This Week Around the World – Feb. 3–10:


Feb. 3 El Salvador: With 90 percent of ballots counted, Nayib Bukele of the Great National Alliance was declared the winner of El Salvador’s presidential election, breaking the country’s overwhelmingly two-party system. As reported by Reuters, Bukele has largely been seen as an outsider due to his third-party affiliation in a country dominated by the parties of the National Republican Alliance (ARENA) and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FLMN). Deutsche Welle reported Bukele winning 54 percent of the votes, while Carlos Callejas of ARENA came in second with 32 percent and Hugo Martinez of FLMN coming in third with 14 percent.

Feb. 3–8 Venezuela: Contention continues in Venezuela as President Nicolás Maduro rejected an ultimatum on Feb. 3 set forth by EU countries including Germany, France, Britain and Spain demanding the country hold snap elections. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated on Feb. 4 the international body would not involve itself in the political crisis. Additionally, The Independent reported Feb. 5 that opposition leader Juan Guaidó would agree with United States intentions to privatize Venezuelan oil, allowing foreign oil companies to capitalize on the country’s state-owned oil supplies. On Feb. 8, a report from Democracy Now! stated Venezuelan authorities intercepted a U.S.–owned Boeing 767 carrying assault weapons, ammunition cartridges and military-grade antennas on one of the plane’s routes. The plane has flown nearly 40 trips between Miami, Venezuela and Columbia since Jan. 11 amid the U.S. backing of Guaidó against Maduro.

Feb. 5 Moscow, Russia: Tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate around 100 buildings in Moscow amid a number of fake bomb threats. Deutsche Welle reported some 20,000 people were evacuated, including school children and office workers, as authorities swept the buildings for explosives. The incident marks a wave of fake bomb threats dating back to 2017 and is believed to be the work of Russian expats abroad.

Separately, high-ranking Afghan politicians met with members of the Taliban in order to discuss plans for the future of the country and negotiate an end to the conflict. Attendees included politicians opposed to President Ashraf Ghani, former President Hamid Karzai and notable women such as negotiator Fawzia Koofi who—as the German news outlet reported—“negotiated face-to-face with Taliban members.” Strategies for ending the conflict included implementing an interim government with the possible inclusion of the Taliban, as well as transparent elections and female political representation.

Feb. 5 Central African Republic: Following negotiations in Khartoum, Sudan, the Central African Republic signed a peace treaty with 14 rebel groups in an effort to bring peace to the country, which has been embroiled in conflict since a civil war broke out in 2012. The agreement is the eighth peace treaty to be signed in six years, though it’s hoped the most recent agreement will lead to stability. As reported by Deutsche Welle, the agreement includes “implementation of a government of national unity bringing together all political and social forces,” which includes “the Muslim Seleka rebels as well as the mainly Christian anti-Balaka alliance.” Canadian news outlet The Globe and Mail reports over 640,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, with 2.9 million needing urgent humanitarian support.

Feb. 5 The Vatican: For the first time, Pope Francis publicly acknowledged sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops within the Catholic Church, as quoted by Al Jazeera during a press conference while en route from the United Arab Emirates. “It’s not that everyone does this, but there are some priests and also bishops who have done it,” he said. The admission follows a story in a Vatican women’s magazine Women Church World the week prior, in which nuns reported giving birth and having abortions due to sexual abuse by clergy members. However, the Vatican has received similar reports since the 1990s. In response, the Pope has called for a summit between Feb. 21 and 24 to address the sexual abuse crisis still present in the Church.

Feb. 9 Abyei Administrative Area: In the contested territory of Abyei between Sudan and South Sudan, an Ethiopian military helicopter crashed while in the compound of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) while on a routine route between the contested territory and the Sudanese city of Kadugli. Of the 23 crew members, three were killed and 10 injured, with three members in critical condition. They were rushed to Addis Ababa while those not in critical condition were sent to the UNISFA hospital in Abyei. The UNISFA reported the cause of the crash is not yet know.