Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 13 August – Sunday 20 August:

On Sunday, Javier Milei, an economist (and according to The Guardian, a former tantric sex coach) came first in Argentina’s open primary election when he took 30 percent of the vote. Milei, the libertarian candidate from their Liberty Advances party, plans to disband the central bank, do away with Argentina’s public health and educations systems, dollarise the economy and allow people to sell their organs. Milei outpaced the right wing candidate Patricia Bullrich of United for Change, who came second with 28%. This was a surprise result that seems to have upended Argentinian politics. The general election in Argentina will take place on October 22.

On Tuesday, Paraguay’s 44-year old Santiago Peña was inaugurated as the country’s president. Peña is an economist and the former finance minister of the Colorado Party – the conservative political party that has ruled the country for the majority of the last 76 years. Peña won his country’s election in April with 43 percent of the vote, coming out far ahead of his closest rival who received 28 percent of the vote. Paraguay is the only South American nation which has formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and the presence of Taiwan’s Vice President Lai at the inauguration signalled Paraguay’s continued defiance towards China. Some of Peña’s rivals on the campaign trial had promised to break ties with Taiwan if elected, touting the economic advantages of allying with China instead.

On Wednesday, wildfires broke out in Tenerife – the largest of the seven Canary Islands belonging to Spain. The islands, a popular tourist area located southwest of mainland Spain, have been in drought for the past few years (like the mainland). The blaze first occurred in the mountainous national park surrounding the Mount Teide volcano – Spain’s highest peak – before spreading out of control. By Friday, 4,500 people had been evacuated, by Saturday over 26,000 people were evacuated as the fires have burned more than 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres). Tenerife Council President Rosa Davila said the fire was at a scale never been seen before in the Canary Islands, 

On Thursday, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake (recorded as 6.3 by the United States Geological Survey) struck the Colombian capital Bogotá. The epicentre of the quake was the town of El Calvary, around 40 kilometres southeast of the capital and was at a depth of less than 30 kilometres (19 miles). There were dozens of aftershocks, with the initial ones measuring 5.6 and 4.8. There were no reports of major damage, but residents fled into the streets and one woman died. 

On Thursday, China’s highly indebted Evergrande Group filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in a New York court. Chapter 15 provides mechanisms for dealing with insolvency cases involving more than one country by protecting assets in the U.S. while the company works on restructuring its debts. Evergrande is a property development group, once China’s largest, but a default on its more than $300 billion debt in 2021 has made it the poster child for China’s property crisis. Some of the biggest companies in China’s real estate market are struggling to find the money to complete developments.

On Friday, the leaders of the United States, Japan and South Korea met at the U.S. presidential retreat Camp David in the countries’ first trilateral summit. U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. This was President Biden’s first time hosting foreign leaders at Camp David. The summit focused on the threats emanating from China and North Korea. The trio agreed to increase their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region by holding annual meetings between Presidents, as well as Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers, Commerce and Industry Ministers, and National Security Advisors. The cooperation between Japan and South Korea is a breakthrough as the two Asian countries have a history of hostility stemming from Japan’s colonial rule over Korea from 1910 to 1945. The group also agreed to pilot a supply chain early-warning system to guard against disruptions of certain products, including critical minerals used in electric vehicle batteries. China dominates the value chain of these minerals, accounting for more than half of the world’s production of lithium, cobalt and manganese, and almost all rare earth minerals. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin commented on the summit, saying: “attempts to cobble together various exclusionary groupings and bring bloc confrontation and military blocs into the Asia-Pacific are not going to get support and will only be met with vigilance and opposition from regional countries”. South Korean intelligence officials said that North Korea was planning more intercontinental ballistic missile tests to protest the summit. South Korea’s President Yoon warned in response that “any provocations or attacks against any one of our three countries will trigger a decision-making process of this trilateral framework, and our solidarity will become even stronger and harder”.

On Friday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in his first visit to the Kingdom since a diplomatic rapprochement between the Middle Eastern powers negotiated by the Chinese in March. The Iranian Foreign Minister arrived in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Thursday, but extended his trip to Friday. After the meeting, Amir-Abdollahian said the discussions were “frank, beneficial and productive”. This is the first time a senior Iranian official has met with MBS, who has accepted an invitation to visit Iran’s capital Tehran in the future. 

On Sunday, Russia’s first lunar mission in 47 years failed after it crashed into the moon. The moon lander crashed after it spun into an uncontrolled orbit. Russia’s space agency Roscosmos launched the Luna 25 spacecraft on August 10, from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur province of the Russian Far East. The last lunar lander, Luna 24, landed on the surface of the Moon on August 18, 1976. The spacecraft was scheduled to touch down on the moon on Monday, however Roscomos said that an “abnormal situation” occurred on Saturday as Mission Control was attempting to move the craft into a pre-landing orbit. Russia had been competing with India’s Chandrayaan-3 moon craft which is scheduled to touch down on the moon’s surface next week. 

In the week ahead:

India’s Chandrayaan-3 moon lander is expected to attempt a landing on Wednesday.