Weekly Report: 12 October 2018 — CANVAS

Supports of the 21F referendum gathered in Santa Cruz, Bolivia (paginasiete)

Syria

In 2015, there was a closure of a vital trade route named the Nassib crossing. The route is along the border between Jordan and Syria and previously played a crucial role in transporting goods between Turkey, the Gulf and Lebanon. As of this week, Assad has claimed that there have been talks between Syria and Jordan to reopen the Nassib, but Jordan states that more talks need to be held between the two countries before any final decision can be made. If it reopens, neighboring countries such as Lebanon would then have access to millions of dollars worth of exports and imports. While this may be a positive step for neighboring countries, some diplomats and officials say that the reopening would help Damascus show that the Syrian war is coming to an end, and thus give President Assad a major win.

This week, there were talks between Russia and Syria about potentially reconstructing gas transportation infrastructure, underground gas storage facilities, oil and gas production, along with oil refineries in Syria. According to the RIA news agency, Syria must first come up with the sufficient funds necessary to undergo these projects.

After Russia and Turkey made a deal last month to create a buffer zone and demilitarize rebels in Idlib, reports say it is complete. This means that heavy weapons such as rockets, mortars and missiles have been removed as of Monday. Further, transit traffic will be restored on the M4 and M5 highways by the end of 2018.

Bolivia

This week, former president, Carlos Mesa, who is running for president in the 2019 elections, wrote a letter to the Financial Investigation Unit (UIF) to lift its banking secrecy. In the letter, he asked to make public any and all information of his personal banking statements including current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, loans, etc. Mesas’ goal is to make his banking transparent for the public. He posted the letter to his online blog for the public to see.

After last week’s ruling at the ICJ in favor of Chile, President Morales stated that he will not only send a letter to the United Nations, but also to President Piñera of Chile. His intentions are to continue dialogue with Chile.

On October 23rd, Juan Lanchipa will be officially sworn in as the new Attorney General. There was an unanimous vote among the MAS, with 116 votes, to choose Lanchipa who was also former director of the Strategic Directorate of Maritime Demands.

On October 10th, other known as The Day of Democracy, mobilizations of people took to the streets to either proclaim their support for Evo Morales or  of the 21F referendum. In the morning, the MAS and its supporters packed the Plaza San Francisco, and in the afternoon, opposition groups and their followers did the exact same thing.

Nicaragua

Even though there is a state of emergency throughout Nicaragua due to heavy rainfall, Sandinista police continued kidnapping people this week. On Sunday, at least six people were kidnapped, including one minor. Most of the people are from the area of Altagracia.

This week, a report came out stating that amongst the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the government of Nicaragua has violated at least 18 of them. Most of the violations have to do with political and civil rights of citizens. Specifically, articles about the right to life, private property, security, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly, presumption of innocence, among many others, have been violated by Daniel Ortega. The situation in Nicaragua will soon be under review by the United Nations in an a Universal Periodic Review, which takes place every four years.

A former journalist for the Sandinista media has come forward this week about the realities of working for the government outlet. The journalist, Mikel Espinoza, has been covering the news since April 18th, when the Nicaraguan crisis began. Although he questioned the Sandinista government from the beginning, he stuck with it. He has now finally come forward after reporting on the murder of a 6 member family who died on June 16th. Accordingly, he knew that the Sandinista police were behind the murder, but he could not write about it. Mikel is now residing in Costa Rica for safety measures.

Medardo Mairena and Pedro Mena were arrested on July 12th of this year after being charged by the Sandinista police of terrorism, organized crime, kidnapping, etc. Among these crimes, the two were also accused of killing four police officers. This week, for the second time, the trails against the two leaders of the Antichannel Movement were rescheduled for unknown reasons. Accordingly, the prisoners are being treated unfairly by authorities. In a letter to his parents, one of the prisoners wrote that cells are closed, there is no right to lighting, and there is unhealthy, bad food.

This week, Costa Rica granted political asylum to Álvaro Leiva, a Nicaraguan human rights defender. This is the first request for political asylum since the beginning of the Nicaraguan crisis.

