Framing The World, XC Edition
In the new issue of Framing we describe the - not very optimistic - scenarios of the energy crisis in Europe. Later, we deal with the return of the US ambassador to Sudan and the dialogue between Colombia and Venezuela for the reopening of the borders. Finally, we analyze the situation in Sri Lanka and the attempts made to resolve the default.
All this and much more in the 90th issue of Framing the World!
ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE
ASIA AND THE FAR EAST
WESTERN EUROPE AND EUROPEAN UNION
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
Angola, Amnesty International denounces increased repression ahead of elections. On August 24, the outgoing President João Lourenço was re-elected. However, the years leading up to the elections were marked by numerous human rights violations, as denounced by Amnesty International's director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena. In a paper published on August 16, Muchena details how Angolan authorities have intensified since January 2021 their repression of human rights amid a deteriorating humanitarian situation exacerbated by drought and starvation-induced famine in the country's southern region. Lourenço's reappointment, which occurred despite 54% abstention and shadows of electoral fraud, is likely to cost Angola another five years of human rights violations.
Mexico, progress in investigation into the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. On September 26, 2014, 43 students from the "Isidro Burgos" school in Ayotzinapa were abducted and made to disappear while on their way to a rally commemorating the Tlatelolco massacre. On August 19, 2022, the Commission for Truth and Access to Justice - created by the government of President López Obrador in 2018 - issued 64 arrest warrants against army and law enforcement officials, calling the incident a "state crime." Also under arrest was Jesus Murillo Karam, the attorney general who had been entrusted with the initial investigation.
Scotland, first Country in the world to make period products free. On Monday the 15th the Period Products Act came into force, making the Country the first and only in the world to guarantee women free access to tampons and sanitary pads. This service has been guaranteed for some time in schools and universities and, from now on, hygienic products will be distributed in every public structure, in pharmacies and in community centers. The law proposal had been presented to the Parliament to counter the “Period Poverty”- the situation in which women on low incomes can’t afford essential products for feminine hygiene- and to dispel the menstruation taboo.
Singapore, to repeal the law criminalizing homosexuality. The abrogation of the 377A law has been announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on national tv after an increasing number of requests that called for the colonial-era law to be abolished. According to Lee, this decision will bring the country in line with “current social mores” while hoping for homosexual Singaporeans some relief. Some groups of activists LGBTQ+ called the decision a hard-won victory, but many of them have expressed concern over another part of the Prime Minister’s speech about marriage. In fact, Lee has ensured better legal protection for the definition of marriage as union between man and woman. This, according to many activists, would make it harder for homosexual marriage to be legalized.
Lorenzo Franceschetti and Chiara Giovannoni
ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE
Jackson Hole, a blow to the stock markets. Fed Chairman Powell's long-awaited (at least to the financial world) speech at the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, symposium confirmed what everyone feared but did not have the courage to admit publicly, that restrictive interest rate policy "for some time" will be needed to bring inflation under control. Powell then explained that obviously slower growth and a worsening labor market, consequences of higher rates, will hurt businesses and households, but also that failing to bring inflation under control would be an even greater evil. Within minutes of these words, markets literally collapsed, erasing the gains of the entire month of August: the S&P500 down -3.37%, Nasdaq -3.94%.
Argentina and Turkey, opposite paths. To combat inflation that is expected to exceed 90% by the end of the year, after an 800-point hike in July, Argentina's central bank once again raised interest rates by as much as 950 points to 69.5%. In a similar situation, by contrast, Turkey's central bank is going in the opposite direction and has slashed them from 14 % to 13%. Despite inflation reaching 79. 6% in July, President Erdogan, in defiance of economic doctrine, has exerted strong pressure on the central bank, convinced that high rates cause inflation and that lower rates, by stimulating economic growth, investment and exports, will lower it. The Turkish lira suffered the most immediate consequences, reaching a 26 % devaluation since January and trading at 18.1 against the dollar, when just 5 years ago the exchange rate was 3.5.
Israel, record exports. A helping hand in replacing Russian gas is coming from Israel. The Middle Eastern democracy, which discovered its first significant fields only in 2009 (Tamar, in production since 2013) and in 2010 from Leviathan (in production since 2019), is now becoming a key ally for Europe, in part thanks to a 22 % increase in production in the first half of the year to 11 billion cubic meters annually, of which 42 % is exported. In addition to bringing nearly $10 billion into state coffers since 2004, these resources are rewriting the geopolitics of the region, as witnessed by the June agreement with Egypt to receive and re-export gas to Europe. Relations with neighbors, however, are not entirely idyllic, as the dispute with Lebanon over the exploitation of a gas field (Karish, scheduled for going online in the coming weeks) near a disputed area lingers on despite U.S. mediation, shows.
