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Peru Runoff Election; Mexico Midterms; Second Nicaraguan Presidential Candidate Held by Police; Vietnam Sees COVID-19 Cases Soar after Early Success; Olympic Athletes to Remain in "Bubble"; India's COVID-19 Crisis; "Tomb Raiders" Capitalizing on Italy's COVID- 19 Crisis; Nigeria Twitter Ban; Lebanese Politics; Golfer Jon Rahm Tests Positive for COVID-19. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired June 6, 2021 - 00:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes, appreciate your company.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, Mexico's president promised hugs, not gunshots, when he came to power but on the eve of the country's midterm elections, the political landscape is covered in blood.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump back on the stump with this rallying cry for Republicans.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Together we are going to defund (sic) our freedoms.


HOLMES (voice-over): Plus, G7 nations reached a historic deal on global tax reform.


HOLMES: One of Mexico's deadliest and most contentious political seasons culminates in the coming hours with millions of voters casting ballots in midterm elections. Political observers say Sunday's vote is seen as a referendum of sorts on president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and whether his Morena party can clinch an absolute majority in the lower house of congress.

We are also watching a presidential runoff election in Peru, a politically unstable country that has been especially hard hit by the pandemic. The winner of Sunday's vote there will be the country's fifth president in five years.

Now Mexico's elections come against the backdrop of an extremely violent political season in that country. Since September, more than 90 politicians have been killed; at least 35 of them were candidates in Sunday's elections, including another gunned down Friday in the town where he was running for mayor.

CNN's Matt Rivers recently looked at one candidate who was shot to death last month as he campaigned for local office.



MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here is Abel Murrieta, a candidate for local office in the Mexican municipality of Cajeme. Crime was his number one issue.

MURRIETA: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERS (voice-over): But just one day after filming this ad, he was dead, shot and killed May 13th in broad daylight on a busy street while handing out campaign flyers.

State authorities say he was deliberately targeted but don't know by whom. Suspects or not, though, it's just further proof that, in Mexico, politics can be deadly. From September of last year through May 25th, at least 88 politicians or candidates have been killed, according to a Mexican consulting firm.

They're a part of the more than 565 politicians or candidates overall that have been targeted by some sort of crime, ranging from murder to assault to threats, the firm says. The government says it believes both numbers are actually far lower, though they don't say how they tallied their numbers. But still, it admits there's a problem.

"It's a difficult time for these campaigns," says Mexico's president. "We're going to keep protecting them."

Though Mexico has consistently failed to protect its candidates, political assassinations have been a problem for decades. But this year is particularly bad.

ANA MARIA SALAZAR, PUBLIC SECURITY EXPERT: I do think that this is going to be considered one of the most violent elections in Mexican history.

RIVERS (voice-over): Security experts like Ana Maria Salazar say politicians are killed for a number of reasons but it most often involves organized crime. In many cases, criminal groups want their preferred candidate in office.

So they might target others they don't like, especially candidates who make crime a centerpiece of their campaign.

SALAZAR: Candidates that talk the way Abel Murrieta speak clearly are going to run bigger risks.

RIVERS (voice-over): Murrieta was known for challenging criminal groups and drug cartels. As a private lawyer, he was also representing an outspoken family with dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship that lost nine of its members when they were murdered by suspected cartel members in Mexico in late 2019.

Adrian LeBaron tweeted shortly after Murrieta was killed, saying, in part, quote, "They have killed my defender.

"What do we call this?

"The rule of law?"

RIVERS: Do you believe he was killed because of his opposition to the cartels?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He was always exposing them. To me, he died a martyr.


RIVERS (voice-over): Authorities have not identified any suspects or motive in Murrieta's murder but the victims seem to know he was at risk, saying this a few days before he died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERS (voice-over): He went on to say, the streets belong to the people, not to criminals. And some of those people turned up here to his funeral. They gave him a standing ovation as his coffin was led out -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


HOLMES: Falko Ernst is senior Mexico analyst at the International Crisis Group. He joins me now from Germany.

Good to see you. When it comes to the broad organized crime situation in Mexico and how it impacts elections, I want to read something that you said.

"What surfaces during elections is structural impunity, corruption and collusion which gives fertile ground for armed groups to reproduce and flourish."

Expand on that for us in this context.

FALKO ERNST, SENIOR MEXICO ANALYST, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: The situation over the past two decades really, since the latest reiteration of the so-called war on drugs in Mexico was called out in late 2006, is that we've seen a greater leeway for these groups to conquer territory, to become dominant in politics, in the economy and over local societies, especially in high conflict setting, such a couple of states that really concentrate the bulk of murders in Mexico these days.

