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Week in Review: Bank Bailouts, US Budget Negotiations, and a Warlord Surrenders

March 20, 2013

Zach Warner, ’16

This week in the world, Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda surrendered himself to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda. In Europe, the parliament of Cyprus voted against plans to implement an increased, one-time tax on national bank deposits.

In the United States, the Senate is rapidly reaching a consensus on the bill to fund federal agencies through September 30. Massive spending cuts are being passed without amendments or revisions as part of the effort to avert a government shutdown before the bill’s deadline, March 27. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, strongly recommended the use of “extreme caution” when deliberating on possible military options in Syria.

According to reports, the accused war criminal Bosco Ntaganda simply walked into the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda and surrendered early Monday morning. U.S. officials stated that the fugitive leader of the M23 Rebellion requested to be transferred to the International Criminal Court to face accusations of war crimes. Ntaganda is accused of commanding child soldiers, ethnic persecution, murder, slavery, and rape during conflict in the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The M23 Rebellion has waged a yearlong insurrection that captured Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province, from UN peacekeepers in November. Experts claim that the governments of Rwanda and Uganda supported the rebellion, but both nations have denied backing M23. Ntaganda is awaiting approval on his request to be transferred to the ICC in the Hague, Netherlands.

On Tuesday, lawmakers in Cyprus proposed a one-time tax of 6.75 percent on deposits of less than €100,000 and a 9.9 percent levy on accounts greater than €100,000. The tax was proposed to help support a 10 billion euro bailout by the European Union. Citizen outrage against the tax was swift and decisive, and financial experts warn that the tax could scare away investment in Cyprus. Experts argue that the tax could set a precedent of insecurity and inconstancy of rules, which could have long-term effects on bank deposits in Cyprus. President Nicos Anastasiades has been forced to return to bailout negotiations with the E.U. Cypriot lawmakers must create a deal that allows the country to receive a financial extension, while avoiding a default that could damage the value of the euro and the economies of all nations in the E.U.

U.S. senators voted 63-35 to limit debate on legislation to fund federal agencies. The Senate was highly aware that the bill must be sent to the House of Representatives for final approval this week to avert a government shutdown when present funds are exhausted on March 27. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged the passage of the bill, stating “there is a big spotlight on the United States Senate to see if we can do something;” he continued, “I’m asking senators here to give up a few things for the greater good.” By “a few things” he meant approximately 125 amendments to the bill, which were impeding the final approval by the House of Representatives. As part of a 10-year plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion, the bill includes $85 billion in polemic spending cuts that began on March 1. State representatives have been working with vigor to reduce the effects of sequestration on programs of particular importance to their constituencies.

On Monday, General Dempsey explained that the U.S. lacks key intelligence regarding the Syrian opposition and that anyone suggesting the U.S. might arm Syrian rebels should reconsider their point of view. ” About six months ago, we had a very opaque understanding of the opposition and now I would say it’s even more opaque,” stated General Dempsey. He remarked on the complexity of the Syrian conflict and the difficulties that it has created for U.S. foreign policy in Syria. He gave a statement to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, affirming that he does not see a military option that can ameliorate the situation in Syria; he also added that “it would be my advice to proceed cautiously.” Only last year, during conferences within the Obama administration, Dempsey and the heads of the CIA and State Department had advocated arming the Syrian rebels. However, there was never an official plan and Obama disavowed the idea. U.S. officials are concerned that American weapons could go to enemies of the state if they are obtained by certain factions.

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