CANVAS produces a weekly report on several countries where nonviolent resistance can play an important role in confronting challenges to democracy, including Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Syria, the United States, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
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One of Colombia’s top wanted drug lords, named “Puntilla” was killed by authorities this week. (Colombia Reports)
According to a human rights group, a U.S. citizen who was held captive by Assad’s government for three years was killed. Layla Shwekani was born in Damascus and spent her childhood there, but then moved to the United States. Layla was known as a humanitarian activist. She returned to Syria in 2015, and then was detained in 2016. Soon after, she was reported dead.
Presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, Óscar Ortiz, the leader of the Democratic Social Movement requested “urgent treatment” for the February 21st referendum. The appeal is against the enabling of Evo Morales to run for presidential candidacy in the upcoming elections in Bolivia. Along with the appeal, the Democratic Social Movement began holding a signing throughout the country, on a national level, in order to disable Evo Morales from running for president.
Three separate mobilizations of people are making their way towards La Paz. The three groups began in Beni, Konani, and Chulumani. Their goal is to demand that the electoral tribunal not qualify Evo Morales. Once they arrive in La Paz, they intend to hold a peaceful vigil in front of the TSE. Further, they are not ruling out a hunger strike. The mobilization of people intends to hold their strike until the TSE listens to their demands.
This week, several civil society organizations will stand before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) and speak of the repressions which continue to unfold through Nicaragua due to the actions of Daniel Ortega’s regime. The objective of the hearing was to update information on the human rights crisis. Civil society groups made a strong demand that the IACHR halt all repressions, and document the crisis through on-site visits. In all, they hope to continue support from IACHR.
Although talks between the United States and North Korea have confirmed a disarmament of nuclear weapons within North Korea, new satellite images deem these talks false. New images of an expanding missile base, capable of deploying weapons able to reach the United States have come into a new light. The base is located next to the border of China, and the location leads experts to believe that it is in this specific place because it would reduce the likelihood of a preemptive strike from the United States.
While the United States has continued to label the mass killing of the Rohingya people in Myanmar an “ethnic cleansing” rather than a “genocide,” this week a US-Hired Law Firm inched its way into labeling the horrific events as a Genocide. Thus far, the American government has been criticized for their lack of recognition towards the atrocities of the Rohingya people. In September, a 20-page report based on this law firms investigation found that “recent violence in northern Rakhine State was extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents.” After the report, more pressure was put on the Trump Administration to label the massacre as a Genocide, rather than ethnic cleansing.
After former U.S. Ambassador of the UN, Nikki Haley resigned just months ago, president Trump has nominated a new candidate named Heather Nauert. Nauert is the State Department spokesperson and previously worked as an anchor for Fox News. Among many of her roles as an ambassador, she will be responsible for maintaining international support for economic sanctions against North Korea and continue Trump’s support for Israel.
This week, President Trump has threatened a partial shut-down of the government if Congress does not give him money to build a wall between the US-Mexico border. Although, as of Thursday, US Congress approved a 2-week stopgap spending bill to avert a government shut down. Before the bill expires, Congress is expected to consider a $450 billion bill to fund several agencies including the Department of Agriculture, State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security. Trump has also demanded $5 million for his plan to build the wall.
Cambodia’s supreme court began to hear an appeal against the conviction made in 2017 about a defamation case involving CNRP leader Sam Rainsy. Rainsy is now living in exile outside of Cambodia. Although, some are calling this a move to divide the opposition. Accordingly, ruling-party lawsuits against CNPR have blocked the development of democracy within Cambodia. It all causes great concern for civil society groups, citizens, and human rights groups.
There are indications this week that Mexico will push for tariffs on steel and aluminum against the United States. The foreign affairs undersecretary for North America believes that the tariffs imposed by Mexico on June 1st were not strong enough, and further regrets the decision to sign the new North American free trade pact, now known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. He believes that tariffs should be “like-for-like,” in other words, something symmetrical.
On Sunday, the President launched a campaign to ban single-use plastics. Accordingly, more than 280,000 plastic bags are used daily in the capital alone, and it is at a “worrying” level in President Solih’s terms. Although the Maldivian economy is dependent on natural resources, the increase of dumping garbage into the sea has proven to do the most damage to life in the sea. Solih hopes that his initiative will spark others to reduce single-use plastic.
According to the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, the country is “running out of fuel.” Apparently, Zimbabwe has exhausted a $60 million worth of fuel which was only imported last week. This is equivalent to about 100 million liters of fuel, which is suspected to be gone within 2.5 weeks time.
In a meeting held in Vientiane this week, the governments of Laos and Cambodia discussed further efforts to de-escalate tensions in a disputed border area. During the meeting, the two agreed on prohibitions on a variety of activities in the area, but have a view of a future resolution. The two countries continue to maintain bilateral talks and cooperation.
