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U.S. Tanks to be Deployed in Syria; Mysterious Deaths of 39 Chinese Nationals Leaves Many Questions; Boris Johnson's October 31st Brexit Not Happening; Domino Effect of Chaos Seen in Different Parts of the World; Inferno Repeats Itself in California. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 03:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: All eyes on Brussels. Boris Johnson wants an extension. Will the E.U. give him one? We're talking Brexit here. We will take you live to Brussels and London for the latest.

Also, we are learning more details about a mysterious trailer filled with the bodies of 39 Chinese nationals. New reporting ahead for you.

Also, fast-moving wildfires in California force mass evacuations. Yes, it's happening again, and firefighters are struggling to keep up with the flames.

Hello, everyone. Welcome. I'm Natalie Allen. And this is CNN Newsroom.

Thank you for joining us this hour.

Our top story, E.U. ambassadors are arriving right now for a meeting in Brussels to discuss delaying Brexit, but they may hold off on making a decision now that Boris Johnson is calling for an early election.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: To be reasonable with parliament and say, if they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal, they can have it, but they have to agree to a general election on December 12th.


ALLEN: Boris Johnson wanted to be reasonable with parliament now, the prime minister planning to introduce the motion Monday. For it to pass, he needs opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on his side but Corbyn will only agree if a no deal Brexit is off the table.

We are following this from all angles. International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is standing by live in London. Nina dos Santos is with us from Brussels. First to you, Nina. All eyes back on the E.U. where no doubt an acute case of Brexit fatigue has set in. NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly an acute case of

Brexit fatigue. Many of these countries just want this over at the soonest point possible. What they don't want to do is to have to keep to go back to the drawing board, to keep having these meetings to grant the U.K. these extensions.

Having said that, though, some of them like France who are painfully aware of the fact that the urgency factor is really what suddenly started to lift the bar and get some movement in the House of Commons.

Now, what these E.U. 27 ambassadors representing their heads of states are going to be doing today is talking about the merits largely of Boris Johnson's letter which he penned over the course of the last weekend, that he's only asking for an extension up until January the 31st of next year.

For many member states, that seems a good idea, especially given the fact that Boris Johnson is now yet again agitating for an election, sometime could be needed but not a full year, if you like, because there is a deal on the table.

The problem with all of this is, France is sticking to its guns and saying that it was once a shorter extension, perhaps until November the 15th to try and keep those minds focused while there is that sense of urgency.

Now what the E.U. ambassadors make about the fact that there could be another general election, potentially imminently in the United Kingdom?

I spoke to one senior E.U. diplomat who said, well, essentially our job here will be to keep Boris Johnson on our side, to keep him believing that the best way of winning that general election is with the deal that he negotiated with us rather than ditching that deal and yet again reverting to talking about a no deal. Natalie?

ALLEN: All right, Nina, thanks so much. Let's go to Nic Robertson there in London. This puts Boris Johnson in limbo, does it not, Nic? He's had to eat his words on the October 31st deadline and now wants to be reasonable with parliament. How do you characterize his position right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. I think there's a lot of M.P.s will feel that the extension which he is offering is effectively about six says is unreasonable, and people were talking in terms of weeks, the type of extension that was required.

Jeremy Corbyn is saying very clearly, if Labour is to support this, it needs to be in a situation where a no deal Brexit is taken off the table, and he says that still remains inside the legislation that the government here has put on pause. So, his terms for an election a very clear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, LABOUR PARTY: We are not resisting the chance to have an election. We want an election because we want to take our case to people of this country but we do not want this country to be in any danger of crashing out of the E.U. without a deal.


Because of all the damage that will do the jobs, services and trade all over this country.


ROBERTSON: However, there is a big catch 22 with what the leader of the opposition has said, because he also said that he was going to wait to hear what the E.U. ambassadors and leaders had to say today.

He was expected that he'd appear to be making a statement about the extension today. Of course, as Nina has been explaining, the E.U. 27 have been waiting for clarity in the British parliament. They thought they might have had that yesterday. Boris Johnson just seems to sort of have clouded again with calling for an election.

So, we really don't know what the leader of the opposition is going to say today, or Monday. His party is very, very divided and it seems at this stage, remote that the prime minister will get the two thirds majority in parliament to get the election he won.

However, an election is in the air. So, it's unclear what will actually happen.

ALLEN: As it has been for many years now. All right, we'll be talking with both of you throughout this day. Nic Robertson and Nina dos Santos, thanks so much.

