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Factal Forecast: Ecuador raid on Mexico embassy sparks diplomatic crisis, President Trump’s hush money trial begins, and voting begins in India’s elections

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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.

Tensions between Ecuador and Mexico began soaring last weekend after police broke into the Mexican Embassy in Quito to arrest former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Irene Villora discuss the subsequent severing of diplomatic ties and how many in the international community have voiced grave concerns over the raid. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform.

Week of April 12-19
A Look Ahead

April 13 – Songkran  

On Saturday, Millions of Thai citizens, as well as tourists, will celebrate the country’s nationwide Songkran new year festivities.

What’s happened so far 
The new year festival lasts for three days, and it includes a variety of cultural events such as water fights across Bangkok and multiple areas of Thailand, with hundreds of thousands expected to arrive in the capital alone. Thailand’s health ministry has already warned of possible heat stroke, as temperatures are set to hit above 95 F over the weekend. 

The impact 
Security is likely to be heightened during the celebrations, especially due to increased alcohol consumption and the possibility of increased vehicular collisions and other accidents. In 2023, more than 250 people died in road accidents during the celebrations, and authorities have placed tight restrictions on the sale of alcohol in an effort to curb these numbers, with events also set to continue until late April. 

April 15 – Former President Trump’s hush money trial in New York  

Former President Donald Trump’s trial on whether or not he falsified business records to hide a sex scandal is set to begin on Monday.

What’s happened so far 
Last year, New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought charges against the former president, saying he falsified business records to cover up hush money paid out to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign. Throughout the process, Trump has verbally abused witnesses, prosecutors and the family of the judge, leading to a gag order being placed. Trump’s defense team has made several attempts to delay the trial until after Election Day in November, all of which have been denied.

The impact 
Despite facing three other criminal indictments, this may be Trump’s only trial before the election. If convicted, he could be sentenced to prison which would fundamentally change the campaign. It could also lead to protests from his supporters. Regardless, this will be the first time a former president has stood trial on criminal charges.

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April 17 – Solomon Islands general elections  

Solomon Islanders will head to the polls Wednesday in a crucial litmus test for the government of staunchly nationalist incumbent Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, whose government has come under accusations of democratic backsliding since he began his fourth non-consecutive term in 2019. These accusations are headlined by his decision to delay the current elections from 2023 to avoid the simultaneous expenditure of running an election and the 2023 Pacific Games, and for his threats to ban foreign journalists who are not “respectful” in their reporting.

What’s happened so far 
Sogavare’s most prominent, and perhaps most controversial, act was to suddenly reverse the country’s long-standing diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, recognizing China instead – which immediately upended life in Malaita, the country’s most populous province, and dismantled Taiwanese-funded jobs and programs. In response, the state issued a sweeping moratorium on licenses to Chinese government-affiliated initiatives that led to a multi-year impasse with the federal government. These factors, combined with accusations of “systemic neglect,” were the primary driving factors behind the deadly 2021 riots in Honiara. Sogavare also shunned the Solomons’ traditional security partners in Australia and the United States, signing multiple agreements, including a security pact, with China and deriding Western condemnations of the deal as intrusions into Honiara’s domestic affairs. 

The impact 
The contest will serve as a barometer of the public’s approval of the shifting tone of the Sogavare government. Opposition leaders have stated their intention to either re-establish ties with Taiwan or put recognition to a national referendum. Moreover, a continuing Sogavare government could see further unrest in Malaitian communities, or a government possibly led by opposition leader Matthew Wale, a Malaita native, could see progress in development on the archipelago’s second-largest island.

April 17 – Croatia parliamentary elections  

Croatia’s President Zoran Milanović is controversially running to become the country’s prime minister in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections amid an escalating gulf with the incumbent government over corruption allegations.  

What’s happened so far 
Croatian lawmakers unanimously voted to dissolve parliament back in mid-March, but polls were originally not expected to be held until after the European parliamentary elections in early June. In a surprise announcement, Milanović said he would be seeking the office of prime minister, a more powerful role in Croatia’s parliamentary democracy than the largely ceremonial presidency. His candidacy is the culmination of a yearslong dispute with the incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who Milanović has accused of corrupt practices.

The impact 
With less than a week to go before the election, it’s unclear whether Milanović can run for the post of prime minister after Croatia’s Constitutional Court barred him from taking up the post before first resigning as president. In response, Milanović said he would continue to stand for prime minister without giving up his post as president and accused the court of orchestrating a “constitutional coup d’etat.” These polls are the first in a bumper year for Croatia, with a presidential election also scheduled for December, and current tensions between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government spell a tempestuous period ahead for Croatian politics.

April 18 – Possible resumption of Sudan peace talks  

U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello said talks between Sudan’s warring sides could resume as early as next Thursday.

What’s happened so far 
It’s been almost a year since war broke out between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group on April 15, 2023. The fighting has led to the world’s biggest displacement crisis, with about a third of the country’s population, approximately 18 million people, facing acute hunger. 

The impact 
High-level members of Sudan’s army and RSF group attended a first round of talks in Manama, Bahrain, in January this year, accompanied by Egyptian and UAE officials who supposedly back Sudan and RSF, respectively. Although the initial round did not lead to breakthrough decisions, advisors involved in the peace talks have eyed the period following the end of Ramadan as a possible date to resume. The two sides, however, have yet to agree upon resuming negotiations.

