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Mexican President Faces Backlash Over Lackluster Feminist Record

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  • Women marching for International Women’s Day clashed with police in Mexico City on Monday, leaving 19 civilians and 62 officers injured.
  • Demonstrators were particularly riled up after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador erected a massive steel barrier to “protect” the National Palace against vandalism.
  • Others pointed to his long-standing track record ignoring feminist issues and downplaying criticisms.
  • Lopez Obrador is also facing a deteriorating political situation for supporting Felix Salgado Macedonio, a gubernatorial candidate in Guerrero accused of rape.

Feminism a Problem for Progressive President

Mexico City experienced an intense International Women’s Day on Monday as a March to commemorate the event turned violent.

The situation began on Saturday when the government decided to erect a 3-meter tall steel wall around the presidential palace and other government buildings in preparation for the march. The move drew criticism from feminist organizers as a provocative act, which President Andres Manuel Obrador, known as AMLO, denied. He clarified that a steel barrier was erected to protect against vandalism that occurred in past Women’s Marches. However, he was careful to say that people had used the marches as cover to engage in illicit activities.

By Saturday night, the wall was turned into a political statement for women in Mexico, who painted the names of hundreds of femicide victims onto it.

Monday’s march was used to highlight women’s issues within Mexico; particularly, AMLO’s seemingly contradictory stances regarding feminist issues. His government has been widely criticized for doing far too little to combat the ongoing femicide issue in Mexico. Last year alone there were 939 femicide victims. Across all forms of murder, 10 women died per day in Mexico last year.

Those issues played a central role in Monday’s march as the chant “not one more, not one murder more” was heard for hours.

Demonstrators also highlighted AMLO’s support of Felix Salgado Macedonio, who’s running for governor of Guerrero. Salgado Macedonia was accused of rape by two women, although he has yet to face charges.

Over the last few months, instead of distancing himself from Salgado Macedonio, AMLO has said the accusations are politically motivated by “the conservatives” and should be left up to the voters. Marchers pushed back against that narrative and projected “A Rapist Will Not be Governor” onto the walls of the national palace Monday night.

By the end of the day, frustrations over these issues led to some violence between protesters and police. In total, according to official figures from Mexico City Police, 62 officers and 19 civilians were injured in clashes.

AMLO Continues the Rhetoric

The march and attempt to highlight AMLO’s apathy towards women’s issues don’t seem to have changed his mind. During Monday’s events, he highlighted how half his cabinet are women, only to call a reporter “corazón” shortly afterward, which would be akin to calling someone “sweetheart.

Regarding critiques of stances on feminist issues, AMLO has tried to paint any anger towards him or his policies as part of an overarching opposition movement rather than legitimate concerns.

“All of a sudden, the conservatives are disguising themselves as feminists, very strange. Why? Because they see it as an opportunity to attack us,” he has claimed in the past.  

He doubled down Monday by saying, “the barricades were put up because the conservatives are very upset. They infiltrate all the movements to create provocations … they were planning to vandalize the National Palace.”

Despite not facing any serious organized political opposition, AMLO has found himself in a possibly precarious political situation opposed by feminist groups and many women in Mexico, which has caused some riffs within his political party.

To date, 500 politicians have demanded that Felix Salgado Macedonia be removed from the party and that AMLO denounce him. At least two female legislators have also resigned from the party in protest over AMLO’s comments.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Guardian) (BBC News)

International

China Cautiously Crawls Out of Zero COVID Policy

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Estimates put the number of people who will die if China fully reopens between 1.3 and 2 million, but higher vaccination rates could limit the death toll.


People Go Back to Bars

The Chinese government has begun to ease some of its notoriously strict pandemic lockdown measures, signaling that the end of the “zero-COVID” policy may be on the horizon.

On Monday, commuters in Beijing and at least 16 other cities were allowed to board buses and subways without a virus test in the previous 48 hours for the first time in months.

In Shanghai, visitors to most sites will require a negative test within the last week, rather than the last two days, though schools, hospitals, and bars will require one within the past 48 hours.

Dining in restaurants in some parts of Beijing is still prohibited, but bars and restaurants in many areas of the country are reopening.

In Urumqi, where anti-lockdown protests erupted late last month after an apartment fire killed 10 people, authorities said in a statement Monday that malls, markets, and other venues will reopen.

Zhengzhou, the central city home to the world’s largest iPhone plant which was last month rocked by violent unrest, will no longer require COVID test results for public transport, taxis, and visits to “public areas”, authorities said in a Sunday statement.

Beijing authorities had required registration to purchase fever, cough, and soar throat medicine, which they believed people were using to hide their coronavirus infections, but that mandate has been lifted. Certain districts in the capital also announced that some residents may self-isolate inside their homes rather than being forced to quarantine in a centralized facility.

Is China Ready to Reopen?

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who oversees COVID efforts, said last week that the country’s health system had withstood the test of the virus and that the omicron subvariant is less deadly than previous strains.

