social media platform will provide a “general amnesty” to some of the suspended accounts, beginning next week. Several banned users have already been reinstated, including former U.S. President Donald Trump. Musk also revealed Twitter will launch its “Verified” service next week, with “gold checks” for companies, gray colored ones for government accounts and blue for individuals.
• World’s longest-running play to open on Broadway for first time: The Mousetrap, a murder mystery by Agatha Christie which marks its 70th anniversary this Friday, will open on Broadway for the first time next year. The British play has been performed almost 29,000 times since it premiered in 1952 in London.
“Corona is over,” declares Hamburg-based daily Morgenpost on its front page, after a top German virologist says that the evolution of COVID-19 is “at a dead end.” Still, the newspaper reports that Germany’s health minister is skeptical about such an optimistic outlook.
26 years and 329 days
Flossie, at the age of almost 27 — the feline equivalent of being 120 human years old — has been crowned by the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living cat.
Nordic 007: The quiet rise of Russian spies in Sweden
This week marks the opening of what's been described as the biggest Swedish espionage case since the end of the Cold War, as tensions rise in the face of the Russian war in Ukraine.
🚨 These are a few examples of the 28 internet searches Payam Kia did shortly before being arrested in November 2021. Two months earlier, his older brother Peyman, a former employee of the Swedish armed forces and security services, had been arrested on charges of aggravated espionage. The two brothers had long been suspected of sharing classified information. But it was only on November 11 that prosecutors brought charges against them, after having gathered enough evidence to support what has been described as Sweden’s largest espionage cases since the end of the Cold War.
⚖️ The trial of the brothers was set to begin Thursday behind closed doors at the Stockholm District Court; and while prosecutors believe financial gain was the motive, the case is drawing extra attention in Sweden and beyond for reasons that extend well beyond individual greed. Over the last decade, due to rising geopolitical tensions, the threat from spies has increased all over Europe. No doubt the beginning of the war in Ukraine has raised the stakes, and activity, for those working undercover on both sides.
🇸🇪🔍 Both brothers are now accused of spying on behalf of Moscow between September 2011 and September 2021. Peyman and Payam Kia, who could each face a life sentence, deny the charges. With its geographic position, sharing the Baltic Sea coastline, Sweden is particularly exposed: The Security Service estimates that one third of the staff at Russian embassies are usually intelligence officers, which means that about 10-15 people at the Russian Embassy in Stockholm are believed to be actively spying.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
➡️ Watch the video: THIS HAPPENED
“I didn't have the power to get my way.”
— In a candid interview with German news outlet Der Spiegel, former Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had tried to organize talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in the summer of 2021, but that plans had failed to materialize due to her nearing the end of her chancellorship. “For Putin, only power counts," Merkel lamented.
Ahead of the Iranian national soccer team’s second game at the World Cup in Qatar this morning, a fan holds a jersey paying homage to Mahsa Amini, whose death sparked major protests against the Islamic Republic. — Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa/ZUMA
• Can Men Help Breastfeed Their Children? — RECALCULATING
✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet
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