The world President Joe Biden inherits looks vastly different from when he left the vice presidency four years ago — and not just among the leaders he will rub shoulders with at international summits. The world’s fast-shifting political currents are driven by powerful change-makers within administrations, dynamic rebels, shadowy leaders and more. With Myanmar thrown into crisis with a military coup last week, and Haiti President Jovenel Moïse clinging to power after staging more than 20 arrests as his term was supposed to end on Sunday, Biden’s early days are already seeing that upheaval. Consider today’s Daily Dose your diplomatic world tour.
In 2016, Mahuta became the first female member of Parliament in New Zealand to have a “moko kauae,” a Maori chin tattoo. Now, in another historic first, the 50-year-old has become the country’s first female Indigenous foreign minister. Mahuta is drawing on her heritage to inform environmental policy and present a global image of New Zealand as a progressive bastion willing to stand up to China, even though Beijing is its largest trading partner.
2. Sun Chunlan, China
The Lunar New Year will look a little different this year, largely due to the efforts of Sun, 70. The only woman in the Chinese Communist Party’s politburo, she’s in charge of the country’s COVID-19 response. The vice premier’s relative success has made her a key player to watch as she tries to rectify China’s reputation for poor handling of public health crises, by, among other measures, cracking down on Lunar New Year celebrations and encouraging provinces to learn from the mistakes made early in the pandemic.
3. Martín Guzmán, Argentina
While pursuing his Ph.D. at Brown University, Guzmán continued to play an intramural soccer game with a fractured foot. Now he’s navigating Argentina through an economy injured by COVID-19 and a debt crisis. The 38-year-old economy minister has led the country’s successful deal for debt restructuring, avoiding a crisis that seemed inevitable. Guzmán anticipates 5 percent growth in 2021 for Argentina after helping lead aggressive government interventions in the bond market under leftist president Alberto Fernández.
4. Judit Varga, Hungary
Before serving as Hungary’s justice minister, the immaculately polished Varga, 40, rose to prominence for defending conservative Christian values in Parliament. She is known as President Viktor Orbán’s “charm cannon” — often finding a way to communicate his agenda where he cannot in an international arena hostile to his authoritarian tendencies. Now Varga has managed to find common ground with the EU, traditionally the Hungarian regime’s biggest bugbear. This year, she plans to bring regulations and sanctions against social media giants for free speech abuses.
The 35-year-old powerhouse is the first woman and youngest person to become foreign minister in Mali. Since her appointment in 2018, Camara has worked in various government positions and is now a young global leader with the World Economic Forum. While her rise to prominence is significant for her age and gender, how she got noticed is also a wild tale: Camara openly challenged then-President Ibrahim Keita to backtrack from a 2017 decision to give himself more powers. But in a region where political criticism is usually unwelcome, she was hired by Keita, kickstarting her political career.
The jiujitsu-practicing Singh, 42 (above left), is the first nonwhite leader of a major national Canadian party. And the Sikh leader of the New Democratic Party won’t hesitate to pick a fight when it’s about something close to his heart. He was ejected from Parliament after accusing a fellow MP of racism (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed Singh during the row). Singh identifies with many of the key themes of U.S. progressives — on legalizing narcotics and raising minimum wages, for example — but he’s also willing to work with conservatives if it helps bring his party to power.
2. Yani Rosenthal, Honduras
In this Central American country, all eyes are on Rosenthal, as the convicted felon is reportedly considering a presidential run. After serving a three-year sentence for money laundering for a drug cartel, Rosenthal has quite a bit of catching up to do in the realm of national politics. Still, insiders see him as the best shot at uniting the opposition Liberal Party ahead of November’s elections. The 55-year-old two-time presidential candidate comes from a wealthy, politically connected family that itself was affiliated with Colombian cartels that use Honduras as a way station to transport drugs to the U.S.
3. Sylvana Simons, the Netherlands
Simons’ party, BIJ1 (“together” in Dutch), was founded in 2016 as an anti-racist party. Made up of activists turned politicians, BIJ1 hasn’t enjoyed much electoral success yet. Still, the Surinamese-born Simons, 50, who became famous as a TV presenter and endured racism before turning to politics, says the party is having a substantial cultural impact as traditions like blackface are increasingly condemned. She will be the face of BIJ1’s efforts in the March general elections — with a manifesto that seeks to upend the system with a new constitutional court and Ministry of Equality.
America was built on immigration, but is it still a good place for immigrants? Katty Kay and Carlos Watson discuss immigration, acceptance, and assimilation in the latest episode of When Katty Met Carlos with top chef Marcus Samuelsson and Asian hip-hop icon Sophia Chang.
Hear about their journeys and reasons for coming to the U.S., their experiences trying to fit into American society and what they feel about the country’s attitudes toward immigrants.