And that's pushing into a politics specifically has also meant that the state itself provides them with huge and deep resources, finances, impunity, being able to cooperate with security institutions, including the armed forces on the local scale, meaning then that they have to live off the state. They have the opportunity to live off the state.

But there really are no clear boundaries in many regions of Mexico nowadays between state and crime. And this means that really criminal power and state power, many times, go hand in hand and go together. It cannot be thought apart as such.

HOLMES: What does this all of this mean for democracy in Mexico?

If elections are far from being a threat to malign forces, are actually an opportunity for those forces, what does that say about democracy in the country?

ERNST: Well, unfortunately first of, all in many ways democracy as such in its real existing form as it was implemented in Mexico in the year 2000, when the first non-one party president came to power, democracy has many time performed (ph) better for private, including criminal interest, than the regular citizen as such.

So it is in a critical moment right now. And the system is working for a lot of these criminal interests unfortunately. So really we have to think about what democracy is nowadays in its current state in Mexico and how it can be turned around.

HOLMES: When you think about how ingrained organized crime and cartels and so on are in Mexican life or much of it in the Mexican system, the corruption and the collusion, in official places, is there hope for the political system in Mexico?

And then flowing on from that, the people?

ERNST: Well, it's definitely going to be an uphill battle basically. We can't really expect such a thing is a quick fix as it is, as you have already said, because it's so deeply ingrained. But there are definitely things that can be done.

I think one of the ways to go here would be to really focus efforts and resources on creating enclaves that do their jobs within the state, that can carry positive security policies to begin with basically.

Right now what you have in place is that through corruption, through collusion, any type of policy that sounds good on paper, that might sound good on paper, is going to get diluted, watered down in the implementation process because you have this type of interference right?

But there is things to be done and specifically creating radical transparency and accountability mechanisms where needed with the help of international partners and with partners in Mexican civil society and partners within the state body itself that might not be compromised.

HOLMES: Right, right. As we have been reporting, 500 threats or attacks on candidates, dozens of candidates actually killed, it makes me wonder how many people of honor are still willing to run for office, people who are determined to fight that fight? ERNST: It's one of the things we have observed for a report we just published on the situation in one of -- in ground zero, really, for the latest round of the war on drugs.


ERNST: It's that there, criminal power has grown so immensely on the local/regional scale at least, that those good people are, by definition, pushed out of the political process because either it becomes exceedingly dangerous or because you can't compete if you don't get the votes from criminal groups that they will organize for you if you collaborate with them and the finances that they provide.

So really we are talking about a thinned out population that is still willing or able to successfully compete in democratic elections right now in certain regions.

But there are still good people around that try and run it, who want to make a difference and they deserve our support. I think already by highlighting their cases and their struggles and how they could be supported internationally and domestically.

HOLMES: Some hope them. Falko Ernst, thanks so much for the analysis. It's fascinating, thank you.

ERNST: Thanks very much for having me on.


HOLMES: All right, Peru's presidential runoff is coming down to the wire on Sunday. Voters will choose between two candidates with dramatically different visions for Peru's future. It's a race that has polarized the electorate in a country that is still reeling from multiple crises. CNN's Rafael Romo explains.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: When a country is afraid of a power grab, it makes presidential candidates sign a pledge, promising that they will walk away from the highest office in the land at the end of their term.

That's what happened in Peru last month when religious leaders convinced both presidential candidates to make such a pledge and to do it in public.

The South American country is so polarized that the 2 candidates who made it to the second round are extreme opposites, whose combined vote in the first round didn't even reach 33 percent.

On the far left, Pedro Castillo is an elementary school teacher and union leader from a Marxist-Leninist party who became known for leading a strike in 2017. The 51-year old denies that he is a Communist. He has also been accused in the past of being a member of Shining Path, a terrorist group. But he has rejected those accusations as well. Hunger, poverty and inequality are the true forms of terrorism

afflicting people in Peru, Castillo recently said at a rally.

On the far right, Keiko Fujimori is vying for presidency for the third time after failed attempts in 2011 and 2016. The 46-year old is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, a president who ruled Peru between 1990 and 2000 and is serving a 25-year sentence for human rights violations.

The former congresswoman has been herself in jail three times, as part of an investigation for her alleged role in the Odebrecht bribe scandal in Peru. She denies all allegations of wrongdoing.