Europe, a major problem. New gas supplies for Europe, whether Algerian or Israeli gas, or LNG from Congo, Qatar, or the U.S., are likely to come too late to save the European economy from the heavy damage that gas and electricity prices, which are setting new records almost every day and are now some 1,500 % higher than in 2021, will cause in the now-approaching winter. The effects on consumers and businesses will be dire, with the optimistic scenarios that speak of a recession that is neither too deep nor too long, but with scenarios in which Russian supplies were to be cut off, either partially or completely, predicting drops in GDP of 2.5 % and 10 %, respectively. The latest bad news comes from the United Kingdom, where the market regulator has again raised the cap on the price of domestic energy, raising it from October to £3549 annually (it was £1042 in October 2020), but which is slated to reach £7300 by April.
Sudan, US ambassador returns after 25 years. The diplomatic relationship between Sudan and the United States of America, which has been marked by high tensions since the 1990s, has reached a new milestone on the path of détente undertaken since 2019 with the fall of the Omar al-Bashir regime. Diplomatic tensions between Sudan and the US were frayed during the 30-year al-Bashir regime. The height of tension was reached in 1993, when the U.S. blacklisted Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, this because the Sudanese regime had hosted al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in the country. Since 2019, with the overthrow of al-bashir, relations between the two countries have taken the path of détente. Indeed, tensions with Washington have eased under the transitional government led by former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who took office in 2019. In December of that year, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the United States would appoint an ambassador to Khartoum. In May 2020, Sudan appointed an ambassador to the United States. Last week, John Godfrey, took office as the first U.S. ambassador to Sudan in 25 years, saying he looked forward to advancing priorities related to peace and security, economic development, and food security.
India bets big on Africa. Not only China, but another Asian giant has been moving to strengthen its economic and strategic ties in Africa for some time now: India. To understand the importance that Africa has, just consider the large meeting that took place a few days ago in the Indian capital. The meeting was attended by 40 ministers from 17 African nations, who discussed regarding how to further strengthen the already important economic ties with India. Indeed, Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar pointed out that the value of trade between Africa and India , between 2021 and 2022, reached a figure of 66.7 billion euros. This is up from 57 billion euros in the previous year. India currently exports refined petroleum products and medicines to African countries, while importing crude oil, gold, coal and other minerals from Africa.
Ethiopia, shooting is back in Tigray. The fragile ceasefire that had been trying to facilitate a positive outcome of peace talks between Tigray rebel forces and the Ethiopian government for five months did not last, fighting indeed has resumed in the region north of Ethiopia. The return to violence, for which the two sides blame each other, is creating great alarm throughout the country.The conflict, which erupted in November 2020, has seen frequent human rights violations. In fact, mass killings, systematic rape and sexual violence against women have been documented.All this has caused waves of internally displaced persons.
Angola, MPLA narrowly wins elections again. The results of the elections held in Angola recently arrived, and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola won again. A situation that has continued uninterruptedly since 1975. However, a less overwhelming result emerges from the polls; the MPLA obtained 51% of the vote, against 44.5% totaled by the historical right-wing opposition of UNITA. The outgoing President, João Lourenço, remains in office despite the opposition's complaints about this election round's apparent lack of transparency. However, the next five years of the MPLA and Lourenço will be more difficult than expected as the polls have shown that almost half of the Angolan population no longer supports the historical ruling party.
Congo, new case of Ebola after the end of the July epidemic. The government of The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed a new case of Ebola in the eastern region of the nation. This is confirmed by the Health Minister even though the country had emerged from a previous epidemic, which lasted for about two months only a few weeks ago. The case was identified last week, and the sample of a 46-year-old woman from the North Kivu region was positive following her death. According to the government’s released information, there is cautious optimism about tracking and monitoring; 160 people have already been identified as contact cases.
Giulio Ciofini and Andrea Ghilardi
USA, raid in Syria against pro-Iranian groups. US President Joe Biden has ordered airstrikes against Iranian-backed groups in Syria just over a week after a missile attack on a military base in the north-east of the country that hosts US troops. During the attacks, "infrastructure used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps," said Colonel Joe Buccino, a spokesman for Centcom.
