President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House, Washington, July 29, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which uses relevant WPR coverage to provide background and context to the week’s top stories. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Since President Joe Biden took office, one question has become central to assessing his management of U.S. foreign policy: Is the U.S.-China rivalry an ideological contest pitting democracy against authoritarianism, or is it a battle for global primacy involving hard-boiled power politics? The events in Tunisia this week, and Washington’s reaction to them, […]

A protester holds a sign with “Resign, Thief” printed over a portrait of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei outside the National Palace in Guatemala City, July 24, 2021 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

The Biden administration’s strategy to combat mass migration from Central America by tackling its “root causes” just suffered a harsh blow in Guatemala with the ouster of the country’s top anti-corruption official. Juan Francisco Sandoval, the respected chief prosecutor in the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity, known by its Spanish acronym FECI, was fired Friday and promptly fled the country, fearing for his life.   Sandoval’s ouster prompted street protests and demands for the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras. Above all, Sandoval’s dismissal, and his belief that he might be killed if he remained in […]

Anti-government protesters march in Havana, Cuba, July 11, 2021 (AP photo by Eliana Aponte).

When I became a correspondent covering the Caribbean and portions of Latin America—my first overseas job for the New York Times—in the spring of 1990, Cuba’s then-leader Fidel Castro already seemed like an antiquated figure to many observers, a literal greybeard at the age of 63. This impression was accentuated for me in part due to the youthfulness of his country’s population, not to mention my own. It also derived from political history, as well as the geopolitical context of the moment. Castro had already been in power since 1959, making him one of the longest-serving leaders in the world. […]

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet in Tianjin, China, July 26, 2021 (U.S. Department of State photo via AP).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox.  Over the past few months, Beijing’s increasingly uncompromising posture toward policy disagreements with foreign powers has been reflected in the strident rhetoric used by Chinese officials. The latest round of U.S.-China high-level diplomacy was no exception. But several incidents this week demonstrated how this sharp, aggressive tone on the […]

A man holds a banner showing the eyes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a protest against the government’s alleged use of powerful spyware to spy on opponents, Budapest, Hungary, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Anna Szilagyi).

Like picking up a rock in the garden, the NSO Pegasus spyware scandal exposes a repulsive world teaming with life in the muck and mire—so much so that it is tempting to put the stone back in place and pretend that world doesn’t exist. There are many layers to the story: the human cost, the murky ethics of selling powerful spy tools to states with poor human rights records, and the complexities of trying to regulate the global market for such software. They all point to a challenge that will be with us for some time, despite the popular outrage […]

Artists and activists pose for photos next to a mural at the United Nations International Commission Against Impunity, CICIG, headquarters in Guatemala City, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

The word corruption tends to evoke images of self-dealing politicians and bureaucrats, and for good reason. In Central America, graft is so endemic among public officials that it constitutes a “root cause” of out-migration from the region, according to U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.  But the private sector can play just as central a role in sustaining corruption. In recent years, traditional business elites in Central America have bankrolled efforts to roll back progress made by prosecutors and civil society groups to strengthen the rule of law.  This poses a key challenge for the Biden administration. While it has shown […]

Soldiers of the Tunisian army guard the entrance of the parliament building during a protest a day after Tunisian President Kais Saied fired the prime minister and suspended the parliament, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Khaled Nasraoui).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended parliament Sunday night and placed travel bans on opposition politicians. Reports quickly documented the usual authoritarian playbook: raids on journalists, threats to jail those who impugn the state, and a raft of edicts concentrating judicial, legislative and executive power in his own hands. Saied’s decisions […]

The empty area for TSA screening of travelers at the John F. Kennedy airport's Terminal 1 in New York, March 13, 2020 (AP photo by Kathy Willens).

Last week, the European Union surpassed the United States when it comes to the share of its population that is vaccinated against the coronavirus.  More than 56 percent of people in the EU have now received at least one vaccine dose, compared with just under 56 percent in the U.S. The EU looks set to overtake the U.S. shortly on the percentage of people who have received a second dose as well, which now stands at 48 percent in the U.S. and 44 percent in the EU. Five EU countries, including Belgium and Spain, have already administered second doses to […]

President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House, in Washington, July 19, 2021 (AP photo Andrew Harnik).

