🌍 Gabon military takes power

Plus: An update on Guatemala's election

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Hi there Intriguer. There aren’t that many ways to hitch a free ride across the Atlantic, but one lucky turtle has scored a 1st class flight from the UK to Texas after getting washed up in Wales.

Today’s briefing is a 5 min read:

  • 🇬🇦 The military takes over in Gabon.

  • 🇬🇹 Guatemala’s president-elect loses his party.

  • Plus: Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan celebrate their independence, how the papers are covering the latest Ukrainian strikes in Russian territory, and are cracks starting to show in European real estate?

⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds

  1. 🇦🇺 Australia: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced 14 October as the date for a referendum to recognise Australia’s original inhabitants through a First Nations advisory council. Polling suggests the vote, which requires a majority of voters and states, may fail.

  2. 🇸🇲 San Marino: Europe’s top financial regulators have warned a plan to deepen ties with San Marino, Monaco, and Andorra could make it easier for financial criminals to operate in the EU. A spokesperson for San Marino (pop: 33,000) rejected the claims.

  3. 🇰🇭 Cambodia: Meta has rejected advice from its own oversight board to suspend former leader Hun Sen. The board had said Hun, who handed power to his son last week, violated Facebook policy by threatening violence against his political opponents.

  4. 🇨🇷 Costa Rica: US President Biden hosted Costa Rican President Chaves at the White House on Tuesday (29 August) for migration and trade talks. The two countries have cooperated to address the growing number of migrants heading to the US through Costa Rica.

  5. 🇪🇬 Egypt: EgyptAir will resume flights to Sudan after a months-long suspension. The announcement followed meetings between Egypt’s president and Sudan’s military ruler, who was making his first trip outside Sudan since fighting broke out there in April.

🇬🇦 Gabon | Politics

Gabon has become the 6th African nation to experience a coup or unconstitutional transition since 2020

Gabon’s military seizes power

Senior military officers announced late yesterday (Wednesday) they’ve taken over Gabon’s institutions and annulled the weekend’s contested election results, which had seen President Ali Bongo declared winner.

What’s happening? Troops have detained Bongo, closed the borders, imposed a curfew, and announced the coup leader (General Brice Oligui Nguema, head of the presidential guard) as transitional leader.

The ousted Bongo has released a video seeking international support, but jubilant crowds in the streets suggest the coup enjoys popular support.

Why? Folks were frustrated with Bongo and his family’s 55-year rule:

  • 🏡 The Bongos and other elites have reportedly amassed vast overseas real estate portfolios

  • 🛢️ A third of Gabon’s people still live below the poverty line, despite the OPEC member producing 200k barrels of oil per day, and

  • 🔎 These elections were plagued by delays, a lack of international observers, limits on some foreign broadcasts, and internet cuts.

So what’s the rest of the world saying? 

  • 🌍 The African Union has urged a “rapid return to democratic constitutional order

  • 🇫🇷 France (the former colonial power) has condemned the coup, calling for “the result of the election, when known” to be respected

  • 🇺🇸 The US says the coup is “deeply concerning”, and it supports “the people of Gabon and their demand for democratic governance"

  • 🇨🇳 China has called on all sides to “resolve differences peacefully through dialogue” and “restore order at an early date”, and

  • 🇺🇳 The UN has flaggeddeep concern” with the election, and “firmly” condemned the coup “as a means to resolve the post-electoral crisis

Intrigue's take: So pretty much the whole world has condemned the methods. But it’s harder to find voices calling for Bongo’s reinstatement. That’s in stark contrast to the recent coup in Niger, where much of the world has continued to call for ousted President Bazoum’s return to power.

The difference? Probably legitimacy. Niger’s democratically-elected Bazoum still has some. Gabon’s decades-long Bongo family rule? Not so much.

Also worth noting:

  • Like the ousted Bongo, coup leader Nguema reportedly also has property in the US.

  • French President Macron visited Gabon earlier this year as part of a tour to revive France’s troubled ties with its former colonies.

  • French critical minerals player Eramet initially suspended operations in Gabon. French oil giant TotalEnergies hasn’t yet said whether its local operations have been impacted.

📰 How newspapers covered…

The latest Ukrainian drone strikes on Russian territory

London, UK

“Ukraine launches biggest drone attack yet inside Russian territory”

Kyiv, Ukraine

“Australian High-Tech Cardboard Drones 'Used in Spectacular Strike on Russian Airfield'”

Dubai, UAE

“Russia says wave of Ukrainian drone strikes ‘will not go unpunished’”

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🇬🇹 Guatemala | Politics

President-elect Bernardo Arévalo

Guatemala’s president-elect is in a bind

Guatemala’s electoral tribunal suspended the party of president-elect Bernardo Arévalo on Monday (29 August), the same day it confirmed his victory in the 20 August elections.

Unless successfully appealed, the ruling means members of Arévalo’s Semilla (seed) movement would join Congress as independents, limiting their ability to shape Guatemala’s legislative agenda.

And it’s just this election’s latest irregularity:

A court then suspended that dissolution until after voting day, but with the election in the rear-view, the order has now gone through.

Intrigue’s take: As if Arévalo’s gig wasn’t hard enough already... Without the backing of his party’s lawmakers in Congress, it’s hard to see Arévalo’s anti-corruption agenda making much headway.

And that’s a familiar story for candidates tackling ingrained corruption anywhere: permitted to win the occasional battle, but never the war.

Also worth noting:

  • Arévalo is the son of Guatemala’s first democratically-elected president, who survived dozens of coup attempts during his six-year term. Arévalo is also Guatemala’s former ambassador to Spain.

  • He’ll be inaugurated as Guatemala’s 52nd president on 14 January 2024.

🗳️ Poll time!

Do you think military coups can ever be a good thing?

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📜 On this day in history

Independence day celebrations in Kyrgyzstan.
Credits: US Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Today in 1991, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan declared independence from the Soviet Union, becoming the 12th and 13th former-Soviet republics to do so. The USSR would be formally dissolved four months later.

Yesterday’s poll: Do you think taxing high-emission vehicles is a good idea?

🟨🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️ 💸 Yes, it's good for the environment and city revenues (43%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🚗 No, it'll only punish poorer motorists (53%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write in!) (4%)

Your two cents:

  • 💸 J.P: “Death from air pollution punishes mostly poorer people, including poorer motorists.”

  • 🚗 G.L: “Not at all! Being ‘green’ involves more than just cars. Why not tax the airlines, manufacturers and municipalities for their contribution to pollution first.”

  • ✍️ A.W: “If the tax is […] part of a comprehensive program that would use the tax revenue to subsidize public transportation for those same low income people, or even a cash for clunkers program to incentivize them to trade their vehicles in for an upgraded vehicle, then maybe yes.”

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