Weekly Reports Archives — CANVAS

Weekly Report: April 13 2018

Photo: Women at the memorial of Winnie Madikizela Mandela. The Guardian. Syria Russia reports that Syrian forces have retaken Eastern Ghouta, the heavily besieged suburb of Damascus. This means that now, Assad’s power is the most secure it has been since the start of the Syrian civil war. Furthermore, while this is a victory against extreme rebel groups that have held the territory for years, it comes at an immensely high cost. The UN refugee agency reported this week that more than 133,000 have fled Eastern Ghouta since the escalation of this siege. Moreover, the Assad government is again accused of using chemical weapons in its attempts to retake this area. While the use is thus far unconfirmed officially, it is strongly substantiated. 500 people in Eastern Ghouta have demonstrated symptoms consistent with chemical attacks; residents reported hearing things falling from the sky, leaving strange smells; videos coming out show people sprawled on the floors of their homes, killed by apparent suffocation; of 70 killed while taking shelter in basements, 43 showed signs of “highly toxic chemicals” according to the World Health Organization. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international watchdog, is on its way to Syria to investigate and uncover whether chemical weapons were used, and if so, to find out what was the nature of the attack. Many governments in the West have expressed abhorrence over the chemical attacks, generally agreeing on the need for action, and in some cases threatening a military response. Assad has, however, both denied the use of chemical weapons and warned these governments against intervention of any kind. “Any...

Weekly Report: April 6 2018

Photo: Smoke rises while Palestinians protest on the Gaza side of the border with Israel. Reuters. Israel This week has seen a surge in direct conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, who have come out to protest for rights to their homeland in “the Great March of Return”. Already, the week has brought at least 21 deaths, including at least one Palestinian killed by an Israeli air attack at the border. The protests will continue until ‘Nabka Day’ on May 15. The date will mark 70 years since the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians by Zionist militias. Despite the violence being so actively committed against the Palestinians during these demonstrations, many have vowed to stay. Said one demonstrator, “We are here to deliver a message that we are resistant and we want to return to our land no matter what.” Last Friday, an estimated 1500 Palestinians were injured by Israeli snipers over the border. In advance of this Friday’s protest, protesters built large towers of tires to burn, hoping that the smoke will obscure the snipers’ view. Other Palestinians threw Molotov cocktails and stones over the border fence at Israeli soldiers. Israeli forces responded with tear gas and live fire, witnesses said, fearing the protesters would use the tire smoke as cover to try to breach the fence. Israel has accused Hamas of orchestrating the protest and border attacks, but both the March For Return organizers and a Hamas spokesperson deny that the march is for any escalation between Hamas and Israel, but rather for the people of Palestine. Hamas did urge its supporters to keep the protests peaceful, however, and...

Weekly Report: 30 March 2018

Photo: More than 70 pro-democracy protesters were arrested at a demonstration in Minsk, Belarus this week. V Fedosenko. Reuters. Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa was slammed by opposition groups this week after ruling out possible election reforms. The decision was announced after negotiations with the US this week, where Zimbabwe was given a set of conditions that, if met, would lead to the restoration of good trade relations between the countries. The move not to reform was one of these given conditions. Critics are furious over this development, citing the dire state of civic freedom in Zimbabwe at present. “Villagers are being commandeered and coerced to attend Zanu PF political rallies and other functions. No less than 5 000 soldiers in civilian attire have since been deployed into rural Zimbabwe to clandestinely campaign for the ruling party,” said Obert Gutu, spokesperson of the MDC. Also this week, Mnangagwa is launching five anti-corruption courts around Zimbabwe. This is to combat the pervasive corruption in the country, which Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranks extremely poorly, at 157 of 180 countries in the world. It’s also no coincidence that these courts are being launched right as Grace Mugabe faces game poaching and smuggling charges. In other recent news from Zimbabwe, some activists in the village of Kadoma came up with a clever way to address the problem of potholes in their roads. They planted banana trees in the holes, an action that the government was definitely not pleased by. Like many creative and especially strategic protests, however, this had the exact intended effect, and the government moved quickly to fix the roads. Venezuela...

