Juan Guaidó (pictured), the head of Venezuela’s national assembly, proclaimed himself the country’s acting president at a large protest against the socialist regime in Caracas, the capital. Venezuela’s opposition says that President Nicolás Maduro is a usurper: he won a rigged election last year and has been sworn in to a second term. The United States recognised Mr Guaidó as interim leader, as did Canada and most large Latin American countries. Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with America and gave its diplomats 72 hours to leave the country. See article.
At least 98 people were killed by an explosion as they collected fuel from a leaking petrol pipeline in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. The pipeline has been repeatedly tapped by thieves at the location of the blast. This month Mexico cracked down on fuel theft by shutting pipelines, which has led to shortages. See article.
A car-bomb at a police academy in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, killed 21 people. The ELN, a guerrilla group with 2,000 fighters, took responsibility, saying that the government had spurned its peace overtures. It was the first such bomb attack in nine years.
The Franco-German engine
Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron met at Aachen to sign a new treaty of co-operation between Germany and France. Critics said the document was vague and papers over deep divisions; boosters stressed the symbolic importance of a renewed commitment to the European Union from its two principal members.
Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, accused France of “stealing wealth” from Africa, the latest twist in a deepening battle of words between the two neighbours.
The EU imposed sanctions on the head and deputy head of Russia’s military intelligence agency for last year’s nerve-agent attack on a Russian dissident in Salisbury, a town in England. It also sanctioned the two agents suspected of carrying out the attack.
Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister, outlined her “Plan B” to Parliament following the defeat of her withdrawal agreement with the EU. The only concrete change was the waiving of a £65 ($84) application fee for EU citizens who want to confirm their residency in Britain. MPs repeatedly shouted “Nothing has changed!” during Mrs May’s statement. Remain-supporting MPs made moves to prevent a no-deal Brexit. See article.
A car-bomb exploded in Northern Ireland outside a court in Londonderry. Police suspect it was planted by a republican splinter group.
Giving it another go
American officials said Donald Trump would meet Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, for a second summit at some point in February. Talks between the two countries about North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missiles have been bogged down since the pair’s first meeting in June. See article.
Candidates registered for Afghanistan’s presidential election, to be held in July. Both the incumbent, Ashraf Ghani, and the man he narrowly beat in a run-off last time, Abdullah Abdullah, are running again. The Taliban attacked a military-intelligence base, killing scores of people. See article.
Joko Widodo, the president of Indonesia, announced that he was pardoning Abu Bakar Basyir, a cleric who was the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, an Islamist terrorist group that killed over 200 people by exploding bombs in a tourist resort in Bali in 2012. Uproar ensued: Mr Basyir has not renounced violence and is expected to go back to inciting it. In the run-up to an election, the president is keen to dispel the widespread charge that he is insufficiently pious. See article.
Priyanka Gandhi was appointed to a post in Congress, India’s main opposition party. She is the sister of its current leader, Rahul Gandhi; their father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as India’s prime minister. The appointment may energise the party ahead of an election.
The man who won the count
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s constitutional court declared Félix Tshisekedi the winner of the presidential election, despite compelling evidence that the result had been rigged. It threw out an appeal by Martin Fayulu, who is thought to have won with about 60% of the vote. See article.
The security forces in Zimbabwe were accused of abducting and torturing members of the opposition amid protests against higher fuel prices and the government of Emmerson Mnangagwa. At least 12 people were shot dead and many more injured when police and soldiers fired on demonstrators. See article.
Police in Ethiopia arrested Bereket Simon, a former government minister and ally of the late prime minister, Meles Zenawi. It is the most prominent arrest thus far in a crackdown on corruption led by Abiy Ahmed, the current prime minister.
Israel bombed what it said were Iranian military targets in Syria in retaliation for a missile launched towards the Golan Heights. By confirming the attack, Israel departed from its long-held policy of neither admitting nor denying its air strikes against the blood-spattered Syrian dictatorship.
No way to run a country
As the shutdown of the American government entered its fifth week, the Senate prepared legislation that would temporarily fund services. In a public spat with the Democrats, Donald Trump conceded that he could not give his state-of-the-union speech to Congress until the situation was resolved. The president described the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who have gone without pay as “great patriots”. See article.
America’s Supreme Court reinstated a ban on transgender troops from serving in the armed forces.
Kamala Harris announced that she will run for the Democrats’ presidential nomination. Ms Harris has been a senator for California for two years. She is the third prominent candidate to join what will eventually become a very crowded field.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”