The details are slowly emerging about the 39 victims found inside that container truck near London. All of the victims, 31 men and eight women were Chinese nationals. Some of the bodies have already been taken to a hospital for autopsies.

Police still don't know though where they were going and why. But the investigation has now expanded across Europe into Asia.

Our David Culver picks it up there from Beijing.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officials here in China say they are still working to confirm details on this new revelation by police in the U.K. That the 39 victims found dead in a container are believed to be Chinese nationals.

Chinese embassy officials in the U.K. are headed to the scene and say that they received the news with heavy hearts.

Meantime, Chinese embassy officials in Belgium where the container was shipped from are demanding in a statement that Belgian police fully investigate the case.

This investigation brings up memories of a similar incident in 2000.

Fifty-eight Chinese nationals found dead in a cargo container and over U.K. Now seven people were later convicted for their deaths.

For China, it is not only a tragedy but this most recent case also raises questions as to why people might leave. The country just celebrated 70 years since the founding of the people's republic, and along with it, the prosperity that has come to many Chinese people.

The Chinese government often touting that some 850 million people have come out of poverty, but that still leaves millions more who might flee for economic reasons, or ethnic minorities who have faced increased oppression in recent years.

It's not clear if the victims were among those groups, but that is certainly a question that will be asked, and it's a topic that's trending on social media here in China.

Some posting in disbelief that in today's China people would leave for economic reasons, others circulating conspiracy theories, many demanding answers from the U.K.

It seems Chinese officials here do not want to circulate to widely, as we've been reporting on this topic, they have been censoring our coverage, suggesting there concern as to how this might be received by Chinese residents.

David Culver, CNN, Beijing.

ALLEN: From the Middle East to Latin America, mass protests are sweeping the world. Of course, they have been happening in Hong Kong as well. Demonstrators have flooded the streets in the thousands and millions, denouncing everything from corruption to economic concerns.

One of the most violent movements recently has unfolded here in Chile where at least 18 people have died and almost 600 have been injured.

In the capital, Santiago new clashes broke out between police and protesters upset over living costs and inequality.

CNN's Rafael Romo has more on the unrest there.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the streets of Chile's capital, water cannons sprayed the angry crowds. Rubber bullets and tear gas are fired at rioters in the streets, buildings set on fire, shops looted, thousands arrested, several dead.

These are the scenes of deadly discord from a week of protests in a country long thought one of the most peaceful prosperous in South America.

It began with a spark after the government announced the rise in public transit fares. A wider movement had been ignited, fueled by an economic model of disparity that has long spread discontent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Here's a generation that is judging, seeing they will have pensions that will leave them starving, that the education is of poor quality, that children have no future in this country.



ROMO: Chile's billionaire president initially responded with defiance, declaring the government at war with protesters and imposing their curfew across much of the nation. He also deployed the military to put down the unrest for the first time in nearly three decades when Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship came to a brutal end.

"That's a bad memory here in Chile," says one resident, who is startled by the government's response.

Sebastian Pinera soon apologize and announced reforms to tackle issues at the heart of the unrest, increasing retirement benefits, and hiking the top income tax rate and more, but it seems to have done little to calm the outrage.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It looks like an absolute joke to me and if he thinks that this will calm the people, no, it's not going to calm down. This is going to continue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Now that there is trouble, he's apologizing. I don't think it is time to ask for forgiveness. We've had so many deaths.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The president could have done something before all of this happened. He might not even be 100 percent responsible, because this has been going on for years, but he could've done something before now.


ROMO: In one of Latin America's wealthiest countries, Chile's free market economy has seen years of rising prosperity, promoting a dramatic disparity, Chile is the most unequal country in the largely developed OECD countries with an income inequality gap more than 65 percent wider than the average.

As their country's wealth grows, so too did feelings of exclusions among millions of Chileans, sewing deep seeds of resentment that grew into unrest, now demanding a new course forward.

Rafael Romo, CNN.

ALLEN: And of course, it is not just Chile. All across the world demonstrations are growing in both number and frequency. These are images of protests from nine different countries. Some of them brand- new, others have been raging for weeks now. In Lebanon and Sudan, protesters are denouncing unemployment and

corruption, while in Venezuela and Iraq, anti-government demonstrations are resurfacing as people continue to demand basic need services.

Let's talk now with Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas. Eric, good to see you. Thanks for coming on.


ALLEN: Well let's talk about what is going on around the world, from Hong Kong to the Middle East, Spain, now South America, vastly different countries in opposite regions of the world seeing huge protests. The commonality seems to be for the most part, inequality, corruption. You are an expert on South America. What are you seeing there?

