Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Ahmed Namatalla discuss the coup in Burkina Faso, plus more on Canadian truckers protesting a vaccine mandate, elections in Portugal, Hungary’s prime minister visiting Russia and the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors David Wyllie, Jess Fino, Bada Kim, Vivian Wang and Ahmed Namatalla. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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Copyright © 2022 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 January 27th.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got Canadian truckers protesting a vaccine mandate, elections in Portugal, Hungary’s prime minister visiting Russia, the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing and a look at the coup in Burkina Faso.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
Truckers reach Ottawa in vaccine mandate protest
Information compiled by David Wyllie
JIMMY: A convoy of trucks from the western Canadian province of British Columbia is expected to arrive in the country’s capital on Sunday as part of a coronavirus protest.
The truckers, who are headed to Ottawa in their so-called “freedom convoy” from Vancouver, are protesting a vaccine mandate announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in November.
That mandate requires all workers crossing into Canada to be fully vaccinated.
The policy took effect last Saturday, despite strong opposition.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which is opposed to the protests, said the “vast majority” of the 160,000 truckers who regularly make cross-border trips are already vaccinated, though the vaccination rate among U.S. truckers is expected to be much lower.
Now, a convoy of trucks in downtown Ottawa is likely to paralyze traffic in the surrounding area, but Trudeau remains defiant that the measure will remain in place, despite the cited risk to already strained supply chains.
Finally, truckers who don’t get vaccinated risk a 14-day quarantine after they cross into Canada from the United States.
Portuguese general elections
Information compiled by Jess Fino
JIMMY: Voters in Portugal will choose the country’s new government on Sunday. This comes after snap elections called by the president after parliament failed to approve this year’s budget.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who is the leader of the center-left Socialist party, is up for re-election. His main opponent in the race, Rui Rio, leads the center-right Democratic Socialist Party.
The government has announced those with coronavirus or self-isolating will be able to leave the house and vote during a set time slot.
Now, several polls suggest neither party will win with a majority, meaning a new coalition might be in the cards.
In 2015, the Socialist Party formed a government with the Communist Party, the Left Bloc and the Greens, but relationships with these parties have been severed after they disapproved the budget.
Meanwhile, a Democratic Socialist Party minority win could lead the party to team up with right-wing parties.
Polls suggest the far-right party Chega, criticized for comments against migrants and minorities, could reach as much as 6 percent of votes and become the third biggest party in Portugal.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban visits Russia
Information compiled by Bada Kim
JIMMY: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is expected to hold bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday.
Earlier, the Hungarian foreign minister said he wished for the project to enter an “infancy phase” by early this year, with the help of Russian state energy company Rosatom and a hefty $12 billion loan from a Russian state bank.
Now, such heavy reliance on Russia has led to a division of stances within Hungary and abroad.
While the government, which has always pushed for closer ties with Russia, welcomed the project, critics have said it would mean greater financial and political dependence on Russia for relatively little gain.
2022 Winter Olympics begin in Beijing
Information compiled by Vivian Wang
JIMMY: The Winter Olympics opening ceremony will be staged in Beijing next Friday, kicking off the second Olympic Games to be held since the start of the pandemic.
The Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo last summer against all odds, ending just six months ago, creating an unusually short turnaround leading up to the Winter Olympics.
Preparations in Beijing have been in full swing, with a new set of coronavirus restrictions, including a strict closed-loop bubble for all participants and limiting spectators to select participants only from mainland China.
Several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, declared “diplomatic boycotts” of the games, though most participating countries have not.
Now, the Beijing Olympics will begin part-way through the Lunar New Year holidays, which officially begin Feb. 1.
Travel for the holiday has already begun, which usually lasts some 40 days and involves hundreds of millions people, though some travel restrictions are in place to curb coronavirus spread.
Of course, this comes as Beijing opens its borders to international visitors for the Olympics in a way it hasn’t since the beginning of the pandemic, despite a global surge in cases due to the omicron variant.
Burkina Faso coup
Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the recent coup in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. For more on that I spoke with Factal editor Ahmed Namatalla.
