Democratic Republic of Congo – The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has officially declared an Ebola outbreak in the north-west region of the country. There were two confirmed cases of the virus and 17 deaths, reported the health ministry this Tuesday. This will mark the country’s ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976, when the viral disease was first discovered in the there. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working closely with the government of the DRC to immediately scale up its operations and organize health partners, using the same model that proved successful in controlling the 2017 outbreak. The WHO has said it released $1 million from an emergency fund and has deployed over 50 expert health workers to work with the DRC government and other health agencies. Since the WHO was notified on May 3rd, there have no more deaths reported.
North Korea – Last week, the Korean peninsula drew heavy media attention for Kim Jong Un’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which was hailed as a huge victory for steps toward peace in the region. The two leaders met in the demilitarized zone along the border between North and South Korea, both making promises to move forward with a denuclearization of their countries. While the initial event brought hope back to the situation, particularly after over a year of heightened tension, analysts are hesitant to call this an end to the Korean conflict. So far, discussion between the two countries has been filled with vague promises, without any action. This occurs in tandem with North Korea attempting to set up talks with the United States as well. Kim Jong Un invited President Trump to meet for negotiations over his country’s nuclear program. This signals signs of change, leaving many optimistic about the future of North Korea relations.
Iran – On May 8th, President Trump indicated to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, that he intends to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal reached under the Obama administration. Trump’s decision has been long anticipated by the international community, however it has drawn criticism and strained relations with many European allies. They view it as a bad decision, as it is a move that could raise the risk of conflict in the Middle East. In Iran, the decision is being met with nervousness and anger. After a long-term economic crisis due to Western sanctions, the nuclear deal was an opportunity for a lifeline, one that could now be revoked. The President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is especially opposed to ending the deal, a situation that would make him look weak domestically. A repeal of the 2015 deal would ultimately mean more instability and tension within Iran, cutting off the country that recently began a policy of reintegrating itself into the international system.
Russia – On May 7th, Vladimir Putin was once again sworn in as President of Russia, also retaining his long-serving Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev. This marks the fourth term in office for Putin, who will serve another six years. Not only has Putin served eighteen years already, but this new term will make him the longest-serving leader of Russia since Stalin. After taking his oath, Putin called for Russia to become one of the top five world economies, in line with his ongoing efforts to restore Russia’s military and diplomatic presence. He won re-election with nearly 77 percent of the vote, signaling his popularity, however critics site this as yet another example of his stifling of opposition. Prior to the election, Russia was racked with protests over what was deemed to be an unfair election due to the lack of any real opposition.
France – Over the weekend in Paris, thousands of protesters took to the streets in order to rally against what is seen as the “soft dictatorship” of Emmanuel Macron. The president has pushed for reforms such as cutting certain worker protections, as well as increasing police powers. This unrest comes at the end of Macron’s first year in office, domestically eclipsing his status as a key world player internationally. Prior to this weekend’s protests, French rail workers went on strike over Macron’s plans to overhaul the national railway company. The law currently stipulates that rail workers maintain jobs and benefits for life, something that the French government claims leads to an inability to be competitive on the wider market.
Venezuela – The original date of the Venezuelan presidential election was scheduled for April 22nd, however, after vocal opposition from international bodies and election observers, the election was rescheduled for May 20th. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is running for another six-year term after a period of strict rule, which has included jailing political opposition leaders and using excessive force against street protesters. This Monday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech to the Organization of American States. He called on Venezuela to suspend the election, declaring “there will be no real election in Venezuela on May 20th and the world knows it.” The speech came as the United States imposed new sanctions on 20 companies – 16 in Venezuela, and four in Panama – as well as on three Venezuelan nationals, one of whom is a former top intelligence official indicted in the U.S. for narcotics trafficking. The sanctions will block the Maduro regime’s access to the U.S. financial system while international partners work to support the Venezuelan people and opposition parties to restore democracy in the country.