EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 21/10/2019

The New York Times – Mike Ives & Gerry Mullany / Chile unrest spreads, with 8 deaths reported in violence

  • Violence continued to rock Chile, resulting in at least eight deaths. Stores and other establishments were set alight despite the imposition of a state of emergency in at least six cities. The demonstrations started over a subway fare increase two weeks ago, which President Sebastián Piñera canceled on Saturday night. However, his move failed to suppress the wave of demonstrations that continued to shake the country into Sunday, and calls were circulating for a national strike.
  • Three people were killed in fires at supermarkets that were looted on Sunday, and another five people were found dead in a warehouse that had been burned. Soldiers in camouflage were seen patrolling Santiago de Chile, the capital, as riot police clashed with the demonstrators, set fire to buses and vandalized subway stops.
  • The unrest was some of the worst to hit the country in decades, and the sight of military tanks on the streets was jarring for Chileans who are still reeling from a former 17-year military dictatorship, during which the armed forces committed widespread abuses. The actions are the first time since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990 that the government has declared a state of emergency because of public disorder in the capital.
  • Reuters – Samia Nakhoul & Laila Bassam / Lebanon’s Hariri agrees to reforms amid nationwide protests over economic crisis
  • The Washington Post – Shibani Mahtani, Ryan Kilpatrick Ho & Timothy McLaughlin / Police blast mosque with water cannon as hundreds of thousands protest in Hong Kong

The Guardian – Linda Farthing / Bolivia elections: President Evo Morales may have to face second round

  • Bolivian president Evo Morales was ahead in the first round of the state’s presidential election, but he appeared to have failed to get sufficient votes to avoid a runoff in the tightest race of his political life. A preliminary count of 84% of the votes showed Morales, who leads the Movement towards Socialism (MAS) party, was ahead with 45.3%, compared to 38.2% for his closest rival, former president, Carlos Mesa. If the results hold, the two men will face off and President Morales could be vulnerable to a united opposition in the first runoff in his nearly 14 years in power. If a second round is needed, it will take place on 15 December.
  • It is almost certain that Morales will lose the two thirds majority in Bolivia’s Congress that he has held since 2009. This will make fulfilling a legislative agenda far more difficult even if he does win the runoff. “What is different from the elections in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, is that there is a movement towards the centre by all the candidates,” states political scientist Fernando Mayorga. “Why? Because they all fundamentally agree with the principal economic and social accomplishments of the MAS government.”
  • President Morales came to prominence leading social protests in the landlocked country of 11 million people and rose to power as Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2006. The leftist politician is the longest-serving of South America.
  • Reuters – Marina Depetris & Cecile Mantovani / Greens surge in Swiss election as climate change worries come to the fore

The New York Times – David E. Sanger & William J. Broad / Erdogan’s ambitions go beyond Syria. He says he wants nuclear weapons

  • In the weeks leading up to his order to launch the military across the Syrian border to clear Kurdish areas, President Erdogan made no secret of his larger ambition. “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads,” he stated in a meeting of his governing party last September. Nonetheless, the West insists “we can’t have them,” he said. “This, I cannot accept.” Turkey is now in open confrontation with its NATO allies, having gambled and won a bet that it could conduct a military incursion into Syria. If the United States could not prevent the Turkish leader from routing its Kurdish allies, how can it stop him from building a nuclear weapon or following Iran in gathering the technology to do so?
  • Any public move to reach for one would provoke a new crisis: His country would become the first NATO member to break out of the treaty and independently arm itself with the ultimate weapon. Experts said it would take a number of years for Turkey to get to a weapon, unless President Erdogan bought one. And the risk for Mr. Erdogan would be considerable.
  • Turkey has been a base for American nuclear weapons for more than six decades. Initially, they were intended to deter the Soviet Union, and were famously a negotiating chip in defusing the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when President John F. Kennedy secretly agreed to remove missiles from Turkey in return for Moscow doing the same in Cuba. However, tactical weapons have remained. Over the years, American officials have often expressed nervousness about the weapons, which have little to no strategic use versus Russia now, but have been part of a NATO strategy to keep regional players in check, and keep Turkey from feeling the need for a bomb of its own as well.
  • Al-Monitor – Jack Detsch / ‘Majority’ of US troops depart Syria

Financial Times – Helen Warrell & Henry Foy / Russian cyberattack unit ‘masqueraded’ as Iranian hackers, UK says

  • A Russian cyber espionage unit has hacked Iranian hackers to lead attacks in more than 35 countries, a joint UK and US investigation has exposed. The Turla group, which has been linked with Russian intelligence, allegedly hijacked the tools of Oilrig, a group widely linked to the Iranian government. The Iranian group is most likely unaware that its hacking methods have been hacked and positioned by another cyber espionage team, security officials involved in the investigation defended.
  • Paul Chichester, director of operations of the UK National Cyber Security Centre, said Turla’s activity represented “a real change in the modus operandi of cyber actors” which he said “added to the sense of confusion” over which state-backed cyber groups had been responsible for successful attacks.
  • The Kremlin did not respond to a request for comment from the Financial Times. Russia’s government has consistently denied it is behind hacking attempts on other states. Moreover, President Putin described the allegations that Moscow had orchestrated attempts to influence the 2016 US elections as “mythical”. “We have never seen this done to the level of sophistication that we are seeing here,” Mr Chichester said. “It’s unique in the complexity and scale and sophistication. It’s actually really hard masquerading [as another entity].”

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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