"I've been unjustly sent to prison three times, which separated me from my daughters for 16 months," she said.

Nearly 70 percent of Peruvian voters, who had chosen a different candidate in the first round, are now scratching their heads at the choices in front of them.

"This is like Sodom and Gomorrah for me," says this voter, who criticizes the candidates for running negative campaigns instead of focusing on what they can do to improve the country.

That's probably why Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa says voters will have to choose the lesser of two evils and supports Fujimori.

ROMO: There have been four presidents in Peru over the last five years; three of them occupied the presidency during an especially tumultuous 9-day period last September. And all of the last six presidents have been in trouble with the law, including one who took his life in 2019 as he was about to be arrested for accusations related to the Odebrecht corruption scandal.

ROMO (voice-over): This week a revised COVID-19 death toll put Peru at the top of the countries with the highest death rates per capital in the world. Yet campaigning didn't stop. Now many wonder if political instability will be a thing of the past or the new normal. Neither candidate is expected to have a majority in Congress -- Rafael Romo, CNN.


HOLMES: Police in Nicaragua have detained another opposition presidential candidate. Officers stopped Arturo Cruz on Saturday morning at the Managua airport. In a statement, officials accused him of, quote, "attacking Nicaraguan society," but did not provide specifics on that.

This comes this comes just days after police placed another opposition candidate under house arrest. Both candidates plan to challenge president Daniel Ortega, who is seeking a fourth term in November.

[00:15:00] HOLMES: Now to a landmark deal aimed at preventing multinational companies from avoiding taxes. G7 finance ministers gathering in London agreed Saturday to back a global minimum tax of at least 15 percent on those corporations. The group also agreeing that large companies should pay tax where they generate sales and not just where they have a physical presence.

The U.S. Treasury Secretary calls the deal significant.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The global minimum tax would end the race to the bottom in corporate taxation and ensure fairness for the middle class and working people in the U.S. and around the world.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tax evasion will be more difficult for big companies all over the world. And this is a good message for the people of our countries and especially the big tech giants, who have to paid their fair share. And this is also a good success.


HOLMES: Multinational tech companies, including Apple, Facebook and Google, all issued statements, saying that they supported the G7 tax overhaul agreement.

Now the battle for Israel's government expected to continue on Monday. A new coalition, trying to unseat longtime prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The speaker of the Knesset is set to announce the coalition to lawmakers, who have to have a vote of confidence within seven days.

So by June 14th, Mr. Netanyahu might be out but there is still a lot of time for horse trading and arm twisting.

Meanwhile, Israel's domestic security service issued a warning of possible politically charged violence, saying they have seen a rise of extreme and insightful discourse on social networks recently.

Still in the region, Al Jazeera slamming Israeli police for arresting two of its journalists on Saturday and not doing it politely. Have a look.


HOLMES (voice-over): The Al Jazeera correspondent and camera operator were reporting on demonstrations in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. They say the journalists refused to identify themselves, although the video shows the correspondent, clearly, holding a microphone, wearing a vest with the word "press" on it and said she would get her card from the car.

They arrested her instead. She says she was beaten by police and interrogated for hours before being released.



HOLMES: There has been a troubling development in the U.K., as the country records more than 5,700 new COVID cases on Saturday. That puts the seven-day rolling average for new infections at its highest since the beginning of April.

This coming as concern grows over the spread and the variant first identified in India. And amid all of that, Downing Street, responding to British media reports, suggest the final phase of the road map out of lockdown might be delayed by 2 weeks.

The government spokesperson says, no decision on step 4 has yet been made.

And, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, calling on his fellow G7 leaders to vaccinate the world by the end of next year. He is also calling on those leaders to, quote, "never allow the devastation wreaked by coronavirus to happen again."

This coming ahead of the first G7 summit since the pandemic began. Members will arrive in Cornwall on Friday for three days of meetings, including how the group can lead the global recovery from COVID.

Japanese officials are saying they are prepared to send COVID vaccine doses to Vietnam, who are seeing a disturbing rise in cases after being hailed for its containment measures at the start of the pandemic. CNN's Paula Hancocks with more.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ta Hien street in Hanoi is known locally as Beer Street. The throng of tourists, eating and drinking outside, have been absent for well over a year. Bars are now completely shut. And restaurants are take away only until at least June 14th.

Vietnam was once a rare beacon of hope in the midst of this pandemic. But more than half of their total coronavirus cases have been recorded in just the last month. International flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were briefly suspended. Ho Chi Minh City is imposing a de facto lockdown, saying people should only go out for food, medicine or cash withdrawal.

