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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

G20 Leaders Flock To Rome; Romania's COVID Deaths Soar; Belarus's Social Media Crackdown. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired October 29, 2021 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello, this is THE GLOBAL BRIEF, your daily dose of internal news. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London.

Making Headlines tonight:

G20 leaders flock to Rome. We look at where tensions are rising.

Then, one person in Romania is dying from COVID every five minutes as misinformation butchers the country's vaccine rollout.

And, Belarus threatens jail time as it cracks down on several social channels.

The G20 summit in Rome officially gets underway tomorrow, but there was plenty of action today. U.S. President Joe Biden met with French President

Emmanuel Macron to all about apologize for a submarine deal with Australia that infuriated the French. He admitted the U.S. could have handled it a

lot better.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think what happened was, to use an English phrase, clumsy. It wasn't done with a lot of grace.


NOBILO: Mr. Macron didn't seem quite ready to forgive and forget. BFMTV reports when he was asked if the meeting helped to restore trust, Macron

replied, trust is like love, declarations are good but proof is better.

Now, this weekend's gathering of leaders from the world's top 20 largest economies is their first face-to-face summit in two years. COVID forced

them to hold it virtually last year. The pandemic, vaccine inequality, and climate change are topping the agenda.

A summit like this is exactly what our Nic Robertson covers oh, so well. He's our international diplomatic editor and he joins us now in Rome.

So, Nic, as we were just discussing, there were tensions after this submarine deal was agreed between the U.S., Australia, and the U.K.

How far did this meeting today between Biden and Macron go to alleviate those tensions?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's interesting, isn't it, that president macron said it's like love, declarations are okay

but we need proof, because there was a joint declaration between President Biden and Emmanuel Macron, and that's the proof that we're getting at the


And what Emmanuel Macron was able to take from this meeting was essentially president Biden saying it was my mistake, I thought you knew about it, this

was clumsy, this was done without any grace. And Macron and Biden in this joint statement talk about, you know, a joined-up commitment between the

countries on clean energy solutions, on the importance of the Trans- Atlantic alliance, the importance of NATO, but also, you know, strengthening relations between the two countries.

So, I think there was something there for President Macron to take away, and service certainly a positive step given the position that President

Biden was in coming to this summit. I think in terms of that meeting, it was a good first step for President Biden.

NOBILO: Okay, Nic. On to the next tension, so obviously the U.K. and France are at a very low ebb in their relationship. An hour or so ago,

"Politico" have published this private letter between the French prime minister and Ursula von der Leyen. And in it, it says so explicit, it's

indispensable to demonstrate to the European public opinion that more damage is suffered by leaving the EU than by remaining.

I mean, it's quite incredible to see that in black and white. And how does that help us to understand this fishing dispute that's happening and the

tensions between the U.K. and France?

ROBERTSON: Yeah, some of the other lines we heard from that letter, that the E.U. essentially needs to be tough, this was the message from the

French, that if a positive response essentially cannot be found from the British, then there should be proportional action taken, talk about calling

a leadership council meeting to address this.

We know that Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson are expected to have what's termed here a brush-by, a chance to sort of talk as they go by each other,

a little time set aside at the G20. But it seems their ministers at least in the background are sort of less in the brush-by conversation phase and

more headed towards a sort of a diplomatic dust-up.

The French are saying that the British are not giving their fishermen enough licenses, that only 40 percent of those requested for French fishing

vessels in British waters have been given by the British. The British are saying absolutely not, that figure is 98 percent.


The British feel that the French are acting disproportionately. The French are saying that the British fishing vessels to dock at three or four French

ports, and that as of November 2nd, Tuesday this week, they will tighten checks on trucks crossing the order between the U.K. and France, across the

English Channel in both directions, which could herald massive delays on a very important and critical supply route, actually useful and important for

both countries.

So it really seems that if Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron can achieve anything bilaterally this weekend, it will be to find a way to bring down

the tensions on fishing. But I think the underlying message that we're seeing in this letter is that the French feel the best way forward is by

bringing the E.U. to bear on the U.K.

We saw a tweet I think by the Irish deputy prime minister just earlier today supporting the French position, so that there is important support

for the French on this at the moment.

NOBILO: Nic Robertson in Rome, thanks so much. Trust and goodwill certainly in short supply in that relationship right now. See you soon.

President Biden also spent 90 minutes today with Pope Francis, exchanging gifts and talking policy. Mr. Biden of course is only America's second

Catholic president. And the meeting appeared to be very personal for both men.

