May 26th 2012
Barack Obama had a wobbly week. His re-election campaign’s attack on Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital came under fire from some Democrats for going too far in its criticisms of private equity. And in Democratic primary elections in Arkansas and Kentucky around 40% of the voters withheld their support for the president; some reckoned Republicans had crossed party lines to cause mischief.
Officials in Argentina said they found a bomb hidden in a theatre in Buenos Aires where Álvaro Uribe, Colombia’s former president, was due to speak. Mr Uribe is campaigning against a constitutional amendment that might exempt Colombia’s guerrilla leaders from prosecution if they make peace.
Spain’s Repsol said that an exploratory well in deep water off Cuba was dry, dashing the island’s hopes of reducing its dependence on imported oil.
In another attempt to inject life into Brazil’s stagnant economy, the government announced a fresh round of tax cuts, this time on car sales and some financial transactions.
In a presidential election in the Dominican Republic Danilo Medina, the candidate of the ruling party, won a narrow victory. The parties complained of vote-buying but international observers said this did not affect the result.
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, unveiled a government dominated by loyalists, tightening his grip on the economy and national security after popular protests. The new government is likely to curtail the ability of Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, to pursue market reforms.
Serbia’s presidential election was won by Tomislav Nikolic, who beat Boris Tadic, the liberal incumbent, by two percentage points. Mr Nikolic used to be an extreme nationalist but has changed his tune, vowing to promote integration with the European Union and promising to be a good neighbour in the Balkans.
European Union leaders attended yet another summit in Brussels aimed at solving the euro-zone’s sovereign-debt crisis. At the earlier G8 summit at Camp David, in Maryland, Germany came under pressure to do more for jobs and growth, though the communiqué also concluded that “the right measures are not the same for each of us.”
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie in Scotland, died from cancer. Mr Megrahi was released from prison by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds in 2009, which outraged many relatives of the 270 people killed in the atrocity. He always claimed to be innocent.
A Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden was found guilty of treason under laws that govern the country’s tribal areas. Shakil Afridi, who carried out fake vaccinations near bin Laden’s compound so that he could gather DNA evidence on his family, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
In Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of an opposition party and thorn to the government, was charged with inciting and participating in an illegal street protest on April 28th. Coming just four months after he was acquitted of sodomy (which is still illegal in Malaysia), Mr Anwar said the new charges were also politically motivated.
Fitch downgraded Japan’s sovereign-debt rating to A+, as its politicians squabbled about passing a rise in the sales tax. Japan’s public debt is forecast to rise to 239% of GDP by the end of 2012.
Fifteen months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians voted in their first free presidential election on May 23rd and 24th, with no opinion poll confidently predicting a winner among the three or four front-runners. But nearly all reckoned there would be a run-off, due a month later.
Representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany began a fresh round of talks with Iran over its nuclear plans, this time in Baghdad, hoping to persuade its government to agree to stop enriching its uranium to the high grade that would enable it to make a bomb.
At least 100 people were killed by a suicide-bomber at a military parade in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. A group allied to al-Qaeda claimed to have carried out the attack ten days after Yemen’s army launched an offensive against jihadists in the southern province of Abyan. See article
Eleven Lebanese Shia pilgrims were kidnapped in Syria. The Free Syrian Army, a group of rebel fighters, said that government forces, hoping to besmirch the opposition, were responsible. As a result, protests erupted in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, where people are divided over the uprising in Syria.
Supporters of Mali’s coup leader named him to head a new interim government in defiance of a deal brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional body that has been trying to mediate. The announcement provoked protests in Mali’s capital, Bamako. Mali’s interim president was beaten up by a mob.
Guinea-Bissau’s military junta handed power back to a civilian government six weeks after the army staged a coup.
A South African farm worker was found guilty of killing Eugène Terre’Blanche, the leader of a white-supremacist party, the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, who was beaten to death in his home in 2010.
A debate over freedom of expression raged in South Africa over a gallery’s display of a painting of Jacob Zuma, the president, with his genitals exposed. The ruling African National Congress said the painting was disrespectful and sought legal action to have the artwork removed.