Global Snapshot – November edition
By Rachel Hankey and Richard Griffin
The November issue of Global Snapshot, which brings current international issues and news from around the world. October saw the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the first elections in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the announcement of complete US withdrawal from Iraq, as well as floods in Thailand and a Turkish earthquake.
Gaddafi killed in Libya
After months of searching, rebel fighters captured and killed Muammar Gaddafi last month. The former tyrant was found hiding in a drainpipe in his birthplace Sirte.
According to Muslim tradition, the bodies of Gaddafi and his son Mutassim, should have been buried within 24 hours of their death. However the burial of the former Libyan dictator had been delayed amid rows about where he should be buried. Gaddafi’s body has been kept in a large cold store in the market area of Misrata, with thousands queuing to see the body of their former dictator. However, after four days the interim leaders ended the public display of his body.
The National Transitional Council (NTC) originally announced that Gaddafi had been killed in crossfire, but there is currently much speculation that he was in fact executed. In response to pressure from the international community, Libya’s NTC has announced an inquiry into the death of the former leader.
The New York based Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns regarding the circumstances Gaddafi's death, as well as a "trend of killings, looting and other abuses". Human Rights Watch is reporting that 53 people appeared to have been executed in an area previously controlled by anti-Gaddafi forces in Sirte. Human Rights Watch Emergencies Director, Peter Bouckaert stated that such a finding “requires the immediate attention of the Libyan authorities to investigate what happened and hold accountable those responsible.” The NATO Secretary-General, Anders-Fogh Rasmussen called on “all Libyans to put aside their differences and build a new inclusive Libya, based on reconciliation, and full respect for human rights and the rule of law.” Rasmussen urged the “National Transitional Council to prevent any reprisals against civilians and to show restraint in dealing with defeated pro-Gaddafi forces.”
Tunisia Votes – The first election of the Arab Spring
The people of Tunisia went to the polls on October 24, making history
, with what are considered the country’s first free and fair elections. The BBC is reporting that provisional results suggest the moderate Islamist party Ennahda will win the most votes, but will fall short of a majority. A spokeswoman for the party, Yusra Ghannouchi, said: "Tunisians have voted in fact for those parties that have been consistently part of the struggle for democracy and opposed to Ben Ali's dictatorship. Tunisians are electing a 217-seat assembly that will draft a constitution and appoint an interim president, who will choose the new government. US President Barack Obama released a statement congratulating the millions of Tunisians who voted in “the first democratic elections to take place in the country that changed the course of history and began the Arab Spring. Just as so many Tunisian citizens protested peacefully in streets and squares to claim their rights, today they stood in lines and cast their votes to determine their own future.”
Kenya sends troops to the Kenya-Somali border
Kenya has taken steps to protect its territorial integrity after a spate of recent kidnappings by Islamist militant group
, Al Shabaab of foreign aid workers in the refugee camp close to the Kenya-Somali border. Reuters UK reported that a "senior Kenyan official confirmed Kenyan troops were on Somali soil, a day after Defence Minister Yusuf Haji said Kenya had the right to pursue the enemy inside Somali territory" The Kenyan government is concerned about protecting its tourism industry and preventing the spread of the influence of Al Shabaab along its border. A press release from the US State Department confirmed that "the United States is not participating in Kenya's current operation in Somalia". However, the Washington Post reports that a Nairobi based diplomat told the Associated Press that France was carrying out military attacks in Somalia, whilst it confirmed that French officials in Paris have denied that was the case. The BBC reports that France will provide military equipment to Kenyan soldiers near the Somali border.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner became Latin America's first female president to win a second term when she sailed to victory in Argentina's elections. The Wall Street Journal reported that “98% of polling places reporting, Mrs. Kirchner had 53.96% of the vote”. Argentina’s economy has bounced back whilst the opposition forces remained divided. Fernandez also benefited from “an outpouring of public sympathy” following the death last year of her husband, Néstor Kirchner, who was President at the time. “Argentina's agrarian-powered economy has been growing at a 9% clip this year, triggering a consumption boom that has made Argentinians willing to overlook annual inflation estimated at 25%”
Brazil raises concerns about ‘currency misalignments’ with the WTO
MercoPress is reporting that the Brazilian government has urged the WTO to conduct a “dedicated workshop” on the effect of exchange rate fluctuations on international trade. According to the Wall Street Journal, which obtained a copy of a speech given by Brazil’s representative at the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, the effects of movements in nominal exchange rates are not noticeable in the long run, though in the short-term they can “alter relative prices and affect both the allocation of resources between non-tradeable and tradeable sectors of international trade flows.” Meanwhile, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that “manufacturers in Latin America’s biggest economy are being hurt by a 29 percent rally in the real since the end of 2008, more than all 25 of the biggest emerging market currencies tracked by Bloomberg except the Chilean peso. Since October 2010 Brazil has also increased taxes on capital inflows and stepped up dollar purchases to defend Brazil from what Finance Minister Guido Mantega has called a ‘currency war’.”
