REDRAWING THE LINES: GERMANY AND COLOMBIA

Over the past four days, Germany’s coalition government nearly collapsed because of a schism over the country’s migrant policy, and a left-wing candidate got 8 million votes in Colombia’s presidential election.​


What’s the common thread? Both stories flow from bold political gambles, framed in moral terms, that national leaders took years ago and which have fundamentally reshaped politics in their countries ever since.

In Germany, which Gabe has been watching closely as always, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 13-year tenure is looking increasingly tenuous as she faces rebellion within her own ranks over migrant policy. Her interior minister, Horst Seehofer of the Bavaria-based CSU party (for decades the more conservative alliance partner to Merkel’s own CDU) says he wants to turn away migrants at Germany’s southern border, directly flouting Merkel’s policy of allowing them in. If the CSU breaks with Merkel, her government could collapse, potentially triggering new elections.

What changed to get us here: Merkel’s historic 2015 decision to open the country’s borders to more than a million migrants from the Middle East and North Africa. In last fall’s elections, the upstart AfD party rode a scorching anti-immigrant platform into the Bundestag, becoming the first far-right party to make it there in Germany’s postwar history and swiping a huge chunk of CSU voters along the way. So for the more conservative figures in Merkel’s coalition, it’s a no brainer: take a harder line on migrants or risk losing more ground to the AfD. The Chancellor now has two weeks to work out a new Europe-wide solution in which other countries accept more migrants. But with anti-immigrant parties running Hungary, Poland, Austria, and now Italy, that won’t be easy. Merkel’s moral stand in 2015 may yet have deep political consequences in 2018.

In Colombia, the fact that Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogota and one-time guerilla, had an opportunity to lose this Sunday’s presidential runoff to center-right candidate Ivan Duque was by itself historic. Never has a left-wing figure made it so far at the national level in Colombia, a country run virtually since independence by center-right parties.

What changed to get us here: Outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos in 2016 signed a controversial peace accord that ended 50 years of war with the left-wing FARC guerrillas. Throughout that conflict, the stigma of rebel violence closed off space for a normal left-wing politics and reduced much of political debate to the question of how to deal with the FARC. Now, issues like the economy and corruption have become much more salient for most Colombians, and there was Petro, running on a socially-progressive platform that took aim at inequality and pledged to wean Colombia off of fossil fuels.

Still, Mr. Duque won on a distinctly center-right platform — in many ways influenced by his political patron, hardline former president Alvaro Uribe — that envisions a staunchly pro-business agenda alongside revisions to some of the peace deal’s more lenient aspects. And with strong turnout, he commands a robust mandate. But Mr. Petro was upbeat on election night, pledging to lead a left-wing opposition from the seat he now gets in the Senate. Whether a newly viable opposition from the left pulls Duque towards the center or pushes him more towards his base in a deeply polarized country is a new story that may reshape Colombia profoundly, and fast.

Every day thousands of people legally cross back and forth between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on their way to jobs, schools, doctor's appointments, shopping centers and the homes of family and friends. This harmonious exchange has taken place for more than 400 years, uniting neighbors through shared social ties, geography, history and, most importantly, an interlinked economy.

Beyond the people and goods, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez also converge in a cross-border flow of ideas, ambition and aspirations that have shaped the region for centuries. This forward-looking spirit is what attracted Microsoft to the region in 2017, when it launched Microsoft TechSpark to create new economic opportunities and help digitally transform established industries with modern software and cloud services. It's also why Microsoft announced on Monday that it is expanding the TechSpark El Paso program to include Ciudad Juárez and making a $1.5 million investment in the binational Bridge Accelerator. Read more about the TechSpark announcement here.

Since Syria's brutal civil war began eight years ago, millions of Syrians have fled their country to escape the bombs and bullets. But hundreds of thousands have been displaced within Syria's borders, where they languish in packed refugee camps. The al-Hol camp in northern Syria is sprawling, and of its nearly 70,000 residents, some 11,000 are family members of foreign ISIS fighters, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The surprise American withdrawal from northern Syria last week paved the way for Turkey and Syria's Bashar al-Assad to move in. Some 160,000 civilians have now fled the border region that Turkey is bombarding, deepening a humanitarian crisis in a stretch of Syria that had been relatively secure since the defeat of ISIS's self-declared caliphate back in March. Here's a look at the camps for displaced people in the area.

Syria is quickly turning into US President Donald Trump's most significant foreign policy blunder to date. It's looking like it might be for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, too.

On Monday, the Trump administration announced a fresh wave of sanctions on Turkey, in a bid to get Erdogan to halt his invasion of Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria. Yes, you may recall, that's the same invasion that the US green-lit last week by withdrawing American troops from the area.

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Mozambique's democracy test Mozambicans voted yesterday in an election that will test a fragile peace accord between the ruling Frelimo party, led by president Filipe Nyusi, and Renamo, a former rebel group-turned-opposition party. The two factions were on opposite sides of a Cold War-tinged civil war that killed an estimated 1 million people between 1977 and 1992. Frelimo, which has ruled Mozambique since independence, has been losing popularity due to a corruption scandal, but is likely to hold onto power at the national level. Renamo, which foreswore violence just two months ago in exchange for electoral reforms that will help the party, will be hoping to make regional gains that allow it to win some key governorships. Disputes over the final vote count and even outright fraud or violence are possible in coming days, particularly if Renamo fails to make its hoped-for gains.

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What's the update at the Syria-Turkey border?

Well, it is increasingly in the hands of Assad and the Russians, who the Kurds have flipped with. The United States withdrawing some troops away from the border, the Turks coming in, but they going to be limited in how much they can do given the fact that ultimately, Assad and Russia has most the firepower and Turkey does not want that fight.

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