The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 67

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, June 3rd, 2024

Good morning everyone,

It seems like half the world is voting this year and the other half is at war. There’s a lot to cover this week so let’s jump right in today.

In Europe, a German activist is stabbed in Germany, France bars Israel from a defense expo, and Russia and Ukraine hold a prisoner swap.

Over in the Middle East, Israel moves to declare the UNRWA a terror organization, Mexico and Chile announce their intervention in the genocide case against Israel, and Slovenia moves to recognize a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, in Africa, South Africa holds its long awaited election, ISWAP attacks the Red Cross in Niger, and the DRC finally receives a new government.

In the Americas, Venezuela bars the EU from monitoring it’s elections, Ecudaor has a major crime bust, and Colombia continues to battle FARC.

In Asia and Oceania, India goes to the ballot box in the largest election in human history, North Korea allegedly loses 90 soldiers in an accident, and South Korea deals with a unique attack.

All in all, it’s just another day at the office. Let's dive in:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, Trent Barr, & the Atlas team

Mexico Goes to the Ballot Box

Supporters of Claudia Sheinbaum celebrating at Zocalo Square, Mexico City. (Photo - Yuri Cortez/AFP)

June 2nd, 2024: (2 Minute Read) Mexicans took to the polls on Sunday to elect the nation’s new president alongside a staggering 200,000 other officials in one of the nation’s most bloody elections in history.

Preliminary results published by Mexico’s Instituto Nacional Electoral’s (INE) quick count show that Claudia Sheinbaum, who ran under the ruling Monera party, won the election with between 58.3 and 60.7 percent of the vote. If these numbers are confirmed when the official results are announced on Wednesday, it will place Sheinbaum as the second presidential candidate to win over 50 percent of the vote since the Institutional Revolutionary Party lost their 70-year-long grip on power in the 2000 elections, while also beating Sheinbaum’s predecessor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who won 54.71% of the vote in 2018.

This election has been mired in controversy following the numerous assassinations of political candidates and a number of reported acts of voter intimidation. Since campaigning began, at least 749 instances of political violence have been reported by Integralia, a consulting firm that researches political risk in Mexico. At least 231 people were killed in these instances, while 34 of those killed were registered as political candidates. Other violent instances include kidnappings, intimidation, armed attacks, and assaults against civilians, former candidates, and their families.

These attacks represent a 150 percent increase in political violence since the last elections in 2021, according to the same firm, making this year’s elections the most violent on record. This increase is likely due to the importance of this year’s election, with citizens heading to the polls to vote to fill over 20,000 political positions, including 628 representatives in both the higher and lower houses of Congress.

Attacks have continued throughout election day, with a number of reports of armed men preventing Mexicans from voting, arson attacks, and a number of instances where the installation of polling sites failed or was delayed having surfaced throughout the day.

Mexico’s current president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is ineligible to run for reelection due to the one-term limit for presidents, acknowledged in April that the various cartels active in Mexico have played a large part in the assassinations, seeking to control figures in power either through coercion or by organizing political campaigns for candidates that will support the cartels’ activities.

“They make an agreement and say, ‘This person is going to be mayor; we don’t want anyone else to register to run’, and anybody who does, well, they know [what to expect],” Obrador stated.

Furthermore, at around 0230 EST, Sheinbaum announced to supporters that the candidate’s main rival, Xochitl Galvez, alongside a candidate who had struggled in the polls, Jorge Álvarez Máynez, both conceded defeat, although neither has released an official statement.

As Sheinbaum steps into her role, she will be confronted with a nation grappling with surging cartel violence, slow economic growth, widespread corruption, and a migration crisis. These pressing issues demand immediate attention and decisive action.

Sheinbaum’s reputation as president is likely to be established early. The former mayor of Mexico City is no stranger to politics and adversity, but governing the entire nation will almost certainly be more difficult than winning the election. How she navigates her new role on the world stage—carving an independent path or following the same playbook as Obrador—will be evident soon.


