Last Week in Foreign Affairs (January 7 - January 13)
Mexico Faces Gas Shortage
Parts of Mexico including the capital, Mexico City, have been experiencing extreme gasoline shortages for over two weeks. The new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), made fighting corruption a signature part of his platform during the campaign. Over the past several years, organized crime syndicates have begun to tap state-run pipelines to steal and sell oil - AMLO stated this resulted in a loss of 60 billion pesos, the equivalent of roughly $3.14 billion, last year alone. These operations have led to firms building warehouses on top of the pipelines in certain states to syphon as much oil as possible, oftentimes with the support of corrupt officials in local government. To combat this, AMLO decided to simply shut off thousands of pipelines across the nation in favor of trucks and tankers. While this shutdown may avoid some of the corruption plaguing the pipelines, it has also resulted in a much slower transfer of oil across the sprawling country, preventing the pipelines from meeting demand. Pemex, the state-run oil company, has just released a plan to to reopen over 3,500 pipelines to alleviate some of the shortages, but without a major government initiative to combat corruption at the local level, a long-lasting solution will be difficult to find.
Theresa May’s Brexit Plan Heads to a Vote
The British Parliament will almost certainly face defeat when members vote on Theresa May’s Brexit plan on Tuesday. This past week leading up to the vote has been tumultuous at best, spawning debate over what the appropriate next steps should be. Three major avenues of approach have taken shape over the past week, each with noticeable downsides and few positives. The first potential action is that Parliament votes down the measure, meaning it will take no action until March 29th, the day that the UK is officially set to leave the European Union (EU). While political and economic experts have not reached a consensus on the negative implications of such a “hard Brexit” approach, there is a general prediction that Britain’s economy would suffer as a result. In fact, over one trillion dollars in banking and service industry money has already left the country in anticipation of the expected financial woes.
The second option involves Parliament declaring a collapse of government, which would lead to Theresa May’s resignation or more likely, the initiation of a vote of no confidence by the opposition parties. Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has called for a general election to ride the wave of anti-conservative backlash that accompanying the negotiations, and the collapse of the Tory government would go a long way towards beginning that process. Corbyn has faced, however, increasingly loud calls to support a second referendum, but others feel the proposed vote doesn’t seem feasible in the short time frame left. The final option being discussed, albeit more quietly, is the possibility that Parliament votes to simply stop Brexit. This approach would likely be disastrous for conservatives, especially those whose districts voted overwhelmingly to leave. The European Court of Justice recently ruled that the UK Parliament could stop the Brexit process unilaterally at any time. While it may seem like the most unlikely of the three options now, much can change in the coming days.
DRC Election Battle Continues
In what became a contentious battle for the presidency, the Democratic Republic of Congo has elected the opposition candidate, Felix Tshisekedi, as its new leader following the resignation of President Joseph Kabila. Another contender, Martin Fayulu, who was initially leading in the polls, has asked for a recount. The December 30th elections were reportedly marred with voting irregularities and evidence of intimidation and violence in what was supposed to be the DRC’s first peaceful transition of power in sixty years. The Congo Catholic Church, one of the most influential NGOs in the country, also disputed the election results, claiming that its 40,000 election observers collected data that did not match the Electoral Commissions’ published work. The United Nations and the United States have yet to endorse any candidates and are still attempting to verify election results from their own set of observers. This election was seen as crucial to the fledgling democracy, and any forms of political upheaval or violence could potentially shatter the fragile situation.
Canada Announces New Immigration Initiative
The Canadian Parliament on Friday announced that it would welcome one million new permanent residents to the country over the span of just three years. Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship announced the initiative by declaring, "Thanks in great part to the newcomers we have welcomed throughout our history, Canada has developed into the strong and vibrant country we all enjoy." The decision to accept an influx of immigrants may have been influenced by Canada’s aging population need for a stronger and more vibrant workforce. These same issues have been plaguing other Western nations as well, but many of these countries have not yet turned to immigration as a tool to combat demographic strain on social policies.