Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Jaime Calle Moreno discuss the protests that erupted in Paraguay this week after a general election ended with allegations of fraud, plus more on the King Charles coronation, Russia’s Victory Day holiday, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Indonesia and the U.S. ending its COVID national emergency.
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Alex Moore, Jess Fino, Vivian Wang and Jaime Calle Moreno. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:
Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.
Today is May 4.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got King Charles’ coronation, Russia’s Victory Day holiday, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Indonesia, the U.S. ending its COVID national emergency and a look at the protests underway in Paraguay.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
King Charles’ coronation
Information compiled by Jeff Landset
JIMMY: The coronation service of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla gets underway Saturday morning. It will be the United Kingdom’s first such ceremony since 1953.
Charles became king in September last year when Queen Elizabeth II died at age 96.
In October, Buckingham Palace announced that the coronation would be held seven months later after sufficient mourning time.
President Joe Biden, however, will not be attending, as no U.S. president has ever attended a coronation. Instead, First lady Jill Biden will be there to represent the U.S.
Now, with so many high-profile guests in one place at one time, security will be high throughout London.
In fact, the security operation alone is said to cost more than $175 million dollars.
Authorities will be monitoring anything from possible terror attacks to disruptive protests.
And of course, with so much live coverage, anything that goes wrong would be seen immediately around the world and potentially have a global impact.
Russia Victory Day
Information compiled by Alex Moore
JIMMY: Russia will hold celebrations on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Russia’s Victory Day, as it’s called, is typically marked by military parades and outward displays of nationalism with the main parade procession going through Moscow’s Red Square.
This year’s parade in Moscow will take place despite Russia’s multiplying failures in Ukraine, albeit under unprecedented security conditions.
Parades in some border regions have been outright canceled, including in Belgorod and Kursk, due to consistent cross-border Ukrainian shelling.
Now, Russia’s scaled back Victory Day parades highlight the extent to which Ukraine’s reach inside Russia has multiplied since last May’s victory parade.
Since then, Kyiv has demonstrated this reach multiple times, including significant drone attacks on Russia’s Engels strategic bomber air base.
42nd ASEAN Summit
Information compiled by Jess Fino
JIMMY: Regional leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will meet for a two-day summit in Indonesia starting on Wednesday.
The biannual meeting is the first of two under Indonesia's chairmanship this year, and it is expected to focus on regional issues such as protection of migrant workers and regional health architecture.
Officials from Timor Leste will also attend under an observer status.
Nine separate meetings will take place during the two days, with the Indonesian president chairing seven of them.
Now, Myanmar’s opposition officials have called ASEAN members to formally block the army from all its meetings and to reduce engagement with the army.
The organization is scheduled to discuss Myanmar during the summit, but it is unclear if the five-point consensus previously agreed to will be revised. That agreement included engagement with the army in an effort to resolve the conflict.
A second meeting will take place in September in Jakarta where external partners will also attend to discuss strengthening ASEAN cooperation with international partners.
U.S. to end public health emergency for COVID-19
Information compiled by Vivian Wang
JIMMY: After more than three years, the U.S. is ending its public health emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday.
The U.S. has seen a steady decline in the total number of coronavirus-related cases and deaths in recent weeks. Still, a more-infectious Omicron subvariant dubbed “Arcturus” is beginning to make a greater percentage of cases nationwide.
Now, along with the end of the public health emergency, the U.S. will be lifting vaccine requirements for federal employees, international air travelers and certain noncitizens at the land border.
Anticipating a possible increase in migration when coronavirus border restrictions end, the Biden administration will also be sending active-duty troops to the southern border and asylum officers to refugee centers in Guatemala and Colombia.
The CDC is also planning to stop tracking community levels for coronavirus and will reportedly transition to tracking hospitalizations in specified areas.
Paraguay election protests
Information compiled by Jaime Calle Moreno
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the recent election-related protests in Paraguay. For more on that we’ve got Factal Editor Jaime Calle Moreno.
JIMMY: Hello, Jaime.
JAIME: Hi, Jimmy, how's it going?
JIMMY: I’m well. I'm glad you’re here. It's been a while since we've had you on the podcast. Looking forward to learning more about the situation with these protests in Paraguay. Can you catch us up to speed?
