Russia-Ukraine: Two years of war
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Nicolas Petro, son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro

REUTERS

Fathers and sons: Colombia scandal edition

The president’s son has been arrested and charged with money laundering! No, not Hunter Biden. It’s 36-year-old Nicolás Petro, son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro.

The charges, unsealed this week, stem from allegations by the younger Petro’s ex-wife, who says she helped him amass millions in bribes while he was serving as a local politician. In one instance, she says, they tricked a drug kingpin into believing he was giving them money to support the elder Petro’s 2022 presidential campaign. Petro Jr denies all the charges, which carry decades-long prison terms.

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Colombian President Gustavo Petro.

Reuters

Is Colombia’s Petro showing his true colors?

Colombia’s leftist President Gustavo Petro sacked much of his cabinet earlier this week in a move that suggests the headstrong former guerrilla might be moving in a more confrontational direction after just eight months in office.

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Colombia hosts meeting on Venezuelan political crisis.

Reuters

Colombia convenes new Venezuela summit

Representatives from about 20 countries, including the US, gathered in Bogotá on Tuesday as part of the Colombian government’s push to restart talks between Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro and the fractious opposition. Neither side has sent representatives, but both say they support the event.

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Members of parliament hold placards after the result of the vote on the first motion of no-confidence against the French government at the National Assembly in Paris, France, March 20, 2023.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

What We’re Watching: Slim win for Macron, protests in South Africa, Trump’s legal woes, Colombia peace collapsing?

Macron’s narrow escape

It came down to the wire, but Emmanuel Macron’s government narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in France’s National Assembly on Monday, with 278 voting to topple the government, nine votes shy of the threshold needed to pass.

Quick recap: The motion was triggered after Macron used a constitutional provision last week -- bypassing a vote in the lower house -- to pass a controversial pension reform despite weeks of protests (more on that here).

Not only do 70% of French adults abhor Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62 by 2030 – which he says is necessary to plug the growing debt hole – but the French electorate, which has long had a libertarian streak, is also furious that the government used what it says is an anti-democratic loophole to pass the measure.

Macron’s troubles are only just beginning. Hundreds were arrested in Paris over the weekend and on Monday as anti-government protests turned violent and smelly. Unions have called for nationwide demonstrations and strikes in a bid to pressure the government to roll back the measures (which will never happen).

Prime Minister Élizabeth Borne will likely take the fall and resign. Still, Macron, already unpopular before this debacle, will emerge a diminished political figure. After previously saying he understood that people were “tired of reforms which come from above,” it will be very hard for the ideological chameleon to regain the trust of vast swathes of the population.

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Protestors gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of the oral arguments in two cases that challenge President Joe Biden's $400 billion student loan forgiveness plan.

Megan Smith-USA TODAY via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: SCOTUS mulling student debt relief, Blinken visiting Central Asia, Biden's partial TikTok ban, Petro’s post-honeymoon phase

US Supreme Court weighs student loan forgiveness

The US Supreme Court began hearing arguments on Tuesday in a pair of cases that will test the limitations of presidential power and could derail Joe Biden’s plan to forgive $400 billion in student debt. Biden campaigned on debt relief, promising to help families burdened by the pandemic-fueled economic crisis. But now the court will decide whether Biden has the authority to forgive student loans. The White House cites a 2003 law aimed at alleviating hardship suffered by federal student loan recipients following a national emergency, but opponents say debt relief should require congressional approval. Biden hopes to fulfill his campaign promise ahead of next year’s presidential race, and millions of millennials and Gen-Z scholars – many of whom could see up to $20,000 of their federal student loan debt wiped away – will be waiting with bated breath. A decision will drop before the court adjourns in June, but so far, justices in the conservative majority seem critical of Biden’s move.

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GZERO Media

Then and Now: Colombian peace talks, Sri Lankans' anger, Macron's challenges

Three months ago: Colombia government, ELN resume peace talks

One of Gustavo Petro’s first orders of business after becoming Colombia’s president in Aug. 2022 was to bring “total peace” to the country. As a result, three months ago, his leftist government announced it was resuming talks with the National Liberation Army, a guerilla group known as ELN, for the first time since 2019. The talks were hailed as a big deal considering that the 2,400-member strong force has been at war with the government since the 1960s. The ELN was the largest guerrilla group not to sign onto a historic 2016 peace deal between the government and guerilla groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Since then, violence by the ELN and other armed groups financing their operations through drug trafficking and illegal mining has continued to terrorize Colombians, particularly in rural areas. Last week, however, Petro, a former guerilla, announced a breakthrough, saying his government had reached a peace agreement with the ELN for a six-month ceasefire. But the ELN came out shortly after and said no deal had been reached, stating that “a unilateral government decree cannot be accepted as an agreement.” Petro, for his part, has not responded to the group’s denial. Still, communication is a good thing, and the two sides say they will continue talks this month in Mexico. Petro discussed these issues, and more, in an interview with GZERO Media.

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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro gives a press statement in Brasilia.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Bolsonaro's broken silence, Iranian attack plans, Bibi’s return, Colombia & Venezuela’s lunch date

Bolsonaro lets his friend say the hard part

In a prepared and combative statement lasting less than two minutes, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday did not concede the election he lost on Sunday. He also failed to congratulate — or even mention — his opponent, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Instead, he welcomed ongoing nationwide protests by pro-Bolsonaro truckers, saying they’re the result of a “feeling of indignation and injustice about how the elections were conducted.” He cast himself as a person who plays by the constitutional rules and said he was proud to have stood for freedom of markets, religion, and expression. “The right has truly risen in Brazil,” he said. After Bolsonaro walked off without taking questions, one of his closest allies stepped up to the podium to say Bolsonaro had in fact authorized him to begin the presidential transition. As that legal and logistical process gets underway, we are watching closely to see how far Bolsonaro pushes the popular protests to try to gain political leverage. Bolsonaro lost to former President Lula by the narrowest electoral margin in Brazil’s modern history. Buckle up.

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Emergency workers during an emergency response drill to simulate the aftermath of a dirty bomb explosion outside Madrid.

REUTERS/Andrea Comas

What We’re Watching: Fact vs. fiction in Ukraine, Petro vs. Big Oil in Colombia

Information wars in Ukraine

The Russian and Ukrainian governments are working hard to persuade the world that the other side is planning to commit an atrocity. The Kremlin has claimed more than once in recent days that Ukrainian forces intend to set off a so-called “dirty bomb” as part of a plan to bolster Western support for Kyiv and add pressure on Moscow by blaming Russia for the attack. Ukrainian and Western officials warn that Russia has invented this story to hide its own plans to use banned weapons and that Russian forces are planning a radioactive “terrorist act” with material stolen from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant it continues to occupy. This is a reminder of two things. First, both sides know that information remains a powerful weapon of war. Second, international monitors are badly needed on the ground inside the war zone to separate fact from fiction. Russia’s credibility with Western governments is now close to zero, but nothing can be taken at face value during the active phase of a war.

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