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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

U.S. Reopens Borders; Belarus/Poland Migrant Crisis; Nicaragua's Disputed Election. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired November 08, 2021 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. Live from London, this is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Bianca Nobilo.

Tonight, tourists touch down. The U.S. re-opens to Europe, despite surging cases across the continent. Was now the right time?

Then, Poland accuses Belarus of deliberately pushing migrants into the European Union. We ask, is this a form of warfare?

Plus, Nicaragua's disputed election. We look at how President Ortega's attempts of oppression are targeting exiled citizens abroad.

After the better part of two years, the U.S. is welcoming back vaccinated travelers. Thousands of families from across the globe are finally

reuniting after being separated since the pandemic started. Arriving passengers say it's surreal to see their loved ones again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No longer on a screen. It's going to be hugs. It's going to be in person, catching up, a lot of stories to tell.


NOBILO: Yet, the day of sell praising is also one of concern. Europe's COVID situations where many travelers are coming from looks a great deal

worse than it did when the re-opening plan was announced just three weeks ago. As we have been covering on this show, the continent is once again the

epicenter of the world's COVID's battle, with several countries facing record spikes in cases day after day.

Today, nations from Iceland to Australia are tightening restrictions once again. Lockdowns don't seem to be in the cards yet with measures targeting

those not vaccinated.

Many of America's arrivals are coming from Europe, and that has some people asking whether now is the right time to actually welcome them back.

Our Melissa Bell was at the Paris airport earlier as passengers departed.

Melissa, it must have been, you know, amazing to see the excitement of passengers being able to leave, but as I mentioned, the WHO has declared

Europe the epicenter once more of this pandemic. We know that even with vaccinated passengers, breakthrough infections are not insignificant.

So, is this a mistake to re-open this time?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you suggested a moment ago, Bianca, these decisions, of course, were made well in advance. In

fact, Europeans who are amongst the 33 countries that are allowed from today back across the American borders have been asking for reciprocity for

moths because bear in mind that American tourists have been able to come to Europe since the end of summer. So, they've been asking for that.

What's remarkable is that it should have taken 20 months after this travel ban was announced to be pushed back, to be removed, allowing all these

families to be reunited again.

But you're right. It comes at a terribly bad time. For the time being, though, families were rejoicing when we were trying to board (ph) earlier,

but also, Bianca, the airline industry.


HENRI DE PEYRELONGUE, AIR FRANCE VICE PRESIDENT: It's very good news for our customers for Air France and everyone to get in (ph). We plan to

increase our offer to respond to a demand for travel. By end of March, we plan to return to 90 percent of pre-COVID capacities to and from the United



BELL: But you're quite right to point out that it comes at a bad time. Europe once again the epicenter of the pandemic, and we've seen in

different countries different reasons -- Eastern Europe, for instance, slow vaccination rates. And yet countries like Germany and France where

vaccination rates have been pretty good seeing spikes as well.

Germany has just seen its highest seven-day incident rate since the pandemic began. France also seeing a spike, Bianca. We expect to hear from

the French president on Tuesday. Now, in the past, and since the pandemic began, whenever we've spoken to the nation, we've tended to see more


NOBILO: Melissa Bell in Paris, thanks so much for joining us.

Russia is a key country of concern for Europe's COVID crisis. On Monday, many people were taking the metro in Moscow flouting mass requirements.

They were heading back to work of a period of 11 days on holiday mandated by the government to curb the pandemic. Some say they're glad those

measures aren't going to last any longer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We spent this time resting with family but partially working. Not everyone can work remotely. So yes, I

think the situation in general got better.


NOBILO: A look at the numbers, though, shows the country is in far deeper trouble than public sentiment seems to reflect. Cases have soared past

earlier peaks, while the country is still only 34 percent vaccinated.

And now, some good news. For the first time since the pandemic started, the Brazilian state of Sao Paolo reported zero COVID deaths on Monday. It's

been a horrific 20 months there, with over 150,000 people lost to the pandemic. But there is some hope the state and Brazil as a whole may now be

turning the corner.


Now, wire cutters, shovels and bare hands -- thousands of migrants marooned in desperate conditions inside Belarus are attempting to forcibly breach

the Polish border. Berlin says that so far 14,000 soldiers and border guards are holding the line, but it says Belarus is deliberately allowing

migrants to enter and then is moving them with the E.U. border with the false promise they can go on to Germany.

Poland's deputy foreign minister tells CNN Belarus's actions are an unprecedented aggression.