North Korea

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Seoul on Sunday and Monday, spending two days there in order to brief the South Korean president on his trip to Pyongyang, which had taken place on October 7th. According to Pompeo, the discussions were “productive.” North Korea is soon expected to continue reaching out as part of its foreign relations program, with South Korean President Moon Jae-in stating that he expects not only a second US-DPRK summit, but also a summit between Kim Jong-Un and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. Additionally, it is possible that a Russia-DPRK summit may take place for the first time since the previous North Korean administration.

Russian officials have reported that an unprecedented amount of DPRK fishing vessels have been found off of the Russian coast not only to take shelter in the instance of storms, but also to steal fish and fishing supplies. Meanwhile, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa stated this Wednesday that her ministry is “reviewing” alongside other political entities the lifting of its standalone sanctions against the DPRK, known as the “May 24th measures.”

On October 9th, US President Donald Trump stated that the second summit held between the United States and DPRK would be held after American midterm elections this November. Although not much is known in the way of details about this summit, Trump claims that several locations to host the summit are being considered.

Myanmar

This Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a joint press conference with Myanmar Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi that Japan would support efforts by Myanmar to accommodate Rohingya refugees’ potential return, and urged Myanmar to fall in line with an independent investigation. During her appearance in Tokyo, she promised an accurate investigation by the appointed “independent” investigation, commissioned by the government. However, concerns have been raised that said fact-finding committee is biased, with one panelist claiming that “there will be no finger pointing.”

Myanmar’s largest non-state army, the Wa Army, is urging other ethnic armed groups to become signatories to the Myanmar peace accord, asking that they be included in a meeting next week with Aung San Suu Kyi. The event, which will take on October 15th in central Myanmar, will be the first time that many of these armies have met with Aung San Suu Kyi after years of violent conflict, although some non-signatory groups see the meeting as a propaganda tactic as opposed to a genuine attempt to facilitate peace in the country.

Myanmar police detained three journalists this Wednesday on charges related to showing disrespect to the Yangon regional government. The three journalists, Kyaw Zaw Linn, Nayee Min, and Phyo Wai were sent to Insein Prison. This is only the latest in the recent trend of arrests against journalists who are critical of the government in Myanmar.

USA

Over the weekend, Brett Kavanaugh was officially confirmed into the Supreme Court. Over the past few weeks, Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by multiple women, including Christine Blasey Ford. The confirmation into the Supreme Court has caused a national uproar.

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, admitted her resignation for the end of this year. The move came fairly abruptly, and Haley admits that she is not sure what she will do next. Now questions raise around who will be her replacement. The Trump Administration will pick a new candidate in the coming few weeks.

On Monday, the Trump Administration announced that they will continue ahead with their plan to promote the use of ethanol. This comes just weeks before the midterm elections, and is a move that may gain support from Republicans in the Midwest. At the same time, it is a move holds a lot of opposition from independent oil refineries. According to a Trump administration official, increasing the supply of biofuels gives the consumers a choice. Others argue that the use of ethanol may cause harm to vehicle engines.  

As of last week, the Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi has been missing after visiting a Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Although it is not certain, many officials believe that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, although Saudi has denied the accusation. This week, the Senate of Foreign Relations Committee claim that Saudi Arabia “have a lot of explaining to do.” On Wednesday, top officials from the committee wrote to President Trump, triggering a law that would require the president to consider sanctioning anyone responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance or possible death. Rand Paul went a step further and called on the U.S to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia. After Trump heard about this, he stated that he is reluctant to cut off arms deals, as it would be detrimental to the United States economy. Further, President Trump says that he wants to know exactly what happened before coming to a final move.

Cambodia

Despite clear threats of increased trade pressure from the European Union, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has remained defiant of the European Union’s wishes of Cambodia to respect the human rights of Cambodians. Over the weekend, the European Union announced that it would commence a six-month review of Cambodia’s duty-free access to the European Union, meaning that various Cambodian exports may be able to face tariffs. Hun Sen chose to focus on the need to preserve Cambodian sovereignty in the face of such threats from abroad, despite the fact that such tariffs would impact Cambodia’s exports to the EU – which were worth over 5 billion euros last year.

