May 2012 Current Events: World News
Here are the key events in world news for the month of May 2012.
President Obama and Karzai Sign Agreement (May 1): On the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, President Obama makes a surprise visit to Afghanistan. During his visit, Obama signs an agreement with President Karzai that promises the U.S. will provide Afghanistan development assistance for 10 years after troops withdraw in 2013. From Afghanistan, Obama gives a speech, addressing Americans directly, saying, "The goal that I set, to defeat Al Qaeda and deny it the chance to rebuild, is now within our reach. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan."
Blind Dissident Sparks Diplomatic Crisis (May 2): Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng leaves the U.S embassy to receive medical treatment at a hospital in Beijing for an injured foot. The Chinese government agrees to relocate him away from Shandong Province, his hometown, where Chen's family had been attacked. The government also promises that Chen will be allowed to pursue his law studies at a university. Chen's friends question the validity of the government's promises. At the hospital, Chen admits he left the U.S. embassy in part because the Chinese government officials threatened his wife's life if he remained there and, despite previous reports, he desires to leave to China. (May 4): Chen requests help from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is in China for meetings on economic and security issues. Chen revises his request, asking if he and his family can go to the U.S. temporarily instead of receiving permanent asylum. Clinton and the Obama administration work quickly to negotiate with Chinese officials to avoid any increase in tension between the two governments. During her visit, Clinton says that progress is being made "to help him have the future that he wants." (May 5): China agrees to allow Chen to apply to study at a university in the United States, a move which is quickly praised by Clinton. (May 19): Chen arrives in New York City after leaving Beijing with his wife and two children. He speaks at a press conference where he says he is grateful to the American Embassy. He also thanks Chinese officials for "dealing with the situation with restraint and calm." Chen will attend New York University.
François Hollande Becomes President of France (May 6): François Hollande defeats Nicolas Sarkozy to become President of France. With the victory, Hollande becomes the first Socialist president since François Mitterrand's term ended in 1995. Hollande's victory is seen as a sign that France has grown weary of Germany's dominance with the economic austerity policy in the euro zone.
Putin Becomes President of Russia for the Third Time (May 6): The day before Vladimir Putin's third inauguration as Russia's president, demonstrations turn violent with 20,000 antigovernment demonstrators battling police near the Kremlin. The fighting includes smoke bombs, bottles, and sticks. (May 7): While Putin officially takes office, the protests continue and police arrest 120 people. The violence is a dramatic shift because even though antigovernment protests have been going on for months, the demonstrations had been peaceful until now. Dressed in riot gear, police search cafes and restaurants for protesters. The demonstrators taken into police custody are sent to military draft offices.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Calls for Early Elections (May 6): During a speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls for early elections in Israel. In his speech, Netanyahu vows to "form the broadest government that is possible." The official reason for early elections is the upcoming expiration of the Tal Law, which exempts ultra-Orthodox Jews from Israeli Army service. However, some election analysts believe that Netanyahu wants to act swiftly while his Likud Party is polling strongly. (May 8): Two days after the call for early elections, Netanyahu forms a unity government with Shaul Mofaz, the newly elected chief of Kadima, the opposition party. The new coalition gives Netanyahu a very large legislative majority. It also ends the need for early elections. Mofaz is made deputy prime minister under the terms of the agreement. Some see the new coalition as a way for Netanyahu to gain even more political power. More than 1,000 people march in Tel Aviv to protest the alliance. Among the demonstrators is former Kadima chief, Tzipi Livni. The new coalition is one of the largest in Israel's history. Netanyahu promises that the coalition will rewrite the Tal Law, pass a budget, revise the electoral process and move forward on the peace process.
Attack in Syria Kills Dozens of Children (May 26): Thirty-two children under age ten are killed when the Syrian government attacks the village of Houla. The United Nations blames the deaths on government tanks and artillery, saying many of the victims were executed in their homes. President Assad, however, claims terrorists carried out the attack. Eleven nations, including the U.S., expel Syrian diplomats, and the UN Security Council unanimously criticizes the "outrageous use of force" against residents and the government's role in the attack. Russia, typically protective of Syria and reluctant to criticize the government, signs on to the UN statement.