April 19 – India general elections  

Close to 970 million Indian nationals will be eligible to vote in India’s colossal general elections beginning next Friday, the largest democratic undertaking in the world. 

What’s happened so far 
Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be seeking a third term for another five years in office, facing off against a fractured opposition. Modi’s time in power has been marked by economic growth and an overall reduction in poverty in India, but critics are concerned by growing Hindu nationalismviolence against minority groups and the erosion of press freedoms and civil liberties. 

The impact 
Current surveys predict a comfortable win for Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, but it will take 44 days for India’s election commission to coordinate and complete the dizzying amount of logistics needed to ensure nearly 970 million people will be able to vote. Indian security forces are on high alert for political unrest and violence, with 340,000 personnel planned to be deployed, especially in the restive regions of West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir.

What Else Matters

A large white building with a flag flying in the air is the focal point of this image. The flag is prominently displayed in the upper left corner, with a potted plant nearby. Another potted plant can be seen on a porch area to the right of the building. A few flowers are scattered throughout the scene, adding a pop of color. The building appears to be a hotel or a luxury residence, with a well-maintained lawn in front of it. The overall aesthetic is clean and elegant, with a touch of natural elements enhancing the ambiance.
Embassy of Mexico in Ecuador. (Photo: Embassy of Mexico in Ecuador / Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores de México)

Mexico-Ecuador relations 

Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador broke diplomatic relations with Ecuador on Friday after police entered the Mexican embassy in Quito (members’ link) by force to arrest former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas – condemned twice for corruption charges due to his involvement in the Odebrecht scandal – who was granted political asylum that day after living in the embassy since December. Mexico granted asylum to the former vice president in response to Ecuador declaring the country’s ambassador in the country persona non grata earlier that week, over Obrador’s comments on the outcome of Ecuador’s presidential elections. The Mexican president suggested the assassination of candidate Fernando Villavicencio in August (members’ link) contributed to Daniel Noboa’s victory. Ecuadorian officials accused Mexico of trying to intervene in internal affairs and justified the forcible entry into the Mexican embassy due to the risk of Glas fleeing the country, adding that his conviction bars him from being considered a political refugee. 

Watch for: Regional heads of state and the international community, including the UN and the Organization of American States, have expressed concerns over the Ecuadoran government’s decision to storm the embassy. Nicaragua broke diplomatic relations with Ecuador on Saturday as a result. Ecuadorian opposition leaders have demanded the resignation of President Noboa, qualifying his actions as authoritarian and accusing him of being unfit to rule. The Ecuadorian parliament’s first vice president announced the submission of impeachment charges against the foreign, home affairs and defense ministers. The Mexican Embassy in Ecuador will remain closed indefinitely, with all consular services suspended. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld said the country is open to restoring diplomatic relations through dialogue, but Mexican President Obrador has threatened to sue Ecuador at the International Court of Justice. 

Russian strikes on Ukraine critical infrastructure 

Multiple waves of Russian long-range missile strikes targeting critical energy infrastructure across Ukraine took place over the past two weeks. The renewed strikes closely mirror the missile campaign Russia undertook across Ukraine during the fall and winter of 2022 through the spring of 2023 that left millions without power amid rolling blackouts prompted by Russian missiles destroying more than half of the country’s electrical output. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians were plunged into darkness over the past week of strikes which destroyed 80 percent of the electrical capacity of DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private provider, with targets ranging from hydroelectric power plants in central Ukraine to thermal plants in the west. 

Watch for: The renewed missile campaign is indicative of the extent to which Russia continues to acquire and produce the components to maintain high levels of precision-guided munition production despite facing broad sanctions and export controls. Russia’s resumption of strikes on critical infrastructure across Ukraine comes in tandem with Russia regaining the initiative along the frontline, again mirroring the facts on the ground last winter. Facing severe artillery disadvantages as western aid grounds to a halt, Ukraine is scrambling to build defensive lines as Kyiv digs in in the wake of the stalled counteroffensive. Perhaps the most salient issue continues to double as the thorniest, with Kyiv in desperate need of additional manpower to backfill losses and rotate forces. Mobilizing additional manpower, however, has become a lightning rod political issue for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and significant changes to the status quo remain elusive despite piecemeal stopgap measures

Extended Outlook

April 12-19

April 13

  • Songkran

April 15

  • Boston Marathon

April 17

  • Solomon Islands general election
  • Croatia parliamentary elections

April 19

  • India general elections begin

April 20-26

April 20

  • Togo legislative elections

April 21

  • Basque regional election

April 22

  • UN and Nigeria lead joint counter-terrorism summit in Abuja

April 23

  • UK-African Investment Summit in London

April 27-May 3

April 27

  • Turkey’s IYI party elective congress

April 29

  • Togo legislative and regional elections

May 2

  • UK’s Blackpool South constituency by-election

May 4-11

May 5

  • Panamanian general election
  • Final rehearsal of Victory Parade in Russia

May 6

  • Met Gala in New York City
  • Criminal trial of US Senator Menendez
  • First round of Chad presidential election

May 8

  • Arrival of the Olympic flame in Marseilles
  • Parliamentary and presidential elections in North Macedonia

May 9

  • Erdogan-Biden meeting at the White House

May 10

  • Deadline for India to withdraw all troops from Maldives
  • Trump will stand trial in the classified documents case in Miami

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Top photo: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pictured above speaking in Brazil in 2019, is seeking a third term in office during this year’s general elections. (Photo: Planalto Palace / Wikimedia Commons)

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