Welcome to Tuesday, where India sets a daily vaccination record, Spain's prime minister seeks reconciliation with Catalonia and Australia's Great Barrier Reef could join the list of endangered World Heritage sites. Les Echos also takes us to Japan, where the business model of its notorious yakuza crime syndicate is crumbling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Global vaccination, good news & bad: Cuba reports its Abdala shot is 92.28% effective, China has administered its one billionth dose of its own vaccine, and India is also setting records, after campaigning to make vaccinations free for all adults, more 8.3 million doses were administered on Monday. However, shortages remain, namely in Venezuela where people are seeing second-dose appointments cancelled.
• Spain to pardon jailed Catalonian leaders: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will pardon nine jailed Catalonian separatist leaders who were involved in the region's attempted secession in 2017. Sánchez hopes the move will inspire reconciliation with the Catalan region.
• Renewed tension in Jerusalem neighborhood: Tensions have reignited in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood after a night where Palestinians and Jewish settlers threw stones, chairs and fireworks at each other. Forced evictions of Palestinians in the contested East Jerusalem neighborhood ignited the protests and 11-day war last month, which killed hundreds and left more than 100,000 civilians displaced. The Red Crescent reports that it is treating 20 Palestinians for injuries in the latest clashes.
• Myanmar military and resistance group clash: The Myanmar military and an anti-junta resistance force clashed in the country's second largest city, Mandalay. This is the first time direct fighting between the junta and breakaway security forces has occurred outside of small towns and villages.
• Rights group calls on UN to increase pressure for Ortega regime: After a series of politically motivated arrests in Nicaragua, including that of a fifth presidential candidate and the former first lady, Human Rights Watch will release a report calling on the United Nations to condemn the regime of President Daniel Ortega.
• UNESCO: Great Barrier Reef "in danger": The UN cultural and preservationist body has recommended that the Great Barrier Reef be added to the list of world heritage sites that are "in danger," as the reef has seen mass bleaching due to climate change. The Australian government is "strongly opposed" the recommendation.
• First NFL player comes out as gay: Carl Nassib, a defensive lineman for the Las Vegas Raiders, shared a video on social media publically declaring that he is gay, making him the first active player to do so in the league's 101-year history.
"Into Unknown Territory," titles Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet after a no-confidence vote ousted the country's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, a first in Sweden.
Despite strong opposition, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced in a speech Monday that the government would approve pardons (indultos) for nine Catalan separatists.
Yakuza blues: Japan's notorious gangsters hit hard by COVID
The infamous (yet legal) Japanese criminal syndicate was already suffering under new laws when the pandemic hit. Now its business model is crumbling, reports Yann Rousseau in French daily Les Echos.
Unable to legally impose a "lockdown," Japanese authorities are betting on economic actors and the population's civic-mindedness to diminish daily contamination levels and relieve hospital congestion. Selling alcohol is forbidden — in theory. Nightlife businesses are expected to suspend their operations for a few weeks. Most of the countries' bars, karaokes and nightclubs respect these rules, but Kabukicho, Tokyo's "hot" district, puts up resistance. Many of the owners here have links to the yakuza underworld, which has had a particularly hard time in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.
With the spread of the pandemic — which killed 12,200 people since January 2020 in a population of 126 million inhabitants — nighttime clients have dwindled and many businesses saw their finances plummet. Dozens closed their doors, leaving yakuzas without "mikajimeryo," the protection money business owners give to local gangs. Ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 yens per month (150 to 750 euros), these tips helped businesses avoid problems such as dealing with troublesome clients.
Mafias in Italy, Russia, the Balkans and Hong Kong reacted quickly to the new restrictions. "With economic activity increasingly carried out online, these organisations also engage in phishing and credit card scams and set up fake donation sites," noted the UN Office on Drugs and Crime experts in a report. The conversion is different in Japan. Online delinquency didn't blow up in 2020. Old and poorly educated yakuzas who don't speak any foreign languages struggle to launch these complicated business endeavors. "The coronavirus has, in fact, exposed all their vulnerabilities," observes researcher Martina Baradel.
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