MARCIN PRZYDACZ, POLISH DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: So, I think this is the first time in modern history the authoritarian regime uses people as a

weapon to destabilize the European Union and the border as an answer and as a revenge to our collective decision to sanction Mr. Lukashenko.


NOBILO: Belarus, of course, denies all of this, but our Fred Pleitgen has seen this crisis firsthand. So I asked him, is this some kind of soft



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The European Union is certainly saying that they consider to be hybrid warfare on the

part of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, and the Polls are saying that they believe that they are under attack. Essentially, what the E.U.

and Poland are saying is they believe that Lukashenko is weaponizing migration. Weaponizing the fact that there are a lot of people who are very

desperate and want to come to the European Union.

They say his regime is enriching itself, and they're also saying that a lot of airlines who are flying some of these people to Belarus are also getting

rich as well, and the E.U. certainly wants to take some measures to that extent. Basically, what's been going on over the past couple weeks, really

over the past couple months, is that more and more people from Middle Eastern countries like Iraq, Syria but also out of Lebanon have been flying

into Belarus and then the European Union says being pushed across the border by the border guard of Belarus. The Belarusians are denying this.

But the incident that took place today, the group that tried to push across the border was bigger than ever before, the Polls say. The polish

government says it's not going to stand for that. They say they are going to remain steadfast. There's more than 12,000 polish forces at the border

right now, saying they are going to stop anybody who wants to try to come across.

Meanwhile, the conditions on the ground, by all accounts are absolutely appalling. We actually spoke to some people who made that trek, and they

say that they were in the forests between Poland and Belarus for several days, very often getting pushed back and forth between these two countries.

Obviously, it's very cold. There's not enough. There's not enough water. Certainly, there isn't much in the way of any sort of medical care that

people might require. So a very, very dire situation as this standoff continues -- Bianca.


NOBILO: Fred Pleitgen there for us.

The U.S. has announced a major bust in its pursuit of international cybercriminals. The Justice Department says it's charging a Ukrainian and a

Russian national with carrying out ransomware attacks on U.S. companies that cost them millions of dollars. The Ukrainian has been arrested in the

Poland and is expected to be extradited to the U.S. The Russian suspect is still at large.

The U.S. investigators say they've already seized back more than $6 million in ransom that companies paid out, but it's till the tip of the iceberg. A

firm that tracks cryptocurrencies says ransomware victims have paid about $350 million to hackers in just the last year.

Now, there's diplomatic scramble in Ethiopia, to keep the crisis in Africa's second most populous nation from spreading. African Union leaders

held an emergency meeting, and the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa is back in Addis Ababa. The U.S. State Department saying there could

be just a small window for a peaceful resolution.

Ethiopia is a state that's under a state of emergency after a yearlong military conflict between the government and Tigrayan rebels took a sharp

turn last week. Now, human rights watchdogs say it looks like Tigrayans are being detained solely, quote, based on ethnicity. CNN has been hearing of

mass arrests of civilians, including a breastfeeding mother and an elderly priest.

So, I asked our David McKenzie if detaining people like this a new tactic to Ethiopian leaders.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, these arrests -- these kind of arrests have become more common place. What we heard from the

Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is people are being taken from their homes, off the streets, and from offices. And many of them are ethic

Tigrayans, which lends credence to the accusation that the government is going after people based on their ethnic identity.


The government for many months said these arrests have been because people that they accused of supporting the rebel groups are then put in police

stations across the capital and elsewhere. I think it's important to stress though that this kind of detention without trial is commonplace in

Ethiopia. Successive regimes and governments over many decades used this tactic to try and silence the opposition, limit the power of armed groups,

and the thing is that Prime Minister Abiy was supposed to be different. He released many prisoners after taking office, many of them considered

political prisoners, and called for a new Ethiopia.

But this conflict over the past year has shown in some ways he's just like previous rulers in Ethiopia. You had large scale protests in support of the

prime minster. It's very hard to gauge how much popular support he has, but it is fair to say that there isn't universal praise or support for these

rebel groups that are threatening the capital. Because the TPLF at least was in power for many decades as part of the ruling coalition in Ethiopia,

they also did these kind of arrests and detentions and there's very little love lost amongst many people, particularly in Addis Ababa for them.

So, these diplomatic efforts will have to figure out how to lessen the mistrust as this continuation of Ethiopia's unfortunate history of

detention continues -- Bianca.


NOBILO: Thanks to David McKenzie for his reporting.

Let's take a look at other key stories making international impact today.

Mali's transitional leaders are facing sanctions. This is after they told the economic community of West African states that elections wouldn't be

happening in February after all. This is testing the bloc's commitment to protecting democracy following last year's coup.

