Rusting mine machinery at the Panguna mine, central Bougainville, Oct. 2019 (Photo by Catherine Wilson).

ARAWA, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea—In late October, under overcast skies, a reggae band played to a crowd of several hundred people of all ages at an outdoor stage in Arawa, an old mining town framed by rainforest-covered mountains in the center of Bougainville Island. The crowd gradually grew as people, laden with bags of fresh produce, walked over from the large fruit and vegetable market situated directly opposite. The scene could have been confused for a music festival, but the band was only a warm-up act for the day’s main event: a political rally in favor of independence for Bougainville, […]

A student throws a tear gas canister back at police during clashes at the National University in Bogota, Colombia, Nov. 26, 2019 (AP photo by Ivan Valencia).

Making sense of the world these days can be daunting. Across a swath of wildly disparate countries in the Middle East and South America, popular protests have shaken the foundations of both democratic governments and dictatorships alike. Western democracies haven’t been immune to these systemic shocks, ranging from resurgent—and in some cases triumphant—populist movements to repeatedly inconclusive elections and precarious governing coalitions. All this upheaval has called into question the tenets of the liberal international order that have guided global elites and policymakers over the past three decades. At first glance, it would seem we have entered a new historical […]

Smoke rises during a protest after authorities raised gasoline prices, in the central city of Isfahan, Iran, Nov. 16, 2019 (AP photo).

At midnight on Nov. 15, Iran’s government announced a precipitous 300 percent hike in fuel prices. Immediate public outcries quickly escalated into nationwide protests that spread to more than 100 cities and gripped the country for 6 straight days, before the authorities effectively crushed them. Since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in August 2018 and reimposed unilateral sanctions, the Iranian economy has been charting difficult waters. President Hassan Rouhani admitted as much recently when he exhorted lawmakers to reduce fuel subsidies in the face of plummeting oil revenues, saying that “Iran is experiencing […]

Moldovan members of parliament vote for a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Maia Sandu’s government, Chisinau, Moldova, Nov. 12, 2019 (AP photo by Roveliu Buga).

In mid-November, a vote of no confidence ousted the government of Moldovan Prime Minister Maia Sandu, who was subsequently replaced by Ion Chicu with the support of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova, or PSRM. Until her ouster, Sandu’s ACUM bloc had governed in coalition with the Socialists, but their alliance had been a fragile one and its demise surprised few observers. In an email interview, Cristina Gherasimov—a research fellow at the Robert Bosch Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia at the German Council on Foreign Relations, and an academy associate in the […]

Anti-government protesters walk past a burning barricade set on fire during clashes with police in Santiago, Chile, Oct. 29, 2019 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

In the fall of 1989, the British economist John Williamson prepared a background paper for an upcoming conference at the Peterson Institute of International Economics in Washington, the aim of which was to examine recent shifts in economic policies and attitudes in Latin America. By his own account, his aim with the paper was to identify a list of 10 policies “about whose proper deployment Washington can muster a reasonable degree of consensus.” Little did he know at the time that his so-called Washington Consensus would come to take on a life of its own. Thirty years later, it remains […]

Pro-democracy supporters celebrate after pro-Beijing politician Junius Ho lost his election in Hong Kong, Nov. 25, 2019 (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. Voters in Hong Kong came out in droves Sunday to hand pro-democracy candidates a resounding victory in local elections and deal the pro-Beijing camp a staggering defeat. Amid escalating protests and unrest, hopes were higher this year for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement in the district council elections—a vote that the pro-Beijing establishment has dominated in recent years. But this landslide victory still caught Beijing off guard. With more than 70 percent voter turnout, 3 million Hong Kongers cast ballots […]

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes a question from a reporter during his daily morning press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Nov. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

MEXICO CITY—Some welcomed the return of the left to the height of political power in Mexico nearly a year ago as a promising new chapter in the country’s history. Yet 12 months into Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s presidency, drug violence and attacks on freedom of speech have spiraled and the economy has stagnated, adding to the sense that Mexico is floundering. While all these challenges existed before AMLO—as he is better known in Mexico—took office, the bigger concern now is the way his government is seeking to address them. There is no mistaking that this is a new era for […]

President Hassan Rouhani at a ceremony to inaugurate the Azadi Innovation Factory, where he announced that Iran will begin injecting uranium gas into 1,044 centrifuges, Pardis, Iran, Nov. 5, 2019 (Office of the Iranian Presidency photo via AP).

When President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal last year and reimposed economic sanctions on Tehran, he justified it on the basis that the agreement did not go far enough to keep Iran from permanently acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet rather than give in to Trump’s pressure, Iran is responding by restarting nuclear activities that the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, had successfully frozen. Trump and others in his administration haven’t just focused on Iran’s nuclear program, though, pointing to other issues of concern with Tehran, including its missile tests, support […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrive at a press conference, Berlin, Nov. 7, 2019 (dpa photo by Bernd von Jutrczenka via AP Images).

