Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, at a press conference after the resignation of Justice Minister Sergio Moro, Brasilia, April 24, 2020 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

The coronavirus pandemic has so far proven to be a boost for many autocratic leaders around the world, who have managed to exploit the crisis to expand and tighten their hold on power. But the situation is different for at least one far-right demagogue, for whom the pandemic is shaping up to become the key line in his political obituary: Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. The political future of a president who has been called the “Trump of the Tropics” now hangs in the balance as Bolsonaro continues to actively exhort Brazilians to reject public health measures, even as the number of […]

French police officers patrol a street during a nationwide lockdown to counter COVID-19, Paris, April 15, 2020 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

The violent protests in Paris’ banlieues this week, after an incident of police brutality, are a clear indication of the social tensions fueled by France’s strict national lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Neither the violence by police nor the riots come as any surprise, given the history of both in the suburban ghettos surrounding France’s major cities, where much of its immigrant and immigrant-origin population lives. But the tensions between France’s overstretched security forces and its population extend beyond the banlieues. Combined with popular dissatisfaction over French President Emmanuel Macron’s response to the pandemic, they risk making Macron […]

The United Nations Security Council votes during a meeting at U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Jason DeCrow).

United Nations-led efforts to forge a global cease-fire are gaining momentum, as dozens of parties to conflicts around the world have joined Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call to lay down their arms amid the coronavirus pandemic. The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote soon on a resolution codifying the global cease-fire, although disputes among the U.S., China and Russia—all veto-wielding permanent members of the council—could still impede the process. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, long-time U.N. watcher and WPR contributor Richard Gowan joins Elliot Waldman for a conversation about conflict resolution and peacemaking efforts amid the pandemic. Gowan […]

A couple walks through a popular shopping mall in Beijing, April 13, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. China’s nearly half-century-long run of growth came to a screeching halt earlier this month, as data released by the Chinese government revealed that its once-booming economy shrank year-on-year during the first three months of 2020. It was one of the most remarkable signs of the destruction inflicted on the global economy during the COVID-19 pandemic: an end to an economic boom that had weathered calamities like the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, the SARS epidemic of 2003 […]

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

The relationship between the United States and China has waxed and waned over the years, but it has felt more like a roller coaster ride under President Donald Trump. China-bashing was a centerpiece of his election campaign, yet once in office, Trump hailed his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, saying they had “great chemistry.” More than two years later, after Trump had launched his damaging trade war with China and with no deal to resolve it in sight, Trump called Xi an enemy and “ordered” American firms to leave China. By January of […]

Outside view of a U.S. passport service center in New York City, April 21, 2020 (photo by Anthony Behar for Sipa USA via AP Images).

Late on the night of April 20, President Donald Trump abruptly announced on Twitter that he would “temporarily suspend immigration to the United States” as the toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to rise. Trump cast the decision as a response to COVID-19 and its economic devastation—“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” as he tweeted. The move, which caught his own administration off guard, elicited fevered commentary over his legal authority to do so, and its potential economic costs. After an outcry from […]

Austrian soldiers wearing protective masks at a military ceremony in Vienna, April 27, 2020 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

“We are at war,” French President Emmanuel Macron stressed while announcing a nationwide lockdown last month. He was not alone in his choice of rhetoric, as leaders around the world have invoked battlefield metaphors to galvanize national responses to the coronavirus pandemic. The drama of the analogy certainly makes it a convenient political instrument to justify radical state-led interventions. Yet it also blurs the differences between the current public health crisis and an actual war. During an armed conflict, militaries face human opponents with wills of their own, but there is no such enemy during this pandemic—only an unfeeling virus. […]

A protester waves the Israeli national flag during a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tel Aviv, Israel, April 19, 2020 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Elliot Waldman and Prachi Vidwans talk about the deal struck between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nemesis over the past year, the Blue and White party’s Benny Gantz, to form an emergency government. Gantz justified his decision to break his repeated promises to never form a government with Netanyahu by the need for national unity to tackle the country’s coronavirus outbreak. Judah, Elliot and Prachi also discuss the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on recent elections in South Korea and the U.S., as well as its broader implications for […]

Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, center, arrives for the opening session of the 33rd African Union Summit, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Ghana this week became the first African nation to begin rolling back some of the restrictions it had put in place to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, as President Nana Akufo-Addo voiced concern about the economic toll of extending the lockdown further. As several African leaders prepare to follow suit, they will be watching closely to see if Akufo-Addo’s gamble pays off. Ghana only confirmed its first two COVID-19 infections in mid-March, but the number of cases rose quickly, spurring […]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends the ASEAN Plus Three virtual summit at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, April 14, 2020 (Blue House photo via AP Images).