JIMMY: Hi, Ahmed.
AHMED: Hello, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Hey, there's been a lot of big news so far in 2022 and I suspect there's a good chance some of our listeners might not know what's going on in Burkina Faso. Can you catch us up to speed?
AHMED: Yes. The country, Burkina Faso, has become the fifth country on the continent to see the military seize power over the past few years. And we're talking about countries in the middle part of the continent. Soldiers went on state TV on Monday and announced that the military had taken control and detained President Kaboré. He's now being held in a place that has not been disclosed. The military also said it dissolved the government, suspended the constitution and closed borders.
JIMMY: And this is the fifth military takeover? Seems like an extraordinary number.
AHMED: Yes, and some are calling it the revival of Africa's "coup belt." So now you can go from the Atlantic and travel all the way across the continent to the Red Sea and all the countries that you will have traveled through will have seen either a successful or an attempted coup. Starting with Guinea, Mali – these have seen two successful coup attempts – Burkina Faso, then going through Niger, which saw an unsuccessful attempt last year, and then on to Chad and Sudan.
JIMMY: Was Burkina Faso's just a straight up power grab, or did they try to justify overthrowing the government?
AHMED: They did offer a justification and that was that it was a response to the “ongoing degradation of the security situation” in the country following multiple militant attacks, particularly in the northern part of the country where the Islamic State has established presence. These attacks have led to the deaths of hundreds of people and, according to the UN, the displacement of an estimated 1.5 million of the country's about 21 million population.
JIMMY: What's the situation like now? Is the military getting much resistance?
AHMED: Not really. Things are calming down. In fact, there have been protests in support of the military. The coup leader is already forming a new government and France, which has long held a strong presence in the region, is telling its citizens that the situation is “normalizing” and they can resume normal activities.
JIMMY: How has the international community reacted to this?
AHMED: So the US has condemned it and called for a return to constitutional order. So has the United Nations, with Secretary General Antonio Guterres specifically calling it a coup. The EU has said that it's “very worried'' and also called for a return to constitutional order and the release of the president. As far as action goes, the economic bloc of West Africa, known as ECOWAS, has condemned the coup and said it would hold an extraordinary summit this Friday to discuss the crisis. They've done this with past coups in the region and have really shown little to no results. In France, President Macron said he would discuss the crisis with regional leaders.
JIMMY: Speaking of France, the other day I saw a video out of Burkina Faso that appeared to show a coup supporter burning a French flag and another one waving a Russian flag. What's going on with that?
AHMED: That's true. People in West Africa in general, not just in Burkina Faso, are growing increasingly frustrated with France, their former colonizer, and its inability to fight the Islamic state that has caused massive destruction over the past few years. With the military seizing power, Russia is seeing an opening to boost its presence in the region. What you saw in the video with the flags was protesters literally asking for Russia to take the place of France to restore security in their country.
JIMMY: Well, I guess my final question for you, Ahmed, is, like always, what should folks be watching for next?
AHMED: Well, first, there are concerns about the whereabouts and safety of President Kaboré. The military leader of Burkina Faso today said that the former president was the only government official that was arrested in the coup. A military spokesman said earlier that no physical violence was used against those who were arrested, but they still didn't say where the former president was being held. We also want to watch for ECOWAS and what actions the bloc takes and whether they show to be more effective than actions that they took when coups took place in Mali and Guinea. We also want to see if, you know, they impose sanctions. Sanctions could act as an incentive for the country's new military leaders to reverse course or fast-track the return to democratic order. But it's still unclear who would be imposing those sanctions. Finally, how Russia and France go about taking control in this region and whether France actually gives way to Russia to expand its presence on the ground as it has done in neighboring countries.
JIMMY: Well, I know you and the rest of the editorial team will be keeping track of all this. Thank you for that. And thank you for your time
AHMED: Thank you, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Take care
JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors David Wyllie, Jess Fino, Bada Kim and Vivian Wang. Our interview featured editor Ahmed Namatalla and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing email@example.com
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.
Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe