Weekly Reports — CANVAS

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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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Weekly Report 19 October 2018

Nicaraguan police beat demonstrators in Managua. (Oscar Navarrete, La Prensa)

Syria

With just one day to spare, the previously known militant group ‘Nasra Front’ (now known as Tahrir al-Sham), has agreed to abide by the deal of the Turkey-Russia buffer zone. The deal was to fully demilitarize any militant groups in the zone by Monday, October 15th. In a statement, the group said: “We value the efforts of all those striving – at home and abroad – to protect the liberated area and prevent its invasion and the perpetration of massacres in it.” While the group does not intend to give up their arms, nor end their jihad, they intend to remain peaceful, yet weary with Turkey and Russia.

As of Sunday, after three years of being closed, the Naseeb crossing between Jordan and Syria has reopened on Monday, October 15th. The crossing will not be open to ‘normal’ traffic yet, reports say. This is an important step for neighboring counties of Lebanon, the Gulf, and Turkey, seeing as this route provides multi-billion dollar trades. Also on Sunday, foreign ministers from Iraq and Syria discussed the possibility of reopening the border between their countries. Currently, their border is only open for government or military use. The dialogue between Assad and his neighbors is a step forward for Assad, given his government has been isolated since the Syrian war broke out in 2011.

With the United States increased focus on Iran, officials are concerned that this could draw the U.S. military closer to open conflict within Syria. While the Trump Administration has previously made drawing Iranian forces out of Syria one aspect of its four-point plan in Syria, it is becoming more evident that the Trump Administration plan is changing. The new plan would put an emphasis on squeezing Iran financially by withholding construction aid from where both Iranian and Russian forces are held. Further, the United States would impose sanctions on Iranian and Russian companies present in Syria. The administration will soon submit a new strategy to, which will more accurately reflect President Trump’s priorities.

Bolivia

Both The Social Democratic Movement (MDS) and SOL.bo plan to hold an alliance with the former president, Carlos Mesa. This comes just months before the 2019 elections. Their goal in unity is to end corruption in Bolivia and bring an end to the authoritarian government.

 

In the tropics of Cochabamba, the MAS has banned other political parties from registering militants. Further, the MAS has threatened to expel organizations which do not support Evo Morales. This prohibits political parties from opening registration tables, who are not the MAS. The leader of the political group, Leftist Revolutionary Front (FRI) strongly opposed this ban in a statement, claiming that this is “intolerance, the result of 12 years of absolute and hegemonic control of the MAS.”

Despite a 2009 approved constitution allowing indigenous groups of Bolivia to gain autonomous territory, only three of the twenty Autonomous Territorial Entities (ETAs) have obtained self-governance. Accordingly, there are a series of obstacles in the way of indigenous groups having access to their rights. Most of the said obstacles are due to national regulations imposed by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, along with other platforms through the central state. Groups that wish to become autonomous must pass 11 requirements.

This week, the National Committee for the Defense of Democracy (CONADE) announced that they will soon call to action their five resolutions of the council which took place on October 10th, just last week. Among the issues they intend to demand, one of them is a call for the resignation of candidacy for president Morales and his vice president, Álvaro García Linera in the upcoming 2019 elections. An official document stating CONADE’s demands will be sent to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).

Nicaragua

On Sunday, the news agency, 100% Noticias, was attacked by Sandinista supporters. Accordingly, the attackers were together on a bus and threw stones at the news agency’s building. Since the protests against Ortega’s government began, 100% Noticias has repeatedly been the victim of an attack, given they are a news agency which reports the truth of what is happening in Nicaragua.

This weekend, demonstrators against Ortega’s government held a peaceful march in Managua, led by the National Blue and White Unit. At the demonstration, Sandinista police used stun bombs and beat several people. Further, they illegally arrested 38 individuals. On Saturday, Sandinista police announced that they would not allow marches if they did not have proper authorization. This is the latest example of police brutality and repression seen in Nicaragua. After finding out about the illegal arrests and police brutality, the executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights described the event as, “unacceptable repressive and authoritarian attitudes at this moment.”

On Sunday, human right defender, Haydee Castillo was arrested in the airport on her way out of Nicaragua. Castillo was traveling with the president of the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua when immigration authorities detained her and brought her in for questioning. She was soon handed over to the Sandinista police. Castillo was then released on Monday, October 15th.

A number of individuals exiled to neighboring Costa Rica gathered to give a press conference, admitting to what they had previously experienced in Nicaragua. The group included President Ortega’s stepdaughter, the retired major of the Nicaraguan army, a defender of human rights in the LGBT community, and more. Upon speaking, Ortega’s stepdaughter denounced the president, claiming he intends “to eliminate any different or critical thinking that takes away the legitimacy that this government has already lost.” Further, others reiterated that the international community needs to step in and help to seek a peaceful solution for Nicaragua.

Nils Melzer, head of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, has submitted a request to visit Nicaragua. Melzer would like to visit Nicaragua to discuss the reported allegations of torture of political prisoners by the Sandinista authorities. He has yet to hear a response, and further, admits that it is a likely difficult response to obtain. There are currently at least 300 political prisoners, some of which have been tortured in order to obtain confessions.

This Thursday marked six months of nonviolent struggle for the Blue and White Party of Nicaragua. The Blue and White party has now launched a series of forms of protest, which they invite all Nicaraguans to join in on. The strategies are as followed: wear white on every 18th of the month, wear black on every 19th of the month, every Monday wear red lipstick, a “blackout” (stop using power) every day between 8-9 pm, stopping the usage of DNP oil, stopping consumption when convened, and to “activate” the streets in demand for freedom.

North Korea

On Tuesday, South Korea, the DPRK, and the United Nations Command jointly consulted regarding the disarming of the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the inter-Korean border area. This is following up on an earlier decision made at the Pyongyang summit between the two leaders in September. The first step in disarming the JSA, de-mining, began on the first of October and is estimated to last around 20 days. Meanwhile, South Korea and the DPRK have agreed to break ground in late November or early December to eventually connect railways across the border between the two Koreas as part of a modernization effort.

North Korean Vice Premier Ri Ryong Nam has been invited to attend a forum on inter-Korean cooperation in Seoul, alongside business leaders from important South Korean companies such as Samsung and Hyundai. Although Ri’s attendance has yet to be confirmed, it is highly likely that he will be in attendance according to an anonymous source from the South Korean Ministry of Economics. In another move by North Korea to broaden its diplomatic horizons, Kim Jong Un has invited Pope Francis to visit North Korea, in a move supported by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. However, North Korea is incredibly repressive when it comes to religious practices, and there are precious few venues in the country where citizens can freely practice religion without fear of persecution.

Myanmar

After revelations last month that Myanmar’s military utilized social media sites such as Facebook to stir anti-Rohingya sentiment prior to the beginning of the Rohingya genocide in the Rakhine state, Facebook reported on Monday that it removed 13 distinct pages and 10 accounts for “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior” including the distribution of propaganda. This has continued on from Facebook’s initial investigation, which removed 52 pages and 18 accounts, including some directly linked to military personnel, in August. The Facebook posts used talked about Islam as a “global threat to Buddhism”  and shared fake stories about crimes committed by Muslims – and some of them were even linked to celebrity pages. The social media campaign appears to have been active for at least the past 5 years.

The United States, alongside 8 other Security Council members, has requested that the UNSC receive briefings on the United Nations Fact Finding Mission in Myanmar. Myanmar’s ambassador has gone on record saying that his government strongly objects to this request, and it is expected that China will object as well – although it cannot use its veto on the vote, seeing as adding an item to the agenda is a procedural matter. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, three detained journalists appeared in a Yangon regional court fighting allegations that the stories that they had published were false. The story itself detailed alleged fund mismanagement by the Yangon regional government.

United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed that it would not be helpful to continue “piling on” accusations towards Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, claiming that such accusations are undermining the “best hope” that is to be had for democracy in the southeast Asian country.

USA

This weekend, both coasts of the United States saw clashes between far-left group Antifa and far-right group Proud Boys. Both of these activist groups condone political violence. In both New York and Portland, Oregon. Videos went viral of both groups beating each other. Among the weapons used, police stated they saw hard-knuckle gloves, batons, knives, and clubs.

Officials this week have estimated that more than 200 undocumented children separated from their families, are still in US custody. Nearly 175 of those children had parents removed from the United States. Of these, only 18 of them are in the process of being reunited with their families.

On Thursday, President Trump threatened to order the military to fully close the US-Mexico border if the flow of migrants does not stop soon. President Trump tweeted, “Hopefully Mexico will stop this onslaught at their Northern Border. All Democrats fault for weak laws!” This lash of a tweet came after hearing word of 4,000 people from Honduras making their way to the border with the intentions of crossing into the United States.

Cambodia

A recent report by Al Jazeera revealed that Cambodia’s brick-making agency, which is being used to support the rapid growth of many of its urban centers, relies upon the debt slavery of Cambodian families in order to exist – despite the fact that slavery is illegal under both domestic and international law. According to the International Labor Organization, debt bondage often goes hand in hand with climate change, as many poor farmers often have no other option to take once their crops fail. Cambodia also lacks a social security system and farmers receive no support from the government.

According to a leaked phone call, a ruling party official stated that Cambodian workers who take part in protests against Hun Sen from abroad should be identified and beaten – or made to suffer “traffic accidents.” This official, identified as the spokesperson for the Labor Ministry, made these remarks after recent protests from Cambodian migrant workers living in Tokyo. Civil society organizations have already begun to report that these remarks have frightened migrant workers abroad, who believe that they may be targeted by the government.