Mandatory testing is underway in high-risk areas, including a Christian mission, where a cluster was found. Industrial zones and teachers involved in an upcoming high school entrance exam with less than 1 percent of the population fully vaccinated.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): Authorities are scrambling to buy more doses. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I hope the government can buy

vaccines for everyone. With a low vaccination rate like this, it will probably be a long time before it is my turn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel quite worried and afraid that the disease will spread into communities. Therefore, we strictly follow the regulations. In times of pandemic like this, it's good to be alive.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Vietnam's health minister warned last weekend of a potential new variant, combining highly transmissible strains found in India and the U.K., calling it, quote, "very dangerous."

Experts say, it appears to be a mutation, rather than a new variant but more data is needed over the next few weeks to show if it is in fact actually more infectious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the moment, I don't see a reason to be overly concerned about just that one mutation. However, that is of interest and should be studied further and that story might change as more data comes in.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): What is of concern now is the so-called Indian variant being in a country with such low levels of vaccination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Regardless of the mutation, we should do our best to increase the number of people vaccinated in our community and then to prioritize the limited quantity of accusation to high risk groups.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The World Health Organization says that these next few weeks are critical for Vietnam to suppress the outbreak. The WHO is considering Vietnam 's proposal to become a COVID vaccine technology hub.

But for now, the country is still trying to find more supply for its own citizens, a tall order within a tight global supply -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


HOLMES: Quick break now, when we come back, Tokyo 2020 now just 47 days away and another leg of the Olympic torch relay in the books. We will head over to Tokyo for the latest.

Also, Donald Trump, returning to the stage, demanding China pay for its role in the COVID-19 pandemic. And we have more on that speech, an extraordinary one in many ways, when we come back.




HOLMES: Welcome back. The Olympic torch is back on the road after being taken off the

streets, because of the coronavirus pandemic. A two day relay, wrapped up on the west coast of Japan ahead of the upcoming games in Tokyo.

Previous stops were downgraded to, so, called torch kiss ceremonies on stage, to avoid spreading the virus. The pandemic far from over in Japan, which is exactly why the games have become widely unpopular there. CNN's Blake Essig, live from Tokyo.

Bring us up to date. Also I want to ask you about how organizers plan to enforce a bubble, if you like, on the athletes. There will be thousands of them in the hotels and other accommodations, all around the city, with all the temptations it provides.

How will they do this?


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All those athletes will be sharing rooms as well. The Olympic Games are set to begin in 47 days. And the problem is, Olympic organizers still don't have a firm plan in place regarding COVID-19 countermeasures. They still don't have an outline as to how they make sure all these young athletes comply.

The 3rd and final version of the Tokyo 2020 playbook that outlines COVID-19 countermeasures, it is expected to be released later this month. Currently, for athletes at the Olympic Village, they will be tested daily and only allowed to move between the Olympic Village and their venue for competition and training.

If they don't comply, the playbook says it may, keyword is may, result in consequences that could impact access to venues and, in some cases, participation in the games. As I said, at this point, there is nothing firm put in place to ensure compliance.

Now Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto addressing the playbook on Friday, she claims that the counter measures put in place are extremely strict. But with 90,000 people from overseas expected to come to Japan and participate in the games, she says that the increase of infection cannot be completely prevented.

It is for that reason the concern surrounding the health and safety, that these games continue to remain deeply unpopular here in Japan. Just in the past week, it was announced that roughly 10,000 volunteers quit and that's because they didn't feel safe.

Japan's top coronavirus adviser said, it is not normal to host these games during a global pandemic. And a member of Japan's Olympic committee, former gold medalist Kaori Yamaguchi, wrote an op-ed, saying, the Olympic Games have lost their meaning.

All three of these examples really capture the mood of the majority of people here in Japan. Yamaguchi wrote that the power of sport is of little comfort to people worried about the medical situation and that both the Japanese government and Olympic organizers have failed to address or even discuss the health and safety concerns expressed by doctors' groups and the general public.

Now that is a problem. Olympic organizations and the Japanese government have tried hard to win public support for these games but until they address those health and safety concerns, I really don't see how that is possible.

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely, Blake Essig, good to see you, thanks for that, there in Tokyo for us.

Here in the United States, Donald Trump is returning to the stump. The former president was in North Carolina on Saturday, where he gave a speech at that state's Republican Party convention. It was his first public appearance in 3 months and you could say his public speaking skills were a little rusty. Just have a listen to this.


