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Forecast: Idaho court hears DOJ abortion appeal, Montenegro holds a no-confidence vote, and a weekend of violence in Baja California

UN Secretary-General António Guterres meet in April. Their backs are to the camera and our slightly facing each other in conversation.

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.

A surge in cartel violence in Mexico’s Baja California has left border cities on edge and prompted the deployment of thousands of Mexican troops. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Irene Villora discuss the events leading up to the wave of unrest and what cartels hope to gain from the violence. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform.

Week of Aug. 19-26
A Look Ahead

Aug. 19 – UN secretary-general to visit Odesa  

The head of the United Nations will tour Ukraine’s Black Sea port on Friday following the resumption of grain shipments.

What’s happened so far 
Russia had been blockading the port of Odesa since its wide-scale invasion in February. Grain exports from Ukraine ground to a halt, worsening a global food shortage. Ukraine and Russia, however, signed a deal last month with the U.N. and Turkey that allowed the resumption of grain exports from Odesa, and since then several grain boats have left the port.

The impact 
On the heels of that political breakthrough, António Guterres will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to discuss possible diplomatic means to end the war. This visit could lead to more Russian shelling — when Guterres traveled to Kyiv in April, Moscow shelled the area about an hour after he held a press conference with Zelenskyy.

Aug. 19 – Montenegro no-confidence vote  

On Friday, Montenegro’s 81-seat parliament will hold a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Dritan Abazović.

What’s happened so far 
The no-confidence vote, initiated by the Abazović’s own ruling coalition partners, comes after Abazović’s liberal party reached an agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) on the country’s relationship with the church. The SPC is the largest religious organization in Montenegro, and the agreement would allow the church to have sprawling rights to build churches, relocate current heritages and take ownership of property it claims across the country.

The impact 
This no-confidence motion is the second this year, following an earlier motion that collapsed the former government led by Zdravko Krivokapic. Human rights organizations and pro-European parties have criticized the agreement, done behind closed doors and with no media presence, calling it “non-transparent” and possibly worsening long-standing divisions between ethnic and religious communities in the country. If a simple majority is reached, another early election would be called and the agreement would be set aside.

Aug. 20 – Greece to exit EU’s ‘enhanced surveillance’ framework  

The European Commission will cease years-long surveillance of the Greek government’s budget Saturday, effectively marking an end to the country’s debt crisis. 

What’s happened so far 
Greece lost access to the international bond markets in 2010 after admitting it misreported financial key data and its debt grew to nearly double the GPD. After three bailouts by the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank — the final formally ending in 2018 — Greece introduced deep economic reforms. Now the European Commission says the “enhanced surveillance is no longer justified” after the Greek economy improved.

The impact 
Greece’s credit rating remains below investment grade, raising its borrowing costs, despite its return to international bond markets. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has pledged to remain within fiscal targets in hopes to regain investment grade status by early 2023.

Aug. 20 – Chad national dialogue

Chad’s military government will begin a new round of talks with political opposition leaders Saturday after signing an agreement with rebel forces on Aug. 8. 

What’s happened so far 
More than 30 rebel and opposition groups signed the peace deal with transitional military authorities following five months of negotiations mediated by Qatar. But the largest rebel group, known as FACT, refused to sign the agreement on the grounds that it did not take into account the group’s demands on prisoner release. 

The impact 
More than 1,300 people are slated to take part in the new round of talks, including representatives of trade unions and civil society. FACT is not formally participating but has said it is open to dialogue. One of the key purposes of the dialogue is organizing elections to return the country to civilian rule after an April 2021 military coup.

Aug. 22 – Idaho court hears DOJ abortion appeal 

The first federal legal challenge to a state abortion statute since overturning of Roe v. Wade will go before a judge on Monday in Boise, just days after the Idaho Supreme Court allowed a trigger law passed in 2020 to take effect Aug. 25.   

What’s happened so far 
The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit earlier this month against Idaho and its near-total abortion ban, claiming it violates a federal law requiring any hospital that accepts Medicare to stabilize anyone who arrives in need of emergency care. In a brief, several national medical organizations expressed concern over a lack of detail around what actions would constitute protecting the life of the mother. Idaho Gov. Brad Little called the lawsuit “federal meddling” and an example of overreach by the Biden administration. 

The impact 
The case will serve as a key test for reproductive rights advocates and what legal avenues may be available to counter state legislation that limits abortion access. More than 20 states filed a friend to the court brief against Idaho’s ban, saying it could send abortion patients into other states, stressing the already fragile medical systems post-pandemic.

Aug. 22 – Belarus air force exercises in Russia

Belarus will begin the second stage of joint military exercises with Russia on Monday that will run through Aug. 25.

What’s happened so far 
The first stage of the drills was held in Belarus earlier in August, while this component will take place in Russia’s southwestern Astrakhan region that borders the Caspian Sea. Belarus has served as Russia’s only true fellow combatant in its full Ukraine invasion, allowing Russia the widespread use of its territory to springboard the February invasion.

The impact 
While details of the exercises were sparse in the message sent by the Belarusian Defense Ministry, it was noted that air defense units and aviation would take part. A large majority of Russian ground forces staged in Belarus before the invasion have since cycled out, though Moscow continues to launch strikes on Ukraine from Belarusian airspace. The geographic proximity of the exercises to the Caspian Sea is also worth noting, as Russia has utilized the Caspian Sea and the airspace above it for long-range missile strikes across Ukraine on numerous occasions. 

Aug. 24 – Angola presidential elections 

Voters in Angola will go to the polls Wednesday to elect the country’s president and members of its national assembly.

