The world at a glance ...
Refugees drown: Nearly 150 people, including children and pregnant women, are believed to have drowned last week when a boat loaded with migrants capsized in the Mediterranean. The sole survivor, a 16-year-old Gambian boy who held on to a floating fuel can until he was rescued by a Spanish ship, said the boat had left Libya with 147 people from sub-Saharan Africa on board. So far this year, at least 600 migrants are believed t o have died trying to reach Europe from Libya. Last month, a humanitarian vessel rescued some 400 migrants who were found drifting in a wooden boat without power some 10 miles off the Libyan coast.
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
Journalism under siege: Three reporters have been shot dead in Mexico in the past month, an unprecedented attack on the country’s free press. In the most brazen killing, journalist Miroslava Breach, 54, was shot eight times while sitting in her car with one of her three children. A note left at the scene called her a “tattletale.” Breach had reported on the links between politicians and drug cartels in Chihuahua state for La Jornada, a national newspaper based in Mexico City, and Norte de Ciudad Juárez. In a front-page letter headlined “Adios!” Norte’s owner Oscar A. Cantú Murguía this week announced he was closing the paper. “I am not prepared for any more of my collaborators to pay [with their lives],” he wrote.
Flood and mudslides: A deluge of rain caused devastating flash floods and landslides in a Colombian city overnight last week, sending tons of mud and debris crashing through the streets and sweeping away houses, cars, trees, and bridges. At least 270 people were killed and hundreds more injured. “To see how some people screamed, and others cried, ran, tried to flee in cars, on motorcycles, and how they were trapped in the mud,” street vendor Marta Ceballos told Agence France-Presse, “I don’t want to even remember.” President Juan Manuel Santos apologized for delays in getting water and supplies to survivors and promised to rebuild Mocoa “better than before.”
Leftist wins: Bucking a political shift to the right across Latin America, Ecuadorean leftist Lenín Moreno was declared this week the winner of his nation’s presidential election. Moreno, 64, a paraplegic and a former deputy to outgoing President Rafael Correa, took 51.2 percent of the vote, but his rival, right-wing former banker Guillermo Lasso, said the election was marred by fraud. The Organization of American States, which monitored the vote, said it had found “no discrepancies.” The result was likely a relief for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012 to avoid being deported to Sweden to answer allegations of sexual assault. Lasso had vowed to boot Assange from the building.
Measles spreads: A measles outbreak centered in Romania and Italy is spreading across Europe, and the World Health Organization is urging countries to get their people vaccinated. Romania, the worst-hit nation, has reported more than 3,400 cases and 17 deaths since January 2016, while Italy is thought to have had more than 450 cases since the start of this year. The outbreaks have partly been caused by mistrust of vaccines and partly by the fact that vaccines are difficult to obtain in some countries. In France, for example, people need to make an appointment with their doctor to get a prescription, then pick up the vaccine at a pharmacy and revisit their doctor to receive the injection. “Outbreaks will continue,” said WHO’s Zsuzsanna Jakab, “until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect its population.”
Riots over term limits: Paraguayan lawmakers this week suspended a controversial bill that would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election, after a protester died in clashes with police. Paraguayans endured 35 years of dictatorship under General Alfredo Stroessner, and when his rule ended in 1989, they limited their presidents to one five-year term each. But last week the country’s senate approved a measure that would let presidents run for a second five-year term. When news of the vote broke, hundreds of protesters stormed the capital’s congress building and set fires. Police shot dead a 25-year-old activist, Rodrigo Quintana. Street protests continued this week, and the bill was suspended by the legislature’s lower house—a key condition set by the opposition before talks aimed at ending the political crisis could start.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Terrorist attack: A jihadist from the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan blew himself up on the St. Petersburg subway this week, Russian and Kyrgyz authorities said, killing 14 people and bringing transport in Russia’s secondlargest city to a near halt. “Children were torn to pieces,” said witness Konstantin Kolodkin, describing a blast that hurled nails and screws into passengers. The suspected suicide bomber, Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, 22, had lived in Russia since 2011. Several Islamist terrorist groups, including ISIS, are active in Central Asia, but no group claimed responsibility. Conspiracy-minded Russians had been speculating on social media that a terror attack might occur soon to distract the country from recent protests against President Vladimir Putin.
Pretoria, South Africa
Standing by Zuma: The African National Congress said this week it would continue to back President Jacob Zuma despite a chorus of calls for his resignation. Several top party officials had joined trade unions and opposition parties in demanding Zuma’s ouster after the president abruptly fired the internationally respected finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, prompting credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s to lower South Africa’s rating to junk status. The rand plummeted against the U.S. dollar following the downgrade, but ANC officials dismissed the new rating and railed against the West. “The West can’t dictate to us,” said Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. “These junk ratings have nothing to do with financial ratings—it’s political ratings.” South Africa’s economy has stagnated over the past year, debt has piled up, and a quarter of the workforce is unemployed.
Anti-gay purge: Authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya are rounding up, torturing, and killing gay men, Novaya Gazeta reported this week. Some 100 people—including two well-known local television personalities—have been detained, and at least three have been killed. The purge seems to have been motivated by a request from a Russian LGBT group to hold pride rallies in cities across the country. Chechen authorities denied the report, saying there are no gays in Chechnya. “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” said Chechen spokesman Alvi Karimov. If there were gay Chechens, he added, “their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.” Russia outlawed “gay propaganda” in 2013, banning public discussion of gay rights and relationships.
Pyongyang, North Korea
Missile test: North Korea test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile off its east coast this week, one day before President Trump was set to host his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The launch was seemingly intended to ratchet up tensions between the two leaders: China is North Korea’s closest ally, and the White House says Beijing is not doing enough to rein in dictator Kim Jong Un, who it believes is trying to develop a nucleararmed intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,” Trump said in an interview with the Financial Times. A senior White House official later declared that “the clock has now run out” on Pyongyang’s nuclear program and “all options are on the table,” presumably including sanctions against Chinese firms that do business with North Korea, as well as cyberattacks and military action.
Attacks on Africans: African students have been told to stay indoors after a wave of mob attacks on Africans in a New Delhi suburb. The violence began when a teenage boy went missing and his family accused Nigerian neighbors of killing and eating him. The boy returned home a few days later and died of a suspected drug overdose, but by then rumors of cannibalistic Africans had swept the neighborhood. Mobs of Indian men were beating African students, pulling them out of cabs and stomping and hitting them. “They attacked him with bricks, sticks, belts,” Nigerian student Precious Amalawa, 23, said of the brutal assault on his 21-year-old brother, Endurance. Some 25,000 Africans are studying in India.
Kushner goes to Iraq: Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad this week to discuss the fight against ISIS. Kushner, a White House adviser who has no foreign policy background, is the first top Trump administration official to visit Iraq. Speaking at a military base 10 miles south of heavy fighting in Mosul, Kushner said ISIS’s impending defeat in the city would “be a victory for the American and Iraqi troops” and “for the world.” His warm words were part of an effort by U.S. officials to reassure Iraq that the U.S. is a reliable ally. Trump said in January that the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil after the 2003 invasion, and still might do so, and the president included Iraq on his first list of countries whose citizens were barred from travel to the U.S.