Zuma steps down as President of South Africa

After weeks of pressure from his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), South African President Jacob Zuma has resigned his office with immediate effect. The announcement came at the end of a long televised adress to the nation on Wednesday, in which he stated his disagreement with the ANC’s decision.

On Monday, the ANC had told Zuma to quit or face a vote of no-confidence in parliament on Thursday. The 75-year-old leader, who has served as President of the African country since 2009, declared that he did not fear a motion of no-confidence, adding he had served his people “to the best” of his ability. The ANC has since issued a statement saying Zuma’s resignation provided “certainty to the people of South Africa”.

Resigned President Zuma has been dogged by criminal investigations and corruption allegations during recent years, but has still managed to survive a half dozen no-confidence votes. Meanwhil, Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over from Zuma as ANC leader, is expected to take over as South African President.

South African President Zuma told to resign by own party

The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, has formally requested President Jacob Zuma to step down as country leader. The party’s Secretary General Ace Magashule supposedly visited Zuma’s official residence on Tuesday to hand him a letter which explained the ANC’s decision, which was reached during a party meating on Monday night.

The South African president has been dogged by criminal investigations and corruption allegations during recent years, but has still managed to survive a half dozen no-confidence votes. In fact, Zuma has faced more than 780 allegations of corruption relating to a 1990s arms deal, but denies all the allegations against him.

Zuma must now decide whether to bow to the party’s demand, which has no constitutional effect, or cling on to power and face another vote of no confidence in parliament organized by opposition parties. He had already told party officals he was willing to stand down in the next three to six months, but the ANC rejected Zuma’s transition proposal and the President’s current stance is unclear.

Ace Magashule said the country needed to build on the “renewed hope” felt after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC leader, who took over from Jacob Zuma. “It is obvious we want Comrade Ramaphosa to come in as the president of South Africa,” he added. Zuma is expected to respond to the request on Wednesday.

Kim Jong Un invites South Korea president to meet in Pyongyang

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been invited to travel to North Korea and visit his northern counterpart Kim Jong Un, in what would be the first meeting between Korean leaders in more than a decade. The northern ruler’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, personally delivered the invite to Moon Jae-in during a landmark meeting between North and South Korean officials at Seoul’s presidential palace on Saturday. This summit took place after the opening ceremony for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, in which both Koreas are participating under one flag.

Moon Jae-in responded to the invitation by suggesting that North and South Korea should “make [the meeting] happen”. He also commented on the importance of creating “the right conditions” for the historic encounter to take place, while guaranteeing that he would do “anything” for peace in the Korean Peninsula. The South Korean President added that negotiations between Kim Jong Un and the United States were also needed to reduce tensions between both countries, and that North Korea should be more active in these conversations.


Do we still need monarchies?

Is the monarchy a valid system in the 21st century? For many people, the monarchical regime is an undemocratic system that has survived since the darkest times of the Middle Ages. For others, it represents a guarantee of national unity and tradition for their countries. However, during recent years, many monarchies, especially those in Europe, have been affected by financial and sexual scandals that have undermined their popularity.

Evidently, there are many kinds of monarchies around the world. On the one side, there are absolute monarchies, in which the king possesses the three branches of power – judiciary, legislative and executive – and acts like a dictator, like in Saudi Arabia. There are also countries where the king carries out executives functions while its parliament has a very weak legislative power, as so happens in Morocco. Finally, we can find parliamentary monarchies, in which sovereigns only have a symbolic function, although in many cases they have the responsibility to designate the executive’s chief. These cases can be found in Europe, for example in the United Kingdom, Spain, Netherlands or Belgium.

Although being the “most democratic” type of monarchy, in recent years, European monarchies have been highly questioned by many citizens. Despite their the attempts to fit into modern times, there is an issue that produces great controversy amongst the public opinion: monarchs’ annual salaries. According to the BBC, Queen Elizabeth II of the UK earned about $104 million last year, and the rest of European monarchs salaries approaches the $1 million mark. Putting aside the multiple properties which these monarchies have to maintain, is it ethic that they receive so much money from public funds while so many people in Europe and the rest of the world are fighting for their economic stability?

