Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

US-Led Coalition Launches New Round of Strikes In Yemen; Life- Threatening Flooding Expected In California; Chile Wildfires; World's Coolest Dictator Expected To Win; Messi Mania In Hong Kong. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired February 04, 2024 - 02:00   ET



NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Nick Watt live in Los Angeles.

Ahead on CNN Newsroom, more airstrikes in the Middle East. The US-led coalition hit multiple targets in Yemen, but the Houthi say they aren't backing down. Plus, President Biden is projected to win the South Carolina primary. And people here in California are getting ready. Severe weather is on the way and expected to impact millions.

The United States has carried out more strikes in the Middle East against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. The US said a short time ago that it struck anti-ship missile that was "prepared to launch." Earlier Saturday, American and British forces struck 36 targets in Yemen at 13 different locations.

FA-18 jets and a pair of US Destroyers hit what the US says were facilities involved in attacks on international shipping. British jets also took part in those attacks. A Houthi official says the group "will meet escalation with escalation." Iran says the airstrikes have "made it more difficult to reach a political solution."

The strikes in Yemen come one day after US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The US said those were retaliation for a drone attack that killed three US soldiers in Jordan earlier in the week. CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now from Abu Dhabi. Paula, what's the reaction been so far to these later strikes in Yemen?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Nick, for the strikes that happened overnight local time, they have been met from the Houthi side, unsurprisingly with a defiant note that these attacks will continue. And it's what we've seen in the past as well. This is the third time that the US and UK navies have joined together to carry out significant strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, this one in multiple locations. And yet we do see that the Iranian-backed group is still able to target commercial vessels and to continue to fire missiles into the Red Sea, causing chaos in that vital waterway when it comes to international trade.

Now, we did hear also from Iran. Now, this was before the overnight attacks on the Houthis happened. It was in reaction also to those significant attacks that the US carried out on Friday, overnight into Saturday against Iranian-backed groups, once again in retaliation for that deadly drone attack at the end of January. So they are two separate events. They are targeting two separate elements for very different reasons, but they are both targeting Iranian-funded, Iranian-backed groups.

And Iran said, when speaking to a UN special envoy for Yemen, said that what the US is doing in the region is making a possibility of political agreement more difficult, talking about the "aggressive nature of US policy in the Middle East." The US saying that they had flagged for some time that there would be retaliation for the death of those three US service members, also pointing out that this is just the start, this is not the end of it so we should expect more attacks in the future. Nick?

WATT: And, Paula, we've also heard from Russia about those US strikes in Iraq and Syria?

HANDCOCKS: That's right, yes. Russia is a key ally of Iran, so certainly they are going to publicly back Iran and these Iranian- backed groups when it comes to this situation. According to the foreign ministry spokesperson in Moscow, they have called for an urgent United Nations Security Council meeting discussing these US strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Now, according to a diplomatic source, that will actually be happening on Monday, there will be a UN Security Council meeting about these airstrikes.


But of course, the UN Security Council at this point is deeply divided. You have China and Russia one side, the US and its allies on the other side, and there is very unlikely to be any definitive move forward or resolution on this. But this just shows Russia as well using the UN to try and push forward their disagreement with the US when it comes to these strikes in Iraq and Syria. It's not the first time that the US has done this. They have carried out a number of strikes against Iranian-backed militias, as they say that they have had more than 160 missile, drone and rocket attacks against them and coalition forces since October. Nick?

WATT: Paula Hancocks in Abu Dhabi, thank you very much. Both the US and Iran say they don't want a war in the region, but they continue to point fingers at each other over the current heightened tensions. There are thousands of American troops on the ground across the Middle East, as well as many of those Iranian-backed militia groups.

President Biden blames Iran for the deaths of those three American soldiers killed in the drone attack in Jordan. He said Iran is "supplying the weapons to the people who did it." US officials have not determined what kind of drone was used in the attack, but some analysts believe it was a type of Shahed drone.

Now, joining us now is Fabian Hinz, Research Fellow for Defense and Military Analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Fabian, let's just start with how have these relatively low cost drones changed the landscape across the Middle East and indeed beyond?

FABIAN HINZ, RESEARCH FELLOW, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: So the way I always talk about it is to say, imagine we would be living in 1990 and there would be no drones of this kind. There would be no precision guided missiles as well. The only thing these groups could really do would be to fire artillery rockets with a range of a few dozen kilometers, or have guerrilla hits and run attacks. But these new technologies really enable them to strike targets hundreds of kilometers away.

