The world was caught by surprise by a virus that soon spread worldwide. The responses of countries to tackle it have been both diverse and contradictory. The American continent is one region that has recently seen such reactions to the current pandemic. While most of leaders of the continent have reacted similarly: closing borders, stopping flights, and imposing strict quarantines; there are 3 presidents whose reaction contrast sharply: the American Donald Trump, the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro and the Mexican Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
These 3 leaders have had a rather lax approach regarding the COVID-19 pandemic that could create the ideal breeding ground for the virus. This has already become evident in the US, and Mexico and Brazil could well replicate the same results. The attitude of these leaders can have catastrophic consequences for the economy, the public health and the social fabric. As the pandemic threatens to collapse the global economy, Latin America is uniquely vulnerable to an even worse economic collapse.
In a very Trumpian style, both Obrador and Bolsonaro’s idea of government is to be seen and heard, rather than to translate their electoral promises into tangible policies. Let´s take Mexico as an example. Obrador has been severely criticised for his lackadaisical and nonsensical response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mexico is on the way to a significant coronavirus outbreak and could well be on its way to become the new Italy or the new US. Despite warnings, Mexico’s current administration insists that everything is fine, and people should not panic. The president still holds his morning press conferences, travels the country, greets people with a handshake, and encourages people to continue going out. Contradicting in this way, the advice given by his own deputy health minister.
While it is true that Mexico’s cases still remained relatively low if compared with the rest of the world, they are rising dramatically. These percentages may also be underestimated since almost no testing has been carried out. Mexico has not invested in tests or essential medical equipment to face a rising pandemic with devastating effects. The reforms that the current administration passed a few months ago, have also crippled the already strained public health system. In order to boost his ambitious social programmes aimed at the elderly, the students and those younger than 29 out of education and employment; Obrador reduced drastically the budget allocated to health spending by 44%. More than 10,000 health professionals were laid off and hospitals were left with no income to buy essential medical equipment and supplies.
Obrador also embarked upon an ambitious reform to change the way the government purchased medications. In the past, medicine was brought through distributors rather than directly from pharmaceutical companies. His reform established that purchases were to be made only from the firms and there would be no middleman involved anymore. While this, indeed was a good step to root out corruption, the deals were negotiated poorly, and in most of them costs of transportation and distribution were not calculated, making medicines more expensive and scarcity more widespread. He also modified drastically the Seguro Popular (Popular Health Insurance) that used to allocate money from the federal administration to each state in Mexico to cover some of the medical expenses of those that did not have any health coverage. The Seguro Popular covered almost 60 million people. To root out corruption, he centralised the programme, renamed is as INSABI (Institute for Health and Welfare). This modification made treatments more expensive and eliminated coverage for those within the lowest bands of income. Such reforms are consistent with his obsession with liquidating any policies and/or institutions designed by previous administrations.
These changes contrast starkly with the major moves previous administrations took when faced with a major health crisis. Obrador seemed to have learnt absolutely nothing from the way the 2009 HIN1 outbreak was handled and contained effectively. On the contrary, his reforms and policies may well have paved the way to a profound major crisis and a deeper, long-lasting economic collapse. The Mexican president suffers from a severe lack of leadership. Despite his highly centralised approach in politics, and his daily press conference to boost his popularity; he has been pretty much absent from the decision-making process. he is still seen campaigning around the country, but he tends to dangerously micromanage every aspect of his administration whenever there is a serious issue. He did not address the country when the migrant crisis hit Mexico; he hid when the army carried out its failed attempt to arrest the son of the Mexican drug dealer “El Chapo”; and he been absent in this current crisis. This is one of the major drawbacks of his administration as his inaction is the greatest obstacle to a swift and effective response.
This last trait is not excusive of Mexico’s Obrador; it is present in a lot of leaders around the world who similarly to Mexico’s president they dismiss the effect such pandemic will have on their economy. Mexico alone has experienced close to zero economic growth over the past year, and the 2020 economic outlook was already bleak before COVID-19. Mexico’s president needs to understand that the country needs more than promises and social programmes that will not solve the deep social inequality and extreme poverty that could lead to a serious health crisis. A wide sector of the population in Mexico do not have stable jobs; an even wider sector live from hand to mouth; and another important chunk of the population live in overcrowded slums in the outskirts of the capital, Mexico City, or in poor rural communities in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Michoacán or Guerrero with close to non-existent health care systems or basic facilities and services. How can social distancing and quarantine work under these circumstances? This scenario is also replicated in Brazil and in the United States.