The state media in Vietnam announced a new way to crack down on corruption. There is now a telephone hotline number where people can report accusations of police corruption. In order for reports to be deemed liable, callers must declare their full name, telephone number, and substantiated information. The hotline had previously been used to report traffic police only, but it is now used for any type of police corruption.
Amid clashes between The Democratic Republic of Congo’s army and rebels, 18 people were killed. This recent violent outbreak is only 3 weeks before elections, which will replace president Joseph Kabila. The clash took place in South Kivu, an area known for ethnic tensions. The rebels are loyal to a former general named Yakutumba, which is an armed group in the region against Kabila and an ally of the National Liberation Front.
One of Colombia’s most prominent drug lords called “Puntilla” was killed by authorities this week. He was formally Colombia’s most wanted drug lord and had overseen drug trafficking routes to Venezuela and Brazil. Police have been trying to arrest him ever since his controversial prison release back in 2016 when a judge released him after lacking evidence to prosecute Puntilla.
After the peace talks in 2016, fires responsible for deforestation jumped sixfold, labeled an”unforeseen cost” in Colombia. Formally Guerilla-controlled areas now see an absence of all control by both government and FARC, and in those areas, there is a 600% increase in fires. Because there is a lack of control and protection in the vulnerable areas, the burning of forests shot up. Now, more than 40 soccer fields worth of land is lost every single day in Colombia.
In light of the sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States, President Erdogan from Turkey fired back at the US claiming “political problems cannot be resolved by punishing an entire nation.” This year, Turkey has become the largest importer of non-monetary gold from Venezuela, and Erdogan continues to strengthen trade ties between the two countries.
According to Reuters, Venezuela intends to import over 300,000 barrels per day of refined products in an attempt to ease fuel shortages plaguing the country. Although it is the country with the worlds largest crude reserves, they have yet to fulfill the demands locally and with customers like China and Russia.
December 10th marks the International Human Rights Day. Although Malaysia intends to hold a rally, there are reports of a security threat for the event this year. Without giving too much detail, the Royal Malaysia Police informed the prime minister’s office that the threat could even border on national security. The rally has been postponed, although some parties are continuing to follow through with their plan and intend to do so peacefully.
Palestine — After going on a hunger strike, a Palestinian social justice activist was tortured and punished. (Amnesty International)
China —China and North Korea held talks on Friday after a lack of progress from the international community to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Fox News)
Yemen — After two years, the Houthi’s and the Yemeni government are holding peace talks in Sweden. (NPR)
An estimated 1.7 million people died during the Khmer Rouge Regime in Cambodia. This week, deputy PM announced there will be no more persecutions. (The Guardian)
On Saturday, at least 40 people were killed in a US-led airstrike in an area along the border of Iraq. While the strike was against the Islamic State, civilians were killed by the coalition. The coalition spokesperson denied allegations of civilian killing, although Syrian medics and media outlets have said otherwise.
Between November 28-29th, Russia, Turkey, and Iran are going to hold a meeting to discuss talks about Syria. The meeting will take place in Kazakhstan and members from the Syrian government along with delegates from the Syrian rebels are supposed to attend.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration developed new sanctions which will harm both Syria and Iran. The Trump administration is under the impression that an Iranian company posing as a pharmaceutical and medical business is having money funneled out of Iran’s central bank, and into a state-owned Russian bank account. Furthermore, it is believed that the money is being used to aid Syria in paying for Russian oil. Another accusation is that President Assad facilitated “hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars” towards Hezbollah and Hamas. Now, new sanctions will be imposed on both Syria and Iran due to Iran’s continuous support of the Assad regime and funding towards “terrorist organizations.”
As stated in the memorandum of understanding between Bolivia and Paraguay, Bolivia is working on creating a technical team to form the gas pipeline project. The Bolivian proposal will be presented before the established 90-day deadline. Bolivian natural gas is accordingly the most competitive in the region, given imports from other countries is far more expensive.
Throughout the government of Carlos Mesa, Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé, and Evo Morales, many laws and decrees were issued in financing and constructing the two highways which are under investigation in the Lava Jato case. While many of the laws were established prior to Morales’ presidency, all of the construction and payments were made during his time in office. Although, the most recent report to investigate several officials is claimed to be biased. There are four individuals on the list of people who participated in the construction of the highways, who are not being investigated.
It has been reported that in the past six months alone, $1,500 million worth of products illegally entered into the Bolivian border from Peru and Chile. The government of Bolivia declared that they plan to build 25 new border posts until 2019. Since November 15th, the government has sent 8,000 militants to the border and so far have destroyed 12 smuggling routes. In October of this year, 118 illegal routes were discovered and had previously been used to smuggle contraband across the border. The first installation of a border post will be on the 28th of November along the border of Chile.
