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Afghanistan: As the US leave Bagram, violence increases
In the news
On 2 July, the US military left the Bagram Airfield, the biggest and last base in Afghanistan. The airfield was handed over to Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), effectively ending major US military operations after nearly two decades.
On 2 July, President Joe Biden said that the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is "on track," adding, "it's a rational drawdown with our allies." He added: "We have worked out an over-the-horizon capacity. But the Afghans are going to have to be able to do it themselves." On the Afghan government's ability post the withdrawal he said: "I think they have the capacity to be able to sustain the government. But I am concerned that they deal with the internal issues that they have to be able to generate the kind of support they need nationwide to maintain the government."
On 4 July, the New York Times reported that General Austin S. Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan, will remain in the country for "at least a couple more weeks," in an effort to "soften the blow" of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and to reassure Afghans as the Taliban step up their offensive.
On 6 July, National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib assured the Afghan people that the ANDSF will retake all districts that have fallen to the Taliban, saying that government forces had not expected the Taliban offensive but would "absolutely, definitely" counterattack. According to Al Jazeera, the Taliban now controls roughly a third of all 421 districts and district centres as its march through northern Afghanistan gains momentum, causing the Afghan forces to flee across the border into Tajikistan.
Issues at large
First, end of America's 'longest war.' With the withdrawal of troops, what is called the 'longest war' for the US comes to an end after nearly two decades that spanned four presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, respectively. Over the last 20 years, nearly 175,000 people in Afghanistan, including 51,000 terrorists/opposition fighters and over 2,300 US soldiers, had been killed. In addition, the war had cost the US nearly USD two trillion.
Second, the decision to withdraw. The withdrawal plan was consolidated with the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in 2020 under the Trump administration and carried forward by the Biden administration. According to the agreement, the conditions for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan was laid out in return for a reduction of violence by the Taliban along with severing all ties with terrorist groups and joining the intra-Afghan talks. The deal has not made any lasting impact and has merely been used by the Taliban to ensure the US's exit from Afghanistan.
Third, the growing instability. Concerns over the withdrawal leading to more instability have been raised by the Afghans, Americans and other regional players. The pace of withdrawal and America's long-term strategy in Afghanistan has been questioned amid the deteriorating security situation. Additionally, several other important resources such as aid and foreign contractors that would also be stopped will cause the instability to intensify. Meanwhile, the Taliban has been on an offensive and has made substantial territorial gains since the pull-out process began on 1 May.
Fourth, the unfinished issues. The withdrawal of troops is taking place despite the reports of several terrorist groups still operating in the country, the main reason for their stay. The US's plan on 'over the horizon' counterterrorism measures to monitor and curb terrorism has not been implemented given the hurdles they have already faced. Additionally, the US's institutional building and development plans will also remain unfinished.
First, Afghanistan is likely to witness intense violence. In the coming months, the scale and intensity of violence are likely to increase due to the changes taking place in Afghanistan. Thus, this withdrawal will in turn result in displacement of people, disintegrations and push Afghanistan on the path to terror. However, a sole victory of either the Afghanistan government or the Taliban is highly unlikely, as the capabilities and situation in Afghanistan have changed. Rather, the ongoing deadlock is likely to continue.
Second, the futility of baseless interventions. The US's war in Afghanistan is another example of the futility of foreign interventions. While not undermining the effectiveness of interventions, Afghanistan would have problems of its own, however, the nature of the intervention, in this case, has fanned the flames of this conflict.
Colombia: Two months of protests
In the news
On 1 July, Colombia's President Ivan Duque said that he plans to present a new law to Congress which will introduce stringent measures to curb vandalism, roadblocks and attacks on police. This statement came days after the country marked two months of protests that started against the now-withdrawn tax proposals but have since expanded to include a host of demands.
According to Reuters, Duque said: "We've seen some acts of vandalism that have destroyed public infrastructure, that has burned municipal courthouses, that have also attacked commercial premises and clearly we need to toughen penalties". He added: "Peaceful protest is a constitutional right that we all have, and peaceful means without violence and without violating the rights of others".
