Arab Spring 2.0? Chinese Education? Argentinian Water (or lack of), ASF, and The Week in Review

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Arab Spring 2.0? Chinese Education? Argentinian Water (or lack of), ASF, and The Week in Review

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Arab Spring 2.0? Thousands of protesters in cities across Tunisia expressed their discontent with the Tunisian government last weekend. In response, Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament for 30 days.

What it means: It is not a coincidence that food prices are hitting 2010 levels and that the Arab world is convulsing again. Tunisia is the only Arab Spring country with a hope of transcending its past, but in the meantime, Tunisia’s powerful labor unions and internal security forces are still calling the shots. Perhaps most ominously, the Tunisian military, long relegated to the sideline of Tunisian politics, seems to have Saied’s back.


Much ado about nothing. China’s State Council and the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party issued a new set of guidelines “to ease the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring.” China in effect barred tutoring for profit for primary school subjects as part of a suite of reforms designed to ease financial pressures on Chinese families so they will have more babies. Foreign investment in the sector will also now be banned in the future. That was enough to send Chinese stocks writ large into a tailspin. The CSI 300 declined 8 percent before rebounding slightly on Thursday.

What it means: According to one recent academic study, “the Chinese education system is generating toxic levels of stress and producing graduates with high scores, low ability, and poor health.” You’d want the system reformed too if your kids were in it. There are myriad risks to deal with in China, but the oversimplified idea that China is a Communist boogeyman that will crack down on all its most successful companies because Chairman Xi needs control so he can then eventually take over the world doesn’t have much basis in reality, as far as we can tell. 


A water emergency. Argentina declared a “State of Water Emergency” for the next 180 days in the provinces of Formosa, Chaco, Corrientes, Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, Misiones, and Buenos Aires — all located on the banks of the Paraná, Paraguay, and Iguazú rivers. According to the Argentine government, water levels have not been this low in 77 years.

What it means: Sign up for LatamPolitik for more stories like this delivered to your inbox 3x a week. The water emergency poses a unique challenge for Argentina and Paraguay in particular, which depend on these rivers to export agricultural commodities to the rest of the world. It also could lead to power shortages: Yacyretá, Argentina’s biggest hydroelectric plant, is operating at 50 percent capacity due to low levels on the Paraná River.


The next global pandemic. The Dominican Republic reported the first cases of African swine fever (ASF) in the western hemisphere in 40 years.

What it means: The good news (unless you really really like bacon, that is): ASF affects pigs, not humans. The bad news: ASF is highly contagious and already decimated Russia’s pork herd and China’s pork herd in just the last decade. If ASF makes its way further south or north, the impact will reverberate in markets throughout the world.

Honorable mention

The U.S. government suspended cooperation with Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office after it fired a top anti-corruption prosecutor.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called for Russia to deploy troops in his country along the contested border with Azerbaijan.

In his first speech as Peru’s President, Pedro Castillo announced direct currency transfers to Peruvian citizens and mandatory national service. He said the Peruvian military should build infrastructure during peacetime and that all mining projects going forward must meet “criteria of social profitability.”

In Ethiopia, an ethnic militia from the Afar region attacked the Somali region (not to be confused with Somalia the country) in a boundary dispute. 

Angola became the latest country to deploy soldiers to Mozambique.

The U.S. is preparing sanctions against Iran’s drone and guided missile programs. 

Cyberattacks shut down South Africa’s four largest ports at Durban, Cape Town, Gqeberha, and Ngqura.

Chinese officials held two days of talks with Taliban officials in Tianjin. 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced his cash-strapped government would allocate an additional 50 billion pesos (roughly $2.5 billion) to expanding the National Guard.

Brazil is weird.

Don’t play with eels.