What We're Watching: Bolivia back on the brink

The end of the interim in Bolivia? – Mere months after taking over as Bolivia's interim president, Jeanine Áñez has decided that "interim" isn't quite permanent enough, and she now wants to run for president in elections set for May 3. Áñez is an outspoken conservative who took over in October when mass protests over election fraud prompted the military to oust the long-serving left-populist Evo Morales. She says she is just trying to unify a fractious conservative ticket that can beat the candidate backed by Morales' party. (Morales himself is barred from running.) Her supporters say she has the right to run just like anyone else. But critics say that after promising that she would serve only as a caretaker president, Áñez's decision taints the legitimacy of an election meant to be a clean slate reset after the unrest last fall. We are watching closely to see if her move sparks fresh unrest in an already deeply polarized country.


A broken ceasefire in Libya – A week after world leaders gathered in Berlin to broker a cease-fire in the Libyan civil war, intense clashes have resumed between two rival factions, the UN-backed Government of National Accord that governs Tripoli, and a rival faction led by general Khalifa Haftar. The Berlin conference sought to stop external meddling and arms supplies, but in recent days, foreign arms shipments have continued to arrive in Libya, providing militants with advanced weapons, armored vehicles, and even foreign fighters. Haftar's LNA has major backing from the United Arab Emirates, along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Meanwhile, Turkey backs the Tripoli-based government and has deployed troops there. Prospects for peace in the war-torn, oil-rich country look as remote as ever.

The curious case of "Ayatollah Mike" – On Monday, a US Air Force plane crashed in Afghanistan. That's all we really know for sure, but the rumor mill is spinning fast and furious. The Taliban claims that it shot the craft out of the sky and that it was packed with CIA operatives. Iranian media, for their part, are claiming that one of the officials aboard was CIA bigwig Michael D'Andrea, the intelligence officer known as "Ayatollah Mike," who oversees the agency's work on Iran and Afghanistan. The sense of the coverage is that this was a response to the US killing of its top general Qassim Suleimani earlier this month, which D'Andrea would have overseen. There are very, very few people in the world who know what really happened. We're watching to see if and how this unfolds further and what effect it has on US-Iran tensions.

What We're Ignoring

Tasteless beers – The infamous Mexican drug lord El Chapo is not only behind bars, now he's in them too. His daughter has launched a craft beer named after him, as part of her El Chapo 701 clothing brand, which cashes in on the murderous billionaire drug trafficker's image and legacy. (We note that Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar's kids already tried this trick years ago.) Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a new beer brand that uses Nazi-style imagery on its labels was flying off the shelves in a town in eastern Germany, prompting a police investigation into illegal use of banned Third Reich symbols. We'll pass on both of these brews, if it's all the same with you.

Are the US and China headed for a new Cold War over technology? Judging by what we heard a few days ago at the Munich Security Conference, a major trans-Atlantic gathering for world leaders and wonks, you'd certainly think so. US, European, and Chinese officials at the event all weighed in with strong words on the US campaign against Chinese 5G giant Huawei and much more. Here are the main insights we gleaned from the proceedings:

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Bloomberg takes the stage – Tomorrow's Democratic debate will be the first to feature media tycoon Mike Bloomberg, who in recent weeks has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars behind an ad campaign designed to position himself as a viable, moderate candidate who can beat Trump. As his support in national polls has climbed to nearly 20 percent, Bloomberg – who largely sat out the earlier rounds of Democratic campaigning – has come under attack for sexist comments in the past as well as his support, as NYC mayor, for "stop and frisk" policing tactics that disproportionately targeted people of color. Bloomberg will immediately be at war not only with the moderates whom he wants to displace – Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Joe Biden – but especially with the front running left-progressive Bernie Sanders. It will likely be quite ugly and we're certainly tuning in.

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150: As the Chinese government continues to expand travel restrictions, hoping that reducing human contact will stop the virus from spreading further, at least 150 million people are now facing government restrictions dictating how often they can leave their homes. That's more than 10 percent of the country's total population who are currently on lockdown.

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While attending the Munich Security Conference, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was asked to respond to the news of the first coronavirus death outside of Asia. The victim, a Chinese tourist who arrived in France in January, was among 11 confirmed cases in that country. "I think everybody in the world needs to be concerned," Kerry told GZERO.

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