Crises are, most of the times, seen as the start of new political and social eras just like it happened after the First World War, the Second World War, and the end of the Cold War. This pandemic has forced countries to revaluate the way they govern. The central question here is whether this pandemic makes or breaks the likes of Trump, Bolsonaro and Obrador. It can be argued that the 2008 economic crisis catapulted them to power, will this one finish them?
This crisis is still at its very early stages making it almost impossible to accurately predict how deep it will impact states, politics and decision-making processes. It has, however, complicated the populist speech: COVID-19 is an invisible enemy. Its fast spread cannot be pinpointed to previous administrations and it clearly does not fit their inflammatory anti-elite nationalistic rhetoric. There’s a downside to this argument, however. The fast and wide spread of the virus, the closure of borders even in long-standing democracies and the disruption this is causing economically, could be used by populists to further enhance their nationalistic entrenchment and vindicate their arguments for a less globalised world. Hopefully, this pandemic will result in a more critical and informed civil society less prone to being swayed by right-wing or left-populism.
What democrats and republicans expect from U.S. foreign policy
Partisanship colors Democrats’ and Republicans’ foreign policy priorities in ways that will matter substantially for companies, global supply chains and financial markets under a divided Congress. This is demonstrated by the results of a public opinion poll conducted by Morning Consult’s U.S. Foreign Policy Tracker.
Among voters’ top five concerns, Democrats tend to prioritize outward-looking issues, including ‘climate change’ and ‘preventing global pandemics’ and ‘economic crises’, while Republicans’ attention is inwardly focused on ‘immigration’ and ‘drug trafficking’, as well as ‘securing U.S. supply chains’.
The largest partisan gap in public attitudes is on climate change. Among 14 major foreign policy challenges facing the U.S. government, the issue ranks first on Democrats’ list of priorities and 13th among Republicans.
There is also substantial polarization on ‘immigration policy’, ‘human rights’ and ‘managing relations’ with both Russia (upweighted by Democrats) and China (upweighted by Republicans).
A divided Congress will see gridlock over many of these issues.
More Republican voters than not (46%) and a near plurality of Democrats (32%) want ‘greater isolationism in U.S. foreign policy’, marked by ‘limited American engagement overseas’ and ‘greater closure to global trade and capital flows’.
Voters’ top five foreign policy issues are also noteworthy for what they leave out: ‘major geopolitical challenges confronting the United States’, including ‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’, ‘U.S.-China relations’ and ‘the Iran nuclear deal’.
Republican voters rank both China and Iran policy more highly than Democrats, and by wide margins: The former place them in seventh and eighth place by share, compared with 13th and 14th for Democrats. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, meanwhile, ranks sixth among Democrats and 10th among Republicans.
Its placement in the latter group’s ranking suggests that efforts to resolve the war and provide further economic and military aid to Ukraine risk being deprioritized, in line with recent media reporting.
Per the figure below, near majorities of Republican voters (48%) support decreasing U.S. involvement in other countries’ affairs and reducing foreign aid provision, substantially outpacing the shares who prefer the status quo. Democrats, by contrast, are nearly evenly split as to whether they would prefer the U.S. government decrease its involvement in other countries’ affairs or maintain the status quo.
Democrats’ and Republicans’ preferences are somewhat more closely aligned when it comes to their attitudes on ‘America’s military activities overseas’. A substantial plurality of Republicans (41%) would prefer that U.S. foreign policy involve more limited deployment of U.S. troops, and would like ‘to reduce American participation in military conflicts beyond the country’s borders’. For Democrats, the margins are slimmer on both fronts at present.
Voters’ attitudes toward ‘U.S. involvement in international organizations like the United Nations’ exhibit the sharpest polarization. Per the figure below, a near majority of Democrats (49%) support ‘greater involvement’, while a plurality of Republicans (34%) favor ‘decreased engagement’, though the share of Republicans who prefer to maintain present levels of engagement is close behind.
(Categorization derives from a survey conducted among a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points).
Gun violence: human rights situation in the United States is very dismal
The United States is known as the world’s largest democratic or full democracy country. From this introduction, the question may arise whether the United States considers it its ‘right’ to inform other countries of the world about disappearances, murders or human rights violations. However, according to various reports, the human rights situation in the United States is getting worse day by day. The incidence of gun violence, murder, police torture is increasing. The justice system is dying in the “vocal” country to protect global human rights, which is what the US citizens themselves are worried about.
