Riot police battling protesting teachers who were blocking a federal highway, Oaxaca, Mexico June 19, 2016 (AP Photo by Luis Alberto Cruz Hernandez).

Two years ago, the state of Michoacan on the southwestern coast of Mexico saw the rise of so-called self-defense groups. These were heterogeneous groups comprised of a mix of locals genuinely exasperated with the authorities’ inability to protect them from organized crime and cells of criminal organizations rivaling the state’s predominant drug cartel, the Knights Templar. Much has changed with regard to self-defense groups since then. In early 2014, federal forces took over security of large parts of Michoacan as the state government had become overwhelmed and largely infiltrated by organized crime. After tense negotiations with the federal government, self-defense […]

A Chinese newspaper on a newstand with a photo of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and the headline “Outsider counter attack,” Beijing, Nov. 10, 2016 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

No matter who was elected president on Nov. 8, there was going to be a pause in U.S. trade policy. During the campaign, neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiated and signed by President Barack Obama. But Trump said he would go much further, threatening to impose new tariffs of up to 45 percent on Chinese imports over Beijing’s currency manipulation and other unfair trade practices, while promising to withdraw from trade agreements that are not renegotiated to his satisfaction. As with other issues, there is uncertainty about what Trump will actually do once in […]

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum at the Plaza Hotel, New York, Sept. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Drew Angerer).

In late October, the Miners Association of Nigeria held its first Mining Week summit, part of the country’s attempts to jump-start its promising but seriously neglected and underperforming mining sector. The summit hosted local miners, junior and senior mining operators, exploration firms, local and international investors and Nigerian government officials, all focused on re-establishing Nigeria as a global mining hub. Nigeria’s expansive mineral wealth is no secret. During British colonial rule, which ended in 1960, the country ranked among the world’s top producers of tin. Later geological surveys in the 1970s, which were recently updated between 2003 and 2010, helped […]

A protest against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump near the Eiffel Tower, Paris, Nov. 19, 2016  (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

The surprise election of Donald Trump as America’s 45th president has upset long-standing assumptions about America’s role in the world. It also calls into question the country’s future trajectory as the guarantor and administrator of the international order, a position that has been so carefully built and nurtured by Washington since the end of World War II. America’s European friends and allies are among those most worried about the future U.S. role in Europe, at a time when the continent is surrounded by instability and faces an increasingly aggressive Russia to its east. This unease is understandable if one considers […]

South African President Jacob Zuma at a press conference at State House in Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 11, 2016 (AP photo by Khalil Senosi).

Even by the standards of his scandal-ridden and largely disgraced presidency, the past month in South Africa has represented a nadir for Jacob Zuma. He was humiliated twice in the space of three days, first on Oct. 31 when the National Prosecuting Authority dropped spurious charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who Zuma wanted to remove. Then, on Nov. 2, the outgoing public protector, Thuli Madonsela, published her report on the scale of so-called state capture by Zuma’s friends and business associates, the Gupta family, after Zuma dropped his legal objections to its release. South Africa’s government watchdog recommended a […]

Guards at a checkpoint near burning oil fields in Qayara, south of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Felipe Dana).

Earlier this month, on Nov. 5, militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State killed 26 civilians with a roadside bomb as they fled Hawija, a predominantly Sunni Arab town about 40 miles southwest of Kirkuk. With international attention focused on the battle for Mosul, the attack was just the latest sign of the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis on a forgotten battlefield in another part of northern Iraq. Hawija’s approximately 200,000 civilians have lived under Islamic State control since June 2014. The town represents a strategically significant objective in the fight to secure northern Iraq and reintegrate liberated communities into the […]

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China, Oct. 20, 2016 (Pool photo by Wu Hong via AP).

Since an international tribunal in The Hague ruled in July that China’s claims to the South China Sea had no legal basis and thus violated the Philippines’ maritime rights, claimants to the waters have focused on lowering the temperature on the ongoing disputes. Though this is a welcome respite from years of tensions and has yielded some progress, formidable challenges remain in translating these gains into sustainable solutions for the complex disagreements between China and five other claimant countries—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Before the tribunal’s verdict, many observers had worried that a lopsided legal outcome for either […]

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, left, meeting with his Serbian counterpart, Tomislav Nikolic, right, Belgrade, Serbia, Oct. 28, 2016 (AP photo by Darko Vojinovic).

On Dec. 11, when Macedonians go to the polls in early parliamentary elections, foreign policy should weigh heavily on their minds. The government in power—a coalition of the predominantly Macedonian party known as VMRO-DPMNE and the Democratic Union for Integration, or DUI, the country’s largest ethnic Albanian party—has declared that its foreign policy and diplomacy over the past decade has been largely successful. But from relations with its neighbors, to progress toward membership in NATO and the EU, to Macedonia’s international reputation, how true is that? Any evaluation has to start with Macedonia’s fraught position in the Balkans. Serbia, to […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Lima, Peru, Nov. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

MEXICO CITY — On the morning after the U.S. election, the front pages of Mexican dailies responded to Donald Trump’s win with shock. Given that Mexico found itself in Trump’s crosshairs throughout the race, Mexicans’ fears aren’t unfounded. But the U.S. president-elect might not be able to make good on every threat he made on the campaign trail. Consider the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. Trump will face plenty of challenges to building the infamous wall that was a centerpiece of his candidacy. First off, physical obstacles abound, including the Algodones Sand Dunes in southern California; the Coronado National Forest in […]

A rally during a speech by Milorad Dodik, president of the Serb-dominated region of Republika Srpska, Pale, Bosnia, Sept. 25, 2016 (AP photo by Amel Emric).

