The Week That Was: Global News In Review

Foreign Policy Brief #114 | By: Ibrahim Castro | January 22, 2024
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Surging violence in Ecuador

Ecuador has seen a sharp increase in violence and activity by organized crime in the last few months. The uptick in violence has taken homicide rates to unprecedented levels. Ecuador’s homicide rate surged from 13.7 per 100,000 people in 2021 to 25.9 in 2022. In 2023, it escalated further to about 45 per 100,000, placing Ecuador among the top three most violent Latin American countries, alongside Venezuela and Honduras.

Gang violence in the streets of Ecuador is related to unrest inside prisons, where overcrowding and lack of state control has enabled gang members to launch around 14 massacres that have taken the lives of more than 600 people since 2019. Ecuador’s president has declared war on gangs, many of which are responsible for the recent waves of violence that saw the storming of a TV station on-air and explosions around the nation that shocked the international community. The unrest appears to be in response to President Daniel Noboa’s efforts to tackle cocaine trafficking, in particular by putting gang leaders in new high-security prisons.

Ecuador borders cocaine-producing Colombia and Peru and has become a major shipment point. Both its neighbors have stepped up controls on their frontiers in response to the violence. President Noboa declared a 60 day state of emergency last Monday and a nationwide curfew from 11:00 pm-05:00 am every night.

Iran strikes Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria

On January 16, Iran launched missile strikes into Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, claiming to have hit two strongholds of the anti-Iran insurgent group Jaish al-Adl, what it calls an “Iranian terrorist group”, though Pakistan says it killed two children. Iran announced the attack in Pakistan at the same time as its strikes in Iraq and Syria. Pakistan stated the strikes were a clear violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Less than two days later, Pakistan hit back with fighter jets in Iran’s Baluchistan province claiming to have hit hideouts of anti-Pakistan insurgents operating from Iranian soil. Iran says three women, two men and four children were killed in the strike. Iran and Pakistan share a 560 mile border and the two, which normally share good relationships, have now had relations turn sour with the back and forth missile attacks.

In Iraq, Iran claims to have targeted an operations center of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency in its strikes. Yet Iraqi and Kurdish authorities instead say the house of a well-known businessman was hit. In Syria, Iran claims to have fired missiles at Islamic State militants in response to a bombing that killed scores of people at a commemoration for the famed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in central Iran on Jan. 3, 2024. The strikes by Iran in addition to other ongoing conflicts are stoking fears of a wider conflict that could engulf the entire Middle East and spread to other regions.

Ethiopia-Somaliland deal

Somaliland, a breakaway region of Somalia struck a deal with Ethiopia in hopes of being recognised as an independent country. For Somalia, Somaliland is an integral part of its territory. Somaliland is still not recognised by any country, Western governments are unlikely to recognise it until African countries do. The countries on the continent have held off, following the African Union’s longstanding policy against redrawing national boundaries inherited from colonialists. Without recognition, Somaliland struggles to attract investment and is cut off from international finance. For Somalia any suggestion that it could make a deal with another country or that parts of it could be leased without the approval of Somalia is highly contentious. Somalia has stated it is prepared to go to war to stop Ethiopia recognising the breakaway territory of Somaliland and building a port there.

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