TRUMP: Together, we are going to defund (sic) our freedoms. We just -- take a look at what is happening. We have to defend our borders. We have to do all of these things. And the cancel culture, the defunding culture, the defending culture -- and they defend the wrong things -- we're not going to let it go any longer. We're going to stand up for our values. We have to stand up for our values and we're going to take back our country and we're going to take it back at a level that is very, very good.


HOLMES: But Trump did have no problem in making his point when he slammed Dr. Anthony Fauci and demanded that China pay for its role in the COVID-19 pandemic.


TRUMP: But Fauci has perhaps never been more wrong than when he denied the virus and where it came from. The time has come for America and the world to demand reparations and accountability from the Communist Party of China. We all should declare, within one unified voice that China must pay.


HOLMES: Now the former president didn't mention his own handling of the pandemic or how that may have been a factor in his loss to Joe Biden. But Trump did hint at a possible run in 2024 as he's done before, saying he is looking forward to that particular year.

We shall see.

Stick around. When we come back, hear from one CNN reporter as she talks about the personal assignment of covering the pandemic in hardhit India, her home country. We will be right back.




HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

COVID 19 infections and deaths remain high in hardhit India. Johns Hopkins University reporting more than 28.6 million cases, more than 344,000 deaths since the pandemic started. And now New Delhi is preparing to deal with a projected peak of 37,000 new infections a day, according to Reuters. Here's Delhi's chief minister.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are calculating that, if we reach this peak, how many beds and ICUs would be required and, out of them, how many should be for children, how much oxygen will be needed and the number of medicines that would be required.


HOLMES: I want to bring in CNN's Vedika Sud now in New Delhi.

Good to see you. Normally I would be asking you about the news of the day on COVID but I actually want to ask you about the piece you wrote on, about the pandemic, a deeply personal account in so many ways.

What made you want to write it?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you for having me on your show, Michael. I still don't know what made me write it. I tried twice in the month of May to pin down my emotions. I feel I truly did. But the third time around, I just couldn't leave my laptop. I just kept typing, the words came to me, the emotions came to me.

I just wanted to make sure that I document what I had seen, not only as a reporter but as an Indian. It has hit me hard as an Indian to see my countrymen and fellow people go through what they have.

Trust me, when I say the second wave is not over and we are staring at a third wave like you just pointed out. I wanted these emotions and what I have been through, the pain and suffering of others, perhaps a tribute to them as well.

Perhaps a way of saying thank you for talking to me, thank you for helping me document what you have been through because truly what happened in the months of April and May in 2021 in India should never be forgotten.

HOLMES: Absolutely and it is such a poignant piece, I urge people to read it. To cover COVID for CNN, you literally moved out of your own home while your parents were visiting. You said goodbye to your 5 year old daughter for 18 days so you could protect them in case you were exposed while doing your job. Is there a way to describe how difficult that was?

SUD: Well, not without getting emotional, Michael, and I'm really going to control myself here. It's been a while since we've seen all this happened. I think in a pre-pandemic situation, it's not a big deal to leave your daughter, even though she's 5 years old, for 18 or 20 days.

You have so many people working for the Defense Forces, the armed forces, who are away for so long, who are serving the nation and they only come back to see their families once in a while.

But I think it was the fear of being away from them, the constant fear, that they could be affected and I would be out reporting and maybe one of them would land up in hospital. That constant feeling was there, not only for me but everyone who was a member of my team. The talks were back home while you were out in the field reporting, documenting things.


SUD: It was also a very difficult moment to speak to family back home, tell them what I had seen. Like I mentioned in the article, my parents and my husband would follow what happened through CNN but they would never ask me any questions.

And I would never tell them what's happening on the ground. You don't even want to add to the burden or that tense atmosphere at home and outside at that point, Michael.

HOLMES: In that piece, the article on, by using your own situation and loss of friends of yours, you personalize and you give context to the broader picture for Indians, who've lost so much to COVID. Give us a sense of how the virus has impacted society there.

SUD: It continues to impact, Michael, and that is the fear. You've just spoken about Delhi probably facing 37,000 daily cases at some point during the third wave. We're not even out of a second wave, Michael, and the impact continues.

The Indian government has come up with figures, they said at least 577 children between April 1st and May 25th have lost both parents. We know more than 1,700 children have been orphaned, abandoned or lost a parent or both parents ever since the pandemic hit.

So the impact continues to be seen. I don't think we ever get to know how intense the second wave was or how it has impacted the country. Every day there is a new revelation. You know about the Delta variant, the variant that was found in India.

