This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the czar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.
What We're Watching: Argentina's abortion bill, Spain's vaccine registry, Burkina Faso's security push
Argentina's abortion debate: Argentina's Senate is set to vote on a landmark abortion bill that would allow elective abortions up to 14 weeks gestation, a major shift in the predominantly Catholic and socially conservative country. The abortion bill already passed the lower house of Congress (131 to 117 votes) because the center-left party of President Alberto Fernández, who backs the bill, holds a majority coalition. It's now waiting to be voted on in Argentina's upper house in what's expected to be a nail-biter, with several politicians remaining mum about how they intend to vote. Abortion is a flashpoint in Argentina, home to Pope Francis who has repudiated the bill, and if the law were to pass, the country would be one of just few Latin American countries to authorize elective abortions outside of cases of rape or if the mother's life is at risk. If there's a tie in the Senate — which some analysts anticipate — it will be up to Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who has flip-flopped on the abortion issue during her long political career, to cast the deciding vote. Abortion rights activists, meanwhile, are fired up, hoping that if the bill passes in Argentina, the cultural effects could reverberate throughout the region.
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What We’re Watching: Nigerians reject police brutality, US arms Taiwan, Argentina COVID protests grow
Nigeria reckons with police brutality: Fed up with a federal police unit accused of warrantless arrests, torture and murder, thousands of Nigerians took to the streets over the weekend to demand the government dissolve the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protests were sparked by a viral video of a man allegedly being beaten to death by SARS agents. Although President Muhammadu Buhari has agreed to disband the unit, protesters say that doesn't go far enough and demand sweeping changes to policing in Nigeria as they did over the summer in the aftermath of the George Floyd rallies against police brutality in the US. The protests have spread outside the country and gotten attention from celebrities and influencers on social media, where the hashtag #EndSARS has trended globally for days. We're watching to see if the movement gains enough traction for Buhari to accept an overhaul of the entire police system in Nigeria, where police officers are immensely powerful.
US-China spar over Taiwan: The Trump administration is moving forward on several deals to supply high-tech weapons and military equipment to Taiwan, as the territory — which Beijing claims is part of mainland China — is rapidly becoming a pawn in the US-China rivalry. The Trump administration notified the US Congress that it has approved the sale of sophisticated weapons to Taipei — including drones and long-range missiles — all of which could help Taiwan defend itself from a potential Chinese invasion. Beijing reacted by demanding Washington halt all sales in accordance with the "One China" policy that does not recognize Taiwan's independence. Meanwhile, Washington and Beijing also traded barbs over this week's meeting of the "Quad" group of countries (the US, Japan, Australia, and India), which China views as an American attempt to create a NATO-style military alliance as a bulwark against Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Whatever happens with the Quad in the future, it's clear that Beijing and Washington are unwilling to ease tensions over Taiwan, and the question is not if but rather when China will move to retake its renegade province by force.Argentinians are furious: As Argentina's COVID-19 caseload surpassed 900,000 this week, thousands of protesters across several cities demonstrated against the government's handling of the pandemic. Protesters say that after months of mismanaged lockdowns, center-left President Alberto Fernández has been unable to contain the virus' spread or implement measures to help boost the country's battered economy (even before the pandemic, Argentina had suffered from years of recession). Critics argue that the real person in charge is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the powerful vice president and former chief executive who has faced a string of corruption and criminal charges in recent years. For the opposition, the Fernández-Kirchner duo has used the COVID crisis to crack down on individual freedoms and to surreptitiously pass unpopular reforms that undermine the independence of the judicial system to protect government allies with pending court cases (including Kirchner herself). This is the fifth spontaneous mass protest to erupt in Argentina in recent months, and as the pandemic only worsens, angry Argentinians likely think they have little to lose.
What We’re Watching: US mail-in vote drama, Argentina protests, Facebook allows hate speech in India
US mail-in vote mess: US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy agreed Tuesday to delay until after the November election a series of long-planned cost-cutting measures that would hamper states' efforts to expand mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the drama doesn't end there. President Donald Trump — who often claims (without evidence) that voting by mail will lead to a fraudulent election result — last week suggested he's happy to starve the US Postal Service of $25 billion in additional funding that Democrats have proposed in order to ensure ballots are delivered in time to meet state deadlines for ballot counting. That, along with the fact that DeJoy is a Trump donor, makes many Democrats fear that the president is indeed trying to rig the election by suppressing mail-in voting (although traditionally Republicans vote more by mail than Democrats). Over a dozen US states plan to sue both Trump and DeJoy, who the plaintiffs claim are conspiring to slow down election mail to favor Trump's reelection chances. Stay tuned for next week, when DeJoy is scheduled to appear before Congress to discuss the controversy.
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
First of all, the exploding cases that we're seeing moving from Europe and at least many states in the United States (though certainly not all) towards the developing world is getting you an exploding overall case rate. We've now seen from the World Health Organization yesterday the largest single day tally since the pandemic has begun over 180,000 cases that we know of. Add to that much lower testing rates in the developing world than in the advanced industrial economies and you'll see that we are nowhere close to being on the backside of this first wave of coronavirus. But that doesn't mean that the poorest countries in the world are all a disaster.