Week of January 9th
A Pemex gas station in Mexico.
A Military Uprising in Cote d'Ivoire
A military mutiny in Cote d’Ivoire began this Friday and continued throughout the weekend. Nine cities in total were involved in the uprising that spread rapidly amongst the soldiers. The mutiny was triggered by disputes with the government over pay, bonuses, and living and working conditions in the army. Even as the government agreed to take into account the soldiers’ demands, Alain Richard Donwahi, the country's defense minister, was taken hostage for several hours. Some believe the move by the military to revolt was inspired by similar actions in 2014, when hundreds of soldiers revolted until the government agreed to their demands. Like the 2014 revolt, this mutiny was ended by President Alassane Outtara agreeing to the soldiers’ demands. The relationship between the government and the military in Cote d’Ivoire is definitely one to keep an eye on, due to its volatile history and this most recent mutiny. EMMA STOUT
Mexico Faces Unrest Following Energy Protests
Last week, Mexicans took to the streets to riot, loot, and blockade streets to protest the government’s January 1st announcement they would raise maximum oil prices by 20%. The move is the first of many steps to deregulate Mexico’s energy sector. Dependent on gasoline imports, policymakers expect the decrease in subsidies will attract foreign investment and increase competition against the state-controlled oil company, Pemex. But it appeared government was unprepared for the widespread contempt. Since the protests began a week ago, 6 policemen and bystanders have died, while 1500 have been arrested and at least 50 establishments have been looted. Some businesses have threatened to close, jeopardizing the supply of basic goods. On Wednesday, President Enrique Peña Nieto gave a televised speech defending his decision, saying subsidies had benefited the wealthiest Mexicans and the economy would have suffered more in the long term were they not lifted. Yet many argue the poorest Mexicans feel the increase the most. Indeed, a gallon of gasoline now costs 80 pesos, the equivalent of minimum wage earnings for a day. The riots come as President Nieto faces plummeting approval ratings and the peso hit a record low last week. MEGHAN ROWLEY
Australian Health Minister Takes Unpaid Leave Amid Expense Scandal
Australian Health Minister Sussan Ley has announced she has taken an unpaid leave of absence amid controversy surrounding three visits to Queensland's Gold Coast in 2014. Ms. Ley purchased a $585,200 apartment on one such trip, and faces allegations of manufacturing political justifications to visit the Gold Coast for her own personal gain. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet has been roiled by a string of scandals, and has promised a full investigation into this matter. Expect more to come on this subject in weeks to come.
Indonesia, J.P. Morgan Chase at odds over credit rating
In late 2016, J.P Morgan Chase downgraded futures assessments of several emerging markets, including Indonesia, in response to Donald J. Trump's victory in the United States Presidential Election. The Indonesian government has indicated their displeasure with this decision; Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati underscored J.P. Morgan's "special privileges" as one of Indonesia's largest foreign banks, and as a purveyor of Indonesian government bonds internationally. As the BBC notes, the economic rationale behind the downgrade is sound, and Indonesia's response does seem "harsh". J.P. Morgan reports that there has been minimal disruption to their business activities in Indonesia. Watch for updates on this dispute in the week to come. VINEET CHANDRA
Germany Faces Lawsuit from Namibian Indigenous Groups
Last Thursday, two Namibian indigenous groups filed a class-action lawsuit against Germany, seeking reparations and compensation for the genocide committed against them in the early 1900s. German officials have formally acknowledged the atrocities as genocide in tandem with Namibia, and they have recently been negotiating a joint declaration on the former colonial power’s massacres in the country. However, the Herero and Nama indigenous groups have been excluded from the talks though they were the primary victims of the genocide, in addition to numerous other atrocities. The groups hope the lawsuit will result in their inclusion in the talks, as well as compensation to victims’ descendants. The German government has repeatedly refused to pay direct reparations to the Herero and Nama groups, claiming that the development aid it has sent to Namibia is sufficient. The plaintiffs consider this an unsatisfactory response, and will pursue the lawsuit via the US District Court in Manhattan under the Alien Tort Statute. ELISABETH BRENNEN
Iraqi Forces Gain Ground in Mosul
Iraqi government forces reached the banks of the Tigris in the IS-occupied city of Mosul for the first time Sunday, after a number of advances in the city’s eastern districts. The government led coalition, which includes Shia militiamen, Kurdish fighters, Sunni allies, and the army’s counter-terrorism unit known as the Iraqi Special Operations Forces, have gained significant ground in recent days, advancing into the IS held neighborhoods Baladiyat and Sukkar in Eastern Mosul. The advancements mark a significant breakthrough for the Iraqi forces, which have been making slow progress since the effort to retake Mosul was launched in October 2016. During the same stretch, however, Baghdad was targeted by a spate of IS suicide bombings, killing dozens of Iraqis in an ever deteriorating security situation. As the Iraqi government looks to build upon the recent progress in Mosul in the coming weeks, it appears that it will also have to contend with the threat of increased attacks in Baghdad. The Iraqi government will have to make tough decisions in allocating defense resources moving forward, especially as it faces an increasingly delicate security situation away from the battlefront. ALI N. HABHAB