This week, a scandal broke out about people being registered as militants for specific political organizations when they never registered at all. This is believed to be at the hands of the TSE, who are now being accused of electoral crimes of falsified document use, computer manipulation, and alteration of the Electoral Roll. The TSE is in charge of keeping data about citizens accurate, and by having individuals falsely registered, they are breaking the penal code in Articles 198, 199, and 203.
In a statement on Friday, the president of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) expressed great concern about human rights abuses of political prisoners in Nicaragua. Margarette May Macaulay, the president, refers to the unsanitary conditions of the prisons, along with the negligent medical care. Further, Macaulay believes that prison officers are imposing “maximum security regimes without objective criteria.”
In an effort to protest against the government of Nicaragua, Nicaraguan diaspora who are in the United States is calling for a strike between December 1st-15th. The rules of the strike are to avoid sending money to Nicaragua between those days. The diaspora is doing this through peaceful means of resistance.
At the Ibero-American summit which took place last Friday, the crisis occurring in Nicaragua failed to make it to the table for discussions. Only the president of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado made an explicit report about it. Ortega was originally supposed to attend the summit held in Guatemala but decided to cancel last minute.
The ex-political secretary of the FSLN at the Central Bank, Ligia Gómez, confessed about the realities of working for the government. Gómez testified that the government of Daniel Ortega had planned out the repressions of civic protesters since April 18th. While the past seven months of repression and human rights violations are incredibly evident, the confirmation through confessions from an ex-official is incredibly validating for the public. This recent admittance was seen as “tremendous,” according to the legal advisor from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh).
Since November 2nd, the political symbol Alex Vanegas has been locked up in jail. According to 100 Noticias, he is being illegally detained and psychologically tortured by the Sandinista police. Accordingly, today an appeal was made to release him. Although, this is Alex’s 6th time being illegally detained.
Although there are talks on the way for North Korea to end its nuclear program, the newly tested “ultramodern tactical weapon” which is unidentified, shows a desire to both upgrade weapons and reassure its military. The observation of the weapon last week is further complicating the already stalled talks with the United States concerning nuclear weapons. Officials believe that the new, unidentified “steel wall” of a weapon is Kim’s idea of transitioning from the traditional military; nearly 1.3 million people strong, to high-tech weapons.
A report came out this week that in early November, a retired North Korean Official was arrested for speaking out against Kim Jong Un. The arrest took place once the official was made aware that he was under investigation, and attempted to flee the country. The official had accordingly disapproved of a new construction plan and felt that Kim did not care about “the lives of the people.” He spoke of this to a close friend, who then reported it to authorities.
On Tuesday, North Korea blew up ten DMZ guard posts at its southern border. Officials believe that North Korea did this to meet their November 30th deadline. Meanwhile, South Korea is also in the process of taking down ten of its own concrete guard posts. After meeting in September, the leaders of both nations agreed upon demilitarizing their joint security area.
On Sunday, four people were injured in a Rohingya Camp after a police raid and shooting. This came after the Myanmar police were informed of two men in the camp attempting to smuggle individuals out by boat just a few days prior. Nearly 20 officers entered the camp and detained the two men. According to Reuters, some civilians began to throw rocks and get violent with the police, and the officers began shooting at civilians in return. While nobody was killed, two people are in critical conditions.
In September, two Reuters reporters in Myanmar were found guilty of breaking the country’s “Official Secrets Act.” Their arrest and charge for being jailed for seven years have raised questions about Myanmar’s ability progress towards democracy. While Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi stated that their jailing had nothing to do with being reporters, but rather for their lack of ability to handle “official secrets,” there is evidence of this case being a police set up and further lacks proof of the crime. Given the lack of evidence of their crime, Myanmar’s court has now allowed an appeal to proceed.
While President Trump is attempting to restrict asylum seekers from crossing into the United States along the Southern Border, there are two legal challenges. It is believed that the Trump administration’s proclamation is violating federal law because it bypasses the law which states that it is necessary to have at least 30 days notice of a change in government regulation. Furthermore, the language limits asylum seekers to official ports of entry. Under the current law, asylum seekers may already be in the United States if they wish to apply for Asylum, even if they entered the country illegally. Further, as of Monday, a federal judge blocked Trump’s asylum ban temporarily.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is aiming to reset its decade-old proposal on biofuel by November of 2019. The reset in policy is likely to cause friction between two large industries in the United States: corn growing and oil companies. While corn growers want the highest possible targets in order to activate investment, oil companies want the opposite because of high costs. Current policy requires refineries to blend in increasing amounts of corn-based biofuels into U.S. gasoline, which costs oil companies “a fortune.” Further, partly due to high costs, production has fallen. Given slow production, the new policies will aim to create goals which are more realistic and manageable.
