Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets to protest against lower subsidies and higher taxes, which have led to a rise in the prices of basic goods. The government responded by arresting more than 800 people, before agreeing to increase aid for the poor. Tunisia was the starting-point of the Arab spring that broke out in late 2010 and swept the region. See article.
America withheld $65m in aid for Palestinian refugees, while demanding that the UN Relief and Works Agency undertake a “fundamental re-examination” of its activities. Donald Trump blames the Palestinians for a lack of progress in peace talks with Israel, which in turn says UNRWA is working against the Jewish state.
Mr Trump extended sanctions relief for Iran again, but warned that this was the “last chance” for Congress and the big European powers to fix what he described as the “disastrously flawed” deal with Iran over its nuclear programme in 2015. The Europeans said they were working hard to address Mr Trump’s concerns. See article.
Ethiopia freed several hundred political prisoners. The government arrested over 1,000 people a year ago when it clamped down on protests.
A one-man revolution
Oscar Pérez, a Venezuelan police pilot who had stolen a helicopter to attack government buildings in June 2017, was killed in a confrontation with police. Last year he had thrown grenades and fired shots at the interior ministry and supreme court and called for a rebellion against the authoritarian left-wing government of Nicolás Maduro. During a nine-hour siege by police who had tracked him down, Mr Pérez said that he was trying to surrender. Six of his companions and two policemen were also killed. See article.
On a visit to Chile, Pope Francis apologised for the “irreparable harm” caused by clergy who had sexually abused children, and met some of the victims. Revelations of abuse by Fernando Karadima, a prominent priest, caused an exodus from the Catholic church in Chile starting in 2010. Pope Francis did not bow to demands that he reconsider the appointment of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno, who victims say tried to protect Father Karadima (Bishop Barros denies this). See article.
Provoking the Spanish bull
At their regional parliament in Barcelona, Catalan MPs elected a pro-independence speaker at their first meeting since Spain dissolved the chamber in October. Their planned next step is to reinstate their exiled president, Carles Puigdemont.
Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the centre-left Social Democrats said they had made enough progress to launch formal talks on a new “grand coalition” in Germany. But party delegates still have to approve the move. See article.
Speaking in Calais, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, said he would not permit the re-establishment of a sprawling migrant camp like “The Jungle”. The French head of state also wants Britain to take in more refugees and do more to help deal with those who are in France. The British government promised more money for security along the English Channel.
Oliver Ivanovic, a moderate Kosovo Serb politician, was murdered outside his party’s offices in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, as talks were set to resume between Serbia and Kosovo about formalising their ties. He had been convicted of war crimes in 2016 but was due to return to court for a retrial.
The Olympic spirit
South Korea and North Korea agreed to field a joint women’s ice-hockey team at the Winter Olympics in the South next month. The two countries’ teams will also march together in the opening ceremony.
Four of the 25 judges on India’s supreme court accused the chief justice of bias in assigning controversial cases to particular colleagues. See article.
In a move seen by some as politically motivated, regulators in the Philippines ordered a website critical of President Rodrigo Duterte to close, for violating ownership rules. The website, Rappler, vowed to fight the order.
An Iranian oil tanker registered in Panama exploded and sank in the East China Sea. A collision a week earlier with a cargo ship is believed to have caused the deaths of all 32 people on board the Iranian ship. An oil slick several miles long and wide spread at the scene.
How low can you go?
Republicans and Democrats struggled to reach a deal that would stop the deportation of people who came to America illegally as young children, known as “Dreamers”. Donald Trump has ordered that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme should end soon, and has tied any agreement that prolonged it to more spending for border security. Causing more confusion, the government’s immigration agency said it would permit those who are protected by DACA to renew their requests to stay following a court ruling, but not accept new applicants. See article.
Negotiations over DACA were frustrated by Mr Trump reportedly asking a meeting in the Oval Office why America had to take migrants from “shithole” African countries and Haiti. In the ensuing furore Democrats declared him a racist, but some Republicans insist he did not make the remark. In a bad week for Mr Trump, the press was awash with rumours that his lawyers paid Stormy Daniels, a porn star, hush money in October 2016 to keep quiet about an affair a decade earlier.
Stephen Bannon, Mr Trump’s political strategist until they fell out, was reportedly subpoenaed to testify in the investigation led by Robert Mueller, the Justice Department’s special counsel, into alleged Russian influence among Trump aides.
After six decades in its old home at Grosvenor Square, the American embassy’s new building in London opened for business at Nine Elms. See article.
Hawaii’s emergency-management service sent an erroneous text message to the state’s residents warning of an impending missile attack. The islanders have felt particularly rattled by North Korea’s aggressive series of missile launches and Hawaii has begun testing a system of nuclear-warning sirens. The mistaken message was apparently sent out by a shift worker who pressed the wrong button on a computer. See article.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”