Politics this week

Two of Donald Trump’s closest former advisers were convicted in separate court cases on a raft of charges. Michael Cohen, the president’s erstwhile personal lawyer, struck a plea-bargain deal with federal prosecutors and admitted that he had paid off two women claiming to have had affairs with Mr Trump. Damningly, he said he did this “in co-ordination and at the direction of” Mr Trump (who was not named directly in the case). Paul Manafort, Mr Trump’s campaign manager until August 2016, was found guilty of tax fraud. He also faces trial on charges relating to his work for pro-Russian Ukrainians.

Duncan Hunter, a Republican congressman from California, was charged with misusing campaign funds for personal use. He is the second Republican to face criminal charges this month: Chris Collins, who represents a district in upstate New York, has been indicted for insider trading.

The Trump administration ditched the Clean Power Plan, which set federal guidelines for states to reduce their carbon emissions. Under the new Affordable Clean Energy rule, states will be allowed to set less stringent standards and coal can once again be included in an “efficient” energy mix.

Depreciating, fast

Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, announced a series of measures to shore up the economy, which is suffering from a deep depression and hyperinflation. He devalued the currency by 95% and replaced it with a new currency, the “sovereign bolívar”, which has five fewer zeroes. He admitted that hyperinflation had been caused by printing bolívares to finance a massive budget deficit and promised a “zero deficit”. The new currency is to be pegged to the petro, a unit of account backed by oil reserves. It began depreciating soon after its introduction. See article.

As Venezuelans flee their country in the thousands, Ecuador introduced restrictions on Venezuelan migrants, saying they must hold a passport to enter. Around 4,000 Venezuelans are arriving at the Ecuadorean border each day, many en route to Peru and Chile. In Brazil a Venezuelan migrant camp was attacked and its occupants driven back over the border. See article.

The youth have their say

Politics this week 1

Protests erupted in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, following the detention of five opposition MPs, including Bobi Wine, who is also a popular singer. Mr Wine says the government is trying to kill him. At least one protester died when police fired tear gas and tried to remove barricades that have been erected across the city. See article.

Kofi Annan, the seventh secretary-general of the UN, died after a short illness. Mr Annan, the first sub-Saharan African to lead the organisation, sparred with America over its war in Iraq. But many will remember him for drawing attention to the plight of the poor, the sick and the victims of conflict. See article.

Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court heard a challenge from the opposition to the recent election of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. After a delay in publishing the results, the electoral commission declared Mr Mnangagwa the winner with 51% of the vote, but the opposition says “massive doctoring” of the ballot has taken place. It cited identical results at 16 different polling stations as part of its evidence.

Public prosecutors in Saudi Arabia sought the death penalty for five activists, including Israa al-Ghomgham, who has highlighted discrimination against Shias. She is the first female campaigner to face execution in the kingdom. The five are accused of inciting protest, among other things.

No one is immune

The World Health Organisation warned of a “dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks” of measles in Europe. More than 41,000 children and adults contracted the disease in the first half of the year, well above the annual total for each year this decade. At least 37 people have died. Ukraine accounted for over half of those infected. See article.

Following a damning report into child abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania, Pope Francis issued a letter condemning the history of “atrocities” in the church. The pontiff acknowledged that “with shame and repentance…we were not where we should have been” when it came to supporting the victims.

Italy’s hardline interior minister, Matteo Salvini, refused to allow 177 refugees off an Italian ship that had rescued them at sea. In his short time in office Mr Salvini has built a reputation for being tough on migrants. He said he would give permission for the refugees to disembark once he received assurances that they would be distributed among all European Union countries.

Britain’s Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, resumed talks with the EU’s negotiator, Michel Barnier. Officials are increasingly gloomy about a deal being reached in time for approval by EU leaders at a summit in mid-October. The British government published its first batch of technical-advice papers on what would happen if there is no deal.

A smaller circle of friends

El Salvador switched its diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China. The defection leaves Taiwan with formal relations with just 17 countries.

The Chinese Communist Party announced that it had taken measures against two senior officials in connection with a safety scandal at a vaccine-maker. A vice-governor in charge of drug safety in Jilin province, where the firm is based, has been sacked and a former deputy head of the country’s food-and-drug regulator will be investigated for corruption. More than 40 government officials have also been implicated.

The Chinese foreign ministry lashed out at Andy Chan, a Hong Kong resident who has been campaigning for the territory’s independence. It accused Mr Chan of “colluding with external forces” by calling for both China and Hong Kong to be expelled from the WTO because of a “rapid deterioration of freedoms”.

Politics this week 2

The southern Indian state of Kerala was hit by the worst monsoon floods in a century. Over 370 people have died.

Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, offered to stand aside if a majority of MPs from his party called for it. Three ministers are competing to succeed him. If he goes it will be Australia’s fifth change of prime minister in a decade.

This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”

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