CNN's Delia Gallagher is our Vatican correspondent.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A warm welcome for President Joe Biden arriving at the Vatican Friday. America's devout

Catholic leader clearly excited for his audience with Pope Francis here at the heart of the Roman Catholic church. These are two of the world's most

influential Catholics, one the leader of the most powerful nation, the other the most powerful moral voice in the world.

Behind the smiles and camaraderie, their focus is on two global challenges, climate change and COVID-19. The pope is hoping for U.S. leadership at the

G20 summit of global leaders this weekend and the crucial climate conference in Scotland.

Earlier Friday, he made a pointed intervention.

POPE FRANCIS (translated): The political decision makers who will meet at COP26 in Glasgow are urgently summoned to provide effective responses to

the president ecological crisis and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations.

GALLAGHER: COP26 starts this weekend but the president set foot in Europe without securing a deal in Congress for his climate agenda. And the leaders

heading to Glasgow disagree about crucial issues like phasing out coal, making halting global warming harder to reach.

At the Vatican, Biden praised Pope Francis for his leadership on the climate crisis ad well as his campaign to get vaccines to the world's poor.

BIDEN: You are the most significant warrior for peace I've ever met.

GALLAGHER: The men exchanged gifts, Biden handing the pope a military coin bearing the insignia of the unit his late son Beau served in. The two men

are known to have a personal rapport. The pope met the Biden family after Beau's death in 2015.

Biden said his meeting with the pope was, quote, wonderful. He'll hope it sets the tone for a marathon of talks with difficult diplomacy ahead.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


NOBILO: Mr. Biden wasn't the pope's only distinguished guest today. South Korean President Moon Jae-in came calling. He gave the pope a cross made

from barbed wire from the Korean demilitarized zone and he urged the pope to visit North Korea, telling him it would help the peace process. The pope

told him he would be glad to go.

Britain's head of state, Queen Elizabeth, will not be attending any G20 event or the COP26 climate summit which kicks on Sunday. Buckingham Palace

says the Queen has just been advised by doctors to rest for at least two weeks.

CNN's royal correspondent Max Foster paints a picture of what laying low actually looks like for the famously busy monarch.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: The queen has effectively been ordered to stay at home by her medics. According to a Buckingham Palace

statement, her majesty's doctors have advised that she should continue to rest for at least the next two weeks. So that could in theory continue

depending on the medical advice. We're not being told specifically what medical condition she might be suffering from. We're told by the palace

that is a matter of patient confidentiality.

Now, the statement continues, the doctors have advised that her majesty can continue to undertake light desk duties during this time including some

virtual audiences. We have seen her carrying out video calls over the last couple of weeks and she has looked pretty well.

A royal source told CNN that the queen remains in good spirits and continues light duties.


This is all a sensible precaution from her medics. Now, a key event she had to cancel was the upcoming COP26 summit. She was due to host a reception

there for world leaders. We're told on Friday she did record a message for that reception, so she was well enough to do that.

This is very much a situation where the palace is aware that people may be concerned about the Queen's condition but they're trying to calm nerves at

the same time.

Max Foster, CNN, Hampshire.


NOBILO: As G20 leaders meet in Rome, climate activists are trying to grab hold of the world's attention, holding colorful demonstrations in cities

including Paris, Glasgow, and Tel Aviv. They're focusing on just on policymakers but on banks and financial institutions and they're making

straightforward demands. Stop financing oil companies and start funding extraction of fossil fuels.

Greta Thunberg joined a protest outside London's Standard Chartered Bank. But some activists told us there's no time to lose.


JON BONIFACIO, PROTESTER: They have had some changes in their coal policy, yesterday they released a new coal policy. But even then, it's still very

insufficient. So, what we really want is to highlight, I guess, the hypocrisy of companies like Standard Chartered.

JOAO, PROTESTER: We can no longer expect to see people dying while listening to politicians saying -- making pledges for decades ahead. People

are dying now.


NOBILO: Outside Rome's coliseum, protesters dressed as the pop band Abba and played a song to indicate what they think it's all about.


NOBILO: Aside from the climate crisis, G20 leaders have to contend with another deadly global threat, coronavirus vaccine inequality. Today, the

G20's finance and health ministers said they would take steps to have 70 percent of the world's population vaccinated by mid-2022. They agreed to

boost the supply of vaccines and medical products and remove restrictions that keep the world's poorest nations from accessing vital doses. It's a

big promise but short on the details.