Issues at large
First, two months of continuous protests. The protests started on 28 April against a controversial tax reform proposal by the Duque administration that sought to raise tax revenues. After violent protests, Duque withdrew the proposal and then Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla, who piloted it, resigned from his post. The protests, however, have continued regardless. The talks between protestors and the government at the end of May, which showed some progress, also collapsed in June. Even though the national strike group has suspended weekly protests to prepare drafts to present to Congress at the end of July, protests have continued in small pockets in the country.
Second, the expansion of demands. Stemming from a larger discontent in society, the inclusion of multiple groups in the protest movement — youth, middle class, unions and the indigenous communities — has resulted in a commensurate expansion of demands. This includes basic income, better employment opportunities, police reforms and respect for human rights. The indigenous communities also recently toppled the statue of explorer Columbus — after whom the country is named — demonstrating their opposition to colonialism and bringing to light the exploitation suffered by them to date.
Third, Duque's heavy-handed response. While Duque took the right step early into the protest movement by withdrawing the tax reforms, he has also been blamed for a brutal police response that has killed several dozens of protestors, according to right groups.
The last two months have exposed the discontent boiling in the Colombian society, which initially found an outlet in the tax proposals. The strong-arm tactics approach by Duque has not been helpful in addressing it. His new announcement of bringing a new stringent anti-vandalism law, when a law for that very purpose already exists, is only going to make matters worse.
Colombia will only come out of this tense stalemate if the negotiation process with the wide array of protesting groups is restarted and the Duque administration takes steps to address genuine popular demands.
Heatwave: Canada, US, Europe, and Siberia scorched in record-breaking temperatures
In the news
On 29 June, Lytton, a village in Northwest Canada recorded the country's highest-ever temperature of 49.6 degrees Celsius following which the authorities issued evacuation orders.
On 28 June, Portland recorded its highest ever temperature of 46.6 degrees Celsius. Similarly, on 27 June, Seattle recorded 42.2 degrees Celsius.
On 4 July, Finland's Lapland recorded 33.5 degrees Celsius which was its hottest day since 1914.
On 30 June, US President Joe Biden said: "Climate change is driving the dangerous confluence of extreme heat and prolonged drought. We're seeing wildfires of greater intensity that move with more speed and last well beyond traditional months, traditional months of the fire season," adding, "Right now we have to act and act fast. We're late in the game here."
On 2 July, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the situation caused by the heatwave was "unprecedented," adding, "Lives have been lost, and the risk of wildfires is at a dangerously high level."
Issues at large
First, the global increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. In the recent past, extreme weather events like cold waves, heatwaves, droughts, floods, cyclones, have been recurring with high frequency and intensity. From July 2020 to November 2020, the world witnessed 30 storms breaking all previous records. Similarly, wildfires across the US, Brazil, and Russia have been recurring each year, serving as an alarm for climate change.
Second, the global rise in temperature. On 1 July, the World Meteorological Organization announced that Antarctica had recorded its highest ever temperature of 18.3 degrees Celsius. Polar regions have been witnessing a rise in the temperature resulting in glacier melt. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2020 was the second warmest year after 2016. At least 23 countries have recorded a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius in 2021.
Third, the cause of the heatwave in the US and Canada. A heat dome effect has been created over the high-pressure regions of Canada and the US, due to which the hot air is trapped over the region. The heat dome traps hot air for several days and nights, which causes a sudden increase in the temperature, which is higher than the average temperature. Extremely high temperatures have increased the risk of wildfires across the country. According to British Columbia Wildfire Service, 1,700 lightning strikes were recorded on 2 July 2021. Moreover, there has been a sudden increase in deaths over the past week. British Columbia Coroners Service has recorded 719 sudden deaths in the past week which is three times the normal deaths. Many emergency cooling centres have been put up across Vancouver and other cities to temporarily prevent people from health risks due to the heatwave.
First, climate adaptation. Climate mitigation and adaptation should go hand in hand. Since extreme weather events are increasing globally, there is a need for more focus on climate adaptation measures. This would help in addressing the extreme weather events effectively and reduce the health risks due to climate change.
Second, the need for effective management of extreme weather events. Developing efficient early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, disaster risk management, sharing of information and resources should be stressed upon.
Third, the fingerprints of climate change. Such events serve as an alarm for the fact that climate change is real. Climate action is urgently needed. Even though the countries announce ambitious targets in the Paris Climate agreement, not much attention is paid to the fact whether the countries are domestically doing enough to meet the targets.