JAIME: Yeah, of course. So to start off with, on Sunday, around five million people headed to voting booths across the country for the country's general election, and also the legislative election and the governorship ones. Now, at opposite sides of the political spectrum, you have the right-wing ruling, and kind of historically dominant, Colorado Party and its candidate who's an economist and former finance minister, Santiago Peña. For context, the Colorado Party have sort of ruled Paraguayan politics for pretty much its entire history, even before becoming a dictatorship, only being displaced as the, kind of, political party at the helm for just a couple of years in 2008 until around 2012. On the other side of the coin, you have Efrain Alegre, who was leading the Concertacion Nacional, which is a newly formed and kind of very broad coalition of around, say, 14 or 15 leftist, center-left and center-right parties that were really just trying to break the Colorado Party's political hegemony. Additionally to this, you have the kind of slightly under the radar Paraguayo “Payo” Cubas, who will be important, especially post election, and he was the leader of the National Crusade Party. Now, he was formerly part of the broad coalition, but then after some disagreements with different party members he became an independent presidential candidate. This year's elections were important primarily for two reasons. The firstly is because the Colorado Party was involved in various corruption scandals that included the leader of the party and former president and, kind of, commercial tobacco magnate Horacio Cartes, who was said to be involved in an increasing drug trafficking and, kind of, letting illicit goods smuggling kind of just prevail across Paraguay’s porous borders. All in all, and not to take too much time to explain that, you know, the corruption cases were widespread, they hit different ministers, it was very public, and it kind of damaged the party's reputation significantly. And it opened the door of the opposition. Now, the second reason is the opposition. This kind of broad coalition was able to garner quite a lot of attention and it seemed that for the first time in quite a long time that hegemony that the Colorado Party had would kind of be a little bit on the fence, or on the rails. Nevertheless, they were successful in staying in power, to a large degree because Cubas and the National Crusade Party ended up taking quite a few votes away from the coalition. And so what initially looked like a very tight race really wasn't in the end and the Colorado Party, with 42 percent of the vote, was able to win Sunday's elections. Now on Monday, following the official results announcement, Paraguayo Cubas sent a video out to his supporters telling them there had been widespread electoral fraud, claiming that the election and – this is something that we've heard before in other countries – was pretty much stolen from them. This led to widespread protests by supporters across various different regions in the country, including Amambay, which is largely where drug trafficking happens and there's an increased violence in that region. Ferry blockades, severely affected travel, there were arson attacks on buildings, an ambulance was broken into and kind of robbed. And there were also various reports of police being a little bit heavy handed and using violence disproportionately. And really just a whole lot of what a protest really entails. And it ended up getting around 110 people arrested with I think around 66 of them being charged with crimes.
JIMMY: And how are things now? What's the latest?
JAIME : Yeah, so like I said, 66 have been – 66 different individuals – have been charged with crimes and the rest have been, you know, either released or remain in preventive detention until they can figure out what really to do with them. But in relation to the protests themselves, while pro-opposition demonstrators took to the streets again on Tuesday night to kind of block several buildings and important roads, especially in the capital Asunción, it wasn't at the same intensity as on Monday night. Now, I think the important bit here is that they still tried and they were just met with, you know, stronger opposition by police. Again, they were quite heavy handed and they've also been given the clear cut order to restore calm, pretty much on the streets. Needless to say, Jimmy, while things have relatively calmed down since then, the situation remains very, very tense across the board and it kind of, in a way, balances on a thread of whether the protesters take to the streets again and how intense the next ones will be.
JIMMY: You know, to circle back to something you said earlier, you know, just to be clear, has there been any evidence of electoral fraud?
JAIME: So the short answer is no. But there have been some reports that have emerged that question the narrative that has been proposed by both the winners, which is namely the Colorado Party, and the T.S.J.E., which is the electoral High Court in Paraguay, where many of the protests were located and kind of a central point of Monday's protests in particular. One of these reports is that just before the voting booths opened, members of the Colorado Party were seen inside several electoral schools attempting to move voting booths into closed rooms, which kind of amounted to tensions and some scuffles were reported just outside of these voting booths. And the T.S.J.E. was kind of arguing that if you put them inside a room then it's harder to kind of see what's going on in those voting booths in particular. It's less transparent, in a way. Of course, playing a role here is, I guess, both the decreased deterioration of the party surrounding its various corruption scandals, which have probably added quite a lot of fuel to both the election and the post-election and making this one, let's say, a more important election in a way. And I think oppositely as well is the rise of Paraguayo Cubas and his supporters, who will most likely continue to claim that the election is a fraudulent one. But it's early to tell whether or not there's been electoral fraud, because at the same time an investigation is not really forthcoming. The T.S.J.E. has already said that they're not going to hand over the voting machines, which they say, sort of has no information in them. And so it's early to tell whether or not there's electoral fraud. Now, in general, in both South and Central America, electoral fraud is something that is kind of on the surface in quite a lot of elections, whether it's proven or not.
JIMMY: Now, I know you can't predict the future, but what's the outlook like? What should folks be watching for next?
JAIME: Well, I think the first thing to watch out for would be continued protests. It's, again, difficult to tell how far these will go, especially because protests in Paraguay are relatively non-existent. I mean, they do happen. The last major one was in 2017 when the former president and, kind of, tobacco magnate that I mentioned, Horacio Cartes, tried to secretly extend how long he would be president for. And so people took to the streets and there were widespread protests across the country. That's sort of one of the only times we've seen major demonstrations happening in Paraguay. If there is any indication of electoral fraud, we could expect the situation to deteriorate as it did in 2017, but this also kind of remains unknown. Also, if they do continue, then we could expect stronger police responses, more aggressive and congregated efforts to kind of stop demonstrators very early on, and of course, more travel and economic disruption across the board. But it is very difficult to tell since it's – it's still quite early to tell whether or not there's going to be widespread unrest.
JIMMY: Well, Jaime, it looks like we're out of time, but I thank you so much for getting us all caught up on what we needed to know. I appreciate it.
JAIME:Thanks so much for having me, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Take care.
JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.
Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Alex Moore, Jess Fino and Vivian Wang. Our interview featured editor Jaime Calle Moreno and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe