The World Today for April 05, 2024

Listen to Today's Edition
Voiced by Amazon Polly


Walking Sideways


A federal court recently convicted former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández of conspiring to traffic cocaine to the US, as well as on two weapons charges. When he is sentenced in late June, he will face 40 years to life in prison, reported the Associated Press.

Hernández, who served as the country’s head of state between 2014 and 2022, has vowed to appeal the decision, saying he fought against criminals as an ally of the US in the war on drugs. American prosecutors gave plea deals to drug dealers who testified against him and lied, claimed Hernández.

Around 100 people on the street outside the courthouse in New York City applauded in jubilation when they heard the verdict. They were among the many Hondurans and others who dispute the ex-president’s assertions.

“He sent our country to hell,” said Flavio Ulises Yuja, a Honduran who came to New York to attend the trial, speaking to the New York Times.

Hernández created a narco-state, shielding traffickers, fomenting corruption and lawlessness, and failing to foster legitimate economic development in the country – while collecting millions in bribes, say critics. For the region, Transparency International’s 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Honduras as only better than Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The trial showed, for instance, how drug-tainted money had permeated every level of Honduras’s government, noted InSight Crime. Convicted drug Alexander Ardón, for example, testified that Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the boss of the Sinaloa Cartel also known as “El Chapo” flew a helicopter to Honduras to give $1 million to Hernández’s 2013 election campaign.

Prosecutors and others hoped his conviction would dissuade other leaders in Honduras and the region to fight against, rather than cooperate with, drug cartels.

Honduran journalist Jennifer Avila was not optimistic. Current President Xiomara Castro, a leftist and wife of former president Manuel Zelaya, who was deposed in 2009 just before Hernández came to power, has pledged to tackle corruption. She has promised to work with the United Nations to establish the Commission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (CICIH), a special body that would aim to cut through the drug cartels’ influence as well as bureaucratic red tape that has hobbled past anti-corruption efforts.

Writing in Americas Quarterly, Avila said Castro hasn’t finalized details with the UN or Honduran powerbrokers to form the commission, which is stalling its creation. The president has also faced challenges in reforming the Honduran judiciary, prosecutors’ offices, and other government institutions, often entrenched with the old guard.

Still, the president might want to start with her own family. Last year, the National Anti-Corruption Council denounced a high degree of nepotism and “concentration of power” in Castro’s government.

Castro’s eldest child is her private secretary, her youngest daughter is in Congress, her brother-in-law is the president of Congress, and his son is the defense minister. Her husband is said to be the real power in the presidential palace: He’s an advisor to the president.

Meanwhile, during Hernández’s recent trial, a drug trafficking boss testified he had bribed her brother-in-law, Carlos Zelaya, the president of Congress, with as much as $200,000.

He won’t face charges, however. Castro’s allies in the legislature passed an amnesty law to shield those who served in her husband’s administration, the Associated Press reported.

As World Politics Review notes, despite the real chance Honduras has to turn things around, the backsliding shows it probably won’t.

“The expectations after (the Hernández government), plagued by corruption … awakened the desire and hope for change,” wrote the Anti-Corruption Council. “However, citizens have witnessed a continuation of actions contrary to good practices.”




Turkey’s top electoral authority on Wednesday reinstated a pro-Kurdish opposition politician who won Sunday’s mayoral election but whose subsequent disqualification from office sparked large protests in the southeastern city of Van, dealing an additional blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, the Financial Times reported.

The Supreme Election Board reversed the regional authorities’ decision to remove Abdullah Zeydan, the winning candidate from the Equality and Democracy Party (DEM), from the co-mayorship in Van, a city near the Iranian border. The announcement set off celebrations that lasted into Thursday.

Zeydan won 55 percent of the vote in Sunday’s local election, defeating the mayoral hopeful from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) by 28 percentage points. However, earlier this week, provincial electoral authorities claimed Zeydan’s criminal record made him ineligible to hold office and said he would be replaced by the AKP’s candidate, Al Jazeera explained.

Zeydan was jailed in 2016 for allegedly producing terrorist propaganda – he had criticized a Turkish military campaign against Kurdish fighters. He was released in 2022.

Protesters took to the streets of Van on Tuesday, accusing Erdogan of interfering in the outcome of the election. Though the president had promised not to meddle, his government has a history of repression of Kurdish rights, arresting public figures, appointing “caretaker” mayors, and enacting anti-terrorism laws – such as those that saw Zeydan serve jail time.

Following violent scenes on Tuesday night, Turkish authorities reversed their decision to remove Zeydan, adding to the series of blows the AKP has suffered since suffering severe losses in Sunday’s local elections, coming second to the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which secured Turkey’s major cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.

Following the election, the CHP accused Erdogan of withholding more than $1.8 billion in investment funds destined for those cities, Bloomberg reported. The funds are needed to develop renewable energy schemes and urban public transportation. Though the government denied the CHP’s allegations, the opposition reminded the public of Erdogan’s comments after last year’s deadly earthquake that uncooperative local governments would receive “nothing.”

Getting Down to Business


Kuwaiti voters headed to the polls Thursday to elect a new parliament, the first election since the country’s new emir assumed power late last year and dissolved the government in a bid to end years of political deadlock in the oil-rich Gulf nation, Reuters reported.

Thursday’s vote will see more than 200 independent candidates compete for the country’s 50-seat legislature. Political parties are banned in Kuwait.

Kuwait is made up of five electoral districts, each with 10 lawmakers. The candidates who win the top 10 positions in each district win the parliamentary seats.

The polls came a few months after Emir Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber succeeded his brother in December. Soon after the succession, the new monarch criticized the legislative and executive branches, saying they were “harming the interests of the country and its people.”

His comments referred to years-long feuding between Kuwait’s appointed executive branch and the legislature that has hindered fiscal reforms, including the passing of a debt law that would allow the Gulf nation to tap international markets and mitigate its heavy dependence on oil revenues.

In February, Sheikh Meshal dissolved parliament, citing the legislature’s “violation of the constitutional principles” as a reason for his decision.

Thursday’s elections will be the fourth in Kuwait since December 2020.

Business analysts told Reuters that Sheikh Meshal’s move is part of an effort to speed up reforms rather than engaging in negotiations between the opposition, political groups and grassroots organizations.

Unlike other Gulf monarchies, Kuwait’s parliament has real influence, including the power to pass or block bills, question ministers and initiate no-confidence motions.

Although this system makes it prone to political deadlock, observers noted that the country’s emir holds the ultimate authority.

Rex Non Potest Peccare


Tonga’s defense and foreign ministers resigned Thursday following a months-long constitutional crisis resulting from the country’s monarch clashing with the elected government, Agence France-Presse reported.

Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni announced he would give up his role as defense minister, while his top ally Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu said she would resign her foreign affairs and tourism posts.

Sovaleni told parliament that the resignations followed King Tupou VI’s abrupt withdrawal of “confidence and consent” for appointments to three key ministries. The monarch did not provide a reason, but observers suggested that his withdrawal was part of a power play between Tonga’s hereditary royals and the political class.

Tonga has been a constitutional monarchy since the late 19th century and claims to be the only remaining indigenous monarchy in the Pacific. The monarch’s power was reduced following amendments and democratic reforms in 2010.

Initially, the prime minister refused to comply with King Tupou’s demands. Meanwhile, the nation’s attorney-general claimed the king’s move was unconstitutional.

Sovaleni’s resignation came after a series of debates in parliament and allegations that he insulted the king.

Tonga is an archipelago that is home to about 100,000 people.

The United States opened an embassy in the country’s capital last May, amid growing competition with China for influence in the Pacific islands, Al Jazeera added.


Hairy Camper

Entomologist James Tweed came across the hairy insect by accident while camping in the rainforests of Australia’s Queensland. He initially thought it was bird poo, Popular Science reported.

The mysterious beetle puzzled Tweed and his colleagues because there was no scientific record of such a species.

In his paper, he explained that the bug was not only a completely unknown new species, but also a newly discovered genus. It is less than an inch long and packed with long white and black hair.

Tweed praised it as “the most extraordinary and fluffiest longhorn beetle I had ever seen.”

The Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra opted to name the newly-found beetle as Excastra albopilosa – the first name which means “from the camp,” and the second meaning “white and hairy.”

Tweed noted that entomologists still need to determine why E. albopilosa appears like bird poop and the purpose of the hair.

He and his team suggested that they helped the beetle “look like it’s been killed by an insect-killing fungus.”

“This would possibly deter predators such as birds from eating it, but until someone can find more specimens and study this species further, we won’t be able to say for sure why this beetle is so hairy,” he added.

Until then, Tweed said the discovery underscores just how many unknown insect species are out there.

“Best estimates suggest there may be 5.5 million insect species worldwide and only one-fifth of these have been named and described,” he added.

Thank you for reading or listening to DailyChatter. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can become one by going to

Not already a subscriber?

If you would like to receive DailyChatter directly to your inbox each morning, subscribe below with a free two-week trial.

Subscribe today

Support journalism that’s independent, non-partisan, and fair.

If you are a student or faculty with a valid school email, you can sign up for a FREE student subscription or faculty subscription.

Questions? Write to us at

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.