What We’re Watching: Thai king is untouchable, Ugandan challenger arrested, US caves on Mexico DEA threat

Pro-demonstrators carry inflatable rubber ducks during a rally in Bangkok. Reuters

No reform for Thai monarchy: Defying the wishes of thousands of pro-democracy activists and protesters, Thailand's parliament declined to move forward constitutional reforms that would curb the powers of the king. The vote had been delayed until Wednesday due to violent clashes between protesters, royalists and the police that left 55 people injured and put inflatable rubber ducks in the crossfire. Shortly after parliament's decision, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned that he would use "all available laws" to end the protests, which have been going on for months, signaling that he might start enforcing Thailand's draconian lèse majesté law, which punishes any offense of perceived insult to the royal family with up to 15 years in prison. Will the streets stand down, or is the situation about to get worse?


What's going on in Uganda? The detention of Uganda's popular presidential candidate, the pop star-turned politician Bobi Wine, has set off a wave of protests across the country, prompting a heavy-handed response from police that's already resulted in at least seven deaths. Ugandan authorities say Wine was arrested for holding campaign events that breached COVID-19 restrictions, but his supporters claim that this is yet another attempt by longtime President Yoweri Museveni to quash dissent ahead of Uganda's general elections in January 2021. Museveni, who's held the top job since 1986, has used various legal tricks to tighten his grip on power, including two constitutional amendments — and he was last elected in 2016 after jailing the opposition. Meanwhile, Wine, a political newcomer, is running on a platform of change that promises to put "people" first and reverse the culture of corruption and intolerance of dissent that has defined Museveni's rule. Will he prevail?

The fate of General Cienfuegos: Last month, in a scene out of a Michael Mann film, US agents detained Mexico's former Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda at Los Angeles airport, on corruption and drug charges. At the time Cienfuegos, who headed the Mexican military from 2012 to 2018, was the highest-ranking Mexican former official ever detained in the US. Now, in a dramatic reversal, he'll be heading home to face prosecution in Mexico instead after the US dropped charges. Why? Because Mexico, which had been in the dark about the US operation, threw a fit over his arrest, reportedly threatening to kick out agents of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, which works closely with local authorities — particularly the Mexican army — to go after narcos and gangs. Now there are two questions: will Cienfuegos really see justice at home, and second, given the success of their threat, has Mexico City learned a useful pressure point for its future dealings with los yanquis?

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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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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10: Joshua Wong was sentenced along with other Hong Kong democracy activists to 10 months in prison for participating in a vigil last year marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Wong is currently behind bars for participating in separate pro-democracy protests, and will only start this new sentence after that term concludes in November.

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What's the biggest foreign policy misconception that Americans have about the US's role in the world? According to international relations expert Tom Nichols, too few Americans believe that the US, in fact, has a critical role in the world, and that the things Americans enjoy, from cheap goods to safe streets, are made possible because of American global leadership. "Americans have become so spoiled and inured to the idea that the world is a dangerous place that they don't understand that the seas are navigable because someone makes them that way. They don't understand that peace between the great powers is not simply like the weather, that just happens," Nichols tells Ian Bremmer. Their conversation is featured on an episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television – check local listings.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

The cover story of The Economist declares that Taiwan is "The most dangerous place on Earth," because China might finally be ready to plan an invasion of the island. But are the consequences of such a move worth the many risks to China and its President Xi Jinping? Ian Bremmer breaks out the Red Pen to to explain why a US-China war over Taiwan is unlikely.

We are taking our red pen to a recent article from The Economist. The Economist, you ask, how could I? I love The Economist, I know, I know. But you'd lose respect if I give this piece a pass. In fact, it was the magazine's cover story this week, so I had no choice. The image and headline say it all. Here it is, Taiwan is now "the most dangerous place on earth" as US/China relations continue to sour in the opening months of President Biden's administration.

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

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Would China really invade Taiwan?

The Red Pen

India’s COVID crisis hits home

GZERO World Clips
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

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