Weekly News Blast | Nov 12-19
After a contentious run-off election, incumbent Argentinian president Sergio Massa conceded the 2023 elections to far-right candidate Javier Milei (Vox España, Wikimedia Commons)
Japanese Tanker Attacked in Red Sea
On November 16, the International Maritime Security Construct, an international group that maintains security in regional waters, told mariners in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait to avoid traveling at night in Yemeni waters. This warning was issued after the Houthis (an Iran-backed group of rebels that run an anti-imperialist movement against the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia) released a graphic containing an Israeli commercial vessel on fire with the caption, “We will sink your ships.”
According to U.S. officials, around 1 p.m. local time on November 19, a helicopter hovered over a Japanese-owned and Bahamian-flagged ship in the southern Red Sea. Several armed individuals then rappelled onto the deck of the “Galaxy Leader” and forcefully took control. The ship was on a crucial Red Sea shipping route that goes from Turkey to India. Although, the crew consisted of an international civilian crew with no Israelis, two dozen crew members were held hostage.
Officials are concerned that this is a sign of heightened tensions over the Israel-Hamas war. The Iran-backed Houthi rebels stated they hijacked the ship because of its connection to Israel. In addition, they warned that they would continue to target ships in international waters that are linked to Israel “until the aggression against the Gaza Strip stops and the heinous crimes that continue until this moment against our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and the West Bank stop.” The Israel Defence Forces commented, “The hijacking of a cargo ship by the Houthis near Yemen in the southern Red Sea is a very grave incident of global consequence,” as these attacks could discourage countries from engaging with Israeli ships in the Red Sea.
Mayotte Island Water Crisis
Mayotte, an island under French control, comprised mostly of residents living under the poverty line, has recently faced an unprecedented water crisis. The island, located in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa between Mozambique and Madagascar, has a population of about 310,000 people.
The recent drought is the sixth Mayotte has faced this year and one of the worst since 1997. According to the most recent estimates, of two water reservoirs on the island, one is at 7 percent capacity and the other is at 6 percent capacity, constituting a “critical level of decline.” This has led to drastic water cuts that have left residents without access to water for around 18 hours every couple of days. This schedule was published by the Prefecture, the local subdivision of the French government. According to residents, the little water they have access to is often contaminated and undrinkable. All this has led to school closures, lack of food, and a growing health crisis as many contract cholera and typhoid.
A protest movement called “Mayotte is Thirsty” demands accountability for alleged embezzlement, leaks, and lack of investment in sustainable water supplies. The government is relying on the upcoming rainy season, but many residents state that it will not fix the multidimensional problem. According to French Overseas Affairs Minister, Philippe Vigier, 850 leaks in the water network have been spotted since September. Since then, only one new water borehole, delivering a few hundred cubic meters per day, has been put into service.
In response to the crisis, the French government deployed soldiers and civil servants to distribute 600,000 liters of bottled water in September to the most vulnerable residents and suspended water bills for all residents. The government has promised to work on drilling for new springs, renovating a desalination plant, and extending water relief to all residents. Still, despite these promises, locals are concerned that the relief will not come fast enough and are skeptical of the government’s promises.
Argentina’s Presidential Elections
On Sunday, November 19, Argentina held its run-off elections between centrist Sergio Massa and far-right candidate Javier Milei. During the elections in October, neither managed to secure 40 percent of the vote or a 10-point lead over the closest competitor to become victorious, forcing Argentina into a run-off election.
Sergio Massa represents the governing Peronist coalition (the main political force for the past eight decades), was the country’s economy minister, and is the candidate of the ruling Union for the Homeland coalition. Massa’s policies were more center-left, which allowed him to gain traction with moderates. On the other hand, Javier Milei is an economist from the Freedom Advances party. He is a far-right libertarian who describes himself as an “anarcho-capitalist” and was the front-runner of the primary election.
For both candidates, fixing Argentina’s economic crisis was the center of most campaign promises, although Massa and Milei proposed two completely different approaches. Under Massa, inflation and poverty rates have soared, so Milei proposed policies to rein in inflation; for example, he promised to adopt the U.S. dollar, eliminate the central bank, scale back public health expenditure, and remove subsidies on gas and electricity. However, Massa warned that Milei would eliminate many public services and openly questioned his mental acuity (as Milei often carried a revving chainsaw at rallies, saying he wanted to “chainsaw” the failing economic system).
In the end, Milei came out on top, winning 55.95 percent of the vote with 86.6 percent of the vote counted. “They voted for Milei because they’re all pissed off,” Andrei Roman, CEO of Brazil-based pollster Atlas Intel, said by phone. “Everyone talked about the fear of Milei winning. I think this was a fear of Massa winning and the economy continuing the way it is, inflation and all that.” Milei is scheduled to take office on December 10 to begin his four-year term.
Sources & Further Readings
Japanese Tanker in Red Sea Attacked
Mayotte Island Water Crisis
Argentina’s Presidential Elections