It's not only impacting us, it's impacting different countries as well as you have mentioned. So when I wrote about people who I met personally and I am still meeting, I met a girl recently rather through Skype because she's in another city. But I did interview her over the black fungus. Her father has been in hospital for weeks Michael. She has been

begging for those vials, those antifungal vials. Believe it or not, there was a time when we were running out of oxygen; right now we don't have enough of those antifungal vials for the country.

At times, patients need 80 vials to actually recover completely from black fungus. I spoke to her yesterday, she reached out again, saying, Vedika, I need your help again, can you get more vials for my father?

She is all of 23 or 24, if I remember correctly. She has just graduated herself. Now she's taking care of a family. Her mother's highly diabetic and it's all falling on her, the responsibility of saving her father.

And all we can do is ask ministers, ask the government for help at this point in time. So the impact continues in many ways, Michael, and it will for very long time. We're still bracing for a third wave to hit the country.

HOLMES: I did want to ask you this. At the height of the spread, we saw those political rallies go ahead. We saw massive religious festivals. As you said, oxygen shortages, a lack of facilities for the rural poor in particular.

Are Indians angry about what has happened and what this has exposed about the system there?

SUD: Michael, I can only speak about the people I have interviewed. Yes, most of them are extremely angry. They feel abandoned, they feel betrayed by the system.

As an Indian, I personally feel accountability needs to take place. Authorities should be held accountable but perhaps this is not the time because we are still reeling under the second wave and getting ready hopefully for a third.

But yes, people feel that more importance was given by authorities for the elections, to make sure they won those states; you add more states to your bag and, you know, you claim victory at that point in time. More importance was given to religious festivals that could've been curtailed or canceled completely and suspended.

So, yes, there is anger and there is a sense of accountability that people want on the ground. But like I said, we are still in an ICU kind of situation, because right now, even if we have cases that are coming down, when you compare it with different countries, is still extremely high, Michael.

And right now is the time to prepare for the third wave. I can't say this enough because if we are projecting figures like 37,000 per day in Delhi, very soon, which is higher than what the second wave witnessed in Delhi, we have a lot to do on our hands -- Michael.

SUD: Yes, it is been a hard time for everyone in India. It was a courageous piece that you wrote and you bared your soul and I thank you for it, Vedika, and I urge people to read it. I tweeted it out earlier so you can go to my Twitter @HolmesCNN and find a link there to Vedika's piece.

Thank you, Vedika, fantastic.

Now in Italy, the pandemic has given thieves new opportunities to raid major historic sites, churches and museums. Officials say, last year alone, at least $20 million worth of artifacts were trafficked.


HOLMES: Barbie Nadeau reports.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rome, the eternal city. Its ancient structures still standing, kissed by the warm summer sun. After thousands of years, there's still so much to uncover, treasures underfoot lay buried all across Italy.

The professional unearthing of ancient artifacts -- or tomb raiding, as it is called here -- is as old as Rome itself, passed down from generation to generation. This open air museum is a temptation for those who believe in profit over patrimony.

While visiting Rome and Emperor Nero's beachfront imperial villa, situated just south of Rome, CNN stumbled across this man. He had reached the perimeter fence and was apparently digging for treasure in broad daylight.

The police were called and the man was reprimanded and moved on right in front of us. Police said he claimed he was looking for plastic.

This ancient villa, like many other sites, has not being fully excavated. Its treasures still lie buried underground, ripe for plunder. Stolen artifacts end up all over the world, from major museums to private collections.

Reality star Kim Kardashian West was recently named in court filings over a Roman statue that was confiscated in 2016 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. A spokesperson for Kardashian West said she, quote, "never purchased this piece" and efforts are underway to return it to Rome.

The global market in art and antiquities was worth $50 billion in 2020. According to authorities, there were at least US$20 million worth of Italian artifacts trafficked last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People -- people want to participate in history, people want to own history. And obviously, you want to do it legitimately. You want to go through the proper authorities, the right auction houses, that can say, I guarantee that what you are purchasing has the provenance.

NADEAU (voice-over): Darius Aria is a trained archaeologist whose own digs have been pilfered. He says it's not just the tombaroli who are the criminals; it goes all the way up the food chain to the buyer. Italy's Carabinieri cultural police force is credited with bringing

back Italy's stolen treasures. In 2020, the Italian culture police were able to bring back 500,000 stolen items. That's in just one year alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is a double damage when tombaroli take away the objects from an accomplice or a (INAUDIBLE) in this country. The first is the economic damage, the artistic and historical value.

