Politics Society The World In Review

April 2021: World In Review

In this series of articles, our political editor Colin McGinness provides a concise roundup of the biggest geopolitical events from the past month.


India continues to be racked by an enormous second wave of covid infections, with conservative estimates of over 200,000 cases per day. In the wake of the crisis, Prime Minister Modi and his BJP party have been accused of censoring criticism online. Articles calling for the resignation of Modi have been removed from social media sites, but some have begun returning after facing increasing pressure from the press. The rapidly spreading outbreak has led to increasing calls to lift the current patent ban placed on Covid vaccine technology, as wealthy countries have bought up most of the existing supply. The United States has pledged $100 million dollars in supplies to the Indian state, though it is unlikely that they will change their policy on vaccine patents.

Australia has cancelled several agreements with the Chinese government regarding projects part of the Belt and Road initiative. Many of the agreements were made with individual states and cities in Australia, but the federal government in Canberra has begun using its new powers to veto deals that ‘are contrary to national interest’. Representatives from the Chinese government have decried the decision, and have claimed that it is further provocation designed to harm the already strained relations between the two countries. 

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Tensions in Northern Ireland have boiled over into protests and riots. A number of factors contributed to violence, including the post-Brexit ‘Irish Sea Border’ which would have in effect cut off Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK in a number of ways. Loyalist paramilitary groups have since renounced support for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended the turbulent era of sectarian violence known as the ‘Troubles’, until the sea border is scrapped entirely. This has sparked fears that the tentative peace between the unionist and republican factions may be severely at risk. 

Latin America

For the first time since before the revolution in 1959, Cuba will no longer be led by a Castro. Raúl, who took over leadership from his brother Fidel in 2011 has announced that he will be stepping down to allow a new generation of leadership take the reins of power. Miguel Díaz-Canel, currently the president, will now also hold the powerful position of first secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. While much change is unlikely, as Diaz-Canel is a keen supporter of the Castros’ policies, he has also argued for a more reconciliatory relationship with the United States. This being said, the nascent Biden administration has made no similar overtures, and has suggested that Cuba is not a foreign policy priority. 

One of the world’s largest arms smugglers has been caught again in Brazil. Having previously escaped prison by forging court papers mandating his early release, João Filipe Barbieri was found and recaptured in Rio de Janeiro 5 months after his escape. As part of his gang’s smuggling operation, Barbieri had smuggled hundreds of assault rifles from the United States into Brazil, often destined to the favelas that dot Rio. His initial sentence carried 27 years, but it is likely to be raised following his escape. 


The humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia continues to worsen. As reports of atrocities committed by the Ethiopian army slowly begin to come in, the full picture of the situation is far from clear. The army was deployed to bring the region back under control of the federal government after local militias took control of key infrastructure. However a complete communication black out of the region has kept the international community largely out of the loop. Recent reports suggest that conditions for famine are rife, and that the government’s initial reports of low-casualty conflict were not accurate. Troops from bordering Eritrea have also been deployed to fight alongside Ethiopian forces against the rebels. 

The longtime president of Chad, Idriss Déby, was killed by rebels this month while overseeing a military demonstration. The killing came just days after the president had been elected for another term, though under conditions that did not qualify as free or fair. Déby had ruled the country since 1990, when he came to power in a could against the government at the time. Now led by the late president’s son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, Chad faces a reinvigorated insurgency and an overstretched military. 

The Middle East

In a new report published by Human Rights Watch, the group accused Israel of committing acts intended to create an apartheid style state with Israeli dominion over the Palestinian people. The report has come as widespread protests in East Jerusalem have been met by an extensive Israeli crackdown. Citing the occupation of Palestinian territory and the very limited ways in which the Palestinians can actually govern, the report also suggests that the International Criminal Court begin investigating Israeli officials involvement in what it described as systemic and organised disenfranchisement. 

North America

American President Joe Biden, in his first address to a joint session of congress, outlined his policy agenda for the coming days of his administration. This was largely to do with his planned $4 trillion dollar spending proposal to overhaul welfare and entitlement programmes. Including investments in infrastructure, public transport and job creation, Biden has stated that the guiding principles behind these decisions will be reducing the threats of the climate crisis. Some specific programmes included, free pre-school for children aged three to four, paid family and medical leave, health insurance subsidies and free community college for all. The Republican opposition decried the address, arguing that further spending would place the economy under potential duress in the future.

Colin McGinness is The International’s deputy editor.