But there has not been a significant drop in cases recently to prompt the easing of restrictions. On Monday, the government reported 30,014 new cases, down from last week’s peak of over 40,000 but still near record highs for China.

Some observers speculate that the government’s move was related to the recent protests, in which thousands of people poured onto the streets of several major cities to demand freedom and an end to the zero-COVID policy. Authorities cracked down on demonstrators, and any mention of the protests was rigorously censored on Chinese social media.

There was no sign of any significant unrest this weekend.

Although many people are excited to enjoy less restricted lives and restart a shuddered economy, others are concerned about the public health consequences reopening society could incur. Estimates put the number of people who will die from the coronavirus if China fully reopens between 1.3 and 2 million, but higher vaccination rates could limit the death toll.

Last week, the government launched a campaign to vaccinate the elderly population.

Only about 40% of people over the age of 80 have gotten their booster shot, according to official statistics.

Health experts and economists say vaccination rates and ICU preparedness won’t be sufficient to fully end the zero-COVID policy until mid-2023 or 2024.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Associated Press) (Reuters)

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India Pedestrian Bridge Collapsed 4 Days After Renovations, Killing Over 100 People

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The company responsible for the upkeep of the Morbi bridge did not obtain a safety certificate before re-opening.


Bridge Collapses

After seven months of renovations, the Morbi walking bridge in India opened to the public. Four days later, the bridge collapsed, killing more than 130 people. 

According to the local government, there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, despite its capacity of 125. 

During a campaign event on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the tragedy.

“I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” he stated.

Along with the investigation, the state has launched a criminal complaint against Oreva Group, the company responsible for maintaining the bridge. Oreva Group reopened the bridge after renovations without getting a safety certificate from the government. 

Shifting Blame

In response, Oreva Group spoke to a local news outlet and blamed those on the bridge for its collapse.

“While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” the group claimed.

The state government has offered compensation for the families of the deceased, but that is not enough for some. One father whose wife and two children died in the collapse told VICE he wants answers and accountability.

“Why were so many people given tickets? Who allowed them? Who is answerable?” he asked.

Indian police have arrested nine people including ticketing clerks and security guards for failing to regulate the crowd, according to Reuters. 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (VICE) (CNN)

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Xi Jinping Tightens Grip on China by Eliminating Rivals

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Despite the staggering power grab, Xi faces geopolitical competition from abroad as well as social and economic instability at home.


Xi Surrounds Himself With Allies

Chinese President Xi Jinping shook up politics over the weekend when he revealed the government’s new leadership, almost exclusively composed of his own hardline loyalists.

Six men — Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi — will form the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top ruling body.

The four new members are all Xi loyalists, pushing out Premier Li Keqiang and the head of China’s top advisory body Wang Yang, two key party figures outside Xi’s inner circle who retired despite being eligible to serve another term.

For the first time in a quarter-century, China’s 24-member Politburo will be made up entirely of men, underlining the exclusion of women from Chinese politics.

An official account of the selection process said that a top criterion for leadership was loyalty to Xi, and rising officials must stay in lockstep with him “in thinking, politics and action.”

Topping off the developments, Xi officially secured an unprecedented third term as leader, something that was only made possible in 2018 when the government abolished term limits on the presidency. The weekend marked China’s greatest consolidation of political power in a single figure in decades.

As the 20th Communist Party Congress came to a close Saturday, China’s former leader Hu Jintao appeared reluctant as he was suddenly and inexplicably escorted from his seat next to Xi out of the Great Hall of the People.

Some commentators have argued that a tightly knit band of yes men may help Xi fend off internal party dissent, but it could ultimately result in poor governance as his subordinates fear giving him bad news.

The Arc of History Bends Toward China

Despite the extreme concentration of political power, China’s Communist Party stares down a gauntlet of challenges both foreign and domestic.

Beijing remains locked in a strategic competition with Washington, which has sought to contain the East Asian rival’s rise as a global superpower, but the past week’s congress may portend a stubbornly defiant China for years to come.

Xi is expected to use his firmly secure position within the party to pursue his agenda in full force — by strengthening Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, expanding China’s economic foothold in developing countries, and achieving self-sufficiency in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.

At home, China’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, with high unemployment, low consumption, and slow economic growth putting pressure on a government that stakes much of its legitimacy on promises to deliver prosperity to the population. Between July and September, the country’s GDP grew by 3.9%, according to official data released Monday, which is above many analysts’ expectations but still far below the state’s target of around 5.5%.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics postponed the data’s publication last week ahead of the 20th party congress, reinforcing concerns that Xi’s leadership will put politics before economics.

Monday’s announcement roiled stock markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunging 6%, as well as the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Composite Index both falling by about 2%.

Beijing has also seen increased political resistance from the population, from anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai to widespread mortgage boycotts over delays from real estate developers.

Last week, a man unfurled two large banners from an overpass in Beijing and called President Xi a “dictator” through a megaphone.

Such small-scale demonstrations are not new, but they took place in the capital just before the congress drew enough attention for photos of the stunt to go viral on social media, where an equally swift censorship campaign stamped out any mention of it.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Washington Post)

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