Cambodian civil society groups have banded together to create a joint petition, sent to the European Union, to advocate that the European Union not sign an agreement with Vietnam regarding the international trade in timber. Cambodian groups are against this due to Vietnamese support of the illegal mining industry in Cambodian territory. A report by the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency claimed that around 300,000 cubic meters of timber – including species of lumber that are endangered – were smuggled out of protected areas in Cambodia to Vietnam. However, Cambodia is also facing trade issues of its own – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen arrived in Brussels on Wednesday to attempt to persuade top European Union officials to forgo previously threatened sanctions against Cambodia due to actions by Hun Sen’s regime, which rendered the summer’s general elections unfair according to most of the Western world.

On Thursday, the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians universally condemned the treatment of Cambodian lawmakers, particularly opposition lawmakers as part of the CNRP. The IPU, However, Cambodia’s ruling party summarily dismissed what the IPU described as “brutality” on the part of the Cambodian authorities.

Mexico

The extradition of César Duarte, former Chihuahua governor, is being delayed. Duarte faces criminal charges in corruption and illicit enrichment. He fled to the United States in March of last year and is now believed to be residing in Texas. The delay in extraditing the former governor is being labeled as an act of corruption, according to former chief of the Special Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes, Santiago Nieto.

A report came out this week that Duarte, former Chihuahua governor is not the only official guilt of a crime. Accordingly, state and municipal governments in Veracruz are accused of embezzling upwards of 33 billion pesos over the course of 10 years from 2007-2017. Of the 212 municipalities, mayors of 153 of them are being accused of illegally diverting resources in 2017.

This past Saturday, the border between the United States and Mexico was opened up for the sixth time to allow families to reunite for some time. Nearly 3,000 people gathered at the border in the “Hugs, Not Walls” event. More than 200 families were able to see each other for a short period of time, all thanks to the Border Network for Human Rights cooperation with U.S. border control.

The incoming president has adopted a new security strategy of dividing Mexico into 265 regions. Accordingly, the plan is to deploy between 300-600 members of the army, navy, and federal police to each region, all depending on their crime rate and the number of people in the region. Soon to be president López Obrador says this plan will be implemented as soon as he takes office. Furthermore, 70% of the goal of the security plan is to bring peace to the country through preventative action, meaning combating root causes of violence through stimulating economic growth, creating jobs and providing more education. The other 30% of the strategy is considered coercive, referring to the deployment of federal security forces. After hearing the proposed plan, a top security analyst both questioned and critiqued the plan, pointing out that the number of deployments per region does not add up.

The Maldives

Over the weekend, the currently ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives has denied offering bribes in exchange for false testimony to back President Abdulla Yameen’s challenge of his defeat in the election. Furthermore, on Tuesday, the Maldivian Supreme Court refused to call secret witnesses in President Abdulla Yameen’s petition to annul the results of the September 23 election, despite the president’s lawyers attempting to do so. The bench ruled that these witnesses were inadmissible; Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi announced that a judgment would be heard at the next hearing, although a date has yet to be confirmed. Yameen has been seeking a Supreme Court order for new polls, although he initially conceded mere hours after the election had finished.

On Thursday, the High Court overturned former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s conviction of “obstruction of justice,” which would have resulted in a sentence of 19 months in prison. In part, the High Court judge made this decision, as Gayoom was denied proper representation during crucial parts of the trial. He was released on bail a week after the September elections.

Zimbabwe

Despite claims that the economic situation in Zimbabwe is worsening as black market fuel sales increase and goods continue to be incredibly difficult to find, Zimbabwe’s government claimed that things are improving, and the worst of the country’s economic struggles are now over. However, prices are continuing to rise, and there continue to be mass shortages of goods on the ground – with some economists claiming that the current crisis is only exacerbated by a widespread lack of trust in the government among Zimbabwean citizens.

Because of this widespread economic crisis, the Zimbabwean black market has risen in importance to become a vital part of Zimbabwe’s economic structure. According to black market sellers interviewed by Al Jazeera, there is very little that the government can actually do to enforce legal transactions in the case of fuel, as there is simply no other way to obtain fuel for average Zimbabweans. Much of the blame for the crisis has fallen upon the Zimbabwean president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is urging the populace to be patient – as these things cannot be fixed in such a short period of time. However, anger against Mnangagwa appears to be widespread, even as he attempts to tackle other issues.  Recently, he posted a picture of himself getting vaccinated against cholera on Twitter, urging people in high-density areas of Zimbabwe to do the same to protect against the current cholera crisis in Zimbabwe’s capital; however, citizens responded angrily on Twitter, claiming that Mnangagwa should instead be focusing on the economy.

