News Wrap


Once one of the World’s most popular leaders with approval ratings of 92%, President Dilma Rouseff of Brazil, has since seen her support plunge as a result of recession, political turmoil and the Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) investigation into corruption at Petrobas, which has implicated almost all of the big parties. Several senior Workers’ Party officials have been arrested, and former President Luizda Silva is under investigation. Rousseff is accused of window-dressing government accounts, with a temporary transfer of money from state banks prior to the last election. On 12 May 2016, the Brazilian Senate voted to suspend President Rousseff, and dismiss her entire cabinet. With Rousseff suspended during the Senate trial, the centrist Vice-President Michel Temer is at the helm of a country, that again finds itself mired in political and economic volatility, after a recent decade of prosperity. The impeachment process began in the lower house of Congress in December 2015. Rousseff will be able to retain the nominal label of ‘President’, and continue to be a resident of Palacio de Alvorado. The 68-year-old economist and former Marxist guerilla, who was Brazil’s first female President, Rousseff is unlikely to be acquitted in a trial, that could last as long as six months.

Is barbarity
A hitlist of 84 secular bloggers was sent to the Bangladesh interior ministry by Islamists in 2013. At least five people on it have since been killed, and several others have survived attacks. Five secular writers were killed in Bangladesh in 2015, including an Italian priest. Dhaka’s main Shia mosque was bombed in October 2015, killing a teenager and wounding hundreds. The attacks have been claimed by groups linked to local branches of al-Qaeda or Islamic State. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has pointed to Islamist groups within the opposition. Security chiefs continue to deny that Islamic State had any presence in Bangladesh. A leading rights activist and editor of Bangladesh’s only gay magazine, Xulhaz Mannan aged 35, and his friend Tanay Majumdar were attacked and shot on the doorstep of an apartment in Dhaka on 25 April 2016. Again on 07 May 2016, Shahidullah, a 65-year-old Muslim Sufi preacher was hacked to death by unidentified machete wielding assailants in Rajshahi city’s Tanor upazila, in north-west Bangladesh. On 14 May 2016, a 70-year-old Buddhist monk was found brutally hacked to death, inside a remote monastery, in Bandarban hill district.

China in Gwador
The deep-water port that is planned in Gwador province of Balochistan in the grip of a long-running separatist insurgency and Pakistan’s most neglected, is  a key element of Beijing’s $46 million investment in Pakistan, and part of a new maritime silk road. Lying at one end of a 1990-mile (3,200 km) planned trade route across Pakistan, that includes roads, rail links and oil pipelines—dubbed the China-Pakistan economic corridor—it will more easily link western China to overseas markets. The reservoirs have dried up in Pakistan’s desert coast. Yet Gwador is set to become a major node of world commerce boasting car factories, Pakistan’s biggest airport, and a string of five-star resort hotels along Gwador’s seafront. The fishing community on the neck of the peninsula will be moved to new harbours, up to 40 km away. If all goes to plan, Gwador’s existing 80,000 people will be joined by another 2 million people over the next 20 years, including 20,000 Chinese residents. Gwador was judged food insecure by the United Nations in 2009, and a town with only rudimentary health, and education services. The new ‘string of pearls’ port Gwador, could become a Chinese naval base, allowing Beijing to monitor Indian and American naval activity, in a hugely strategic location close to the strait of Hormuz, through which about 60% of China’s oil supplies pass.

Venezuelan Crisis
Since May 2016, millions of public sector workers in Venezuela work only on Mondays and Tuesdays, because of an energy crisis in the cash strapped country. Angry residents in darkened towns around the country have been protesting, particularly in the capital, Caracas, and in the western city of Maracaibo. The government blames a prolonged brought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon for the energy crisis, but critics say mismanagement and a lack of maintenance at the Guri Dam, which provides two-thirds of Venezuela’s electricity, is to blame. Venezuelans face food and medicine shortages, one of the world’s highest homicide rates, and sky-high inflation which is expected to reach 50% in 2016. Bank notes are in short supply too. After scrambling to print new notes to keep up with inflation, the government is falling behind in payments to printing companies who are turning down new orders.

Vol. 49, No.5, Aug 7 - 13, 2016