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- In a briefing from April, Tobias Harris explained why the U.S.-Japan partnership, though healthy, has a long to-do list.
- In a briefing from April 2021, Elliot Waldman looked at how Japan has become a central player in the world’s current “Indo-Pacific moment.”
- In a briefing from November 2020, Elliot examined Abe’s diplomatic legacy and what his successors must do to build on it.
- In this week’s Europe Decoder newsletter, Dave Keating explained why Boris Johnson’s resignation has left the U.K. in turmoil—and the EU on edge.
- In a column from June, Alexander Clarkson looked at what Britain after Boris Johnson would mean for the U.K. and the EU.
- And in a column from April 2021, Emily Taylor explained why Japan makes a natural partner for the U.K. as it seeks to establish itself as “Global Britain.”
This Week’s HighlightsPetro Is Heading for a Showdown With Colombia’s Armed Forces. In Friday’s briefing, Joshua Collins and Daniela Díaz explained why Colombian President-elect Gustavo Petro’s plans to radically reform the country’s armed forces and police are setting him on a collision course with the military command.
- Petro has promised to reform to Colombia’s military and police forces, which have a checkered history of human rights abuses, corruption and even ties to criminal groups, immediately upon taking office. But to effect the structural changes he has promised, Petro will need to overcome resistance not only from political opponents, but also from the military and police forces themselves. Former military personnel say that a confrontation is inevitable, particularly given Petro’s past as a former guerrilla, which causes the military to view him with deep suspicion.
- Petro’s planned reforms include placing Colombia’s police, which currently operate under the Ministry of Defense and answer directly to the military chain of command, under civilian control within a newly created government department. He also plans to place police officers accused of wrongdoing under the jurisdiction of civilian, rather than military courts, which have historically been very lenient toward security personnel and operate outside of public scrutiny. And he has promised to dismantle ESMAD, Colombia’s infamous riot police force, which became a focal point of protests demanding police reform after its personnel killed dozens and wounded hundreds of people during protests in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
- In addition to the sweeping reforms to police and military command structures, Petro has promised to fully implement the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC, launch new peace talks with other criminal armed groups and end the “War on Drugs.” His proposals have sparked outrage among some in the military. Gen. Eduardo Zapateiro, Colombia’s highest-ranking officer and a strong critic of Petro during the election campaign, announced his resignation last week. And while fears that military commanders might not recognize Petro as president have so far proven unfounded, an antagonistic relationship with Colombia’s security forces could well complicate Petro’s plans for peace and his ability to rein in growing violence in rural areas.
- The U.S., as Colombia’s closest ally and historical partner during both the civil war and the militarized War on Drugs, is in a unique position to help Petro implement human rights reforms and encourage the faltering peace process. Doing so would go far to redeem a U.S. legacy that includes supporting military forces with a checkered human rights history. A key aspect of Petro’s reforms is to change the civil war-era mindset by which the Colombian military and police have been trained to seek out and exterminate an “internal enemy,” which they often conflate with civil society. Whether he finds a partner or an adversary in the armed forces remains to be seen.
- No matter how it turns out, Kenya’s upcoming presidential election will usher in a transition after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s two terms in office. Two figures have emerged as the main contenders to succeed him. Raila Odinga, a long-time opposition leader turned insider, has secured Kenyatta’s support as he stages his fifth bid for the presidency. Odinga will face Deputy President William Ruto, Kenyatta’s erstwhile ally who, despite a falling-out between the two in recent years, has fashioned a political base founded on a promise to more fairly redistribute the benefits of economic growth.
- While Kenyan elections are generally high-stakes affairs, the country has come a long way since 2007, when claims of electoral fraud in a context of fraught ethnic relations led to serious violence, which lasted until February 2008 and left over 1,000 people dead. Kenyatta and Ruto were both indicted at the International Criminal Court for the role they allegedly played in inciting the violence. Now, although intra-elite relations in the ruling party are severely strained, social tensions—including between ethnic groups—are at a low ebb. If anything, the public mood regarding the elections seems to be one of indifference, and voter registration among the youth has been remarkably low.
- The country has enacted far-reaching institutional changes following the 2007-2008 post-election crisis. These include a new constitution adopted in 2010 that introduced a devolved system of government, helping to lower the zero-sum stakes of national-level elections by distributing power and resources around the country more evenly. The country’s judiciary is strong and enjoys high public trust, meaning a losing candidate is more likely now to turn to the courts, rather than the streets, for redress of any grievances. Despite these welcome reforms, however, the risk of instability this year is still nontrivial. Since both camps command substantial bases, there are concerns their differences could be a destabilizing factor as elections grow near.
- Among the risk factors for destabilization are Kenya’s security forces, which suffer from low levels of public trust and could be coopted in a partisan manner. The electoral commission also appears to be weak and ill-prepared. Key domestic stakeholders have time to take mitigating measures: Kenyatta, Ruto and Odinga should lower the volume on inflammatory rhetoric and commit to peaceful campaigning; Ruto and Odinga should publicly pledge to accept the result of the election, no matter who wins; and leaders of electoral institutions should resist interference by partisan actors. Given the country’s importance in regional politics, making sure the election goes smoothly should be a high priority both in Kenya and among its many international partners.
This Week’s Most-Read StoryMexico Is Paying the Price for AMLO’s Failed Energy Policies. And in this week’s top story by pageviews, James Bosworth looked at the damage Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s energy policies are doing to the country’s environment, its trade relations with the U.S. and its climate change commitments.
Lopez Obrador’s push to favor state enterprises and punish the private sector might be forgiven if the state were running its new energy system effectively and transparently. It is not. Billions of dollars are being spent to build a new refinery at Dos Bocas in Lopez Obrador’s home state of Tabasco, even though most of Mexico’s current refineries are running below 50 percent capacity. An effort to improve capacity at existing refineries has been understaffed and underfunded, barely managing to keep up with ongoing maintenance, let alone upgrade the system. AMLO has blocked new offshore exploration by private companies, but Pemex lacks the technology to do it, meaning oil production will likely decline in the near future.
What’s On TapAnd coming up next week, we’ve got:
- A column by James Bosworth on why centrist candidates have such a hard time making it into the second round of Latin American presidential elections.
- A briefing by Nora Brito on how recent protests coupled with political paralysis have put Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso in a Catch-22.
- A briefing by Franz-Stefan Gady on what military analysts should learn from their failure to accurately predict the Russian military’s performance in Ukraine.
- And an in-depth article by Alena Epifanova on the dangers of the “splinternet,” and why it’s still a long way off.
Judah Grunstein is the editor-in-chief of World Politics Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @Judah_Grunstein.