Watchlist: Catalonia's Referendum Descends into Chaos

Week of October 2nd

2012 Catalan independence protest on September 11th


Kenya Caught Between Two Elections

Several weeks after the August 8th reelection of President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, the country’s supreme court annulled the results stating the election was not conducted in a manner consistent with the constitution. While the supreme court’s decision to annul the results has been applauded as a courageous display of effective separation of powers, the opposition party has called for protests in Nairobi to place pressure on the government to act. Tensions have risen in recent days as an opposition legislator was detained for calling Kenyatta, “a son of a dog.” Hundreds of University of Nairobi students engaged in what have been described as ‘running battles’ with the police as they protest. While a rerun election has been scheduled for October 26th, the ruling party has recently moved to pass new laws that could place significant political regulations on the national election commission, the IEBC. In response, the opposition has stated they will not participate in the rerun election until a number of conditions are met, including the replacement of a number of IEBC officials. Under the ruling party’s proposed laws, the supreme court would be unable to void the upcoming election, even if it is conducted illegally. WILLIAM FEUER


China Orders North Korean Businesses to Shut Down

On Thursday, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced that it has ordered all North Korean companies conducting business within its borders to cease operations. This move comes on the heels of a unanimous vote by the UN Security Council to impose fresh sanctions on the North Korean regime, and as a part of the Chinese government’s recent efforts to distance themselves from their increasingly volatile southern neighbor. The Ministry of Commerce said that it informed all North Korean businesses in China that they have until January to shut down. It remains to be seen whether Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s bombastic leader, turns his ire towards Beijing, as they fall in line with international sanctions. VINEET CHANDRA


Puerto Rico Continues to Feel Maria

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20th, the island has seen an influx of aid from American federal agencies. Relief efforts are focused on repairing broken power grids, fixing roads and infrastructure, and draining excess water. However, ten days after the storm’s landing, 90% of the population is still without access to power, food, or water, especially in rural areas. Many critics, including San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yuliz Cruz, have blamed FEMA under the Trump administration. They claim it have been slow to act and that its relief efforts, which largely depended on diesel power which the island cannot currently access, were unrealistic considering infrastructural challenges. Many believed Trump’s lifting of the Jones Act, which mandates shipping from the mainland to the island must use American ships, would improve aid distribution. However, without drivers, fuel, or clear roads, most cargo remains docked at the island’s ports, unable to be dispersed. Experts predict the island’s former debt crisis and projected torrential rainfall will only intensify the storm’s damage, and therefore Puerto Rico will require billions in US aid to rebuild its infrastructure. Meanwhile, President Trump is set to visit Tuesday to assess the damage. MEGHAN ROWLEY


“Hope and Suffering” in Catalan Referendum

After a day of “hope and suffering”, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont announced a landslide victory for the independence movement. The referendum passed with 90% of voters supporting Catalonian independence and a voter turnout of 42.3%. In efforts to stop the referendum, the Spanish government shut down internet coverage in Catalonia while police attempted to snatch ballot boxes. Military forces acting as police forced voters out of polling stations across the region, shooting rubber bullets into the crowds and clubbing citizens with batons. Unsettling video footage of the violence began circulating online alongside reports that over 750 Catalans sustained injuries from police forces. Having already condemned the referendum as unconstitutional, Madrid denies any wrongdoing; Vice President Sáenz de Santamaría deemed police actions a “proportionate” response to threats against “coexistence and democracy”.

To the outrage of many Europeans, the EU has yet to comment on the police brutality and blatant violation of social liberties perpetrated by the Spanish government. The international body has so far left Spain to handle its own internal affairs. However, a decision to secede by Catalonia’s parliament in the next few days would inevitably plunge the EU into chaos as officials negotiate Catalonia’s tenuous relationship with the EU, the Eurozone, and Spain. ANNA HAYNES​​

Middle East

UN to investigate human rights abuses in Yemen

On Friday the UN Human Rights Council agreed to send a coalition of experts to Yemen in order to investigate human rights violations. Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, has been relentlessly bombed by a Saudi-led coalition for two and a half years now. The siege has resulted in over 10,000 deaths, widespread malnutrition and a cholera epidemic; over 10 million people are in need of immediate aid. The UN has labeled it the greatest humanitarian disaster in the world. Saudi Arabia has successfully resisted UN investigation for two years now and attempted to block this one as well until a deal was reached by Canada, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the Arab League to soften the resolution. Before the resolution was amended, Saudi Arabia threatened economic and diplomatic retribution against any nation that voted in favor of the investigation. A group of experts will be chosen by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein. They will travel to Yemen “as soon as possible and will be expected to gather their evidence and present it to the Human Rights Council.” MAYA ZREIK

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