Laos

Although the Laotian government has been promoting Chinese tourism and will continue to do so over the coming year in a bid to improve the economy, Radio Free Asia’s Lao Service has spoken to many that believe that instead of improving the economy of Laos, it is highly likely that much of the money to be brought in by the joint 2019 Visit Year campaign will serve to benefit Chinese hotels and tour groups, without any benefit actually coming to Lao citizens.

Despite taking part in a profit-sharing arrangement with a Vietnamese rubber company, Lao villagers are now receiving no financial compensation for the land that they had leased, with the company claiming that the land actually belongs to the state. The seizure of land for development or agricultural use by foreign companies has been an increasingly large problem in many authoritarian Southeast Asian states, and this is only the latest example in this trend.

Vietnam

United States Defense Chief James Mattis headed to Vietnam starting on Tuesday in what is suspected to be an attempt to counteract the effects of Chinese influence on Vietnamese policy. Over the past year, the United States has pushed harder to cultivate a strong military relationship with Vietnam, with a United States Navy aircraft carrier making a port call at Da Nang. Mattis will be visiting Ho Chi Minh City, which is rarely on the itinerary for Americans visiting Vietnam. Furthermore, the trip initially included a visit to Beijing, which was canceled due to rising tensions between the United States and China.

Following a surprise release from prison on Wednesday, prominent Vietnamese activist and blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (who uses the pen name “Mother Mushroom”) arrived in the United States, where she requested to leave to in the event of her release for the sake of her family. However, she also says that she will not stop raising awareness and protesting until there are human rights in Vietnam, and she has advocated that the American government do the same. Although her release is a positive step forward, Vietnam does not appear to have let up in its punishment of critics in any way, and it continues to oppress and imprison other activists, journalists, and members of civil society.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

After three years of being held in prison, opposition leader Paulin Makaya has been denied leaving Brazzaville. Makaya has tried to travel twice since released and has been stopped both times. Accordingly, Makaya had been jailed after organizing a demonstration against the constitutional referendum which allowed the president to pursue another term in May of 2016. Makaya was released from prison as of September 17th of this year.  

According to Reuters, Congolese migrants residing in neighboring Angola and who have been involved in diamond mining, have been subject to a brutal crackdown carried out by police. In the past few weeks, Angola has launched an operation to crackdown on the thousands of people searching for diamonds and other stones in the northeast of the country. In a report with 20 Congolese migrants, Reuters was told that the migrants had been subject to violence, looting and forced displacement by security forces in Angola.

In the latest UNICEF report on malnourished children in the DRC, it was estimated that at least two million children are in fact acutely malnourished and are facing the risk of death. This continues to be an issue looming over the DRC, and humanitarian budget cuts to the region have made it even more difficult for aid workers to help.

On Monday, a US official reported that people from the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who are in the DRC in order to help control the Ebola outbreak, have been taken out of the more high-risk areas. Due to the recent spike in violence, it was felt that the safety of this personnel was at risk and they were unable to properly do their job.

Colombia

After half a million students and teachers took the streets to demand more funding for Colombia’s education system, President Duque has offered concessions. Accordingly, the countries education system needs $1 billion to cover basic operations costs. Further, students and professors say that universities are in need of an extra $4.9 billion for maintenance of infrastructure. The marches help were the first since the newly elected Duque. After the demands, President Duque admitted that Colombia’s education system is in fact suffering, and has vowed to give $164 million. Although, opposition reject the concession, as they are demanding $325 million.

This week, Colombia’s former army commander agreed to tell the truth about the war crimes which took place under his command. General Montoya had previously resisted the accusations but has now decided to come forward. During the US-funded “Plan Colombia” implemented in 2000, Montoya was held responsible for the execution of thousands of civilians. The general may face 40 years in prison for his crimes against humanity.

With surprise, Colombia’s House of Representatives has voted to hold off 2019 elections and instead push it to 2022 when national elections are held. The amendment seeks to end the separation of elections. While the amendment was approved by 24 of the 32 members of the senatorial first commision, other officials believe that the proposed amendment is purposely trying to reduce regional autonomy by holding regional and national elections at the same time.

Venezuela

After spending four years in prison, a Venezuelan activist named Lorent Saleh was released from prison and immediately sent to Spain. In a statement, Saleh said, “What I ask is that we all think about the fact that in Venezuela there are innocent people behind bars, people that have been kidnapped and who deserve to cross the same bridge that I have.” Back in 2014, Saleh was arrested after a video surfaced of him speaking out against Venezuela. The arrest was highly condemned by human rights groups. Saleh’s sudden release came just days after a political prisoner suspiciously died and further, is seen as a way to ease political tensions.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Venezuela’s annual inflation rate could reach an all-time high at the end of 2018. The suspected inflation is suspected to hit 1.37 million percent. This has increased dramatically since January’s inflation rate of 13,000 percent, to July’s rate at 1,000,000 percent, to now.

