Colombia's humanitarian gesture for Venezuelan refugees merits US support

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

Number one, why did Colombia's president grant legal status to 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants?

Well, because they have them, first of all. Because given the extraordinary economic collapse and the human rights abuses of Venezuelans under the Maduro presidency, not to mention the coronavirus crisis making their lives even worse, they've been fleeing, and most of them have ended up in Colombia. Not providing legal status means they can't work, means they have no path for a future. Some of them have even fled back to Venezuela or returned to Venezuela, and again just shows just how critically difficult their life has been. It's a humanitarian gesture of pretty staggering degree. It makes an enormous difference in the lives of these people. Think about how the United States under Biden now preparing to accept 125,000 refugees per year, up 10 times from what it was just a year ago, the world's most powerful country. The wealthy countries never get overwhelmed with refugees the way the poorest countries do. It's states in Sub-Saharan Africa and it's South and Southeast Asia and it's Latin America, and in the Western hemisphere, it's been Colombia.


Venezuela has been the biggest humanitarian crisis and catastrophe and the Colombian government has had to deal with millions of Venezuelan refugees and now they're taking responsibility. And the United States should be fully supportive and should provide humanitarian aid to help the Colombian government deal with this very significant lift, and also to try to reduce the level of anti-Venezuelan sentiment. Because, of course, when you have that many refugees, they're not doing very well. There's going to be domestic criticism, that it's an eyesore, that they're criminals, that they're bringing, they're spreading disease. And the more capable the Colombian government is to actually economically integrate these people and to get them into positions where they can take care of themselves. They can provide for themselves, their family, the better it'll for everybody. So quite some good news in an environment that desperately needs it.

Okay, number two. What are the political ramifications of Netanyahu's corruption trial?

Here, we're talking about a sitting prime minister in Israel who has been indicted for corruption charges and is now facing a trial. And just yesterday, he sat in the docks and left after about half hour and he says, "It's a witch hunt." He says, "The judicial system is rigged." It's actually very analogous to the way that former President Donald Trump has treated his own two now impeachment cases in the United States. Some would say that the Israeli legal system works well because even a sitting prime minister can be forced to stand trial. Lots of other people think that the level of Netanyahu refusing to take seriously the claims and the cases undermining it in public and social media, the fact that most of Netanyahu's supporters agree that it's rigged, just as kind of most of Trump's supporters believe that the last election was stolen, it's actually undermining rule of law in the one government across the Middle East that has been the strongest consolidated democracy in terms of legitimacy of political institutions and unrest. And yes, I know we're not talking about the Palestinians in the occupied territory, but we are talking about everybody, including Palestinians and Arabs and the rest that are living inside Israel proper under Israeli law. And what's happening right now in Israel, I think is creating more polarization and is starting to delegitimize the institutions in that country. Netanyahu's trying to get another delay in the case and the calling witnesses until after elections at the end of March. Of course, elections are happening now in Israel every few months. So, extend and pretend, that's what Netanyahu's strategy is and he has proven to be quite a survivor on the Israeli political stage.

Finally, what is going on with Elon Musk and Bitcoin?

Well, damned if I know, because Elon Musk, in addition to being the most wealthy person in the world, also has a fairly insane social media feed and frequently writes about and tweets about anything imaginable on his mind, which given how many followers he has and given how much money he has puts him in a position of pretty extraordinary power. Now, look, I personally think that when the world's wealthiest man decided to tweet out in favor of GameStop with his tens of millions of followers, a stock that had virtually no underlying value, and therefore individually did more to pump up that stock and as a consequence put enormous numbers of rank-and-file retail investors at risk because they believe Elon. I think that's irresponsible. It's not illegal. There's nothing illegal about it, but it's incredibly irresponsible. I tell you, it bothers me that the wealthiest man in the world, and therefore one of the most powerful men in the world, has so limited regard for civil society, has so limited regard for the wellbeing of his fellow citizens, both in the United States and globally. And we can say he's doing fantastic things as an entrepreneur. And by the way, I do think that Elon Musk as an entrepreneur, as a technologist has been staggeringly successful, and I am thankful for that. In terms of not just electric vehicles, but also his willingness to invest in space and his willingness to set up prizes to get better development and advanced technologies and the Hyperloop and all of these things. Some of which will work, many of which will not, but we need people taking risks like that.

But that is very different than his public presence on issues of policy, on issues that affect the average human being, where I think he has been one of the most irresponsible forces in the country and that deeply bothers me and it's why the fact that he's putting an enormous amount of money into Bitcoin, his company has, Tesla, where he's a 20% owner and he is also putting Bitcoin symbol in his bio on social media. Oh, see this is what's going on, Dogecoin, everyone should invest in Dogecoin going to the moon. It doesn't mean anything. It's completely speculative. It moves a lot of money. And maybe it's just a game to him and maybe it's just a game to Dave Portnoy over at Barstool Sports. But these people are hurting people and they're hurting people just as much as the folks that are promoting fake news on the left and on the right in the mainstream media and the trolls on social media. And I think that with that kind of money and that kind of influence, you should take some responsibility. There's a reason why I personally don't buy stocks and currencies, and frankly it's because as someone who is a public figure with nowhere close to the level of reach and influence that someone like Elon has, I don't want the conflicts of interest. I want people to view my perspective as having authenticity and I think that there's some responsibility behind that and you can't be, if you're talking your book or if people think that you're talking your book, it undermines it.

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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The Biden administration is finally devoting more attention to Southeast Asia. Last week US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, marking the first regional visit by a Biden cabinet official. A trip by Vice President Kamala Harris is already in the works as well, and this week Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet (virtually) with ASEAN counterparts.

The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

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158: To boost vaccination rates, New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test to enter gyms and restaurants, as daily new infections in the Big Apple have jumped 158 percent over the past two weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. New York is the first major US city to take this step, following similar schemes already in place in France and Italy.

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