The World Today for February 13, 2023

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Revolt of the Incas


The Peruvian city of Juliaca recently felt like a warzone.

“Burning pyres of rubbish and bullet-pocked walls … troops holed up in the airport with AK-47s and riot shields, waiting for a truce that has no date to come … a mayor holding court behind the broken windows of a vandalized city hall,” wrote the Guardian, describing the scene after a recent clash between security forces and protesters.

Scores have died in the violence. Police no longer police the streets of this Andean city in southern Peru, focusing their efforts on controlling the Inca Manco Cápac International Airport named after the founder of the Inca civilization. Anti-government rebels patrol the city instead.

The fighting is part of a conflict that has flared up between anti-government rebels and the central government in the capital, Lima, under President Dina Boluarte, who replaced the now former President Pedro Castillo late last year for allegedly staging a coup. Boluarte, who won office with Castillo in 2021, started her career as a leftist but has since allied herself with moderates and conservatives, as the Financial Times explained.

Castillo was a leftist champion of Indigenous groups and the rural poor, but failed to realize his campaign pledges of redistributing wealth from the country’s natural sources and faced numerous corruption allegations. His defenders at Counterpunch argue that his supposed coup was his attempt to block right-wing elements in Peruvian politics who were using the organs of the state to undermine his democratically-elected administration.

In a sign of how instability has marked Peruvian politics, Boluarte is the country’s sixth president in six years, noted the Associated Press.

Boluarte recently declared a state of emergency covering cities and regions throughout the South American country, allowing the military to bolster police, suspending freedom of assembly, and imposing nighttime curfews, according to Voice of America.

But the rebels-cum-protesters have shown few signs of backing down. They have promised to blockade copper exports unless Boluarte resigns, new elections for Congress are held, and officials initiate a process to revise a pro-free market constitution adopted in 1993, reported Reuters, adding that polls show the public agrees with many of their demands.

Many protesters want to improve the social, political, and economic conditions of Indigenous communities. Carrying the square, multicolored Wiphala patchwork flag, that serves as the banner of those communities in the Andes, they harken back to age-old divides in Peru. “I am Inca blood,” said Cirilo Yupanqui at a recent demonstration in Lima. “I’m not a terrorist, as they say. I’m not a criminal. I have a formal job. Just look at how they treat us.”

Peruvian lawmakers, meanwhile, have rejected the idea of new elections, noted Al Jazeera. Castillo’s Free Peru political party lacked the votes to approve the measure.

The rebellion and the response are still in their early stages.


Divisions Unto Divisions


Orthodox Tewahedo Church officials met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over the weekend, defusing tensions temporarily over a developing schism within the religious institution that has prompted deadly clashes and social media restrictions in the country over the past few weeks, Africanews reported.

Following the meeting, Church officials called off Sunday’s planned mass protests.

Church officials and congregants are concerned over the creation of a breakaway synod by Orthodox Church bishops in the Oromia region – the country’s most populous – which they say is threatening the stability of the country just a few months after a peace agreement between the federal government and the Tigrayans that is attempting to bring peace to the country again.

The row began when three dissenting clerics accused the main church of ethnic discrimination and a lack of diversity. They said the Orthodox Church has been dominated culturally by other ethnic groups – claims rejected by the church’s patriarchate – and demanded that services in Oromia be held in the Oromo language.

The main church moved to excommunicate the three bishops for creating the breakaway synod. Soon after, violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the schism killed at least 30 people.

Abiy – an Oromo who belongs to the Pentecostal Church – initially instructed his cabinet to stay out of the matter and banned demonstrations by both sides. Authorities also restricted social media and messaging platforms ahead of protests, the BBC wrote.

The Orthodox Church accused the government of taking sides – and possibly even orchestrating the schism – and vowed to carry on with its protests, despite the ban.

But after Abiy’s weekend meeting with Patriarch Abune Mathias to ease tensions, the main church said it would postpone the demonstrations “because of the government’s agreement and decision to solve the problem immediately, within the deadline set by the church.”

Meanwhile, the Orthodox clergy has often complained of persecution, including church burnings a few years ago, and relations with the government have been strained in the past, particularly during the Tigray conflict.

About 43 percent of Ethiopia’s 113 million people belong to the Orthodox Church, about 22 percent to Protestant denominations and one-third are Muslim.

Analysts noted that the patriarch – a Tigrayan – has not been on good terms with the government since he began to speak out about the civil war in the northern Tigray region.

Get Out


The Nicaraguan government released more than 200 political prisoners in recent days, many of whom were flown to the United States, a move that officials and analysts said could lead to dialogue between Washington and Managua, CNN reported.

A Nicaraguan judge announced the release of 222 detainees, saying that they had been found guilty of “treason and serious crimes.” He added that the detained individuals have been barred from public office and from running in elections.