Malaysia

After six hours of questioning over the alleged abuse of power that took place while he was in office, former Prime Minister Najib Razak was seen leaving the headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission on Tuesday. It is suspected that this new round of questioning might be a result of a new investigation taking place, linked to the heavily-scrutinized state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Najib was last summoned to the MACC on September 19th, when he was held overnight and forced to appear in court in the morning. So far, it is unknown exactly what new allegations may have emerged to cause this new round of questioning.

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the former deputy prime minister, appeared in court this Friday to face charges of 45 separate counts of corruption. He is only the most recent in a string of senior Malaysian politicians to be charged with suspected corruption since May’s general elections. Some of Zahid’s charges relate to the misuse of charitable funds and questionable payments, although he has so far denied all wrongdoing. Following his arrest, Zahid spent the night in custody, had to pay a bail of 2 million ringgit (approximately $481,000 USD), and was forced to surrender his passport.

Palestine

This week, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to cut off all fuel deliveries to the Gaza strip. This threat came after a move by Hamas on Friday to employ tactics, including sending balloons attached to explosive devices over the border to Israel. Further, on Friday, Israeli forces killed seven protesters along the fence during the ongoing Great March of Return protest. If Netanyahu cuts off fuel shipments, the Gaza Strip will lack electricity completely, seeing as Israel is the only supplier of the resources. Accordingly, fuel deliveries will only continue if there is a complete ceasefire to violence.

Reports came out this week that the unemployment rate for college graduates in occupied Palestine is 55% for men, and 72% for women. Accordingly, college graduates are finding it harder to obtain a job than their peers who do not have any degree in higher education. the Palestinian minister of education is worried about young Palestinians’ future opportunities.

In response to a rocket launched from Gaza into the Israeli territory of Beersheba, Israel fired back with jets, striking 20 targets in the Gaza strip. One Palestinian was killed, and eight others were injured. Among the injured were six children.

Other News

Russia —  21 died at a shooting taking place at a technical school in Crimea, a region which was illegally annexed from Ukraine. (Radio Free Europe)

Hungary — In another move condemned by the United Nations as “cruel and incompatible with international human rights law,” Hungarian officials have passed a constitutional amendment that bans people from sleeping on the streets, which came into effect this Monday. (Washington Post)

Poland— At Poland’s Equality March, promoting the rights of the LGBT community, counter-protesters pelted marchers with firecrackers, rocks, and bottles. Several dozen counter-protesters were then arrested. (Radio Poland)

The Philippines — Shortly after formalizing his bid for Camarines Sur Governor, House Majority leader Rolando Andaya Jr. survived what is suspected to be an assassination attempt. (CNN Philippines)

Pakistan — Militants within Pakistan abducted 11 Iranian guards, sparking a coordination of search efforts. (Washington Post)

Tibet — Chinese workers in Qinghai province, on the border of Tibet’s autonomous region, attacked a group of Tibetans who were protesting their intrusion into local grazing areas – even dragging one man a short distance with a truck. (Radio Free Asia)

China — A regional official in west Xinjiang defended the mass internment of Chinese Muslims in the province, claiming that authorities were preventing “terrorism” through these centers, which supposedly are providing “vocational education.” (Al Jazeera)

Iran On Tuesday, the United States imposed sanctions on a band of businesses which provide financial support for military forces in Iran, which supposedly train and deploy child soldiers. (Al Jazeera)

Yemen This week, President Hadi fired his prime minister, Ahmed Bin Dagher. The prime minister was blamed for Yemen’s poor economic crisis. (Al Jazeera)

Bhutan — Two opposition parties received the most votes during last months national elections, and this Thursday, voters cast their ballot for the National Assembly. (NHK World)

Weekly Report: 12 October 2018

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)

Weekly Report: 5 October 2018

Protesters in Vietnam waving flags. (Asia Times via Facebook)

Syria

After a terrorist attack left 25 people dead in Iran on September 22nd of this year, Tehran launched 6 missiles in Syria at Islamic State militants. Iran has accused U.S.-backed Gulf Arab states on causing the attack in Iran last month and thus decided to target “takfiri terrorists,” which are backed by Washington. The Guards of the Islamic Republic (Iran’s most powerful military) stated that “Our iron fist [missiles] is prepared to deliver a decisive and crushing response to any wickedness and mischief of the enemies,” making it clear that Iran is willing to fire back after any attack from enemies.

