Morning Brief

Bolivia Debates Election Bill as Violence Surges

A new proposal isn’t likely to placate Morales’ supporters after deadly clashes with the military outside of La Paz.

Military officers stand guard in front of the Senkata fuel plant as supporters of Evo Morales block the road on Nov. 20 in El Alto, Bolivia.
Military officers stand guard in front of the Senkata fuel plant as supporters of Evo Morales block the road on Nov. 20 in El Alto, Bolivia. Gaston Brito Miserocchi/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Bolivia’s lawmakers vote on a proposal to pave the way for a new presidential election, legislation backing the Hong Kong protesters lands on Trump’s desk, and a South Korea-Japan military deal is set to expire.

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Bolivia’s Government Pushes for New Election

Bolivia’s Legislative Assembly will begin debating a bill today that would nullify the disputed Oct. 20 presidential election and quickly pave the way for a new vote and a new electoral board, after the leftist leader Evo Morales resigned under pressure earlier this month. The proposal, presented on Wednesday by the interim government, did not set a date for the new election.

The measure is in part an attempt to quell the street violence that has surged in recent days. Supporters of Morales have blockaded roads around La Paz for days, causing shortages of fuel and food. At least 32 people have died in Bolivia since the October vote, including eight killed on Tuesday in the city of El Alto, on the outskirts of La Paz.

Would a new vote stop the violence? It seems unlikely. Morales’ supporters, including indigenous groups and rural coca growers, have little trust in the regime led by interim President Jeanine Áñez, an anti-Morales politician who came to power after Morales and several of his allies in the constitutionally-established line of succession stepped down. Morales supporters called her “a coup-mongering right-wing senator.”

The interim government denies responsibility for the killings on Tuesday, despite witness accounts that those killed were shot by soldiers during a clash between the army and protesters at a gasoline plant.

Regional effects. Morales’ resignation has polarized Latin America, with effects felt around the region. In Nicaragua, which is led by a Morales ally, Daniel Ortega, the situation in Bolivia has galvanized the opposition—leading the government to crack down and arrest 16 activists. More than 300 people were killed during protests in Nicaragua last year.

What We’re Following Today

Hong Kong bills head to Trump’s desk. On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills with an overwhelming majority to support Hong Kong’s protesters. The first, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would put Hong Kong’s special trading status with the United States under scrutiny and sanction officials responsible for rights violations. The other bill would ban the export of tear gas, rubber bullets, and other weapons to the Hong Kong police. If U.S. President Donald Trump signs the legislation, it could undermine U.S.-China trade talks. And if he chooses to veto it, Congress would almost certainly override his veto.

Will South Korea-Japan military deal expire? South Korea must decide to renew a military agreement with Japan by Saturday, but South Korean observers say there’s no way it can do so without losing face in the feud between the countries over forced wartime labor. The United States is pushing to save the Seoul-Tokyo deal, which it relies on for three-way security cooperation to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat. The deadline comes as both South Korea and Japan are being asked to pay more for U.S. troops stationed in the region, as FP’s Lara Seligman and Robbie Gramer reported last week.

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Hearings put Pompeo in the spotlight. On Wednesday, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, testified before a House impeachment panel that Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were kept “in the loop” regarding the alleged pressure campaign to force Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival. The testimony was the most damaging yet as it directly implicated Trump, FP’s Amy Mackinnon explains. But it’s also damning for Pompeo, who has dismissed the hearings and the accusations, and is now certain to face renewed scrutiny, FP’s Robbie Gramer reports.

Keep an Eye On

Mohammed bin Salman’s little brother. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is looking to his younger brother, Khalid bin Salman, to get him out of his disastrous war against the Houthi insurgency in Yemen. Khalid bin Salman’s efforts seem to be gathering steam—and U.S. officials are watching with cautious optimism, FP’s Colum Lynch, Lara Seligman, and Robbie Gramer report.

Greece’s new migrant centers. Greece announced Wednesday that it would shut down its overcrowded island refugee camps, replacing them with more restrictive centers for migrants. In recent weeks, the camps—with notoriously bad conditions—have been plagued by unrest. The new plan is in part intended as a deterrent for asylum seekers traveling from Turkey to Greece.

International students in the U.S. The number of international students choosing to study in the United States—a significant source of university income—is slowing down for the first time in a decade. That’s only in part due to a decline in the number of new Chinese students, who make up a third of all international students, FP’s C.K. Hickey writes.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to the Hague. Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi will travel to International Court of Justice in the Hague next month to defend the country against allegations of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority. The Nobel prize winner has seen her reputation tarnished by the 2017 military campaign in Rakhine state.

Extinction Rebellion racism scandal. Roger Hallam, the co-founder of the increasingly prominent climate campaign group Extinction Rebellion, has outraged German leaders and climate activists by downplaying the Holocaust and calling it “almost a normal event” and “just another fuckery in human history,” in an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit. “Millions of people have been killed in vicious circumstances on a regular basis throughout history,” he added. Germany’s foreign minister and the group’s German chapter have denounced Hallam and his German publisher has announced it will not release his new book.

Odds and Ends

A Spanish court ruled that the budget airline Ryanair’s baggage policy is “abusive” after a passenger had to pay a 20 euro fine for her carry-on bag. Ryanair doesn’t allow passengers without a special ticket to bring more than a small personal item onboard for free. The court said Ryanair should change its policy, but the cost-cutting airline has no plans to do so.

That’s it for today. 

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

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