May 31st, 2024 - German activist Michael Stürzenberger had been stabbed and was in surgery following a knife attack at a political demonstration of the Citizens’ Movement Pax Europa in Mannheim, Germany. The suspect, a young man who has been described as a “migrant” by eyewitnesses, attacked three political demonstrators and then stabbed a police officer before being shot and killed by another armed officer. At least two other people were injured in the attack. Michael Stürzenberger is a German right-wing activist and blogger. He was the leader of the German Freedom Party from 2013 to 2016 and has been active for many years with his anti-Jihad public speaking and protests with groups such as the Citizens’ Movement Pax Europa and Pegida. He has been issued multiple fines for comparing Jihadists to Nazis, which is a crime in Germany.

A still from the video of the attack on X/Twitter

May 31st, 2024 - The French government has moved to bar Israeli defense companies from participating in Eurosatory 2024, the largest land defense equipment exhibition in the world. Approximately 74 Israeli companies were to attend. The French Ministry of Defence stated that “conditions are no longer met to host Israeli companies at the show at a time when the President is calling for Israel to cease operations in Rafah.” Coges, the organizer of Eurosatory, confirmed the decision to bar Israeli companies came directly from the government, stating, "by decision of the government authorities, there will be no stand for the Israeli defense industry at the Eurosatory 2024 fair." Israel has been critical of the decision and has urged the French government to reconsider. Benny Gantz, a member of Netanyahu's 'war cabinet', stated he had held a phone conversation with French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on the matter, claiming that the blockage of Israeli companies "ultimately rewards terror."

June 1st, 2024 - Russia and Ukraine conducted a prisoner exchange, the first since February, with each nation reclaiming 75 individuals, including both soldiers and civilians. This exchange, facilitated by the United Arab Emirates, took place in the northern Sumy region of Ukraine and marks the fourth such swap this year amid a backdrop of increasingly slow negotiations. Concurrently, the bodies of fallen soldiers were also exchanged, with Ukraine retrieving 212 and Russia 45. The 75 Russian soldiers released from Ukrainian captivity arrived in Moscow for medical and psychological rehabilitation, as documented by the Russian Ministry of Defense. It is assumed but not confirmed the likewise for Ukraine.

Middle East

May 29th, 2024 - A draft bill to declare the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, as a terror organization underwent a preliminary reading in the Israeli Knesset, was voted upon, and passed through to the next round. The author of the bill, Yulia Malinovsky, stated the bill’s passage “will allow for a complete dissociation from the agency—no cooperation, no trade, nothing.” The suspension of cooperation with UNRWA, the primary source of aid for most Palestinians, has the chance to threaten their operations in both Gaza and the West Bank. The bill comes after repeat Israeli accusations that several members of the UNRWA were participants in the October 7th attacks upon Israel, and further that dozens of their members are also members of, or affiliated with, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

A photo of the UNRWA's headquarters in Gaza on February 15th, 2024, which has witnessed extensive damage throughout the course of the war (Photo from AFP).

May 28th - June 1st, 2024 - Both Mexico and Chile announced their intention to intervene in South Africa’s case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which accuses them of committing genocide in Gaza. Mexico submitted a formal application to the ICJ in order to do so, whereas Chilean President Gabriel Boric stated he had “instructed the foreign ministry to prepare a report with our arguments.” Mexico and Chile now join a steadily growing list of nations that have applied formally, or declared their intention, to intervene in the case. Out of the many nations that have declared their intention to intervene, only Libya, Colombia, and Mexico have done so. Nicaragua has also applied to intervene; however, they did so under a different clause than the rest, and so their intervention will look different. Chile is home to the largest Palestinian diaspora outside of the Middle East, numbering approximately 500,000.