Just six months ago, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was stuck in a downward spiral. His scandal-plagued justice minister had resigned after only five weeks on the job, prompting Moon to issue a public apology. The economy was sputtering, relations with neighboring Japan were at rock bottom, and Moon’s signature policy of détente with North Korea was going nowhere. In October, his approval ratings sank to a historically low 39 percent. It took nothing less than an unprecedented public health crisis to reverse Moon’s fortunes. Widespread approval of his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic led South Korean voters to […]

Soldiers stand guard after the start of a curfew to slow the spread of the coronavirus, in Lima, Peru, April 22, 2020 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

LIMA, Peru—Even before his quick, decisive response to the novel coronavirus, the irony of Martin Vizcarra’s accidental yet popular stint as president of Peru was not lost on many of his constituents. When voters here are asked to explain their reformist leader’s apparent honesty and effectiveness, they often respond cynically, “We didn’t vote for him.” They have a point. All five of Peru’s elected presidents between 1985 and 2018, when Vizcarra stepped up from the vice presidency to replace the scandal-plagued Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, have been linked by prosecutors to corruption. One, Alberto Fujimori, is serving a 25-year jail sentence. […]

Asylum-seekers wearing masks attend a mandatory immigration court hearing in El Paso, Texas, March 16, 2020 (AP photo by Cedar Attanasio).

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has complained that on immigration, the United States has “the worst laws of any country in the world,” which constrain his anti-immigrant agenda at the border with Mexico. He hasn’t been able to convince Congress to change those laws, or even to pay for a wall along the southern border, even after instigating the longest government shutdown in history just to pressure Congress. Trump’s administration has instead sought to chip away at immigration statutes and bend them almost to their breaking point, in order to make it harder for all immigrants, but primarily asylum-seekers, to […]

Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, speaks during a news conference in Hong Kong, April 22, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Before the coronavirus struck China, the people of Hong Kong had launched a massive push to protect the territory’s partial independence from Beijing. Giant protests had filled Hong Kong’s streets for months last year, as pro-democracy activists inspired millions of residents to join in the demonstrations. But suddenly, everything changed. The outbreak started in Wuhan, then China shut down and the world followed suit. The coronavirus crisis seemed to do for the Chinese regime what months of threats and intimidation had failed to: halt the protests in Hong Kong. Now, with the rest of the world distracted and China reopening […]

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at a White House press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, Washington, April 20, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

As a teenager, I watched in confusion as my father, a successful chest surgeon who specialized in infant care, went back to school to gain an advanced degree in public health. This required easing himself out of a job that had always impressed me with its heroics, often literally saving a life or two each week. When my father patiently explained the rationale, I gradually came to not only accept it but admire it, for its logic and even nobility. No matter how hard he worked, in the operating room he could only help a few people each week. But […]

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, center, discusses the novel coronavirus at a news conferences at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, March 9, 2020 (Keystone photo by Salvatore Di Nolfi via AP Images).

President Donald Trump justified his recent announcement that the U.S. would halt further payments to the World Health Organization by claiming that “the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion” about the coronavirus pandemic. This charge has been widely rebutted by global health experts and practitioners. WHO representatives, journalists and academics have all demonstrated that the organization was doing what it could through diplomatic channels with Beijing to get updated information about the novel coronavirus that first emerged in central China and has since spread around the world. Contrary to Trump’s accusations, […]

A security guard stands next to shuttered shops in Beijing, China, April 15, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

As the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to mount, so does the economic wreckage. Millions more people are joining the already swollen ranks of the unemployed this week, and oil prices continued their historic rout. China’s GDP contracted for the first time in nearly half a century during the first three months of this year, and the International Monetary Fund predicts that the global economy will shrink by around 3 percent in 2020. Of course, governments and central banks around the world are doing whatever they can to contain the fallout. But will it be enough? For […]

Former pro-democracy lawmaker Martin Lee, second right, leaves a police station in Hong Kong, April 18, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Hong Kong police arrested 15 prominent pro-democracy activists on charges of illegal assembly last weekend, the biggest crackdown on the territory’s protest movement since anti-government demonstrations erupted last year. Among the detained was 81-year-old Martin Lee, a major architect of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement who helped found the Democratic Party, the third-largest party in the Legislative Council. Lee is often called the “Father of Democracy” in Hong Kong and helped draft the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Enacted in […]

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