New NASA mission to the moon: the launch of Artemis I is ready. Everything is ready for the Artemis 1 mission and the launch of an unmanned SLS rocket with a lunar orbit destination. The chosen date is that of Monday 29 August; when in Italy it will be 2.33 pm at the J. F. Kennedy space center, in Florida, the gigantic vector that will take off that will carry the Orion capsule, without men on board, around the Moon. In case of bad weather or unforeseen events, two other launch windows are planned: Friday 2nd September and Monday 5th September.
US, a "housing recession". While it is not yet totally clear whether the U.S. is in a recession or not, the housing market certainly is. In July, existing home sales, mainly due to high prices and mortgage interest rates above 5 %, fell for the sixth consecutive month, plummeting 5.9% ( and down 20.2% in 2021) and hitting the lowest since June 2020. Prices fell only slightly, to a median level of $403,000 from June's record high of $418,000, but still 10.8 % higher than last year. Analysts say the data reflect the difficulties in June, when mortgages had hit 6%, while the lower rates achieved recently should lead to a stabilization of the market.
Federico Pani and Leonardo Aldeghi
Brazil, a group of businessmen suspected of supporting a coup d'état. Supreme Court judge Alexandre de Moraes ordered the Federal Police to search the offices and seize the mobile phones of eight people belonging to the WhatsApp group 'Entrepreneurs and Politics' in which support for a coup was allegedly expressed in the event that opposition leader and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the October elections. The current president Bolzonaro claimed to have links with some of these businessmen and asked Judge Moraes to present the reason for the operation as quickly as possible. For the president, this operation ordered by the Federal Supreme Court is 'an offensive against the "freedom" that the country is facing.
Colombia and Venezuela are negotiating for reopening their borders. The two countries, who still keep strong ties due to cultural and similar traditions, are working together in order to reopen their frontiers. Their borders have been closed for almost 7 years due to the hostilities between their respectives governments, especially the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, Was determined on keeping the borders closed as Colombia recognised the Unofficial president of Venezuela, Juan Guadio. The negotiations are the first step toward the restoration of the diplomatic bilateral relations between Caracas and Bogota. The relationship between the two countries has improved after the election of the new president of Colombia, Gustavo Pedro.
(Francesco Andrea Rossi)
El Salvador, the country struggles in their fight against the Pandillas. The Central American country has decided to keep fighting their major problem when it comes to criminality: the Pandillas gang band, a criminal organization who is involved in crimes such as narcotraffic, violence and weapons smuggling. Indeed, the Salvadorian police is trying to take the problem more seriously and has arrested almost 50.000 people in the last 6 months. However, there is still the need of finding an efficient solution, and the international humanitarian organizations are reporting human rights violations in the prisons of the country.
(Francesco Andrea Rossi)
Paraguay, Vice President Velazquez investigated for corruption. The Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Paraguay opened an investigation against Vice President Hugo Velazquez in connection with the alleged bribery episode for which he was sanctioned by the US State Department. The US sanctions against Velasquez date back to 12 August. The measures also extend to the legal advisor of the binational entity that operates the Yacyretá (Eby) hydroelectric power plant, Juan Carlos 'Charly' Duarte, his close associate: he is alleged to have 'offered a bribe to a Paraguayan public official to obstruct an investigation that threatened Vice President Velazquez and his financial interests'. After being notified of US sanctions as a 'significantly corrupt person', Velazquez had first announced his resignation and then retracted it: he will wait for an official investigation to be opened before resigning.
Chile, the fate of the new Constitution is uncertain. The Chileans remain divided on the new proposed constitution two weeks before the plebiscite that will have to decide its fate. In 2020, 78 percent of Chileans approved a rewrite of the country's constitution by a newly elected constituent convention. Today's polls show that the majority of voters are instead inclined to reject the constitutional draft in the referendum on 4 September.
Francesco Rossi, Ludovica Costantini and Elisa Maggiore
ASIA AND THE FAR EAST
Sri Lanka, dialogue with the IMF to counter the financial crisis. The second round of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund would seem to lean in favor of the Asian country, seriously indebted due to bad economic policy choices, worsened by galloping inflation that has reduced the purchasing power of Sri Lankans to shreds. The financial question, however, does not only concern Colombo, but also concerns Beijing; specifically, China would be exposed for a fifth of Sri Lanka's total debt, due to the large number of investments in infrastructure. The infrastructure of vital importance for Beijing is the port of Hambantota, leased since 2017 for 99 years, one of the central points of the Chinese Belt Road Initiative, in its maritime version. The Chinese presence in Sri Lanka is viewed with concern by other players in the Indo-Pacific such as Japan and India, which is trying to regain a role in the reconstruction of the economic and financial fabric of the island.