What’s happened so far 
President João Lourenço, running as head of the left-wing MPLA party, is eligible for a second term and is facing Adalberto da Costa Junior, who is the head of the UNITA party, as well as six other candidates. Amnesty International said the election campaign has been marred by unlawful killings and arbitrary arrests in the run up to the Aug. 24 vote. The Committee to Protect Journalists also said Angolan reporters have been harassed while covering rallies. The election comes only a month after longtime President José Eduardo dos Santos died in Spain.

The impact 
The MPLA, which has held power since the country gained its independence from Portugal, is campaigning to diversify the country’s economy and reduce its dependence on oil, with opposition UNITA calling for greater democratic reform. Both have pledged to address youth unemployment.

What Else Matters

A closeup photo of demonstrators outside of King Cross Station in London. There are five people in the front row, all have banners or signs in hand. Behind them there are dozens and dozens more people. None of the clothing is a uniform; the people only wearing civilian attire. The signs almost all say GMB.
Demonstrators hold a rally in support of the British RMT union on June 25 in front of London’s iconic King Cross Station. (Photo: Steve Eason / Flickr)

Baja California weekend violence

Several Baja California cities at the U.S.-Mexican border were hit by arson attacks last Friday, with most incidents reported in Tijuana. At least 11 people were killed in a jail riot and unrest in Ciudad Juárez and other incendiary attacks were staged in Jalisco and Guanajuato after the attempted arrest of a Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) drug cartel leader. More than 30 vehicles were burned and several roadblocks were staged by suspected CJNG members, according to Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador. Last weekend’s surge of violence comes amid a wave of unrest, which authorities believe is related to cartel wars for territorial control, mainly involving the CJNG and Arellano Félix cartels. 

Watch for: Officials made efforts to increase the presence of security forces in Baja California on Saturday with the deployment of some 3,000 soldiers and 2,000 police officers statewide. An additional 350 military staff were deployed to secure Tijuana alone. Neighboring state Baja California Sur announced plans to “seal” its border through a reinforced military presence to avoid a spillover of crime. Local officials suggested the arson attacks could be a distraction method used by cartels to generate chaos and deviate state resources into securing areas that are not critical to their drug trafficking operations, or as a display of power. As the territorial dispute between cartels and military continues, similar incidents could repeat in the region.

U.K. railway strike wave

Severe disruptions to the UK’s national railways are expected Thursday and Saturday, and London-wide strikes affecting the subway, rail and bus services are further planned for Friday. While this particular wave of labor strikes will see just 4,300 trains running with 80 percent of services halted, strikes have been ongoing almost weekly this summer due to long-running disputes between unions and the UK’s railway company, Network Rail, over pay and working conditions.

Watch for: Despite managers with Network Rail voting to accept a 4 percent pay offer in a move described as a “breakthrough” by UK Transport Secretary Grants Shapps, members of the Maritime and Transport workers’ union (RMT) remain in a deadlock with no finalized deal. In fact, RMT Secretary General Mick Lynch said on Thursday the union is “not any closer” to reaching a deal, pledging further strike action beyond the summer until a settlement is reached.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Aug. 18-26

Aug. 18

  • Serbia, Kosovo leaders to discuss tensions

Aug. 19

  • Airport unions begin strike in Portugal
  • Montenegro no-confidence vote
  • London underground workers strike
  • UN chief Guterres to visit Ukraine’s Odesa

Aug. 20

  • Chad national reconciliation dialogue
  • Greece to exit EU surveillance framework

Aug. 22

  • Idaho court hears DOJ abortion appeal
  • Belarus air force drills in Russia begin

Aug. 23

  • Budapest Pride
  • Primaries in Florida and New York

Aug. 24

  • Angola presidential elections
  • Poland marks the 33rd anniversary of the creation of the first post-Communist government 
  • Ukraine Independence Day
  • Nationwide strike planned  in South Africa

Aug. 25

  • Uruguay’s Independence Day

Aug. 26

  • U.K. Royal Mail strike

Aug. 27-Sept. 2 

Aug. 27

  • Asia Cup begins in UAE

Aug. 28

  • Iberia Express crew begin 10-day strike
  • Pope Francis visits the Italian town of Aquila

Aug. 29

  • EU informal meeting of defense ministers
  • U.S. Open begins

Aug. 30

  • Human Rights Council meeting
  • EU foreign ministers meeting in Prague
  • Russian military drills begin

Aug. 31

  • EU foreign ministers meeting
  • G20 environmental and climate ministerial meeting
  • Venice International Film Festival begins

Sept. 1

  • European Parliament president visits Portugal
  • Kosovo ID measure enters effect
  • Lithuania’s largest bank to stop accepting payments from Russia
  • Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gives state of the union

Sept. 2

  • Russia holds VII Eastern Economic Forum

Sept. 3-9

Sept. 4

  • Chile referendum on new constitution

Sept. 5

  • New UK PM and Conservative Party leader announcement

Sept. 6

  • Boris Johnson resignation 

Sept. 7

  • North Korea Supreme People’s Assembly meeting

Sept. 8

  • NFL season start
  •  Toronto International Film Festival begins

Sept. 10-16

Sept. 10

  • Conservative Party of Canada leadership election

Sept. 11

  • Sweden general election

Sept. 12

  • Israel to advance E1 settlement in Area C of the West Bank

Sept. 13

  • UN General Assembly
  • Primaries in Delaware, New Hampshire and Rhode Island

Sept. 14

  • Pope Francis attends Congress of Religions in Kazakhstan

Sept. 15

  • Party lists due in Israel’s Knesset

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