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Forecast: Haiti’s humanitarian crisis worsens, U.S. student loan interest resumes, and plane crashes in Russia

Followed by a Secret Service agent, former President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One. It is a sunny and bright day. Trump raises his fist in salute to people outside of the photo.

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.

Since early August, territorial gang wars starting in the Savane Pistaches area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, have increased significantly and poured into other areas of the country’s capital. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Jaime Calle Moreno discuss how Haiti’s ongoing gang war is threatening to drag the country deeper into chaos.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of August 25-September 1
A Look Ahead

Aug. 25 – Trump surrender in Georgia  

Former U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to turn himself in to authorities in Atlanta on Thursday, after being indicted along with multiple others on charges of attempting to overturn his loss in the state of Georgia during the 2020 election.

What’s happened so far 
A judge in Atlanta on Monday set bail at $200,000 for Trump, the first time a cash bond was ordered in any of the election-interference trials the former president is facing this year. The judge also banned Trump from making threats on social media or communicating with other defendants except through lawyers, marking some of the toughest restrictions he faces to date. In all, 18 other co-defendants are facing charges, including Trump’s personal lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The impact 
Trump’s surrender date will come one day after the first Republican primary debate, which eight candidates have qualified for and the former president plans to skip. Trump leads the field by a sizable margin, though criminal trials in New York, Washington, D.C., Florida and Georgia are weighing down support among voters in a general election.

Aug. 25 – Heavy rains expected across Pakistan 

Pakistan’s meteorological department warned of potential risk of urban flooding and landslides due to monsoon rains expected across large parts of the country Friday through Sunday.

What’s happened so far 
Monsoon currents from the Arabian Sea, combined with a westerly wave, are bringing heavy rains to the country’s north, including Pakistan-held Kashmir and Islamabad. Heavy rains are also forecast for parts of Balochistan and southern Punjab beginning Friday, with dam owners urged to monitor reservoir levels and farmers urged to use caution. This new spell comes after more than 23,000 people were evacuated along the Sutlej River in Punjab due to the risk of flooding by rising water levels. 

The impact 
While the monsoon rains have not yet brought the catastrophic destruction of last year, the national disaster agency reported more than 200 people have died and approximately 300 others have been injured since the start of the season, with the province of Punjab reporting the highest tolls. The province of Baluchistan has seen the worst structural damage due to poor infrastructure, with nearly 4,200 homes damaged or destroyed since June. 

Aug. 26 – Gabon elections  

The Bongo family’s “dynastic” grip on power in Gabon is set to endure in Saturday’s presidential elections as incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba is on course to win a third term.

What’s happened so far 
Bongo entered office in 2009, succeeding his father, Omar Bongo, who had ruled the oil-rich Central African nation since 1967. He was re-elected in 2016 in a close and contested election that was followed by violent protests that killed at least five people. In 2018, he suffered a stroke which forced him to retire from public life for several months to recover. During his respite, soldiers from the Republican Guard staged an ultimately unsuccessful coup attempt.

The impact 
Despite allegations of corruption and enduring unemployment and poverty, Bongo is the favorite candidate in Saturday’s poll, with his Gabonese Democratic Party also expected to retain a majority in the country’s legislature. Several opposition parties agreed on Aug. 19 to form a coalition known as Alternance 2023 and unite behind a single candidate to avoid splitting the vote, although a challenger victory remains unlikely. 

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Sept. 1 – Singapore presidential election 

On Friday, voters in Singapore will elect a new president after three candidates successfully qualified to run.

What’s happened so far 
In the 2017 election, former lawyer Halimah Yacob was the only candidate to qualify for the vote, becoming the first female president in the country. This time, three candidates have joined the race, including former Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Ng Kok Song, a former chief investment officer at wealth fund GIC, and Tan Kin Lian, a former chief executive of insurer NTUC Income.

The impact 
More than 2.7 million people are expected to vote in the third presidential election since 1991, when a constitutional amendment made the president an elected position. This year’s election will be open to all ethnicities after the race was reserved in 2017 for members of the minority Malay community, who had not held the presidency since 1970. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, member of the ruling party PAP, recently said the party has been hurt by a series of scandals and resignations.

Sept. 1 – U.S. student loan interest resumes  

Millions of Americans are a step closer to restarting payments on federal student loans with interest rate resuming Friday.

What’s happened so far 
On March 13, 2020, the U.S. government froze payments on federal student loans and set interest rates to 0 percent in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers extended the freeze nine times over the course of three years. After taking office, President Joe Biden announced plans to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt. That plan, however, was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. Lawmakers won’t be able to pause payments again due to a provision in the latest debt ceiling deal. The Biden administration promised a “Plan B” for student debt relief “as quickly as possible under the law.” 

The impact 
Millions of households will soon feel a financial strain they haven’t felt in several years when payments are due in October. With rising interest rates — mortgage interest rates are the highest they’ve been in more than 20 years — it means other debts may become delinquent. Analysts say once payments resume, it’ll likely mean a hit to the retail sector.