Pakistan, Imran Khan under investigation for terrorism. The former Pakistani prime minister ended up in a media and judicial storm following the statements made during a demonstration in Islamabad. He accused the police chief and a magistrate of torturing one of his close collaborators, thus earning a complaint and the opening of investigations for "threatening high state officials", a crime falling under the anti-terrorism law in force in the country. In addition, the Pakistani Media Regulatory Body (Pemra) censored Imran Khan's public speeches on all broadcasters with immediate effect. Khan himself and his supporters have claimed that the former prime minister is the victim of a political plot aimed at delegitimizing the centrist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
Philippines, schools are reopening for the first time since March 2020. After two years of Covid lockdowns and Zoom lessons, children can go back to in-person classes. They are all wearing masks and lined up for temperature checks. Having been one of the worst hits by the pandemic, the country has been forced into one of the world’s longest school closures. The reopening of schools has been a sigh of relief for many Filipino children that, according to a recent World Bank study, have suffered from “learning poverty”. They are now ready to regain some skills that have gone lost during the closure time, as well as their interest in knowing and studying. For many schools in the north of the country there remains the impossibility to shift to face-to-face classes because of damages to buildings hit by an earthquake last month.
Sara Oldani and Chiara Giovannoni
WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
Estonia, the government will suspend the validity of fifty thousand visas already granted to Russian citizens. According to Euractiv, Estonia will become the first EU country to follow the demand of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyj to limit the granting of visas to Russian citizens. Estonia has announced that it might close the border with Russia completely; Finland, on the other hand, intends to reduce the granting of visas to Russian citizens by about 90% from 1 September. Estonia and Finland are, after the closure of European airspace to Russian airlines, the two main entrances of Russian citizens to the EU. This would be an important event and a decision that could also be taken by other European countries in the future.
Germany, the closure of the country's last three nuclear power plants will not be postponed. German Economics Minister Robert Habeck has ruled out the possibility of extending the service of Germany's three remaining nuclear power plants in order to save gas; although postponing their closure was being considered, Habeck stated that this would save a maximum of 2% of gas consumption. These savings would therefore not be enough to reopen the debate on nuclear energy in the country, especially when considering the general consensus on the subject; former Chancellor Angela Merkel had initiated legislation to stop the use of nuclear energy by the end of 2022 after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, with a majority of voters in favour. However, the situation remains delicate given fears of an energy crisis this winter after the drop in Russian gas supplies.
English Channel, new record number of crossings in a single day. The Channel migration crisis continues; almost 1,300 migrants crossed the Channel last Monday. The previous 'high' was recorded last November. So far this month 6,168 people have made the crossing, compared to 3,683 in July. Amnesty International denounced the attitude of the British government, which would like to adopt an even stricter migration policy, calling for 'safe routes' for migrants to stop the dangerous crossings.
Spain, sex without consent will be considered as harassment. On August 25, Spain’s congress passed a legislation that requires sexual consent to be explicit. The bill passed with 205 votes in favor, 141 against and 3 abstained. The law, known as the “only yes means yes” law, had been proposed after the wolf pack gang rape in 2016 when an 18 years-old woman was accused of consenting the sexual act since she stayed immobile during the rape. The law makes explicit that consent is the deciding factor. In fact, according to the legislation “consent can only be considered consent when it has been freely manifested through actions that clearly express the person’s wishes”. From now on, consent cannot be assumed to have been given by silence or default.
Bianca Franzini and Chiara Giovannoni
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
North Macedonia keeps its journey over European integration. The balkan country it’s always more determined to archive its success and have the status of being an official member of the European Union. However, the country is struggling as there are still few issues to resolve: first, the country needs to recognize the bulgarian minority, who is the largest in terms of population inside the country. Indeed, Bulgaria has imposed a veto on proceeding the negotiations between North Macedonia and the European Union mainly for this situation. Recently, the country decided to adopt the french proposal of recognizing the bulgarian minority in its own constitution, but some of the biggest political parties in the country opposed this motion and proposed a referendum to the north macedonian citizens.
Moldova, the risk of a Russian invasion remains high. Moldova is still a sensible objective on the Russian politics of expansion, and the country is on an alert status for preventing it. It seems that if Russia will have a success in the invasion of Ukraine, Moldova could be a step forward and might be the next objective for Putin and his government and they might be ready on proceeding on the invasion in the moment that the first russian soldier will put his feet in the region of Transnistria.
Meanwhile, the United Nation general secretary, Antonio Guiterrez, has made an unexpected visit to the Moldovan Republic and soon he should meet the president of the Country.