BELGRADE, Serbia—It’s a strange time for Europe. In September, the European Union’s 28 member states formally accepted Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for membership. Yet the next month, as rhetoric around local elections and a referendum in the Balkan state rose to a fever pitch, some analysts and politicians once again raised the prospect that the country’s very existence was under question. Pessimistic insiders in Sarajevo have been warning for years that Bosnia was on the brink of collapse, while optimists hope that an EU-led reform program will finally transform the country’s economy, society and stultifying political scene. A middle scenario […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a ceremony receiving diplomatic credentials from foreign ambassadors in the Kremlin, Moscow, Nov. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Sergei Karpukhin).

Russia featured prominently in the 2016 presidential campaign. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton depicted alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s email servers and other high-profile political targets, including her own campaign staff, as evidence of a Kremlin plot to harm her candidacy and promote her Republican opponent, now President-elect Donald Trump. Trump consistently dismissed Clinton’s allegations as desperate political mudslinging and put forward a very different set of ideas for U.S. relations with Russia. One early Russia-related dustup came in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambiguously translated comment that Trump was a “bright” or “colorful” candidate. Trump, in […]

The Cypriot and Greek flags over an abandoned military guard post, Nicosia, Cyprus, Nov. 5, 2016 (AP photo by Petros Karadjias).

Reunification talks between Cyprus and northern Cyprus in the Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin ended Friday with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Mustafa Akinci, agreeing to reconvene on Nov. 20 in Geneva. Both leaders, as well as the United Nations, which is backing the peace talks, said that significant progress was made. However, many of the most contentious issues are yet to be resolved. The eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 between the Greek-speaking south, officially the Republic of Cyprus, and the breakaway Turkish-speaking north, which is only recognized by Turkey. Since […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov review an honor guard, Moscow, June 6, 2016 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

Russia might be doing all it can to secure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on power in Syria, but that hasn’t dissuaded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from pursuing robust ties with Moscow. Last week, he and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met in Jerusalem to mark the 25th anniversary of Russia-Israel ties. They capped off the occasion by signing a series of bilateral agreements on agriculture, technology and construction. Medvedev’s visit comes after a good year for Israel-Russia ties, described by The Washington Post as a “budding bromance.” Since September 2015, Netanyahu has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin […]

Political posters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President-elect Rosario Murillo, on a building in Managua, Nicaragua, Nov. 7. 2016 (AP photo by Esteban Felix)

On Nov. 6, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN, was re-elected to a third consecutive term, his fourth overall since 1984. There was little doubt about the outcome of the election given his overwhelming popularity and the lack of any viable opposition. Though Nicaragua’s characteristically high voter turnout was down to 68 percent, Ortega won 72 percent of the vote. But Ortega’s route to re-election has not been without controversy. Critics point to the erosion of democratic institutions and principles over his past two administrations. In 2010, the country’s Supreme Court cleared the […]

Protesters at a rally calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down, Seoul, Nov. 16, 2016 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

“I will repay the hopes and prayers you’ve placed in each and every lucky bag,” Park Geun-hye promised a quiet crowd in Seoul on a February morning in 2013. South Korea’s newly elected first female president was referring to the bokjumeoni—colorful silk pouches thought to bring good luck, South Korea’s version of a four-leaf clover—that decorated the tree behind her in Gwanghwamun Square. Some of the pouches were embroidered with the Chinese characters for “fortune” or “wealth,” while others had images of animals on them. When the inaugural ceremony began, the tree was wrapped in a giant bokjumeoni that opened […]

A home in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

Cuba was not a major issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, but U.S.-Cuban relations may be collateral damage of Donald Trump’s stunning upset victory. Trump’s campaign was never heavy on policy details, and over the months, he expressed contradictory views about President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Havana. At first, he supported the opening, though he said he would have gotten a better deal. Later, he seemed to embrace a more traditional Republican stance of hostility. The language in the Republican Party’s platform was reminiscent of the darkest days of the Cold War. It denounced Obama’s policy as “a […]

Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, at the presidential palace in the capital, N’Djamena, April 20, 2016 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

A recent call for a vote of no confidence in Chad’s government over its management of the country’s oil wealth shows the level of anger among Chadians as they grapple with one of the most serious economic crises in years. Chad, which depends on oil for more than 70 percent of government revenue, has been brought to its knees by the dramatic fall in the world price of a barrel of oil since 2014. Having registered 6.9 percent annual growth in 2014, Chad’s economy is expected to contract by 1.1 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, with […]

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