In the middle of this year, the State Council Information Office of China published a report on the human rights situation of the United States in 2021. According to the report, the human rights situation in the United States has worsened compared to previous years. Millions of people have died in the country due to the government’s failure to control the corona epidemic due to political instability. At the same time, gun violence casualties have multiplied. “False democracy” tramples on the political rights of the American people, and aggressive behavior by law enforcement agencies makes life difficult for immigrants and refugees in the United States.
Also, of concern is the country’s growing discrimination against ethnic minority groups, particularly people of Asian descent. According to many analysts, the US administration’s unilateral actions have created new humanitarian crises around the world.
Statistics on gun violence deaths
According to recently released statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2020 saw the highest number of gun-related deaths in 2020 than any other year. This includes a record number of shooting deaths as well as gun suicides.
Analyzing data collected from various sources including CDC, FBI, US-based public opinion polling and research institute Pew Research Center says, in recent years, the complete data related to gun attacks in the United States is available in 2020. That year, 45 thousand 222 people lost their lives in such incidents in the country.
For years, there have been more gun suicides in the United States than gun deaths, the CDC says. In 2020, 54 percent of gun-related deaths in the country were suicides (24,292), while 43 percent were homicides (19,384). In addition, there were 535 “unintentional” gun deaths that year, 611 law enforcement-involved deaths, and more than 400 “unspecified circumstances” deaths.
A total of 45,222 people died in gun-related incidents in 2020, which is 14 percent more than the year before, 25 percent more than five years ago and 43 percent more than a decade ago.
In the United States, gun violence has taken a toll in recent years. It killed 19,384 people in 2020, which is the highest since 1968. That year, gun deaths were up 34 percent from 2019, 49 percent from five years ago, and 75 percent from 10 years ago.
Comparative Analysis of Gun Violence
The rate of gun violence in the United States is much higher than in other countries, especially developed countries. Although a 2018 study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation of 195 countries and territories says that the United States ranks above the United States in terms of such violence, several countries in Latin America.
The study cited 2016 as the most recent year for gun violence statistics. According to the research report, the death rate from gun violence was 10.6 percent per 100,000 people in the United States that year. Whereas in Canada this rate is 2.1 percent per 1 lakh, in Australia 1.0 percent, in France 2.7 percent, in Germany 0.9 percent and in Spain 0.6 percent.
But the rate of violence is higher than in the United States in countries such as El Salvador, Venezuela, Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras. Overall, the United States ranked 20th in the world for gun violence deaths in 2016.
What is the annual death toll in mass shootings in the United States?
It is difficult to give a definite answer to this question. Because there is no single definition of ‘mass gun attack’ or ‘mass shooting’. Its definition can vary depending on various aspects, including the number of casualties and the circumstances of the attack.
According to the US Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, a mass shooting or mass shooting occurs when one or more individuals are actively involved in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. According to this definition, 38 people (excluding attackers) were killed in such incidents in 2020.
The US Gun Violence Archive (an online database of gun violence incidents) defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot, even if no one is killed (except the gunman). By this definition, 513 people were killed by gun violence in 2020. But however, defined, mass shootings in the United States kill more people each year than all gun violence combined nationwide.
According to various monitoring organizations, more than two hundred people died in the United States in the first five months of this year. As the general public panics over a spate of gun attacks, new questions have been raised about the role of the US police.
According to a report by the US media Washington Post, since 2015, an average of 1,000 people has been killed by police in the United States every year. Since 2015, The Washington Post has started collecting data on every shooting incident involving police officers on duty in the United States.
Earlier in 2014, after an unarmed black man named Michael Brown was killed by the police in Ferguson, USA, an investigation came out that half of the shootings or torture by the country’s police were not reported.
A Washington Post analysis of more than five years of media coverage, social media posts and police reports found that the number and circumstances of fatal shootings and overall victimization rates remained relatively unchanged during that period. Last year i.e. in 2021 also 1 thousand 49 people were killed by police firing.
According to the Washington Post, an average of 1,000 people dies each year in gun attacks or similar incidents across the United States. The same number of people were killed in police firing. Although half of those killed in police shootings are white, blacks account for the majority of victims as a percentage of the population. About 13 percent of the total population of the United States is black. Also, more than 95 percent of those killed by the police are men, between the ages of 20 and 40.
