John Bolton said he favoured keeping up the pressure on North Korea in the run-up to proposed talks on its nuclear programme. Mr Bolton was speaking three days after President Donald Trump appointed him as his national security adviser, replacing H.R. McMaster. Mr Bolton has in the past advocated pre-emptive military strikes to prevent the rogue regime in Pyongyang from acquiring the ability to hit America with nuclear missiles. He has also suggested bombing Iran’s nuclear reactors. See article.
Mr Trump signed a $1.3trn spending bill passed by Congress that avoids a government shutdown and funds public services until October. The president had threatened to veto the bill because, among other things, it did not resolve the legal status of the Dreamers (immigrants brought to America illegally as children), or provide the full $25bn to build his border wall.
Tens of thousands of people, many of them high-school students, rallied in Washington, DC, in favour of gun control. The March for our Lives was led by survivors of the mass shooting in February at a school in Parkland, Florida. The measures that the demonstrators called for, such as banning semi-automatic weapons, are unlikely to be passed by Congress.
We all stand together
America decided to expel 60 Russian diplomats in protest at the attempted murder on British soil of a former spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter. They were attacked with a nerve agent. More than 25 other countries and NATO have supported the move against Russia by announcing their own expulsions. See article.
A fire in a shopping complex in the Siberian city of Kemerovo killed at least 64 people, more than 40 of them children. The government’s slow response triggered huge demonstrations; some called for President Vladimir Putin to resign. See article.
Italy’s parliamentarians elected new speakers for the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Some saw the choices as a sign that a coalition government involving the two big populist parties, the Northern League and the Five Star Movement, is in the offing. See article.
Violent protests erupted in Catalonia following the arrest of the Spanish region’s leader in Germany. Carles Puigdemont is wanted in Spain on charges of sedition for declaring Catalan independence after an illegal referendum. German police took him into custody as he tried to return to Belgium, where he has been living in exile since October. See article.
A new broom
Martín Vizcarra was sworn in as Peru’s president, following the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Mr Kuczynski was facing impeachment, after evidence emerged linking him to Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company involved in corruption across Latin America. “We’ve had enough,” said Mr Vizcarra in his inaugural speech. See article.
Court documents emerged showing that Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s socialist president, gave Odebrecht priority in $4bn-worth of public-works contracts, which also involved the Brazilian Development Bank. In return, Odebrecht pledged $35m in donations to Mr Maduro’s presidential campaign. Most of the projects, including a metro line, were never finished.
Brazil’s president, Michel Temer said that he plans to run for re-election in October, despite popularity ratings in the single digits. He later announced that Henrique Meirelles, the finance secretary, will resign in order to launch a campaign of his own.
The proxy war
The Houthi rebel group in Yemen fired a barrage of missiles at Saudi Arabia, which is bombing the Iranian-backed fighters in a bloody campaign. The Saudis claim to have shot down several missiles, but debris fell on a home in Riyadh, killing one person.
In a deal arranged by Russia, some 7,000 people were allowed to leave Eastern Ghouta, as Syrian rebels surrendered one of their last strongholds to the government after a bombardment lasting months.
Jacob Zuma, the scandal-plagued former president of South Africa, was summoned to appear in court on April 6th to face corruption charges related to an old arms deal.
The ruling coalition in Ethiopia named Abiy Ahmed as its new chairman, signalling that he will replace Hailemariam Desalegn as prime minister. Abiy is the chairman of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, which is part of the ruling coalition but has been sympathetic to protests against the government.
José Filomeno dos Santos, the son of Angola’s former president, was accused of fraud and embezzlement. Mr dos Santos had been chairman of Angola’s sovereign-wealth fund until João Lourenço, the current president, removed him in January.
Egyptians voted in a presidential election, which Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the incumbent, is sure to win. The authorities prevented any serious challengers from running.
Kim-Xi talks on nuclear pickle
Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator, visited China in what was his first trip abroad since taking power in 2011. He reiterated to Xi Jinping, China’s president, his offer to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees. He is supposed to meet South Korea’s president in April and Donald Trump in May. See article.
Lee Myung-bak, a former South Korean president, was charged with corruption in relation to bribes he allegedly took from companies, which he denies. Mr Lee’s successor, Park Geun-hye, is in jail awaiting the verdict in her trial on charges of bribery.
Malaysia’s government introduced a bill in parliament to outlaw fake news, with offenders facing possible prison sentences of up to ten years. A deputy minister said that any news not verified by the government about a huge corruption scandal involving the government would be deemed “fake”. The opposition said this was a blatant attempt to silence criticism ahead of an election this year.
A prominent politician was sentenced to 14 years in prison in India for running a “fodder scam”. Lalu Prasad Yadav, a former chief minister of the impoverished state of Bihar, was convicted of inventing imaginary herds of cows and goats in order to obtain public money for food and medicines for them.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”