The World Today for January 17, 2019

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NEED TO KNOW

URUGUAY

Exit Right

The Left has achieved many of its goals in Uruguay.

The country obtains around 95 percent of its energy from carbon-free sources, the Guardian reported. The state ensures that transgender citizens enjoy the same rights as other citizens, the Associated Press wrote. Lawmakers are even compensating transgender people who suffered under the South American country’s military junta between 1973 and 1985.

The English-language version of the Spanish newspaper El País noted that Uruguay was a pioneer in legalizing marijuana.

The run might be coming to an end, however.

Crime has become a problem in Uruguay, particularly in the capital of Montevideo. The number of homicides is up. The US State Department announced a travel advisory on the issue last month.

Accusations of corruption are dogging the Broad Front political coalition of President Tabaré Vázquez. Critics of the Broad Front’s long-standing friendship with Venezuela’s autocratic president, Nicolas Maduro, recently alleged that Vázquez and his colleagues have profited from illicit commercial deals with Venezuela’s civil rights-abusing socialist regime.

“It is highly suspicious,” Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Armando Armas told MercoPress. “There have been numerous claims of dirty businesses and money laundering, and misappropriation of resources from Venezuela and Uruguay’s state oil companies’ contracts, and millions of dollars from the Bolivar/Artigas fund.”

The Artigas-Bolívar Fund is an investment vehicle financed by sales of Venezuelan oil to Uruguay. It’s an example of the merits of the so-called “pink tide” of leftist politicians who assumed control of much of South America at the turn of the millennium.

Popular discontent with the Broad Front illustrates how the liberal tide is now ebbing. In a New York Times op-ed, former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda said more conservative forces – like recently sworn-in Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro – are now ascendant.

World Politics Review agreed with Castañeda’s thesis. A right-leaning candidate has a good shot at the presidency in Uruguay’s next election, set for this year. “Will Uruguay Be the Next South American Country to Pivot Right?” was a recent headline in the online analytical publication.

Conservative front-runner Jorge Larranaga has launched his campaign with the slogan “Live Without Fear.” He aims to hold a referendum that would ask voters to amend the constitution to create new security forces, enhance current police powers and stiffen jail sentences. That’s an approach Bolsonaro, a former military officer when the army ran Brazil, would likely condone.

Larranaga’s proposals appeal to many Uruguayans.

Vazquez is already expanding law enforcement, however, wrote InSight Crime, adding that, despite the uptick in violence, the country has a relatively low crime rate compared to the rest of the continent.

But a “relatively low” crime rate makes for a bad campaign slogan.

WANT TO KNOW

INDIA

When Is Criticism a Crime?

Indian opposition leaders and prominent media outlets called for the government to revoke a colonial-era law against sedition Wednesday, two days after a student leader and nine other demonstrators were charged with the crime in connection with a 2016 rally at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“There is no need for a sedition law in today’s times, it is a colonial law,” said Kapil Sibal, a senior leader of the Congress party, referring to legislation dating back to 1870 that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to Reuters.

JNU has traditionally been a bastion of leftist politics. But in recent years, leftist student leaders have clashed with the student wing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. In the incident in question, a left-leaning student leader named Kanhaiya Kumar and other protesters are accused of shouting “anti-national slogans” during a 2016 rally against the execution of a Kashmiri militant.

Kumar denies the charges, which refer to broad statements rather than specific calls for attacks on the state. Three years after the incident, the charges come just as he is vying for a ticket representing the opposition in next year’s election, noted India’s Times Now news channel.

IVORY COAST

Incendiary But Not Illegal

A panel of judges from the International Criminal Court dismissed charges of war crimes against former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and his erstwhile youth minister Charles Blé Goudé, ruling that their public speeches were not tantamount to ordering, soliciting or inducing the alleged crimes.

Gbagbo and Blé Goudé faced charges of crimes against humanity for murder, rape and other violent acts allegedly committed between December 2010 and April 2011, when around 3,000 people were killed in post-election violence following Ghagbo’s defeat by current President Alassane Ouattara, NPR reported. Ghagbo was the first former head of state to stand trial at the ICC.

The ruling marks another setback for ICC prosecutors, following the reversal of the conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in June.

Following the election, Ghagbo had refused to relinquish power and was pulled from an underground bunker to be transported to the Hague, where he was held for more than seven years. His supporters thronged the streets of pro-Ghagbo areas of the economic capital, Abidjan, after the verdict was announced.

TURKEY

A Historic Understanding

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Tuesday to set up a security zone in northern Syria as part of what he called “a historic understanding” reached in a phone conversation this week with US President Donald Trump.

A day later, two American soldiers, a Defense Department civilian and a US military contractor were killed in Manbij, Syria in the worst such incident since Trump assumed office, prompting worries that his announced withdrawal would spur an uptick in similar attacks, the Washington Post reported. The Islamic State, which the White House has said has been defeated, claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.

Trump and Erdogan discussed the future of America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, whom Erdogan views as terrorists, as well as avoiding a power vacuum in Manbij after the US withdrawal, Al Jazeera reported. Erdogan offered little or no details about the “historic understanding,” but Trump’s original decision to withdraw came during a similar conversation on Dec. 14.

DISCOVERIES

Much Ado About Nothing

The end of the Milky Way galaxy is coming sooner than anticipated.

Only by a couple billion years, though.

In a recent study, scientists calculated that our galaxy is on a collision course with one of its closest satellites, the Large Magellanic Cloud, LiveScience reported.

They estimate that the crash will happen two or three billion years sooner than an anticipated collision with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy.

This will cause a huge cataclysmic event that will awaken dormant black holes, fling stars away from their orbits and generate cosmic radiation.

“The destruction of the Large Magellanic Cloud, as it is devoured by the Milky Way, will wreak havoc with our galaxy,” lead author Marius Cautun said in a statement.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Galaxy collisions are common, and the team predicts that any risk to life on Earth is “very unlikely.” Only a few stars near our solar system will be affected.

The celestial event, however, might turn the Milky Way’s central black hole into a quasar – one of the brightest objects in the universe – giving a fun light show to humanity billions of years later.

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