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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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An Exclusive Interview With Colombia’s New President | GZERO World

Will Gustavo Petro overhaul Colombia's economy, forests, and drug policy?

Colombia is Latin America’s longest-standing democracy, but it’s never elected a leftist president … until now.

Gustavo Petro swept to power by a slim margin in June, thanks largely to young Colombian voters. What do they want from him? Change. It won't be easy. Petro wants to provide free university education and health care, to end oil exploration and to tax the rich. Will he deliver?

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A view shows destroyed Russian tanks and armored vehicles in Lyman, recently liberated by Ukraine.

REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

What We’re Watching: Russian rhetoric & retreat, Ugandan “tweeting general” canned, Colombia-ELN talks resume

Russians retreat, but what comes next?

It’s a case of rhetoric vs. reality. On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin signed constitutional laws formalizing Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions and vowed to stabilize them. Yet continued Ukrainian advances in one of those regions, Kherson, are now forcing Russian troops to beat a partial retreat. Russia’s acting governor in the region, Kirill Stremousov, has even admitted openly that Putin’s forces are “regrouping to get their strength together and strike back.” Does the Russian retreat raise the risk that Putin, increasingly on his back foot, turns to the use of the once-unthinkable — nuclear weapons — to regain the advantage? While many analysts say such an escalation is unlikely, Moscow has signaled — through the reported movement of nuclear-capable equipment — an ability to make good on the threats. Increased domestic criticism of the war within Russia and losses on the ground no doubt have Putin feeling cornered. So the question remains, how far will he go?

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How to Solve Colombia's Cocaine Problem | GZERO World

How to solve Colombia's cocaine problem

According to a 2022 White House report, during the pandemic, coca cultivation and production in Colombia reached a record 245,000 hectares and 1,010 metric tons. In an exclusive interview with GZERO World, Colombia's new president, Gustavo Petro, said that enough is enough.

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Who is Colombia's New President? | GZERO World

Who is Colombia's new president?

Who is Gustavo Petro, Colombia's first leftist president? He’s a [deep breath] sixty-two-year-old-ex-leftist-guerilla-turned-mayor-turned-opposition-leader who rode a wave of voter anger to a narrow victory over a populist construction magnate last June. Got that?

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Petro Proposes a New Kind of Capitalism for Colombia | GZERO World

From stunted capitalism to economic growth in Colombia

During his victory speech last June, Colombia’s new president, and the country’s first leftist leader in modern history, said that it was time to “develop capitalism.” In an exclusive interview with Ian Bremmer for GZERO World, President Gustavo Petro explains what he meant.

“I mean to say that capitalism has not developed in Colombia. The productive capacity that it generates, which is indubitable throughout human history, has been quite rickety in my country.”

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