Five Things You Might Have Missed in the US and Americas This Week

The leading Brazilian presidential candidate returns from the hospital after being attacked at a campaign rally, the US and China call off a defence meeting amid growing tensions and hundreds of guns and police officers are unaccounted for in the Mexican city of Acapulco. Here are five developments that you may have missed in the US and the Americas this week.

Protesters carry posters against the far-right’s presidential candidate on 29 September 2018 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The protests occurred simultaneously in several Brazilian cities against Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Victor Moriyama/Getty Images.

(1) Bolsanaro’s return ahead of Brazilian elections.

The Brazilian presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, has left hospital almost a month after he was stabbed at a campaign rally near Rio de Janeiro. Bolsonaro leads the polls as he returns to the race, after the frontrunner, former President Luiz Inacio da Silva, was forced to withdraw his candidacy as he is serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption against which he is appealing.

Bolsonaro has drawn criticism for misogynistic and homophobic remarks, and his return to political campaigning has been greeted by the #NotHim (#EleNao) social media campaign, driven by women and supported by many Brazilian celebrities to oppose his candidacy ahead of the first round run-off election on 7 October. Bolsonaro has suggested that he would contest the results if he does not win.

The American flag flies near the national emblem of China outside of the Bayi Building during a welcome ceremony for US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis in Beijing on in June 2018. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AFP/Getty Images.

(2) China-US defence meeting called off.

A planned meeting on security and diplomatic relations between US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and senior Chinese defence officials has been called off by China. The cancellation comes amidst rising tensions around the US-China trade war as US tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods were imposed in late September.

It also follows the continued confrontation between the two powers in the South China Sea. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that a Chinese and an American warship narrowly avoided colliding near the disputed Spratly archipelago. The American vessel was undertaking a freedom of navigation exercise which China describes as a breach of national sovereignty while the US maintains they are lawful patrols through international waters.

In September, the US imposed economic sanctions on Chinese military personnel for buying fighter-jets and missiles from Russia, which violates the US sanctions regime. This, however, was at the same time the US authorized arms sales to Taiwan — a move that surely angered the Chinese government.

Members of the Mexican army patrol the streets of Acapulco on 20 August 2018. (Photo: Francisco Robles/AFP/Getty Images.

(3) Hundreds of guns and police officers unaccounted for in one of Mexico’s most violent cities.

A week after Mexican federal and state security forces disarmed the municipal police force in the city of Acapulco, and took over policing duties, a defence ministry investigation revealed that 342 firearms and 202 traffic officers assigned to the municipality are unaccounted for. The former mayor, Evodio Velázquez Aguirre, has been given until the end of the week to explain the whereabouts of the guns which he had signed for.

Meanwhile, two police commanders have been arrested and charged with murder while the entire city’s police force have been tasked with investigating possible links to organized crime, dereliction of duty and failure to maintain police training qualifications certifications. It is unknown how long federal and state security forces will continue to carry out the policing duties.

Despite being one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, Acapulco has been plagued with a high rate of violence in recent years — with a homicide rate of 106 murders per 100,000 inhabitants last year compared to London’s rate of 1.45 per 100,000 inhabitants between 2016–2017. This follows a recent trend of federal and state security forces disarming and relieving several municipal police forces throughout the country due to suspected connections to organized crime.

People enter a polling station in the provincial elections on 1 October 2018 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Photo: Martin Ouellet-Diotte/AFP/Getty Images.

(4) New centre-right political party wins control of Quebec.

A relatively-new political party, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) which was founded in 2011, has won Quebec’s provincial elections. This marks the first occasion since 1970 that a party other than the federalist Liberal or Parti Québécois have been in power. The Quebec Premier-designate, François Legault will be forming his government over the coming two weeks and reports suggest it will include many new political newcomers.

This election represents the first time in decades that the issue of Quebec’s sovereignty has not been the central issue in provincial elections. The CAQ, which has ruled out seeking Quebec’s independence, has shown that the issue of immigration has become more important than the question of secession for voters. While the CAQ does not support independence, it ran on the platform of putting Quebec’s priorities first and curbing immigration. Legault also suggested instituting French fluency and ‘values’ tests on immigrants after three years in the province, with a failure of these tests resulting in deportation, though constituents are divided on the immigration debate and the provincial power to be able to institute such measures remains unclear.

Highrise buildings in downtown Los Angeles, California are seen on on a hazy morning on 21 September 2018. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

(5) US federal government sues California over net neutrality law.

The US Justice Department has sued California after the state passed S.B. 822 — a net neutrality law preventing internet service providers (ISPs) from limiting or blocking internet traffic to broadband customers that is scheduled to go into effect on 1 January 2019. The Justice Department is suing California on the grounds that the federal government, through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has sole authority over ISPs and that states cannot regulate cross-interstate commerce.

California joins Washington, Oregon and Vermont as states that have passed laws requiring ISPs to follow net neutrality following the FCC’s rollback last year of Obama-era net neutrality rules. California is the first state to be sued by the DOJ as well as four groups that represent the largest internet service providers. More states have also introduced net neutrality bills that may be voted into law in 2019.This lawsuit is another episode in the confrontation between the Trump administration and the state of California as the two have diverged on issues such as immigration and environmental policies.

By Marnie Adamson from the US and Americas Programme at Chatham House.