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What We're Watching: Pakistan PM on the ropes, China's green plans, Colombia's post-peace problems, Thai cat rescue

A body blow for Pakistan's Prime Minister: Imran Khan suffered an embarrassing defeat this week when members of the National Assembly, the country's lower house, voted to give the opposition bloc a majority in the Senate. (In Pakistan, lower house legislators and provincial assemblies elect senators in a secret ballot.) The big drama of it all is that Khan's own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds a lower house majority, which means that lawmakers supposedly loyal to his party voted in secret for opposition candidates. Khan's allies claim that PTI members were bribed to support the opposition, and the prime minister says he will ask for a lower house vote of confidence in his leadership. That vote will not be secret, but even if he survives, the political damage is done. Without a Senate majority, he has no chance of passing key reform plans, including constitutional amendments meant to centralize financial and administrative control in the federal government. Khan has, however, refused to resign.

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Colombia’s Angela Merkel moment

Colombian President Iván Duque earlier this week announced that as many as 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants currently in Colombia will now be authorized to live and work legally in the country for ten years.

As humanitarian gestures by world leaders go, it's hard to find something on this scale in recent history.

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The Graphic Truth: Venezuela's sprawling LatAm exodus

The exodus of Venezuelan nationals is currently the world's second largest refugee crisis, exceeded only by the one in Syria. Of the close to 5 million Venezuelans currently living outside their country, more than 80 percent are located throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, with the lion's share hosted by neighboring Colombia. How might Colombian President Iván Duque's move to grant all of them temporary legal status affect other nations' policies towards Venezuelan migrants and refugees? We take a look at which other Latin American countries have sizable populations of Venezuelans at the moment.

Colombia's humanitarian gesture for Venezuelan refugees merits US support

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

Number one, why did Colombia's president grant legal status to 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants?

Well, because they have them, first of all. Because given the extraordinary economic collapse and the human rights abuses of Venezuelans under the Maduro presidency, not to mention the coronavirus crisis making their lives even worse, they've been fleeing, and most of them have ended up in Colombia. Not providing legal status means they can't work, means they have no path for a future. Some of them have even fled back to Venezuela or returned to Venezuela, and again just shows just how critically difficult their life has been. It's a humanitarian gesture of pretty staggering degree. It makes an enormous difference in the lives of these people. Think about how the United States under Biden now preparing to accept 125,000 refugees per year, up 10 times from what it was just a year ago, the world's most powerful country. The wealthy countries never get overwhelmed with refugees the way the poorest countries do. It's states in Sub-Saharan Africa and it's South and Southeast Asia and it's Latin America, and in the Western hemisphere, it's been Colombia.

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Vaccine politics and human rights

More than 32 million COVID shots have now been administered globally, raising hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight.

The US has vaccinated 3 percent of its total population, while the UK is nearing a solid 5 percent inoculation rate. In Israel, which has been hailed as a vaccine success story, almost 24 percent of people have already received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

But while many countries are able to glimpse the outlines of a post-COVID world, there is a huge population of people who are being left out entirely. Refugees, as well as displaced, undocumented, and stateless people around the world remain ineligible for inoculations and vulnerable to the coronavirus.

We take a look at three case studies where powerless populations are being left in the lurch.

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Colombia’s President Iván Duque on early pandemic response: “Multilateralism didn’t work as it should”

In an interview with GZERO Media, Colombia's President Iván Duque discusses early missteps in global coordination on pandemic response that he feels exacerbated the spread of the virus. "If we all had acknowledged what was really going on in Asia, maybe we would have taken faster draconian measures to protect the world," he told Ian Bremmer.

While Colombia was initially praised for a swift and successful approach to COVID-19, infection rates and cases have spiked in recent weeks as lockdown restrictions ease in order to alleviate strain on an already battered economy. In the conversation, Bremmer and Duque also discuss the Venezuelan refugee crisis, and how economic fallout of the pandemic has forced at least 100,000 to leave Colombia and return home.

US election seen from Colombia: “Like an empire that’s going down”

Camila Zuluaga is a journalist with Caracol TV and Blu Radio in Colombia. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Alex Kliment: How could the outcome of the US election affect Colombia?

CZ: Candidate Biden was very supportive of the peace process [between the Colombian government and the FARC, signed in 2016], and if he wins, this will be a significant change because President Trump did not know or care much about the peace process.

Biden was very close to [former Colombian President Juan Manuel] Santos and was very close to the process itself. So if Biden wins, he would press Colombian leaders to apply the peace process.

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What We're Watching: Modi plays to his base, US visit to Taiwan irks China, Colombia arrests ex-leader

Modi riles up his base: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday set the first stone for a new Hindu temple to be built over the remains of a Mughal-era mosque in Uttar Pradesh state. The site, in the town of Ayodhya, has been disputed for decades by Hindus and Muslims, but the Supreme Court last November ruled, based on archeological findings, that construction of the temple could begin. The ruling dismayed many of India's 180 million Muslims, who worry that Modi — who was accompanied at the ceremony by Mohan Bhagwat, an ultranationalist Hindu activist whose followers helped to destroy the old mosque amid a wave of sectarian violence in 1992 — wants to replace India's secular foundations with his more explicitly Hindu vision of the country's identity. Although months ago Modi saw sizable protests over a controversial new citizenship law that discriminated against Muslims, he has so far proven to be extremely resilient and remains widely popular in India.

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