It is 2:30 PM local time on May 14 of this year. A supermarket in Buffalo, the second largest and black-dominated city in New York, was suddenly shaken by the sound of gunfire. An 18-year-old started shooting indiscriminately with a semi-automatic assault rifle. The attack was carried out in military uniform with body armor. The youth was also using a camera to broadcast his bloody rampage live online. Describing the aftermath of the attack, a local police officer said that day that it was like walking through the set of a ‘horror movie’. But it was all real. It was a battlefield.
13 people were shot in that attack in Buffalo. 10 of them died. Police later said 11 of the 13 people shot were black. The FBI described the attack as an incident of “violent extremism”. Agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo office, Stephen Belangia, told the BBC it was being investigated as a ‘hate crime’ and racially motivated violent extremism.
Immediately after this attack, the local police arrested the suspected gunman named Peyton S. Gendron. He was charged with ‘first-degree’ murder. Then the investigation revealed more sensational information. It is learned that the young man had posted a 180-page ‘manifesto’ online in support of white-supremacist beliefs. He also described immigrants and black people as “substitutes” for white people in hateful writings. And through this, the issue of racism in the United States comes to a new discussion.
The idea that whites are being ‘replaced’ by blacks has recently moved from far-right political ideology in the US to mainstream Republican Party politics. And many US media personalities are helping to popularize this ideology, which is seamlessly being further influenced by the rhetoric of the Republican Party.
The young man who attacked Buffalo tried to justify his demonic attack by promoting the ideology that white people in the United States are being weakened by immigrants. And his manifesto was full of racist words about black Americans.
The Buffalo attacker claimed to be inspired by the killing of 51 worshipers by attacking two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019. His claim is similar to the incident. Christchurch attacker Brenton Tarrant was using the camera to broadcast the attack live online. He also published his own manifesto before the attack.
But the Buffalo attackers were more influenced by homegrown discontent than they were by the Christchurch massacre.
According to the U.S. Gun Violence Archive, there were nearly 200 shootings or gun attacks in the country from January to May. In addition, according to a recently published report, between 2019 and 2020, the death rate of gun attacks in the United States has increased by about 35 percent overall.
But the Buffalo massacre stands out not only because of the number of victims, but also because of the political nature of the attack. Analysts say the incident must be seen in the context of the growing normalization of racism and political violence in the United States.
According to information from US-based independent media outlet Education Week, 17 US states have recently signed laws banning or tightening ‘critical race theory’ or racism and sexuality education, and 12 more states are considering similar legislation. Apart from this, discussions are going on about removing some books that may spread racist attitudes.
But these collective efforts have also created a mockery of the history of American racism and xenophobia. Discussions of America’s racial history have turned the spotlight on the country’s existing poverty, unemployment, and social deprivation.
According to many social scientists, centuries of neglect, neglect, and lack of opportunity have driven a large portion of blacks in the United States to violence. As a result, many white people in the country feel unsafe. And hate is born from that insecurity.
Gun violence is on the rise in the United States. According to various local media, more than two hundred people have lost their lives in gun attacks in the country until May of this year. In this situation, lawmakers and experts demand reform of the private arms control law.
They say gun violence has emerged as a serious social problem in the United States that cannot be stopped. Strict legislation and enforcement are needed for this. Instead of giving advice or advice to others, the US administration should focus on resolving the crisis in its own country first.
Democrats Control of the Senate
Midterm elections are held in the United States every four years in the middle of the term of the American President, that is, two years after the presidential elections, in order to elect all members of the House of Representatives (435 members) and a third of the members of the Senate. These elections are an indication and a referendum on the performance of the American President in the first two years of his presidency.
During the elections that took place on November 8, 35 senators were elected who spent 6 years in office, in addition to 36 governors out of the 50 state governors who spent 4 years in office, 36 state governors and 27 state secretaries from a total of 50 states, besides the election of a large number of the local legislative positions, including the election of 6279 deputies out of 7383 deputies in the state legislative assemblies.
The midterm elections this year took place in an unprecedented atmosphere at various levels, as it was the first elections after the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the death of more than a million Americans, and infected 100 million, and it is also considered the first elections to be held after supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Congressional Building in January 2021 to prevent the official announcement of President Joe Biden’s victory, and they are known as “Elections Deniers”.