The second is what we call it de-contextualization of a site, where they rob the archaeologists of present-day historical effects (ph).

NADEAU (voice-over): In this vault in central Rome, stolen art brought back from all over the world is cataloged, cleaned, and prepared for a new home. Stefano Alessandrini (ph) says he's on bringing back thousands of artifacts.

NADEAU: Half a million?

STEFANO ALESSANDRINI (PH), FORENSIC ARCHEOLOGIST: It's incredible (INAUDIBLE) but many, I think, are from libraries, archives and they are little things but also the little things are very important for our history, so...

NADEAU (voice-over): It's just too difficult to police and excavate all these treasures and there's no lack of buyers. The pandemic saw an uptick of sales online. Italy fighting to preserve its cultural heritage one treasure at a time.


HOLMES: And that was Barbie Nadeau there, reporting for us.

Now banning Twitter was not enough for Nigeria's government. The threats it's now making to Twitter users coming up.

Also, from protest to political party, one group of young activists taking on Lebanon's establishment. The grassroots effort to pull the country out of crisis -- coming up.





HOLMES: Welcome back.

Sending a tweet can now, potentially, land people in jail in Nigeria. That is according to a new directive from its justice minister. It says that anyone who violates the nation's ban on the use of Twitter can be arrested and prosecuted. The social media site was indefinitely suspended on Friday, two days

after it deleted a post by president Muhammadu Buhari that was widely seen as offensive. A backlash, quick to follow.


ORDUEN APEL (PH), ACTOR: We're not in a military regime where you can just (INAUDIBLE) decrease on them. You just come up also with -- and not (INAUDIBLE). You know, it's totally wrong. This is a democracy. (INAUDIBLE) I think I expect the press then to be very civil (INAUDIBLE) the affairs (ph) of this country. It is totally out of place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Well, I felt really disappointing and quite sad because due to so many ongoing policies, that (INAUDIBLE) a bad one (INAUDIBLE) and as I've said (ph), I was disappointed about the action on the government, regarding Twitter.


HOLMES (voice-over): Here is the irony: the ban was announced, yes, on Twitter. In response to criticism, Mr. Buhari's government has said that Nigeria's law does not guarantee absolute freedoms. Now it is now hard to access Twitter's site in Nigeria but some people get around it all by using encrypted internet connections and things like virtual private networks, VPNs.

So some people are staying on Twitter.

A 3-day period of national mourning in effect in Burkina Faso, after a deadly attack on a village. The government says more than 130 people were killed when militants stormed the village near the border with Niger on Friday night. There are no claims of responsibility.

But the African Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, has seen a surge in attacks by militants linked to Al Qaeda and ISIS.

In Yemen, 14 people are dead after a missile reportedly struck drivers, waiting in line at a gas station. A state news agency said that this happened in Marib, the Saudi-backed government's last northern stronghold.

The reports says a missile hit the station on Saturday, setting off a fire as well. Government officials blaming Houthi forces but no response from them just yet. Yemen's Saudi-backed government has been fighting the Houthis, who are supported by Iran since 2014.

There is a growing grassroots efforts to rescue Lebanon from the abyss. The country's ruling elite has been gridlocked, unable to form a government and unable to stop one of the most severe economic crises in decades.

But there are new efforts to challenge the corruption and the politics as usual. CNN Salma Abdelaziz spent time with one aspiring political party, looking to make a difference.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This group of activists once scrawled their anger on the barricades around this ministry. Now they want to challenge the government at the ballot box.

HUSSIEN EL ACHI, SECRETARY GENERAL, MINTESHREEN: In 2015 we were here. We were still kids. Most of us were kids. And today we're facing the same wall. And we're presenting our papers to become a political party.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): They call their political party Minteshreen, which means "to spread out" in Arabic. It was born out of a popular uprising in the fall of 2019. The pandemic and lack of progress brought an end to the mass demonstrations but rage against the ruling elite, widely seen as corrupt, festers.

Lebanon is crumbling under one of the most severe economic crises in the world.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): There is momentum here to challenge the establishment. All these small political groups are popping up.


ABDELAZIZ: Some fizzle and fade away. Others hold on and try to gain legitimacy. They're led by young people who have little experience and little resources. But activists say that how changed begin from the grassroots up.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): That's why Minteshreen says they started canvassing outside Beirut, the center of power. We follow them on a day trip to the tiny village of Batha in the north of the country. The proud mayor, a rare independent politician, welcomed the outsiders.

