April 2018 — CANVAS

Weekly Report: April 27 2018

Photo: A woman wearing a mask depicting the grim reaper takes part in a protest against the lack of medicine and medical supplies in Venezuela’s hospitals in Caracas, Venezuela. Newsweek. Cambodia The upper house of Cambodia’s parliament met for the first time since the election in February, which had been highly controversial. Ruling party CPP won every seat that had been up for election after the Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition party, banning lawmakers from running, and stripping 5,000 opposition councillors of their voting rights. During the session, the King of Cambodia delivered an address in which he urged senators “to protect justice and human rights,” and also made the dubious claim that “liberal multiparty democracy is going smoothly” in the country. The head of opposition party Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), Sam Serey, was arrested in Thailand at an immigration center north of Bangkok. He has now flown to Denmark, thanks to the intervention of the Danish government and a human rights group. It remains unclear why the Thai government acquiesced to this move. Prime Minister Hun Sen urged union leaders on Sunday to avoid aligning themselves with the remnants of the CNRP and to tell union members to not organize political protests. Hun Sen has been reaching out to garment workers, who make up an 800,000-strong voting bloc, by promising higher wages and health care benefits. Union leaders suggest the prime minister is trying to prevent the workers from taking to the streets in protest, and instead cooperate with the government, perhaps remembering the 2013 and 2014 protests that ended when security forces fired on the crowds,...

Kidnapping and Murder of Ecuadorian Journalists Just One Facet of Declining Free Press

Photo: Colombian journalists gather in front of Ecuador’s embassy to protest against the murder of the media team, holding signs reading “We Are Missing Three” in Spanish. Reuters. On April 13, a team of three Ecuadorian journalists was confirmed dead on the border between Ecuador and Colombia. They were reporting on the activities of rebel narco groups, who generally don’t appreciate being scrutinized, and were kidnapped on March 26 by the Oliver Sinisterra Front. The International Committee of the Red Cross retrieved the bodies, responding to a request for assistance from both Colombian and Ecuadorian authorities. Across Ecuador, citizens held vigils and criticized the government for its handling of the situation. Journalists gathered in front of the presidential palace in Quito every day following the kidnapping, chanting “We’re missing three! We want them back alive!” and demanding the government take action to retrieve them. The day after the deaths were confirmed, the protesters changed their shouts to “You did nothing!” Media actors such as Colombia’s Foundation for Press Liberty have denounced the passivity of the Colombian and Ecuadorian government in protecting the lives of the reporters. Major news outlets held blackouts as a sign of mourning for their colleagues and journalists of Cartagena collected at a martyrs’ monument to protest the murders. Ronald Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Bolivar Journalists Association, reminds “everyone that our profession is a neutral one that does not take sides, so we demand that we be excluded from the armed conflict, and we reiterate to the governments of Colombia and Ecuador that they are responsible for our safety in practicing our profession.” The 2017 Freedom House...

#SOSNicaragua – Is the Ortega Murillo Dynasty Crumbling ?

Photo: Nicaraguans protest against reforms to social security. EFE. The last five day’s protests have led to the death of at least 26 people, according to human rights groups. 46 people have been reported missing, and hundreds have been injured, shot by snipers, by police with rubber bullets, or beaten by pro-Sandinista protesters. The protests may have started in response to president Ortega’s recent changes to the social security system, which will increase income and payroll taxes and reform the pension system, but the uprisings are likely to continue as a means of expressing the population’s discontent with the government and their repressive politics. As the government ordered the shutdown of five independent TV channels covering the situation, the protests spread to León, Estelí, Masaya and other cities throughout the country on Thursday. Reports and footage have shown several reporters being beaten, robbed, verbally threatened, and having their expensive camera equipment stolen by violent pro-government protesters. Among those killed was Ángel Gahona, a journalist who was shot dead while broadcasting live via Facebook in Bluefields. Amnesty International called the attacks on peaceful protesters and journalists a “disturbing attempt to curtail their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.” President Ortega was first elected president in 1984 and is currently serving his third consecutive term of presidency. He’s a former left-wing guerilla officer and therefore keeps close control of the country’s military and national police. On its path to the presidency, and as a method of retaining power, the Ortega Murillo government also relies heavily on support from the Catholic church, another of their main pillars of support. The ever-increasing...

Weekly Report: April 20 2018

Photo: Pro-government Nicaraguans during the protests against pension reform. Semanario Universidad. Cuba The Castro Era has come to an end. Raúl Castro stepped down from the presidency yesterday, transitioning the position to hand-picked successor Miguel Díaz-Canel. The choice is significant not only because he falls outside the dynasty, but because Díaz-Canel was born after the nation’s 1960 communist revolution. As such, he has “spent his entire life in the service of a revolution he did not fight.” Many see this as the true test of the nation’s viability, as its implemented policies become more independent from the original revolutionary spirit that brought them about. Despite this apparent ideological shift, there are no serious changes expected for the government anytime soon. In his acceptance speech, Díaz-Canel declared that he intends to continue the work and trajectory of his predecessor. As such, his commitment to the nation’s communist ideals and Castro’s continued presence as an influencer made him a comfortable replacement choice. He was elected almost unanimously by the Cuban National Assembly after serving five years as vice president to the country. Syria In retaliation for the recent attacks with chemical weapons on civilian populations in Eastern Ghouta, the UK, France, and the US have carried out airstrikes on strategic points to target chemical weapon development. The Pentagon reported that more than 100 missiles were launched, with specific targets including a scientific research center in Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, and another storage site and command post nearby. In the seven years since the Syrian civil war began, this is the biggest intervention by Western powers against...

People Power Rages in Armenia as Opposition Declares Revolution

Photo: Opposition protesters demonstrate in Yerevan on April 17. RFE/RL. Fueled by fear, hope, and anger, more than ten thousand Armenians have come out in protest to oppose the appointment of Serzh Sarkisian as prime minister. The leader of the demonstration has called for nonviolence, but past instances of excessive force by police against peaceful protesters bode poorly for those out on the streets. As the situation rapidly develops, and democracy slips from the people’s hands, their measured responses will be critical for charting the course of this conflict. Sarkisian has been in power for the past decade in Armenia, serving two terms as president, the maximum limit, and having finally stepped down on April 9 at the inauguration of his successor. At the time he was elected, and throughout his terms, the presidency was the most powerful single position of leadership in Armenia. In 2015, however, a change to the structure of the government was approved. This made the president into more of a national figurehead, transferring most of his legislative authority to the parliament and prime minister. In 2014, with the campaign for these policy changes underway, Sarkisian had announced that he would “not aspire” to become prime minister if they took effect. Now, this comment is infuriating and driving many members of the opposition who accuse him of breaking that pledge. Protest leader Nikol Pashinian has been rallying protesters since April 13. A few days before, opposition lawmakers set of smoke bombs in parliament to call for demonstrations. So now for days, people have gathered in Yerevan, blocking government buildings, bringing transportation to a standstill, confronting significant government-linked...