Another Brexit referendum?
May: In trouble
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will let Parliament vote on whether to hold a new Brexit referendum—but only if lawmakers first pass her deal to withdraw the U.K. from the European Union. Parliament has thrice rejected that deal, which would keep Britain closely bound to the EU after it departs. By dangling the possibility of a new referendum, she hopes to persuade members of the opposition Labour Party to support the pact. But the plan doesn’t go far enough to win over lawmakers who want to stay in the EU, while it alienates ardent Brexiteers. If May loses the early June vote on the deal, as is expected, she has pledged to step down, and her Conservative Party would pick a new prime minister—likely one who favors exiting the EU with no deal.
ETA leader arrested
After 17 years on the run, one of Spain’s most wanted terrorists has been nabbed in a joint French-Spanish raid. Josu Ternera, former political leader of the Basque separatist group ETA, had been living alone in a cabin near a French Alpine resort. He told locals that he was a Venezuelan writer named Bruno Martí. Once a member of the Basque regional parliament in Spain, Ternera went into hiding in 2002 after being summoned for questioning over his involvement in the 1987 bombing of a police barracks that killed 11 people, including six children. Spain will ask for his extradition from France. ETA disarmed in 2017 and disbanded last year, after killing some 850 people over six decades.
American killed in prison
A U.S. citizen who was arrested for taking part in mass protests against the authoritarian government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was shot dead in prison last week. U.S. Navy veteran Eddy Montes Praslin, 56, permanently settled in his native Nicaragua in 2006 and was arrested on charges of terrorism and aggravated robbery last year after joining the demonstrations. A crackdown on protesters by authorities left more than 300 people dead and caused some 50,000 to flee the country. The Sandinista government said Montes Praslin—whom fellow inmates called “pastor” because he led religious services—was killed when he and other prisoners rushed at guards. An attorney who represents detained protesters said Montes Praslin was shot in the back and not during a fight.
Toas Island, Venezuela
The young face of chronic hunger
As Venezuela descends further into deprivation, more and more children are dying of malnutrition. With inflation at more than 1 million percent, most families can’t afford to buy meat, and they resort to eating cow’s hooves and offal when they can get it. The child-mortality rate has increased 140 percent since 2008. After The New York Times published a photo last week of an emaciated 2-year-old girl on Toas Island whose mother couldn’t take her to the mainland for treatment, Fabiola Molero, a Venezuelan nurse with the Catholic charity Caritas, hitchhiked 20 miles to supply the child with food and medicine. She said the child’s neighbors gathered around to ask her for food, too. “We’re working by the strength of our nails here,” Molero said, “We barely have any resources.”
Just minutes after Volodymyr Zelensky was sworn in as Ukraine’s president this week, the former comic actor dissolved the parliament, part of an all-out effort to purge the government of those loyal to former President Petro Poroshenko. Zelensky, who won 73 percent of the vote last month, hopes new elections will bring his supporters into the legislature so he can deliver on his pledge to end corruption and secure a cease-fire in the war against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Zelensky also called for the dismissal of Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who has ties to President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and was allegedly involved in a plot to accuse Ukrainian officials of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election in favor of the Clinton campaign.
Santrich leaves jail.
A Colombian court tasked with prosecuting war crimes committed during the country’s five-decade internal conflict has denied a U.S. extradition request for a former FARC leader accused of drug trafficking. Under a 2016 peace deal, the leftist FARC rebels were granted 10 seats in Congress, and ex-commander Jesús Santrich was supposed to take one of them. But he was detained by Colombian authorities last year after the U.S. charged him with conspiracy to traffic 11 tons of cocaine to the United States. The Special Peace Tribunal that oversees the peace deal denied the request last week, angering President Iván Duque, and Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martinez resigned in protest. The decision pits supporters of the peace deal against those like Duque who want to prosecute FARC members.
