Europe/Americas update: August 28 2018

EUROPE

RUSSIA

I’m sure this is fine. Really, just very OK and normal:

Russia is mobilizing for its biggest military exercise since the height of the Cold War, the Kremlin says, citing a tense international climate that is “frequently aggressive and unfriendly towards us.”

The exercises, which are set to involve nearly 300,000 Russian troops, 1,000 aircraft and 900 tanks, will also include units from China for the first time. They will start on Sept. 11.

Mongolian forces will participate as well in the Vostok-2018 drills, which in past years have been used to prepare the Russian (or Soviet) military against a possible Chinese invasion. Presumably that won’t be part of the agenda this time around. This year’s exercise will be the largest Russian/Soviet war games since 1981.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Bosnian journalists have been protesting across the country for two days, over an assault on one of their colleagues by unknown attackers on Sunday. Violence against journalists has been on the rise in Bosnia and Herzegovina in recent years, particularly in the Republika Srpska part of the country.

GERMANY

In a slightly less noble protest movement, neo-Nazis and assorted other right wing assholes have been violently demonstrating in the eastern German city of Chemnitz for the past couple of days:

Protesters flashing Nazi salutes and shouting “Foreigners out” clashed Monday night with counterdemonstrators chanting “Refugees welcome,” in a second night of violence in the east German city of Chemnitz that left several people injured and a country dismayed over images of rioting.

The police in Saxony said on Tuesday that several people had been treated for injuries sustained in the clashes Monday night. Ten people are being investigated for giving the Hitler salute, they said.

The violence first broke out on Sunday, after nationalists and far-right soccer fans called on supporters, including on social media, to take to the streets to “defend” their country from immigrants after the killing of a 35-year-old German man.

Two immigrants, an Iraqi and a Syrian, were arrested in connection with the killing. But the circumstances around that killing are still murky. Right-wingers immediately circulated an inflammatory story that the man was killed defending a German woman from the immigrants absent any evidence, and that naturally helped get the demonstrations rolling. Things have gotten pretty ugly:

Amid protests over the death, right-wing mobs hunted and attacked foreigners, injuring several people. At least six others were injured Monday after far-right groups, neo-Nazis and left-wing protesters clashed in the city, using fireworks and glass bottles as weapons.

Authorities said Tuesday that they were investigating 10 protesters accused of giving the “Hitler salute,” which is banned in Germany.

Chemitz is located in Saxony, which is a stronghold for the far right Alternative for Germany party. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who would probably be out there with the protesters if he weren’t working for the government, has offered federal support to Saxony state authorities if they request it.

ITALY

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met in Milan on Tuesday and pledged to do all they could to make Europe as racist as possible. Er, I mean they pledged to work together to influence the European Commission to be more racist. No, wait, I mean they want the European Commission to be more anti-migrant. Also they agreed that something something George Soros, I guess? He inevitably comes up whenever these guys get together.

AMERICAS

BRAZIL

Fernando Haddad, who at the moment is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s running mate but will replace Lula assuming he’s barred from standing in October’s presidential election over his corruption conviction, is now himself looking at corruption charges related to his 2012 mayoral campaign in São Paulo. Haddad insists the charges are bogus, and while I have no idea if he’s telling the truth, I will say that if you were inclined to believe that the Brazilian judicial system is engaged in a sort of under the surface conspiracy to ensure that leftists have no chance of capturing the presidency in October, this might be the sort of thing that would only further raise your suspicions.

VENEZUELA

Venezuela’s refugee situation continues to reverberate around the region. The Peruvian government on Tuesday declared a health emergency along its northern border over concerns about the possible spread of disease among the Venezuelan migrants gathered there. Meanwhile, Brazilian President Michel Temer deployed military forces to the border state of Roraima in response to a spate of violence against Venezuelan refugees there. The Venezuelan government has offered to fly refugees home, but so far very few of them have taken it up on the offer. Diosdado Cabello, the president of Venezuela’s constituent assembly, apparently believes the whole refugee situation is being staged to embarrass the Venezuelan government. I don’t know what that would entail, I guess a couple of million crisis actors willing to play refugee or something?

MEXICO

Mexican economists and business types are still trying to piece together exactly what’s involved in this mondo-gigantic trade deal Donald Trump claimed he negotiated on Monday:

Without the fine print unavailable, Mexican trade experts and business executives remained uncertain about how the deal might impact the economy. They questioned what would happen to steel and aluminum tariffs that Trump imposed on Mexico. And how Mexico’s car industry, a key sector driving the country’s economic growth in recent years, would incorporate the new requirements about using North American parts and paying higher wages.

“There are many questions, and we don’t have many answers,” said Jonathan Heath, an economist in Mexico City. “We still have to see who has conceded what, and I’m a little scared to find out.”

Among the key revisions that have been announced is an increase of the percentage of an automobile that would need to be made in North America to qualify for tariff-free trade; the new agreement also requires a certain percentage of cars to be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour. Mexico would be required to take steps toward strengthening its labor unions, although the details are unclear.

What Trump characterized as a broad bilateral trade deal/replacement for NAFTA looks a day later to be a possible bilateral deal on the automotive sector that may not survive unless the three countries can successfully renegotiate NAFTA, or negotiate a NAFTA replacement under a different name in order to make Trump happy.

CANADA

The uncertainty about what exactly the US and Mexico have done here is causing Canadian leaders to worry that they’ve been outfoxed. By Donald Trump. This guy:

This seems…unlikely, but let me say that if they have been outfoxed by Donald Trump then this might be a good time for Canadian leaders to reassess whether they should really be in politics.

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