During an interview with Japanese media, Hun Sen has publically suggested that his eldest son, Hun Manet, could be a “possible future leader” of Cambodia. Hun Manet is currently the Commander of the Royal Cambodian Army, having been appointed last month. The international community has been criticizing the Cambodian government’s actions over the past year as it has suffered a massive democratic backslide.

Mexico

On Tuesday, Pemex announced that they found reserves with up to 180 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Since oil production has been low for years, this is expected to boost production. This is one of the world’s top discoveries within the past 15 years, says the energy secretary.

This week, a tunnel stretching between Mexico and California was found. Officials discovered this official tunnel, which also has a rail system inside. While the tunnel does not appear to have an exit in the United States yet, it was likely built to transport drugs. This tunnel is the first to be discovered in fiscal year 2019. While no arrests have been made yet, the tunnel is still under investigation.

Reports came out this week that because of the Trump administrations “zero tolerance” crackdown, which has created a nation-wide outrage due to its ability to keep minors in detention centers, adoption of said children is allowed. Accordingly, there are a few holes in the system which allow state court judges to give custody of migrant children to American families. Officials are worried that children recently taken from their families may never see them again, calling this situation a “recipe for disaster.”

The Maldives

After a probe, the Housing Commission has been reauthorized to resume a public housing project that was previously halted under suspicion of corruption. However, there still appears to be disconnect between the housing ministry and federal government – as the federal government stated that it is now authorized to announce criteria, while the housing ministry has allowed residents to begin applications. The social housing scheme will randomly select bidders who meet all of the requirements.

After criticizing the Supreme Court via a tweet, prominent lawyer Husnu Suood was suspended and barred from representing any clients in Maldivian court or tribunal for the next four months. Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed will return to the Maldives as a “free man,” despite the fact that he is currently living abroad as a fugitive after having been sentenced to prison for thirteen years by the former party in control.

Despite previous assertions that it would agree to the change of government based upon September 23rd’s elections, the Progressive Party of the Maldives under current president Abdulla Yameen officially challenged the election results in the Supreme Court of the Maldives on Tuesday afternoon. Currently, it is unknown under what legal grounds this challenge has come.

Zimbabwe

Over the weekend, a Zimbabwe court ordered the government to pay approximately $150,000 USD to a rights activist, Jestina Mukoko, who was abducted and tortured a decade ago over accusations of plotting to overthrow then-president Robert Mugabe. Mukoko is the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project. The High Court has ordered that the total payment must be made on or before the end of the month, according to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

Zimbabwe is now dealing with a massive economic crisis as the past two weeks have brought acute shortages of fuel, drugs, and food, as well as a spike in prices. This represents one of the first major challenges of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidency. Mnangagwa claims that this is one of the growing “pains” of liberalizing Zimbabwe’s economy. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), however, disagrees with many of the decisions that Zimbabwe’s new economic minister has taken and planned a series of demonstrations, which were to take place this Thursday. The police publicly stated that it would halt any demonstrations held in Harare, ostensibly due to the cholera outbreak. Hours before the planned protests, Zimbabwean police arrested dozens of trade union members, including ZCTU President Peter Mutasa. Outside of Harare, activists were also detained in three major towns.

Laos

Laos is expediting its construction of a high-speed railway link with China in hopes that the historic project will be completed and operational over the next two years. The project will connect the Chinese border in Luang Namtha, a northern province, to the Laotian capital Vientiane, and hopefully provide Laos with a method through which to benefit from regional trade.

Vietnam

Vietnam has continued to pursue the prosecution of those who speak out against the government with a new cybersecurity law that would require firms such as Facebook, Google, and others to set up local offices and store data locally – and would require even email and various other social media companies to set up these offices in Vietnam. Furthermore, the companies would also be required to store user data such as financial records, peoples’ ethnicities, and political views.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Other known as “miracle doctor,” Denis Mukwege from the Congo has won a Nobel Peace Prize. The 63 year old is a Congolese gynecologist and has spent his career using reconstructive surgery to repair the horrific damage done to women who have been raped or mutilated by men. He opened up the Panzi Hospital, and has since treated hundreds of thousands of patients. The hospital now cares for more than 3,500 women per year. Mukwege sometimes performs as many as 10 surgeries per day.