If you look at the Houthis, for example, they have missiles and drones with ranges over 1000 kilometers. They are able to hit the adversary very far away. And of course, that changes the strategic picture quite a bit.

WATT: And in terms of how the US kind of fights back against that, I mean, we've seen the US throwing B-1 bombers and FA-18s at this. I mean, this sounds kind of, to use the old cliche, sort of asymmetric. I mean, what can the US do to try and counter this drone threat that we're seeing across this region and elsewhere?

HINZ: You know, it's quite challenging because when you look at these drones that are being used in Iraq, for example, they're quite complex systems. It's easy to move them around. It's easy to hide them. When you look at Yemen, of course, the US seems to have quite a few successes when it comes to targeting anti-ship missiles, for example. But the Houthis are still using them and they're still using drones, so it's difficult to counter them with offensive action.

The defensive systems that the Americans have employed seem to work well, but again, they don't work 100%. And one must not forget that all of these drones that are used by pro-Iranian groups are used as part of some sort of asymmetric strategy.

So even if you intercept them, they're still a psychological effect, there's still a political effect, and that's exactly what these groups want. So it's a very tricky challenge that Americans have to deal with.

WATT: And part of the targets for these American strikes, I mean were they -- can they try to basically just interrupt the supply chains from Iran? I mean, is that just one practical way of trying to counter this, just stop Iran being able to ship these drones to these groups?

HINZ: I mean, if you look at the geography of the area, it will be very difficult to stop the shipments themselves. You can always try to hit the storage areas in the hope of degrading that arsenal. You can never eliminate that arsenal entirely because these systems are just too easily dispersed. But you can try to degrade it. But that requires really, really good intelligence.

And the question is whether the US has that kind of intelligence, do they know where certain Iraqi groups hide their drones? Do they know the same about the Houthis? That's a real challenge here.

WATT: And the various people we speak to, people tend to disagree slightly on just how much control Tehran exerts over these various groups, the Houthis, Kataib Hezbollah. What's your take on just sort of how reliant these groups are on Iran for their weapons? And how much do they listen to Iran in terms of the missions that they themselves carry out?


HINZ: So this is the beauty, so to say, of drones and missiles. You can always look at them and identify by them. When you have debris that pops up somewhere, when you have a propaganda video released by these groups, you can identify the type. And because we know quite a lot about the uranium drone arsenal, for example, we can prove very easily that these drones are coming from Iran, that basically all the drones these Iraqi groups have used in the ongoing asymmetric campaign against the US have been coming from Iran. The same is true for the Houthi anti-ship missile technology and for the Houthi drones themselves of.

And, of course, how exactly the political connection, potential command and control between Iran these groups looks like? It's very controversial. And it's very hard to gather evidence about it because these are decisions that are made behind closed doors. But if you look at the systems themselves, there's no doubt that they're relying on Iran to a very, very high degree.

And then, of course, you can draw conclusions. If these attacks have been ongoing for a long time, then you need resupply at one point and the Iranians are continuing that supply. They could just say, OK, we might still support you financially, but we don't give you these specific systems for these kinds of attacks anymore.

But we're not seeing that. In the contrary, we're seeing Iran resupplying these groups in a current confrontation.

WATT: Fabian Hinz n Bahrain, thank you very much for your insights. We appreciate your time.

HINZ: Thanks, Nick.

WATT: US President Joe Biden there.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We cannot, we cannot lose this campaign for the good of the country. We're going to be able to say, God willing, that you help this generation help save democracy.


WATT: US President Joe Biden as he clinches a landslide victory in South Carolina, the first official Democratic primary. CNN is projecting he will defeat his two nearest challengers. They're not that near, Minnesota lawmaker Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson. He's going to beat them by more than 96% of the votes.

Mr. Biden will also pick up all of the state's 55 delegates ahead of the Democratic Party's nominating convention in August. CNN's Eva McKend has more from South Carolina.


EVA MCKEND, NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Though the results of this primary contest not surprising, this state still hugely consequential for President Biden. It was South Carolina and the black voters in this state that brought his campaign back to life in 2020. That is why he pushed so hard for this state to hold the first in the nation primary.

