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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?


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