May 30th, 2024 - The Slovenian government voted to approve the recognition of a Palestinian state in another diplomatic hit for Israel. The government vote does not make the recognition official; an official recognition will likely come on Tuesday, June 4th, when Slovenia’s parliament will vote on the motion. Slovenia is now set to join Spain, Ireland, and Norway, who had just officially recognized Palestine two days prior, on May 28th, after announcing their recognition the previous week. Israel has condemned the move, and Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Israel Katz, has called upon the Slovenian parliament to reject the government motion. The Slovenian recognition follows through on a promise made by Spain, Ireland, Norway, Slovenia, and Malta in March to recognize Palestine. After Slovenia officially recognizes Palestine, assuming parliamentary approval, Malta will be the last one out who has not recognized Palestine. There is no established date for when they intend to vote on recognition; however, Malta has said they plan to issue recognition soon.


May 29th - June 2nd, 2024 - For the first time since taking power in South Africa thirty years ago, the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, has lost its parliamentary majority. While the party still won, according to results from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the ANC only won 40.18% of the vote. This means that the ANC will have to form a coalition with other parties in government in order to pass anything through parliament, requiring the support of an additional 42 parliamentarians. Some of the opposition parties, particularly the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK, who won 14.58% of the vote, coming in third), have accused the ANC of vote rigging. The MK has further called for a reelection. The general election serves to elect the nation’s parliamentarians. The president, who currently is President Cyril Ramaphosa, is elected by the parliament, and must be done so within 14 days of formation. Ramaphosa is seeking reelection as president.

A picture of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as he arrives at Stansted Airport in the UK, 2022 (Photo from Leon Neal/Getty Images).

May 29th, 2024 - The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed to have killed three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as a member of the Nigerien military that was escorting the ICRC. According to ISWAP, the attack took place nearby the town of Chitimari in Niger's Diffa region. Following the attack, ISWAP stated that they "seized the vehicle and returned to their positions safely." ISWAP operates frequently in several west African nations, in particular around the Chad basin of Lake Chad. Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon are its primary bases of operations. The lack of a constant presence of security forces around the lake not only makes for ‘easy targets’ of civilians, mostly fishermen, in the area, but also allows for easy transit between nations.

May 30th, 2024 - The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has finally announced the formation of a new government, several months after President Felix Tshisekedi’s win in the December 20th election and his reelection. Due to the contradictions in his duties, the DRC’s Prime Minister had to resign in February. His resignation prompted the resignation of the rest of the government, thus dissolving the government. Since the PM’s resignation, a new PM, the DRC’s first female PM, has been chosen. However, she did not formally take her post until the formation of the DRC’s new government. A number of key positions have changed hands. Most notably, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister of the Interior and Security have changed hands. These two changes come just a week after the unsuccessful coup attempt in the DRC, which left some wondering how the conspirators managed to attempt the coup.

The Americas

May 29th, 2024 - Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) rescinded the European Union's invitation to oversee the nation's upcoming presidential elections, in a move critics say puts the election's legitimacy at risk. Officials stated that the move was due to the EU's continued sanctions against Venezuela, sanctions which affect 50 Venezuelans who have been accused of acts of repression or efforts to undermine democracy. This resulted in the EU requesting the CNE to reevaluate its decision, stating in a post on X that international observation is essential to safeguard the upcoming election. International watchdogs are concerned as there have been a number of attempts by Venezuelan authorities to limit the nation's leading opposition coalition known as the Unity Platform. The coalition's leading candidate, Maria Machado, was previously barred from running for the presidential office after officials upheld a 15 year-long ban on the candidate following Machado’s criticisms of the Maduro government, the support of US sanctions on Venezuela, and her supposed role in a corruption scandal. Machado was a leading candidate in the Venezuelan primaries prior to her disqualification from running for president. Following Machado's ban, the Unity Platform chose to replace the frontrunner with Corina Yoris, a political unknown and university professor, who in turn was prevented from registering for her candidacy due to what the coalition claimed was the fault of the government. Now, the Unitary Platform has placed its hopes on former diplomat Edmundo González Urrutia.

