France’s four main railway unions went on strike in protest against reforms planned by President Emmanuel Macron. He proposes to end railway workers’ special employment status, which includes employment for life. Energy workers, rubbish collectors and Air France employees are also on strike. The stoppages are the most serious threat yet to Mr Macron’s agenda of reforms. See article.
Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, launched formal coalition talks between the parties, a month after a legislative election produced a fragmented parliament. The populist Five Star Movement emerged as the largest party. But to reach a majority, a pact would be needed with other groups. Five Star has already ruled out a coalition with Forza Italia, the centre-right party of Silvio Berlusconi, a former prime minister and billionaire.
Russian police arrested Ziyavudin Magomedov, a Dagestani billionaire, on charges of racketeering. Mr Magomedov, who owns grain and construction businesses, is associated with Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, and the arrest is seen as part of a power struggle within the elite. Mr Magomedov has come under fire over alleged irregularities in the construction of a football stadium in Kaliningrad for the World Cup this year.
Brazil’s supreme court ruled by six votes to five that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former president, can be jailed while he appeals against a 12-year sentence for accepting a bribe from a construction firm. He is currently leading in polls for October’s presidential election but the conviction could make it impossible for him to run. See article.
Carlos Alvarado won Costa Rica’s presidential election. A former labour minister for the governing centre-left Citizens’ Action Party, he beat Fabricio Alvarado (no relation), a conservative evangelical pastor, with 60.8% of the vote. See article.
The former Guatemalan dictator, Efraín Ríos Montt, died while awaiting a second trial on charges that he committed crimes against humanity during the country’s civil war. In 2013 he became the first former head of state found guilty of genocide by his own country’s courts. The conviction was later overturned on a legal technicality. See article.
A fire in a Venezuelan jail killed 68 people but elicited silence from the socialist president, Nicolás Maduro. Police sprayed tear-gas at family members who flocked to the prison for news.
On second thoughts
Israel cancelled a deal with the UN to relocate African migrants who entered the country illegally, many seeking asylum. The deal would have resettled some in the West, with others granted temporary residence in Israel. Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, said he still wants “to remove the infiltrators”.
Speaking to an American magazine, Muhammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, said “the Israelis have the right to have their own land”. It was a rare recognition of Israel’s right to exist by an Arab leader.
Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s new prime minister, was sworn in. He immediately offered a hand of friendship to Eritrea. The recently-warring countries have been locked in a bitter border dispute. In stark contrast to his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, who accused Eritrea of supporting anti-government protests, Mr Abiy called for an end to “years of misunderstandings”. See article.
It was announced that Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, was re-elected with 97% of the vote. Some voters said they were paid to cast a ballot, yet turnout, at 41%, was six percentage points lower than in 2014, when the last election was held.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the veteran anti-apartheid activist and ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, a former president, died at the age of 81. Many South Africans hailed her as a “mother of the nation”, but others saw her as an angry and flawed individual. See article.
Ian Khama, a retired army general, stepped down as president of Botswana. He handed the thinly populated but diamond-rich country to his deputy, Mokgweetsi Masisi, after a decade at the helm. The new president inherits a country that has long been heralded as a beacon of African democracy and sound economic management.
President Donald Trump ordered the National Guard to America’s southern border upon hearing that a caravan of roughly 1,000 Central American migrants was travelling north through Mexico. Many of the migrants were fleeing poverty and violence in Honduras, a country wracked by protests after a contested presidential election. See article.
The headquarters of YouTube, a video-sharing website, in California was stormed by Nasim Aghdam, a user of the platform, who wounded three workers with a gun before killing herself. It is suspected that she held a grudge against the tech giant for filtering some of her videos.
I’m spinning around
China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, crashed into the Pacific. It was launched in 2011 and received two visits by Chinese astronauts. Scientists on the ground lost control of it in 2016.
The South China Morning Post says that 500 test burners have been built in order to send silver iodide particles into the atmosphere over Tibet. When the water-laden air of the monsoon hits the particles, ice crystals should form and boost precipitation. If the full project involving tens of thousands of burners is completed, it would be the world’s largest cloud-seeding operation. See article.
The lower house of Malaysia’s parliament passed a bill that would impose prison sentences and fines on those who spread “fake news”. India’s government, however, retracted new rules that would have rescinded the credentials of journalists found to have published falsehoods. See article.
Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, acted on his threat to close the island of Boracay, a beach resort that is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. From April 26th, he said, tourists will be turned away for six months while the authorities extend and repair the inadequate sewage system. Infrastructure problems have left the tropical paradise more of a “cesspool”, as he tactfully described the island.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”