- Peace and Conflict from East and Southeast Asia
Hong Kong: Police arrest nine for alleged terrorist activities
On 6 July, Hong Kong police said nine people had been arrested for suspected terrorist activities; the arrested, including six secondary school students, have been charged under the National Security Law. The nine had allegedly attempted to make bombs and carry out a series of attacks on "courts, cross-harbor tunnels, railways" and plant explosives on dustbins. Reuters reported that the police also confiscated "triacetone triperoxide (TATP) in a hostel room police described as a laboratory for bomb-making equipment."
Japan: Deputy PM calls for defending Taiwan with US assistance; China criticises remarks
On 5 July, Kyodo news agency reported that the Japanese Deputy Prime Minister had expressed the need to defend Taiwan with US assistance if the island faced any problem. The Deputy Prime Minister said: "If a major problem took place in Taiwan, it would not be too much to say that it could relate to a survival-threatening situation (for Japan)." The statement garnered strong criticism from China; on 6 July, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson termed the remarks "extremely wrong and dangerous," adding, "We will never allow any country to interfere in the Taiwan question by any means. No one should underestimate the Chinese people's firm determination, firm will and strong ability to safeguard national sovereignty."
North Korea: Pyongyang has a policy of human trafficking, says a US report
On 1 July, the United States released the Trafficking in Persons report wherein North Korea has been named among the 11 governments which have a policy of human trafficking. A policy of trafficking includes "trafficking in government-funded programs, forced labour in government-affiliated medical services or other sectors, sexual slavery in government camps, or the employment or recruitment of child soldiers." The report says several other state sponsors of trafficking used North Korean workers who were forced into free labour by Pyongyang. Further, it raises concerns that defectors from North Korea in China were forcefully returned and were, hence, at the risk of other rights abuses, forced labour and being trafficked elsewhere.
Myanmar: At least 25 killed in the latest clash between military troops and civilian forces
On 6 July, The Sentinel reported that at least 25 people had been killed in clashes between the military troops and the People's Defense Force (PDF) in Saigang province near the country's border with India. The clashes began on 2 July and ended on 4 July after PDF fighters ran out of bullets and other arrows. Meanwhile, on 5 July, a British-government funded project - Myanmar Witness - was launched to probe into the violation of the rights in the country. Myanmar Witness is expected to share details of the same to the United Nations' Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.
- Peace and Conflict from South Asia
India: Gupkar alliance says it was "disappointed" with meeting with PM Modi
On 5 July, the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) said it was "disappointed" with the outcome of their meeting with PM Narendra Modi. A statement issued by the alliance said that restoration of statehood was the BJP's commitment on the floor of Parliament, adding, "so any Assembly election must be held only after the restoration of full statehood for J&K. To this end, the PAGD has decided to reach out to other political parties in J&K with a view to taking a common position on the issue." This statement came a day before the Delimitation Commission planned to visit Jammu and Kashmir to interact with political parties, public representatives and state government officials on redrawing boundaries of existing Assembly seats.
India: Custodial death of Father Stan Swamy stirs outrage
On 5 June, Father Stan Swamy, who tirelessly fought for jal (water), jungle (forest) and zameen (land) for tribal people passed away while in custody. He was arrested in 2020 under the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in the Bhima Koregaon caste violence case. On 6 July, a report from an American forensic agency claimed that incriminating evidence was planted on the computer of Surendra Gadling, who was arrested under a harsh anti-terror law for alleged links to the banned CPI(Maoist) group, suggesting that Father Stan's computer could have also been targeted. Meanwhile, the opposition and civil society have expressed anguish and outrage over his "inhuman treatment" and have called for the government to act.
Pakistan: Violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan
On 5 July, three soldiers were killed and one injured in a suspected terrorist attack in North Waziristan. According to officials, the attack took place at the Beza check-post near the Afghan border, the use of heavy weaponry is also suspected. This comes after two soldiers were killed when alleged terrorists from Afghanistan opened fire at a military post in North Waziristan's Dwatoi area and three soldiers were killed in South Waziristan on the same day. Meanwhile, five Balochistan Liberation Army terrorists were killed in an intelligence-based operation of the CTD in Quetta's Killi Gulzar, Hazar Ganji area in Balochistan.