FARNSWORTH: Well, it does seem to be that we are in the moment of a season of discontent and while each country may have its own reasons for a spark that might have lit protests. Nonetheless, the protests seem to be sustainable across most countries because of the issues that you identified. Corruption, stagnant living standards, crime that in cities and rural areas as well is out of control, even some environmental issues like in Brazil.

So, it's a mixed bag, but the truth of the matter is there is a malaise that has set in, and a lot of it can be put at the door of just really stagnant economic growth. The IMF is projecting .2 percent growth across Latin America this year, 2019, I mean, that's extraordinarily low, and people have come to expect higher and they're not -- their expectations are not being met.

ALLEN: Right, here's an example of government elitism. While people were in the streets in Chile, the Chilean president was seen dining at an upscale restaurant. These are the type of things that seem to make people crazy. It is kind of like, enough is enough, you are not paying attention, or do you care?

FARNSWORTH: Yes, that is absolutely right. Optics matter. And the president of Chile himself who is personally a billionaire and you know, he is well-known, and this is the second time that he is president so it's not like these things are a surprise to the people of Chile who voted him into office twice.

But you know, you do have to be sensitive to things that are going on at the street level, and frankly, a little bit of humility sometimes goes a long way.

ALLEN: Yes, and all indications that all of these people, many of them students, taking to the streets around the world are doing so after what they've seen in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has seemed to ignite protest in Lebanon, Spain, Iraq. Are we seeing a tipping point of ordinary people, you know, fed up with the ruling class? FARNSWORTH: I think this is a really interesting question, and you,

know again, I would be hesitant to say that, you know, there is a global movement or that Asia and Latin America are somehow linked.

But the one that we do see different now than perhaps in previous years, one thinks of 1968, for example, when every college campus was roiled around the world.


But you do have the ability to communicate. Social media, images things that really can amplify protest, not just in your local community but literally worldwide in a matter of minutes and hours, and it's something that I think governments have been caught flat- footed on.

They don't know how to respond, necessarily. They don't have the tools other than perhaps what they're developing in China which is a very authoritarian response and democracies certainly don't want to go that direction.

So, you do have an asymmetry of technology here and protesters are using that to their advantage and it's something that I think has caught on and it is certainly impacting some of these global issues.

ALLEN: All right. We always appreciate your expertise. Eric Farnsworth for us, thank you so much.

FARNSWORTH: Thanks for having me. It's good to be with you.

ALLEN: Indonesia will release its final report in the crash of a Lion Air jet that killed nearly 200 people last year. We will have a live report on what they're expected to say just ahead.

Plus, northern Syria's shaky ceasefire. Why the U.S. military may move tanks into the country for the first time.


ALLEN: CNN has learned that U.S. military is drawing up plans to deploy tanks into Syria for the first time. If it does happen, it would be to help U.S. troops secure Syria's oil fields.

Meanwhile, a senior Turkish official tells CNN it will investigate any war crimes by Turkish backed militia against the Syrian Kurds.

As for the ceasefire brokered last, week both sides accused the other of violations.

Nick Paton Walsh joins us now live from Erbil in northern Iraq with the latest on these developments. Nick, hello.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Natalie. It seems as though this U.S. plan to bring extra armor in defense of U.S. troops is, to some degree, inevitable. Because I think it's fair to say the rush decision to leave several hundred troops behind in the south of Syria near the oil fields certainly left into some degree, exposed. Because behind them they have Iraq, and to their other sides they have the Syrian regime and Russian patrols, a long route from the previous supply lines they had while the U.S. had a substantial presence there.

So, moving in tanks, which we may see happening in the weeks ahead is the obvious logical we are trying to reinforce their position down there. But it is, to some degree, that the mission creep that many were potentially from the Trump administration were concerned about happening.

And of course, Donald Trump had said he was bringing the troops home, instead he's left them with a very complicated mission where there are hundreds of them which would be here in northern Iraq, in Iraqi Kurdistan, without really an invitation from the government to stay.


The government has said they should be passing through on their way out, but they have to continue their mission according to the Pentagon, from here but also inside Syria as well. So, a balance between those two particular forces.

And Natalie, too, of course, these allegations of war crimes now, in fact, direct accusations from top U.S. Syria envoy against Syrian rebels backed by Turkey, puts this situation in an extraordinary light for NATO.

Remember, Turkey is the southernmost member of NATO and they have just invited Russia to patrol their border. Russia is the country, under the Soviet Union in the past that was the main focus of the creation of NATO. Now it is assisting a NATO member with patrolling its southern border, because that NATO member couldn't work it out with the United States.

