Current Affairs Digest: International Affairs

Catch-up on international affairs articles you may have missed from April 2020, including what impact coronavirus might have on Gaza.

Latin America

The article opens by contextualising the last few years of politics in Latin America. The author claims that the premierships of Pedro Kuczynski in Peru, Michel Temer in Brazil and Mauricio Macri in Argentina indicated a right-turn in Latin American politics and society from 2015. However, in recent months, Lambert argues that these conservative leaders (and their successors) have faced “the biggest protests in recent Latin American history”.

Lambert believes that the protests are a result of increased visibility of corruption in Latin American politics, coupled with growing inequality amongst citizens. He notes that political corruption is not new, but the economy was previously strong enough to hide it from citizens. In the mid-2000s, a growing Latin American economy was able to export its raw materials to China. As demand for materials reduced in the 2010s, so did foreign investment. This caused a rise in inequality, poverty, and a lower standard of living for many across the region, providing a backdrop for disruption.

The author then looks at where Latin America could go next. Lambert argues that protests are as damaging to the political left as the right, as both sides have been involved in historic corruption. As a result, he believes it is leading to the emergence of the “ultra-religious, reactionary and anti-intellectual” politics of governments seen in Bolivia and Brazil.

Read the full article: Renaud Lambert, ‘Latin America: sold off, sold out’, Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2020.

Coronavirus in Gaza

At the end of March 2020, Gaza recorded its first two cases of coronavirus. Experts have argued that an outbreak in the region is inevitable. Writing for the Israel Policy Forum blog, Shira Efron considers the impact that coronavirus may have on Gaza, and how this pandemic could affect relations between Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

The first half of the article details the pressure that an outbreak like coronavirus could put on the area. Efron argues that “a COVID-19 outbreak would push Gaza into a complete collapse”. She states that the most basic recommendations of social distancing and thoroughly and frequently washing hands cannot be followed as “Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth with large families living together”. As an example, she notes “there is one handwashing facility for every 130 students”. She also states that Gaza does not have adequate medical facilities to deal with such an outbreak. She explains that there is a lack of medical professionals and that those who do work in hospitals are poorly trained.

Looking for positives, Efron argues that the cooperation seen between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community to provide medical equipment and training is something she “could only dream of during normal times”. She argues that this collaboration could work towards “a long-term cessation of hostilities” and investments into public health in the region.

Read the full article: Shira Efron, ‘Gaza’s looming coronavirus catastrophe’, Israel Policy Forum, 27 March 2020.

The disinformation plague

Watts begins his article by stating that there has been a “tsunami of conspiracy theories” circulating globally on both social media and mainstream news since the outbreak of coronavirus. His article intends to outline, what he calls, the ‘threat actor spectrum’, in the hopes of informing where best to focus resources to counter disinformation.

The threat actor spectrum is illustrated in a chart put together by the author. He identifies sources that create disinformation, such as fraudsters and pranksters, nation states or political and social groups. He then details their objectives and methods, before giving each source a rating for their output and their threat in the near-term and the long-term. For example, fraudsters have a high output and a high near-term risk but low long-term risk, whilst nation states have a medium output and low near-term risk but a high long-term risk.

After considering each threat source in more detail, the article returns to the question of combating disinformation. Watts argues that although social media companies are responding faster than governments across the world, the amount of disinformation being published is too much for their systems to handle. Therefore, he calls on ordinary citizens to ask questions of information that is presented as news, and to check the source of it before sharing.

Read the full article: Clint Watts, ‘The disinformation outbreak about the coronavirus outbreak: what to make of the false information plague?’, Foreign Policy Research Institute, 9 March 2020.