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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
June 21, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: One Million Protest in Brazil

Courtesy Reuters  

Courtesy Reuters

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday after protests spread to more than eighty cities in Brazil, with at least one million participating (BBC). The government is expected to assess the extent of the protests and decide on a response, including the possible intervention of the Ministry of Justice and a likely national address from Rousseff (MercoPress). The president has postponed her trip next week to Japan, where she was slated to resume talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a nuclear pact (KyodoNews). The protests, which started more than a week ago, began as grievances over a hike in transport fares, corruption, and lavish spending on sporting events.

Analysis

"For all of Brazil's achievements over the past few decades--a stronger economy, democratic elections, more money and attention directed toward the needs of the poor--there is still a huge gap between the promises of Brazil's ruling leftist politicians and the harsh realities of day-to-day life outside the political and business elite," writes a New York Times editorial.

"The challenge now for the government is to reassure citizens that it is committed to and capable of implementing economic strategies that not only grow the pie, but also ensure inclusive growth. This will require more effective and transparent investments in the very areas that the middle class protesters are demanding: education, health care, and infrastructure," writes CFR's Isobel Coleman..

"It is not the time for answers, but of doubts, of questions. Rousseff simply does not have anything to say. Actually, no one has. The word is with the protesters, but they are so many and so different that they might not yet have answers. Something is happening. What, no one knows exactly," writes Eliane Cantanhede for Folha de Sao Paulo.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Hazardous Air Quality in Singapore

Singapore experienced record smog levels (al-Jazeera) driven by illegal slash-and-burn land clearing on Indonesia's Sumatra island. The cross-border environmental incident may threaten Singapore's relations with Jakarta.

CHINA: Danny Russel, the nominee for U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told a Senate panel that the United States must oppose "coercion and bullying" (WaPo) in the South and East China Seas.

This Backgrounder explains territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Taliban Urges Prisoner Release Before U.S. Talks

A Taliban spokesman in Qatar said that the release of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners could be crucial to jumpstarting peace negotiations with the United States (NYT). The detainees are considered to be among the most senior militants at Guantanamo, and due to security concerns and legal obstacles, a prisoner release is not imminent.

PAKISTAN: Fourteen were killed and thirty wounded in a suicide attack on a Shia mosque (al-Jazeera) in Peshawar, near the Afghan border. This is the latest in a spate of sectarian violence against the Shia.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Palestinan Prime Minister Resigns

Rami Hamdallah, who has been in office for less than three weeks, announced his resignation Thursday evening (Haaretz), likely due to discord within his cabinet. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas dispatched aides to resolve the crisis; Hamdallah will likely retract or confirm his resignation shortly.

QATAR: U.S. secretary of state John Kerry will travel to Doha Friday, joining his counterparts for the "Friends of Syria" meeting (VOA) since the Obama administration announced plans to arm the Syrian rebels. The group, generally supportive of the Syrian opposition, will push for a negotiated settlement.

 

EUROPE

Spain Arrests Eight Suspected al-Qaeda Militants

Spanish police on Friday arrested eight people accused of recruiting dozens of militants (WaPo) to fight with al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria. Officials said the arrests were made in the North African enclave of Ceuta.

MOZAMBIQUE: Renamo, an opposition party and former rebel group, is suspected of carrying out attacks (BBC) that killed two after vowing to "paralyze" Mozambican infrastructure.

 

EUROPE

Germany Blocks Turkey-EU Talks

Germany put negotiations scheduled for this month on Turkey's accession to the EU on hold, citing Ankara's crackdown on protestors (FT). Germany's foreign ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador to protest Turkish charges that German chancellor Angela Merkel's opposition is motivated by domestic politics (AP); she faces elections in the fall.

CFR's Steven Cook argues that the European Union can help Turkey return to a path to liberal democracy in this op-ed.

GREECE: Greece's ruling coalition faces a setback as the Democratic Left, a small leftist party, considers revoking its support (Reuters) for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras as he implements internationally mandated public sector reforms. Snap elections would jeopardize Greece's bailout program.

Former prime minister George Papandreou discusses the prospects of Greece's economic recovery in this interview.

 

AMERICAS

Obama to Nominate James Comey as Next FBI Director

President Barack Obama will nominate James Comey (FT) on Friday to take the helm of the FBI. A former New York prosecutor and deputy attorney general, Comey is known for having challenged the Bush White House over a domestic surveillance program.

 

 

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