Afghanistan: Russia concerned over ISIS build-up
On 2 July, Russia raised concerns over the build-up of ISIS in Afghanistan amidst the troop withdrawal. Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov claimed that the Islamic State had gained ground because of the poor progress of negotiations between warring parties in Afghanistan, adding, "In these conditions, [the Islamic State] is actively capturing territory, primarily in northern Afghanistan, right on the border with countries that are our allies."
- Peace and Conflict from Central Asia, Middle East and Africa
Central Asia: Tajikistan and Uzbekistan prepare for the possible Afghan refugee crisis
On 5 July, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon ordered 20,000 reserve officers to the Afghan border in response to the Taliban's recent offensive in northern Afghanistan. Additionally, authorities stated that they are preparing for an influx of refugees to enter the country. Similarly, Uzbekistan is also taking the measure in the anticipated flow of refugees from bordering Afghanistan.
Azerbaijan: Explosion in the Caspian Sea near Azerbaijan oil and gas fields
On 5 July, a strong explosion took place in the Caspian Sea area where Azerbaijan has extensive offshore oil and gas fields. The blast caused a column of fire to rise; however, the state oil company Socar said none of its platforms was damaged. The cause of the blast was not immediately determined, but the company later said preliminary information indicated it was a mud volcano.
Lebanon: Caretaker PM warns of "social explosion" amid economic crisis
On 6 July, Al Jazeera quoted caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab: "Lebanon is a few days away from the social explosion. The Lebanese are facing this dark fate alone." His remarks come amid an economic crisis wherein the currency has lost more than 90 per cent of its value. Diab was addressing ambassadors to Lebanon and said: "As we gather here, the streets of Lebanon are full of cars queuing in front of gas stations. And there are those searching in pharmacies for medicine and a can of baby formula. Inside their own homes, the Lebanese are living without electricity." With this, he called on the international organisations and heads of states "to help save the Lebanese from death and prevent the demise of Lebanon."
Syria: Eight, including six children, killed in government shelling
On 3 July, the Syria Observatory for Human Rights said eight civilians, including six children, were killed and 16 others injured in artillery firing by the Syrian government in Idlib province. Five of the deceased belonged to the same family. Syria's Civil Defence, commonly known as the White Helmets, tweeted: "A horrific massacre committed by Russia & regime forces this morning in #Idlib countryside, where 8 civilians … were killed." Al Jazeera reported that this was the highest death toll in the continuing violence in Idlib despite the implementation of a ceasefire in March 2020.
Israel-Palestine: Israeli air raid targets Gaza Strip
On 2 July, Israel claimed that its air raid had targeted a weapons manufacturing site in the Gaza Strip in response to an alleged launch of incendiary balloons from the area. Al Jazeera quoted from the Israeli military statement: "In response to the arson balloons fired towards Israeli territory today, [military] fighter jets struck … a weapons manufacturing site belonging to the Hamas terror organisation." Sources in Hamas confirmed the incident but said no casualties were recorded. This is the third such attack since the end of the 11-day clashes in May.
Palestine: Protests against PA President continue
On 3 July, protests against the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continued outside the PA headquarters in Ramallah in occupied West Bank. This comes a week after Palestinian security forces, some in plain clothes, used force to disperse similar demonstrations. The US State Department spokesman conveyed that Washington was "deeply disturbed by reports that non-uniformed members of the Palestinian Authority security forces harassed and used force against protesters and journalists." Similarly, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the security forces had targeted women protesters and asked the PA "to ensure freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly."
Yemen: Over two million children are not in school, says UNICEF report
On 5 July, UNICEF released a report titled "Education Disrupted: Impact of the conflict on children's education in Yemen" which observed that over two million children in the country were out of school, owing to the long-drawn conflict and poverty. The report terms children as "the primary victims of this terrible crisis." Further, it says 11.3 million children are in need of humanitarian aid of some kind. It also highlighted that 8.1 million children required emergency assistance; this was an increase of 1.1 million children compared to 2014 when the conflict started.
Nigeria: 140 school children kidnapped in Kaduna state
On 5 July, at least 140 children were reportedly abducted from a school in Kaduna State. The police claim that gunmen "overpowered the school's security guards and made their way into the students' hostel where they abducted an unspecified number of students into the forest." As of 6 July 2021, more than 1,000 students from schools and colleges have been kidnapped since December 2020. This latest development comes after eight people, including a one-year-old baby and two nurses were kidnapped from the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Centre in Zaira.