And when you speak to black voters across the state, the reviews are mixed. Some are really excited about Biden. They still give him a lot of credibility for being Barack Obama's vice president. Others have economic anxieties and feel as though routinely voting for Democrats, they have very little to show for that. And then you have pragmatic voters, people who are so concerned about former President Donald Trump returning to the White House, they think voting for Biden is a safe bet.

Listen, Democrats here, they say that they are excited about the black turnout, that they were able to get to rural parts of the state like never before via bus tours and other mechanisms. And they say the enthusiasm here from black voters will be mirrored across the country. Eva McKend, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.


WATT: As Eva was reporting, black voters will play a crucial role in President Biden's reelection bid this year. It's a group that saved his campaign in 2020 but is now wavering. Here's what the Biden campaign's communications director told CNN earlier about the black voter turnout in Saturday's South Carolina primary.


MICHAEL TYLER, BIDEN CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: Joe Biden once again coming out on top as a winner because of his commitments, keeping his promises to black voters who have been the backbone of the Democratic Party. Look at the results tonight in South Carolina. You have Joe Biden cruising to victory in an election where black voters were looking at the early vote data. They're making up 76% of the electorate. That's compared to about 56% in 2020. And so, black voters turned out in South Carolina because they understand that Joe Biden has kept his promises.


WATT: Still ahead, protesters in Israel turn up the heat on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a major rally near one of his residences as diplomats work to reach a deal on the hostages in Gaza. Plus, deadly wildfires are burning across Chile. Officials sounding the alarm, telling residents to flee to safety. Stay with us. [02:15:02]


WATT: More now on those US and UK strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. US officials say they hit 36 targets at 13 locations in the country. Those targets were, they say, facilities used in attacks on international shipping. The White House says US President Joe Biden approved the strikes earlier this week. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez has more on the strikes and that decision.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The US and its allies announcing another round of strikes against Houthis in Yemen in an attempt to try to degrade and diminish their capabilities as the Houthis continue to target US vessels and commercial vessels in the Red Sea in a move that the US and its allies say could rock the global economy. Now, this is the third round of strikes that this coalition has engaged in, and two senior administration officials tell me that President Biden gave the green light for these strikes to take place on Monday. But of course, it takes time and preparations to roll those strikes out.

Now, when they did happen, it happened when President Biden was at his campaign headquarters Saturday morning in a show of how the campaign trail and the ongoing situation in the Middle east are colliding this election year.


Now, the President did not weigh in on the strikes, but US officials have consistently said that they will take these measures in an attempt to deter the Houthis. Now, of course, this is separate from the retaliatory measures that were taken by the US on Friday. Those were in response to the deaths of three servicemembers in Jordan and targeted about 85 targets in Iraq and Syria.

But again, all of this happening as President Biden arrived here in Los Angeles for fundraising events and heads to Nevada tomorrow for another campaign rally, and a show of how the President is hitting the campaign trail while he's also grappling with the ongoing situation in the Middle East, and trying to avoid engaging in a wider regional war or escalating any conflict that is occurring there. Priscilla Alvarez traveling with the President, CNN.


WATT: Meanwhile, anti-government protesters in Israel are taking their message directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

They marched towards one of Netanyahu's residences on Saturday, calling for his removal. In Tel Aviv, protesters blocked a major highway and wrote the word help on the pavement. Their message, they want the Netanyahu government out and they want the hostages currently held in Gaza back home. But Hamas is digging in on its demands for any deal, which include ending Israel's military operations. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is headed to the region in the coming hours. It's his fifth trip to the Middle East since the October 7th Hamas attacks.

Let's go now to London, where Elliott Gotkine is keeping an eye on these developments. Elliot, let's start with these protests against Netanyahu. What's going on?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: So, look, there are essentially two protests going on there, Nick. There is the anti-government protest and there is the rally that's been happening for several weeks now in the renamed Hostage Square to demand that the government do everything in its power to bring the more than 100 hostages who were abducted in the Hamas-led massacre of October the 7th, who are still being held in captivity in the Gaza Strip.

But because of their physical proximity and also their ultimate objectives, they tend to kind of bleed into one another. So many of those people demanding the hostages be brought home and Israel do whatever it takes to get them home, feel that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government are one of the main stumbling blocks.