Croatia opens the Peljesac Bridge. Croatia opened the Pljesac Bridge on the 26th of July. The border unifies the Croatian cities who are surrounded by the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it is considered as a success by the government of the country, as it took more than 7 years to build it after a lot of bureaucratics and technical issues. The objective of the bridge is to improve the lives of the Croatian citizens, as the bridge connects the isolated parts of Southern Croatia to the mainland, and before it was mandatory for them to pass through Bosnia and Herzegovina, making the process harder.
Francesco Andrea Rossi
MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
The Libyan chessboard is on fire: instability in the North African country had already increased in July, but in August many unresolved knots in the country's complex political and military situation seem to have come to the surface. Initially, there were difficulties in finding a replacement for Stephanie Williams, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General. Then the first frictions between the country's different military structures began. Tensions rose when Haftar's Libyan National Army shot down a drone in the skies over Benghazi using the Russian anti-aircraft missile defence system. In recent days, however, militias supporting different premiers have again clashed in the Tripoli area. Misrata strongman Fathi Bashaga may attempt a new sortie against his rival Dbeibeh.
Saudi Arabia, woman sentenced to 34 years for tweets. Since January 2021, Salma al-Shehab, a Saudi doctoral student in Leeds, UK, has been detained in her country of origin. The woman was initially sentenced to six years of imprisonment for posting tweets calling for the respect of women’s rights and the release of another activist, Loujain al-Hathloul. Following an appeal at the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) on 9 August 2022, her sentence was raised to 34 years in prison, followed by a 34-year travel ban from the date of her release. To justify the increased prison sentence, the judge stated that al-Shehab was “supporting those who seek to disrupt public order, destabilize security and the stability of the state” and publishing tweets that “disturb public order, destabilize the security of society and the stability of the state.”
Michele Magistretti and Lorenzo Franceschetti
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
South Korea, maxi joint military exercises with the US. Simulation military activities between Seoul and Washington began last week: they will last 11 days in which the two countries will test the effectiveness of their weapons and defensive and reactive capabilities against Pyongyang. In fact, the exercises would be the answer to North Korea's missile and nuclear threat, which has actually intensified missile tests in the last period. It is an internal political choice, but also an international one: on the one hand, the current South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is more pro-American than the previous one and on the other, the US looks to the Pacific as the fundamental strategic quadrant. The goal of both is for South Korea to be ready to handle any attacks from North Korea. The risk of such exercises increasing tensions in the region, however, is just around the corner.
Peru, asked for $4.5 billion from multinational Repsol. Following the environmental disaster last January, caused by a spill amounting to 12,000 barrels of oil from one of the refineries operated by the Spanish company Repsol, Indecopi, Peru's national consumer rights institute, has demanded compensation amounting to the equivalent in Peruvian soles of $4.5 billion. The accident had been caused by a tsunami that struck the Peruvian coast following the eruption of an underwater volcano near the island of Tonga. In addition to the Spanish multinational, the Peruvian state's lawsuit has turned against other companies operating on the country's territory, including one Italian company. However, Repsol denies any responsibility in the accident and has described the claim as unfounded.
Ethiopia, airstrikes on Tigray’s capital. According to sources in the Tigray People's Liberation Front, bombings by Ethiopian air forces over Macallé-the region's capital-involved a residential center and a kindergarten, with a provisional death toll of four. The bombings come just days after the resumption of the conflict between the regular Ethiopian Army and Tigrayan rebel forces of the Liberation Front, a conflict that has now lasted nearly two years and has so far claimed thousands of lives and displaced some two million people throughout the region.
Davide Shahhosseini and Sara Oldani
Framing The World is a project conceived and created by the collaboration between members of the team of Mondo Internazionale associates.
Andrea Ghilardi: Western Europe and the European Union, Sub-Saharan Africa
Bianca Franzini: Western Europe and the European Union
Chiara Giovannoni: Human Rights
Davide Shahhosseini: Terrorism and International Security
Elisa Maggiore: Latin America
Federico Pani: North America
Francesco Rossi: Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Giulio Cofini: Sub-Saharan Africa
Laura Salvemini: Asia and the Far East
Leonardo Aldeghi: Economics and International Finance
Lorenzo Franceschetti: Human Rights
Ludovica Costantini: Latin America
Michele Magistretti: Middle-East and North Africa
Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti: Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Samuele Abrami: Middle-East and North Africa
Sara Oldani: Middle-East and North-Africa, Terrorism and International Security