Last week, the UN tribunal convicted the last two living leaders of the Khmer Rouge genocide for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Although, Cambodia continues to reiterate its end to continuing the tribunal. The 1970s genocide killed nearly 1.7 million people. While two leading men were convicted, there are still four other people who are being prosecuted. Their prosecutions have continued to be stalled. The tribunal is a mix of Cambodian officials, and international prosecutors and judges. Without the aid of the Cambodian members of the tribunal, the convictions cannot take place.
On Sunday, civilians in the Tijuana district of Mexico began to protest against the thousands of Central American migrants who appear to be lingering around their border city. The group of protesters began to chant the Mexican national anthem and waved flags, urging the Central American migrants to go back home. The migrants may have to stay in the Tijuana area for months as they wait to claim asylum into the United States. The Tijuana mayor labeled the mass amount of people an “avalanche” which could end up staying for at least six months.
The incoming president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who will officially take office on December 1st of this year, has come up with a new plan to eradicate the increasing crime rate in Mexico. This week, lawmakers from Obrador’s party proposed a new bill which would combine forces of both civilian and military police to create a national guard, under one military command in order to prevent crime within Mexico. The incoming president faces criticism of his plan, given he is coming into office as the murder rate in Mexico is at an all-time high, and as the police forces continue to be plagued with corruption. Critics are afraid that Obrador will have similar short-term thinking to his predecessors.
On Saturday, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was sworn in and officially declared as the seventh president of the Maldives. In his inaugural speech, Solih reiterated that he intends to bring peace again to the country by implementing judicial reform, seeking the truth behind unsolved murder cases, and rehabilitating fundamental rights and freedoms. Furthermore, Solih seeks to maintain good relations with international actors, specifically India, and reshape foreign policy to focus more on human right, climate change, and democracy. Thousands of civilians attended his ceremony at the national stadium in Malé.
While Solih generally maintains support in the public spotlight, there are a few criticisms of his newly appointed coalition cabinet. Among the new cabinet are a variety of members from the four coalitions. On social media, some disapproved out of fear of under qualifications, allegations of corruption, and potential conflicts of interest. The administration is also the largest seen in Maldivian history.
Just days after Solih became president, there are plans for the Maldives to pull out of the Maldives-China free trade agreement. In a commentary, ex-president Mohamed Nasheed believes that the pact is incredibly one-sided and that the Maldivian parliament will not approve the necessary law for the trade deal to come into action. China has yet to respond to this commentary.
Reported by the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), doctors in Zimbabwe allegedly were forced to describe bullet wounds as stab wounds. Doctors say that state agents forced them to false diagnose in order to cover up the violence carried out by authorities and security services during the violence which took place after elections this year. There were several cases of injuries and death due to gunshot wounds but went reported as stabbings. Military personnel has denied allegations of killings on August 1st after the elections.
This week marks the 50 year anniversary of the United States dropping its biggest bombing campaign on Laos in history. 50 years ago, more than 20 million tonnes of bombs were dropped on the small country. To this day, citizens in the country are still facing struggles given the leftover explosives that have not been deactivated yet. Nearly 80 million unexploded bombs are still hurting and killing innocent men, women, and children. Now, Laos is hoping for as many resources necessary to deactivate the remaining explosives.
This week, Vietnam and India have agreed to increase trade and relations between the two countries. In a press conference, expansions in trade, defense, and security are among the areas which India and Vietnam discussed further cooperation. The plan is to reach $15 billion by the end of 2020 in their bilateral trade volume; surpassing their $12.8 billion from last year.
Furthermore, Russia and Vietnam also plan to step up bilateral trade ties by 2020. By 2020, they wish to triple trade from their previous $3.55 billion to $10 billion. Mainly, cooperation will be emphasized on the oil and gas industries. Effect trade is made possible since the 2016 singing of the Eurasian Economic Union trade deal.
On Thursday, Vietnamese officials began to protest a move of China to build a new platform, likely to be used for military purposes, in the South China Sea. Accordingly, the new platform is in violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty. This is just the most recent of numerous actions taken by China regarding the South China Sea to infringe on national sovereignty. In a meeting, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson denied the building of the infrastructure is a violation of International law or Vietnam’s sovereignty.
Over the weekend, there was a deadly attack in Beni, the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak. Clashes broke out just meters away from the local emergency center. In total, seven Malawian and one Tanzanian peacekeeper were killed. Both the United Nations and the World Health Organization resumed work. Further, in the latest Ebola report, there are 166 confirmed deaths, and 47 probably deaths due to the disease.
