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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Migration Crises Across Globe; America's Drug Epidemic; Colombia Abortion Ruling. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired November 18, 2021 - 17:00   ET



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

Tonight, from the U.S./Mexico border to the Belarusian Polish border, migration is front and center across the globe right now. We look at root

causes of displacement.

Then, COVID-19's impact on global drug use. America suffering its overdose numbers while the U.N. cites an uptick in drug use worldwide.

And Colombia's top court is set to rule on decriminalizing abortion. The impact that decision could have in the region and beyond.

The global migration crises are playing out in new and devastating ways before our eyes every day, with international security priorities and human

rights obligations often colliding.

Tackling displacement is at the forefront of a critical summit that's happening right now between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. Those countries

leaders are together at the White House for the first time in five years. One U.S. official says President Joe Biden is hoping to address the root

causes of mass displacement like climate change and lack of jobs.

Earlier, Mr. Biden met individually with both, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The topics of focus are wide-ranging with the pandemic, trade, and national security also on the agenda. President Biden is hoping to find a broader

regional solution to migration, and not just focus on the southern border with Mexico. But that border is a visible flash point in the global

migration crisis.

CNN's Matt Rivers has reported extensively about the issue and why people from South America are coming north and he joins me now from Mexico City.

Matt, thanks for joining the program.

It sounds like the president and his counterparts are going to be speaking in pretty broad brush strokes when it comes to migration. How substantive

could we expect the outcome of this to be? Do you think it's going to change anything in terms of the border crisis?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it would depend on what your definition of substantive is, but I do think, Bianca, there is no doubt

about is Mexico has a lot of leverage when it comes to the United States of America. I think, traditionally, you're looking at a relationship between

these two countries where the United States has all the leverage over Mexico frankly speaking. I mean, you talk about the economic powerhouse

that is the United States, how much Mexico's economy relies on that relationship. It's really been the U.S. with all the leverage.

But now, you see kind of an interesting thing playing out with Mexico having to do so much immigration enforcement on the United States' behalf.

I mean, you have the National Guard here in Mexico, which has been assigned to really enforce immigration law here, and it's essentially acting as a

second border patrol for the United States. And Washington knows that. There's no question about it.

Also, Mexico City knows that, and that is the message that I think President Lopez Obrador from Mexico is going to be saying to the United

States. When it comes to cooperating on this issue, I think both sides realize, look, this is not an issue that only exists on the U.S./Mexico

border. You're talking about issues that go well beyond that. Why are people from Haiti, from Cuba, going all the way through South America,

coming up through Central, arriving at the U.S. border? Why are so many people from Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and El Salvador, from the first place

going to the United States?

Solving the migration crisis is not going to happen at the U.S. border. It's not going to happen in Washington, D.C. today. But what you will see

perhaps is this conversation center around, well, how much is Mexico willing to slow the flow of migrants to the U.S. border? Because it's a

political crisis for the Biden administration. It's an ongoing humanitarian crisis on the Southern border.

But there's only so much these two men can do. If you want to solve this problem in a substantive way, if you don't want people to come to the

United States seeking better lives, then you need to give people reasons to stay in the countries where they're coming from in the first place. That's

not what they can solve in Washington. But what will be fascinating to see is how much Mexico was willing cooperate with the Biden administration when

it comes to immigration enforcement and trying to slow the number of migrants making their way to the United States, stopping them here in

Mexico, or even down in Guatemala before they can make their way to the southern border.

NOBILO: Let's see what they do, especially as they have a lot of leverage now as you're saying.

Matt Rivers in Mexico City, thank you.


To a CNN exclusive now. Belarus's foreign minister is reputing claims the country orchestrated the crisis on its border with Poland. In the past few

hours, Belarusian authorities have cleared the makeshift camps where thousand of migrants were huddled in desperate condition for days. They

have been taken to a nearby warehouse being used as a processing center.

G-7 leaders are accusing Minsk of aggression and exploitation. But Belarus' foreign minister exclusively told CNN that is not true.


VLADIMIR MAKEI, BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Yes, we have heard a lot of accusations towards Belarus, saying that we have orchestrated these crisis,

we have invited people to our country, et cetera, et cetera. This is -- this is a false assessment of the situation.


NOBILO: And from one denial to the other, the Kremlin has been caused of being a key player in this crisis by exerting influence over Minsk. But a

Putin spokesman insist Moscow does not wage hybrid wars, calling claims of this sort, quote, hysterical.

