🌎 Bolsonaro supporters storm their capital
Plus: Philippines’ President Marcos first trip to China was all about the South China Sea
Hi there Intriguer. We’re delighted to be back! The world enters 2023 with natural gas prices in Europe below where they were before Russia invaded Ukraine, China battling a horrific nationwide Covid wave, the true extent of which might never be publicly known, and a global economy that IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said is in for “a tough year, tougher than the year we leave behind”. Oof.
The good news is we’ll be here every weekday to guide you through everything 2023 throws at us. Even better, we’ve refreshed our format to give you more global news and analysis, covering more places, in fewer words. Our trademark ‘wit’ remains unchanged, which might be a plus or a minus, depending on your views. You can find more about what we’ve got planned for 2023 at the end of the newsletter. Let’s get stuck in!
Today’s edition is a 5 min read:
- 🇧🇷 Former president Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed Brazil’s Congress yesterday.
- 🇵🇭 Philippines’ President Marcos’s first trip to China was all about the South China Sea.
- ➕ Plus: Putin tried to fool Zelensky, how different newspapers covered the riots in Brazil, and a few recommendations to help get you through the week.
🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
- 🇧🇾 Belarus: Nobel Prize winner Ales Bialiatski is facing 12 years in prison for his involvement in pro-democracy protests against President (and Putin puppet) Alexander Lukashenko in 2021. The UN human rights office called his trial “simply politically motivated”. (Politico)
- 🇻🇪 Venezuela: The Biden Administration has reversed a Trump-era policy and will no longer recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s leader. Does this clear the way for a Biden-Maduro meeting? (Axios)
- 🇹🇼 Taiwan: Taiwan has asked to join WTO consultations on China’s trade complaint against US chip sanctions designed to limit Beijing’s access to technology. (Bloomberg)
- 🇮🇳 India: Google has appealed a decision by India’s antitrust regulator after accusing it of “more than 50 instances of copypasting” from a 2018 EU ruling against the tech giant. (Reuters)
- 🇮🇷 Iran: Two men were executed near Tehran on Saturday for their alleged violent involvement in the nationwide uprising against the government. Critics called the executions “a ploy to use violence and sow fear to crush the protests”. (New York Times)
🇧🇷 BRAZIL / POLITICS
Bolsonaro supporters stormed Congress yesterday, marring Lula’s first week as president
Briefly: Until about 8 PM GMT last night, this was going to be a nice little story about how Brazil’s new president was sworn in uneventfully last week but was facing a long to-do list. But that was all before thousands of supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro decided to storm the Brazilian Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace yesterday afternoon.
The latest update: Governor of the Federal District, Ibaneis Rocha, announced that all buildings had been cleared of “the terrorists” and at least 400 people arrested. Bolsonaro distanced himself from the riots in a tweet last night, presumably from his hideout in Florida, where he was recently spotted enjoying some crispy KFC.
Intrigue’s take: Analysts think the rioters were hoping to cause so much chaos that the military would have no choice but to intervene and reinstall Bolsonaro as president. It’s hard not to draw parallels with the storming of the US Capitol two years ago. But unlike events in the US, President Lula had already been inaugurated, and key political leaders, including Lula himself, were not in the vicinity of the riots.
What now? President Lula presciently pledged during his inauguration speech last week to reunite the country after a highly polarising election: “I repeat what I said in my speech after the victory on October 30th, about the need to unite the country. There are not two Brazils. We are a single country, a single people, a great nation.”
He has also promised to fight deforestation and focus on economic and social inequality.
Also worth noting:
- The stock market dipped on Lula’s first day in office (2 January) but has since recouped most of its losses.
- The OEDC forecasts that Brazil will grow by 1.2% and 1.4% in 2023 and 2024, respectively.
📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
How different newspapers covered: The anti-government riots in Brazil yesterday.
Links: Hindustan Times, Clarin, Novo Jornal
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For example, last week they shared a chart showing how China Begins 2023 in a Recession.
🇵🇭 PHILIPPINES / DIPLOMACY
Philippines – China talks make progress but leave major issues unresolved
Briefly: Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. met Chinese President Xi Jinping last week (3-5 January) during his first trip to Beijing since taking office last June. The pair agreed to a joint gas and oil exploration deal in the South China Sea and signed several agreements promoting cooperation in tourism, agriculture, and infrastructure.
Some context: Relations between the Philippines and China hinge on their shared maritime border in the South China Sea. China continues to make bold (and widely rejected) territorial claims over the strategic waterway in defiance of a 2016 international court ruling.
The most recent flare-up came last November when Chinese naval vessels “forcefully retrieved” Chinese rocket debris from a Filipino salvage ship that was towing it back to shore.
Intrigue’s take: China’s aggressive behaviour has pushed the Philippines closer to the US. Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines last November to denounce Chinese maritime aggression and reassure Marcos Jr’s administration of US support. China will be keen to ensure the Philippines and the US don’t get any closer.
Also worth noting:
- China is the Philippines’ top trade partner, with bilateral trade increasing 8.3% year-on-year from January-November last year.
- Marcos Jr’s family has a history of friendly(ish) relations with China – his father, the dictator Marcos Sr, established formal diplomatic ties with Beijing in 1975.
💬 QUOTE OF THE DAY
Not falling for your tricks…
Russian President Vladimir Putin called on his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to accept a 36-hour ceasefire to observe Russian Orthodox Christmas this past Saturday (7 January).
Putin’s gambit was a non-starter from the beginning: President Zelensky accused Putin of using “Christmas as a cover” to slow Ukrainian momentum in the country’s east, where intense fighting continued throughout the day.
Did you know? A Christmas truce was observed in 1914 during World War 1.
👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE
Senior editor Valentina has a few recommendations for your week ahead. If you’ve got…
- 5 mins: Read “Meet the most powerful Uber driver in India in India”. (Rest of World)
- 45 mins: Listen to ‘The Road to Vietnam with Dr Pablo de Orellana’ from King’s College Department of War Studies. (Spotify – or any other podcast player)
- 2 hours: Watch ‘The Swimmers’, a profoundly moving (and true) story about two sisters, Olympic athletes and Syrian refugees. (Netflix $)
🗳️ POLL TIME!
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the year ahead?
🚀 LET’S GO!
We’re cooking up some exciting things for you in the very near future, including but certainly not limited to:
- A podcast to help your ears stay on top of the world.
- A weekly ‘Intrigue Cheatsheet’ to help you dive a little deeper into the most critical issues facing the world.
- An Intrigue community so you can connect, discuss and collaborate with your fellow Intriguers.
- A brand new referral system to give you more of what you want for sharing International Intrigue.
- Several new tools to help you better understand geopolitics for your work, studies, or just satisfy your curiosity.
- And plenty of other things as well.
🥂 Thank you for making 2022 so rewarding, and here’s to a fantastic 2023!