They will point to a number of things. There was a leak from a conversation between Netanyahu and representatives of the families who have loved ones in captivity in the Gaza Strip. They blamed that on the government. We had Netanyahu this week saying that Israel wouldn't be releasing thousands of terrorists, in his words, in order to facilitate a hostage exchange. And then you also had Itamar Ben-Gvir, Netanyahu's far right national security minister, saying that if a reckless deal, in his words, were done with Hamas, then that would mean the end of the government.

And what these protesters feel, some of them, is that Netanyahu doesn't want to do a deal that would ultimately lead to an end in the fighting or a long pause, because then that would mean that the inevitable inquiry into what happened on October the 7th on Netanyahu's watch would come about and that there would be fresh elections, which opinion polls show would see Netanyahu booted out office.

But if we just remind ourselves what framework is on the table, because there's no actual deal on the table just yet. It's basically a kind of six week pause in exchange for a number of hostages being released by Hamas for about a ratio of three to one, three times as many Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails would be released during that period.

And then the next phase would see Israeli soldiers being released for a higher ratio of Palestinian prisoners, perhaps with a longer ceasefire. And then ultimately the bodies that are being held by Hamas would be released. But both sides seem to still have maximalist positions. Hamas, as you say, is insisting that Israel not only stop fighting, but also withdraw from the Gaza Strip in order for a hostage deal to be done. And Netanyahu seems to be insisting that Israel won't be releasing large numbers of prisoners in order to get them home. So still hopes for a deal, but no sign of one just yet, Nick. WATT: I mean, Antony Blinken heading to the Middle East again. I mean, I don't really envy him his task. Can he make a difference?

GOTKINE: Look, this is his fifth time to the region. He's traveling to the region since the Hamas leg massacre of October the 7th. He's going to be taking in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West bank. And his agenda is pretty similar every single time, which is to try to help push along the likelihood of a hostage deal being done, to get more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and to try to get some kind of humanitarian pause in the fighting. So no doubt he will be trying to get the Egyptians, and the Qataris in particular, to lean on Hamas. He will also be trying to get Israel to perhaps moderate its position so that some kind of compromise can be done.


But as you say, it's a very tall order. And with the exception of perhaps getting more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, it's unclear that Antony Blinken's trip is going to be successful. Nick?

WATT: Elliott Gotkine in London, thanks very much. Still ahead, a state of emergency in Chile as residents desperately try to escape deadly wildfires. And millions in California now under threat of extreme weather, what communities can expect. That's just ahead.

ELISA RAFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A dangerous and life threatening flood event is unfolding in California. We now have a high risk of excessive flooding, that's very rare. We'll explain why. Talk about timing and totals. That's coming up next.



REX RICHARDSON, LONG BEACH MAYOR: We're expecting a storm that could bring between five and seven inches of rain here to Long Beach starting on Sunday, with heavy rain on Sunday lasting through Tuesday. That's more than we usually get in a year, so it's a lot of rain.


WATT: A lot of rain indeed. Nearly 40 million people are under flood watches in California. State officials say millions of sandbags are available and rescue equipment has been prepped. Power outages are also expected because of high winds. A number of places in Southern California have issued evacuation orders because of the flooding risk and also the risk of mudslides, landslides and debris flows.


All of this is because yet another atmospheric river event is unfolding right now. CNN meteorologist Elisa Rafa has the latest.

RAFA: Dangerous and life threatening, those are the words that the National Weather Service is using to describe the flood event that will unfold Sunday and Monday in California. We now have a Level 4 out of 4 high risk of excessive flooding for parts of Southern California. And that's incredibly rare, not just for California, but really for the US when you get that high risk.

Now that's issued fewer than 4% of the days that we have that flooding risk issued, but it's responsible for 80% of our flood damage across the US and nearly 40% of flood related deaths. So you really can't take these words lightly. Dangerous, life-threatening are really the words to describe what can unfold the next couple of days.

There's the flood watch that's in effect from Sacramento down to San Diego for widespread, three to six inches of rain for more than 40 million people. And you can see why there's that moisture plume that just sits over California over the next couple of days. That's part of the problem is it's going to sit and it's going to stall. And it's also fueled by really warm ocean temperatures. Those ocean temperatures are one to three degrees above average right now and that can really pump that sponge even more.

So, dangerous and life threatening flash flooding is really on the table. And we're talking about flooding at rivers and urban in the streets as well. Mud and debris flow could cause some landslides as well, especially over previous burn scars. Down trees and power lines can also be an issue, especially where you're saturated from all the rain that you've got the last couple of days. And then having insult to injury, this storm is not just about water, it's also about wind.