It is not recent news that the administration plans to keep troops in Syria until they have ‘defeated’ ISIS, but just recently, it seems there is another motive for the U.S. to stay in the war-torn country. This week, James Jeffrey, the representative for Syria at the State Department mentioned that there will be a continued military mission in Syria until Iranian forces are out of the country. It is believed that Assad’s government is backed by at least 10,000 fighters who follow orders from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. They are believed to be the ‘backbone’ of Assad’s accomplishment in gaining back territory from rebels. Further, it is unlikely that Iran will stop aiding the Assad government any time in the near future, meaning that U.S. troops are likely to be in Syria for an extended period of time.

Although Syria’s government has claimed that it is now ready to accept refugees’ return, the United Nations have urged people to be more cautious. The United Nations resident humanitarian coordinator and various other officials, however, have explicitly stated that they will not urge refugees to return – specifically because there is still a lot to be done before the country can be considered truly safe. Additionally, the Turkish President Erdogan stated that Turkish troops will not leave Syria until general elections are held.

Bolivia

Monday, October 1st marks a day of frustration for Bolivia. At the International Court of Justice in the Hague, it was decided that Chile is not obligated to give Bolivia sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean. The final verdict came after a vote of 12 to 3, in favor of Chile. While the court came to a final vote, they declared that this does not necessarily prevent the two countries from continuing dialogue to address the maritime dispute. Further, only a few minutes after the court came to a final vote, President Piñera of Chile stated that President Morales gave the people of Bolivia a sense of “false expectations.” Piñera also mentioned that Chile is happy to continue dialogue with Bolivia, but only if Morales does not try to reclaim the sea by using other instances of justice.

After the ICJ ruling, citizens across Bolivia took to social media, including Twitter and Facebook to explain their frustrations with the ruling. The people of Bolivia had many reactions. Most people urged the country to overcome the ruling, while others wrote about looking for creative and newer solutions to gaining access to the sea. While not everybody put the blame on President Morales, others have criticized him of lying and confusing Bolivians by creating a false hope.

In a statement about the ICJ ruling in favor of Chile, President Morales mentioned, “I am going to assume all the responsibility to defend Bolivia because of the sea.” After coming back from the Hague, Morales immediately met with his cabinet, armed forces and members of social movements in order to discuss the ruling. Morales believes that the ruling was unfair, specifically stating that the ICJ failed to recognize that Bolivia was “born” with a seacoast and the Treaty of 1904 between Chile and Bolivia lacks a resolution of the maritime enclosure. Morales letter to the UN is meant to justify how the ruling on October 1st showed the United Nations lack of guaranteeing peace to all nations.

Nicaragua

Despite United Nations indications that the Sandinista government has carried out multiple human rights violations against citizens of Nicaragua, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua has firmly denied these accusations. In an interview, the Vice Minister mentioned that Ortega’s government has initiated a “process to reinstate the peace” after the “attempted coup” against the government.

This week, the Sandinista police declared that the “blue and white” protests carried out against Ortega’s government are illegal. The police are now allowed to arrest any person in the marches. the UN spoke out against this, given it is a violation of the right to peacefully assemble. An Austrian-American reporter who had been covering these protests for outlets including the Guardian and the Washington Post has been deported from Nicaragua due to his coverage after Nicaraguan officials claimed he was spreading false information.

On Monday, the blue and white movement gathered to march in New Guinea in protest of Ortega’s government arresting political activists. The march demanded that political prisoners should be released. There weren’t any incidents of police brutality. Between September 30th-October 5th, the repressions and socio-political issues in Nicaragua will be discussed at the 169th annual session of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). The session takes place in Boulder, Colorado and Félix Maradiaga, director of IEEPP will be addressing the issues occurring in Nicaragua.

North Korea

South Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea launched a joint landmine removal effort in border areas in order to work towards implementing the inter-Korea military agreement, particularly in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of the DMZ. The removal will last for twenty days, after which the two sides will launch consultations alongside the UN Command as to how to operate troops in the JSA after the disarmament.

Over the weekend, the North Korean foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, told the United Nations General Assembly that North Korea will not consider denuclearizing until the United States “secures [their] sufficient trust.” Ri also characterized the regime as having taken several goodwill steps of its own, such as stopping nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and dismantling the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. It is uncertain exactly what measures the DPRK is hoping that the United States will take in order to obtain this trust.

The United States announced this week that  Mike Pompeo will be meeting with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang this coming Sunday to plan a second summit between the United States and the DPRK. Pompeo also backed away from his previous timeline, which had claimed that the country would give up nuclear weapons by January 2021, instead stating that the denuclearization process will have to take place more slowly.

According to U.S. security firm FireEye, a North Korean hacking group known as APT38 is allegedly responsible for the theft of over $100 million USD, something that falls in line with past accusations of the DPRK using hacking to raise government funds. It is suspected that the DPRK is responsible for the 2017 WannaCry attacks and was certainly responsible for the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures.

