The world at a glance …
Royal tax dodge: Britain’s royal family was ensnared in a financial scandal this week after leaked documents showed that the private estate of Queen Elizabeth II had invested millions of dollars in offshore tax havens. Revelations in the Paradise Papers, a batch of 13.4 million documents thought to have come from a Bermuda-based law firm, indicate that the Duchy of Lancaster—which manages the monarch’s real estate, land and financial holdings—put some $13 million into funds in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas. Those funds then invested in ventures including U.K. retailer BrightHouse, a rent-to-own company accused of gouging poor people with sky-high interest rates. The duchy said all of its funds are “fully audited and legitimate.”
Surgical hit: A leader of a Mexican fuel-theft gang was shot dead last week while undergoing surgery to change his appearance and erase his fingerprints. Jesús Martín was on the operating table at a clinic in the city of Puebla when gunmen burst into the building and killed him and three other people, prosecutors said. The assassins were members of Martín’s own gang. The killings come amid a surge of infighting among fuel gangs in the state of Puebla, where at least 16 people have been killed in the past week. Fuel thieves drill an average of 28 illegal taps into gas pipelines in Mexico every day, and then sell the siphoned fuel. The dangerous but lucrative business has become Mexico’s secondbiggest organized crime problem after drug trafficking.
Catalan arrests: Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four members of his regional cabinet turned themselves in to Belgian police this week, after Spain filed an international arrest warrant for their role in October’s disputed independence referendum. All five were released, but barred from leaving Belgium. Puigdemont and his colleagues fled to Belgium last month after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy used his constitutional powers to fire Catalonia’s regional government for attempting to secede from Madrid. Since then, eight Catalan politicians and two activists have been jailed pending trial on charges including rebellion. Puigdemont has said he won’t willingly return to Spain because the country’s courts “can’t guarantee a fair and independent sentence.” It could take up to two months for Belgian courts to decide whether the five Catalans can be extradited.
Bombs to ballots: Many Colombians reacted with anger this week after the former head of the leftist rebel group FARC announced that he was running in next year’s presidential election. Rodrigo Londoño’s candidacy was made possible by last year’s peace deal between FARC and the government, which ended half a century of war. Under the deal, FARC’s political party is guaranteed 10 seats in parliament through 2026. Still, the announcement by Londoño—better known by his guerrilla moniker Timochenko—was met with fury on social media. “Each vote that Timochenko receives is an insult to the victims,” one Colombian tweeted. President Juan Manuel Santos said he understood that FARC’s transition was “hard to digest,” but added, “That’s what peace processes are about—changing bullets for votes.”
Planning for the worst: A leaked German government dossier has revealed that Berlin is planning for a variety of future disasters in Europe, including the collapse of the European Union by 2040 and German involvement in multiple armed conflicts on its borders. The dossier is the first of its kind, Der Spiegel reported, and was commissioned in part because of the West’s failure to anticipate Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine. The six possible scenarios are based on analyses of social, political, economic, and military trends. Other scenarios being envisaged include “multipolar competition”—in which nationalist movements cause the EU to fracture—and “West versus East,” in which several eastern members of the EU break away to form a new bloc.
City in mourning: The bodies of five Argentinean men killed in the ISIS-inspired attack in New York City arrived back in their hometown of Rosario this week. The five were part of a group of 10 former classmates who’d traveled to New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their graduation from a Rosario high school. On the third day of their trip, the friends—all in their 40s—were bicycling alongside the Hudson River when a suspected terrorist drove a truck onto the bike path, mowing down riders and pedestrians. Three other cyclists died in last week’s rampage. Rosario observed three days of mourning for the victims, and hundreds of locals attended a vigil outside the school. “It seems like a tragic fate,” said one former student. “New York is an immense city with millions of hearts passing through it, and this happens to five of Rosario’s.”