Ethiopia: Tigray accepts ceasefire "in principle," presents conditions to federal government
On 4 July, The Guardian reported that the Tigray region had accepted the federal government's unilateral ceasefire but presented certain conditions. The conditions included the withdrawal of Eritrean forces and armed fighters from the Amhara region. Next, the Tigray People's Liberation Front also demanded the restoration of the government in Tigray, which the federal government previously termed a rebel authority. A statement signed under the "government of Tigray" read: "As long as we have a foolproof guarantee that the security of our people will not be compromised by the second round of invasions, we accept a ceasefire in principle." Meanwhile, on 2 July, the Acting UN aid chief briefed the Security Council about the humanitarian situation in Tigray. He said: "More than 400,000 people are estimated to have crossed the threshold into famine and another 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine. Some are suggesting that the numbers are even higher. Thirty-three thousand children are severely malnourished."
Mali: France resumes joint military operations after consultation with the transitional government
On 2 July, the French Defence Ministry announced that France would resume its joint military operations in Mali. Euronews quoted from the Ministry's statement: "Following consultations with the Malian transitional authorities and the countries of the region (...) France decided to resume joint military operations as well as national advisory missions, which had been suspended since 3 June." Further, the Ministry said the decision to resume operations was taken due to the threat of terrorism and radical Islamism.
Burkina Faso: Protesters demand solution to "jihadist bloodshed"
On 3 July, thousands took to the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, demanding strong actions against the increasing "jihadist bloodshed." The protesters were mobilised by the opposition amid the government's call for the boycott of the protests. Africanews reported that demonstrators were heard shouting: "No to growing insecurity," "No to populations being abandoned," and "Is there still a president in Burkina Faso?" The development comes after over 130 people were massacred by armed groups on 4 June in Solhan village; the attackers included children as young as 12 years old.
Tunisia-Libya: 43 migrants drown in the Mediterranean Sea; Italy to probe Libyan coastguard's attempt to attack migrant boat
On 3 July, The Guardian reported that 43 people had drowned, and 84 were rescued from a shipwreck off the Tunisian coast. The Tunisian Red Crescent said the boat was ferrying migrants from Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Bangladesh from Libya to Italy across the Mediterranean Sea. In a separate incident, rescue workers from a German organisation recorded the video of a Libyan coastguard attacking a boat in distress in the Mediterranean Sea on 30 June. The organisation said the boat had 50 people, including children; the Libyan coastguard was using a boat supplied by Italy. Further, the organisation said the Libyan coastguard tried to ram the migrant boat and also fired at least two shots in its direction. On 3 July, Italian prosecutors launched an investigation into the incident, but the chief prosecutor said further probe required authorisation from the Ministry of Justice as "the object of the proceeding is a foreign authority."
The GERD: Egypt rejects Ethiopia's plans to fill Nile Dam; Ethiopia denounces intervention by League of Arab States
On 6 July, Egypt denounced Ethiopia's decision to begin the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Nile Dam). The Egyptian Irrigation Minister termed Ethiopia's decision a unilateral move and "a violation of international laws and norms that regulate projects built on the shared basins of international rivers, including the Nile River." Meanwhile, on the same day, Ethiopia criticised the League of Arab States' decision to submit a letter to the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly requesting their intervention in the issue. The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry released a statement: "Ethiopia rejects the unwelcome meddling by the League of Arab States on the matter of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)..." adding, "The League of Arab States has a reputation for its unfettered and unconditional support to any claim Egypt has presented on the issue of the Nile."
- Peace and Conflict from Europe and the Americas
The UK: Scottish fisherman raise concern over EU paperwork
On 5 July, a Scottish shellfish supplier criticised the export paperwork required to ship fresh produce to the European Union after Brexit. The fisherman raised fears of "physical collapse" under EU paperwork "madness" of the forms, which cost time and money to complete. Additionally, the fisherman said: "In simple terms to export to China, Hong Kong or Singapore, it is cheaper and quicker to export there than it is to France." This statement comes amidst the criticism over the fishing terms the UK secured in the post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU.
