Review of the year: political upheaval, tragic fires and royal new arrivalsComments
2019 started with a political earthquake in Latin America, with Brazil shifting to the far right with the election of Jair Bolsonaro. A strident populist and admirer of US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro took power by raising the flag of “zero tolerance” against crime and corruption. However, he was under fire for misogynist, racist and homophobic views. He was also attacked for his failure to deal with destruction of areas of the Amazon in a series of fires.
Venezuela’s been in deep political crisis since January, when Juan Guaido declared himself interim president, alleging that Nicolás Maduro's re-election was illegitimate. Guaido was backed by dozens of Western countries, including the United States, but Maduro managed to resist, backed by Russia, China and his own armed forces. The faceoff is still going on with the country suffering its worst economic crisis ever.
The world was shocked in march when a white supremacist terrorist attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. 51 people were killed. The gunman live-streamed the first attack on Facebook. He will be tried next June. They were the deadliest mass shootings in modern New Zealand history and united the country in grief.
In Spain, Nine Catalan separatist politicians were sentenced to between nine and 13 years in prison after being found guilty of sedition for attempting a unilateral breakaway in 2017.
The protests in Catalonia region led to Spain’s worst street violence in decades. The Spanish Government’s position is that the politicians were jailed for criminal conduct, not for their ideals.
In Ukraine, fiction became fact. Volodymyr Zelensky, an actor who used to star in a TV series as the president became the country's real president. He won the election by a landslide. His priority was to restart peace talks with Russia about conflict in eastern Ukraine. These re-commenced with talks in Normandy – also attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The next round of discussions is expected to be held in Berlin in March.
After more than fours of fighting against ISIS, the International coalition led by the United States announced the fall of Baghouz, the final ISIS stronghold in Syria. Now reduced to sleeper cells, the so-called caliphate lost all of its territory and even its leader; during a raid into the Idlib province in October conducted by the US, Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. ISIS claimed that a successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, was appointed immediately after the US operation.
World leaders gathered in Portmouth and Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The major military event, in June 1944, featured the biggest amphibious military invasion in history. It was the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazi and fascist occupation.
European leaders also met in Berlin to mark the passing of 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, erected in 1961 to divide allied-held west Berlin from the rest of the city.
Angela Merkel used the occasion to urge Europe to defend democracy and freedom, remembering the fall of the wall as an event that marked the end of communism in East Germany and the beginning of the reunification of the country, divided since the end of the Second World War.
2019 will also be remembered for the fire that caused enormous damage to the Paris' world-famous cathedral of Notre-Dame. The outpouring of emotion around the world created an enormous avalanche of donations. Nearly a billion Euros have been pledged for the restoration of the iconic monument.
2019 also saw the arrival of a new member of Britain’s royal family, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. His birth came a year after the marriage of his parents Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Archie is the Queen’s eighth great-grandchild and is seventh in line to the throne.