Myanmar

Singapore’s foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, urged Myanmar to begin the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh as per the agreement signed last November, pledging that ASEAN stands “ready to help” – but that Myanmar must facilitate this process and take the first steps. A major focal point of discussion was also on the humanitarian impacts of the crisis, which Balakrishnan called “unacceptable.” Alongside Balakrishnan, various other foreign ministers urged that Myanmar give a full mandate to an inquiry commission to hold those responsible for violence accountable, calling the situation a “man-made humanitarian disaster.”

On Tuesday, Canada chose to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship, citing her complicity in the atrocities committed against Myanmar’s Rohingya people. She is the first person to have her honorary Canadian citizenship revoked, having repeatedly denied the atrocities that have taken place despite her position as a Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her fight for democracy in Myanmar.

On Thursday, India was criticized for deporting seven Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar, despite allegations that doing so will put them at risk. The seven men deported have been detained for immigration violations since 2012. The UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, said that India risked breaching its international legal obligation by returning these men to possible harm – specifically calling it a “flagrant denial of their right to protection.”

USA

This week, the United States reached a trade deal on NAFTA with both Mexico and now Canada. This is a big win for President Trump, given reaching a deal was one of his campaign promises. The new deal will be called the U.S-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The new briefed outline of the deal includes, “changes in language governing dairy imports, dispute resolution between countries, limits on online shopping that can be done tax-free, and limits on the U.S. threat of auto tariffs.”

This upcoming Sunday, Mike Pompeo is going to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong Un in an effort to breath new life into nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea. Pompeo is accordingly slowly easing his way into getting North Korea to denuclearize. On Sunday, Pompeo will also discuss the second summit to be held between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.

After Christine Blasey Ford held a hearing last week which included her admitting personal details about Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault, she is demanding that the FBI should further investigate her with an interview. Kavanaugh now has several sexual assault allegations against him, and while the FBI has investigated the matter, specifically with Ford, they have yet to interview her. By the end of the week, the Bureau will come to a final conclusion on Kavanaugh’s case. The final report will only be available to senators, not the public.

After about a year of ongoing strikes and harsh criticism from the public about unfair wages and unhealthy work conditions, Amazon has increased their minimum wage to $15 per hour. This will affect 250,000 Amazon employees along with 100,000 season Amazon employees who work during the holiday season. Bezos, the current wealthiest person in the world, has undergone a lot of public criticism, including from Senator Bernie Sanders who last month, introduced a bill called the “stop BEZOS Act” which would require Amazon along with other large companies similar to Amazon to cover costs of public housing, food stamps, along with other federal assistance received by employees. Now that Bezos has stepped forward in his efforts of making a difference in the lives of his employees, there will hopefully be a ripple effect among other large companies, such as Walmart, to follow along.

Cambodia

At the United Nations meetings this weekend, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned against questioning the legitimacy of his reelection after a top United Nations official doubted whether the polls could be considered democratic. Despite assertions that any accusations of undemocratic conduct are against “the will of the Cambodian people,” Hun Sen’s presence at the UN building caused massive protests outside of the General Assembly, specifically denouncing the conduct of the Cambodian leader.

On Monday, Cambodia’s Supreme Court rejected the defamation conviction of Ny Chakrya, the deputy secretary-general of the National Electoral Commission, citing a lack of evidence and ordering the Appeal Court in Cambodia to hold a retrial. This conviction was previously upheld in 2016 by the Appeal Court. Local human rights groups applauded the rejection on the part of the Supreme Court; however, the Supreme Court also ruled that state security forces were not responsible for provoking violence against activists during a controversial 2013 protest, despite claims that the police were “violently and intentionally attacked” by security forces from those such as Am Sam Ath, the head of investigations for one Cambodian human rights group.

Under a grant from the United Nations Democracy Fund, the Cambodian Development Resource Institute has worked to empower women’s groups to work for climate change advocacy in four separate provinces throughout the country. The groups have been analyzing climate change risks in their communities and working to enhance their community resilience against natural disasters such as floods, landslides, and droughts. Meanwhile, on Friday, the Cambodian government jailed a seventy-year-old barber for his violation of a new law against defaming the royal family. The man has been sentenced to a year in prison; he is the first to have been sentenced under this new law, which was adopted unanimously by parliament in February.

Mexico

After Canada agreed to take part in the NAFTA trade deal, President Nieto of Mexico calls the deal a “win-win-win.” The deal was finalized this past Sunday after 13 months of negotiations between the three neighbors.