President Duque claims that the top ELN leader, Gabino, is in Cuba. Duque believes that the supreme leader traveled from Venezuela to Cuba, even though he has an international arrest warrant, issued by Interpol. Accordingly, many ELN members are in Cuba with permission from the government in order to negotiate peace talks with Duque, although the president continues to fail in negotiating with the group. Anonymous sources stated that Gabino traveled to Cuba for medical treatment, but this is neither confirmed or denied. Duque is certain that Gabino is on the island, and wants to know why.
On Monday, violence unfolded in the Bogota refugee camp, home to Venezuelans. The tent camp, El Camino, set up directly for Venezuelan refugees who have fled their home country due to the economic and political crisis, is facing food shortages. Because of the lack of food, people in the camp began to violently react and riot against one another. Authorities in the camp denied the accusations of inhuman conditions and humanitarian shortfalls and insisted that the city of Bogota maintains open doors for those affected by Venezuela’s crisis.
A new decree to stop the number of assassinations of political leaders in Colombia has been put in place by president Duque. Since the president took office, killings of social leaders have increased severely. Since the peace signing with FARC, 416 leaders have been assassinated. The imposed decree states that the government will provide protection for all human rights defenders with a Plan of Timely Action (PTA) designed to find warning signs before a killing. The specific groups who are being targeted include anti-corruption campaigners, representatives of coca-growing communities, rights defenders, among others.
In a surprising move, the Trump administration is considering pushing Venezuela on their list of state sponsors of terrorism. This list is intended for governments who repeatedly are questioned on their provision for supporting acts of international terrorism. The U.S. list so far only includes Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. Lawmaker Marco Rubio has specifically pushed for this action, citing Venezuela’s ties with Hezbollah in Lebanon and FARC in Colombia. Venezuela has long been accused of state-sponsored terrorism, but the threats have been downplayed because there is a lack of concrete evidence. While this action is up in the air, the United States has yet to make a final decision on the matter.
Investigations recently opened up about a submarine deal which took place 16 years, when the former prime minister, Najib Razak was in a position of power. Since losing elections in May of this year, Najib has continued to face many allegations of corruption. While he pleads not guilty to all of them, investigators with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) are currently inspecting the possibilities of scandal during a 2002 sale of Scorpene-class submarines by a company based in France. While there is not enough evidence at this point in the investigation to convict Najib of any crimes, it is certainly on the radar of MACC.
In its newest attempt to get to the bottom of degree fraud, Malaysia has developed a blockchain certificate verification system. Fake degrees have become an ever-present dilemma facing Malaysia, for obtaining a false degree not only damaged the reputation of Malaysian universities but also poses a threat to students who rightfully obtained a university degree. The NEM blockchain possesses unique qualities regarding the ability to accurately trace falsehoods.
The Philippines — As the government continues to tighten their grip on media freedoms, artists are fighting back through their work. (Al Jazeera)
Saudi Arabia — After their neighboring country, Germany decided to halt arms sales to Saudi, Finland, and Denmark decided to do the same. (Washington Post)
Palestine — Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, is expected to arrive in the country in order to push towards peace between the Houthis and the Yemeni government. (Al Jazeera)
China —Civil rights activist, Huang Wenxun, has been re-detained after being released from a three-year prison sentence. Accordingly, he was arrested for celebrating the October 10th, the founding of the 1911 Republic of China. (RFA)
Yemen — Due to international requests for a ceasefire between the Saudi-UAE alliance and the Houthis in Hodeidah, the coalition is finally coming to a halt. This is after weeks of fighting between the two groups. (Al Jazeera)
Disarmed bombs left from American activities in Laos during the Vietnam War. (Halo Trust)
In the area of Deir al-Zor, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces resumed fighting against the Islamic State. This comes after a suspension in warfare. Presumably, Deir al-Zor is the last “foothold” of IS near the Iraqi border.
A report which came out this week claims that beginning in February, the global chemical weapons watchdog group will begin to hold accountable those responsible for chemical weapons used during the Syrian war. The task was given to the watchdog group, given the number of attacks in the most recent years by both the Syrian forces and rebel groups. Attacks have previously used both chlorine and sarin. The team will begin analyzing attacks which began as early as 2014.
Last Friday, a bricklayer shouted “Bolivia said no! Respect the referendum!” at president Morales. For this, the man was imprisoned and put on trial. After hearing of this case, presidential candidate Mesa took to Twitter to declare his solidarity and support for the man. Mesa sees his imprisonment as a direct abuse of the government. While the Bolivian government is claiming that the man also tried to throw an unknown object at president Morales, there is no evidence of the event. There was no reported aggression.
This week, the Social Democratic Movement, led by Ruben Costas and the National Unity party, led by Samuel Medina, agreed upon an alliance in the upcoming presidential elections. The new alliance is also open to agreements with other parties, for they believe that uniting citizen platforms will create a strong movement in opposing Evo Morales. This alliance was official just one day before the deadline to create political alliances expired.
