Tag Archives: Thabo Mbeki

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

John McCain decided to participate in Friday’s presidential debate, which was predictably dominated by questions on the economy.  The status of the U.S. economy continues to garner significant international attention, but other stories also developed this week.

1. In perhaps the most important development last week, Congress reached a deal on a $700 billion bailout package for the financial sector.   Progress towards an agreement had collapsed last week after House Republicans withdrew their support for President Bush’s initial proposal and Democrats refused to move forward without their support.  The impact of the financial collapse (and bailout) in the United States has yet to be felt, but already some—including Germany’s finance minister, Peer Steinbrück—are arguing that the crisis means the U.S. has lost its “financial superpower status.”

2. In the most recent development in souring Russian-American relations, Russia and Venezuela moved to cooperate more closely in areas of energy policy.  This follows on the announcement that Russian naval vessels and aircraft would participate in Venezuelan war games in the southern Caribbean.  Since 2005, Venezuela has used a portion of its oil wealth to purchase more than $4 billion worth of weapons systems, including fighter aircraft, helicopters, anti-aircraft systems, and armored personnel carriers, from Russia. 

3. The vast expanses of space are becoming a bit more crowded, as China and India expand their own space programs.  China launched the country’s third manned space mission on Friday.  The mission culminated with a successful space walk over the weekend.  Meanwhile, India is planning its own launch intended to map the surface of the moon.  According to some observers, the Chinese and Indian governments are engaged in a new space race, echoing the U.S.-Soviet rivalry of the 1960s.  

4. On Saturday, the Syrian capital Damascus was rocked by a car bomb which killed 17 and injured 44 people.   Although no group has yet claimed responsibility, suspicions have fallen on resurgent Sunni fundamentalist groups.

5. South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki abruptly resigned last week.  Although the African National Congress’ leader Jacob Zuma is likely to be elected president in the upcoming election, Kgalema Motlanthe, former guerrilla and union leader, was selected as the interim president on Thursday.  Motlanthe says his agenda will focus on maintaining economic and political stability.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Events this week have been dominated by the continuing crisis in the financial sector and the chaotic week in world markets

1.  In an effort to address the ongoing financial crisis, the Securities and Exchange Commission took the unusual step of banning short sales of some companies’ stock.  Announced on Friday and confirmed by similar bans in the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Ireland, Australia, and other major markets, the move was intended to prevent future downward pressure on financial stocks.  According to an FT analysis, many hedge funds may be hurt by the move.  In an even more dramatic move, the Bush administration has proposed a $700 billion relief package for Wall Street.  The package, which will require the ceiling on the national debt be increased from $10.6 trillion to $11.3 trillion, would be the largest rescue package in the history of the country.  

2. On Saturday, South African President Thabo Mbeki agreed to step down from office after his ruling party, the African National Congress, called for his resignation.  It is widely expected that Jacob Zuma will replace Mbeki as the new President of South Africa.  There are considerable questions about what will happen to South Africa’s economic policy under a Zuma Presidency.  Mbeki moved the ANC’s economic policy towards a more open, free-market system at odds with the party’s strong union and activist base.  It remains to be seen in what direction Zuma will steer Africa’s largest economy.

3. Relations between the United States and its South American neighbors took a hit last week, as Bolivia and Venezuela expelled the U.S. ambassadors.  The United States responded by expelling the Bolivian and Venezuelan ambassadors.

4. On Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to making an overture towards Israel, confirming his close ally and vice president Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei’s assertion that Iran was “a friend of [the] Israeli people.”  The FT speculates that the move may be part of a broader strategy of improving relations with the West.  However, Ahmadinejad’s history of calling for the destruction of Israel and denial of the holocaust suggests that he may have a great deal more work to do if that is indeed his intention.  Further, Ahmadinejad’s move was countered on Friday by a statement from Iran’s supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said it was “wrong” to claim that Iran could be a friend of Israel.

5. On Sunday, militants in Nigeria called an end to a week-long series of attacks against oil facilities in the Niger River Delta region.  The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had claimed responsibility for the attacks, which it claims are part of its effort to establish local control over the region’s oil resources.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

The big news this week was John McCain’s surprise choice for running mate choice: Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska.  There were many developments outside the United States and its presidential race, however.  Here are a five important stories you might have missed:

1. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called for new elections, which will take place on October 14.  Harper’s Conservative Party has ruled Canada as a minority government since February 2006.  The election is expected to be closely contested, as the Liberal Party, under the leadership of Stéphane Dion, mount their challenge.  With Canada’s economy tittering on the brink of recession, the economy figures to be the central issue of the campaign.  The outcome of the election may also signal a fundamental shift in Canadian politics, as the Bloc Quebecois appears to be losing its regional support in Quebec, creating the possibility of a Conservative majority in the national legislature.

