Watchlist: Venezuelan "Bread War" Continues

Week of March 20th

Picture from the German colonial occupation of Namibia, 1904-1908.


Namibian Tribes Seek Reparations from Germany

Two Namibian tribes have filed a lawsuit against Germany, demanding reparations for genocide that occurred between 1904 and 1908. Between these years around 100,000 people from the Herero and Nama tribes were killed by German colonial leaders. Germany has refused to pay direct reparations saying the aid given to Namibia since the 1990s is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. They say they do not use the word “reparations” in their official communication with Namibia because it is a legal term with severe implications and their support of Namibia is derived from moral and historic duty rather than legal obligation. Members from both tribes believe it should be a legal obligation, and hope to make it so with the lawsuit filed in January. Lawyers met in New York for a pre-trial meeting this past Thursday. Watch as this case develops while lawyers for both parties prepare for trial. EMMA STOUT


More Arrests Expected in the Kim Jong Nam Probe

A so-called “important person” is among a new group of persons of interest that the Malaysian police plan to arrest as part of an investigation into the assassination of Kim Jong Nam. Speaking to the state media, Malaysia’s police chief declined to offer specifics on the new targets other than the fact that the group includes a VIP as well as nationals of North Korea. Malaysia recently issued a red-notice alert via Interpol for the arrest of the four North Koreans who left the country on the day of Kim’s attack, so it remains to be seen if Malaysia’s new targets are still within the country. In the wake of the assassination, border security has been tightened to prevent suspects from leaving the country, although Malaysia’s porous border with Thailand has been a perennial challenge to the country’s intelligence agencies. Malaysian authorities have already determined that two suspects are hiding in the North Korean embassy. Police units have been stationed outside the embassy to monitor movements in and out of the embassy. CHRIS PANG


Venezuelan “Bread War” Continues with Mandates, Arrests

The Venezuelan government, facing a dire lack of ability to import grain and other basic necessities for its population, has declared a list of required mandates for bakery owners to insure there is a presence of canillas, or baguette-style loaves, for people to buy. The government, including vocal President Nicolás Maduro, has claimed bakeries in the nation are trying to make a profit and instead of devoting their allocated flour to making these cheap loaves some people rely on, they are making more expensive pastries like croissants and brownies. The mandates include a requirement forcing bakeries to use 90% of their allotted flour in these loaves, and to have bread available for people all day. Bakeries and their owners, meanwhile, claim they are not being given enough flour to even make the amount of bread the government wants them to, and that bakeries cannot stay open unless they sell more of these more expensive products. The ‘war’ came to a head with four arrests this past week in Caracas, two for using too much flour in other baked goods and two for using expired flour in brownies. Look this coming week for reactions to this quarrel over simple necessities in this struggling nation. ANDREW MITCHEL


Attack at French Airport Likely to Impact Candidates’ Debate Performance

On Saturday, a man snatched a gun from a French police officer at the Orly airport and threatened to kill the officer and others before being shot and killed by a special army patrol. Investigations are underway to ascertain if the assailant acted in affiliation with radical terrorist groups, but the incident will likely propel terrorism back to the forefront of debate in the French presidential election. Le Pen with the National Front will surely use the incident to push her tough-on-terrorism and anti-immigration agenda, while Independent front-runner Emmanuel Macron will likely use it to toughen his security rhetoric to push back against the public perception of him as a candidate lacking in experience. The candidates are scheduled to debate on Monday evening, keep an eye on how the recent attack affects the way each candidate frames their potential policy agendas. ELISABETH BRENNEN

Middle East

FIFA Delays Decision to Declare Status of Israeli Teams

Human rights groups have become concerned over FIFA’s failure to address the status of six Israeli football teams. The teams are based in illegal settlements on Palestinian land, and are therefore violating FIFA statutes by hosting competitions on occupied territory. However, FIFA’s decision has been delayed and the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) has gone months without news of a decision. Sari Bashi, the Israel/Palestine advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, called on FIFA to come to a decision: “FIFA recently reaffirmed its commitment to fulfilling its human rights responsibilities…by allowing these clubs to play in settlements, FIFA is contributing to serious human rights abuses.” FIFA has previously banned Russian teams from being based in occupied Crimea and expelled South Africa in 1974 on charges of human rights abuses. Multiple human rights organizations condemned FIFA for bowing to Israeli political pressure. FIFA is expected to release a decision following meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian national football associations in the next week. PFA says that if the association fails to solve the issue before May, they will attend the 67th FIFA conference in Bahrain and ask for sanctions to be imposed against the Israeli federation. MAYA ZREIK

Rebel Forces Launch Offensive in northeast Damascus

On early Sunday morning, Syrian rebel forces launched an offensive in northeastern Damascus, with ambitions to enter the heart of the government-held city. Damascus, the capital of Syria, has been predominantly under the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and advancements made by rebel forces could serve as a strategic threat to Syrian military. The offensive against the government involved both the Moderate Free Syrian Army and jihadist groups - in response, government forces launched intensive bombardment, resulting in large losses in the rebel forces. With the recapturing of Aleppo in December from rebel forces, the Syrian government’s victory inflicted a great wound to its opposition, seizing dominance across most of the country. With the rebel resistance in Damascus diminishing, the government is increasingly challenged by recent suicide bombings in the capital. This week, government forces are likely to quell surprise rebel offensives in northeast Damascus, while also intensifying security threatened by recent suicide attacks. JALAL H TALEB

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