The gap between Europe's vaccinated and unvaccinated remains stark. For instance, in Romania, only just over one-third of the adult population is

fully vaccinated due to distrust in government and misinformation campaigns.

That's the second lowest vaccination rate in the E.U. And right now, Romania is reporting record numbers of coronavirus deaths and infections,

with one person dying every five minutes. Hospitals are stretched to breaking point and morgues are filling up.


CLAUDIU IONITA, ROMANIAN AUTOPSIST (through translator): I've never prepared myself for the sound of the hammer hitting and using nails to

close coffins. I was never trained for this, never.

I can tell people to believe in vaccines. Everyone who I have here in the morgue were unvaccinated people. And we have whole families here, from a

son, his parents, grandparents, entire families that leave us. All of them not vaccinated.


NOBILO: European nations have been helping Romania cope with the situation. Earlier this week, Poland and Denmark sent medical teams and

other countries have sent supplies.

Let's take a look at some of the other coronavirus developments making international headlines today.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is once again urging the U.K. government to enforce mandatory face coverings on public transport to help stop the virus. Cases

remain high across England with nearly 40,000 new ones reported on Thursday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has so far no

reintroduced mandatory face masks.

As the U.K. debates introducing new measures, New Zealand is scaling them back. The country says it will begin easing border restrictions that have

been in place since March of 2020. From November, travelers from some Pacific countries will no longer need to quarantine on arrival. For other

fully vaccinated travelers, the hotel quarantine period will be shortened.

Similarly, South Korea, which has gone for a COVID suppression strategy, also plans to begin easing its restrictions. That will happen in phases

beginning on Monday. Among the planned changes, most businesses will be able to open without a curfew and all students will return to the


The lawlessness in Haiti is having repercussions beyond its borders, including an empty seat at the upcoming climate summit in Glasgow. The

Dominican Republican's president is skipping the conference to monitor the situation in neighboring Haiti in case an emergency arises that threatens

his country's security.

In Haiti itself, Prime Minister Ariel Henry is lashing out at the gangs that have been terrorizing the population, calling them enemies of the



He didn't specifically mention 17 missionaries still being held hostage by the powerful 400 Mawozo gang. We're also hearing the government is seeking

the extradition of a suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Our Patrick Oppmann is following all of these developments and there are a lot of them from Havana.

Patrick, it's so great to see you, welcome to THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

What are the latest developments that we know about this assassination investigation and also the kidnapping of the 17 missionaries?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, ever since, Bianca, that assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise in July, Haitian officials

have been searching for this one individual, Mario Antonio Palacios. Palacios, he is believed to be, they say, one of these Colombian

mercenaries who was brought to Haiti, carry out this assassination. And he somehow escaped from Haiti and made it to Jamaica. That's where he's been

detained and now, Haitian officials are working on his extradition back to Haiti.

The question, of course, is, can he explain, clarify who hired these alleged mercenaries? Who is behind the plot to kill Haitia's president?

That remains an open question.

But Haitian officials seem to indicate that he is a key figure in this still very mysterious plot. And of course it was just several months ago

that the Haitian prosecutor looking into the assassination actually said that Haiti's current prime minister, Ariel Henry, had been in contact with

some of the suspects, something Henry denies, and he then turned around and fired this prosecutor.

So there are no shortage of crises that Haiti is dealing with, including the Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry who, as you said, in the middle of

the night last night, went on Haitian television to complain about all these gangs, say that he will not negotiate with them. But the problem is

that these gangs are so powerful, they have seized hundreds of hostages of Haitians and now these 16 Americans and one Canadian and a Haitian driver

who they're holding for millions of dollars in ransom.

And quite frankly, the Haitian government, even though they know where the kidnappings took place, they do not have the ability to safely go and get

the hostages. So, it remains an open question who has more power in Haiti right now, the country's leaders or these lawless gangs.

NOBILO: And, Patrick, just a quick follow to you, how secure is the leadership of Ariel Henry when you consider he's the president of a

neighboring country is calling off attending COP26 so he can stay in the country because he's so concerned about the instability of the governance

in the country next to him, Haiti?

OPPMANN: It's rapidly becoming a regional problem to have the Dominican Republican's president say he cannot leave his country for this conference

because of national security issues and to see hundreds of Haitian migrants arriving in the U.S. by boat, here in Cuba, countries across this region

are looking at Haiti and are increasingly worried that the government is losing their grip on power, a very tenuous grip that they have right now.