Everest is easy
Mount Everest, Nepal
The record breaker
A Nepalese Sherpa this week reached the summit of Mount Everest for a record 24th time—his second successful ascent in the space of six days. Kami Rita Sherpa, 49, works as a guide for tourists trying to prove themselves on the world’s highest peak, and first scaled the 29,029-foot mountain in 1994. Sherpa guides travel ahead of climbers and prepare ropes, anchors, and ladder bridges. Kami Rita said had he known there was a record to be broken, he would have summited many more times over his career. “I can climb for a few more years,” he said. “I am healthy—I can keep going until I am 60 years old. With oxygen it’s no big deal.”
Battling Ebola and fear
On the front line
The second-largest Ebola outbreak in history is threatening to spiral out of control in rural Congo because of mistrust of the government and foreigners. The outbreak—which has so far killed more than 1,200 people—began last summer shortly before an election in an opposition stronghold that had suffered government violence. When voting was suspended over fears that the deadly hemorrhagic disease could spread at polling places, locals assumed Ebola was part of a government plot. Suspicions further intensified because United Nations vaccination teams travel with a military escort, which makes them look like an arm of the regime. Ebola is highly contagious and can be spread by dead bodies, but families are chasing away burial teams. “The new protocol is that we just abandon the body,” said burial worker Philemon Kalondero. “They will learn their lesson when they get sick.”
Gay marriage legal
Cheering the new law
Taiwan has become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. “#LoveWon,” President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted after the law passed last week. “We took a big step toward true equality and made Taiwan a better country.” The path was set in 2017, when the country’s Constitutional Court struck down a law defining marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman and gave the legislature two years to draft new laws. Taiwan is an outlier in the region, and the annual Taipei Pride Parade draws LGBT revelers from across the continent—many of whom cannot come out in their home countries. But the legislature may be ahead of the people. In a nonbinding referendum last year, voters chose overwhelmingly to not legalize gay marriage.
American peddles snake oil
A New Jersey pastor has been accused of running a scheme to give industrial bleach to poor Ugandans as a “miracle cure” that he claims can combat everything from malaria to cancer and AIDS. Robert Baldwin, 52, set up a ministry called Global Healing to distribute the toxic liquid, which he calls MMS, or “miracle mineral solution,” reports The Guardian (U.K.). He trained about 1,200 “clerics” to distribute the poisonous concoction to up to 50,000 Ugandans. Money for the church comes from online donations and from British investor Sam Little, who used to advertise himself as a psychic. Baldwin denied distributing bleach and said he is being demonized by people who don’t understand “natural healing therapies.” The U.S. Embassy in Uganda tweeted that it condemns “the distribution of this substance, which is extremely dangerous and is NOT a cure for any disease.”
Indonesian President Joko Widodo was re-elected this week with 55 percent of the vote, handily beating an ultranationalist rival who had allied with Islamists. Jokowi, as the president is known, has governed the world’s largest Muslim country as a tolerant, wonkish leader, supporting the rights of women and minorities and backing infrastructure projects. Eight of his 34 cabinet ministers are women. His challenger, Prabowo Subianto, is a retired army lieutenant general who was once married to the daughter of Indonesia’s longtime dictator Suharto. He called the election rigged and urged supporters to rally in the streets; at least six anti-Jokowi protesters were killed in clashes with the police. Prabowo said he would file suit to overturn the election results.
After trailing the opposition Labor Party in polls for years, Australia’s ruling center-right coalition of the Liberal and National parties won a surprise victory in a federal election this week—a victory that Prime Minister Scott Morrison dedicated to “the quiet Australians.” Labor ran on a platform of mitigating climate change—after a year of wildfires, floods, and droughts—and raising taxes on the rich, and pundits had said the election was theirs to lose. But older and rural voters liked the Liberal-National message of reducing immigration and preserving coal jobs. “ScoMo,” as Morrison is called, is an evangelical Christian who has spoken of his admiration for President Trump. His coalition is expected to hold 78 of 150 seats in Parliament’s lower house. ■