Migrant girls found dead: Police in the Italian port city of Salerno launched a murder investigation this week after the bodies of 26 teenage girls—ages 14 to 18—were recovered from the Mediterranean Sea. Twenty three girls, believed to be migrants from Nigeria and Niger, were found floating next to a partially sunken rubber boat; another three were found during another rescue operation. Italian officials are investigating whether the teenagers, who were making the perilous sea crossing from Libya to Europe, were sexually assaulted or tortured before their death. Two men have been arrested so far. “It is very likely that these girls were, in fact, victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation,” said Federico Soda, a director of the International Organization for Migration.
First lady rises: Robert Mugabe abruptly sacked his vice president this week, clearing the way for his wife, Grace, to succeed him as Zimbabwe’s leader. Information Minister Simon Khaya Moyo announced the dismissal of Emmerson Mnangagwa, saying the veep had displayed “traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness, and unreliability.” Because of his strong support within the country’s powerful security establishment, Mnangagwa, 75, was long viewed as the likely successor to Mugabe, 93. But as Mugabe’s health has deteriorated in recent years, Mnangagwa has increasingly clashed with 52-year-old Grace, his main rival for Zimbabwe’s top job. He recently accused Grace of poisoning him; she in turn called Mnangagwa the “root cause of factionalism” in the ruling ZANU-PF party. Grace is now expected to be named vice president at a special ZANU-PF congress later this month.
Toxic city: Thick gray clouds of toxic smog descended on New Delhi this week, leading the Indian Medical Association to declare a public health emergency and advise that residents stay indoors. Doctors reported an increase in people suffering breathing difficulties, and many schools asked parents to equip their children with face masks. Levels of dangerous PM 2.5 particles—small enough to enter people’s bloodstreams— hit 742 micrograms per cubic meter; the World Health Organization’s safe limit is 60 micrograms. Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, said the city had “become a gas chamber.” Air quality often dips in the capital at this time of year, as farmers burn crops in neighboring states and the smoke combines with car exhaust, smokestack emissions, and fumes from burning garbage.
Nha Trang, Vietnam
Deadly typhoon: At least 106 people were killed after Vietnam’s southern coastal region was hit by the most destructive storm in decades, just days before the country was due to host President Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and other world leaders for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Typhoon Damrey tore off roofs, felled trees, ripped up utility poles, and caused flooding across the region—damaging or destroying more than 116,000 homes. One weather station recorded up to 67 inches of rain, and at least 49 reservoirs were dangerously full, prompting emergency drainage efforts. Da Nang, host of this year’s APEC summit, is 300 miles north of the coastal resort city of Nha Trang, which bore the brunt of the typhoo n. But it also suffered: A gateway proclaiming “Welcome to Da Nang” collapsed in the storm.
Warning of ‘war’ with Iran: Saudi Arabia accused Iran of carrying out an “act of war” this week after a Tehran-backed militia in neighboring Yemen fired a missile at Riyadh’s international airport. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that supplying rebels in Yemen with missiles was “direct military aggression by the Iranian regime” and “may be considered an act of war against the kingdom.” Tehran dismissed claims of Iranian involvement in the missile attack as “baseless.” The accusation came just days after Prince Mohammed, likely successor to his father King Salman, consolidated power at home by orchestrating the mass arrest of rival royals, suggesting he wants to take a more aggressive stance in the kingdom and abroad. Regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting proxy wars in both Yemen and Syria.
Lebanon was dragged into the regional showdown last week when the country’s prime minister unexpectedly quit while on a trip to Riyadh. Saad Hariri had led a coalition government in Lebanon that included Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite militant group and political movement. His exit was widely assumed to have been orchestrated by his Sunni patrons in Riyadh. In his resignation speech, Hariri accused Iran of fomenting “destruction” in Lebanon. Thamer al-Sabhan, Saudi minister of Gulf affairs, said Lebanon must now choose between “peace and moderation and remaining under this party of evil and terrorism”—a reference to Hezbollah.