UN General Assembly calls for an end to US embargo on Cuba
For the 20th consecutive year, the General Assembly adopted a resolution last month calling for the lifting of the decades-old economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba for the past half century. The text of the non-binding resolution received 186 votes in favour, 2 against (the USA and Israel) and 3 abstentions (Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau).The UN News Centre reported that introducing the text, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Foreign Minister of Cuba, stated that the US has never hidden the fact that the objective of the embargo – which he said has caused more than $975 billion in damage to the Cuban people – is to overthrow his country’s government. “What the US Government wants to see changed will not change,” he stated, declaring that the Cuban Government will continue to be “the government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Oil Spill of the Coast of New Zealand
New Zealand is currently facing the “most significant maritime disaster” in the nation’s history, after a container ship ran aground 12 nautical miles off the coast of the North Island.
The Liberian ship 'Rena' has been leaking heavy fuel oil into the surrounding seas since early October. The oil leakage is now heading toward the famous Bay of Plenty marine reserve. Over 300 tonnes of oil has already washed ashore on beaches, killing over 1000 sea birds.
Floods threaten Bangkok
Thailand’s worst floods in 50 years have now reached the capital Bangkok. So far the residents of six of the city’s northern districts have been ordered to leave their homes.
South East Asia has been hit by monsoonal rain since July, damaging large areas of rice crops and key infrastructure. In Thailand, over 350 people have been killed in the floods, and millions have been forced to leave their homes. There are also great concerns about the long term economic impact of the flooding; Bangkok accounts for 40% of the country’s economic output.
The Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has warned that the flood waters could remain for at least a month, due to the huge amount of water that will need to be drained from the city.
Residents of the flooded areas of Bangkok are now also facing the threat of escaped farm crocodiles. So far two crocodiles have been killed and another six captured.
Anti-capitalist protesters force the closure of St Paul’s Cathedral
The Occupy Wall Street protest has now spread to London. Protesters from 'Occupy London Stock Exchange' are campaigning against "corporate greed and inequality". The biggest impact of the protests so far has been to force the closure of the St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Approximately 300 protesters have been camped outside the cathedral for over a week and are still refusing to leave. Along with the disruption to religious services, the cathedral is suffering financially due to the closure. It is reported that the daily loss of income from visitor donations is approximately £16,000.
The protest has now spread to Finsbury Square, as 200 protesters have set up camp near major financial institutions such as Deutsche Bank.
Riots in Athens
As the European Union and the rest of the world continue to try a find a solution to the eurozone crisis late last month, Athens was rocked by violence riots.
The riots were sparked by yet more austerity measures introduced by the Greek government, in an effort to prevent the country defaulting on its debts. The International Monetary Fund and the EU have threatened to withhold further financial support, unless the Greek government took steps to reduce the country’s debt, with a package of cuts and tax rises. These measures have caused divisions within the governing socialist party, and have proven to be very unpopular with the public.
Over 80,000 protesters gathered outside the parliament, but the situation quickly descended into a “war zone”. Violent youths wearing helmets and masks clashed with a peaceful trade union-led protest. Over 70 people were injured in the clashes, and one man was killed. The riots also coincided with the 48 hour general strike by trade unions, which was in protest against the cuts.
US troops to leave Iraq
President Obama has announced that all US troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011. After nearly nine years since the start of the war, Obama declared that “the US leaves Iraq with our heads held high.” The current deadline for the withdrawal of US troops was set by the Bush government, but the issue of a full withdrawal has been a matter of ongoing debate both within the US and between America and Iraq.
Approximately 39,000 US troops currently remain in the country; the peak of the US deployment was 165,000 troops in 2008. According to the US Department of Defence, there have been 4,408 American military deaths since 2003.
The speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, has expressed concerns about the meddling of neighbouring nations in Iraqi affairs. It is feared that such actions would become worse if Iraq is seen to be vulnerable after the withdrawal of US troops.
Earthquake in Turkey
The Van province in Eastern Turkey was hit by a deadly 7.2 magnitude earthquake late last month. The earthquake caused widespread panic throughout the region, as residents spilled onto the streets amid efforts by rescue workers to evacuate buildings.
Nearly 600 people are reported to have been killed in the quake, and another 4,000 have been injured. It is feared that the total death toll could be closer to 1000, as there is still little information from some of the more remote areas affected by the quake. The quake affected region is one of the poorest in Turkey. So far nearly 1000 buildings have been demolished.
Earthquakes are common in Turkey, as the country sits on several fault lines. Within three hours of the earthquake, US scientists had recorded eight aftershocks.
US Ambassador leaves Syria
The US has announced that it has withdrawn its Ambassador to Syria amid concerns for his safety. Ambassador Robert Ford left Damascus late last month, after a US spokesman said that there were “credible threats against his personal safety”.
Ford was an outspoken critic of the Syrian governments’ crackdown on protesters over the past 7 months. Ambassador Ford’s visit to cities such as Hama, and his presence at a funeral for a protester, have made him a controversial figure in the country.
The US State Department has stated that Ambassador Ford was not being officially recalled or withdrawn, which would be a more serious diplomatic step. Instead he is being recalled for consultations and his return will depend on an ”assessment of the Syrian regime-led incitement and security situation on the ground”
In response to the US action, Syria has recalled its ambassador from Washington for consultation.