June 2021 global news roundup: Historical legacies in Canada, the Catholic church, and China; Electoral developments in the Middle East and Latin America

A Catholic church (Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash)

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last month (June 2021).

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More people have died from COVID-19 in 2021 so far than in all of 2020. Countries in the West have been seeing lower caseloads and death tolls, but the virus continues to ravage countries in parts of Asia and Latin America.

An indigenous community in Canada found the remains of 215 children on the grounds of a former Catholic-run residential school. In the country’s history, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to assimilate and attend these boarding schools, many of whom were abused. Later in the month, at least 751 unmarked graves were found in another residential school. Relatedly with the Catholic church, in the biggest change to its internal legal system since 1983, Pope Francis signed off on changes, including the explicit penalising the sexual abuse of adults by priests. The pope also committed to strengthening the church’s stance against sexual misconduct.

And China, in response to its declining birth rate and an ageing population, said it will allow couples to have up to three children. Other supportive pro-natalist policies are also in place. Its one-child policy was first announced in 1980 and was expanded to two children in 2016, but the latest update is expected to have limited impact.

Electoral developments in the Middle East and Latin America

First, in the Middle East. After four inconclusive elections in Israel, opposition leaders reached a coalition deal to form a unity government. While the agreement is fragile, it removed prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the country’s longest-serving prime minister – from power, and is also the most diverse coalition in Israel’s history and only the first time an independent Arab party is included. Mr. Netanyahu was out for the first time in 12 years.

Iran’s head of judiciary Ebrahim Raisi, endorsed by the country’s supreme leader, was elected president in a landslide with 62 per cent of the vote, in an election characterised by the lowest voter turnout in decades. On an unrelated note, earlier in the month, a fire sank one of the country’s largest navy ships.

Next, in Latin America. In Mexico, the president’s party with two smaller allied parties won a majority of the seats in the country’s lower house in midterm elections, but lost its qualified majority. In Peru, a far-left presidential candidate led a sample of ballots in a very close race. While in Nicaragua, he president’s most prominent opponent and potential presidential candidate was placed under house arrest by the police for three months under charges of money laundering. The president has also launched a broad repression campaign against the political opposition.

Similarly in Russia, the political movement of opposition leader Alexei Navalny was designated as an extremist organisation, effectively banning it from political power.

Other political developments around the world

  • El Salvador: The legislative assembly made the cryptocurrency bitcoin legal tender, the first country in the world to do so.
  • Nigeria: The government suspended Twitter indefinitely for deleting a tweet from the president, which referenced the country’s deadly civil war of 1967-70.
  • South Africa: Former president Jacob Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison on contempt charges for defying an order to appear at a corruption inquiry.
  • Sweden: For the first time in the country’s history, its social democratic prime minister lost a confidence vote in parliament.

Signs of terrorism and extremism; other accidents and acts of violence

Armed assailants in Burkina Faso killed at least 132 civilians, in the worst terrorist atrocity in the country’s history. A suicide bombing at an army training camp – the latest in a series of assaults targeting the site – killed at least 10 people in Somalia. And German officials disbanded an elite police commando unit which houses officers who shared racist messages

Nigerian gunmen kidnapped more than 100 students from an Islamic school. In Pakistan, dozens were killed following the collision of two trains, and a bus crash left at least 20 Muslim pilgrims dead. And clashes between Yemeni rebels and government fighters left at least 111 dead in three days.

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