Pompeo Heads to Latin America
Plus: A tight vote expected in Britain’s House of Commons, ethnonationalists declare a new region in Ethiopia, and the other stories we’re following today.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Pompeo takes off for Latin America amid immigration concerns, Britain’s House of Commons votes on an amendment to block a no-deal Brexit, and activists in Ethiopia declare a new ethnonationalist region.
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Pompeo Begins Latin America Trip
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo begins a four-day trip to Latin America today in Argentina, where he will attend a regional counterterrorism conference and mark the anniversary of the country’s worst terrorist attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994. Pompeo is scheduled to meet with President Mauricio Macri on Friday.
Migration could be the dominant topic for the rest of the trip. Pompeo will stop in Ecuador, which has seen a surge of migrants fleeing Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, and in El Salvador, where thousands seeking asylum in the United States begin their journeys. On Sunday, the U.S. secretary of state will meet his counterpart in Mexico, Marcelo Ebrard.
What to expect in Mexico. Pompeo’s visit to Mexico City falls just at the end of the 45-day period that the United States set for Mexico to reduce migration flows at the U.S. border. Given the deadline, Pompeo could push for a “safe third country” agreement with Mexico, Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, wrote in an email. But after Guatemala refused such an agreement, “it is unclear how amenable Mexico will be,” she said.
On the border. Meanwhile, asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border are grappling with the new U.S. policy that negates most asylum claims from Central American migrants. There are already several lawsuits challenging the restriction, including one filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Mexico’s Ebrard has disagreed with the new U.S. rule. If it is implemented fully, Mexico is likely to feel the effects first. “It will likely incentivize more migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico,” Pierce said. “It is very unlikely that Mexico will be able to take on this new burden, considering how overwhelmed their asylum office is already.”
What We’re Following Today
Tight vote expected on amendment to block no-deal Brexit. Britain’s House of Commons will vote today on a bill that could make it illegal for the next prime minister to suspend Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit by ensuring that debate continues leading up to the Brexit deadline on Oct. 31. The House of Lords passed a similar bill on Wednesday. The margin is expected to be close: The BBC reported that some cabinet ministers were considering resigning their posts in order to vote.
Boris Johnson, the clear frontrunner in the contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May, is committed to taking Britain out of the European Union by the October deadline, though he has so far refused to comment on his plan to push through a no-deal Brexit. The markets are responding: The British pound hit a 27-month low on Tuesday.
Ethiopian activists to declare new region. In Ethiopia’s south, members of the Sidama ethnic group plan to declare a new region today, with the city of Hawassa as its capital. Hawassa residents worry that the move could lead to violent protests. The Sidama declaration presents a new challenge to the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Ethiopia’s federal system grants larger ethnic groups some autonomy, but ethnonationalism is on the rise.
U.S. cuts Turkey’s F-35s. The United States officially moved to suspend Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program on Wednesday, a decision that had been threatened since Turkey began receiving parts for the Russian S-400 missile defense system last week. U.S. officials are concerned that using both the S-400 and the F-35 system poses a security risk.
Arson attack in Japan. At least 13 people have been killed and dozens were injured after an attack at an animation studio in Kyoto, Japan. A man reportedly broke into the Kyoto Animation Co. studio early on Thursday and dispersed an unidentified liquid. Kyoto police told AFP that a man “threw a liquid and set fire to it.”
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Keep an Eye On
Merkel’s protegée. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbaeur, the head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, took over as German defense minister on Wednesday after the election of Ursula von der Leyen as EU Commission President. The cabinet role could make or break her next step in politics. She’s already off to a rocky start, Peter Kuras argues in FP.
Asylum seekers in Hungary. A U.N. human rights official has appealed to Hungary to relocate asylum seekers—the majority children—from “prison-like” holding camps on the Serbian border to other facilities. Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which supports hardline immigration policies, does not consider the border facilities to be detention centers.
The head of the IAEA. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, has announced he will step down from his post early next year. Amano has taken a technical rather than political approach to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, which is responsible for—among other things—policing Iran’s commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Russia’s Constitution. In accordance with a constitutional ban on serving more than two consecutive terms, Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to step down in 2024. But the Kremlin is mulling amendments to the Constitution that would grant parliament more power—and could offer a new way for Putin to prolong his rule, Bloomberg reports.
Flooding in India. In India’s northeast, floodwaters caused by the monsoon rains are still rising, leaving millions of people stranded without enough food or drinking water. At least 5.8 million people have been displaced over the last two weeks and more than 150 killed by flooding in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Odds and Ends
On Wednesday, the Louvre in Paris became the first major museum to remove references to the Sackler family from its galleries. Public pressure is growing on museums around the world to cut ties with donors connected to the family, which includes the owners of Purdue Pharma—facing lawsuits in the United States over the painkiller OxyContin.
A court in Denmark has ordered a car dealership to pay the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei 1.75 million Danish kroner (around $263,000) after it used his artwork in a magazine ad. The work, Soleil Levant, displayed life jackets from refugees who had landed in Greece.
Foreign Policy Recommends
Wednesday marked five years since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine by separatists with a Russian missile. Among the bodies and wreckage strewn across fields of sunflowers, a local miner found a Dutch woman’s passport and handed it to the BBC journalist Natalia Antelava. In this episode of On Assignment, Antelava tracks down the woman’s family in the Netherlands to tell the story of just one of 298 lives lost that day. Amy Mackinnon, staff writer
That’s it for today.