Kuwait's government has submitted its resignation to the ruling emir. It's the second time the government has resigned this year. It could help in a

standoff with parliament.

The Czech Republic is one step closer to a new government. Five parties signed an agreement to form a coalition, which could be in place by

Christmas. They pledged to cut budget deficits and oust the sitting prime minster, Andrej Babis, who they accuse of having conflicts of interest.

In Italy, Italy's biggest mafia trial in decades. A court has sentenced 70 members of the `Ndrangheta clan. Suspects face an array of charges

including extortion and drug trafficking. Prosecutors view this clan as the most powerful mafia group in Italy.

The French Catholic church agreed to compensate the thousand of victims of child sex abuse at the hands of clergy. A major investigation released last

month found that the French clergy abused more than 200,000 children over the past 70 years. The report also stated that France's Catholic Church had

turned a blind eye for far too long.

The president of the country's conference of bishops which gathered in Lourdes, a major pilgrimage site, is acknowledging that.


ERIC DE MOULINS-BEAUFORT, PRESIDENT, CONFERENCE OF BISHOPS OF FRANCE: We cannot hide behind state justice and even less behind canonic law. It's up

to us to go behind and approach those who suffer.


NOBILO: Well, week one of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, was a time of optimism. Week two is shaping up to be a reality check.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama was on hand to offer encouragement to hammer out national agreements. Obama led the U.S. when it signed a

landmark Paris climate accord in 2016. But he told delegates today while the U.S. wants to do right, politics in a democracy is a messy business.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Sometimes it may feel like the United States likes some other countries are not always moving as fast or

following through on their commitments as much as we like. It's not because -- it's not for lack of trying by the kinds of people who you are working

with here. But you know, we've got our -- we've got our contentious battle. It's one of the things about democracy. It turns out you don't always get

your way.


NOBILO: On top of that, the head of one of the world's largest energy companies, BP, told Christiane Amanpour that fossil fuels, which are of

course blamed for much of global warming, aren't disappearing overnight.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: So basically you're saying the idea of getting rid of oil and gas any time soon is pie in the


BERNARD LOONEY, CEO, BRITISH PETROLEUM: Every single scenario that I've seen, including the IEA's net zero scenario for 2050 has oil and gas still

in the system.


In that scenario, 20 million barrel a day in 2050. The reality --

AMANPOUR: Compared to?

LOONEY: Compared to about 100 million today.

So, our strategy is to lean in that direction. We are the only company I'm aware of who has an objective, having spent 112 years trying to grow

production, we're going to take our production down by 40 percent this decade.


NOBILO: But for all the words it was a picture that spoke loudest today. The foreign minister of this South Pacific nation of Tuvalu here addressing

the climate summit knee deep in sea water, calling to attention the threat global warp warming plays to his island country.

Still to come tonight, a sham and a pantomime, just some of the criticisms being fired at Nicaragua's president following the country's elections.

We'll tell you why.

And an achievement that's quite simply out of this world. We'll tell you about China's newest milestone in the space race, coming up next.



NOBILO: Sham elections, that's how many in the international community are describing the elections in Nicaragua, as incumbent president Daniel Ortega

wins a fourth straight term in office, with almost 76 percent of the vote. The U.S., U.K., and E.U. are among those rejecting the results, but the

embattled president defended the elections, claiming it was a quote, vote for peace.

It's easy to see why Ortega's victory is considered illegitimate. He's spent the last few years cracking down on dissent and since June, he's

locked up anyone perceived to be a threat his regime, including other presidential candidates.

As Matt Rivers shows up, his attempts at oppression aren't just in Nicaragua. Exile says Ortega's regime has targeted them abroad.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He calls himself an elected president, but for many, Daniel Ortega is a dictator whose regime is

getting stronger and more dangerous.

Under his rule, a campaign of political terror has gripped the country. Dissent can lead to house arrest, jail time. Some even allege they have

been torture tortured. It is a dangerous time in Nicaragua, something we tried to go see firsthand.

For that, we took a bus from northwestern Costa Rica to the Nicaraguan border, entering via land to try and avoid the attention of the

authorities. But after ten minutes, with an immigration official, it was clear we were not getting in.

IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL: Are you working with CNN right now? Are you working with CNN right now? What report are you doing for CNN?

RIVERS: So, they just took our passports and or Mexican residency card and asked if anyone in the team worked for CNN, even though we did not offer

that information. It's clear that they know who we are.

And soon after, immigration officials denied our entry.

So, we have been formally escorted out of the country. After waiting three hours, they told us that we need to send a formal request to the government

in order to be allowed in, without giving us any reason as to why we weren't allowed in. They won't answer our questions.