In the Lava Jato case, the MAS has decided to have the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate Mesa, along with seven other former officials who may have been involved with the case during Mesa’s presidency. The Lava Jato case is specific to the construction of the Roboré-Arroyo Concepción highway while Mesa was the president of Bolivia. The investigation will seek to find evidence of Mesa’s involvement in the Lava Jato case; the largest foreign bribery case in history.
On December 5th, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has set a hearing to discuss whether or not re-election is a human right. This comes after the Human Rights and Observatory Foundation (FODHJ) requested further investigation of the matter.
Over the weekend, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, Josep Borrell, called the events occurring in Nicaragua a “bloody repression.” The Minister spoke of using sanctions against the Nicaraguan government and claimed that the international community has not done enough to put pressure on Daniel Ortega. Borrell would like to put sanctions “on the table.”
The latest reports indicate that since the repressions of Ortega’s government, the death toll has risen to 535 people. Furthermore, according to ANPDH, an estimated 4,354 people have been injured and are unable to access medical care. 1,302 citizens have been kidnapped by paramilitary groups, and 472 of them freed. Conflict between the government, pro-government citizens and opposition groups still continues.
On Wednesday, the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) met with representatives from the National Blue and White Unity (UNAB) and Nicaraguan diaspora in the United States. Almagro discussed the crisis occurring in Nicaragua and the many violations of human rights. Furthermore, Almagro spoke of the urgency to release the nearly 400 political prisoners.
The Editorial Board of the Washington Post has written a scathing op-ed regarding the Trump Administration’s handling of the North Korea situation, particularly as not much has changed in the volatile situation many residing in the DPRK face – the regime’s crushing prison camps and weapons programs have remained intact, with the only major difference being a lack of military tests. Since the summit, Trump has “swooned” over letters written by Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s infamous despot, and claimed that the United States is in ‘no rush’ to deal with the North Korean nuclear program. Most concerningly, the human rights situation in North Korea has remained alarmingly stagnant, and many international actors have not paid any attention to it at all.
On Monday, new satellite images have identified over a dozen undeclared missile operating bases, something that indicates that Pyongyang has indeed decided to continue moving forward with its ballistic missile and weaponry programs amid stalls during its talks with the United States. These images were first reported on by the New York Times and later were analyzed by Beyond Parallel, the Korean Peninsula program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The images have been identified as belonging to thirteen out of a projected twenty hidden test sites. On Tuesday, United States Vice President Mike Pence met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; both leaders reaffirmed the need to maintain sanctions on the DPRK in order to achieve denuclearization.
According to Washington-based cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, North Korea’s hacking program constitutes “the most innovative threat-actors in cyberspace,” despite the fact that the DPRK’s program lacks much of the “technical sophistication” of actors such as Russia or China. On Friday, according to North Korea’s official news media, the state has tested a new “ultramodern tactical weapon.” The state media has yet to identify the weapon and it is uncertain exactly what it is, although South Korean sources claim that the North Koreans have tested multiple rocket weapons this month. Also on Friday, the North Korean government announced that it would deport an American citizen detained one month ago for illegal entering the country to the United States.
Despite consistent condemnations from the United Nations and dozens of human rights groups, Myanmar and Bangladesh are moving forward with the beginnings of their repatriation plan to return Rohingya Muslims to the very place that they initially fled this Thursday. Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced on Tuesday that forcing the first batch of approximately 2,200 Rohingya living in Bangladesh to return to the “ground zero” of ethnic cleansing against them would be a “clear violation” of core international legal principles. United Nations officials have also claimed that they were not involved adequately throughout the process. Rohingya refugees themselves have also spoken out about their lack of involvement in the processes, many of whom have shared that they are afraid to return to Myanmar. On Thursday, people protested when they were told that buses had been organized, and it is unclear if any have been forced to leave so far.
As a result of this ongoing Rohingya crisis, Amnesty International has withdrawn its most prestigious human rights award (the Ambassador of Conscience Award) from Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, only the latest of a number of international honors and recognitions to be stripped from the leader in response to the genocide against Rohingya
What began as a small campfire on last Thursday in Paradise, California, ended as the worst wildfire that California has ever seen. The fire was officially put out on Tuesday evening. Latest reports indicate that 63 people have been confirmed dead, and the toll is expected to increase. Furthermore, the fire started in a town home to 27,000 people, and 7,000 structures have been wiped out. Now, most citizens are without homes and businesses. 95% of the town is gone. This is the deadliest wildfire that California has endured.
