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What We’re Watching: Nigerians reject police brutality, US arms Taiwan, Argentina COVID protests grow

Nigerians take part in a protest against alleged violence, extortion and harassment from SARS in Lagos. Reuters

Nigeria reckons with police brutality: Fed up with a federal police unit accused of warrantless arrests, torture and murder, thousands of Nigerians took to the streets over the weekend to demand the government dissolve the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protests were sparked by a viral video of a man allegedly being beaten to death by SARS agents. Although President Muhammadu Buhari has agreed to disband the unit, protesters say that doesn't go far enough and demand sweeping changes to policing in Nigeria as they did over the summer in the aftermath of the George Floyd rallies against police brutality in the US. The protests have spread outside the country and gotten attention from celebrities and influencers on social media, where the hashtag #EndSARS has trended globally for days. We're watching to see if the movement gains enough traction for Buhari to accept an overhaul of the entire police system in Nigeria, where police officers are immensely powerful.

US-China spar over Taiwan: The Trump administration is moving forward on several deals to supply high-tech weapons and military equipment to Taiwan, as the territory — which Beijing claims is part of mainland China — is rapidly becoming a pawn in the US-China rivalry. The Trump administration notified the US Congress that it has approved the sale of sophisticated weapons to Taipei — including drones and long-range missiles — all of which could help Taiwan defend itself from a potential Chinese invasion. Beijing reacted by demanding Washington halt all sales in accordance with the "One China" policy that does not recognize Taiwan's independence. Meanwhile, Washington and Beijing also traded barbs over this week's meeting of the "Quad" group of countries (the US, Japan, Australia, and India), which China views as an American attempt to create a NATO-style military alliance as a bulwark against Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Whatever happens with the Quad in the future, it's clear that Beijing and Washington are unwilling to ease tensions over Taiwan, and the question is not if but rather when China will move to retake its renegade province by force.

Argentinians are furious: As Argentina's COVID-19 caseload surpassed 900,000 this week, thousands of protesters across several cities demonstrated against the government's handling of the pandemic. Protesters say that after months of mismanaged lockdowns, center-left President Alberto Fernández has been unable to contain the virus' spread or implement measures to help boost the country's battered economy (even before the pandemic, Argentina had suffered from years of recession). Critics argue that the real person in charge is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the powerful vice president and former chief executive who has faced a string of corruption and criminal charges in recent years. For the opposition, the Fernández-Kirchner duo has used the COVID crisis to crack down on individual freedoms and to surreptitiously pass unpopular reforms that undermine the independence of the judicial system to protect government allies with pending court cases (including Kirchner herself). This is the fifth spontaneous mass protest to erupt in Argentina in recent months, and as the pandemic only worsens, angry Argentinians likely think they have little to lose.

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Back in 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump presented his vision for an "America First" foreign policy, which symbolized a radical departure from the US' longtime approach to international politics and diplomacy.

In electing Donald Trump, a political outsider, to the top job, American voters essentially gave him a mandate to follow through on these promises. So, has he?

Trade

"A continuing rape of our country."

On the 2016 campaign trail, candidate Trump said that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a 12 country trade deal pushed by the Obama administration — would "rape" America's economy by imperiling the manufacturing sector, closing factories, and taking more jobs overseas.

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So, the US presidential election is now just days away, and today's selection is focusing on a specific aspect of foreign policy that will certainly change depending on who wins in the presidential contest—namely America's approach to Iran.

You've heard me talk before about the many similarities between Trump and Biden on some international policies, like on China or on Afghanistan. But Iran is definitely not one of those. Trump hated the JCPOA, the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, put together under the Obama administration, and he walked away from it unilaterally. Joe Biden, if he were to become president, would try to bring it back.

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Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, US President George W. Bush demanded that Afghanistan's Taliban government surrender Osama bin Laden and end support for al-Qaeda. The Taliban refused.

On October 7, US bombs began falling on Taliban forces. NATO allies quickly pledged support for the US, and US boots hit the ground in Afghanistan two weeks later.

Thus began a war, now the longest in US history, that has killed more than 3,500 coalition soldiers and 110,000 Afghans. It has cost the American taxpayer nearly $3 trillion. US allies have also made human and material sacrifices.

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