Watchlist: Pope Francis Returns from Myanmar, Met with Senior General Instead of Suu Kyi

Week of December 4th

Pope Francis is welcomed as he arrives at Yangon International Airport (Source: Max Rossi/Reuters)


Power Struggle in South Africa’s Ruling ANC

As South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) heads towards its party conference on December 16th in Johannesburg, the party leadership contest is heating up. As President Jacob Zuma is stepping down after eight years dogged by corruption allegations and electoral losses, the contenders vying for ANC leadership and the South African Presidency in 2019 are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former African Union Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa, a leader of the anti-apartheid movement under Nelson Mandela, and Dlamini-Zuma, President Zuma's ex-wife, are currently traversing the country as they vie for nominations from regional ANC leaders and members. With less than two weeks to go until a winner is announced, Ramaphosa holds a slight lead over Dlamini-Zuma with 1,278 nominations to her 1,115 nominations. With only two more provinces to campaign in, expect intense politicking and public posturing as the two vie to take charge of the beleaguered but historic African National Congress. TYLER COADY


Pope Francis’ Muzzled Tour of Myanmar

The pope is back at the Vatican after a long week of meetings throughout Myanmar and Bangladesh. His visit to Myanmar came at a time when the country not only played host to him, but also to what a growing list of organizations and countries have deemed a flagrant crime against humanity. The pope is no stranger to the situation as he has previously railed the Southeast Asian country for the military’s violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority going so far as to describe them as his persecuted “brothers and sisters.” However, many have criticized him for failing to actually name the Rohingya people while in Myanmar. The term, “Rohingya” is an extremely controversial one in the Buddhist-majority country where many see the Rohingya people as illegal Bengali intruders. The pope explained that if he had used the word it would have ended any possibility of meaningful progress. "I didn't have the pleasure of slamming the door publicly, a denouncement," the Pope said, "but I had the satisfaction of dialogue." The pope surprised many when he met with Myanmar’s commander in chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing instead of the country’s de facto political ruler, Aung San Suu Kyi. The meeting was a subtle acknowledgement of who’s really in charge. In addition, the pope made meeting with individual Rohingya people a mandatory condition of his visit - an experience he says moved him to tears. WILL FEUER


Disputed Presidential Elections Turns Deadly in Honduras

Disputes and protests in the Central American country of Honduras have turned deadly with the killing of 19-year-old Kimberly Dayana Fonseca during post-election demonstrations. The recent presidential election in Honduras has seen current President Juan Orlando Hernández and the National Party (TSE) reaffirmed as President. However, opposition parties, especially the Alliance Party, claimed a need for a recount after a spout of irregularities, including a delay on rural vote counting and glitches in the nationwide electronic system. The National Party did hold a recount of just 1000 votes which the Alliance Party, and its candidate Salvador Nasralla, refused to accept. Many fear a return to authoritarian rule, and these fears have been added to by a curfew instituted in the capital city of Tegucigalpa from 6pm-6am and a change to the constitution to suspend many constitutional guarantees. A Supreme Court controlled by Hernandez and his party allow a constitutional term limit change for him run in the first place. This change was brought by a judiciary and . Hernandez also have consolidated power over the armed forces, which are being deployed throughout the nation to quell protests. Their use of violence may brought yet more deaths in the aftermath and assumed fraudulent Honduran elections. ANDREW MITCHEL


Brexit Negotiations Progress

Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union progressed this week as officials reached consensus about the UK’s payout—or “divorce bill”—and the rights of EU citizens living in Britain. EU officials gave British PM Theresa May until today, December 4th, to submit proposals over the most controversial points of the exit deal; with the “divorce bill” and rights issues settled, disagreement over the Irish border is all that is holding the UK back. Until the border issue is decided favorably, the EU refuses to begin trade negotiations. With a summit of the European Council coming up in just less than two weeks, both the British public and politicians demand May speed up the tediously long negotiations. Hardline Brexiteers are taking advantage of the opportunity, pressuring May to remove the UK from ECJ jurisdiction and any remaining EU regulations. ANNA HAYNES

Middle East

Netanyahu Faces Uphill Battle in Latest Corruption Suspicions

On Saturday evening, over 20,000 Israeli protesters gathered in Tel Aviv in unity against government corruption. The demonstration in the Israeli capital targets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under criminal investigation pertaining to a potential abuse of office. Mr. Netanyahu’s far-right politics within the Likud party have granted him his fourth term in May 2015, yet his leadership has often been seen as fragmented by leftists politicians in the country. The investigation is surrounding two cases. Firstly, Mr. Netanyahu is believed to have improperly received gifts from wealthy businessmen and the second involves the negotiation of a deal with a newspaper owner for better coverage. Compellingly, parliament is expected to ratify a draft law that would bar police from publishing its finding in the two investigations of Mr. Netanyahu. In an already unstable time in Israeli politics, as the Syrian settles and Israel’s northern rival, Hezbollah, continues to grow its arsenal, Mr. Netanyahu finds himself in a political and legal conundrum. If indeed Mr. Netanyahu is charged, the pre-existing pressure for the Israeli premier to resign will only intensify. This week, Mr. Netanyahu’s mandate and political savviness will indeed be tested. JALAL H. TALEB

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