According to a think tank group, the Brookings Institute, the Trump Administration has the highest number of turn-over in their staff. As of Tuesday, it is possible that president Trump may fire three more officials including the cabinet Chief of Staff John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
According to the anti-trafficking authority of Cambodia, fifteen people have been arrested for alleged illegal surrogacy in Cambodia – a violation that can result in charges of human trafficking and lead to approximately 20 years in prison. In Cambodia, commercial surrogacy is seen as “buying or selling children” according to the National Committee of Combating Trafficking; the status of the children born as a result of this practice is unknown, as it is uncertain whether the intended parents will be permitted to claim and raise the children.
On Friday morning, over four decades after a fifth of Cambodia’s population perished under the rule of the Khmer Rouge, an international tribunal ruled for the first time that the Khmer Rouge committed genocide against the Muslim Cham minority and ethnic Vietnamese. Additionally, two of the oldest surviving members of the regime – Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan – were found guilty of genocide and various crimes against humanity.
During the New York trial of drug lord “El Chapo” Guzmán, the current and former president of Mexico were accused by El Chapo of taking bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel. President Nieto denies any claims to being involved with the largest drug cartel in Mexico. Further, El Chapo believes he is being made a scapegoat, stating that the true leader of the cartel, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada is walking freely in Mexico.
This week, the United Nations reported on a number of family planning youth advocates in the Maldives who are responding to a troubling lack of family planning education and reproductive health. In the Maldives, sex out of wedlock is criminalized, and citizens cannot access family planning services until after they have been married. Only one organization provides sexual and reproductive health education to young people the Society for Health Education, supported by the United Nations Population Fund.
On Wednesday, a controversial anti-defamation law was repealed by the Maldives’ Parliament; the 2016 law had served to re-criminalize defamation and had been used to fine and jail journalists and individuals found guilty of slander alike. This is the first of many campaign promises by president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, despite the fact that he has yet to formally take office. On the same day, an outspoken whistleblower who had formerly worked with the judicial watchdog agency returned to the Maldives after living abroad for several years and was promptly arrested for “mocking Islam and leaving the principles of Islam,” and also for her own safety, according to the police. This arrest was legal under the 1994 religious unity law, which criminalizes “attempting to disrupt the religious unity of Maldivians or talking in a manner that creates religious conflict among people,” in addition to “criticism of Islam in a public medium” under various sections of the penal code, citing posts that she made on social media perceived to be critical of Islam.
Inflation is the highest that it has been in Zimbabwe since its period of rapid hyperinflation ten years ago, leading economic experts to say that Zimbabwe’s economy is currently “teetering on the edge.” This month, inflation rates have soared to 21%, as opposed to the previously cited regional threshold of 7% – and compared to last month’s inflation rate of 5.4%. It is thought that this soaring rate of inflation has been exacerbated at least in part by the implementation of a tax imposed by Finance Minister Ncube on October 1st.
This week, two Zimbabwean generals testified that government troops were not responsible for the killings of six civilians during post-election violence on August 1st, claiming that the shooters instead must have been related to Zimbabwe’s opposition activists, which a military official described as “militant.” These interviews took place as a part of the government-led commission to determine the source of the shootings.
According to a piece by Radio Free Asia, it is highly likely that more disasters akin to the Lao dam disaster in July will occur if the region does not do more to hold project-funders and international development partners accountable and ensure that the environment is capable of supporting such large-scale projects. There are plans for 11 more large-scale dams, either proposed or already under construction, on the Mekong River in Laos and Cambodia – and about 140 dams on Mekong tributaries in Laos.
Amid the escalation of the trade war between the United States and China, China has pledged to set up a free-trade zone on its border between Thailand and Laos, offering special privileges to traders from the Mekong countries in what is likely an attempt to build regional supremacy amid its global economic uncertainty. It is also highly likely that this is only the first of a series of measures that will seek to bring Chinese economic ties closer to ASEAN. A report released on Friday revealed that it will be 200 years before Laos is cleared of unexploded American bombs from the time of the Vietnam War, with a remaining 80 million bombs to be dug up and defused.
On Monday, Vietnam became the seventh country to ratify the new Trans-Pacific trade pact (the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP). It is believed that this will help Vietnam to modernize its labor laws and industrial relations system, and also help to grow its garment-focused export industry. The CPTPP has been signed formerly by Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and Singapore. The four remaining states that are expected to ratify the pact are Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, and Peru.
Vietnamese activists fear that the government’s continued support of an anti-dissent law that could regulate anti-government speech on the internet could be used to completely curb activist activity even further than it is already being stifled. This law will come into effect on January 1st and will give relevant companies such as Google and Facebook, one year to bring their company policies into compliance with the draconian new law.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ebola outbreak is expected to last another six months in the DRC. Thus far, Ebola has claimed at least 200 lives in the latest outbreak, and while predicting a timeframe of ending the epidemic is a difficult matter, officials believe there cannot be a final declaration of its end until mid-2019.