Elvis Amoroso, the president of the CNE alongside President Nicolas Maduro. (Photo - Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg)

May 30th, 2024 - Ecuadorian police arrested a major figure in the nation's infamous Los Choneros gang, a mid-level lieutenant identified as "Mongolo" and a 'romantic partner' of the gang's leader, Jose “Fito” Macias, identified as "Verónica B." The arrests were the result of a large, coordinated operation that employed 24 raids conducted by police across the provinces of Manabí and Guayas, both located on Ecuador's western coast, in an effort to "counteract the crimes committed by the terrorist group Los Choneros such as: hitmen, kidnapping, vehicle theft, robbery on highways, extortion, trafficking of controlled substances, front men, possession and carrying of firearms, hitmen, among other related crimes." Mongolo was identified by police as an "intermediate value target" who allegedly directed and authorized numerous criminal acts within the gang's structure. The operation, dubbed "Gran Fenix 29" resulted in the arrest of 21 other alleged criminals, three of whom are foreigners. These "Gran Fenix" operations are a series of raids launched by police throughout 2024 to crack down on narcotrafficking and other crimes conducted by the various gangs which President Daniel Noboa labeled terrorist organizations following the escape of Fito from prison in January and the widespread breakdown of security within Ecuador that came after the gang leader's escape.

May 29th, 2024 - Five members of a splinter faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia known as the Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC) were reportedly killed by government forces in Colombia's south-western Cauca Department. This development comes a week after the FARC-EMC launched a large-scale attack on municipalities across the department last week, killing a number of authorities in the process. Among the killed members of the FARC-EMC, three other guerillas were injured in the fighting and have been identified as members of the Jaime Martinez Front of the FARC-EMC. The skirmish reportedly occurred near El Plateado, which itself is considered a fortress for the FARC-EMC by members of the Colombian military. The fortress has been a major issue for Colombian authorities in the area, with the Carlos Patino Front employing a number of anti-personnel measures including a series of motion activated cameras alongside the threat of civilian casualties if authorities attempted a besiege of the fortress.

Asia and Oceania

June 1st, 2024 - Local Indian media is reporting that exit polls are currently indicating that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will win a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha with 365/543 seats, meaning a historic third term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the BJP was looking to expand its previous 293 seats to 400. According to these exit polls, the INC-led INDIA alliance is lagging severely. The BJP has defined its campaign issues as direct-cash welfare programs and the denunciation of “Muslim appeasement” by INDIA. INDIA seeks to combat rampant unemployment by filling the three million vacant government posts to spur the economy. These exit polls are not authoritative. General elections were held in India from April 19th to June 1st in seven phases to elect all 543 members of the Lok Sabha. The votes will be counted, and the results will be declared on June 4th 2024. About 900 million people are eligible to vote, making this the largest democratic election in world history.

May 31st, 2024 - According to South Korean intelligence sources, at least 90 North Korean soldiers were killed when a tanker sank earlier this month. As first reported by TvChosun, which was briefed by intelligence officials, the vessel was traveling to the border area of Gangwon Province with more than 110 soldiers onboard. These soldiers were dispatched to establish a stronger border presence during escalated tensions with the South and the U.S. The ship reportedly sank due to overloading, resulting in the drowning of the 90 soldiers. Once the ship sank, North Korean Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam visited the site to observe the wreckage, issue directives, and quell unrest in the ranks. However, according to South Korean intelligence officials, there has been considerable unrest and backlash from rank-in-file members of the military. According to Professor Park Won-gon of Ewha Womans University, speaking to ChosunTv, the severity of the internal backlash to the incident probably resulted in the increased provocations from the North. They believe North Korea’s political and military leaders are attempting to unite dissidents behind increased actions against the South, such as the balloon missions reported in the last three days. North Korean media has not admitted that the incident occurred.

June 1st, 2024 - South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) released a statement saying that North Korea sent around 600 balloons carrying feces and trash into the country. The balloons traveled from North Korea into South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital city of Seoul. The JCS advised people not to touch the objects and to report the balloons and bags to the nearest military or police authorities. Seoul’s municipal government released an emergency safety alert, notifying people of “unidentified objects” detected around the city. Several media reports indicate that some of the balloons landed in the city of Incheon, located approximately 17 miles (28 kilometers) west of Seoul.

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