Meanwhile, Russian president -- the Russian president himself says NATO bombers are out of line because they fly too close to the Russian border.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Strategic bombers fly at a distance of 20 kilometers from our state border. As you know, they

carry very serious weapons. Yes, we constantly express our concerns about this. We talk about red lines. But of course we understand our partners are

very peculiar, and so they treat our warnings and talk of red lines superficially.


NOBILO: Our next guest says the situation in Belarus has been a matter of regime survival for President Lukashenko.

Gustav Gressel is a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and he joins us now from Berlin.

Great to have you on the program, Gustav. Thanks for joining us.

I'd like to start by asking you about the relationship between Lukashenko and Putin. Because most Western analysts believe that nothing Lukashenko

does, specifically in this situation, is without Putin's blessing but there are others who say he's not exactly under Putin's thumb. What's your

assessment of their relationship?

GUSTAV GRESSEL, SENIOR POLICY FELLOW, EUROPEAN COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, the two definitely don't like each other, but they kind

of depend on each other. Lukashenko is relying on Russia as the soul source of support. Nobody else recognized him as a legitimate president after the

fourth election last year. And for Putin, sort of the danger Belarus might turn west, might turn to a democratic government and sort of depart from

the Russian orbit, kind of the way Ukraine did, makes him dependent on Lukashenko as a key authoritarian governor or president in Belarus that

would keep the country where it is. So despite the fact they don't like each other, they have to live with each other. Said that, coordination

between the two capitals has increased dramatically since August 2020 because of Russia's support of Lukashenko with his means to stay in power,

including a security cooperation between the domestic intelligence services of the two countries.

And hence, even if Putin doesn't sort of write the order, or explicitly says, please do this and that, of course, the intelligence service get hold

of what Lukashenko plans. And if Putin would have wanted to stop it or if Putin would have wanted this not to happen, he could of course, have waded

in, which he hasn't.

NOBILO: Now, speaking of what Putin may or may not want to do, what can you tell us about the unusual Russian military activity that we've seen,

specifically around east, northeast Ukraine, in the Crimea, and elsewhere? What does that tell you about what Putin might be mulling at the moment?

GRESSEL: Well, basically two parts here. Part of the Russian military activity at the center of Belarus, Putin wanted a proper military base in

Belarus for quite some time. He tried to convince Lukashenko of lying it, and he did not, because he remembered what happened to the Crimean Black

Sea port and what that meant for Ukraine. But now he's in a weak position, and you can play border crisis as kind of showing the Belarus that they

would depend of course on Russian military support if relations with the west sour. And that maneuvering and trying out and foregoing troops here.

The other line is, of course, Ukraine, where they deploy military forces close to the border and on Crimea to pressure Ukraine. They have been

ramping up the rhetoric that Ukraine has left Minsk or did things that Russia didn't like.


They have leaked cables surrounding the negotiation of the Minsk format with their demands, quasi openly threatening, you do what we say, or else

you can reckon with an escalation.

NOBILO: And I was just saying before we introduced you, obviously, Vladimir Putin is not happy with the presence of NATO bombers. But if we

look at Russia's actions over the last week, we obviously have the alleged hand in the migrant crisis, hybrid warfare on the Polish/Belarus border. We

then have to concentration of the military assets around Ukraine, and then of course there was the anti-satellite missile test as well, which caused a

lot of space debris.

I mean, taken together, it feels like a provocation.

GRESSEL: Yes, I mean, Russia is pushing sort of the lines or red lines he imposes itself over other countries. They see how military pressure is a

tool to make other countries behave the way you want or could it be a tool to make the west back off. The problem is for Putin is that creates a

demand for NATO to act. That creates the demand for NATO to support Ukraine in Ukraine and, of course, in neighboring countries.

So, the further Putin pushes this, the sort of sours the counter-reaction of its neighbors and how unhappy in the long run Russia is, but that

basically has been going on for the last 20, 30 years in Europe, and unfortunately in the Kremlin, there's little lesson taken out of all of

these maneuvers.

NOBILO: Gustav Gressel, thanks so much for joining us this evening. I really enjoyed your articles. I appreciate you on the program.

GRESSEL: Thank you, ma'am.

NOBILO: Now, as thousands of migrants remain in limbo in Belarus, others have taken the decision to leave altogether. More than 400 Iraqis have

landed back in the country after Baghdad sent a special flight to evacuate them from Belarus.