The UK-EU: Controversy over David Frost's statement on Northern Ireland protocol
On 5 July, Foreign Minister of Ireland Simon Coveney stated that the European Union leaders feared the worst after what he termed as a provocative article written by David Frost and the Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, in the Irish Times. He stated that the EU fears that Boris Johnson wants to "dismantle" the Northern Ireland protocol. In the article, Frost and Lewis state that the UK-EU agreement in the 'sausage war' was "welcome" but that it addressed "only a small part of the underlying problem", claiming the "process to resolve all these difficulties" was "creating a series of rolling crises as we lurch from one deadline to another."
Hungary: EU warns of sanctions over anti-LGBT law
On 7 July, the European Union threatened to impose sanctions on Hungary over the country's newly passed law which discriminates against the LGBT community; the law will go into effect from 7 July. The European Commission President termed the law "shameful" and said: "If Hungary does not correct the situation, the Commission will use its powers as guardian of the treaties." Euronews explains that the law, passed in June, "bans the portrayal of homosexuality and sex reassignment in school education material, advertisements and TV programmes addressed to people under 18 years of age." Meanwhile, the government claims that the law was passed to prevent children from falling victims to paedophilia; this defence garnered further criticism from the public.
Georgia & Croatia: Pride marches cancelled amid violence
On 6 July, the organiser of the Tbilisi Pride march in Georgia cancelled the event following attacks from homophobic groups. Before the event began, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili termed the march as "unacceptable for a large segment of Georgian society." A statement from the organisers said: "We cannot come out to the streets full of oppressors supported by the government, patriarchate and pro-Russian forces, and risk the lives of people." Similarly, in Croatia, violence broke out as participants of the LGBT+ Pride march came under attack. A statement from the Zagreb Pride organisation said: "For the first time in ten years, on the day of the Pride Parade of the LGBTIQ community, Zagreb Pride, there was an outbreak of homophobic fascist violence."
France: RSF's 'predators of press freedom' list includes 37 heads of state
On 2 July, Reporters Sans Frontieres named 37 heads of states who massively cracked down on press freedom, labelling them as "press freedom predators." According to the report, this year's list featured Kim Jong-un, Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin, Imran Khan and Narendra Modi. Along with these names, Mohammed bin Salman, Viktor Orban, Carrie Lam and Sheikh Hasina were also among the new entrants to the list.
Haiti: President assassinated in an attack at the residence
On 7 July, President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in an attack on his private residence. The country’s interim prime minister condemned the attack terming it as a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act” and said: “The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti,” adding, “Democracy and the republic will win.” The assassination comes amid ongoing political unrest in the country, stirring fears of escalating turmoil
Chile: Protesters clash with police during the inauguration of a new constitutional assembly
On 5 July, as Chile's newly elected constitutional assembly was being inaugurated, protesters at the venue clashed with police causing a delay in the event. The security forces used water cannons and fired tear gas to disperse the angry crowds. The continuing protests highlight the challenges for the drafting of a new constitution against a backdrop of deep divisions that still exist in Chile. Previously, the constitutional body was one of the key aspects that the government agreed upon after social unrest in October 2019. The body is made up of 155 delegates, including 17 indigenous candidates chosen by a popular vote in May.
Gulf of Mexico: Fire erupts after a gas leak in an underwater pipeline
On 2 July, a massive fire broke out in the southern waters of the Gulf of Mexico as an underwater pipeline leaked, causing a huge fire on the ocean surface. According to Petroleos Mexicanos, a Mexican state-owned oil company, a bizarre chain of events including a lightning storm and a simultaneous gas pipeline leak had caused the subaquatic fireball. The incident has sparked criticism and concern over the operations of such companies and the ecological impact of such accidents.
The US-Venezuela: Biden assures opposition leader Guaido of support
On 6 July, US President Joe Biden in a letter reaffirmed support to Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido. He said: "Under your leadership and in coalition with civil society leaders you are preserving those ideals of freedom democracy and sovereignty." The letter was sent on the occasion of the anniversary of Venezuela's independence as well as amidst efforts to resume negotiations with President Nicolas Maduro's government.
The US: Pakistan, Turkey and 12 other countries added to a Child Soldier Recruiter List
On 1 July, the United States added 14 countries to its Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) list under the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2021. The countries include Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. Following the report, Pakistan and Turkey categorically rejected the list, terming it as "baseless" and accusing the US of "hypocrisy and double standards" respectively.