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.

Emily Ademola lives in an area of Nigeria that has been attacked by Boko Haram militants in the past. Looking for water was very risky, and without access to water, the community – especially children – were at risk of waterborne diseases. Eni, in partnership with FAO, built a water well in Emily's community in 2019.

Watch Emily's first-hand account about how access to water "close to our doorsteps" has improved the quality of life for her community and her family.

There's never a great time to impose higher taxes on funeral services — but doing it in the middle of a raging pandemic is an especially bad move. Yet that was one of a number of measures that the Colombian government proposed last week in a controversial new tax bill that has provoked the country's largest and most violent protests in decades.

In the days since, the finance minister has resigned, the tax reform has been pulled, and President Iván Duque has called for fresh dialogue with activists, union leaders, and opposition politicians.

But demonstrations, vandalism, and deadly clashes with police have only intensified. Two dozen people are dead, 40 are missing, and the UN has criticized Colombian police for their heavy-handed response.

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Listen: India's latest COVID explosion hits home as one Delhi-based journalist speaks with Ian Bremmer about her own father's death from the virus. Barkha Dutt has been reporting on the pandemic in India since it began, but nothing could prepare her for the catastrophic second wave that has hit her country in the last few weeks—and that has now shattered her own family. Would her father have survived if the oxygen tank in his ambulance had been working, or if the ambulance hadn't gotten stuck in Delhi traffic?She asks similar questions of her national government. Why was it caught so unprepared by this second wave, well over a year into the pandemic? Why has India, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, been so slow to vaccinate its own citizens? And how much of the blame falls at the feet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

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.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What's going on between the United Kingdom and France over fishing rights?

Yes, good question. Why on earth are they sending the Royal Navy to chase away some French fishermen from the island of Jersey? Fishing rights is very controversial. It was one of the key issues in the Brexit negotiations. Extremely divisive. Fishermen are fairly determined people but sending the Royal Navy to handle the French fishermen was somewhat excessive. I guess it played rather well with the English nationalists for Boris Johnson in the local elections, though.

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COVID has officially killed almost 3.5 million people around the world since the beginning of the pandemic. But some public health experts believe that the real number could be more than twice as high, because of challenges to accurately reporting the death toll in many countries around the world. A new study from the University of Washington contends, for example, that actual deaths are nearly 60 percent higher than reported in the US, twice as high in India, more than four times as high in Russia... and a staggering ten times higher than the official tally in Japan. Here's a look at how official figures compare to actual estimated deaths in the 20 countries where COVID has claimed the most lives.

While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Paris-London face-off at sea: France and the UK are at loggerheads in the high seas this week over post-Brexit fishing access in Jersey, an island off the English Channel. Furious at regulations that they say makes it harder to fish in these lucrative waters, dozens of French fishing boats amassed near the Channel Island, threatening to block access to the port. In response, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deployed two naval vessels — a move critics say was an unnecessary escalation, and an attempt by the PM to flex his muscles and bolster the Tory vote ahead of Thursday's regional election. France, for its part, sent its own naval ship and threatened to cut off Jersey's electricity supply, 90 percent of which comes from French underwater cables. Fishing rights was one of the final sticking points of Brexit trade negotiations, an emotive political issue for many Britons who say that they got a subpar deal when the UK joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. Though an UK-EU Brexit agreement was finally reached in December 2020, it's clear that there are still thorny issues that need to be resolved.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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