1. Pro-Bolsonaro protesters attempt to storm Brazilian government institutions
After the elections of 30 October last year, the waters appear to be troubled in Brazil. With Lula's narrow electoral victory (he won with 50.9% of the vote, ahead of Bolsonaro's 49.10%), the controversy was ready from the outset.
Already in the hours following the progressive candidate's victory, there were multiple demonstrations, roadblocks and even calls for the country's police and military forces to overturn the election results.
Thus, tension has increased over the last few weeks, reaching its peak last Sunday, when the congress in Brazilia was stormed. A crowd of Bolsonaro supporters broke through the police cordon and entered the chamber, destroying the furniture in their path. The intention was to create a "domino effect" that would put Brazilian public institutions in check.
This event, which comes precisely two years after the assault on the capitol in the United States, has been condemned by all EU members, as well as by the United States. At the same time, a large part of the right-wing inside Brazil has also rejected these actions, while the condemnation of the left has been absolute. In this line, Lula himself has accused some of the country's police institutions of complicity.
Finally, after the assault, the army itself broke up the remaining pro-Bolshevik camps around the congress, and some institutions and police stations throughout the country. The number of detainees now stands at 1500, and further interventions are not ruled out. In this sense, the Brazilian government has been categorical: these events will not go unpunished, and a rational but firm response is expected.
Finally, it is worth remembering that Jair Bolsonaro left Brazil by private plane a few days ago, heading for Florida, United States. From there, he was recently admitted to hospital for health problems, and has observed all these events from a distance. His condemnation of the actions of his followers has been timid and terse, and the possibility that he will not return to the country due to the possible opening of legal proceedings against him is increasing, which makes it difficult for him to return to the country.
2. Kevin McCarthy is chosen as the new Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
After a long journey that has stretched over 4 days of sessions and 15 different votes, the deadlock in the US upper house seems to be coming to an end. Kevin McCarthy, 57, a Californian, has been elected to the post with 216 votes in his favour.
Although the Republicans held the majority from the beginning, cracks in the party between moderates and "Trumpists" became evident. Some 20 Republican congressmen negotiated until the last minute to secure their votes. The scenario seems evident, McCarthy's dependence on Trumpism was made explicit in a public statement by the Californian, where he personally thanked the former president for his efforts to ensure that the negotiation went ahead.
Thus, through negotiations that were reformulated after each vote, the wishes of the most conservative sector of the Republicans have been gaining concessions, to the point of making it clear that they will not make it easy for the new president. In fact, the tension within the Republicans is such that after one vote McCarthy even confronted Gaetz, one of the pro-Trump congressmen.
The scenario that is opening up is interesting but uncertain. McCarthy will have to juggle with the more right-wing sectors of his party, while at the same time being aware of the need to rebuild bridges with the Democratic caucus. Even so, for the moment it seems that McCarthy has been more concerned with bringing the most right-wing sectors of his party closer to him, changing his position on the assault on the Capitol (which he initially strongly condemned, and towards which he has recently adopted a more lukewarm attitude) or going to the residence of former President Donald Trump to have his photograph taken and negotiate with him.
3. Iranian protests: executions continue
Over the weeks we have been following the protests in Iran. What was initially presented as an opportunity to open up the country and bring about changes in cultural and economic spheres, as well as in the role of women in society, seems to have been cut short by a wave of reactive measures.
After the waves of protests, it seems that the regime wants to regain control of the situation by returning to normality. The morality police have been reinstated, numerous demonstrators have been arrested, as have prominent Iranian social figures.
The arrests were followed by the first convictions. Although in some cases these have been reduced, as in the case of footballer Amir Nasr Azadani, initially sentenced to death, but finally sentenced to 26 years in prison. Even so, some of the sentences have been ratified and carried out. Thus, four demonstrations have reportedly already been carried out, the last two of them on Monday.
Ignoring international protests, and on the pretext of having killed a paramilitary militiaman of the Basij forces during a protest, Mohamed Mahdi Karami (22 years old) and Seyed Mohameni Hoseini (39 years old) were hanged. Amnesty International noted that the trial "bore no resemblance to a serious judicial process", due to its short duration (less than one week) and that the defendants were not allowed to choose a lawyer and were assigned a court-appointed one. In addition, the defendants claimed that their confessions to the murder had been extracted under torture, after several electric shocks and blows to the head that rendered them unconscious.
Mohameni's father even pleaded for mercy so that his son's execution would not take place. The journalist in charge of the interview was subsequently arrested.
Internationally, EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell condemned the acts, as did Robert Malley, the US special envoy to Iran, calling the trial a "farce".
As a final balance, it should be noted that this repressive process is still far from over. Although four people have been executed so far, 14 have been sentenced to death. In addition, almost 20,000 people have been arrested during the demonstrations, and 517 protesters have been killed during the protests.
4. Pope Benedict XVI dies
On 31 December 2022, at the age of 95, one of the most important figures in recent history passed away. Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned from office almost 10 years ago, in 2013, after only 8 years as Pope. Since then, he has maintained a low profile, which has accompanied him until the end of his days.
Throughout his career, Benedict has had to deal with a number of issues, including his attempts to reform money laundering in the Vatican bank, the emergence of the child abuse scandals within the Catholic Church, and his repeated attempts to revitalise theological issues (which moved from liberalism in his youth to hardline conservatism later on).
The funeral, which took place on Thursday 5 January, was attended by 50,000 faithful who, under the clouds of St. Peter's Square, said goodbye to him together by praying a rosary. At the head of these faithful was the current Pope Francis in his wheelchair. Due to his state of health, the dean Giovanni Battista Re presided over the ceremony, although the homily was given by Francis himself who, in the final moments, remembered the deceased: "Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be perfect in hearing his voice definitively and forever".
5. Russia-Ukraine conflict: Putin issues brief ceasefire, Spain rearming
With regard to the situation in Ukraine, there have been some new developments in recent days.
The first is Vladimir Putin's proposal for a 72-hour ceasefire during Orthodox Christmas. To this proposal, Ukraine responded timidly and suspiciously, rejecting it. As expected, the unilateral ceasefire was not respected. The two countries accused each other of breaking the pact, and Ukraine called it a "trap". In the hours that followed, fighting and artillery fire broke out in different parts of the Donbass, most notably in Zaporiya and Luhansk.
The second came simultaneously with the first hours of the ceasefire, and came from across the pond. The US government announced a new military aid package worth 3 billion dollars, including the shipment of armoured vehicles. This initiative was joined by France and Germany, which joined the bandwagon after negotiating with Joe Biden and agreeing to send new anti-aircraft batteries. Patriot.
The latest news comes in the last few hours, and is the public pronouncement by the head of the Spanish armed forces, King Felipe, to increase the defence budget. The king pointed out how Spain should increase the defence budget, which in less than 5 years should represent 2% of the total national GDP. Thus, he connected this increase (obligatory for NATO members) as an immediate necessity, due to the "imminent danger" posed by Putin's Russia.
With the involvement of the various states in the conflict, and their rearmament, it seems that the swords are once again drawn.