Globe Trot: U.S. lifts Vietnam's embargo despite human rights abuses

by Mindy Belz
Posted 5/23/16, 03:35 pm

VIETNAM: President Barack Obama arrived in Hanoi to lift an embargo on weapons sales to the communist state and one-time U.S. foe. The move came ahead of Vietnam actually passing a law on belief and religion—and other reforms previously set by the U.S. and international community. 

“The decision to completely lift the ban without Vietnam’s unequivocal commitment to human rights improvements would send the wrong message to its leadership,” said Nguyen Dinh Thang, president of Boat People SOS, who testified in 2013 before Congress on continued government repression in Vietnam. 

Nguyen told WORLD today the Obama administration has submitted a long list of prisoners of conscience who should by law be released. To date only one, Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly, was freed, and only a month before his sentence had been served. 

“President Obama might have just given up one of the few remaining leverages that the United States has, in exchange for practically no reciprocity by Vietnam in human rights,” Nguyen said.

VENEZUELA is “about to explode,” report missionaries in a city west of Caracas who asked not to be named for security reasons. Wages are down and prices are skyrocketing:

“We are rationed electricity every day for three hours, we receive water in our district every other day. Gas is hard to find for cooking, and food even harder. In order to survive, you have to constantly be in touch with many people. Medicine is dangerously scarce.”

CHINA: Decapitated churches are changing the skyline along the East China Sea, as cross removal becomes a potent symbol of new government efforts to exert ever tighter control over religion.

Fresh crackdowns will hamper the outsized work of house churches like the Chengdu Early Rain Reformed Church profiled in a WORLD cover story this year.

AFGHANISTAN: Sirajuddin Haqqani of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network is the likely successor to head the Taliban after a U.S. airstrike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour this weekend. Seven years ago, the Obama administration relied on the Haqqani network to act as liaison between the so-called moderate elements of the Taliban and the Afghan government. Then it slapped a $5 million bounty on him—making him even more unlikely than his just-killed predecessor to negotiate a peace agreement.

SYRIA: The death toll in a string of ISIS bombings has climbed to more than 150, representing a serious breach of government control in Latakia governorate, a stronghold for the Assad government where fighting in the five-year-old civil war first began.

IRAQ: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced an offensive to retake Fallujah, the city about 80 miles west of Baghdad that ISIS first captured in early 2014.

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.

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