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March 13, 2017

Daily News Brief

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Netherlands-Turkey Rift Widens Ahead of Vote

Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch embassy's charge d'affaires to formally protest (AP) the treatment of Turkish Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya in the Netherlands this weekend. Kaya was escorted out of the Netherlands after driving in from Germany to attend a rally in favor of constitutional reforms to be voted on in Turkey next month. Turkey’s Foreign Minister called the Netherlands "the capital of fascism" (Al Jazeera) after he was denied entry over the weekend into the country, where it is illegal to hold rallies for a foreign country's domestic policy. A 'yes' vote on the Turkish referendum, for which Turks in large diasporas across Europe are eligible to vote, would boost the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (WaPo) and allow him to stay in office for another decade. Erdogan has accused Germany and the Netherlands of "Nazism" for blocking rallies (BBC). The tensions came just days before the Dutch election (Bloomberg) and may boost the campaigns of Prime Minister Mark Rutte and populist Geert Wilders.


"The heated rhetoric is a reflection, in part, of how difficult it is to predict the outcome of the referendum. Polls have shown the country evenly split or have reflected a slight edge for a 'no' vote, which would represent an embarrassing defeat for Erdogan, who served as prime minister for 11 years before becoming president in 2014," Kareem Fahim and Anthony Faiola write for the Washington Post.

"A motley crew of social democratic, Kurdish and Islamist forces have announced they will campaign against the changes. Even the Nationalist Movement party (MHP) and its ultranationalist youth organisation, the 'Grey Wolves', appear split on the referendum question. The association representing the Turkish community in Germany is campaigning for a no vote, arguing in a statement that 'the Turkish community rejects any attempt to lead the country to a one-man regime'. In 2015, 60% of the approximately 600,000 German Turks who turned out to vote cast their ballot in favour of Erdogan’s AKP. The outcome in April looks more uncertain," Philip Oltermann writes for the Guardian.

"When it came time to vote on whether to hold the referendum, AKP lawmakers made a point to show their loyalty to Erdogan, holding up ballots for colleagues to take photos. And over the last month, the government has detained scores for passing out flyers or simply chanting slogans asking people to vote 'no' in the referendum. News outlets have refused to run interviews or columns from outspoken naysayers, and anchors have been fired for expressing their views," Umar Farooq writes for Foreign Affairs


South Korean President Leaves Office

Impeached President Park Geun-hye left her official residence (NYT) on Sunday after South Korea's Constitutional Court upheld lawmakers' vote to remove her from office on charges of influence-peddling. Also, the United States began to deploy attack drones (Reuters) to the Kunsan Air Base about 112 miles south of Seoul in what was described as part of an eventual deployment of such weaponry to all U.S. army divisions.

CFR's Scott A. Snyder discusses what comes next for South Korea after Park's impeachment.

INDONESIA: Authorities transferred a U.S. citizen (Guardian) who faces the death penalty for drug trafficking to a prison facility on Nusa Kambangan island, where Indonesia has previously carried out executions. Indonesia has never executed a U.S. citizen.


Pakistan to Conduct First Census in Nineteen Years

Pakistan will conduct its first national census in nineteen years starting on Wednesday and see 120,000 employees (VOA) carry out the survey over seventy days. The census will, for the first time, allow people to identify as male, female, or transsexual (AFP).

INDIA: At least twelve police officers (Hindustan Times) were killed in an ambush in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh in an area that has traditionally been a stronghold for Maoist rebels (NYT).


U.S. Envoy: Islamic State Fighters Trapped in Mosul

Iraqi forces cut off the final road leading out of Mosul, trapping the remaining fighters (BBC) of the self-proclaimed Islamic State inside, according to a top official in the U.S.-led coalition against the jihadists. Iraqi forces have waged a months-long campaign to retake the city from the Islamic State, which has controlled it since 2014.

CFR's Global Conflict Tracker looks at the war against the Islamic State in Iraq.

EGYPT: Cairo is expected to gain half a million residents (Reuters) this year, a greater increase than any other city in the world. Greater Cairo is already home to some 22.8 million people. A new administrative capital, which was announced by authorities in 2015, is expected to start receiving residents in 2018.


Madagascar Cyclone Kills Fifty

Cyclone Enawo, which made landfall in Madagascar last week, killed at least fifty people (VOA) and forced 110,000 to evacuate their homes, according to the national disaster management agency. The extreme weather is also expected to have damaged the vanilla crop in the northeastern Sava region, which produces about half of the world's vanilla.

ETHIOPIA: At least thirty-five people who were living in makeshift homes died in a landslide at a garbage dump (DW) on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. City Mayor Diriba Kuma promised to start a resettlement program for people living in or around the landfill.


Portuguese Finance Minister Touts Economic Health

Finance Minister Mario Centeno has called on the European Union to remove Portugal from a list of countries subject to penalties for breaking fiscal rules (FT). Centeno said last year's fiscal deficit would be close to 2 percent of GDP, the lowest since the country returned to democracy in 1974, and that the Portuguese economy has expanded for thirteen consecutive quarters.


U.S. Authorities Intercept Cuban Migrant Group

U.S. authorities intercepted a speed boat near Key Largo, Florida, carrying human traffickers and more than thirty Cuban migrants. It was the first large group of migrants from the country caught since January, when the Obama administration rolled back the so-called "wet-foot, dry-foot" (Miami Herald) immigration policy for Cubans who reach U.S. soil.

This CFR Backgrounder examines the history of U.S.-Cuba relations.

COLOMBIA: U.S. officials are expected to announce this week that coca crops (WSJ) in Colombia now cover nearly seven hundred square miles, more territory than when the United States began a coca eradication campaign sixteen years ago. The United States was forced to abandon the crop spraying program due to health concerns.