Paraguayan army soldiers patrol an area where two German citizens were killed by the Paraguayan People’s Army after they were kidnapped, in Yby Yau, Paraguay, Jan. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Enrique Zarza).

On Sept. 2, Paraguay’s conservative president, Mario Abdo Benitez, cleared his schedule to fly north to a forest on the edge of a ranch in the province of Concepcion. There, around 220 miles from the capital, Asuncion, he posed for photographs—a handgun visible at his side—in a camp belonging to the Paraguayan People’s Army, or EPP, an armed group with barely 50 members. A combined military-police task force, known as the FTC, had just concluded a “successful operation,” Abdo Benitez posted on Twitter. Soldiers had shot dead two EPP fighters, he announced, and were closing in on the others, who […]

A police officer walks past a portrait of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 2, 2019 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

Dozens of countries took Saudi Arabia to task at the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this month for its human rights violations, demanding accountability for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The rebuke came just days after U.S. President Donald Trump was revealed to have admitted on tape that he helped shield the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, from scrutiny by obstructing Congress’ inquiries into Khashoggi’s brutal murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in October 2018. “I saved his ass,” Trump reportedly said of the crown prince in an interview with the journalist Bob Woodward. […]

A man walks past a poster for the Disney movie “Mulan” at a movie theater in Beijing, Sept. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

The first stirrings of controversy emerged for Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” more than a year ago, when the film’s lead actress, Liu Yifei, shared a post on the Chinese social media app Weibo that praised the Hong Kong police. The territory’s massive pro-democracy protests were in full swing at the time, and opposition to the security forces’ brutal tactics had become one of the demonstrators’ central organizing principles. Liu’s post quickly went viral, and the hashtag #BoycottMulan trended in response. Disney was not the only business to draw criticism over the Hong Kong protest movement. Last fall brought boycotts […]

A Taiwanese Air Force F-16, in the foreground, flies on the flank of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force H-6 bomber as it passes near Taiwan, Feb. 10, 2020 (Republic of China (Ministry of National Defense photo via AP Images).

Recent Chinese military maneuvers were a stark reminder that the Taiwan Strait remains one of the world’s most dangerous flash points. After months of saber-rattling near Taiwan, China’s air force sent dozens of warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Sept. 18 and 19, across the median line in the Taiwan Strait that both sides have long tacitly acknowledged as an unofficial border. Days later, and amid further incursions by Chinese aircraft, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson denied the existence of any “so-called median line,” raising concerns of further escalation by Beijing. Although several factors account for this belligerence, […]

A live broadcast showing Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China April 26, 2019 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

After a series of setbacks, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a multibillion-dollar assortment of infrastructure projects that constitutes the Pakistani component of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, is poised for a resurgence. Or is it? Last month, the Pakistani investigative news site FactFocus published a damning expose about Asim Bajwa, the head of a government body overseeing CPEC. It claims that Bajwa’s family developed an extensive overseas business empire, without declaring many of those assets. The allegations come at an inconvenient time for Islamabad, just as it tries to right CPEC’s ship. Launched in 2015, CPEC is a logical partnership for […]

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, deliver statements at the 11th BRICS Summit, in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

President Jair Bolsonaro assumed office in 2019 with the goal of aligning Brazil’s foreign policy with Western democracies and ending the economic dependence on China that grew markedly under his predecessors in the left-wing Workers’ Party. In his presidential campaign, Bolsonaro positioned himself as a candidate of the right, speaking out against “socialism” and “communism,” with pointed references to neighboring Venezuela, and openly identified with the right-wing populist message of U.S. President Donald Trump. So far, Bolsonaro’s attempt to reorient Brazil’s foreign policy toward the U.S. has met with mixed success, in part because China’s leaders have outworked their counterparts […]

Suga Yoshihide stands after being elected as Japan’s new prime minister, in the lower house of parliament, Tokyo, Sept. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Koji Sasahara).

After Abe Shinzo’s abrupt announcement last month that he was stepping down as prime minister of Japan due to health issues, three senior members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party announced they would compete in an intraparty election to replace him. They held press conferences and campaign events. Media outlets organized televised debates. Opinion polls gauged each candidate’s popularity. It had all the trappings of a normal election. Yet for anyone paying attention, the result was a foregone conclusion. Suga Yoshihide, Abe’s longtime right-hand man, had a virtual lock on the votes needed to win. Even before Suga officially declared […]

A portrait of Vaclav Havel next to candles at Wenceslas square in Prague, Czech Republic, Dec. 21, 2011 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

PRAGUE—A recently released biopic about the life of Vaclav Havel, the famed anti-communist dissident who became the Czech Republic’s first president, wasn’t well-received by local critics. The overwhelming consensus was that “Havel” simplifies history and focuses too much on its subject’s personal foibles, chiefly his notorious womanizing. Such criticisms aside, the film couldn’t have arrived in cinemas at a more fitting time. A revival of Havel’s legacy is underway among the Czech political class, as a signpost for what the country’s political ideals should be and why they have gone astray. When the president of the Senate, Milos Vystrcil, who […]

A soldier stands guard in Yaounde, Cameroon, Oct. 7, 2018 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

