Cuban President Raul Castro and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at a joint press conference, Merida, Mexico, Nov. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

With his state visit to Mexico earlier this month, Raul Castro took a major step forward in rebuilding Cuba’s relations with the country in Latin America that is most important to the United States. For Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the summit marked the culmination of his efforts to repair relations with Cuba after a decade of antagonism precipitated by Mexico’s conservative governments led by the National Action Party, or PAN, beginning with the presidency of Vicente Fox from 2000 to 2006. Historically, Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, had maintained friendly relations with Cuba’s revolutionary government after 1959. […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande arrive at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, Le Bourget, France, Nov. 30, 2015 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

In the wake of this month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande has cast himself as a fierce war leader, promising to take revenge on the self-declared Islamic State for the atrocities. Yet while he has ratcheted up airstrikes in Syria, he also needs to strike some major diplomatic bargains to shore up France’s global position. Last week, the French president was in both Washington and Moscow trying to secure a global deal on the Syrian war. Now he is back in Paris to kick off final talks on a potentially even trickier international agreement over climate change. […]

A view of a courtroom inside Rome's tribunal during the first hearing of a corruption trial involving politicians and businessmen, Nov. 5, 2015 (AP photo Alessandro Di Meo).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of corruption and various countries’ efforts to combat it. The trial for 46 people accused of running a Mafia crime ring in Rome that had infiltrated city hall began earlier this month. In an email interview, Daniel Gros, the director of the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels, discussed Italy’s fight against corruption. WPR: How big a problem is corruption in Italy, and in what areas—including which levels of government—is its impact most felt? Daniel Gros: Outright corruption is mainly a problem at the subnational […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Nov. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could not have anticipated how quickly his threats to end cooperation with Israel would be tested after he declared the Oslo Accords dead in a defiant address at the United Nations in September. With violence spiking in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, the aging Palestinian leader is seeking to constrain attacks against Israel without losing more of his legitimacy among an increasingly angry Palestinian populace. The upsurge in violence and reprisal attacks, with the latest this past Sunday, have left the Palestinian Authority (PA) with a dilemma: how to fulfill its commitments to maintain security […]

Belgian soldiers patrol in the center of Brussels, Nov. 20, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Only hours after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, several politicians in France and elsewhere in Europe, as well as numerous commentators, placed blame on the European Union and its open-border Schengen zone, with some even calling for a breakup of the union or their own country’s withdrawal from it. However, to contain and mitigate terrorism most effectively, France and other European countries need more bilateral and multilateral cooperation, not less, from intelligence sharing to cracking down on arms smuggling. Shortly after the Paris attacks, the head of France’s right-wing National Front party, Marine Le Pen, expressed her “concern” about […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace, Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Kayhan Ozer).

Editor’s note: Judah Grunstein is filling in for Michael A. Cohen, who is on vacation this week. The downing of a Russian bomber over the Turkish-Syrian border by Turkish fighter jets yesterday offered yet another illustration of the extraordinary complexities of the Syrian conflict and the actors involved there. Coming on the heels of the Paris attacks, and what subsequently seemed like diplomatic progress toward the framework of a broad coalition to fight against the self-declared Islamic State, the incident also highlights the degree to which the war in Syria, like all war, is characterized by the unplanned, the unexpected […]

Flowers are put in a window shattered by a bullet in the Nov. 13 attacks, Paris, France, Nov. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Peter Dejong).

As observers around the world watched chaos unfold in Paris on Nov. 13, many were struck by the attackers’ use of Kalashnikov assault rifles in the bloodbath. How, given France’s strict gun laws, did the attackers manage to procure military-grade weapons so easily? Where are these heavy weapons coming from? Those same questions were asked in January, when gunmen armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher killed 12 at the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and another armed with a submachine gun and an assault rifle killed four at a kosher supermarket. In 2012, Mohamed Merah […]

An FBI special agent with the cybercrime squad displays the Darkcode website, Pittsburgh, PA, July 15, 2015 (AP photo by Gene J. Puskar).

On July 5, 2015, the Italy-based company Hacking Team, which sells technologies designed to access computer networks and collect data, was hacked. The intruders not only changed the firm’s Twitter account to “Hacked Team” but exposed some 400 gigabytes of proprietary data to the public. Subsequent media analysis shed light on Hacking Team’s client relationships with security agencies in over 20 countries, including some with dubious human rights records such as Sudan and Uzbekistan. Yet, governments do not exclusively use technologies sold by Hacking Team and similar companies within their own borders. A federal court in Washington is currently weighing […]

A woman celebrates in Freetown as Sierra Leone is declared Ebola-free, Nov. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Aurelie Marrier d'Unienvil).

