A waiter serves customers at a private restaurant in Havana, Cuba, Jan. 31, 2018 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

Just three months after Miguel Diaz-Canel took over the presidency of Cuba from Raul Castro, his government has unveiled a new Council of Ministers—essentially, Cuba’s Cabinet—along with the draft of a new constitution and sweeping new regulations on the island’s emergent private sector. While the changes announced represent continuity with the basic reform program Raul Castro laid out during his tenure, they are nevertheless significant milestones along the road to a more market-oriented socialist system. The discussion and approval of the draft constitution was the main event of last week’s National Assembly meeting. The revised charter will now be circulated […]

President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, July 25, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

While recognizing that it could be undone at any time by a single presidential tweet, there appears to be a truce on at least one front in Donald Trump’s trade war. During a visit to the White House last week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged along with Trump to refrain from further escalation of the trans-Atlantic trade dispute and try to work things out. Their joint statement was vague, and the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, and the EU’s retaliatory tariffs, remain in place for now. Trump imposed those duties on supposed national security grounds, […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping is received by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the United Arab Emirates, after his arrival in Abu Dhabi, July 19, 2018 (Photo by Mohamed Al Hammadi for Emirates News Agency via AP Images).

As dusk fell in Abu Dhabi on July 20, the LED screen affixed to the face of the 65-story headquarters of the emirate’s national oil company presented a peculiar sight: a photograph of Chinese President Xi Jinping stretching over 1,000 feet high, looming over the Persian Gulf. In nearby Dubai, the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, was lit from top to bottom in the colors of the Chinese flag. Even by the standards of a country with little use for subtlety, the United Arab Emirates went all out to mark Xi’s state visit. At a time when China seems […]

Chinese naval officials stand in front of the ship Daqing, San Diego, Calif., Dec. 7, 2016 (AP photo by Gregory Bull).

While the United States Navy struggles to figure out if, how and when it can expand the size of its combat fleet by 47 ships—a 15 percent increase—China continues to crank out around a dozen new large warships a year. In May, the busy shipyard in the port city Dalian put to sea China’s second aircraft carrier, following up on that milestone two months later by simultaneously launching two Type 055-class cruisers. With the U.S. Navy being the only other fleet to operate a large number of vessels of such size and capability, the pace and scale of production at […]

An aerial view of the rain forest, including the destruction caused by gold mining in Colombia, near the city of Quibdo, November 27, 2015 (Photo by Georg Ismar for DPA via AP Images).

In early July, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, and Colombia’s Ministry for Mines and Energy reported that 66 percent of alluvial gold exploitation in the country is considered unregulated. Illegal mining in Colombia is nothing new, but the latest report indicated that the amount of affected land—84,000 hectares, or more than 200,00 acres—is up 6 percent since the UNODC’s first study on the subject in 2014. The list of violent competitors trying to access these gold riches offers a snapshot of Colombia’s various social fault lines and conflicts. It includes the National Liberation Army, or […]

A boy walks past campaign posters for Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Harare, Zimbabwe, July 25, 2018 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

The oldest man in the world lives in Zimbabwe. His name is Phidas Ndlovu, and he is 140 years old. At least, that is according to Zimbabwe’s Biometric Voters’ Roll, which was compiled ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for July 30. The vote is a milestone in Zimbabwean politics—the first held since the ouster of longtime President Robert Mugabe in November last year, and the first time in the history of independent Zimbabwe that Mugabe’s name will not appear on the ballot. But as much as the country’s political landscape has changed in the past eight months, […]

Cameroonian President Paul Biya attends a signing ceremony at the Great Hall Of The People, Beijing, China, March 22, 2018 (Photo by Lintao Zhang for Getty Images via AP images).

When Cameroon’s 85-year-old president, Paul Biya, announced on Twitter earlier this month that he would be running for a seventh consecutive term in October, it was a chance for the world to marvel anew at his remarkable longevity. Biya came to power 36 years ago, taking over for Ahmadou Ahidjo, Cameroon’s first president. Though the transfer was amicable, the two men were soon engaged in a power struggle that forced Ahidjo into exile. He would later be sentenced in absentia to life in prison for allegedly plotting against Biya, and he never returned, dying in Senegal in 1989. The Ahidjo […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during his swearing-in ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 16, 2018 (AP photo by Yam G-Jun).

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—As Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister, from 1981 to 2003, Mahathir Mohamad oversaw crackdowns on the free press. He sought to undermine the country’s independent judiciary. And he arrested and jailed political opponents. Today, however, the 93-year-old Mahathir is not only back in the prime minister’s office, he’s the face of a once-opposition party now being hailed as Malaysia’s great democratic hope. It’s hard to overstate the current level of optimism in Malaysia about the country’s political future. In the eyes of many Malaysians, life changed on May 9, when the opposition won a surprise electoral victory and ousted […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, and European Council President Donald Tusk, right, after their joint press conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 17, 2018 (AP photo by Koji Sashara).