Their release comes after years of repression by the regime of President Daniel Ortega, who has jailed hundreds of opposition figures and activists, particularly in the lead-up to the last elections in 2021. Most international observers declared the 2021 poll a sham.

Meanwhile, US officials welcomed the release of the prisoners, noting that it was “a unilateral decision” by the Nicaraguan government and not part of “a broader bargain.” They added that past sanctions against Ortega’s regime will remain in place.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailed the decision as “a constructive step towards addressing human rights abuses in the country and opens the door to further dialogue between the United States and Nicaragua regarding issues of concern.”

Even so, the Ortega-controlled parliament passed a measure to strip individuals convicted of treason of their citizenship, a move that would render the political prisoners stateless.

Political analysts say the measure is part of efforts by Ortega to eradicate dissent in the Central American country and let others deal with the stateless individuals.

Spain, meanwhile, said it reached out to the 222 freed prisoners to offer them Spanish citizenship, Reuters noted.

A Rock, a Hard Place


Moldova’s pro-European Union government collapsed over the weekend, after facing intense Russian pressure due to the war in Ukraine, Politico reported.

Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița announced Friday that she and her cabinet were stepping down after 18 months in office, citing there was not enough support for her government.

Shortly after her resignation, President Maia Sandu nominated Dorin Recean – another pro-EU figure – to replace Gavrilița. The nomination will be confirmed next week by the Moldovan parliament, where Sandu’s party has a solid majority.

The government’s collapse comes less than a year after the EU granted Moldova and Ukraine candidate status. Even so, the small country has found itself in a difficult position following Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine, just under a year ago.

It has been battling spiking inflation and public unrest about soaring energy costs – the country of 2.5 million people was 100 percent dependent on Russian gas before the war.

Sandu has accused the Kremlin of exploiting the energy crisis and spiraling costs to “bring instability to Moldova.”

Sandu, a pro-EU politician, said last month that a “serious discussion” was now underway in the country as a result of the war, including the prospect of joining a defense alliance.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told EU leaders during Thursday’s European summit in Belgium that Kyiv had intercepted Russian plans to “destroy” Moldova.

Moldovan officials confirmed they have identified “subversive activities” aimed at destabilizing the country.


Drowning Out Life

In 2021, marine scientists discovered a new species of whales living in the northern waters of the Gulf of Mexico, a region known for its shipping activity and oil exploration.

Known as Rice’s whales, their discovery was an exciting moment for the scientific community, albeit a short-lived one, according to National Geographic.

Recent estimates found that the species is critically endangered: Only 51 whales remain, making them one of the rarest marine mammals on the globe.

With such dwindling numbers, researchers at the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are trying to better study the filter-feeding cetacean to protect them and help them thrive.

Reaching 40 feet in length and weighing up to 30 tons, Rice’s whales primarily swim around an area prone to vessel movements, military training activities, and environmental contamination.

The 2010 Gulf oil spill was a catastrophic event for them, killing 17 percent of the remaining population and leaving nearly a quarter of females with reproductive problems.

Recent studies on the whales found that human-made noise – such as tools used for fossil fuel exploration – can interrupt the whales’ unique calls which they use to communicate and navigate.

Researchers also discovered that the animals sleep floating on the surface, which makes them vulnerable to potential ship strikes.

Another paper determined that whales can travel outside of their main habitat, as far west as the coast of Texas.

While the NOAA has developed a recovery plan to better protect Rice’s whales and their habitat, other conservationists and scientists are putting more pressure on authorities to step up their efforts.

“We really want to do everything possible to keep these guys alive and get their population going again,” said researcher Kaitlin Frasier, who co-authored the paper on how human-made noise interrupts the whales’ vocalization.


Covid-19 Global Update

Editor’s Note: Exactly three years ago, we began publishing the COVID-19 Global Update with the goal of tracking the impact of the pandemic. Today, we are pausing the Update given that the week-to-week changes in the pandemic are no longer statistically significant. We assure our readers that the Update will return if the coronavirus surges again, something we all hope will not happen.

Your DailyChatter Team

Total Cases Worldwide: 682,546,389 (+0.88%)

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,819,835 (-0.90%)

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 13,232,904,667 (-0.79%)*

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET

  1. US: 105,972,038 (+2.09%)
  2. India: 44,696,388 (+0.01%)
  3. France: 39,703,279 (-0.41%)***
  4. Germany: 38,297,037 (+0.13%)
  5. Brazil: 37,145,514 (+0.16%)
  6. Japan: 33,374,303 (+0.13%)
  7. South Korea: 30,702,960 (+0.29%)
  8. Italy: 25,651,205 (+0.19%)
  9. UK: 24,423,396 (-0.95%)***
  10. Russia: 22,506,199 (+1.90%)

Source: WorldOMeters.Info**

*Numbers were taken from the World Health Organization as of March 14th, 2023.

**Johns Hopkins University stopped publishing the Covid-19 update on March 10th, 2023.

***Numbers have been adjusted by affected country.

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