What Else Matters

Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies’ visible infrared satellite loop of Tropical Storm Hilary in the Eastern Pacific.

Americas tropical storm outlook 

At least one person has died in the Dominican Republic after Tropical Storm Franklin brought heavy rainfall and high winds to the island of Hispaniola on Wednesday, the latest in a series of systems moving through the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Southern California is cleaning up after Hilary became the first tropical storm to hit the region in more than eight decades this past weekend.

Watch for: Franklin is currently forecast to move north, potentially impacting Bermuda early next week, while the remnants of former Tropical Storm Emily are likely to reform into a tropical depression or storm later this week as it moves over the subtropical central Atlantic. Another area of low pressure west of the Cabo Verde Islands may also develop into a tropical system in the coming days, as it moves into the central tropical Atlantic. The climatological peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is Sept. 10, with most activity between mid-August and mid-October.

Haiti violence

Since early August, territorial gang wars starting in the Savane Pistaches area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, have increased significantly and poured into other areas, with gang members firing indiscriminately and sporadically and burning down houses. In the Carrefour-Feuilles area of the capital, according to a local NGO, at least 31 people have been killed, including 13 who were burned alive in recent gang attacks within the neighborhood. This heightened level of violence has forced approximately 5,000 residents to flee the Carrefour-Feuilles area in the last week, with the UN recently reporting that, in 2023 alone, close to 2,500 people have been killed and another 900 injured due to gang violence. 

Watch for: Haitian authorities, as well as residents, not only claim the death tolls are most likely higher, but also say the displacement is only set to increase as gang violence, in this case perpetrated by the Gran Ravin gang and it’s leader Renel Destina, does not dissipate. The lack of police presence in these neighborhoods only exacerbates the situation further, and a Kenyan delegation Monday met with local officials to assess and discuss the possibility of an international intervention. It is yet to be seen whether or not an international consensus, after months of suspected stalling, allows for such an intervention to occur. Port-au-Prince could see more violence, more displacement, and the deterioration of what is already a critical environment. 

Death of Wagner Group founder Prigozhin

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Russian private military corporation Wagner, was killed this week after his plane crashed in Russia’s Tver region enroute from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Wagner-linked Telegram channels were quick to claim that the plane was downed by the Russian defense ministry, threatening to rekindle the deadly but short-lived June mutiny launched in Russia by mercenary forces following months of heated rhetoric between Prigozhin and the defense establishment over the Ukraine war effort. Wagner’s notorious presumed second-in-command Dmitry Utkin was also killed in the crash, leaving the fate of the group’s command structure in question.

Watch for: Prigozhin’s death has raised questions about the group’s ability to launch a second assault into Russia and its operations in other theaters, including Belarus and across Africa. While Wagner forces have been out of the fight in Ukraine since the grinding and bloody capture of Bakhmut in May, its sprawling operations spanning numerous countries in Africa have expanded, as Prigozhin emphasized in what would be the final video posted of him from Mali days before his demise. Maintaining the tendrils of influence across Africa is key for Russia’s foreign policy strategy, both in challenging Western hegemony in former colonies and retaining access to lucrative natural resource hubs. It’s unclear how Wagner’s presence will endure in countries such as the Central African Republic, Mali and Burkina Faso under new leadership. Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to comment on the demise of the man formerly known as “Putin’s Chef.” Word from the Kremlin is worth watching for, given the apparent paralysis with which Putin initially handled the Wagner mutiny and the hastiness with which a deal was brokered with Prigozhin.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Aug. 25-Sept. 1 

Aug. 25 

  • Trump to surrender in Georgia
  • Turkish foreign minister visits Ukraine

Aug. 26 

  • Gabon elections
  • March on Washington 60th anniversary

Aug. 27

  • Final results of CAR constitutional referendum

Aug. 28

  • Zimbabwe election results due
  • U.S. Open Tennis begins

Aug. 29

  • Taipei mayor to visit China

Sept. 1

  • Singapore presidential election
  • Paris to ban e-scooters
  • U.S. student loan interest resumes

Sept. 2-8 

Sept. 3 

  • Start of electoral campaign in Argentina

Sept. 4

  • ASEAN summit in Jakarta

Sept. 6 

  • Announcement of MORENA party presidential candidate in Mexico

Sept. 7 

  • NFL season begins

Sept. 8

  • Rugby World Cup in France

Sept. 9-15 

Sept. 9

  • Maldives elections
  • Possible military parade in North Korea
  • G20 summit in India

Sept. 10

  • Russia-organized elections in annexed portions of Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions

Sept. 11

  • Norway’s municipal and county council elections
  • EU parliament plenary

Sept. 13

  • EU State of the Union

Sept. 14

  • IMF staff to visit Sri Lanka

Sept. 16-22 

Sept. 18 

  • World Court to hear Russian objections to Ukraine case
  • UN General Assembly begins

Sept. 20

  • Sri Lanka says China’s Sinopec to start operations

Sept. 22 

  • Pope Francis visits Marseille, France

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