The following are some of the major events that have been dominating the global headlines in the month of July:
Leaked private chats of Puerto Rican governor trigger massive street protests
The streets of Puerto Rico were hit by massive protests amid leaked chats from the messaging app, Telegram that showed the territory’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló and his inner circle making inappropriate remarks against the victims of Hurricane Maria. The 889-page document that was released by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) also contained vulgar, homophobic, and sexist languages that were used by Rosselló to disparage his opponents and it came just days after two top officials of his government were arrested as part of a corruption probe. As anger boiled over the scandals, many people took to the streets, resulting in largest protests seen in the territory in decades. While these events were the triggering factors, the protests were also the culmination of public disdain over the continuous exploitation of the political and economic elites and a lackluster disaster response amidst the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. Despite this, Rosselló has remained defiant by refusing to step down and instead offered not to seek another term in office. As the protests refused to let up, Rosselló eventually announced his resignation that will take effect on 2 August.
Boris Johnson takes over as British PM after winning Conservative leadership race
Leading Brexiteer and the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson became the British Prime Minister after winning the Conservatives Party leadership race, against his rival Jeremy Hunt. Johnson succeeded Theresa May who resigned after failing to secure a parliamentary for her deal on Britain’s exit from the European Union. While the Conservatives have been bitterly divided over the issue, one of Johnson’s first move upon the assumption of the post has also proven to be controversial. Besides axing many ministers from May’s cabinet in his reshuffles, some of the key posts were also given to candidates with doubtful credentials namely Education to Gavin Williamson, who was fired for leaking confidential information to Chinese phone-maker, Huawei and Home Affairs to Priti Patel who held meetings in Israel without the knowledge of the Foreign Office. The reshuffle was dubbed the “biggest overhaul” in decades while some calling it “a summer’s day massacre”. Regardless, Johnson’s move to stuff his cabinet with several controversial candidates is highly unlikely to end the division among the Tory ranks as his own goals of delivering Brexit by 31 October among others superseded the party interest.
Tropical Storm Danas wreaks havoc in East Asia
The Pacific Typhoon Season continued to cause disruptions in parts of East Asia as well as the Philippines in July amid the passage of Tropical Storm Danas (Falcon). The tropical storm made landfall in Cagayan, causing at least four deaths as well as some damage in Apayao and Negros Occidental. The storm that later moved on to South Korea also caused multiple transport disruptions in the country, especially around the island of Jeju, one of the top tourist spots in the southern region. Heavy rains and flooding were reported in some towns. In Japan, similar situation was also reported in Kyushu and Chugoku region with record-breaking rain forcing the evacuations of thousands of people in Hiroshima and Fukuoka. Landslides warnings were also issued while the high-speed bullet train services were disrupted. Despite this, there were no casualties in Japan and South Korea due to the adverse weather. The typhoon season is expected to continue into August and further travel disruptions should be anticipated.
No end in sight for Hong Kong protests amid periodical outbreak of violence
Street protests continued to grip Hong Kong throughout much of July with some of the most serious violence breaking out between police and pro-democracy supporters. The stand-off that initially started as a protest movement against a controversial extradition bill looked set to become protracted battle by many of the younger population against what was being regarded as a growing encroachment of the territory’s affairs by the Chinese government in Beijing. Pressure has also been piling on the territory’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam who was demanded by the pro-democracy movements to resign though she has remained defiant, and instead slammed the protesters for the violence that saw the Beijing’s liaison office being vandalized while the Legislative Complex being stormed upon. As the government blamed the so-called “rioters” for the unrest, a group of thugs that terrorized passengers at a transit station in Yuen Long also sent shockwaves with some suspecting that they were triads who were colluding with the police to break up the protesters. The events for the past month have clearly demonstrated that the latest waves of protests were unlikely to end soon as pro-democracy activists remained adamant to achieve their goals of ousting Lam and a complete revocation of the bill. However, there have also been fears that patience is wearing thin in Beijing and eventually stronger measures might be used to quell the protests.
Landslide victory for center-right party following election in Greece
An election in Greece saw the leftist party under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras being voted out after holding on to power for four years. The Syriza party was defeated by the center-right New Democracy that managed to secure an outright majority in the parliament with 158 seats. The defeat of Syriza was already in the horizon when it went against the main election promise of stopping austerity measure after forming the government in 2015. As years passed, Tsipras’ government was not only unable to put the Greek economy back on track, but it also somewhat diverted from what it originally intended to do, that is to challenge Brussels’ tough bailout package and the establishment as a whole. Instead, the vicious cycle of austerity continued for many ordinary Greeks. Evictions of struggling families and the sale of vast areas of land and sea to corporations were not uncommon while the economy stagnated with high unemployment rate. The first sign of Syriza’s impending defeat was in June when it suffered a harsh defeat in local elections while the New Democracy won in nearly all regions and cities. Upon his victory, the leader of the New Democracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis had vowed to re-establish stability and pledging to re-energise the economy by attracting foreign investment and creating jobs.