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The Leader of Europe's 'Last Dictatorship' Is Facing an Unprecedented Challenge. Here's What It Could Mean for Belarus

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Europe’s longest serving leader Alexander Lukashenko has long worked hard to seem invincible. He has dominated past elections that the U.S. has deemed neither free nor fair and brokered no dissent and suppressed protests. Now, he is facing an unprecedented challenge as he runs for a sixth term as president of Belarus in elections on August 9. A former teacher and political novice, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as his main rival, pledging to topple Lukashenko’s regime and restore democracy.
Tens of thousands have rallied across Belarus in some of the country’s biggest opposition protests in a decade, amid mounting frustration over the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, combined with grievances about the economy. Referring to Lukashenko, protestors chanted ‘stop the cockroach’ and held placards reading ‘change!’.
“For the first time in his 26-year rule, Lukashenko knows the majority don’t support him,” says Aleksandr Feduta, a former aide to the incumbent, who was i…

President asks China to spare Filipino woman scheduled to be executed for drug trafficking

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has asked his Chinese counterpart to spare a Filipino woman facing execution for trafficking 6 kilograms (13 pounds) of heroin into the country, officials said Thursday.

The 35-year-old woman is scheduled to be executed anytime between Thursday and July 2, and her family is preparing to travel to China for what could be their final meeting, said Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

He told reporters that the woman was arrested at the Hangzhou International Airport in January 2011 along with a Filipino man. She travelled as a tourist and has been convicted of hiding the heroin in her luggage. Her companion was sentenced to death with a 2-year reprieve.

Hernandez quoted Chinese authorities as saying that the woman had trafficked illegal drugs to China 18 times since 2008 and was paid $3,000 to $4,000 per trip. She pleaded not guilty but the evidence against her was overwhelming, Hernandez said.

He said Aquino's letter asking for President Xi Jinping to commute her death sentence to life imprisonment will be delivered later Thursday.

China has previously ignored such appeals and executed 4 Filipino drug convicts in 2011.

Relations between the Philippines and China have been strained over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, but Hernandez said that the Philippines respects Chinese laws and the verdict of the Supreme People's court.

"The Philippine government itself has a strong anti-illegal drug policy and is closely co-operating with law enforcement agencies in China and other countries in efforts against drug trafficking," he said.

The Philippines does not have the death penalty, while China executes more people than any other country. It keeps the data strictly secret, and no reliable estimates on its number of executions are available.

Source: Montreal Gazette, June 26, 2013

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