When NATO leaders meet next week in London, one phrase will be on everybody’s lips: European strategic autonomy. While the ambiguous concept is open to competing interpretations, its general thrust is clear. It connotes a growing aspiration among many countries in Europe to set their own global priorities and act independently in security and foreign policy, and to possess sufficient material and institutional capabilities to implement these decisions, with partners of their own choosing. The notion is at the heart of President Emmanuel Macron’s vision of a “sovereign” Europe, and of the ambitions of the incoming president of the European […]

Demonstrators march during a global protest on climate change in Mexico City, Sept. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador entered office nearly a year ago promising “profound and radical” change to just about everything in Mexico. One of his main targets was the country’s energy sector, which had been overhauled and opened up to private investment for the first time in many decades by his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, in a sweeping 2013 reform. So far AMLO, as Lopez Obrador is widely known in Mexico, has not reversed that energy market liberalization, which he strongly opposed. But he has sought to chip away at it. Those efforts could have dire implications for the expansion […]

Workers peel shrimps at factory of Thai Union, a major seafood supplier, in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, Aug. 23, 2016 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

In late October, the Trump administration announced the suspension of more than $1 billion in trade preferences for Thailand’s fishing industry due to rampant violations of human rights, particularly among migrant laborers who work in the sector. Thailand is one of the world’s largest seafood exporters, but its fishing industry has long been dogged by reports of slave labor, trafficking and other human rights abuses. While Thailand has made some progress in addressing these issues, it still has not implemented necessary reforms, says Steve Trent, founder and executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation, a British watchdog organization. In an […]

A poster of President Bashar al-Assad, which reads in Arabic, “we have lived and we live so that Syria can live in the heart of Bashar Assad,” hangs on the ruins of a house in Ghouta, Syria, July 15, 2018 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

“Is that a warplane over us?” a doctor asks. “Yes, it is,” says another, as an airstrike rumbles overhead. “Don’t look so frightened. It will be alright.” “Don’t worry dear,” a different doctor tells one of his patients. “We don’t have anesthesia, but we have music.” They are in a town outside Damascus in the midst of a five-year military siege. Their makeshift hospital is underground, in a series of tunnels and basement shelters below the devastated streets of eastern Ghouta, pummeled by the Syrian army, including with chemical weapons, and by Russian bombers. These scenes are captured in “The […]

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney, March 18, 2018 (pool photo by Mark Metcalfe of Getty via AP Images).

One of the enduring mysteries in recent years is what happened to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi. Somehow, some way, the woman known as “the Lady of Burma”—who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 after she spent 15 years under house arrest in Myanmar for her democratic activism—seems to have lost her soul. Her drive to the top of Myanmar’s political hierarchy and quest to burnish her political legacy have been relentless, but also devastating for all those who once hailed her commitment to democracy and nonviolence. Since she became the de facto civilian head of Myanmar’s government following […]

Smoke rises during a protest after authorities raised gasoline prices, in the central city of Isfahan, Iran, Nov. 16, 2019 (AP photo).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Frederick Deknatel talk about the widespread popular protests in Iran, and what the regime’s violent crackdown on demonstrators reveals. They also discuss U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s visit to South Korea, where he pressed Seoul to massively increase its share of covering the costs of U.S. troops based in the country, and what the visit says about U.S. policy in Asia. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising […]

Police surround supporters of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa who had gathered to hear him speak in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is stifling any form of public protest against his government as Zimbabwe’s economy keeps sinking. Police violently disrupted an opposition party gathering in Harare on Wednesday, firing tear gas and beating people with batons, and more repression looks likely. Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa warned his followers, “Our country is burning.” The latest crackdown comes after the government fired more than 200 doctors for participating in a months-long strike over low pay and poor working conditions. Earlier this month, police […]

A street in La Paz, Bolivia, on Nov. 14, 2019 (dpa photo by Gaston Brito for AP Images.)

When Bolivia’s Evo Morales resigned the presidency under pressure from the military and left the country amid widespread protests on Nov. 12, taking political asylum in Mexico, it sent shockwaves across Latin America. Morales’ fall comes at a time of ferment in the region—and what looks increasingly like a hinge moment in Latin American history. Whether Morales was the victim of a coup or the perpetrator of an assault against democracy, rightfully deposed, remains the subject of heated debate. That continuing controversy is part of the push-and-pull of the tensions roiling Latin America, where the political tide appears to be […]

A transgender Ugandan poses in front of a rainbow flag during the third annual LGBT Pride celebrations in Entebbe, Uganda, Aug. 9, 2014 (AP photo by Rebecca Vassie).

KAMPALA, Uganda—Revelers at Ram Bar, a gay-friendly establishment in Kampala, were dancing and drinking beer late on a Sunday night, when the police arrived. Shouting, officers rounded up the confused crowd and took 120 people into custody. Sixty-seven of them were soon charged with “creating a common nuisance”; according to Patricia Kimera, a lawyer for the group, they could face up to a year in prison if convicted. Activists describe the arrests and subsequent charges as a direct attack on members of Uganda’s already marginalized gay community. “This is intimidation,” Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a […]

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