Jomana Karadsheh has more.


JOMANA KARADSHHE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, Iraqi officials say they're going to be organizing more of these repatriation flights, what they

described as these voluntary returns. But as you can imagine, people who are coming back are not come back because they want to, really. They have

no other choice. We have all seen these tragic events that were unfolding on the border in Belarus in recent days.

The Iraqi government, Iraqi officials say their citizens were exploited by traffickers and smugglers but also accuse the government of Belarus of

using these refugees and migrants in its crisis and standoff with the E.U. So many people, so many of these refugees and migrants are coming back with

absolutely nothing. People used up their life savings, thousands of dollars to try to make it to Europe via this new route, Belarus, that opened up

over the last few months.

And now, they're coming back with nothing. What is really surprising for so many of us that covered Iraq over the years, is many of them who left,

thousand of them, are Iraqi Kurds from Iraq's Kurdish region.

For years that was considered to be the more stable, prosperous, secure part of the country, so it was surprising to see so many Iraqi Kurds

leaving. When you ask people why this is happening, they will tell you it's mostly because of the economic situation that's deteriorate in the recent

months and years, it is the high unemployment, but also this real general feeling of utter hopelessness, where people feel they have no future in

this country, no future in this region, and the only way they can secure their children's future is by getting to Europe. That is why a lot of

people say that while the Iraqi government is dealing with this current crisis, what it really needs to be dealing with is the root cause of the

crisis, what it is driving people to leave their homeland -- Bianca.


NOBILO: Jomana Karadsheh, thank you.

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

Sudan's government is facing backlash after at least 15 people were killed and dozens wounded by the military during protests against last month's

coup. The U.N. is condemning the violence, calling the use of live ammunition shameful. Pro-democracy groups are pushing for the

demonstrations to continue.

NOBILO: Taiwan has open a de facto embassy in Lithuania, despite China's opposition. The office is Taiwan's first under its own name in Europe and

it's considered a major breakthrough for the self-governing island which only has diplomat ties with 15 countries or entities worldwide.

Two Australian provinces are in lockdown as coronavirus cases surge. Austria reports its highest daily number of new infections Thursday with

more than 15,000 new cases. This comes just days after the country became the first to try a lockdown just for its unvaccinated population.


The U.S. drug epidemic became much deadlier as Americans locked down during the pandemic, that's according to the Center Disease Control, which is

releasing some stark new data. There were a record 100,000 deaths from drug overdoses during the last 12 months ending in April. That's nearly 30

percent rise from the previous year, and near doubling over the past five years. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl, a painkiller 50 to 100 times more

potent than morphine accounted for the bulk of those deaths. Coronavirus also fuelled the crisis.

Earlier, CNN spoke to Nikki King who heads up a treatment program for at risk individuals and she says many recovering addicts relapsed during the



NIKKI KING, SENIOR LEADER, ZINNIA HEALTH: The truth of the matter is that we've shown that it takes everyone. It takes those communities working

together. It takes the faith communities working together. It takes the prescribers working together with the therapist and we build that

community, and when we build the community, we see the results, just like when we lost that community during a pandemic, we saw those results.


NOBILO: This comes after a U.N. report in July said there was unprecedented spike in drug use across the world during the COVID pandemic.

The tennis world is now demanding profession that Chinese star Peng Shuai is safe. Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic are just some of

the athletes sharing their concerns, even if that means putting their business relationships with China at risk. Peng hasn't been seen in public

since accusing a former top official of sexual assault on social media more than two weeks ago. Chinese state media released an email that it

attributes to her, claiming, quote, everything is fine.

But the head of the Women's Tennis Association says she doesn't believe that Peng wrote it. In Wednesday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs

refused to answer any questions about her.

Another concerning story out of China. The China journalist who documented Wuhan early last year is still behind bars for her reporting and she's now

close to death. Zhang Zhan is on a hunger strike. CNN's David Culver reports that her family is waiting to hear of Chinese officials who

released her for medical reasons. You can watch his report online at

Still ahead, Columbia's top court is set to rule on a landmark case, one that could affect hundred of thousands of women. We'll look at how abortion

laws are changing in Latin America and around the world, coming up.


NOBILO: Columbia may be on the cusp of decriminalizing abortion. The country's top court is discussing a landmark case today. If the ruling goes

as many activists hope, it would mean people who undergo an illegal abortion can no longer be prosecuted.