In early June, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum “establishing the fight against corruption as a core United States national security interest” and ordering a significant mobilization of government resources to address this issue. The move comes amid heightened public awareness of the threats to democracy and security posed by transnational corruption, mainly due to the Panama Papers leaks that began in 2016 as well as the various investigations into allegations of malfeasance against former President Donald Trump and his associates.  Yet while some federal agencies and departments have taken steps to turn Biden’s laudable rhetoric into reality, it still […]

Activists wearing masks depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden hold signs reading “Free the vaccine” and “Waive the patents,” in front of the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, Germany, July 14, 2021 (AP photo by Fabian Sommer).

For just about anyone who spends time thinking about the future of the world, the fast-unfolding competition between the United States and China looms as one of the most important issues shaping both expectations and uncertainty over the near and medium term. The rivalry between these two countries, which boast the biggest economies and most powerful militaries in the world, is ostensibly over global leadership. The international crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, however, has revealed another darker reality: Where it counts most—meaning for the well-being of the largest numbers of people in the world—there is no real leadership competition. […]

Riot police stand guard in front of an American flag near the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, July 4, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox.  Washington imposed new sanctions on seven deputy directors in the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong last week. They are the latest addition to a list of 24 officials who have been blacklisted by the U.S. over their roles in undermining the city’s autonomy.  Separately, […]

A man walks past a Huawei store promoting 5G technologies in Beijing, China, July 15, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Once again, the U.K. appears to be out of step with its closest ally on chips and China, sitting on its hands over the sale of its largest semiconductor factory to a company with alleged links to the Chinese Communist Party. The U.K’s “have your cake and eat it, too” approach highlights disturbing inconsistencies that undercut its national security positioning and seem certain to reawaken tensions with the U.S. on policy toward China and technology. Highlighting the inconsistency at the heart of U.K. policy, the current controversy arises even as Hull, in the northeast of England, is due this month […]

A nurse prepares a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

The worst of the coronavirus pandemic has receded considerably in countries with high vaccination rates, despite the new challenge posed by the more contagious delta variant. So far, this mostly means that rich countries are finding it possible to restart their economies safely, while lower- and middle-income countries, whose populations continue to be brutally battered by the pandemic, are struggling with massive public health demands, along with the economic and political crises ignited or worsened by COVID-19. Nowhere is this relentless predicament more urgent than in Latin America, which is why multilateral organizations are urging the rich nations that have […]

Residents of the Port-au-Prince slum Cite Soleil make their way to the downtown market by foot due to an oil embargo, Oct. 26, 1993 (AP photo by Michael Stravato).

During my first reporting trip to Haiti, in January 1988, on my very first day in the country, I rode 50 miles from the capital, Port-au-Prince, to St. Marc, a coastal city to the north, to write about the atmosphere in the provinces on the eve of national elections. At a roadblock just shy of St. Marc, armed remnants of the feared militia of the country’s former dictatorship, the Tonton Macoutes, were burning vehicles and extorting money from passengers in broad daylight. One of the militiamen warned me that if they allowed me to pass, I would not be permitted […]

A worker at a Huafu Fashion plant during a government-organized trip for foreign journalists, in Aksu, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, April 20, 2021 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

In January this year, two shipments of shirts made by the major Japanese brand Uniqlo arrived at a port in Los Angeles, where they were detained by the U.S. authorities. Few heard about the seizures until they were revealed in documents released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency in May. It’s been a quiet story, receiving none of the media commotion that accompanied the Chinese boycott against fast fashion giant H&M and other retailers in March—but it has sent a ripple of fear through the fashion industry, nonetheless. The confiscation was part of a U.S. effort to prevent […]

Supporters of the Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami at a rally against the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas, in Peshawar, Pakistan, April 23, 2011 (AP photo by Mohammad Sajjad).

On June 30, a coalition of 100 NGOs delivered a concise letter to the office of President Joseph Biden demanding “an end to the unlawful program of lethal strikes outside any recognized battlefield, including through the use of drones.” The letter arrived at an important political and symbolic juncture, just as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, initially scheduled to coincide with the 20th anniversary of 9/11, was nearing completion. The attacks of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan that followed kicked off the massive expansion of America’s military footprint abroad, from which the drone program emerged and grew. […]

Congolese soldiers patrol the streets of Beni, Congo, July 16, 2019 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

In early May, in a televised address, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s president, Felix Tshisekedi, declared martial law in North Kivu and Ituri, two provinces on the country’s eastern border with Uganda and Rwanda, and placed them under military rule. In justifying this draconian measure, Tshisekedi invoked the regular mass killings in the region, which have left more than 1,000 people dead since 2019 and have generally been ascribed to one local militant group: the Allied Democratic Forces. Days later, a delegation from the Ugandan army arrived in Beni to set up a coordination center for a joint offensive with […]