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

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during Covid-19 vaccination program press conference at National Palace on June 3, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico.

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.


Is Boko Haram's leader dead? Abubakar Shekau, head of the Nigerian-based Boko Haram terror group, is reportedly dead, with rival militant groups saying that Shekau strapped ammunition to his body and killed himself. (Neither Boko Haram nor the Nigerian government has confirmed the report.) Since Shekau took over the group seven years ago, he has overseen a steady stream of bloody attacks, most notably in 2014 when Boko Haram militants kidnapped hundreds of school girls in Borno state, many of whom remain missing. Since then, more than 30,000 Nigerians have been killed and millions displaced. In more recent years, Boko Haram has been locked in a bloody battle for dominance with the Islamic State's West African offshoot — ISWAP. Analysts say that while Shekau's death might lower the temperature between the two rival groups, it's unlikely to change the cadence of violent attacks — though some speculate that ISWAP may try and recruit Boko Haram fighters. Whether Skekau is dead or not, Islamist violence will continue to gain momentum in West African countries like Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, that have been gripped by violent insurgencies in recent years.

El Salvador to adopt crypto: Nayib Bukele, El Salvador's very online millennial president, said this week that his country would be the first to accept cryptocurrency as legal currency. If Bukele does send legislation to Congress in the near term it's likely to pass, given that his New Ideas party won a decisive legislative victory in February, giving Bukele a supermajority. Enthusiastic Bitcoin Bros say that there's little to lose; given that some 70 percent of El Salvadorians don't have a bank account, this shake-up would allow poor people to have increased access to personal finances. However, other analysts say that there needs to be global cryptocurrency regulation in place before national governments start accepting crypto as legal tender. Still, massive issues persist regarding how to regulate the extremely volatile and environmentally-damaging currency that is oft-used by those wanting to bypass government tracking and regulation. Indeed, if El Salvador pulls this off, it's likely that other states will follow suit.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

In a frank (and in-person!) interview, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

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For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.


"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

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As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

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For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

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UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises

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UN Chief: Still time to avert climate “abyss”

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