Currently, less than 1 percent of the estimated 400,000 abortions carried out each year in Columbia are carry out legally, however this would not

grant wide access to terminations which are currently allowed under specific circumstances. The vote comes after Mexico and Argentina

decriminalized abortion in recent months.

Today, Columbians took to the streets in Bogota, demonstrating in support of legalizing the procedure.

Stefano Pozzebon is there on what could be a historic day for the country.

Stefano, good to see you and thanks for joining the program.

Which way is this ruling likely to go, and what's contributed to getting Columbia to a place where it can contemplate decriminalizing abortion?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Bianca, I think that is anyone's guess, at least of the people that are here in front of the constitutional court in

Bogota. I don't know if you can see, but there are two competing rallies right now. One in favor of abortion and another in favor of upholding the


The court has been in session since 9:00 a.m. this morning. It's half past 4:00 here in Bogota, and they are still talking but haven't made up their

mind yet. But speaking with activists, doctors, and the people behind the petitions that have got to the constitutional court over the last few days,

the message that they have for us is that while this may be the end point of a 15-year campaign to decriminalize abortion in the Colombian penal

code, it's also the beginning of a new campaign to change attitudes.

As you said, there is still a lot of social shaming, taboos around the issue of interrupting a woman's pregnancy. So what these activists are

saying is yes, changing the penal code will be beneficiary and it's a very good first step. But the road is still long far ahead to fully have

abortion made available for million of women, not just in Colombia, but as you said, all across the continent.

This is an issue that's widely discussed from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, many countries in the region actually Bianca.

NOBILO: Yeah, and I'm sure all eyes will be on this ruling for that reason.

Stefano, obviously, abortion was decriminalized back in 2006 in cases of incest, rape, fetal abnormalities, et cetera, but even since then,

activists and campaigners said women are still routinely blocked in those circumstances, and you just mentioned the shaming that they face. So what

are the main obstacles to progress on this issue for activists? What's holding the country back in term of shaming women and women feeling like

they can't have abortions if they do want them and they're legal?

POZZEBON: Sure. What people are saying is that Columbia is a very conservative country. It's one of the most conservative countries in Latin

America, and that's why this ruling may be so significant. But it means also many people in the medical class do not want anything to have to do

with abortion, either for fear of retribution, for fear of participating in a crime under the current state of the law, or just because of their


I spoke with, for example, a woman who is a cancer patient, and she found out she was pregnant at the beginning of the summer on her sixth week of

pregnancy. It took her five weeks to finally find a clinic that would perform an abortion on her, even though she perfectly fell under the

exception granted by the current penal code in Colombia, because she would have had to stop her chemotherapy in order to continue and bring her

pregnancy to an end, and that would have put her health and safety surely in danger.

But still, five weeks, and plenty of interviews, discussions, and many, many closed doors, Bianca, before that abortion could take place.

NOBILO: Yeah, that is a very powerful story you tell as a demonstration of where Colombia stands on this issue, as all the scenes behind you, like you

say, protesters from both sides. Thank you so much for joining us.

Obviously, abortion laws vary from country to country. In just the last year, abortion rights supporters have made significant progress but they've

also run into considerable setbacks.

Take Chile. In September, the country took its first step toward easing abortion rules yet in Poland, the government enforced a near total abortion

ban in January.


And in the United States, several states have passed laws that will effectively ban abortion. This map lays it all out. It points to the vast

discrepancy between where you live and your access to the procedure. Millions live in countries which probability abortion all together, but

activists mean preventing them and accessing a abortion does not men they stop needing one, it only forces them to seek one out unsafely.

We'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: Miss Universe is not a place for politics. That's the message from the current holder of the title. Israel's reigning Miss Universe said the

competition should not be politicized. The pageant, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary says it aim women to advocate for human rights and

affect change in the world.

However, the pageant values are being put under the spotlight. The event this year is being held in Israel with many calling for a boycott of the

show to show support for the Palestinian people. South Africa's government has already withdrawn its support for Miss South Africa after the

contestant refused to pull out.

The pageant is no stranger to controversy. In May this year, contestants from Myanmar to Singapore to Uruguay all use the stage as a form of


Thanks to everybody for joining us tonight. I'm afraid to say that one of our biggest fan clubs were not watching. The Gritinens (ph), that's my

producer's family in Australia, are busy because Lulu, the youngest of the kids, is graduating from high school right now.

So congratulations to her and all of our other Aussie kids finishing up school this week. We will see you tomorrow.