We have high wind warnings in effect where we can see gusts 65, 70, even 80 mph possible, could see some lighter gust in that lighter tan shade there, 45 miles per hour gusts. But something to really watch out for, especially as that ground is so saturated. You can see some of those colors pop up, some of those wind gusts over 40 to 50 mph.

Here's that storm kind of hitting land by Sunday morning. The heaviest rain goes north first, then slings into Southern California as we go into the afternoon and evening hours. LA kind of getting the brunt as the Grammys will be going on. We'll find some of that heavy rain continuing to pile in Monday and Tuesday as that fire hose just continues to sit there.

So again, all the yellow widespread, three to six inches of rain, some of the oranges and reds showing where we could see some of those locally higher amounts. And then don't forget where it's colder in the mountains, we're looking at several feet of snow.

WATT: Jan Null is an Adjunct Professor of Meteorology at San Jose State University, joining us now from Half Moon Bay, California.

Let's start with, I feel that sometimes, in Southern California, we get a lot of these dire warnings when the weather is going to be anything but 73 degrees and sunny, and then they sometimes don't quite pan out. Is this going to pan out as feared?

JAN NULL, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF METEOROLOGY, SAN JOSE STATE UNIVERSITY: Yes. It's going to be a really impactful storm. Whether every single location is going to see some of the sorts of flash flooding that's not going to happen, but a lot of locations are and it's sort of a two headed storm. The first portion is in Northern California now, the rain has already begun up here. It will continue through tomorrow with moderate to heavy amounts.

San Francisco could see around three inches of rain. The winds are going to be strongest along the north and central coast, gusting to 50-60 miles an hour. Some of the mountains around here could see gusts up to 80 miles an hour. Then everything shifts tomorrow into Southern California with heavy rain ongoing Sunday and Monday.

And as was just reported, we're looking at something on the order of three to four, to five inches of rain in the LA Basin and the other populated areas of Ventura, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Orange Counties. So you have lots of people being impacted and in areas that are made mostly of concrete, you're going to have flash flooding.

WATT: I mean, are these kind of events becoming more common? I mean, I was up your way, you know, I think for the first six or seven years I lived in California, there was barely any rain. And then there seems to be more of these storms coming in. I was up your way, I think March was it when that last Pineapple Express came in and caused a lot of damage up there. Are these kind of events becoming more common here?

NULL: Yes. Over time, you know, looking at the last year or two isn't a good metric, but I think if we go on out over the next ten years, we will see more of these events than we saw in the previous ten years.

WATT: And they're becoming more intense? I mean, I read one climate analyst saying that these kind of events are becoming 10% more intense. I don't quite know how you reach that number, but is there some truth in that?


NULL: Yes, possibly. With warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, so some of these storms that would produce three inches could now produce three and a quarter inches. But it's a real fuzzy sort of metric to try and get your hands around, we need to look at it over a longer period of time and average them out.

WATT: OK. And then in terms of just what we're looking at for the next few days, as I understand it, a key issue is going to be how fast this storm moves. I mean, if it sits then obviously there's more precipitation in an area. Is that something that we need to kind of keep an eye on, like how fast the storm moves?

NULL: Yes. That's really the key to these big flood events in California. If a system stalls over an area and that looks like what's going to happen in Southern California much more than in Northern California, we're going to see these large accumulations through all day tomorrow and Monday, and then probably tapering off somewhat on Tuesday. Tuesday is probably the winding down day.

I should also mention that in the Sierra, we're looking at measurements of snow in the three to five foot range in some of the higher areas, really shutting down that area as well. WATT: OK. And the other thing I just wanted to ask you about was this

storm isn't sort of coming in isolation, as it were. I mean, we've had quite a bit of rain in California in the past couple of weeks. We had a big storm Thursday the previous week. That makes it more dangerous because the ground's already saturated?

NULL: It's saturated. Tree roots are saturated. Power lines the soil around those mudslides. So that increases the danger from that. And so, yes, it's having these saturated soils. Now the good thing is we had a couple of days of dry weather after the storms on Thursday, and it looks like after Monday, Tuesday, we're going to dry out for a few more days. So that'll give things a chance for the rivers to come back down and things to normalize at least a little bit.

WATT: All right. Fingers crossed that it is not too terrible and there isn't any loss of life.

NULL: indeed.