And so, now, officially we're back on the Costa Rican side. Clearly, they don't want people like us inside the country.

Our experience is just a small example of the staggering level of government control face by Nicaraguans. Since June, dozens of perceived

enemies of the regime have been thrown into jail, while countless others harassed and followed. In roughly dozens of interviews CNN conducted with

people inside the country, each said most neighbors won't even talk politics, fearful they could be denounce as traitors.

One current government official would only speak to us over the phone as he stood in a field, fearful of being heard.

He says only Ortega's followers are the ones who can walk freely. The vast majority of us live like hostages. Every time I leave my home, I'm


We granted him anonymity because he said government forces surveil his house constantly. If they knew he was speaking to foreign journalists, he

says, he'd be imprisoned.

I was afraid to speak with you, but at the same time, the conviction and hope that our voice will reach others around the world makes us take the


It has certainly reached other Nicaraguans around the world, tens of thousands of whom have fled the country since government crackdowns ramped

up in 2018. But for many, the terror of the Ortega regime doesn't stop at the border.

Jorge spoke to us from an undisclosed location in Mexico. He says he was tortured by Nicaraguan police after participating in anti-government

protests in 2018, even alleging they used a razor blade to carve the word Plomo into his leg, a threat of future violence. Someone even spray-painted

his home, writing, quote, if you (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you died.

He says people I had grown up with and known had become my enemies.

He fled to Guatemala and felt safe for a bit until he received this photo. Someone he says who worked for the Nicaraguan government snapped this

picture of him at the bus stop he used every day, writing, quote: You thought the Guatemalans could take care of you? You and your family are

going to pay in blood.

My family and I do not feel safe because we know what they can do. We wouldn't be the first or the last Nicaraguan to be murdered outside the


He's still receiving threats in Mexico, and though CNN has no way to no for certain that Nicaraguan state agents were threatening him, that is the

consistent fear of so many here in San Joe, Costa Rica, where thousands of Nicaraguans have fled since 2018.

There, we met with this group of Nicaraguan exiles, each of whom say they've received threats from the Ortegan regime since fleeing in the last

few years.

One story from Rayza Hope stood out. A Nicaraguan activist, she fled back in 2019 after threats to her life. She now runs a flower job in San Jose,

where her friend, Berenice Zeledon, a fellow Nicaraguan activist visits her often. About a month ago, a man entered the shop, closed the door, and

pointed a gun.

He told us to stop (EXPLETIVE DELETED) around, mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED). We said, don't hurt us, but he started strangling me. Rayza was pistol

whipped and knocked out. Berenice kicked to the floor. She suffered knee fractures as a result.

Crying, she says, the first thing I thought about was my son. This man is going to kill us. Eventually, the man left without stealing anything. Both

women filed a police report and suspect the same thing. They were targeted by Nicaraguan agents.

Nicaraguan human rights groups say they recorded dozens of such suspected attacks in Costa Rica in recent years, though proving the Nicaraguan

government is behind them is near impossible. Officially, Costa Rica's government says they found no such cases of Nicaraguan spies attacking


We're always talking to Nicaragua he says and maintaining a conversation to respect each other's sovereignty.

But not everyone in the government agrees.

A senior government official with deep knowledge of the situation tells CNN there are in fact Nicaraguan intelligence operatives working right now here

in Costa Rica, including those that target Nicaraguan exiles, adding the number of operatives working here has increased since Nicaraguans began

arriving en masse back in 2018. The government, the source says, is hesitant to speak out publicly on the issue, fearing it could damage

diplomatic relations at a tenuous time.

On Sunday, protests were held in San Jose, people chanting and waving the Nicaraguan flag.


But in Nicaragua, things were much quieter. No protests allowed these days but it doesn't mean that they're not happening. CNN spoke to several people

who said they would not vote, a form of quiet protest, refusing to participate in the coronation of the dictator.

Matt Rivers, CNN, San Jose, Costa Rica.


NOBILO: You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: A giant leap forward for Chinese women, one step forward for China in the space race.

Wang Yaping wrote herself into the history books Monday morning as she became the first Chinese woman ever to make a space walk. Take a look.

She ventured out for six and a half hours to install space equipment and check a robotic arm on China's new space station Tiangong.

The strides China's been making into space, including declaring plans to send a crude mission to Mars in 2033 and reports of a test of a nuclear

capable hypersonic glider traveling five times the speed of sound, are ramping up competition between the U.S. and China for dominance on earth

and space.

Thanks for joining us tonight, to those here on earth and possibly beyond. We'll see you again tomorrow.