In addition, many sexual and corruption scandals have damaged monarchies’ public images. The most recent is the one that involved Spanish former king Juan Carlos I. In fact, he received much criticism due to several extramarital relationships, and for having gone an expensive trip to Africa to hunt elephants while his country was living one of the worst economic crisis in its history. Besides these love affairs, his son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarín, is currently being judged for taking part in a corruption plot and evading millions of Euros from a charity.

So, which are the real functions of monarchies nowadays? To be honest, and this can be seen especially in Europe, monarchies don’t carry out any governmental function. However, they carry on earning large sums of money and they usually become the mediatical objective of entertainment and gossip magazines. It is also important to highlight that the reason why a lot of people think monarchies are old-fashioned systems is the fact that nobody has elected them, which makes the monarchy a completely undemocratic system.

By Tomàs Garcia-Espot

Deadly earthquake hits Taiwan

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake has struck the island of Taiwan, killing at least two people and injuring around two-hundred more. The tremor was centered in the East China Sea, about 20 kilometers off the oriental coast of Taiwan, and was first noticed in the capital city of Taipei at around 23:50 local time. A 5.1 aftershock also hit the Hualien City shortly after the larger earthquake

Three buildings have collapsed in Hualien City, two of them being described by officials as “city department buildings”, and the other being the Marshal Hotel. The lower basement and ground floor of said hotel have given way, and at least three members of staff are thought to be stuck inside, state media says. Photographs show tilting and collapsed high-rise buildings, scattered debris and extensive damage to roads in the area.

Meanwhile, dozens of people have been rescued so from buildings that have at least partially collapsed, the Hualien fire department said. The army has also been called in to help emergency workers. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen assured in a tweet that “relief measures” were underway, while also pleading people to “stay safe.”


European and Asian stock markets follow US in share tumble

After Wall Street closed with its largest crash in one day since 2008 on Monday, a similar fall took place on Tuesday morning as investors continued to sell off their shares. London’s FTSE was down 2%, while Frankurt’s DAX and Paris’ CAC were down 2.2% and 2% respectively. Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei 225 closed down 4.7% and Hong Kong plummeted 5.1%.

The sell-off began last week after data in the US showed stronger wage growth, which raised expectations that US interest rates might start to rise more quickly to tackle inflation. When interest rates rise sharply, stocks often fall. Higher rates can eat into corporate profits. Rising rates and inflation can also cause problems in bond markets.

Analysts are trying to figure out if it’s a short-term correction for markets that had recently hit record highs or a sign of deeper concerns. Experts have warned repeatedly in recent months that both stock and bond markets were getting too hot, and some analysts say the current losses could even be a good thing.

Trump ends immigration protection for over 200,000 Salvadoreans

The Department of Homeland Security announced on Monday that it would not renew the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that had been granted to more than 200,000 people of El Salvador residing in the US. Said status had been conceded after the devastating earthquakes that hit the Central American country in 2001, which killed more than a thousand people and left many others without a home. Salvadoreans now have until September 2019 to find a legal way to stay or they will be forced to leave, even though most of them have lived and worked in the US for the last two decades.

Even though the TPS was originally intented to last 18 months, officials from successive administrations have considered that the situation in El Salvador hadn’t improved sufficiently for migrants to return to the country. However, the Trump Administration now believes that conditions have progressed enough for migrants to return. One government official praised the importance that “international aid” has had on the “reconstruction projects” which have taken place in the poverty-stricken country.

Those opposed to the decision by the DHS have called for Congress to act fast and to offer a permanent solution to Salvadoreans residing in the United States. Other activists have emphasized the high level of violence and poverty which still affects the Central American country. The departure of these people from the US could divide many families, while it is important to consider that money earned and sent back to families in El Salvador makes a valuable contribution to the country’s economy.