In July, jailed separatist leaders in Cameroon fighting for the creation of an independent state held their first formal talks with the government about ending the violence plaguing the country’s two Anglophone regions. While the origins of the conflict are in colonial-era divisions of territory, its proximate cause was protests in 2016 against the marginalization of Cameroon’s Anglophone minority, which makes up roughly 20 percent of the population in the majority French-speaking country. In the years since, the conflict has killed several thousand people and displaced nearly a million more. The recent talks with the government were led by the […]

A protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem, Sept. 20, 2020 (AP photo by Sebastian Scheiner).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allure to Israeli voters is perhaps best embodied in three election campaign posters that adorned the 15-story headquarters of his Likud party in Tel Aviv last year. Each depicted him alongside a major world leader: U.S. President Donald Trump, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and India’s Narendra Modi, under the slogan: “Netanyahu: Another League.” The message: Netanyahu, and Netanyahu alone, makes Israel punch above its weight on the world stage. The normalization agreements Israel signed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last week should have unambiguously reinforced this image. Even Netanyahu’s most dogged critics have difficulty faulting […]

A farmer adjusts an irrigation pump in the town of Mishkhab, south of Najaf, Iraq, June 26, 2018 (AP photo by Anmar Khalil).

The many ongoing challenges in Iraq—from political upheaval and COVID-19 to plummeting oil prices and the resurgence of the Islamic State—often overshadow the precarious state of the country’s water resources, even though water shortages are exacerbating many of those very issues. Studies have shown that equitable access to water is vital to supporting post-conflict recovery, sustainable development and lasting peace in Iraq, because water underpins public health, food production, agricultural livelihoods and power generation. But fresh water in Iraq is becoming scarcer, fueling more social tensions. Iraq’s population of 40 million is expected to double by 2050, while the impacts […]

President Donald Trump addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, Sept. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Like other world leaders, U.S. President Donald Trump is not traveling to New York for this week’s U.N. General Assembly due to the coronavirus pandemic, delivering a pre-recorded video address instead. But while the format may be peculiar, the substance of what he will say could be more familiar, and jarring. Trump has addressed the assembly three times since taking office, and he tends to repeat certain themes each year, often with one eye on his domestic audience. Here are five points to look out for in Tuesday’s speech. China: The president is almost certain to devote a significant chunk […]

Demonstrators clash with police during protests in Bogota, Sept. 9, 2020 (AP photo by Ivan Valencia).

Security forces killed 13 people during two days of violent protests against police brutality last week in Colombia’s capital, Bogota. Sixty-six civilians and nearly 200 police officers were wounded. More than 200 buses were vandalized, and 54 small police posts were destroyed. If those numbers described a battle during the country’s 50-year internal armed conflict with guerrilla groups, it would have been one of the bloodier ones. It was a jarring sight to behold in “post-conflict” Colombia, four years after the country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the FARC, signed a peace accord […]

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido during a meeting with members of the opposition in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 18, 2019 (AP photo by Matias Delacroix).

After a rare period of unity, Venezuela’s opposition recently splintered over a familiar issue: whether to contest an election. A coalition of parties aligned with opposition leader Juan Guaido plans to boycott legislative elections that are scheduled for December, on the grounds that they will be rigged. Henrique Capriles, another prominent opposition figure, heads a much smaller faction that recently announced it will participate in the vote if electoral conditions are improved. That move could play into the hands of Venezuela’s repressive president, Nicolas Maduro, who is hoping to win international recognition of the election even though it will be […]

Boris Johnson, then serving as the U.K.’s foreign secretary, meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir at the G20 summit of foreign ministers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 21, 2018 (Press Association photo by Stefan Rousseau via AP).

Since the 2016 Brexit referendum, the United Kingdom has been trying hard to figure out its new position on the global stage. Not without a certain degree of nostalgia, the ruling Conservative Party has put forward the idea of “global Britain,” reviving old imperial networks and repositioning London at their center. Arguably, nowhere are the contradictions of this idea more evident than in the U.K.’s ties with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. There, London is struggling—and often failing—to find an advantageous balance between projecting the gravity befitting a global power and retaining the favor of its autocratic partners […]

A policeman handcuffs Paul Rusesabagina, right, whose story inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” before leading him out of court in Kigali, Rwanda, Sept. 14, 2020 (AP photo by Muhizi Olivier).

Paul Rusesabagina is best known as a former manager of the upscale Hotel de Mille Collines in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, where he sheltered more than 1,200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the 1994 genocide. He held machete-wielding killers at bay, plying them with beer and bribes, in a story made famous by the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda.” A vocal critic of President Paul Kagame’s government, Rusesabagina has lived in self-imposed exile in Belgium and the United States for some 20 years, successfully evading Kagame’s attempts to capture him—until now. Last month, he flew from Chicago to Dubai for […]

Members of the Workers’ Party of Korea gather at the plaza of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 8, 2020 (AP photo by Jon Chol Jin).

North Korea’s young dictator is not known for issuing mea culpas. Yet, when Kim Jong Un announced last month that the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea will convene for its eighth congress in January 2021, he also acknowledged that the regime’s current economic strategy is not working. The party will thus adopt a new “five-year plan for national economic development” when it meets next year. In one sense, this is a hopeful signal, given that such pragmatic admissions of failure are rare for North Korean leaders. But the announcement also underscored the depth of the country’s economic troubles. It is […]

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