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What We’re Watching: China’s vaccination blitz, Nicaraguan opposition crackdown, Dems/GOP vs China

China goes big on vaccination: China is now vaccinating about 20 million people a day against COVID, accounting for more than half of the world's daily shots. Following a sluggish initial rollout, Chinese vaccine makers have scaled up production in recent months. That's good news for the world, particularly for developing countries that rely on vaccines distributed through the COVAX global facility, which now includes China's WHO-approved Sinopharm and Sinovac jabs. It's also good news for China's government, which for months has struggled to make its production capacity match its ambitious vaccine diplomacy program (though it has already supplied a whopping 350 million doses to more than 75 countries). And finally, it's good news for the Chinese people, who can travel without restrictions, both inside and outside China, once they're vaccinated. It's not good news for India, which earlier this year had a window of opportunity to compete with the Chinese on doling out jabs to low-income countries but then had to suspend exports in order to address its own COVID crisis.

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Bukele's Bitcoin gamble in El Salvador

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your week with a Quick Take. Hope everyone's doing well. I thought I would talk about El Salvador, a surprising amount of news coming out of this comparatively small country.

First of all, you've got a president who's been in power now for about a year, Nayib Bukele, he's all of 39 years old and 90% approval ratings, pretty consistent over the last year. And in part, that's because there's been massive violence and huge economic problems and extraordinary corruption in the country. And this is a guy who was a former advertising executive, he was a local mayor, and ran with a lot of charisma, with of course, an enormous amount of social media savvy. In fact, if you follow him on social media, he kind of styles himself the Elon Musk of the Northern Triangle, which is not really a great thing I grant you. The Northern Triangle is like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. And I mean, I guess if there is one such person that has to be Elon Musk, he's the guy.

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What We're Watching: AMLO's bittersweet victory, Boko Haram's leader is (maybe) dead, El Salvador's move towards crypto

Did AMLO win in Mexico's midterms? The governing Morena party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador lost its two-thirds lower-house majority in Sunday's midterms, dealing a blow to the leftwing nationalist leader's bid to radically transform Mexico. Although Morena and its allies are projected to hang on to a simple majority in the lower house, winning as many as 292 of the 500 seats up for grabs, that two-thirds margin was crucial for López Obrador's ability to change the constitution, something he's threatened to do in order to carry out what he calls a "Fourth Revolution" that remakes Mexico's economy in the interests of the poor and working class. Still, López Obrador remains in a commanding position: Morena and its allies look to have picked up more than half a dozen state governorships, and they still control both houses of Congress. Most importantly, despite failing to tackle crime, corruption, or poverty since his election in 2018, the left-populist López Obrador remains immensely popular in a country where traditional conservative politicians are reviled. Chastened as he may be by the result, as he heads into the final three years of his six-year term, López Obrador isn't likely to give much ground to his rivals. Read our full write-up of the election and its implications here.

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Biden plays the (Central American) Triangle

In recent months, large numbers of men, women, and children from the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America – Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador – have left their countries in hopes of applying for asylum in the United States. This wave of desperate people has created a crisis at the US border and a political headache for President Joe Biden. US border officials now face the highest number of migrants they've seen in 20 years.

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What We're Watching: The world ignoring Brazil, El Salvador's strongman, the US' vaccine stash

Why is the world ignoring hard-hit Brazil? In response to the COVID crisis pummeling India, foreign governments quickly mobilized: the US, the UK, Singapore, Thailand, and the EU have all sent much-needed oxygen tanks, medical supplies, and materials to make vaccines. But now many analysts — and Brazilians — are questioning why the same goodwill hasn't reached Brazil, where the death tally of 410,000 (the world's second highest) is a much larger percentage of the population. Brasilia's pleas for help have, they say, often fallen on deaf ears. One explanation is that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has simply made himself too many enemies: he has not only dismissed the severity of the pandemic but has also insulted much of the international community whose help Brazil, which relies heavily on medical imports, needs. Who could forget that Bolsonaro called French president Emmanuel Macron's wife "truly ugly," and questioned US President Joe Biden's electoral win? But in recent months, Bolsonaro's administration has also chided China (his economy minister recently said China had "invented the virus" and others have mocked Chinese-made vaccines), endangering ties with Brasilia's main supplier of vaccines. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by contrast, has certainly been a divisive and confrontational figure at home, but he has maintained warm relations with governments whose help his country desperately needs.

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Migrants on the move

"We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years. We are expelling most single adults and families. We are not expelling unaccompanied children." So said US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this week. US Customs and Border Protection reports an average of 565 children traveling alone now crossing the border per day, up from 313 last month.

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El Salvador's president wins big. What does this mean for the country and its neighbors?

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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US election seen from El Salvador: Will the "demonization" of migrants end?

Sergio Arauz is a political reporter for the newspaper El Faro, in El Salvador. Our conversation has been translated from Spanish and edited for length and clarity.

Alex Kliment: What are a few areas in which the US election could affect El Salvador?

SA: I think the presidential election in the US could have an important influence on Salvadoran politics because of the close relationship that the American embassy has with the administration of [Salvadoran president] Nayib Bukele.

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