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What We're Watching: Putin recruits Maduro, Lebanon's new prime minister, Rwandan "hero" arrested

What We're Watching: Putin recruits Maduro, Lebanon's new prime minister, Rwandan "hero" arrested

Caracas looks for volunteers to test Russian vaccine: Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro is looking to recruit volunteers to test Russia's controversial COVID-19 vaccine. The Venezuelan government, which relies on billions of dollars in loans from the Kremlin, says it will take part in Russia's clinical trial despite the fact that the drug has been broadly criticized by the scientific community for not going through adequate phases of testing to ensure its safety and utility. After announcing in late August that he would offer up some 500 Venezuelan volunteers to participate in the drug trial, Maduro, whose government has been increasingly isolated after dozens of countries recognized Juan Guaidó as the country's legitimate leader in 2019, was scrambling on Monday to recruit enough guinea pigs to avoid disappointing Vladimir Putin, one of his (very) few remaining allies. Maduro also said he would be first in line to take the Russian drug when mass vaccinations start in October. We'll be watching to see if he keeps his pledge.

Lebanon has (another) new prime minister: A month after deadly explosions at a Beirut port killed nearly 200 people and turned the spotlight again on Lebanon's dysfunctional and corrupt government, Mustapha Adib, Lebanon's ambassador to Germany, has been appointed as the country's new prime minister. Adib, who belongs to a small Sunni political faction, has received widespread support in his new role, including from the Hezbollah militant group, an Iran-backed Shiite bloc, as well as former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Once Adib has formed a government, he'll try urgently to reform its bloated and corrupt public sector, he says. Meanwhile, France's President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Beirut on Monday — his second visit in less than a month — to add pressure on the political class to enact structural reforms that will open the door to financial aid from the International Monetary Fund and other international donors. So far, Lebanon's political elite has largely dismissed protests demanding change to focus instead on maintaining its grip on power.

Hotel Rwanda "hero" in cuffs: Many people became familiar with the name Paul Rusesabagina after he was portrayed by actor Don Cheadle in the 2004 film "Hotel Rwanda." Rusesabagina was arrested this week on charges of terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder. Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager who used his influence and resourcefulness to save the lives of hundreds of Rwandans seeking safety from murderous mobs during the 1994 genocide which killed hundreds of thousands, has long been at odds with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, who accuses Rusesabagina of being a "manufactured hero" and of coordinating a string of attacks by rebel groups in southern Rwanda. Rusesabagina and his supporters say the charges are retaliation against his public criticism of Kagame, who has long been accused of stifling the media and cracking down on dissent.

Pop quiz: what percentage of plastic currently gets recycled worldwide? Watch this video in Eni's Energy Shot series to find out and learn what needs to be done to prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans. Plastic is a precious resource that should be valued, not wasted.

This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the czar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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"Apocalyptic" protests in Senegal: At least five people have been killed in clashes with police as protests over poverty, unemployment, and the jailing of a popular politician rock the West African nation of Senegal. Ousmane Sonko, who heads the opposition Movement to Defend Democracy (M2D) and is considered the most viable challenger to current president Mackie Sall, was accused of rape in February and arrested last week. Sonko says the charges are a politically motivated attempt to remove him from politics before the 2024 presidential election. His supporters immediately hit the streets, voicing a range of grievances including joblessness and poverty. Though youth unemployment has fallen over the past decade, it still exceeds eight percent and close to two-thirds of the country's 16 million people are under the age of 25. As Sonko supporters pledge to continue protests this week, Senegal's head of conflict resolution says the country is "on the verge of apocalypse."

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18: Eighteen Thai activists who took part in last fall's youth-led protests against the Thai monarchy have now been charged with crimes including sedition and violatio laws that prohibit criticism of the royal family. At least three of the detainees face prison terms of up to 15 years.

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Political movements that promote authoritarian leaders and anti-democratic governments have gained significant ground in Eastern Europe in the past twenty years. And according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum, it's a trend that goes beyond that specific region. "This will sound very bizarre, but the trajectory of events and the nature of political debate in Poland is amazingly similar to the United States, the kinds of arguments that people make, the, the level of polarization… you can see this impulse to destroy and undermine the institutions of democracy everywhere." What is the appeal of such movements and what has the pandemic done to expand their influence?

Applebaum and Ian Bremmer take on those questions on GZERO World, which began airing on US public television stations nationwide on Friday, March 5. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Authoritarianism's Enduring Appeal: Anne Applebaum Discusses

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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