By now, you’ve probably heard the name Bobi Wine. You’ve probably also heard about the rapper turned politician’s attempt to unseat Uganda’s longtime leader, Yoweri Museveni — which ended last month when Wine was placed under house arrest for 11 days following Museveni’s reelection, widely believed to have been rigged. But you probably haven’t heard of the radical Nyanzi, 46, whose commitment to trolling Museveni has slowly unraveled the complicated knit of his fear-based politics. Nyanzi’s ridicule of Museveni and his policies is not only entertaining but also revolutionary, so much so that she’s had to flee to Kenya in recent days for fear of persecution.
Another individual using unconventional protest methods, the 36-year-old Nampa was arrested following a Harry Potter–themed protest in August. And in November, the so-called rubber duck revolution kicked off with pro-democracy, anti-monarchy protesters using inflatable rubber ducks to shield themselves from water cannons. The protests have continued into 2021, with leaders switching up their tactics in favor of guerilla protesting in smaller groups and waging publicity stunts against the embattled Thai monarchy. Nampa, a civil rights lawyer by training, will be doing more than floating along.
3. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Belarus
She did not achieve victory in running for president last year, but Tikhanovskaya’s campaign proved that the end is not far off for Belarus’ longtime dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. Tikhanovskaya, 38, stepped in after her husband was arrested for campaigning for president against Lukashenko. Her charm and disarming honesty catapulted her to fame, and Lukashenko’s clearly rigged win led to mass protests. Leading a government-in-exile from Lithuania, Tikhanovskaya continues to organize the opposition, while Lukashenko has vowed to consider reforms at this month’s “people’s assembly.”
The son of Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s strongman president, 30-year-old Maduro Guerra began his political career when his father appointed him head of the Corps of Special Inspectors of the Presidency. In addition to sharing a name, Maduro Guerra and his father are very close. The accomplished flutist has made tentative steps into the political arena but now holds an assembly seat, cementing him as a key player in the Maduro government going forward.
2. Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Indonesia
The son of President Joko Widodo just won the mayorship of Surakarta, the city where his father started his political career — sparking speculation that Widodo might be preparing a dynasty. When Jokowi, as the president is known, took office, he ran as an outsider to the political and military elite that had long transferred power within their own circles. Now, Gibran, 33, is embarking on his own political career as the ultimate insider.
3. Sumeyye Erdoğan, Turkey
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s youngest child has long been seen as a potential successor to his throne — if her husband, also a close aide to the Turkish leader, doesn’t get there first. Known as Erdoğan’s favorite child, the 35-year-old has a master’s degree from the London School of Economics. There are some signs she’s not her father: In 2019, as a member of the Supreme Electoral Council she was said to have voted against a rerun of the Istanbul mayor’s election, after Erdoğan’s choice lost the first round. Last year, Sumeyye’s conservative women’s organization took an opposing stance from Erdoğan’s party by sticking up for the Istanbul Convention on violence against women.
In the two years that Romo, 70, served as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s chief of staff, he attracted plenty of criticism from environmental groups. The former businessman resigned from his post in December, not entirely of his own volition due to controversy over potential conflicts of interest. Perhaps he’s going undercover: He continues to enjoy AMLO’s trust and is his key link with a private sector that’s skeptical of the president.
2. Mikhail Mishustin, Russia
Russian prime ministers tend to fade into the shadows of the all-encompassing Vladimir Putin. Mishustin, however, is anything but forgettable. The 54-year-old is quietly consolidating power while the world's attention remains focused on Putin. Mishustin has become the face of Russia’s coronavirus response and is earning kudos for his tech-savvy nature. While Putin isn’t in the market for a successor, Mishutin will be a key player for years to come.
3. Takeshi Niinami, Japan
The CEO of Suntory, one of the world’s largest alcohol firms — its holdings include Yamazaki, Jim Beam and more — is also a top economic adviser to Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga. The 62-year-old is in favor of higher wages and encouraging Japan to commit to free trade. He recently spoke with authority about the measures Japan needs to pull off to stage the delayed Tokyo Olympics: contain new cases of COVID-19, implement contact tracing, institute widespread vaccinations and stage other successful large events like baseball games. Can this whiskey-maker spike Japan’s economy?
4. Abubacarr Tambadou, Gambia
When the United Nations ordered Myanmar to stop the genocide of the Rohingya, a minority-Muslim ethnic group within its borders, it was because of the tenacity of Tambadou. The former justice minister of Gambia, Tambadou, 48, brought the charges of genocide against Myanmar’s leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, after he witnessed the conditions at a displacement camp in Bangladesh filled with refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar. Now, Tambadou, who wishes the international community had stepped in against Gambia’s two-decade dictator, is occupying a larger stage as registrar of International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals with the U.N., helping try war crimes cases involving Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.