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FÚTBOL FIASCO: ARGENTINA AT A CROSSROADS

FÚTBOL FIASCO: ARGENTINA AT A CROSSROADS

It was supposed to be a triumphant moment—an opportunity to showcase Argentina's soccer prowess and to escape, if only momentarily, the gloom of a spiraling domestic economic situation. Scheduled for Saturday, the last match of Latin America's premier soccer finale, the Copa Libertadores, pitted two cross-town rivals from the capital Buenos Aires for the first time in the tournament's 58-year history.


But the match for the ages was not to be. It was suspended after fanatic supporters of River Plate, one of the competing teams, attacked a bus carrying members of the rival Boca Juniors club, hospitalizing numerous players. To avoid further violence, the final will now take place outside of Argentina.

The mishandling of security around the event, where violence was widely expected, comes at a delicate moment for Argentina and its president, Mauricio Macri.

A country at a crossroads. Elected in 2015, the business-friendly Mr. Macri swept into office on the promise to revitalize a struggling economy after decades of mismanagement by his far-left predecessors. Three years in, he's attempting a careful balancing act between his domestic and foreign audiences, amid an economic crisis that has seen Argentina fall into a deep recession.

Investors are watching carefully to see whether Mr. Macri has enough mettle to implement reforms while voters at home fear the pinch of further cuts to government programs that help them make ends meet.

Growing class divides? In his efforts, Mr. Macri, who hails from one of Argentina's wealthiest families, isn't helped by the fact that the rivalry between Boca Juniors and River Plate has distinct class undertones – with River drawing it support from the capital's wealthy suburbs and Boca it working-class neighborhoods. (In a twist, Mr. Macri was the president of Boca for over a decade before his election.)

The country's most famous footballer, Diego Maradona, seized on this line of criticism: "I hate violence, and what does it matter to Macri? He has been the son of millionaires all his life." The unusually ferocious clash between Boca Juniors and River Plate may be indicative of deepening class divisions and growing animus toward a wealthy president.

Mr. Macri's approval rating stands around 36 percent today, down about 30 percentage points over the past year.

Welcome to Buenos Aires. Suffering a setback at home, Mr. Macri is also preparing to welcome the leaders of the world's largest economies to Argentina for the annual G20 meeting this weekend. Macri intended to use the high-profile summit to reassure foreign leaders and investors that Argentina fundamentally remains a good bet. A toxic cocktail of sport and class rivalries has just made that a harder sell.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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