And instead, now, we have the United States directly accusing the proxy for a NATO ally of Turkey over these war crimes.

Horrifying videos, frankly, have emerged since the beginning of this conflict. Turkey has for itself said that it denies being assisting such incidents and also that misinformation is what it describes any instances of civilian casualties from its forces.

But a U.S. official I have spoken to has long said that the Syrian rebel groups being used are in fact mostly extremists, some former ISIS, some former Al Qaeda. Turkey has not been able to give a fully transparent view of all those fighters and where they hail from, but as I say again, insist they only use moderates to prosecute its aims inside of Syria.

But it leads to a very complicated situation on the ground, potentially these forces now control a large amount of territory. ISIS is potentially regrouping in the chaos here, some of its fighters we've heard, dozens maybe have escaped from some of the detention facilities, although I understand the majority are still held well by the Syrian Kurds.

And those escaped fighters and other sympathizers for ISIS in the area around may well find some kind of soccer if they come to find themselves in the same area as those Turkish-backed rebels.

Turkey has always insisted it's done nothing more than anybody else in the fight against ISIS. It's led that fight, but we are dealing of course with a constantly fluid set of circumstances on the ground, Natalie.

ALLEN: Right. Absolutely chaos on every front and the Kurds caught in the middle.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you for that reporting for us. Nick, thanks.

Indonesian investigators are expected to release their final report of the crash of a Lion Air jet this hour. All 189 people were killed when the Boeing 737 MAX went down off Jakarta in October of last year.

The report is expected to cite a range of factors including the control systems and design problems with the 737 MAX. Less than five months later, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crashed in similar circumstances.

The airplane of course has been grounded and there's been fall out at Boeing over it.

Kim Jong-un wants to develop culture and tourism in North Korea. He toured the construction site of a hot springs resort and had nothing but good things to say about it, as you can imagine.

The North Korean leader also toward a result built with South Korea's help but criticize the conditions there and ordered it be torn down. So, stay tuned for the development of North Korea's tourism.

Millions of residents of California are paying close attention to fast-moving wildfires and now heat, high winds and low humidity add to the threat. More about that, next.



ALLEN: Nine active wildfires are now burning in the State of California. The largest is north of San Francisco where at least 49 structures have been destroyed.

Two thousand people are still under in order to evacuate their homes, and firefighters are working to put out hotspots.

Another round of low humidity and high winds will move through the area this weekend.

And in Southern California, more than 18 million people are under red flag warnings, meaning that the fire threat is high. Many people are scrambling Thursday to get out with their belongings and as you can see, their animals. Horses were clearly rattled by the fast-moving flames.

So much of this state, this is becoming the new normal. Derek Van Dam joins us now. I mean, they are more intense than ever. As we were saying last hour, the analogy was that the flames are moving up these valleys and canyons like a blowtorch.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You got to think about the terrain that they're dealing with in Southern California. We are talking about high mountains and these mountains allow for these wildfires to spread so quickly, they got a recipe for disaster there.

In fact, we found a graphic, we wanted to show you this, because we talked about it last hour, like Natalie just alluded to. Each 10- degree of slope that is added on terrain, a mountain or a hillside allows for a fire to travel double its forward speed.

So, if you've got a fire that's traveling 20 kilometers per hour you add another 10 degrees of slope, depending on where you live, and you have the potential to see that fire spread even faster.

I mean, you can imagine you add in winds gusting over 100 kilometers per hour, dry vegetation, and of course, you've got low humidity levels, so extremely dry, dry conditions across this area and that is the triple threat there allowing for these fires to just spread incredibly quickly.

Look at the wind gusts going forward. We do have some relief in sight as we head into the second half of Friday, but then we start to focus our attention on the northern portions of the state because another high wind event will take place Saturday, Sunday into Monday, allowing for critical to elevated fire risks expected for that region.

By the way, it's so intense out there that the fires are visible from space. We've been able to monitor some of the hotspots that have flared up across California, and as you talked about already, there are nine major active fires taking place across the entire State of California as we speak.

ALLEN: I can't imagine the fear people are starting to live with, often in California.

DAM: You know, some of them, their homes burned last year, they rebuilt and now they're threatened again.

ALLEN: Yes. All right. We'll be covering it throughout the weekend, you and I will be here.

DAM; Absolutely.

ALLEN: All right. Thank you, everybody for watching. I'm Natalie Allen. We'll be right back with our top stories.