2019: a look back at a year of turmoil

Paris, Dec 4 (AFP/APP): The year 2019 saw an explosion of demonstrations across the world as people demanded an overhaul of entrenched political systems and action on climate change.

Here is a look back at these and other events that marked the year.

– Protests sweep Latin America –

On January 23, Venezuela’s opposition chief Juan Guaido declares himself interim president, escalating a long-running political and economic crisis.

He is recognised by more than 50 countries, including the United States. But the army backs President Nicolas Maduro and he remains in his post.

Major demonstrations erupt in Haiti in mid-September, after fuel shortages, and demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. Violence claims more than 40 lives.

A metro ticket hike in Chile’s capital mid-October is the trigger for protests which claim more than 20 lives before a referendum on reforms is agreed.

Bolivia is gripped by three weeks of demonstrations after President Evo Morales claims to win a fourth term on October 20. Dozens are killed. Morales resigns on November 10 and flees into exile as the government works on new elections.

Ecuador is paralysed by nearly two weeks of protests in October and in Colombia strikes and demonstrations against the right-wing government begin mid-November.

– Middle East fury –

On February 22, unprecedented protests break out in Algeria against a fifth term for frail President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power for 20 years.

He loses the army’s backing and resigns on April 2. But demonstrations continue, demanding an overhaul of the entire political establishment and rejecting elections under the current system.

In Sudan, the military on April 11 ends Omar al-Bashir’s three decades in power, a key demand in four months of nationwide protests.

Demonstrations continue until a hard-won agreement in August sets up a joint governing council to oversee a transition to civilian rule. More than 250 people are killed, demonstrators say.

In Iraq, mass demonstrations erupt on October 1 against unemployment, corruption and poor public services, degenerating into violence that claims more than 420 lives.

On December 1, parliament accepts the government’s resignation.

In Lebanon, rolling mass demonstrations start on October 17, triggered by plans for a messaging app tax and turning against the political elite. They continue even after Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigns on October 29.

Iran sees an explosion of riots on November 15 after a fuel price hike. Authorities crush the unrest but Amnesty International says more than 200 people were killed, most shot by security forces.

– Boeing MAX grounded –

A March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash leads to the global grounding of Boeing 737 MAX planes.

It follows a Lion Air crash involving the same model six months earlier, with 346 lives lost in the two incidents.

Boeing faces investigations and lawsuits, and is made to upgrade its systems, in a crisis that costs it billions of dollars.

– Brexit delayed –

Britain misses its March 29 deadline for leaving the European Union, as another year of Brexit turmoil leads Prime Minister Theresa May to quit on June 7.

Her successor Boris Johnson is forced to ask the EU to again push back the deadline, now the end of January, and calls elections on December 12 in a bid to break the deadlock.

– First black hole photo –

On April 10, astronomers unveil the first photo of a black hole, a phenomenon they were convinced existed even if it had never been seen before.

Drawn from mountains of data captured two years earlier by telescopes across the world, it shows a supermassive black hole 50 million lightyears away.

– Notre Dame burns –

On April 15, flames destroy the spire and roof of Paris’s beloved Notre-Dame cathedral but firefighters manage to save the gothic building, while many of its arts, relics and other treasures are rescued.

Amid a global outpouring of emotion, nearly one billion euros ($1.1 billion) is pledged for its reconstruction.

– Iran escalation –

On May 8, Tehran announces its first step back from the 2015 nuclear accord — exactly a year after the United States quit the deal and reimposed sanctions.

Over the next months Iran re-engages components of its nuclear programme that it had halted, including uranium enrichment.

Tensions mount when Washington blames Tehran for a series of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf from mid-May.

On September 14, Iran is again blamed when major Saudi oil facilities are attacked by Yemen’s Huthi rebels, which it supports. It denies involvement.

– Hong Kong erupts –

On June 9, anger in Hong Kong over a bill that would allow extradition to China erupts into violence for the first time.

Over the next weeks pro-democracy protests harden into major street battles in the former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

China reacts furiously on November 28 when US President Donald Trump signs a law supporting the protesters.

– Hottest month ever –

July temperatures were the hottest ever recorded, US and European Union authorities announce in August.

Temperature records rise in Europe and the North Pole, and in August, Iceland loses its first glacier to climate change.

Fires ravage Brazil’s Amazon and Australia, while Venice is swamped by flooding not seen in decades.

The extreme weather feeds climate concerns, and rallies for action, initiated by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, spread across the planet.

– Big Tech tackled –

On July 24, US regulators fine Facebook a record $5 billion for data protection violations amid mounting concerns about the dominance of it and other internet giants Apple, Amazon and Google.

Criticised for failing to protect consumers and over tax and advertising issues, the tech titans come under pressure to reform, with threats of investigation, fines and even dismantlement.

– US disengagement –

On August 2, the United States officially quits the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) with Russia.

Trump’s “America First” regime also strikes out alone by pursuing trade wars with China and the European Union and withdrawing from the Paris accord on climate change.

– Trump impeachment bid –

On September 24, the Democratic Party launches an impeachment enquiry into Trump after claims he pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a rival in his 2020 reelection bid.

The hearings by a Democratic-controlled committee call in White House officials and diplomats as witnesses, although any conviction would be unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

– Turkey moves in Syria –

On October 9, Turkey launches an offensive into northern Syria to push back from the border Kurdish fighters it considers “terrorists”.

Two days earlier Trump had announced the withdrawal of US troops in the area, leading to charges that Washington had abandoned Kurdish allies who were vital in the battle against Islamic State (IS) jihadists.

Turkey halts its operation on October 23 after the United States and Russia agree in separate deals to ensure the fighters leave the border region.

– IS leader killed –

On October 27, Trump announces that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a US special forces raid in Syria, blowing himself up as he was pursued.

After a five-year offensive to seize territory in Iraq and Syria, the jihadists were driven out of their last bastion in March by Kurdish-led forces.

 

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