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Forecast: Scrutiny grows over Uvalde police response, Kazakhstan holds constitutional referendum, and hurricane season begins in Atlantic

Kim Jong Un walks in front of an ICBM. He is flanked on either side by two men in military uniforms.

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

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As families in Uvalde, Texas, continue to grieve following the massacre at Robb Elementary School, the police response to events that day are coming under increased scrutiny. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Jeff Landset discuss the latest developments in the investigation and how the shooting has sparked calls for change.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of June 3 -10
A Look Ahead

June 3

U.S., Japan and South Korea meet to discuss North Korea

Officials from the United States, Japan and South Korea will meet in Seoul on Friday to discuss North Korea following a series of missile launches and rumored preparations for a new nuclear weapons test.

What’s happened so far 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed in April to speed up development of the country’s nuclear forces at a parade during which advanced weaponry, including a new intercontinental ballistic missile, was showcased. North Korea then tested a series of missiles in a show of strength timed around U.S. President Joe Biden’s Asia trip. Aside from its bellicose rhetoric, North Korea is dealing with a serious outbreak of coronavirus, with state media reporting more than 100,000 people showing symptoms of “fever” on Sunday.

The impact 

An increase in tensions or a new nuclear test would be an early trial for South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office in May as the north turned more belligerent. A further nuclear weapons test would definitely end North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium declared following its sixth nuclear test in 2017, ahead of a summit with then-President Donald Trump, that South Korea has accused it of breaching. A U.S.-led effort to tighten sanctions failed at the United Nations after being vetoed by Russia and China.

June 3

Tropical Storm Alex

The remnants of Hurricane Agatha may reform to become the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, with the potential to impact Florida as early as Friday

What’s happened so far 

Agatha made landfall over a sparsely populated area of southern Mexico as a Category 2 storm Monday, becoming the strongest hurricane to ever come ashore in the month of May during the eastern Pacific season. The storm killed at least 11 people and 33 others remain missing, local officials said Wednesday. The remnants are expected to form the basis of a new system as they emerge near the Yucatán Peninsula. As of Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center put the odds of formation within five days at 60 percent. 

The impact 

The NHC is warning of heavy rainfall across western Cuba, southern Florida, and the Florida Keys by the end of the week, “regardless of development.” NOAA is predicting a seventh consecutive “above-normal” Atlantic hurricane season, with anywhere from 14 to 21 named storms.

June 4 

33rd anniversary of Tiananmen Square massacre

On Saturday, for the first time in thirty years, there will be no organized memorial in Hong Kong for the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

What’s happened so far

Up until relatively recently, Hong Kong was the only territory controlled by China to host a large-scale event recognizing the Tiananmen Square massacre, an annual candlelight vigil held by a pro-democracy group called the Hong Kong Alliance. Officials, however, began banning the gathering, and the Hong Kong Alliance disbanded last fall after facing national security law charges. The local Catholic diocese announced that it would also no longer hold a remembrance Mass for June 4. 

The impact 

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has warned that coronavirus restrictions and the national security law will be enforced when asked about the legality of gatherings on June 4 at Victoria Park, where the remembrance vigil was traditionally held. While public recognition of the event will likely be muted in Hong Kong, Amnesty International is holding vigils in more than 20 cities around the world. 

June 5

Kazakhstan constitutional referendum

For the first time in nearly three decades, Kazakh voters will vote in a referendum Sunday, this one deciding on sweeping constitutional changes proposed by the president to decentralize power.

What’s happened so far

The reforms were announced by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in March shortly after historic protests rocked the country in January. The package addresses around one third of all Kazakh constitutional articles and is intended to strengthen the country’s parliament at the expense of presidential power. 

The impact 

Despite Kazakhstan’s crackdown on the January protests, the constitutional alterations are in some ways a direct concession to protester demands, such as the proposal to strip the president of the ability to overrule regional and local leaders. Tokayev’s reforms are real, though many of the proposed changes are simply reinstating pre-existing measures that former long-standing dictator Nursultan Nazerbayev removed. As such, many have called these reforms another example of Tokayev moving to further sideline Nazarbayev and his family from Kazakh politics. 

June 5

Mexico local elections

Six Mexican states will hold local elections Sunday, which will be a litmus test of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s popularity and the strength of the opposition.

What’s happened so far 

Citizens of Hidalgo, Durango, Tamaulipas, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo and Aguascalientes will go to the polls to elect new governors and, in the case of Durango and Quintana Roo, other local officials. The states of Tamaulipas and Quintana Roo are especially relevant this election cycle due to their economic significance — Tamaulipas is a strategic land crossing for goods between Mexico and the United States, and Quintana Roo is at the heart of the nation’s tourism industry.

The impact

Sunday’s vote could foreshadow the results of the upcoming 2024 presidential election. If President Obrador’s Morena party consolidates its territorial dominance — the government coalition already controls 17 of the 32 states of the country — the opposition could struggle to gain momentum. Despite record levels of election-related violence in 2021, no candidates have been directly targeted in 2022 so far.

June 6

Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles

Starting Monday, the United States will host heads of state from North, South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, for a weeklong summit in Los Angeles.

