The Cable

Trump Calls Duterte, Venezuela Protests, Belarus Cracks Down: The Weekend Behind, the Week Ahead

Catch up on the top headlines from the weekend, and learn what to watch in the days to come.

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Between not attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and hosting a rally to mark his one hundredth day in office, President Donald Trump called Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines. The White House said in a statement “it was a very friendly conversation,” in which the two leaders “discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.”

Democrats slammed Trump’s open invite to Duterte, whose drawn international criticism for his controversial war on drugs. “By welcoming Duterte to meet with him in the White House, Trump risks giving Duterte’s actions — and his brutal human rights violations — an American stamp of approval,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Conn.) said in a statement Monday.

Duterte’s war on drugs has killed thousands (Duterte himself even boasted of killing drug users). But this evidently went unmentioned by Trump, who rounded out his first 100 days in office by inviting the Philippines leader to the White House at some unspecified point in the near future. 

Duterte isn’t the only iron-fisted leader who made headlines this weekend. Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro’s crackdown on anti-government protests, which spread to the poorer suburbs typically supportive of Maduro, has seen nearly 30 people killed so far. On Sunday, Maduro increased the minimum wage by 60 percent in a ham-fisted attempt to placate Venezuelans who can’t afford basic necessities like food and medicine. The basics are in chronic shortage as amid the country’s economic and political turmoil. Unemployment in Venezuela is set to pass 25 percent this year and inflation is slated to rise a whopping 720 percent.

Maduro says he believes local elections will be held later this year. His beleaguered opponents are calling for general elections as soon as possible.

“Venezuela’s problem is not that there won’t be elections this year,” Maduro said on Sunday. “Venezuela’s problem is that an empire in extremists’ hands wants to take our oil and carry out a coup.” His opponents might say their country is already in the hands of an extremist.

In other dictatorial news: Ahead of a protest on Monday, leading Belarusian opposition figure Mikalay Statkevich was jailed for five days.

Meanwhile, the world continues to watch fallout from Macedonia, where 15 protesters were charged after an attack on the country’s national parliament late last Thursday after members of parliament elected an ethnic Albanian parliamentary speaker (though the real issue at hand is formerly pro-EU, now nationalist VMRO-DPMNE’s continued jostling for power).

Six of the charged have already been arrested. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Brian Yee went to Macedonia over the weekend to try to help soothe tensions. Whether or not he was successful will be seen in the week, and weeks, ahead.

Photo credit: TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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