After leaders from a variety of opposition groups met in Geneva to discuss and choose one leader to oppose Joseph Kabila in the December 23rd elections, Martin Fayulu was chosen as the candidate. An agreement was signed upon on Sunday, marking a rare moment in the Congo, given the political distress which has been occurring in the country due to president Kabila’s unwanted ruling since 2001. Although, a mass of citizen protests began because of the choice. Further, two of the opposition leaders who met in Geneva pulled out of the contract because the reaction from the public was angry and unsupportive of the decision. There are doubts that the December 23rd election will show a peaceful transition of power.
During a student-led protest across Colombia after talks with president Duque stalled, violence unfolded after groups of masked people began to attack the police. Due to this, the police began to violently attack students. While students intended to march peacefully, the feared riot police, ESMAD deployed tear gas and stun grenades. It appears as though the masked people who uninvitedly joined the march and escalated the chaos with the police. Students are now fearful that president Duque will see the acts of violence, he will pull out of talks completely.
On early Saturday morning, a group of ELN soldiers attacked buses and trucks in the César area of Colombia. In the event, the ELN forced passengers off of the buses and the vehicles were set on fire. This recent violent event came just one week after an ELN guerrilla group killed four Venezuelan soldiers. Five people were wounded in the most recent attack.
After walking 300 miles from the Choco area of Colombia to the capital of Bogota, 500 internally displaced civilians were turned away from entering the capital. The indigenous communities had walked to Bogota in order to flee the violence undergone between FARC members, ELN guerrillas, and the AGC paramilitaries. Authorities have continued at failing to maintain control of Choco. Once the band of 500 people arrived in the capital, they did not receive food, water or shelter. Instead, they were stopped by authorities.
The oil-rich Venezuela continues to have shortages in food, medicine and other basic goods for people across the country. In the latest report, it seems that Venezuela’s inflation rate is approaching 150,000%. It is expected to continue to spiral out of control. The new “Sovereign Bolivar” instituted by President Maduro just a few months ago persistently fails.
According to a Reuters report, Chinese telecom giant ZTE helped Venezuela develop a social credit system, similar to the one in China. The new development, called the “fatherland card” is intended to hold information about the user, and the data is then put into a government database. This way, the government can keep track of medical records, presence on social media, membership of a political party, and more. Venezuelans are concerned that this system can be used to further tighten social control. The card was implemented last year, and president Maduro offered cash prizes and cheaper fuel as an attempt to get people to sign up for the service. Accordingly, nearly half of the population has the card.
On Monday, Malaysia has decided to abolish the death penalty for 32 offenses according to a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who claims that a cabinet memorandum is already being circulated to the relevant ministries. On Wednesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir expressed appreciation and thanks towards Singapore for its role in aiding Malaysia to recover some of the funds lost as a result of the 1MDB scandal. Malaysian prosecutors have also announced that they will bring additional charges against the wife of the former premier Najib Razak in relation to this scandal. She has already pleaded not guilty to earlier charges.
This week, Malaysia claimed that amendments to curb child marriages will be reviewed in the middle of 2019 after widespread international backlash at a series of child marriages through the Islamic court system in rural Malaysia. On Thursday, the wife of former prime minister Najib Razak was officially charged with corruption accused of soliciting and receiving an approximate $45.12 million USD in bribes.
Russia — The Russian Duma has approved a bill which will soften punishment for first-time hate crime offenders this week. (Radio Free Europe)
Hungary — The former prime minister of Macedonia, now a fugitive after being sentenced to jail time for corruption, has reportedly sought asylum in Budapest claiming “persecution” by a “leftwing government” . (The Guardian)
Poland— On Sunday, Poland held a nationwide march to mark their anniversary of independence. While it was a peaceful march, far-right groups were among the 200,000 participants amidst a controversial decision to allow them in. (BBC)
The Philippines — Prominent Philippine journalist and government critic Maria Ressa, founding member of news site Rappler, has been charged with tax evasion in a move that Ressa and other advocates claim are acts of intimidation by the government. (TIME)
Saudi Arabia — The Attorney General of Saudi Arabia is pursuing giving the death penalty to at least five people who were involved in the Jamal Khashoggi murder. (Al Jazeera)
Palestine — In a targeted rade to kill a Hamas leader, Israeli soldiers killed seven Palestinians in the Gaza Strip this week. Further, one Israeli soldier died. (Al Jazeera)
China — An American congressional panel focusing on Chinese policy has released a report urging policymakers to take a harder approach to an increasingly authoritarian China. (Radio Free Asia)
Yemen — Due to international requests for a ceasefire between the Saudi-UAE alliance and the Houthis in Hodeidah, the coalition is finally coming to a halt. This is after weeks of fighting between the two groups. (Al Jazeera)