WATT: Jan Null, thank you very much for your insights. Meantime, in Chile, a man is in custody in connection with one of the wildfires that have killed more than 50 people across that country. Police tell CNN Chile that the man is believed to have accidentally started one of the smaller fires while working on a welding project. More than a thousand homes have been damaged by wildfires elsewhere in the country.

You can see beachgoers stare in wonder at ominous skies blackened by the heavy smoke. The situation is particularly dire. Neil Valpareso (ph) watched and listen to this, the heart stopping video. It's a driver going through the flames while trying to keep his passengers calm.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Move along, move along. Close all the windows. Close all the windows. Now we're going, we're going, we're going. Stay calm. Stay calm, stay calm. Inside here nothing is going to happen to you.


WATT: Wow. Officials tell CNN the death toll in Chile is likely to rise. Nearly 400 residents are thought to be missing from just one coastal city. More than 90 fires are burning in different parts of the country, affecting more than 100,000 acres.

The world's coolest dictator, a nickname for the president of El Salvador. He has an iron fist reputation and is expected to win big at the ballot box this weekend. That's ahead.



WATT: A politician who dubbed himself the world's coolest dictator is expected to cruise to reelection in El Salvador on Sunday. Nayib Bukele won praise for his crackdown on the country's notorious gang violence, but critics say the price for that is the loss of many freedoms and abuse of human rights. Stefano Pozzebon reports.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN JOURNALIST: Jacqueline Zenaya (ph) breaks down in tears when she talks about her niece, Jocelyn, who was just 20 years old when she was murdered in the streets of San Salvador.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): It was hard to take her to the hospital like that. Just like I saw her when she was young, I said her goodbye.

POZZEBON: The pain still fresh seven years after she was killed. Back then, El Salvador was close to being a failed state. With the highest murder rate in the world, it was gangs like the infamous Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 who set the rules. To this day, Zenaya doesn't know who killed Jocelyn (ph).

She is sure, however, on who turned the tide on crime. Nayib Bukele became president in 2019 and quickly tied his name to a security crackdown that sent tens of thousands to jail and effectively taking the gangs off the street. A state of emergency was declared in 2022, granting the government exceptional powers to deploy the army and allowing the police to detain any citizen without charge for up to 15 days, besides curtailing civil rights such as due process.

The government claims El Salvador is finally safe, and Bukele is cruising to reelection this Sunday. But his critics, such as Human Rights Watch, accuse him of mass indiscriminate detentions and even torture.

At CNN, we spoke with a woman who was arrested on November 11, 2022. The police claimed that she was part of a gang. She denies the crime and says she never saw a judge. Six months later, she was found not guilty and was released. But she says that she was put through inhumane conditions inside the prison. We're hiding her identity for security reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Not a day went by that I didn't find a bug or a fly in my food. And we had to eat that food because there was nothing else.

POZZEBON: The government admits that thousands of innocent people may have been imprisoned by mistake, but doubles down on the crackdown and points to the deaths of policemen in the line of service as a reason to carry on. Neither Human Rights Watch nor other shameless NGOs will say anything about the lives of our heroes or their families, who are now hopeless without them, leaving the door wide open on the tight line between security and individual freedoms. Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.


[02:45:17] WATT: For the first time ever in Northern Ireland, a nationalist politician is the first minister. Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Fein was sworn in on Saturday, marking a seismic shift in Northern Ireland's history. Her party was once considered the political arm of the Irish Republican Army during the violent period known as the Troubles. Now she will share power with a unionist deputy first minister. The two pledge to work together and serve all of Northern Ireland, regardless of party affiliation, religion or background.

Across Europe, many farmers say they're fed up with regulations surrounding their livelihoods and are not satisfied by recent concessions by the EU or their country's governments. From Italy to Greece, they say they won't stop protesting until their demands are met. Lynda Kinkade has the story.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR: A slow moving tractor jam blocks a road to Rome, vehicles that should be back on farms clogging the open highways, in a loud, honking message to the Italian government and the EU. Farmers here, like the ones protesting across the continent, are fed up.

DOMENICO CHIERGE, FARMER (through translation): We are expecting answer from the government after this demonstration because it's a critical situation. We cannot be slaves inside our farms.

KINKADE: It's a sense of anger and frustration shared by many farmers across Europe who say they're going broke because of rising costs, environmental regulations and competition from cheap imports. For week's French farmers have held some of the biggest and loudest protests, obstructing major roads in Paris and key highways across the country.