Earlier this month, Japan and the European Union concluded a mega-free trade deal that, when ratified, is expected to provide significant benefits to both sides. But as important as the economics of the deal is its symbolism, demonstrating a commitment to an international trade regime that has been passing through a zone of turbulence over the past year, largely due to arcane protectionist measures from the Trump administration. The U.S. has imposed large tariffs and threatened more on a wide range of products and countries, including allies such as Japan, Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Washington’s turn to protectionism […]

Ethiopians wave during the visit of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 15, 2018 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

The visit of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to Washington later this month presents President Donald Trump with a chance to make his first meaningful diplomatic contribution in Africa, a continent that appears to rank dead last in his global priorities. Trump can seize the opportunity by extending a White House invitation to his counterpart, who is in the United States for meetings with diaspora groups. By doing so, he would lend the weight of his office to a recent peace deal ending the war between Ethiopia and its neighbor Eritrea. The conflict lasted from 1998-2000 and cost tens of […]

Iraqi riot police prevent protesters from storming the provincial council building during a demonstration in Basra, Iraq, July 15, 2018 (AP photo).

In what is becoming a summer ritual in southern Iraq, protesters took to the streets to voice their grievances amid scorching heat over the course of the past several weeks. Their government’s inability to provide basic services, namely electricity and water, makes the harsh summer unbearable to many Iraqis. The high unemployment rate means that many cannot afford a basic standard of living. Reflecting a heightened mood of desperation, the latest round of protests turned more violent than in previous years. In nine Iraqi provinces, protesters stormed government buildings and infrastructure as well as political party offices, at times setting […]

Protesters shout slogans while marching with a Philippine flag toward the Chinese consulate in Manila, Philippines, July 12, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s time in office has shown how a charismatic, populist leader can recalibrate a country’s foreign policy almost single-handedly. Under his watch, the Philippines has pursued an “independent” foreign policy, one that is less hostile to China and less dependent on the United States, the Philippines’ sole treaty ally and former colonizer. As a result, the Philippines’ relations with China have entered a new “golden age,” in Duterte’s words. At the same time, his popularity does not give him unilateral power over the Philippines’ foreign and defense policy—at least not yet. His aggressive push to reorient Philippine […]

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Lindiwe Sisulu, the foreign affairs minister, during the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, Kigali, Rwanda, March 21, 2018 (AP photo).

Last week, during a press conference in Abuja, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said he would “soon sign” the agreement creating the African Continental Free Trade Area, or ACFTA. His vow came nearly four months after the agreement was unveiled, and Buhari offered an unusual explanation for the delay. “I am a slow reader, maybe because I was an ex-soldier,” he said. “I didn’t read it fast enough before my officials saw that it was all right for signature.” That may well be true. But it’s also true that Buhari had come under pressure from the man standing next to him […]

Police officers patrol poor neighborhoods in Acapulco, Mexico, June 21, 2018 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

As the dust settles on Mexico’s July 1 presidential election results, numerous pressing questions have emerged about how President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, will redefine security policy and the future of United States-Mexico security cooperation. These questions were central to the first high-level meeting between Lopez Obrador and a U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner last week. Lopez Obrador takes office against the backdrop of Mexico’s deeply troubled security landscape. While he identified the fight against corruption as crucial to his victory, growing dissatisfaction over public security […]

Technical intern trainees from the Philippines work at a construction site, Tokyo, June 5, 2018 (Photo by Eri Konno for Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images).

In its annual economic and fiscal policy guidelines issued last month, the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a decision to create a new residency status for low-skilled foreign workers. The measure could be implemented as soon as next year following expected approval by the legislature this fall, and the administration hopes to bring in 500,000 foreign workers by the year 2025. This represents a major shift in Japanese policy, as the country’s official stance until now was to allow only foreign workers with specialized skills. However, the new policy was formulated with the narrow objective of addressing […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at the Reichstag building for a meeting of the CDU, CSU and SPD parties, Berlin, Germany, July 5, 2018 (AP photo by Kay Nietfeld).

BERLIN—Germany’s government has withstood an assault from within, but the process revealed a ruling coalition increasingly beholden to the growing nationalist tendencies of its smallest member. The Christian Social Union, or CSU, operates only in the southeastern state of Bavaria, on Germany’s border with Austria. But in an unusual arrangement dating back to 1949, it has been the sister party of the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, which competes in the country’s 15 other states and which Chancellor Angela Merkel has led since 2000. Although the CSU holds the fewest seats of any party in the Bundestag, Germany’s national parliament, […]

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari arrives at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Nigeria, Aug. 19, 2017 (Photo by Sunday Aghaeze for the Nigerian State House via AP).

Last week, Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, split, with several parliamentarians and former allies of President Muhammadu Buhari breaking away to form the Reformed-All Progressives Congress, or R-APC. “The APC has run a rudderless, inept and incompetent government that has failed to deliver good governance to the Nigerian people,” the national chairman of the new rival faction, Buba Galadima, a former Buhari confidant, declared. In a sense, the schism merely formalized tensions within the APC that go back years. On one level, it reflects some northern Nigerian politicians’ impatience with waiting their turn for the presidency and with […]

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