The world at a glance ...
Rajoy: Not impressed
Helping an injured journalist
Demanding more from France
Kim: Threatening war
Suu Kyi: Not speaking out(Newscom (2), AP (3); AP, Newscom (2))
ETA gives up weapons: The militant Basque separatist group ETA says it has officially disarmed. At a ceremony in Bayonne, ETA revealed the location of its eight arms caches—containing some 3 tons of explosives, 120 guns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition— hidden across the Basque region, which straddles northern Spain and southwest France. But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was skeptical that ETA, which has reneged on deals in the past, has given up all its weaponry. His government said ETA should ask its victims’ forgiveness “instead of setting up a media show to cover up its defeat and trying to extract political gain from it.” The terrorist group, which declared a cease-fire in 2011, has killed more than 800 people—mostly in Spain—during its 50-year fight for an independent state.
Russian cybercrook nabbed: A Russian email spammer accused of presiding over an empire of fraud was arrested in Spain last week at the request of U.S. authorities. The FBI tried to nab Peter Levashov, 36, several years ago, but Russian authorities refused to help, which implies he has government connections. As police burst into the Barcelona hotel room where Levashov was vacationing, FBI cybersecurity agents were taking out his online network: the tens of thousands of computers he had infected with his Kelihos malware and had used to send hundreds of millions of spam messages each year. Levashov made a fortune selling spamming campaigns, and is alleged to have rented his “botnet” to online criminals who planted ransomware, programs that freeze an infected computer until the victim pays up. Despite being a wanted international criminal, he lived openly in St. Petersburg, flaunting his wealth.
North America United! Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. are launching a joint bid to host the 2026 soccer World Cup. If the bid is successful, Mexico City will push for the opening match. But the big winner would be the U.S., which would host 60 games—including all matches from the quarterfinals on—while Mexico and Canada would host 10 each. FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, has sought assurances that teams, fans, and media from all countries that qualify for the tournament will be allowed into the U.S. if the bid is successful. That includes Iran, a soccer-mad nation that is one of six countries listed in President Trump’s travel ban.
Violent protests: At least two protesters have been shot dead and hundreds more injured in the past week as Venezuelan authorities violently put down daily anti-government demonstrations. Police hurled tear gas canisters from helicopters into the crowds, and at least one hospital was hit with the gas, injuring patients. The protests began two weeks ago, following President Nicolás Maduro unsuccessful attempt to seize power from the National Assembly, and they intensified last week when opposition leader Henrique Capriles was banned from office for 15 years. “You can shove your disqualification where the sun doesn’t shine,” Capriles said at a rally. “This is not Capriles’ struggle. This is the Venezuelan people’s struggle.”
Le Pen’s Holocaust remarks: Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen drew criticism from her election rivals and Israel this week after she downplayed the French state’s role in the Holocaust. The National Front leader said the Vél d’Hiv roundup—when French police arrested more than 13,000 Jews in 1942, detained them in a Paris velodrome for five days, then deported them to German death camps—was not the work of “France as such” but rather of “those in power at the time,” meaning the Vichy government of Nazi-occupied France. Israel’s foreign ministry said the claim was “contrary to historical truth.” Le Pen is expected to win the first round of the election this month, but to lose the May 7 runoff.
Cayenne, French Guiana
Massive strikes: A general strike and mass street protests over soaring crime rates and widespread poverty have paralyzed French Guiana, France’s often-neglected overseas territory in South America. Although French Guiana is supposed to be treated like any other part of France, up to 30 percent of its 250,000 inhabitants still lack drinking water and electricity in their homes, and more than 20 percent of the population is unemployed—double the rate in France. “The government doesn’t understand that the population is fed up,” said Antoine Karam, who represents the territory in the French Senate. Last month, protesters blocked access to France’s only spaceport, which is on the territory’s coast, and forced the postponement of a rocket launch carrying Brazilian and South Korean communication satellites.
Modern slave markets: Hundreds of West African migrants who trekked to Libya, hoping to journey to Europe, have been sold in slave markets, the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration reported this week. Victims told the IOM that after being captured by people smugglers or militia groups in Libya, they were taken to town squares or parking lots to be sold for between $200 and $500 each. Most of the men are used as day laborers, while the women become sex slaves. One Senegalese migrant told IOM that after he was sold, his captors held him in a prison-like building and regularly called his family at home demanding a nearly $500 ransom. He was then sold to a larger prison, where the ransom doubled. Men whose families didn’t pay up were eventually killed, he said. About 27,000 migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Italy from Libya so far this year; tens of thousands more are waiting in Libya for boats.
Christians slaughtered: Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has declared a three-month state of emergency after ISIS bombed two Coptic Christian churches, killing 45 people during Palm Sunday services. One suicide bomber reached the front pews at a church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta before detonating his charge; two hours later, another blew himself up while trying to enter St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria. Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic church, was in St. Mark’s at the time but was not harmed. ISIS said Copts, who account for 10 percent of Egypt’s population, are “crusaders” who will “pay with rivers of blood from their children.” El-Sissi’s order expands his government’s already vast powers to arrest and hold suspects—at least 40,000 people have been detained since he took power in a 2013 coup, and some suspects have been tortured and killed.
Pyongyang, North Korea
U.S. strike force approaches: The U.S. moved a Navy strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to Pacific waters near North Korea this week, as concern mounted over dictator Kim Jong Un’s fastadvancing nuclear weapons program. North Korean officials have repeatedly hinted that they intend to test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. this year. President Trump tweeted that “North Korea is looking for trouble” and vowed that the U.S. would “solve the problem” alone if China, Pyongyang’s main ally and trading partner, refuses to help. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone soon after the tweet, and Xi said China wanted to “resolve the problem through peaceful means.” Beijing has said it will slap new sanctions on North Korea if it carries out more nuclear or long-range missile tests, and it has begun enforcing the ban on North Korean coal imports that it announced in February.
North Korea, which has long warned its people that a U.S. attack could come at any time, said that it might “obliterate” America with its “mighty nuclear weapons” if a preemptive strike looked likely. “Our military is keeping an eye on the movement of enemy forces while putting them in our nuclear sights,” said a state-run newspaper. The Trump administration, meanwhile, says it is considering “all options” for stopping North Korea’s nuclear efforts, including stationing nuclear weapons in South Korea and launching a “d ecapitation” strike to take out Kim and his top aides. South Korean media reported that a Navy SEAL team is already in South Korea training for such a mission.
Elderly gangsters: The yakuza, Japan’s not-quite-illegal organized crime syndicates, are suffering the same problem as the rest of Japanese industry: a graying workforce. About 40 percent of registered yakuza members are over 50, and many want to retire but are obliged to continue funneling funds to higher-ups in the rigidly hierarchical organizations. Since Japan passed a law in 2011 banning businesses from working with gangsters, recruitment has been down. “I have a chronic illness and my true feeling is wanting to retire,” one 70-year-old gang leader told the Asahi Shimbun. “[I’d] take it easy if there were someone I could pass the gang down to.”
Suu Kyi denies ethnic cleansing: Dismissing numerous credible reports by the United Nations and international human rights groups, Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi said this week there was no ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Tens of thousands of Rohingya, an ethnic and religious minority, have fled to Bangladesh and elsewhere, driven from their homes by rampaging Buddhist gangs and Myanmar’s military, which is accused of systematic rape and summary execution. Under the powersharing agreement that restored partial civilian rule to the country in 2015, Suu Kyi’s government does not control the military. Still, the Nobel Peace Prize winner has downplayed reports of military atrocities. “Ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression,” she told the BBC. ■