But many French protesters are dismantling their blockades after the government made key concessions, to step up checks on food imports not meeting French and EU standards, and provide more financial support to farmers, enough for now for these protesters to go home.

JEAN FRANCOIS BANDET, FARMER (through translation): These are people who put their heart and soul into these demonstrations. They went up to Paris at 30 kilometers an hour, and came back down again for eight days. It's extraordinary. They're our heroes.

KINKADE: But it's been a lightning rod for other European farmers. In Greece, farmers already hit hard by recent flooding dumped spoiled produce on the streets to protest high energy bills and demand permanent changes to a diesel tax. Cheaper goods are also an issue, especially those from Ukraine. After the EU waived import duties and quotas on Ukrainian grain, sugar and meat following the Russian invasion, one German farmer says it could put her out of business.

LUISA HOCHSTEIN, FARMER: If things go on like this, small family farms like the ones we have here will cease to exist. If we no longer exist, then the products will be imported from abroad and then we won't know under what conditions they were produced. KINKADE: In Malta, farmers protested the EU's environmental targets among other issues, which they say makes them uncompetitive. Though there has been a small compromise for EU farmers on that front. The European Commission says it will delay a requirement for farmers to keep part of their land unused to improve biodiversity while still receiving support payments.

But farmers across the continent say they need more concessions from the EU and their own countries, something that could affect climate goals, foreign imports and even what food is on the table. Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


WATT: Still ahead, arguably the greatest football player of his generation is off the plane and onto the pitch in Hong Kong. We'll tell you about Inter Miami's first foreign tour and the resulting Messi mania.



WATT: Messi mania is sweeping Hong Kong. The football superstar is there with his team, Inter Miami, for a pre-season game. Team co-owner David Beckham is also expected to attend. Tickets for the match sold out in less than an hour. Kristie Lu Stout joins us live now from Hong Kong. Kristie, has it kicked off yet?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what, the match is going to kick off at the top of the hour but Messi fever is gripping Hong Kong. You got tens of thousands of fans here all clamoring for the opportunity to see their hero, the Argentine football superstar Lionel Messi, play in this pre-season friendly with his team Inter Miami against Hong Kong. This is Inter Miami's first ever international tour, and the co-owner of the team, David Beckham, is also here.

In fact, he's been signing some football jerseys inside Hong Kong Stadium, just adding even more star power to the proceedings. This is a sold out event, maximum capacity year. 40,000 seats all sold out within one hour of tickets going on sale online just over a week ago. And we got a chance to speak to the lucky fans to score tickets. Listen to this.


ALEX, INTER MIAMI FAN: I'm really excited. Actually I'm from Macau and I travel a lot, come here and hopefully can see him and sign me a jersey.

EDDIE, INTER MIAMI FAN: I'm an Argentina fan more than 20 years, so this is the first time I have this opportunity to see Messi and to fulfill my dreams. Because in 2022, Argentina won the World Cup champion, so this time is another time for me to celebrate this and to meet Messi, one of the happiest moments.


STOUT: And we also spoke to a Hong Kong footballer who was selected to be part of the squad, who will be sharing pitch with Lionel Messi. And he calls it a "dream encounter." Let's bring up the statement for you.

This according to Jordan Lamb saying, "I was so surprised to get into the final squad. I think it's a dream come true. Playing with the GOAT, Messi, is something that I never imagined in my life." Now, Hong Kong authorities are really hoping that this event will help revive tourism, revive what they call the mega economy, mega event economy, to bring some economic upside to the city. But when you talk to all the fans here, they don't care about that issue. They only care about seeing the goat, seeing the greatest of all time, their hero, Lionel Messi, here in Hong Kong. Back to you.

WATT: Kristie Lu Stout live there in Hong Kong. Thank you so much.

20 years ago today, Mark Zuckerberg, an undergraduate at Harvard University, launched a website that ended up changing all of our lives for better and perhaps worse. That was, of course, the Since then, Facebook has become a social media juggernaut, complete with likes, comments and shares. It also introduced a newsfeed that brought people closer together, which also has spread dangerous misinformation and harmful content.

This week, the billionaire Zuckerberg apologized to families for the harm Facebook has done to children. Facebook has more than 2 billion active daily users. And 20 years on, it doesn't look like it's going anywhere.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Nick Watt. Another hour of Newsroom is just ahead.