Thailand's monarchy, Nigeria protests, Bolivia's new president & COVID latest

Watch Ian Bremmer discuss the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

With Thailand's anti-government movement growing, is the monarchy in danger?

No, the monarchy is not in danger. The prime minister, Prayut, is in massive danger. These people want him out. That could lead to, yet another, military coup. By the way, markets don't tend to move because it happens a lot in Thailand all the time. This is a lot of demands for economic reform. A lot of demands for incompetence in the country. The economy has been hit massively. Thailand is massively dependent on tourism and something that is certainly not happening with coronavirus going on. It's extraordinary. There has been a fair amount of anti-monarchy sentiment and willingness to go after them in the demonstrations, which is illegal to do in Thailand, but there's still a lot of support. The royalist at military coordination is very high. That's not going to change the resources they have that they're able to spread around the country for patronage is massive. It is nowhere near the popularity that the former very long-lasting king had, but the monarchy in Thailand, no, is not in danger.


What is happening in Nigeria?

Well, massive protests in Nigeria, too. Big, big security breakdowns, both in the capital, Abuja, as well as across Nigeria's southwest. I was there, actually, a year ago and loved my trip. But there's no question, there were more military checkpoints than I'd ever been through in my life, including some that were a little dodgy. This time around, it is large amounts of popular protest against police brutality, and security shakedowns, and abuses. That has also been taken advantage of by some of the criminal elements themselves using the demonstrations to advance their own gains. The President Buhari has said very little in response, so far. The responses have mostly been at the local level. That's not going to be able to continue for long because we're talking about the capital of a country and pretty widespread instability. But nonetheless, this is a pretty big deal for the largest economy in Nigeria and something we should be watching pretty closely.

Bolivia, all over the world today, elected a new president. Who is Luis Arce, and how will he lead the country?

Well, he was the minister of finance, I want to say, for the former president, Evo Morales. Morales, indigenous leader of the left progressive, did a very good job in lowering inequality in Bolivia, was very popular, but was forced out of power because of charges of fraud in the last presidential vote a year ago. And both domestically and internationally, and the United States agreed, most international observers did, and then, turned out that those allegations of fraud were themselves fraudulent. In other words, he was kind of forced out of power illicitly. And the place holder government, this woman, Jeanine Áñez, who took over as an interim leader, and was from the right, and much more pro-business, pro-market, anti-indigenous people, overturned a lot of Morales' policies, and with significant abuses against his supporters, riot police brought in and the rest, she was thinking about running in election, which would have probably been illegal. She chose not to, smart for her, and ended up supporting the unity candidate on the right, former president, Carlos Mesa. He lost, and he lost in the first round to this President Arce, who has nowhere near the charisma of Morales. But the level of opposition to the way he was forced out so high that he ended up sweeping the win. And it's going to hurt economically. The markets will respond negatively to it. And obviously, this is a very challenging time, economically, in the country. But if you leave aside the Washington consensus, the IMF, and the rest, and talk about the Bolivian people, this is going to lead to a lot more political stability, a lot fewer people getting hurt. And big congratulations to the former minister of finance, now, president.

Final question is, what is the global COVID update?

Oh, save that until the end. We're continuing to see significant expansion of cases across, now, not just Spain, but really all of Europe. In fact, in the Czech Republic, you're seeing the highest levels of cases per capita of any country in Europe, I think, since this whole thing started. Real expansion across the entire continent, Western Europe and much of Eastern Europe. And of course, across, now, the entirety of the United States. It's not a third wave, it's a second wave. In the US, there were lots of first waves in different parts of the United States, so it made it feel like it was expanding at different times. In reality, it's because the US is just really big and diverse. Now, this is increasingly a collective second wave leading to a lot more people getting hospitalized too. The death rates in the United States and Europe are still staying relatively low. In part, that's different by behaviors on the part of the populations that are most vulnerable. In part, it is hospital care improve with having sufficient ICU beds. It is being prepared in terms of better treatment, and also, getting people to recognize symptoms and getting treated immediately. All of that means that even with a very significant... The absolute scale of this second wave is likely probably going to be greater in terms of total cases than the first wave was. And yet, the economic impact, the human impact is likely to be less because we've learned so much more about the virus.

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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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University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland says drinking makes us feel good and has historically encouraged socializing. But there are negative implications, as well. We now have the problem of "distillation and isolation": getting as much booze as you want and drinking alone, especially during the pandemic. There's a gender issue too: the "bro culture" associated with alcohol can exclude and even be dangerous for women. Not all regions have the same problems, though, as drinking habits vary widely. Watch Slingerland's interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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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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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