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What We're Watching: Latin America's deepening recession, DRC beats Ebola, Macron's next move

What We're Watching: Latin America's deepening recession, DRC beats Ebola, Macron's next move

Latin America's economic pain: Back in April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that the pandemic would push Latin America into its worst recession in half a century, plunging a third of the population into poverty. That, it turns out, was the rosy view. The IMF now says, "the human toll has gone up," projecting that the region's economy will contract by 9.4 percent in 2020, a sharp drop from April's forecast of a 5.2 percent recession. Government-mandated lockdowns and travel restrictions have hit emerging market economies in the Caribbean and Latin America particularly hard because many of them rely on jobs in the informal sector and tourism industry to keep afloat. Taken with the effects of shutdowns in China, Europe, and the US, which have cratered demand for Latin America's exports while also decimating remittances, the region's economic recovery could take many years.


Ebola eradicated in DRC: The Democratic Republic of the Congo's worst Ebola outbreak in history, which has ravaged that country for two years, is officially over, the World Health Organization said Thursday. Ebola, an infectious disease that kills around half of those who contract it, has claimed more than 2,000 lives in that country since August 2018. Treatment and containment efforts have been complicated by decades of conflict (more than 100 armed groups operate within the DRC's borders) as well as government corruption. A team of more than 16,000 front line workers, along with a new effective vaccine program, helped eradicate the outbreak, the tenth Ebola epidemic in the DRC since the 1970s.

Macron's next move: With two years remaining of his five-year term, President Emmanuel Macron is already firmly in election mode. While no French head of state has clinched a second term since Jacques Chirac won in a landslide two decades ago, Macron faces a particularly grueling battle in trying to convince the electorate that he can resuscitate the country's pandemic-battered economy. French media is abuzz with conjecture regarding what big moves the president might have up his sleeve. After Macron earlier this month hinted at a post-pandemic "government reset," some predicted that the president might ditch his all too popular Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, replacing him with a new PM who can help him gain credibility with the left. Macron's poll numbers have been sliding since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, with a majority of French people disapproving of the government's handling of the pandemic. We're watching to see what happens when Macron elaborates on his new agenda in a much-anticipated address scheduled for next month.

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It's been four days since Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, died in a hail of bullets on a highway near Tehran. Iran has plausibly blamed Israel for the killing, but more than that, not much is known credibly or in detail.

This is hardly the first time that an Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated in an operation that has a whiff of Mossad about it. But Fakhrizadeh's prominence — he is widely regarded as the father of the Iranian nuclear program — as well as the timing of the killing, just six weeks from the inauguration of a new American president, make it a particularly big deal. Not least because an operation this sensitive would almost certainly have required a US sign-off.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody. Ian Bremmer here, have your quick take. Plenty going on this week. I could of course talk about all these new Biden appointees, but frankly, there's not that much that surprising there. Moderate, lots of expertise, not very controversial, almost all of which could get through a Republican controlled Senate, presuming that markets are going to be reasonably happy, progressives in the Democratic party somewhat less so. But no, the big news right now internationally, certainly about Iran. The Iranians started this year with the assassination by the United States of their defense leader, Qasem Soleimani. Everyone was worried about war. Now, closing the year with the assassination of the head of their nuclear program and historically the head of their nuclear weapons program.

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Joe Biden has had one of the longest political careers in American history, but his most important act is yet to come. Can decades of experience in Washington prepare him to lead the most divided America since the end of the Civil War?

Watch the GZERO World episode: What you still may not know about Joe


Ethiopia on the brink: After ethnic tensions between Ethiopia's federal government and separatist forces in the northern Tigray region erupted into a full-blown armed conflict in recent weeks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his forces had taken control of Tigray's capital on Saturday and declared victory. But the fugitive Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael quickly called Abiy's bluff, saying the fighting is raging on, and demanded Abiy withdraw his forces. Gebremichael accused Abiy of launching "a genocidal campaign" that has displaced 1 million people, with thousands fleeing to neighboring Sudan, creating a humanitarian catastrophe. The Tigray, who make up about five percent of Ethiopia's population, are fighting for self-determination, but Abiy's government has repeatedly rejected invitations to discuss the issue, accusing the coalition led by Gebremichael's Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of "instigating clashes along ethnic and religious lines." As the two sides dig in their heels, Ethiopia faces the risk of a civil war that could threaten the stability of the entire Horn of Africa.

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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