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it seems, is nearly over. On Nov. 6, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Sierra Leone had gone 42 days without any new cases of Ebola and officially declared the country Ebola-free. Two months earlier, on Sept. 3, the WHO made a similar declaration for Liberia—though the disease reappeared there on Nov. 20. Guinea has gone more than two weeks without any new cases, raising hopes that it, too, will soon cross the 42-day threshold to being free of Ebola. When this current Ebola epidemic ends, it will have the dubious distinction of […]

U.S. Admiral Bill Gortney and Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan during a panel at the Halifax International Security Forum, Nov. 20, 2015 (U.S. Embassy in Canada photo).

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia—The seventh annual Halifax International Security Forum, a mostly right-of-center gathering of mostly democratic states, covered the full suite of security problems confronting the world today. And whether talking about the self-proclaimed Islamic State and the nightmare of terrorism in Western capitals or the long-term challenges of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive revanchism and China’s increasingly assertive posture in Asia, anxieties were high. Across the spectrum, there was a yearning for more robust American leadership. The Halifax Forum was created in 2009 with support from Canada’s then-Conservative government as a vehicle to ensure a high-level dialogue with Washington. […]

Then-Moldovan Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet speaks at the U.N. General Assembly, New York, Sept. 30, 2015 (U.N. photo by Amanda Voisard).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of corruption and various countries’ efforts to combat it. Last month, the Moldovan Parliament voted to dismiss the government of Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet. The move came weeks after former Prime Minister Vlad Filat, who was also a former leader of the ruling coalition member Liberal Democratic Party, was arrested as part of an investigation into $1 billion that went missing from the country’s banking system.* In an email interview, Balázs Jarábik, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, discussed Moldova’s fight against […]

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Jude Celestin, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Nov. 11, 2015 (AP photo by Dieu Nalio Chery).

The outcome of the first round of Haiti’s presidential elections, which were held Oct. 25, is still uncertain. According to the Provisional Electoral Council, known by its French acronym CEP, Jovenel Moise of President Michel Martelly’s Haitian Tet Kale Party (PHTK) and Jude Celestin of the opposition League for Progress and Haitian Emancipation (LAPEH) were the top two vote-getters, with 33 and 28 percent of the vote, respectively. They should, therefore, face each other in a runoff. But heated disputes about the accuracy of the CEP’s preliminary results have gotten in the way, endangering the second round, currently scheduled for […]

A World Food Programme aircraft drops bags of food supplies, Bentiu, South Sudan, Oct. 21. 2015 (U.N. photo by Isaac Billy).

Two competing narratives about the future of international conflict management are currently making the rounds at the United Nations. To simplify, one argues that military responses to security threats rarely work, and that instead we should invest more in diplomatic and economic approaches, as well as in conflict prevention, even if these only deliver results slowly. The other, roughly speaking, contends that terrorism is too pervasive now to waste time on diplomacy and development that would be better spent killing some bad guys. Nobody working in or around the U.N. would be quite so blunt in public. But last week, […]

A protester at a rally in support of migrants, Lausanne, Switzerland, Sept. 15, 2015 (photo by Flickr user degust licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the European refugee crisis and European Union member states’ approaches to addressing it. The Swiss government announced last week that there is not sufficient reason to implement border checks to prevent attacks by Islamic extremists, following the Paris attacks. In an email interview, Céline Bauloz, a senior fellow at the Graduate Institute, Geneva’s Global Migration Centre, discussed Switzerland’s refugee policy and response to the ongoing refugee crisis. WPR: How big an impact has recent immigration had on Switzerland, and how has the country been affected by the current […]

A U.S. Marine fighter jet aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, Sept. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

The conflict between the self-declared Islamic State and the civilized world has taken a chilling turn. While the extremists continue to fight both the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and the government of Iraq, they now have also demonstrated a deadly commitment to transnational terrorism. In the past several weeks, the Islamic State has claimed credit for bombings in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Lebanon as well as for downing a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai. It apparently orchestrated Friday’s complex terrorist attack in Paris, attempted ones in Belgium and Germany, and has threatened to unleash terrorism in the United […]

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at a joint news conference, Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 18, 2015 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

In his first visit to Turkey as prime minister, Greece’s Alexis Tsipras arrived in Ankara on Tuesday, with the refugee crisis topping the agenda. Both sides emphasized the need for cooperation on the crisis, as well as for improving relations more generally. Nevertheless, long-standing tensions between the neighbors were on display that evening during a soccer match between the Greek and Turkish national teams, attended by Tsipras and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, when Turkish fans booed the Greek national anthem and interrupted a moment of silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris. The historic animosity between […]

Opposition presidential candidate Mauricio Macri at a campaign rally in Humahuaca, Argentina, Nov. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

Argentina’s presidential vote this Sunday, Nov. 22, is one of its most consequential elections in recent history. After 12 years of Kirchnerismo, the next president will bring change to a country in need of an economic and political jolt. That much is certain. But how swiftly and how deeply will any transformations take place? That will depend on Sunday’s vote. In the days leading up to the first round of voting on Oct. 25, it seemed a fait accompli that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s electoral alliance, the Front for Victory, or FPV, was in the driver’s seat to hold […]

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