Morning Brief

Colombia on Strike

Activists refuse to stand down after talks with the Colombian government, going ahead with the third strike in as many weeks.

People bang pans and pots during the 'Cacerolazo Latinoamericano' in support of the strike against the government of Colombian President Ivan Duque, in Medellin, Colombia on Dec. 1.
People bang pans and pots during the 'Cacerolazo Latinoamericano' in support of the strike against the government of Colombian President Ivan Duque, in Medellin, Colombia on Dec. 1. JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Colombia braces for a third national strike, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee holds its first impeachment hearing after Democrats release their report on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, and the second day of the NATO summit begins in London.

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Why Are Colombians Still Striking?

Despite last-minute talks with the government, Colombia’s unions and student groups are moving ahead with another national strike today—the third in three weeks. Since Nov. 21, the protests have at times drawn hundreds of thousands of Colombians to the streets against President Iván Duque’s social and economic policies, threatening a pending tax reform proposal. On Tuesday, the activists refused to bow to the government’s call to stand down.

Why are people protesting? Duque took office a little over a year ago, and political turmoil has followed. The protests encompass disparate groups unified by 13 demands, including enacting anti-corruption measures, stopping rumored economic reforms, and implementing the country’s peace process. Though the Nov. 21 strike was long-planned, it built upon a wave of demonstrations in other Latin American countries, as Megan Janetsky has reported for FP.

Fears of violence. Security forces have swiftly responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, and even a military curfew to disperse protesters, leading to fears of more violence. At least five people have died during the demonstrations, including 18-year-old Dilan Cruz—killed by a police projectile. Though crowds have dwindled, Cruz’s death—announced on Nov. 25—has inflamed the unrest, pushing some protesters back into the streets.

What We’re Following Today

In Washington, impeachment enters next phase. Today, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee transfers the impeachment inquiry to the Judiciary Committee, which will hold its first public hearing as it weighs whether to charge U.S. President Donald Trump with impeachable offenses for his dealings with Ukraine. Four legal scholars will discuss the constitutional standards for articles of impeachment. Trump, who is in London, has refused to participate in today’s hearing, and the Washington Post reports that his personal lawyers have been sidelined by the White House counsel.

On Tuesday, the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee released a 300-page report concluding that Trump abused his power and endangered national security—claims that will come up in debate in the Judiciary Committee over the articles of impeachment.

In London, tensions rise at NATO summit. Meanwhile, the NATO summit in London enters its second day, with Trump expected to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European leaders expected to announce defense spending increases. On Tuesday, Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron traded barbs over the future of the alliance, which is marking its 70th anniversary. The French leader defended his comments last month that NATO was experiencing “brain death,” prompting Trump to stick up for NATO—which he has long criticized. “I would say that nobody needs NATO more than France,” he said. Despite the rhetoric, NATO is still making strides in defense, FP’s Robbie Gramer and Lara Seligman report.

[While Trump has taken credit for Europe’s renewed commitment to defense spending, several countries have been increasing their defense expenditures since 2015, FP’s C.K. Hickey shows.]

New IAEA chief seeks new dialogue with Iran. The new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Argentine diplomat Rafael Grossi, took over the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Tuesday and is hoping that fresh dialogue with Iran could end the standoff between Tehran and the signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal. At a meeting in Vienna between the parties, Grossi aims to slightly shift the strategy, prioritizing dialogue over deadlines for Iran to cooperate. Grossi does not plan to weigh in on the status of the nuclear agreement, which Iran continues to breach.

Keep an Eye On

The well-being agenda. Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir has joined Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in embracing a well-being agenda that prioritizes climate- and family-friendly policies over GDP. The three leaders will urge other countries to do the same. On Tuesday, New Zealand’s climate change minister said climate considerations would play a role in all major government decisions going forward.

A corruption scandal for Venezuela’s opposition. A new challenge is tripping up Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s opposition-held congress investigates alleged corruption within its ranks. Though he is not involved, the probe could undermine Guaidó. Many Venezuelans believe the opposition leader may have missed his chance to oust President Nicolás Maduro.

The U.K. election campaign. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is struggling in areas that used to be its heartland. The Guardian profiles the northern England constituency of Bishop Auckland, once a mining center, where Labour won by 502 votes in 2017 but is fighting to retain the seat in an area that voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU and could fall to the Conservatives on Dec. 12. But it’s not all bad news for Labour. On the northeastern edges of London, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith could be in trouble in a seat he has held for 27 years. He faces a strong challenge from Labour’s Faiza Shaheen, who was born and raised in the constituency of Chingford and Woodford Green and has been described as Britain’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

A U.S. diplomacy caucus. With the U.S. State Department at the center of the impeachment investigation, a bipartisan group of lawmakers are forming a caucus in the House to increase support for diplomats. The Diplomacy Caucus will advocate for the diplomatic corps as the White House tries to cut its budget, FP’s Robbie Gramer reports.

Odds and Ends

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has inaugurated a pet project: a modern ski resort in the snowy town of Samjiyon, near the Chinese border. The town sits beneath the mountain Paektusan, which according to propaganda is the birthplace of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il. Tourism—mainly from China—has been a source of cash for Pyongyang under U.N. sanctions.

That’s it for today.

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

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