Coronavirus Politics Daily: Bolivia's endless "interim," Philippines' war on the media, EU asserts itself in the Balkans

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Bolivia's endless "interim," Philippines' war on the media, EU asserts itself in the Balkans

Bolivia's endless "interim:" Coronavirus makes it hard to hold elections these days, and that seems to suit Bolivia's interim president Jeanine Áñez just fine. Áñez, an outspoken conservative, took power last fall after the Andean country's long-serving leftist president Evo Morales was ousted amid protests over election fraud. At the time, Áñez was expected to stick around for a few weeks to organize a new, fair election and then stand aside. But she quickly took bold steps to undo Morales' legacy and then, despite initially claiming no interest in the presidency, launched her own candidacy. The election was supposed to have been held last weekend, but was cancelled over public health concerns. Now parliament, still controlled by Morales' party, has voted to hold the ballot within 90 days. But Áñez, who is polling behind Morales' preferred candidate despite her well-regarded response to the coronavirus pandemic, says that's too soon to do it safely. That sets up a bitter fight in an already deeply polarized country, and it doesn't help that low oil prices are throttling Bolivia's gas-exporting economy. Until the elections issue is resolved, expect things to get ugly in the "interim."


Duterte's government gags the media: In an unprecedented move, the Philippines government ordered the nation's largest broadcast network, ABS-CBN, to shutter its operations Tuesday, leaving blank the screens of millions of Filipinos seeking news about the coronavirus pandemic. President Rodrigo Duterte, a rough-spoken populist who often targets the press, said the order to close down radio and television operations came from an independent commission. But critics, including some who are aligned politically with the president, say it's an attempt to muzzle any criticism of his response to the coronavirus crisis. Reporters have already documented inadequate protection for healthcare workers and poor social support amid lockdowns which has led to widespread hunger. During Duterte's tenure, the Philippines has become one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, ranking 136th in this year's World Press Freedom Index.

EU counters China and Russia in the Balkans: During a videoconference with six Balkan countries – Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, and North Macedonia – the EU delivered a clear message: stop falling for overtures from China and Russia. As protective equipment has been in short supply around the world in recent months, Beijing and Moscow have both enthusiastically sent gear to many countries, drawing praise particularly from Eastern European countries that have complained of insufficient support from Brussels. But during the videoconference, representatives from all 27 EU states pushed back on this narrative, reiterating that the 3.3 billion euros recently doled out to states from the West Balkans by the bloc far outweighs anything Moscow or Beijing have sent through. But beneath the great power geopolitics, are the Balkan states playing a shrewd game of their own? They want to join the EU, and they may wager that showering praise on Russia and China will spook Brussels into speeding those talks. Whether that approach will work during a pandemic and global depression is less clear.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

Europe has been hit by a green wave in recent years. Green parties in countries as varied as Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have made sizable electoral gains, with some now sitting in national governments.

The Green phenomenon seems to be gaining yet more momentum in the lead up to some crucial European elections (Germany, France) in the months ahead. What explains the green shift, and where might this trend be headed?

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More than 930 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have already been administered globally, and another 1 billion more are expected to be manufactured by the end of May. Most of the manufacturing is concentrated in a small group of countries. While some — like China, for instance — are exporting roughly half of the shots they make, others — mainly the US — are keeping most of the supply for domestic use. Meanwhile, export controls have been a particularly thorny issue in the European Union and India, where governments have come under intense pressure to stop sending vaccines to other parts of the world amid sluggish rollouts at home. We take a look at what the world's top manufacturers are doing with the vaccines they are producing.

Ian Bremmer explains how a fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, in the summer of 1969, set the conservation movement ablaze in the United States. A TIME Magazine article about the fire led to the Clean Water Act, creation of the EPA, and the first Earth Day—April 22, 1970. Over 50 years later, citizens of the world agree that climate change is a global emergency. But how can nations come together to find solutions that are truly attainable?

Watch the GZERO World episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

US President Joe Biden's highly anticipated two-day climate summit opens on Thursday, when dozens of world leaders and bigshot CEOs will gather (virtually) to try to save the planet. Above all, the US is looking to showcase the idea that "America is back" on climate change. But will other countries buy it?

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55: EU governments on Wednesday reached a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels by the end of the decade. The commitment is in line with the bloc's broader goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050.

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