As of Monday, Ebola has sickened at least 188 people and killed 118 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Further, 51 people have survived the disease. Director general of the WHO gave a statement last week that the government of the Congo is doing a great job at handling the outbreak. There are 200 people on the ground within four separate hubs and 52 people have since been administered experimental drugs.

 

Colombia

This week, UNHCR came out with a report stating that they will intensify aid to the Venezuelans who have crossed the border into Colombia. UNHCR’s Filippo Grandi visited Colombia this week to assess the needs of Colombia. After his visit, Grandi stated that the international community needs to do more in protecting the crisis, given the country is facing a deteriorating situation.

This week, extradited paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso, the highest ranking AUC commander, says that he supports the ongoing peace process with FARC. This opposes President Duque and further accuses state officials of trying to derail the investigations of war crimes. In a statement, Mancuso asked the United Nations, Organization of American States and Inspector General’s Office to investigate this issue.On Tuesday, the police said they have increased security measures because of the ELN’s alleged plans to attack in the north of Colombia. This is the last standing rebel group in Colombia. Accordingly, intelligence agencies have interrupted a message coming from the top of ELN’s command to its guerillas to carry out a series of attacks against police in the Magdalena region.

Venezuela

On Monday, one of the people accused of being involved in the attempt of assassination of President Maduro, mysteriously died this week. Fernando Albán, the 56 year old man ‘suspiciously’ fell out of a window. Top Bolivian intelligence say that the death was a suicide, but critics have accused Maduro’s regime of killing the man. Seeing as Fernando was under heavy security and surveillance, his lawyer is calling the suspected death by suicide a total falsehood. Apparently, it would have been totally impossible for Fernando to go anywhere unaccompanied. Albán is only one of many people who authorities have arrested in connection with Maduro’s attack.

Malaysia

Malaysia’s cabinet announced two major legal reforms this Wednesday. The first of these was to abolish the death penalty, a move that has been lauded by foreign diplomats and international human rights groups alike. It is believed that the proposed bill on abolishing capital punishment will be discussed this Monday when Parliament convenes, and Law Minister Liew Vui Keong has called for a halt on all executions, as the bill is most likely going to be passed. Furthermore, the Malaysian cabinet has also ordered the suspension of the colonial-era Sedition Act this Thursday. The Sedition Act was a colonial-era law frequently used to crush dissent, and the hope is that the law will be passed by the end of the year. It is hoped that the legislation to repeal the Sedition Act will also be put before Parliament this Monday.

Palestine

The mayor of Jerusalem stated this week that he intends to remove the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) from the city. His intentions are to “end the lie of the Palestinian refugee problem.” This would mean that schools, sports centers and clinics, among other programs run by UNRWA would be handed over to Israeli authorities. Accordingly, the United States cut to the agency is what prompted Jerusalem to do this.

Other News

Russia — A top corruption investigator was shot dead in the Moscow region on October 10th as she was leaving her apartment; reportedly, the investigator had previously received threats due to her involvement in investigating economic crimes and corruption cases. (Radio Free Europe)

Hungary — American lawmakers have raised concerns after the US State Department withdrew a planned $700,000 dollar grant to Hungarian independent media. (Politico.eu)

Poland— This week, President Duda appointed 27 new Supreme Court judges. This move came even after the European Union did not want him to do so. (BBC)

The Philippines — Although it was suspected that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte  was suffering from cancer, officials this Tuesday confirmed that this is not the case, claiming that his condition is “not serious.”(Al Jazeera)

Pakistan —  The Pakistani government has formally began the process of a $12 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund. (New York Times)

China China has officially created legal precedent for its current practices of holding Uighur Muslims in ‘reeducation camps,’ despite allegations that it has locked up around a million people. (BBC)

Iran Since the Trump administration pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal last month, Iran is facing an economic crisis. This week, Iran’s supreme leader, Khamenei, has urged officials to find solutions. (Reuters)

Yemen On Thursday, Saudi Arabia was called on by a United Nations human rights watchdog to completely stop its airstrikes in Yemen, which have caused numerous civilian deaths, including child casualties. (Reuters)