🌍 Mexico’s former security chief convicted on US drug charges
Plus: What happened at the African Union summit
Hi there Intriguer. Everything is a little different in Japan. For example, long walks on the beach are sometimes interrupted by a huge mystery metal sphere washing up from the unknown. Understandably, local authorities aren’t sure what to do. The most plausible explanation is it’s a mooring buoy that broke loose. But plausible ≠ fun. So for now, let’s just call it a ‘UFO’ (unidentified floating object).
Today’s edition is a 4.8 min read:
- 🇲🇽 A former Mexican security chief convicted on US drug charges.
- 🌍 The African Union has a lot on its agenda.
- ➕ Plus: Nigeria’s presidential hopeful Peter Obi, how the papers are covering Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip to Russia, and some interesting insights into Russian dissent.
– VC & EP
🚀 Just six days left in our challenge of 10,000 new subscribers by the end of February – and we need your help! So thanks for getting out there and telling your friends, frolleagues, frenemies and random strangers on the street 🙏
🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
- 🇦🇫 Afghanistan: The Taliban welcomed Pakistan’s defence minister to Kabul on Wednesday (22 February) in an effort to resolve a border dispute. The two sides briefly exchanged fire on Monday after the Taliban closed a major border crossing.
- 🇮🇹 Italy: Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni became the latest Western leader to visit Kyiv on Tuesday (21 February). She’s eager to distinguish herself from members of her coalition, like former PM Berlusconi, who’s a friend of Putin’s and supporter of Russia’s invasion.
- 🇹🇭 Thailand: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha will preemptively dissolve parliament in March, paving the way for elections in May. A former army chief, the PM has ruled Thailand as a strongman since taking power in a 2014 coup, but he’s trailing in polls.
- 🇭🇳 Honduras: A state of emergency in Honduras, designed to help tackle a growing network of criminal gangs, has been extended for a second time. The order has been in place since December and restricts freedom of movement and assembly.
- 🇾🇪 Yemen: Saudi Arabia has wired $1.4B to the central bank of Yemen’s internationally-recognised government to help spur economic growth. The Saudis have backed Yemen’s government against Iran-backed rebels since a civil war began there in 2014.
🇲🇽 MEXICO | DRUG TRADE
Former Mexico security chief convicted of taking cartel bribes
Briefly: Mexico’s former security chief has been convicted in the US of taking millions in bribes from drug cartels. Genaro García Luna’s fall from grace is remarkable given his high-profile role shaping Mexico’s war on cartels, including as federal investigations chief and then cabinet minister.
His fate was sealed by the damning testimony of several traffickers who alleged he helped El Chapo’s notorious Sinaloa cartel become (in the words of one attorney) the “FedEx of cocaine”. He’s denied all the allegations.
Next up in the hot seat: García Luna isn’t the only senior official on the continent fighting US drug charges. Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, extradited to the US last April, faces court in September.
Intrigue’s take: US drugs policy has long shaped Washington’s approach to Latin America, but 50 years and more than a $1 trillion later, it’s losing support across the continent. Some 83% of Americans say the War on Drugs has failed. And the president of Colombia, which the US recently designated a major non-NATO ally, has called for an end to the policy.
With cocaine retailing at ~US$70K per kilo in the US, ~US$103K in the UK and ~US$150K in Australia (vs just $1.5K in Colombia), it’s hard to disrupt supply with that kind of profit incentive. And with six million Americans powdering their nose each year, disrupting demand isn’t much easier. But for folks living under the scourge of organised crime, doing nothing isn’t an option.
Also worth noting:
- The cocaine market is booming, with a record 2,000 tonnes of pure cocaine manufactured in 2020.
- Mexico’s president (AMLO) is reportedly suing García Luna’s lawyer for suggesting that AMLO received campaign funds from drug traffickers in 2006.
📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
How different newspapers covered: The upcoming visit to Russia by China’s president.
Links: TASS, Wall Street Journal, SCMP.
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🌍 AFRICAN UNION | DIPLOMACY
“Zero tolerance against unconstitutional change” in Africa
Briefly: African leaders from across the continent gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia over the weekend (18-19 February) for the annual African Union (AU) Summit.
Two quick highlights:
- The AU affirmed the suspensions of Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and Sudan, which were all subject to military coups in recent years, and
- Members agreed to accelerate the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, aiming to boost intra-African trade by eliminating tariffs within the 1.4 billion person bloc by 2034.
Intrigue’s take: The AU aspires to political and economic clout to match the continent’s size and growing geopolitical heft. It’s flexed its muscle a bit already: in November, the AU successfully negotiated a permanent ceasefire to end a bloody two-year civil war in Ethiopia.
But the AU’s longer-term focus on the continent’s massive trade agreement shows the Union has its eye on a bigger picture: reducing and harmonising trade barriers across Africa will help unleash the continent’s economic potential. And that’ll ultimately mean less conflicts requiring AU intervention.
Also worth noting:
- A senior Israeli diplomat was removed from the summit after her country’s observer status was called into question.
- The AU is planning to hold a national reconciliation conference to end Libya’s ongoing civil war.
💬 QUOTE OF THE DAY
T-minus 2 days to Nigeria’s presidential election…
Over 93 million people are eligible to vote in Nigeria’s presidential election this Saturday, likely to shape the trajectory of Africa’s biggest economy for years to come.
Among the frontrunners is Peter Obi, a third party candidate going up against much more established (and better-funded) opponents from Nigeria’s two dominant parties. The polls are predicting a win for Obi and his fellow ‘Obidients’ (full marks to whichever under-slept campaign staffer coined that). But many voters are still undecided.
Nigeria isn’t the only African nation preparing for change. In the next two years, 30 (!) African states will hold elections that could usher in a new legislature and/or head of state.
👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE
What we’re reading about dissent within Russia, on the eve of the invasion’s one-year anniversary.
🗳️ POLL TIME!
Is the US War on Drugs about to undergo a major makeover?
Yesterday’s poll: Is there any hope of reviving the US-Russia New START nukes treaty?
🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ☮️ Yes, everyone will come to their senses (18%)
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🙅 No, there’s no negotiating with the current Russian regime (82%)
Your two cents:
- ☮️ C.F: “Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the decision was reversible a few hours after his speech… seems like officials are maybe trying to backtrack on Putin a bit, but who knows”
- 🙅 M.M: “Not in its current form, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a return of START Classic or the introduction of Diet START in a few years…”