They are out of place here liberal youth from the capital. But the mayor says they have something in common.

EPHRAM ELIAS SUQAIEM, BAT-HA, LEBANON MAYOR: Regardless of if these political rulers can accomplish anything, we need the youth. We need fresh faces. He told me, every Lebanese citizen must be a part of the revolution.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Elections scheduled for May 2022 will be the first test for Minteshreen and groups like it. And there is huge mobilization potential. Turnout was an estimated 50 percent during the last election.

EL ACHI: The first one is of course, working towards the parliamentary election, letting the people of these villages know that there are new youth-led progressive parties that they can trust for the future.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): But this is like a David and Goliath style battle, what chance do you really stand against the ruling elite?

EL ACHI: You have militias everywhere you have armed factions, you have sectarian political parties. But this David has, you know, has started, you know --

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): But short of myths and miracles, only time can bring down the giants that have ruled these valleys for generations -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, Beirut.


HOLMES: Now the U.N. reports that 81 Rohingya refugees are getting aid in Indonesia, after being adrift at sea for more than 110 days. They left Bangladesh in a boat with mostly women and children back in early February. But the engine quickly broke down.

Many of the people suffering from severe dehydration and nine people have died by the time the boat was found. Although, Indonesia is helping the refugees for now, it is not clear if the country will grant them asylum.

Both Bangladesh and India have already reportedly refused to accept the group.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, one of golf's biggest stars tests positive for COVID-19. The emotional moment he was told he couldn't continue, despite being the tournament leader. We'll be right back.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the Belmont Stakes, Rock Your World did not come out all that --

HOLMES: Essential Quality winning the 153rd Belmont Stakes on Saturday, the early betting favorite, finishing just ahead of Hot Rod Charlie, to claim the victory. Essential Quality, owned by Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

A limited crowd of 11,000 people was allowed to attend the race. Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, wasn't allowed to run because of that failed drug test.


HOLMES: And at golf's Memorial Tournament in Ohio, an emotional moment as the tournament leader is forced to withdraw because of a positive COVID-19 test.






HOLMES (voice-over): That was the moment, right there. Jon Rahm, finding out the heart breaking news and he said not again, because he had one positive test and they had a follow-up that was positive as well.

The Spaniard had a 6 stroke lead after the 3rd round. Pretty much, a shoo-in. It would be hard to beat him. He will be eligible to return, right before the U.S. Open begins. That's tough luck for Jon Rahm.


HOLMES: COVID, no longer an excuse to put off getting married, at least not in Hungary. That country, lifting restrictions as more people get vaccinated. That means that couples who had postponed large weddings can, finally, say I do.



HOLMES (voice-over): A walk down the aisle, in front of family and friends, including a champagne toast and kisses of congratulation. More than a week ago, large weddings in Hungary were not allowed. Too many ways, COVID could be transmitted.

But as the country recently surpassed 5 million people vaccinated, more than half the population, it eased up on some of its restrictions. Couples can now invite up to 200 people to share their special day.

So wedding bells are ringing, once again, for this couple, Eniko and Marton, who met in 2016, she worked in a clinic. He was a paramedic. They have had to cancel their wedding twice because of the pandemic.

MARTON ASZALOS, PARAMEDIC (through translator): We had to coordinate with everyone yet again. We had to replan, rethink, find a new place. Now we have the third venue we are making a contract with. It was difficult but we solved it.

HOLMES (voice-over): The coronavirus, causing so much loss in the world and the delay of life events, one wedding planner says that 70 percent of the weddings he booked last year were postponed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These couples have been planning their wedding since 2019. So in the past 1.5 years, they've been sitting on an emotional rollercoaster.

HOLMES (voice-over): Eniko and Marton got married in a civil ceremony but are now practicing their walks (ph) in their full wedding finery for the wedding of their dreams, which is back on, later this summer, in front of more than 100 guests.

ENIKO TOKACS-MATHE, CLINIC WORKER (through translator): Before, I was thinking that my main worries would be whether we managed to lift in the dance, whether my makeup and hair would be good. But now I hope all the guests and relatives will be healthy and that we can celebrate together.

HOLMES (voice-over): A photo shoot on the Danube captures their excitement, as they get ready to say that long overdue "I do," this time, surrounded by the people they love.


HOLMES: No excuses now, fellows, in Hungary.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, spending part of your day with me, I'm Michael Holmes. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA," the Africa-Asia profit point, starts after this break.