What’s happened so far

The countries in the Organization of American States meet every three or four years to discuss policy issues and challenges in the region. This year’s meeting has stirred controversy after President Joe Biden’s administration initially decided to exclude leaders from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The impact 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador threatened not to attend the summit unless all countries were included in the invitation, with other countries following the lead. Biden is expected to attend the summit, as are most of the Caribbean Community member nations. The event comes at a time when the United States seeks to repair relationships damaged during the previous administration and control migrant flows at its southern border, as well as counter China’s growing influence in the region.

June 10

Japan to allow some tourists into country

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that the country will begin to allow a limited number of foreign tourists into Japan from 98 countries starting Friday

What’s happened so far

Japan has had some of the strictest travel restrictions, effectively banning foreign visitors to all-time lows since June 2020, but large swathes of the public initially supported the decision. With the economic slowdown, weakened tourism industry and currency, and added pressure from the business and travel sector, Kishida raised the daily amount of foreign visitors to 20,000 on June 1 and will now allow triple-vaccinated tourists from certain countries to visit. 

The impact 

The easing of tourist-related restrictions will undoubtedly provide a needed stimulus to businesses embedded in the hospitality and travel sector. Tour groups will be responsible for enforcing Japan’s internal mask mandates and current restrictions. Nevertheless, if any outbreaks occur parallel to tourist arrivals, expect borders to close quickly. With upper house elections set for July, Kishida will aim to keep cases at very low levels.

What Else Matters

A detail view as people embrace outside a memorial to honor the victims killed in this week's school shooting outside Robb Elementary School. A makeshift memorial filled with flowers and photos of the 21 victims in honor of the victims, most of whom were around 10 years old. President Biden traveled to Uvalde, Texas, to help console the community as it grieves from, and seeks to comprehend, last week's massacre at Robb Elementary School.
Two people embrace outside a memorial to honor the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Photo: Aaron Sprecher / Greenpeace)

Latest on Uvalde, Texas, shooting

The police response to last week’s shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two adults dead is under new scrutiny after several discrepancies arose in police statements. For example, state police said the shooter entered through a propped-open door. Days later, they acknowledged that a teacher closed the door but it did not lock for an unknown reason. Police also originally said officers confronted the gunman before he entered the school, but later said he went into the building “unopposed.” It took officers more than an hour to kill the gunman after he went into the school.

Watch for: The investigation into the shooting could get contentious, with the Texas Department of Public Safety alleging Uvalde’s school district police chief did not respond to a follow-up interview request. ABC News reported the decision to stop cooperating came after DPS called the delayed police entry into the classroom “the wrong decision.” Lawsuits against the police are unlikely to go forward because of Texas law but public outrage may lead politicians to change that. Earlier this week, the U.S. Justice Department launched an official review of police response.

DR Congo-Rwanda tensions

DR Congo’s government suspended flights with Rwanda last Friday and summoned the country’s ambassador over Rwanda’s alleged support for the M23 militant group, which launched a new offensive into eastern DR Congo in mid-May. Clashes between M23 and the DR Congo military near Goma have displaced at least 72,000 people, according to the United Nations. This offensive is the second launched by M23 into Congolese territory in 2022, following an almost decade-long ceasefire

Watch for: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and DR Congo’s President Félix Tshisekedi spoke Monday, mediated by the African Union chair Macky Sall, but any outcome of the discussion remains unclear. New attacks by M23 risk further destabilizing an already restive region, which is home to several other insurgencies by rebel groups including the Allied Democratic Forces and Congo Economic Development Cooperative.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

June 2 – 10

June 2

  • Provincial elections in Ontario, Canada
  • Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee

June 3

  • U.S., Japan and South Korea meet to discuss North Korea
  • EU trade ministers meet in Brussels
  • Senegalese president in Moscow and Kyiv

June 4

  • 33rd anniversary of Tiananmen Square

June 5

  • Kazakhstan constitutional referendum
  • Mexico local elections

June 6

  • Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles
  • IAEA Board of Governors meeting

June 7

  • California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota primaries

June 8

  • Next court date for Buffalo, NY, shooting suspect
  • Somalia’s new president to be inaugurated

June 11 – 17

June 11

  • Libya constitution negotiations
  • March For Our lives against gun violence

June 12

  • National Assembly of France first round election
  • Opening of WTO’s 164 member states Ministerial Conference in Geneva

June 13

  • Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi begins two-day visit to Israel and Palestine
  • 50th regular session of the Human Rights Council begins

June 14

  • Primaries in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota and South Carolina
  • USFDA to review authorization of Moderna coronavirus vaccine for babies

June 15

  • Bishkek to host Expo-Russia Kyrgyzstan exhibition

June 16

  •  Eurozone finance ministers meet

June 18 – 24

June 19

  • Colombia presidential election runoff
  • National Assembly of France second round election

June 20

  • Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda

June 21

  • Primaries in Virginia, and runoffs in Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia
  • 16th ASEAN defense ministers’ meeting

June 22

  • Belarus to hold military exercises in southeastern Gomel region bordering Ukraine
  • International Air Show in Berlin

June 25 – July 1

June 26

  • New York CIty’s Pride March
  • G7 summit begins in Schloss Elmau, Germany

June 28

  • Primaries in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma and Utah, and runoffs in Mississippi and South Carolina

June 28

  • NATO summit in Madrid

June 30

  • Parliamentary elections in Libya
  • Philippines President-elect Ferdinand Marcos takes office

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