Cyclone Freddy strikes twice
GLOBAL BRIEFS | Powerful, long-lasting storm hits Southern African nations hard
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A deadly cyclone made a second landfall in Southern Africa in March and killed more than 500 people. Cyclone Freddy first lashed Madagascar on Feb. 21 before moving to Mozambique and back across the Indian Ocean. On March 11, it struck Mozambique for a second time before drenching neighboring Malawi. The storm brought flooding and landslides and washed away homes and roads. Malawi declared 14 days of national mourning for the 430 citizens it lost. Authorities expect the death toll to climb. Malawi and Mozambique were already battling cholera outbreaks ahead of the storm. Weather experts were trying to determine whether Freddy was the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record. —Onize Ohikere
Parliamentary debate devolved into fistfights, and protests raged in the capital of Tbilisi after the ruling party introduced a law cracking down on aid groups. The Georgian Dream party dropped the “foreign agent” proposal after two days of national upheaval, but opponents warn pro-Moscow politicians will try again. The law would require special registration for organizations that get more than 20 percent of their funds from abroad. Critics say the bill is based on a similar 2012 Russian law used to crack down on nongovernmental organizations and press freedom. —Jenny Lind Schmitt
President David Panuelo claims China is engaging in “political warfare.” In a leaked letter dated March 9, Panuelo warned China is interfering in Micronesia in an effort to ensure it would align with Beijing and not Washington, or at least remain neutral, if war breaks out over Taiwan. China wants to regain control of Taiwan, an island that has operated as a self-ruled democracy since 1949. According to Panuelo, China’s tactics in Micronesia include surveillance and bribing elected officials. Panuelo, whose term ends in May, suggested switching diplomatic allegiance from China to Taiwan. —Erica Kwong
A pastor jailed for eight months will get a new trial. The lawyer representing Joseph Shahbazian learned about the decision from Iran’s supreme court on March 13. Officers with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Armenian-Iranian pastor and several members of his house church in 2020. Shahbazian began serving a 10-year sentence in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison last August on charges of forming illegal organizations that threaten national security. Iran recognizes Christianity as a minority religion but harshly regulates churches and forbids proselytization. A lower court rejected Shahbazian’s first appeal. But the supreme court ruled his sentence was “not appropriate” and granted him a retrial—with the possibility of a lighter sentence. —Elizabeth Russell
A party representing the interests of farmers scored a major electoral victory on March 15. The Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) is projected to take 17 of 75 seats to become the largest party in the Dutch Parliament’s upper house. BBB formed in 2019 in opposition to government plans to reduce nitrogen emissions in part by closing farms. “Voters are showing they are fed up with this policy. They want to be heard and seen,” BBB leader Caroline van der Plas told Dutch media after the vote. Dutch farmers have protested against the government’s plans sporadically for four years. Other European countries, including Germany, Spain, and Poland, have targeted their farming sectors with climate-change policies and have also seen protests in response. —Emma Freire
An explosion in a coal mine 45 miles north of Bogotá killed 21 miners on March 14. Ten of the victims who survived the explosion died after rescuers failed to reach them before their oxygen ran out. For decades, an average of 103 miners have died each year in the South American country. That doesn’t include those lost in illegal open pit and underground coal and gold mining operations that help fund armed groups. Colombia has more than half of Latin America’s coal reserves. President Gustavo Petro, elected in June, blamed worker fatalities on business, social, and government failures. He has called coal a poison and vowed to transfer mining jobs to the agricultural, clean energy, and tourism sectors. —Amy Lewis
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