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What We’re Watching: Protests meet Thai king, AMLO’s anti-corruption push under fire, Brexit mess continues

Thais "welcome" king back: Thousands of pro-democracy activists rallied across Bangkok on Wednesday as embattled King Maha Vajiralongkorn returned to Thailand after spending almost seven months amid a growing youth-led movement calling to reform the monarchy. Police pushed away protestors trying to confront the king's motorcade, while hundreds of royalist counter protesters cheered him on. Although violence was largely avoided, animosity is rising as some of the pro-democracy activists are now openly calling to go beyond reform and outright abolish the monarchy, normally a taboo topic in Thailand. They are fiercely opposed by the royalist camp, which controls the government and the security forces. We're keeping an eye on whether the king's physical presence in the country will encourage wider protests and put pressure on Thai Prime Minister — and 2014 coup leader — Prayuth Chan-ocha to crack down hard against the increasingly bold activists. (So far, he has banned public gatherings and arrested over 20 protesters).

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EU sanctions Lukashenko; Brexit deadline likely to be extended

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, with the view from Europe:

The EU has agreed to sanction Lukashenko. What now happens?

Well, that remains to be seen. But the EU has now decided, in a sort of strengthening of its position, to sanction also Lukashenko personally. What this will lead to remains to be seen. I think we'll have to wait for what happens. The Belarusian regime is obviously under quite a lot of pressure, but it is digging in. It can still rely on its very strong repressive forces. We're in this particular conflict for the long term. But the fact that the EU is stepping up the pressure is a good sign.

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Will Brexit make Europe stronger?  European Central Bank's Christine Lagarde explains

If Brexit has shown the world anything, it is that deep-seated political dysfunction is by no means confined to the United States. But as Europe comes together to avert an economic catastrophe caused by COVID-19, will Brexit throw the entire continent back into chaos? European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde tells Ian Bremmer in a new GZERO World interview that she doesn't "see any trace" of that happening.

Watch the episode: Christine Lagarde, Leading Europe's United Economic Pandemic Response

What We’re Watching: Indian women & Dalits push back, EU sues UK over Brexit, Israel & Lebanon maritime talks

India reckons with violence against women, Dalits: The deaths on the same day of two Dalit women after being gang-raped has sparked outrage across India. In New Delhi, scores of protesters were arrested for violating coronavirus restrictions after urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end the country's "rape culture," while a Dalit party leader called on all members of the lower caste to rally throughout India to demand that the perpetrators be hanged. The tragic deaths have exposed the country's bid problem with rising gender- and caste-based violence. India was one of the most dangerous places to be a woman even before COVID-19, and the pandemic has only made things worse. Dalits — who used to be referred to as "untouchables" under the caste system that the country formally abolished in 1950 — are still victims of severe discrimination by upper-caste Indians. We're watching to see if the anger at these latest deaths turns into a nationwide protest movement that puts pressure on Modi to do more to uphold the rights of both women and Dalits.

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What We're Watching: Mexico dismisses US report on drugs, UN warns Burundi, Biden's limits on US-UK trade

Mexico rejects top drug hub claim: In response to a new US report on the countries that are major transit points and producers of illicit drugs, Mexico's populist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, rejected the report's findings — which called out Mexico as one of the world's most prolific drug production hotspots — as merely a matter of "opinion." AMLO said that the accusation is an example of things that come up in its relations with the US that "we [Mexico] don't accept," but made clear that he would not seek confrontation with Washington over the disagreement. Indeed, AMLO's dismissal is remarkable considering he came to power in 2018 in part on his promise to root out crime linked to the country's powerful drug cartels. But to date, crime in Mexico has only exploded under AMLO's watch, while more recently, the country's powerful cartels have exploited the pandemic to expand their operations (evidence suggests that lockdowns have exacerbated the addictions of their US clientele, who account for over $20 billion of Mexican drug sales each year).

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