The Senate elections – in particular- are considered a political battle by all standards, in which Catherine Cortez Masto’s uneasy victory in the State of Nevada came as a lifeline for the Democratic Party, and the failure of Republicans’ plans to take control of Congress. This battle was resolved in favor of the Democratic Party in the Senate.
The US Vice President Kamala Harris – who, by virtue of her position, presides over the Senate – has the relative weight, as she broke the tie rule and tipped the balance in favor of the Democrats, who seized seat No. 50 after announcing Masto’s victory in the aforementioned seat, while the Republicans remained at seat No. 49 in the Senate which is the upper chamber of the Congress, comprises of 100 seats.
The elections also have witnessed the defeat of a quarter of the candidates supported by Donald Trump, in which some of them instigated and participated in storming the Congress. The setback was the failure of the sweep expectations as expected by Trump and the Republicans, and even Republican lawmakers, and other commentators admitted that the Republicans had failed to achieve what is known as the Red Wave sweep, in reference to the States that support the Republican Party, which are known as the red States.
Many opinion polls had indicated that the Republican Party is expected to achieve a great successes in these elections, especially in light of the inflation and high prices crisis that the American citizens suffer from, which resulted in a significant decline in the popularity of President Joe Biden in recent months.
It can be asserted that a simple majority in the Senate will give the Democratic Party the ability to approve the judges chosen by US President Joe Biden to fill positions in the district courts, circuit courts and supreme courts, and this in turn will be a fundamental step for the Democrats to win new seats on the Supreme Court that now enjoys a majority of six to three Republicans. In addition, by controlling the Senate, the Democrats can reject legislations sent by the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Republicans, and this is a remarkable success for the Democratic Party.
The majority in the Senate also means for President Joe Biden the ability to move easily with regard to international treaties, and the negotiations that will take place with the Republicans on a broader spending package at the end of the year, an issue that will need the approval of both parties.
A number of Democratic senators will seek to raise the debt ceiling, while House Republicans will seek to use this issue as a pressure card to obtain spending cuts. However, Democrats have the ability to raise the borrowing ceiling before Congress takes the oath, if the party members remain united.
The Democrats’ control by a small majority of the Senate is considered a miscarriage of Republican plans to conduct investigations into the activities of the Biden administration and his son Hunter, who had business dealings with Ukraine and China. The Democrats will maintain control over committees and investigations, in addition to preventing any attempts by the Republicans to isolate President Joe Biden, and on top of that, Democrats can pass a limited number of controversial bills with a simple majority of votes.
It is certain that this victory will have positive repercussions for the Democratic Party and President Biden during the next two years, that is, until 2024, when new elections for Congress will be held in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, in addition to the presidency.
It was expected, before the elections, that the Democratic party would lose 25 or 30 seats in the House of Representatives, and the party would turn into a clear minority in the Senate. This result would have been seen as a public rejection of President Biden, which would increase the pressure on him in his quest to run for a second term. But in turn, and after this victory, President Biden’s position within his party has been strengthened, and his advisors are now speaking with greater confidence about his intention to run for a second term, but this definitely depends on the performance of the Biden administration at the internal and external levels, the American citizens’ feeling with an improvement in their economic conditions, and the continuation of making progress in a number of issues, foremost of which is the issue of health insurance.
On the other side, there are concerns that a divided Congress, by nature, may lead to a state of legislative stalemate, and the Republican control of the House of Representatives will be enough to eliminate any hopes for President Biden to pass a comprehensive legislative agenda over the next two years.
Nevertheless, and despite the disagreement, there is a consensus between the Republican and Democratic parties over a number of files including confrontation with China, the promotion of international trade, and the acceleration of establishing energy projects.
The elections showed the lack of centralization of external issues and the focus on internal issues, including issues of protecting democracy and freedom of abortion, which is what the Democratic Party bet on and succeeded in. In addition, the performance of the Democrats reinforced confidence in President Biden’s agenda and his presence at home and on the international stage. In contrast, the failure of many pro-Trump candidates to win the elections is a painful blow to his movement, which puts Trump’s political future at stake, especially in light of his announcement to run for the upcoming 2024 presidential elections.
The elections were also evidence of the American citizen’s awareness and support for democracy despite the economic conditions, international instability, and the Biden administration’s preoccupation with several international files.
What happened in the elections was a victory for American democracy and emphasis on its strength, its ability to overcome challenges, and a correction for the compass of the American political system, which was distorted by Trump.
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