2. There were two important developments in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute last week.  On Wednesday, the Palestinian Strategy Study Group released a report which indicated that Palestinians may be willing to endorse a bi-national state with Israel should the U.S.-backed two-state solution fail.  The proposal would mark a dramatic change in the structure and intended goal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.  In an unrelated development, Israeli President Shimon Peres on Friday called for direct talks between Israel and Syria to address outstanding issues.  The two countries been engaged in mediated indirect talks for a number of years, but relations between the two have generally been poor since 1947.  Normalization of relations between Syria and Israel would have to be a central component of any comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian question.

3. In a not-so-subtle confirmation of the flood of divestment from the country following the conflict over South Ossetia, the Russian central bank was forced on Thursday to intervene to support the rouble.  According to some estimates, as much as $21 billion in foreign currency has been withdrawn from Russia over the past several weeks, leading to a dramatic decline in the value of the rouble.  This represents the worst currency collapse for Russia since the 1998 crisis.  But despite the crisis, the Russian government still have the third largest currency reserve in the world—estimated at some $582 billion—thanks in large part to the dramatic increase in oil and natural gas prices over the past few years.

4. In Paksitan, Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan People’s Party won Saturday’s presidential elections as expected.  Zardari, who is the widow of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, now faces a number of challenges: reinforcing the fledgling democracy amidst growing political and economic instability, normalizing relations with the west in the face of strong opposition in key regions of the country, and establishing a stronger degree of national unity while addressing growing violence within Pakistan. 

5. Talks between Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and the ruling ZANU-PF suffered their most serious setback to date last week.  The MDC announced it had lost faith in negotiations intended to bring about a power sharing agreement, accusing South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating the negotiations, of trying to force through a deal which would see ZANU-PF’s Robert Mugabe retain political power.  The MDC also refuses to sign an agreement under which Mugabe would retain control of the country’s security forces, which they contend have been used for the political gain of the ruling party.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Over the past week we’ve seen a lot of news from the domestic U.S. political front: Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin for his Vice Presidential candidate.  What’s been going on in the rest of the world?  Here are five important stories from the past week.

1. The worldwide economic downturn continued last week.  On Friday, the Japanese government announced a new economic stimulus package.  Analysts are holding out little hope that it will make much of a difference.  In the United Kingdom, Chancellor Alistair Darling conceded that the current crisis will likely be “profound and longlasting.”  He forecasted that it might be the worst economic crisis faced by the United Kingdom in the past 60 years.  Similarly, figures released by the Canadian government last week show that the country is on the brink of recession, with gross domestic product growing by  a mere 0.1% in the second quarter.  All of this suggests that the current economic crisis is global in scope and potentially long in duration.

2. Ongoing political violence in Thailand last week culminated in the closure of three major international airports and blockades of the country’s rail, road, and port infrastructure.   Earlier in the week, protestors had laid siege to state buildings.  The protestors—a loose coalition of business, royalists, and activists under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Democracy—are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his government.  So far, the military has refused to become involved in the political crisis.

3. In an interview on Tuesday, Zwelinazima Vavi, leader of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, declared that South Africa would need to radically change its economic policies to avoid the “ticking bomb” of poverty, unemployment and crime.  Vavi is a close ally of Jacob Zuma, the leader of the African National Congress and the person mostly likely to become president of South Africa after Thabo Mbeki’s term expires next year.  Many analysts believe Vavi’s views reflect the policies favored by Zuma.  Many South Africans believe the economic policies pursued by Mbeki have not improved the quality of life for ordinary people.  His complete interview is available through the Financial Times website.

4. The North Korean government announced on Tuesday that it would suspend the processing of disabling its nuclear facilities and was considering reactivating the Yongbyon reactor.  The announcement, which North Korea maintains is a response to the failure of the United States to make good on promises made during the six party talks, raises new concerns about the effectiveness of the talks and the progress made there.  On Thursday, South Korea announced that it would drop the label “main enemy” when referring to North Korea in its biannual defense white paper.  According to Major Seo Young-suk, the decision to drop the term “does not mean that we have changed our stance.  North Korea is still a substantial and present threat.”

5. In a report issued Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) condemned health inequalities between rich and poor around the world, describing them as “unfair, unjust, and avoidable.”  According to the WHO “a toxic combination of bad policies, economics, and policies [was] killing people on a grand scale.”  The complete report, entitled Social Determinants of Health, is available through the WHO website.