December 2017 — CANVAS

CANVAS Annual Review: December 29, 2017

Photo: “Demonstrators clash with the Bolivarian National Police during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, April 10, 2017.” (AP, via VOA.com) Venezuela Tensions from 2016 continued and on 30 March 2017, the Venezuelan Supreme Court decided to take over legislative powers from the National Assembly (NA). This decision triggered widespread protests and the court quickly reversed its decision on April 1st. Nevertheless, protests continued almost daily for over three months. Protests regularly included violence and led to clashes between young protesters and the National Guard, causing the death of about 120 people this year. Critics did not only come from the opposition blaming the government for increasing autocratic tactics, but also from within the chavista ranks, formerly loyal to Maduro. Amidst growing pressure, President Maduro announced the decision to call for a new constitution “saying it was the ‘only road to restore peace’ in the country“, and the establishment of a Constituent Assembly (CA) to draft the new constitution. The opposition which largely criticized the President’s intentions then organized a symbolic and unofficial referendum against the plan. While it coincided with a trial-run for the official July 30-vote for the new CA, the opposition’s unofficial referendum produced high turnouts, showed large rejection of the government’s plan and raised hopes for further pressuring the government. However, the CA was eventually created in a controversial vote, criticized for being illegitimate and boycotted by the opposition. Large numbers of security forces had appeared to overlook the election sites, but also at protests – peaceful and violent – which were repressed violently with no tolerance for the pro-democracy demonstrators. The new pro-government assembly then...

Tension is Rising in Honduras, as Election Standoff Continues

Picture: Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla march in protest for what they call electoral fraud in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Dec. 3, 2017 – Credit: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd Mainly outside the scope of the mainstream media, tension has been rising in Honduras, over the 26th of November election results. Most recently, the United States of America have recognized the re-election of Honduran President Hernández, despite massive allegations of fraud. What do you need to know about the developments in the central-American country? November 2017 Elections Juan Orlando Hernandez, who became the country’s President in 2012, has not been famous for his stunning human rights record. Several journalists and human rights activists have been killed over the last couple of years, almost always with impunity. Where the Honduran Constitution strictly allows Presidential candidates to only one term in office, those rules were declared “inapplicable” to Hernandez by the Supreme Court in 2015, paving the way for his reelection bid for the 2017 race. Despite the ruling National Party’s abuse of public resources, the electoral campaign offered Honduran citizens several alternatives for President. The opposition, however, was heavily divided between the center-right Liberal Party and the center-left Opposition Alliance. It was therefore a huge surprise when, with nearly 60% of the votes counted, Salvador Nasralla led by five percentage points. One of the magistrates on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, called his win “irreversible,” and Liberal candidate Luis Zelaya publicly recognized Nasralla with his victory. Then, the ruling party’s authoritarian forces started working, and after a 24-hour radio silence, the electoral council announced Hernandez as the winner. This dubious shift triggered accusations...

Weekly Report, 22 December 2017

As a sign of solidarity and support, residents of eastern Ghouta, but also politicians and activists elsewhere have posted pictures of themselves covering one eye, in tribute to a baby who lost an eye and had his skull crushed during government attacks on his besieged hometown. Credit: AFP/Getty Images Want to sign up and receive our Weekly Report in your mailbox? CLICK HERE Venezuela On Wednesday, Venezuela’s Constituant Assembly ruled that parties who boycotted this month’s local elections had lost legitimacy. By doing so, the pro-government body potentially eliminated the main opposition groups from the 2018 presidential race, as main opposition parties Justice First, Democratic Action and Popular Will did not run candidates in this month’s mayoral polls in protest against what they said was a „biased election system designed to perpetuate leftist President Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship,” according to Reuters. By doing so, the Assembly ruled, the parties have lost their legal status and should re-apply to the National Election Board. As Venezuela sees more and more of the worlds nations turning against it, the Maduro-regime is looking towards other nations to support their regime. On Thursday, Venezuela’s foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza stated: “Thank God humanity can count on the People’s Republic of China to guarantee peace or at least less conflict,” according to South China Morning Post. The statement came after Arreaza lashed out at Donald Trump, US and EU sanctions, and American interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs at the Venezuelan embassy in Beijing during a three-day official visit. The foreign minister blamed the US for his country’s spiralling debt crisis on Thursday, saying Washington’s “permanent attack” had left the economy crippled. In...

Inauguration Day Protesters’ Trial Could Set Dangerous Precedent For Government’s Handling of Civil Disobedience

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images (Via The Intercept) On 20 January 2017, the United States saw mass protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump as the country’s next President. Where most protest-efforts, better known as J20, were focused on disrupting the official event in a nonviolent way, over 200 people were arrested in Washington that day. Activists clashed with the police close to the White House, “in an outburst of violence rare for an inauguration,” according to Reuters. Black block anarchists smashed windows, threw bottles and rocks at the police, and set cars on fire. Police encircled a large group of protesters and thereafter arrested them. Now, almost a year later, 194 of those who were arrested face their trials in small groups, with charges including felony property destruction, misdemeanor rioting, and misdemeanor conspiracy to riot. Salient feature in their process is that the public prosecutors never made the argument that the defendants actually broke the windows or otherwise destroyed property. To make its case against nearly 200 defendants, the prosecution is using the Pinkerton liability rule. This rule attributes every crime committed during what is judged to be a “conspiracy” to all those involved. In this particular case, by marching with those who committed violence, wearing the same style of clothes, and chanting the same slogans, the suspects “provide[d] cover for the ‘sea of black’ and those [who were actually] committing destruction,” argued assistant US Attorney Rizwan Qureshi. A conviction would mean that all defendants on trial for the protests can be sentenced for all crimes committed during the action by mere virtue of their proximity to the crimes committed. As...

Music as a Tool in Protest and Nonviolence? – Yes!

Photo: “Martello (L) also played with the crowd as he brought his grand piano to what was the center of a battlefield a day earlier.” (Hürriyet DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL) Published on 19/12/2017 Last Wednesday, The Hill featured an article by Judy Kurtz, addressing the topic of protest songs. Making reference to different artists in the past and presence, Kurtz examines the current role of protest-music in what she calls a “noisy political climate”. Different voices made various claims to why, but mostly agreed that protest songs are largely missing in the US today. Not saying they are totally absent, there at least seems to be a lack of big names or wide reach. This is unlike in the 1960s and early 1970s, when songwriters and musicians “gave voice to a generation, as Vietnam sparked violence at home and Watergate toppled a president, by capturing the angst and pain of a tumultuous political climate.” What is different now? The arguments range from claims of a lesser urgency of what is happening, through a scattered pop culture, to a different media landscape today in comparison to before. Music analyst Bob Lefsetz further claimed that, besides frequently voicing criticism, artists seem reluctant and afraid to be ‘too’ political in their songs, fearing to alienate fans. In this context, Lefsetz makes reference to the country music band Dixie Chicks. Their music was widely stopped from airing on country music stations, after a comment by its lead singer criticizing then-President Geogre W. Bush at a London concert which some fans perceived as “unpatriotic”. But maybe, it is also a matter of perspective. Pitchfork and Stacey...