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Morning Brief

Canceled Climate Summit Could Inflame Chile’s Protests

President Sebastián Piñera’s decision to back out of hosting the U.N. COP25 summit may aggravate tensions with protesters in Santiago.

Anti-government protesters demonstrate in front of the presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, on Oct. 30.
Anti-government protesters demonstrate in front of the presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, on Oct. 30. PEDRO UGARTE/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Chile calls off two global summits due to mass protests, Syrian and Turkish troops clash along the border, and thousands of protesters are expected in Hong Kong on Halloween.

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Chile Move Jeopardizes U.N. Climate Summit

Grappling with mass protests, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced on Wednesday that Santiago would not host two global summits later this year: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November and a significant U.N. climate meeting in December. The move underscores a shift by Piñera to focus on domestic concerns—as well as his worries that the unrest could continue through the end of the year.

Calling off of the APEC summit surprised the United States, which was hoping to ink a trade deal with China in Santiago—now likely to be delayed. Chile is the second host after Brazil to back out of the U.N. COP25 climate summit, a move that could have significant consequences. The 11-day conference would have brought together delegates from 190 countries to discuss how to reduce global carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement.

How will the protesters respond? So far, Chile’s protesters are unsatisfied with Piñera’s response to the unrest, and the cancellation of the U.N. climate summit could inflame tensions, according to Jennifer Pribble, an associate professor of political science at the University of Richmond. “By cancelling that event, Piñera may signal a weak commitment to climate policy,” she wrote in an email.

The cancellations could also bring more attention to the unrest. “I think outside actors will read this as a sign of how deep this crisis really is,” Pribble added. “The persistence of the protests, even after Piñera’s announcement of select policy changes and a cabinet shake-up, suggests that those mobilizing in the streets are looking for deeper, more structural change.”

Could the climate summit go on? The United Nations is now scrambling to find an alternative host for the climate summit, but it’s possible it will be delayed. A climate agency official in Poland, which holds the COP presidency, told Reuters that it’s too soon to make a call.

What We’re Following Today

Syrian, Turkish forces clash along the border. Syrian state media reported that Syrian and Turkish troops clashed on Wednesday near the border town of Ras al-Ain, as Turkey asserted its right to launch another offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria’s northeast. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that a YPG withdrawal from the area—agreed in a cease-fire deal with Russia—had not been confirmed, despite Russia’s assurances. Turkish-Russian joint patrols will begin along the border on Friday.

The landscape in northern Syria has shifted dramatically since the announcement earlier this month that the United States would withdraw troops from the region. But U.S. officials have consistently misread the threat from Turkey and botched Washington’s policy in the area, FP’s Lara Seligman reports.

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Halloween poses problems for mask ban in Hong Kong. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters are expected to mix with clubbers celebrating Halloween in the Hong Kong party district of Lan Kwai Fong tonight. Police have banned the march, and roads in the district will be closed.

The city government’s controversial mask ban—which pro-democracy lawmakers have challenged as unconstitutional—will pose particular challenges for police on Halloween. While face masks have been banned during the unrest, it will be difficult for police to distinguish between those celebrating Halloween and protesters; the South China Morning Post reports police may even ask costumed revelers to remove face paint. 

U.S. House seeks to stop donor-ambassadors. U.S. President Donald Trump gives more ambassadorships to campaign donors than most presidents. A Democratic lawmaker is now introducing a bill that would limit the number that a president can appoint who are not professional diplomats. A bill authored by the California Democrat Ami Bera, unveiled on Wednesday, would require that 70 percent of ambassadors come from State Department ranks, FP’s Robbie Gramer reports.

Keep an Eye On

John Bolton’s testimony. On Wednesday, the U.S. House summoned former National Security Advisor John Bolton to testify in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump over his dealings with Ukraine. Bolton left the administration in September, but his lawyer has said he is “not willing to appear voluntarily.” It’s not clear what will happen if he is subpoenaed.

Germany’s hate speech laws. Germany has tightened its online hate speech laws as part of an effort to crack down on right-wing violence. The new regulations—added to an already-tough law—require social media companies to proactively alert law enforcement to illegal content. The move follows an attempted attack on a synagogue that killed two people nearby earlier this month.

Air pollution in India’s capital. After the second consecutive day of “severe” level smog, doctors in New Delhi pushed authorities to close schools and cancel outdoor sporting events on Wednesday. Fires in neighboring states—as well as fireworks during the Diwali holiday—have pushed the air quality index to reach 400 in the capital, a health risk.

Essay Contest—Foreign Policy has partnered with the Carnegie Corporation to launch an essay contest. Do you know how U.S. engagement with Russia should change in order to best improve global security? We want to hear from you. Applications close Nov. 1. Learn more:

Odds and Ends

Mexico is deploying its national guard at 56 airports to stop people from calling an Uber rather than hailing a taxi with an airport permit. The crackdown, which comes after a meeting between the government and Mexico’s taxi union, adds to the workload of the national guard—already tasked with halting illegal migration and reducing the country’s homicide rate.

The governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, is fighting with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after it decided to move some of next year’s Olympic track events to Sapporo—a city more than 500 miles north of Tokyo—where the weather is cooler, because of concerns about heat. Koike is demanding they still be held in the capital, but the IOC has refused to reverse the move.

That’s it for today. 

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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