The Week That Was #3

Foreign Policy Brief #168 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | January 31, 2023

Header photo taken from: the Associated Press / Eraldo Peres




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Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva looks on as he visits the Yanomami Indigenous Health House in Boa Vista, Roraima state, Brazil.

Photo taken from: Ricardo Stuckert / Reuters

Brazil Indigenous Genocide

Last week Brazil’s Ministry of Health declared a state of emergency in the Yanomami indigenous peoples territory. The Yanomami territory, Brazil’s largest indigenous reservation, is located in the northern Amazonian region of the country near it’s border with Venezuela. The state of emergency was called following hundreds of children dying from malnutrition and diseases caused by poisoning of the water supply due to illegal gold mining.

A decree by the government of newly elected President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the aim of the declaration was to restore health services to the Yanomami people that had been dismantled by his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro. In four years of Bolsonaro’s presidency, 570 Yanomami children died of curable and preventable diseases, mainly malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and deformities caused by mercury poisoning.

The Yanomami people’s lands have been invaded by illegal gold miners for decades, but the frequency and intensity of the incursions skyrocketed under former President Bolsonaro, who allowed and encouraged such mining activity in what should be protected lands. Brazilian federal police are investigating a case of genocide against the Yanomami people by the Bolsonaro administration. President Lula himself upon seeing the state of the Yanomami said “More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw in Roraima was genocide: a premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government insensitive to suffering”.

US Secretary of State Anthony Bliken visits the Middle East

US Secretary of State Anthony Bliken landed in Egypt to begin a three day tour of the Middle East and North African region (MENA) on Sunday. In Egypt Blinken is expected to discuss North African regional issues such as conflicts in Libya and Sudan. After his stop in Cairo, Blinken will travel on Monday and Tuesday to Jerusalem and Ramallah, where he will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, respectively.

The trip has taken on new urgency in light of ongoing violence in the occupied territories and Israel’s incoming ultra-nationalist far-right government that saw the return of PM Benjamin Netanyahu. On Thursday Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp.

The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during raids in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in January has risen to at least 29 people, including five minors. Soon after the raids a Palestinian, in retaliation, carried out a gun attack and killed seven Israelis in East Jerusalem.

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Anthony Blinken and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi discus Cairo’s regional role as well as bilateral development and human rights.

Photo taken from: EPA-EFE

(click or tap to enlargen)

Following the attack Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to make it easier for Israelis to obtain and carry guns. High tensions in Israel-Palestine will take up the majority of the discourse on this diplomatic mission, Bliken will likely repeat calls for calm and restate support for a two state solution. However it is unlikely peace talks will occur anytime soon.

France protests against raising the retirement age

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More than a million people demonstrated across France against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the country’s legal age of retirement to 64 from 62.

Photo taken from: Benoit Tessier / Reuters

Over a million people protested on the streets of Paris last week amid plans by the government to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. Emboldened by the mass show of resistance, French unions announced new strikes and protests. Macron has acknowledged the public’s discontent but claimed that the reforms are necessary to save the French pension system.

In a country with an aging population and growing life expectancy where everyone gets a state pension, the government says the reforms are the only way to keep the system functional. Unions however proposed a tax on the wealthy to finance the pension system instead. Were the strikes to continue they could hobble the French economy at a time when the country is struggling with inflation and trying to boost growth.

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