Weekly Report: 23 March 2018

Photo: Venezuela opposition banner reading “No to the dictatorship of hunger, corruption, and repression. OUT MADURO” Venezuela Four Venezuelan officials have been blacklisted by the United States, part of a new set of targeted sanctions against the South American country’s government. The four were all players in Maduro’s political network, and each was connected to allegations of graft and corruption. Any assets within US jurisdiction will be frozen, and any Americans are forbidden from engaging in any financial transactions with the individuals. Also included in this expansion of sanctions was a ban on Venezuela’s cryptocurrency introduced last month by Maduro. US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin lambasted the currency as Maduro’s attempt to maneuver around previous sanctions. The sanctions did not include any restrictions on Venezuela’s oil sector, as the US worries targeting oil would only deeping the suffering of Venezuelan citizens. The Venezuelan government however, has no such reservations. This week an ex-oil refinery boss of the state-owned company PDVSA was arrested and accused of corruption. This arrest joins dozens of others as the government cracks down on the oil sector. The opposition has called the arrests nothing more than a power struggle within the government. In other news, several protests across the country were held over the weekend against the May presidential elections. They were organized by the Broad Front for a Free Venezuela, made up of the opposition coalition MUD, leftist dissidents, and some civil society groups. Parliamentarian Delsa Solorzano says “The assemblies are a show of resistance against a regime that wants to deny us our rights. We have to salvage the right to vote freely.” Another...

Weekly Report: 16 March 2018

  Photo: An indigenous woman protests Amazon land rights in front of the presidential palace of Ecuador. EFE. Myanmar Earlier this week, a UN official investigating the Rohingya crisis said that her observations are leading her to believe that this may amount to genocide. “I am becoming more convinced that the crimes committed following 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017 bear the hallmarks of genocide and call in the strongest terms for accountability.” In her report, she further calls for a thorough, unbiased, and serious investigation into the crimes being committed against the Rohingya. Myanmar later issued a rejection of this UN statement. Top officials in the country denied that Myanmar or its military had committed any crimes against the Rohingya. This comes even after the army has, on rare occasions, admitted to killing some Rohingya people. Nevertheless, the government’s crimes against the minority are egregiously brutal and targeted, far beyond what they have acknowledged at all. In another part of the country, approximately 2000 people were displaced by military forces this week. The Karen (alternately ‘Kayin’) State in southern Myanmar is home to another of the nation’s ethnic minorities. In 2012, the people here negotiated peace with the central government, in talks led by Aung San Suu Kyi. This invasion and displacement of the people endangers that ceasefire, risking a plunge back into one of the longest-running civil conflicts in the world. Venezuela Miguel Rodrigues Torres, ex-interior minister and former Chavez spy chief, was arrested March 12 for “involvement in actions against peace” according to a government statement and for “conspiring to destabilize the government.” The statement accused...

Weekly Report: 9 March 2018

Photo: Activists protest against government-backed amendments to Myanmar’s protest law in Yangon. (Reuters) Myanmar Between 200 and 500 demonstrators gathered in Yangon in protest on Monday while the parliament deliberated an amendment to the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law of 2010. This change  threatens three years in prison for those who support any demonstration that damages the “security, rule of law and stability of the state, and the moral interests of the people.” In particular, the amendment requires protest organizers to divulge the details of their budget, including their funding sources. Political analyst Maung Maung Soe says the amendment may be intended to target nationalist opposition members who “pay money to people to protest,” in order to destabilize the young government, but that it will nevertheless impact activists not influenced by these nationalist lobbyists. “It’s not possible to only restrict one side,” he warns. The protesters say the amendment would limit free speech; if the government hinders protest, it “cannot hear the true opinions of the people,” said farmers’ rights activist Zaw Yan. A reactionary petition to the amendment has been introduced, signed by around 190 Myanmar civil society organizations and individuals such as Maung Maung Soe. On the other hand, once champion of human rights and democracy Aung San Suu Kyi has supported the amendment. It passed in the Upper House on Wednesday, despite the protests of some MP’s who disapproved of the increased punitive measures, the speed with which the amendment was pushed through parliament, and the vague wording that could allow authorities to arrest peaceful protesters. The US Holocaust Museum has rescinded Aung San Suu...