A protester holds a sign that reads, in Spanish, “Hooray for those who fight,” during a demonstration to demand the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Oct. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Elmer Martinez).

When Hurricanes Eta and Iota crashed through Central America in November, they caused massive devastation and destruction, leaving around 200 people dead and thousands displaced. Economists believe that in some parts of the region, the economic toll of these disasters could be greater than the damage inflicted in Honduras and Nicaragua by Hurricane Mitch in 1998—the deadliest hurricane in Central American history. Honduras was the worst hit by Eta and Iota. More than 4 million people were affected, around 95,000 of whom were forced to take refuge in shelters, and may not have homes to return to; 85,000 homes were […]

Masks depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, left of Putin, at a street souvenir shop in St. Petersburg, Russia, Jan. 17, 2021 (AP photo by Dmitri Lovetsky).

U.S. President Joe Biden’s first opportunity to pivot away from Donald Trump’s often cozy approach to Russia came just days before he took office. The Kremlin’s swift detention of President Vladimir Putin’s chief critic, Alexei Navalny, when he returned to Moscow on Sunday—five months after surviving a failed assassination attempt—presents Biden with perhaps unwelcome pressure to respond quickly. But it also gives his administration the chance to accelerate its goal of reversing four years of silence on Russia from the White House and simultaneously restarting diplomatic coordination with much-neglected European allies. Navalny’s decision to return to Russia was either foolish […]

Supporters of a splinter group in the governing Nepal Communist Party gather to  demand the ouster of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and the reinstatement of Parliament, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Dec. 29, 2020 (AP photo by Niranjan Shrestha).

The aftershocks of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s decision last month to dissolve the lower house of Nepal’s Parliament and call for early elections are still being felt throughout the country. Oli’s controversial move, designed to thwart growing demands for him to leave office, has been widely criticized—including within his own Nepal Communist Party, or NCP—for contravening Nepal’s 2015 constitution. His insistence on maintaining power marks a potentially dangerous juncture along Oli’s drift toward authoritarianism, and could reverse democratic gains Nepal has made since its 10-year civil war ended in 2006. The latest episode in Nepal’s roiling politics was entirely […]

Lawyer Daniel Wong, center, is escorted by police outside his office in Hong Kong, Jan. 14, 2021 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Rachel Cheung and Assistant Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week. After months of petitioning, Xu Yan just saw her husband for the first time in three years. A prominent human rights lawyer in China, Yu Wensheng was seized by a dozen police officers, including a SWAT team, on a January morning three years ago, when he left his apartment in Beijing to walk his 13-year-old son to school. Yu, who was nominated for […]

Extensive security surrounds the U.S. Capitol ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Washington, Jan. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

The sacking of the U.S. Capitol by an insurrectionist mob incited by President Donald Trump has exposed the fragility of American democracy and strained the nation’s already diminished credibility to promote freedom and democracy worldwide. That is a problem for Joe Biden. The president-elect, who will be inaugurated Wednesday, has promised to quickly convene an international Summit for Democracy “to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World.” In the aftermath of Jan. 6, there have been calls for Biden to abandon this idea, insisting that America must get its own house in order before […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center right, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, center left, enter a hall for talks, in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The last time China’s most famous billionaire, Jack Ma, was seen in public was October. It was an appearance that did not please the regime in Beijing. The founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba—something of a Chinese Jeff Bezos—may have grown too confident and too powerful for the Chinese Communist Party, which may have decided it was time to not just silence him and limit his power, but to send a message to other potential critics with wealth and influence. It would not be the first time that China has used repressive tactics to put elites in their place. And it […]

Maori canoeists mark the 175th anniversary of the signing of New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, at a march in Waitangi, New Zealand, Feb. 5, 2015 (AP photo by Nick Perry).

New Zealand’s police don’t carry guns. But after a white supremacist armed with semiautomatic weapons killed 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in the city of Christchurch in March 2019—the worst mass shooting in the country’s history—some New Zealanders thought they should. “The operating environment has changed,” the former New Zealand police commissioner, Mike Bush, said in a statement several months after the massacre. “Police must ensure our people are equipped and enabled to perform their roles safely and to ensure our communities are, and feel, safe.” In October that year, the national police announced a project that would see […]

Former Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a briefing in Beijing, Sept. 4, 2017 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

In early December, amid rising tensions between Australia and China, Prime Minister Scott Morrison posted a statement on the Chinese social media platform WeChat to voice his outrage at an incendiary tweet from a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson. Within a day, WeChat, which routinely polices sensitive content on its platform, had blocked Morrison’s post, ostensibly for violating the company’s policies. It was not the only instance of a foreign official being censored on a Chinese social media platform. The most prominent offenders are WeChat—the largest social media site in China, with over 1 billion active users—and Weibo, a microblogging platform […]

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore addresses supporters after provisional election results were announced, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 26, 2020 (AP photo by Sophie Garcia).

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso—Not long before the New Year, I paid a visit to an Islamic teacher, known as a marabout, who lives in an unfinished house here on the outskirts of Burkina Faso’s capital. I had first spoken with him earlier in 2020, after he was displaced from his home near the northern city of Djibo, in Soum province, near the border with Mali—a part of the country that has become a major frontline in the campaign against violent jihadist organizations. The marabout belongs to the Fulani ethnic group, often the target of persecution despite being one of the largest […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen delivers a speech at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Jan. 30, 2020 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

After a long delay, Cambodia finally began producing oil from its offshore fields in the Gulf of Thailand last week. The Cambodian government’s partner in the oil venture, Singapore-based KrisEnergy Ltd., plans to ramp up production at new wells, with peak extraction expected to hit around 7,500 barrels per day by mid-February. Cambodia has known about its offshore deposits for more than a decade, and major oil firms like Chevron had previously invested in exploration efforts off the country’s coast. But some investors were scared off by low global oil prices, and the Cambodian government initially had trouble securing a […]

A nurse tends to a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, Dec. 19, 2020 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

The world has just passed an important anniversary. A year ago, on the eve of 2020, a municipal office in Wuhan, China, reported that 27 people in the city had come down with a strange and unidentified “viral pneumonia.” The next day, the World Health Organization picked up on the report and reached out to the Chinese government for more information. No one realized at the time how significant this new pathogen—later named SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19—would become. One year later, it has changed the world in unimaginable ways. The past year has seen nearly 86 million cases […]