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December 8, 2016

Daily News Brief

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South Korea's Park Faces Impeachment Vote Friday

Lawmakers introduced a motion Thursday to impeach President Park Geun-hye, who faces charges of corruption and bribery. The vote by South Korea's opposition-controlled, single-chamber parliament is expected to take place on Friday and requires two-thirds approval (AP). The Korean Constitutional Court will then have 180 days to review whether to formally end Park’s presidency. If passed, the move would immediately suspend Park from office (Korea Times) and transfer power (NYT) temporarily to Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn. Park's approval ratings (WaPo) have fallen to 4 percent amid an investigation into an influence-peddling scandal.


"Huge demonstrations against her have taken place in central Seoul every Saturday for the last six weeks, rallies on a scale not seen since the country’s democratization in 1987. Park told lawmakers in her party this week that she will not resign if the National Assembly votes to impeach her but will wait for the court to rule. She appears to be hoping that the conservative-leaning court will decide in her favor," Anna Fifield writes for the Washington Post.

"South Korea has had a long line of corruption cases that involve obligations of friendship crossing the bounds of legality, but Park’s misuse of presidential power has enraged and embarrassed the Korean public as never before. The public’s emotional response stems from a combination of Park’s secrecy, her lack of accountability for [associate Choi Soon-sil's] actions, her seeming admission of connection to the scandals, and national embarrassment that the president would take secret advice on appointments and policies from a friend who exploited her privilege for personal gains," writes CFR's Scott A. Snyder.

"Many feel that Ms. Park is incapable of reading the public mood. She said in her third address that she was 'heartbroken' that her apologies had not eased resentment, yet she has refused to take questions from the press. Even her staunchest supporters have turned their backs on her: in Daegu, once her political stronghold, her approval rating, 3 percent, is even more minuscule than the 4 percent she polls nationwide," writes The Economist


China Statistics Chief Admits Some Data Falsified

The director of China's National Bureau of Statistics wrote in a column that "some local statistics are falsified" and that "fraud and deception" occasionally occur. Foreign economists have long expressed concerns over the possible manipulation (FT) of China’s economic data. 


Torture in Sri Lanka ‘Common Practice,’ UN Says

Torture was employed "in a large majority of cases" (NYT) by Sri Lankan police when they investigated alleged offenses, according to a United Nations Panel. The body also said the government has failed to rapidly investigate and prosecute crimes from its twenty-six-year civil war, which ended in 2009.

INDIA: The government announced it will begin waiving (Hindustan Times) service taxes on debit and credit card purchases up to about $30 to promote digital transactions and address a cash shortage.


Syria Says Israeli Missiles Targeted Airport

Syrian state media alleged that Israeli missiles (BBC) targeted a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus, reportedly causing fires but no injuries. The Syrian military accused Israel last week of launching two missiles toward a Damascus suburb.

LEBANON: Lawmakers agreed to appeal a legal code that allows accused rapists to avoid criminal prosecution when they marry their victims (Middle East Eye).    


Kenya Anti-Terror Police Accused of Extrajudicial Killings

Anti-terror police have allegedly carried out dozens of forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings (VOA) in coastal areas with large Muslim and Somali populations, according to a new report by NGO Haki Afrika.

DRC: Exiled opposition leader Moise Katumbi vowed to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo if President Joseph Kabila, whose term ends on December 19, does not step down (FT). The government has not arranged for elections to be held.

CFR's Global Conflict Tracker follows unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 


Italy’s Renzi Resigns After Losing Referendum

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi formally resigned (NYT) on Wednesday, fulfilling his promise to leave office if a referendum on political reform was rejected. The resignation marks the end of Italy's sixty-third government in seventy years.

CFR's Sebastian Mallaby discusses the popular discontent behind the rejection of the Italian referendum.

GREECE: European immigration officials said that as many as thirteen thousand migrants (WSJ) registered in Greece are unaccounted for and may have gone undetected into other European countries. 


Cuba Eager to Finalize U.S. Accords Before Obama’s Exit

The head of U.S. affairs for Cuba’s foreign ministry, Josefina Vidal, said Cuba aims to sign a dozen accords (Reuters) on topics like seismology and meteorology with the United States during the final weeks of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Susan Kaufman Purcell discusses the future of U.S.-Cuba relations in this CFR conference call. 

VENEZUELA: Venezuela will introduce new currency notes (LAHT) in denominations as high as twenty thousand bolivares on December 15 to address rapid inflation. Presently, the largest note is one hundred bolivares, which is worth about $.02 at the market rate.