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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Inui

Weekly News Blast | Aug 27 - Sep 3


As the first Republican primary debate passes, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez becomes the first GOP candidate to drop out of the presidential race (Francis Suarez, Wikimedia Commons)


Miami Mayor Francis Suarez Is First to Drop Out of Republican Primary Race


After failing to qualify for the first Republican primary debate last week, presidential candidate Francis Suarez announced on August 29 that he was dropping out of the race, making him the first GOP candidate to do so. A Miami Mayor on a stage with governors, senators, and the former president, Suarez faced an uphill battle from the start. As the sole Latino candidate, Suarez hoped to play up his ability to appeal to a diverse group of voters, specifically calling for the Republican Party to do more for Hispanic voters, whom he said “the left has taken for granted for far too long.”


However, polling remained a problem for Suarez. “The people who I’m running against right now are national figures for many, many years. I’ve been a national figure for 60 days,” Suarez said. “There’s a lot of polls that I haven’t been in.” Further, since he announced his campaign, Suarez has been wrapped up in several financial scandals. The Miami Herald reported that Suarez doubled his net worth to $3.4 million as mayor, leading many to question whether his political involvement is only for personal gain. The Miami Herald also alleged that Suarez was paid $170,000 “to help cut through red tape and secure critical permits,” actions currently under investigation by the FBI. In the end, Suarez failed to meet the Republican National Committee’s polling requirements to qualify for the first debate stage, and he had long hinted that he would drop out of the race if he did not make the debate.


“Running for President of the United States has been one of the greatest honors of my life,” Suarez wrote in a statement explaining his decision to drop out of the race. “While I have decided to suspend my campaign for President, my commitment to making this a better nation for every American remains.” While he did not endorse another candidate, Suarez said he plans on “keeping in touch with the other Republican presidential candidates and doing what I can to make sure our party puts forward a strong nominee.


Military Coup Overthrows Unpopular Gabonese President


On August 30, military leaders forcefully overthrew President Ali Bongo Ondimba of the Central African nation of Gabon, just minutes after he was declared the winner of a highly contested presidential election. Since he took power in 2009, Bongo has been accused of election fraud and corruption. Further, his opponents contend that he has done little to share the state’s oil and mining wealth, residing in lavish mansions while much of the country lives in poverty. As a result, after the new regime placed him under house arrest, there was widespread celebration in the streets of Libreville, the capital of Gabon.


Still, many others, especially international players, have been hesitant to join in the celebrations. The African Union (AU), an organization of African nations, condemned the coup and suspended Gabon from participating in several AU activities. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also condemned the coup, citing “reports of serious infringements of fundamental freedoms” in the contested election. France, with several political and economic dealings still remaining from its early 1900s rule over the country, also expressed concern over the situation.


Since the initial coup, the junta has named General Brice Oligui Nguema, former head of the presidential National Guard, as the interim leader. While borders were reopened after three days of limited travel, the transitional government has been slow to hold new elections, citing a wish to avoid elections that “repeat past mistakes.” However, many see this as the beginning of a military dictatorship in the country. Gabon’s coup is the eighth in Africa since 2020, signs of the lapsing democratic gains made in the region since the 1990s. A “contagion of autocracy” is spreading across Africa, commented Bola Tinubu, Nigerian President and chair of the Economic Community of West African States. As Gabon moves forward under new leadership, the fate of democracy in the country hangs in the balance.


Ukraine Replaces Defense Minister in the Heat of War


As the Russo-Ukrainian War rages on, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced on September 3 the replacement of his defense minister, representing the most significant change in military leadership since Russia launched its invasion in early 2022. Oleksii Reznikov, the now former defense minister, had served in his position since November 2021, helping secure billions of dollars in Western military aid. However, his ministry was hit with several wartime scandals in which high-ranking officials were accused of profiteering. While Reznikov was never implicated in these allegations, it remained a stain on his reputation.


With admission into the European Union still pending, Zelenskiy has worked to crack down on corruption in Kyiv. Many view Reznikov’s dismissal as the most recent example. However, in a video address to the nation, Zelenskiy gave alternative reasons. “Oleksii Reznikov has been through more than 550 days of full-scale war,” Zelenskiy said. “I believe the ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society as a whole.”


In Reznikov’s stead, Zelenskiy nominated Rustem Umerov, a 41-year-old Crimean Tatar who has headed Ukraine’s State Property Fund since September 2022. In this capacity, he was involved in the exchange of POWs, political prisoners, and civilians. He was also part of the team negotiating the high-profile Black Sea Grain Initiative with Russia. While Zelenskiy still requires Parliament’s approval, he says he does not foresee the legislature blocking Umerov’s nomination. Currently, Umerov’s candidacy has been submitted for review.

 


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