NOBILO: Patrick Oppmann in Havana, thanks so much for joining us.

Facing jail time over the way you use social media? Alarming developments from Belarus raise concerns about the country's crackdown on the political


Plus, how Russia's press is experiencing a, quote, soft strangulation in the hands of President Vladimir Putin.



NOBILO: Imagine being jailed for seven years simply for joining a social media channel. That's the situation people in Belarus could face after the

country's interior ministry classified three social media channels popular with opposition supporters as extremist organizations. The channels are all

on Telegram, widely used during the protest against President Alexander Lukashenko last year.

One of the channels has around a million subscribers. Belarus has a population of just under 10 million. And further developments, the U.S.

says Minsk will close two U.S. embassy departments there, the USAID and public diplomacy offices. Washington has condemned the move, saying it

reflects Belarus' insecurity over diplomacy itself.

Belarus' eastern neighbor, Russia, is no stranger to censorship and media crackdowns. In fact, that's sort of dramatic understatement. But the way

the government is exerting pressure is becoming more subtle but no less dangerous.

One of the targets, one of this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureates, who tells our senior international correspondent Sam Kiley what's at risk in an

exclusive interview.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): this is an act of defiance. "Novaya Gazeta" is printed three times a week. But all

day, every day, its staff feared that Russia's government will stop its presses. The newspaper's editor, Dmitry Muratov, won this year's Nobel

Peace Prize.

The fight for free speech has already cost six of the paper's writers their lives.

The Kremlin denies any attacks on journalists. Many Russians have died mysteriously in the years since the killing of one of the nation's most

celebrated correspondents.

It's been 15 years since Anna Politkovskaya, who was a scourge of the Putin administration, was murdered. But now, it seems the threat against

journalists is mutating.

An old school summons to the paper's daily planning meeting, held under the threat of new legislation that has designated more than 80 publications and

individuals as so-called foreign agents who must declare their foreign funding.

DMITRY MURATOV, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER: While in the 1990s and early 2000s, journalists were killed by hired assassins. Now, it's the policy of

soft strangling that is happening with the help of the foreign agents law. When a media outlet is declared undesirable or has to declare ones a public

enemy, which means it effectively stops operating, many journalists now have to leave Russia.

KILEY: He even raised the issue with Russia's president.

MURATOV: For many, this status undoubtedly means they are an enemy of the motherland.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This law does not ban anyone from having one's own opinion on an issue. It is about receiving

financial aid from abroad.

KILEY: Designated a foreign agent, TV Rain, a holdout independent channel, has to put this red warning sign up ahead of every segment and every tweet.

TIKHON KZYADKO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF,TV RAIN: We're being called traitors. We're being called someone's agents. We are agents of our viewers.

KILEY: Police raids like this at the home of the news site "The Insider" have become routine and now the publication has been labeled a foreign


He's now in exile and he fears being abducted or worse.

ROMAN DOBROKHOTOV, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE INSIDER: This is the toughest time for us in journalism since the Soviet Union, since actually Stalin's era.

KILEY: Sam Kiley, CNN, Moscow.


NOBILO: Earlier in the week, we brought you a story on gender-based violence. We had women from around the world speak about how they've

changed their behaviors to stay safe. We received an overwhelming response online. Women all over the world continuing to share the frustrations they

feel when the onus keeps being put on them.

But there was one comment that continued to pop up that surprised me and my team as people living in the U.K. CNN's social media audience is heavily

based in the U.S. and many responders were saying that the answer is a woman buying a gun.


There were also a number of women saying they had already bought a gun.

Guns are a lot less common and gun laws stricter in Europe. Even if it were legal, the thought of walking around armed to protect yourself is

disturbing to most of the women I've spoken to. But regardless of that, this is an extreme form of putting the onus on the woman to protect herself

and why we have to keep talking about it.

If you missed our report, you can find it at, on the CNN app, and across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

I'm Bianca Nobilo. You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. And we'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: We're finishing with a dazzling work of art that's been hidden beneath our feet. Now, this might look like a carpet at first glance, but

it's not. It's a mosaic unveiled by Palestinian authorities in Jericho after years of restoration at an eighth century desert castle.

The Tree of Life mosaic is made up of 5 million pieces of stone sprawling over more than 800 square meters. It's believed to be over 1,200 years old.

The images symbolize things like war and peace. People hope it will inspire more visitors to the area.

Well, that's for me and the team this week. We've loved being back with all of you. Until then, goodbye and happy Halloween.