The new president-elect has proposed a six-year project that would entail moving some government agencies and large companies outside of the capital, Mexico City, and relocating them to smaller areas of the country. The plan includes moving up to 31 agencies in the hopes that workers and their families will follow their jobs, relocate, and thus spread out the population. Currently, 18% of Mexico’s population is in Mexico City–a startlingly large number. If the new president’s plan works, potentially 2.7 million people would leave the main city. Although, some reports say it is unlikely that everybody would just up and move from their home. Although the influx of new agencies would cause a bit of buffer and disruption due to the necessary infrastructure and allocation of resources necessary to move entire companies, most cities would, in fact, benefit from this plan in the long run. A report shows that the entire project is likely to cost up to 140 billion pesos, a demography researcher in Mexico admits that it is a necessary step to overcoming overpopulation, a shrinking water supply, and pollution, among other factors.

The Maldives

Although the incumbent president of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen, conceded defeat last week, he has now openly questioned the election results and urged supporters to protest nationwide against alleged “vote rigging.” Simultaneously, Yameen came under fire for an Al Jazeera report that dropped this Tuesday, which alleged that $1.5 million was deposited in his private bank account as donations for his reelection campaign. The presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Muaz Ali, claimed that all of the money was regularly deposited and that allegations of corruption are unfounded.

The Maldivian Supreme Court is set to rule this week on the issue of twelve lawmakers who defected last year to hand the opposition a majority who are deemed to have lost their seats. They are said to have lost their seats as a result of an anti-defection legislation which came into place on July 13th of last year, despite the fact that they were expelled from the party prior to the ruling.

On Tuesday, former Maldivian strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom met with the president-elect and urged Yameen to accept the results of the election. He stated that “for the safety and security of the people,” Yameen must accept the results and “say goodbye with a smiling face.”

Zimbabwe

Despite the ruling of the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court to dismiss opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s claims of election fraud, Chamisa has continued to claim that he won the elections – and said to an audience at his party’s headquarters on Tuesday that he would not be waiting until 2023 general elections to challenge current president Mnangagwa again. However, a Zanu PF spokesperson said that the ruling party would not lose any sleep over threats to remove the current president from power, claiming that these threats are not credible and that the state has protections against such “lawlessness.” However, churches united under the Zimbabwe Council of Churches have taken the lead in attempting to facilitate talks between President Mnangagwa and Chamisa to defuse the tension and facilitate dialogue.

As part of a plan to stabilize the economy, Zimbabwe’s cabinet agreed to cut some government jobs to reduce the public-sector wage bill. This is only one feature of what Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube calls the “Transitional Stabilization Programme,” which will seek to eradicate corruption, strengthen Zimbabwe’s balance of payments, simplify the administration of taxes, and strengthen fiscal responsibility.

Laos

This week, Al Jazeera released an in-depth piece about the state of freedom of speech in Laos, which has been effectively strangled by the government’s policing of both journalism and social media efforts. Influential Facebook users, known in Laos pejoratively as “net idols,” have faced retribution for their posts – and two of the topics that are most dangerous for posters are democracy and human rights. The crackdown has increased since the floods last July left many dead and almost 100 missing with little information from the government, which forced Laotians to turn to Facebook in order to obtain information about their loved ones. NGO and aid workers have also been afraid to make public statements about the Laotian government since the disappearance of an aid worker 6 years ago.

Vietnam

Only a week after the death of former Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, the former head of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Do Muoi, has died at the age of 101 after fighting serious illness. Muoi formerly was arrested by the French colonial government but escaped and fought for independence as a member of the Communist party. It is unknown when Muoi’s state funeral will take place.

The Vietnamese government has continued to crack down on pro-democracy activists and activist groups with the aim of severing connections between growing political groups and organizations that may present a challenge to the dominance of the ruling Communist Party. Members of groups such as the Brotherhood for Democracy have been given increasingly harsher sentences, especially as the activist community has been increasingly galvanized by the potential creation of special economic zones, which would give foreign powers like China an undue economic advantage.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

In a rally held by opposition leaders in the capital of Kinshasa, thousands of peaceful supporters showed up to hear what the leaders needed to say. Congo’s opposition warned the people of the Congo that they are fearful of a rigged vote in the upcoming election on December 23rd. The current president, Joseph Kabila is meant to step down after 17 years of power. At the rally this past weekend, opposition leaders cautioned citizens of the new electronic voting system, which they believe can be easily rigged. while authorities argue that the system will do the opposite for its ability to cut costs, reduce fraud and advance counting of votes, supporters of the opposition leaders were in full support of what the opposition had to say.

The newest statistics about the Ebola outbreak in the DRC have confirmed 150 total cases, and 150 deaths so far. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the likelihood of the outbreak spreading to neighboring countries is “very high.” Further, the WHO’s emergency response chief said that there are not any plans to remove health workers from the DRC, and that there seem to be several obstacles in the way of stopping the Ebola outbreak.

Colombia

Due to the large influx of Venezuelan migrants flowing into Colombia, there are reports of an informal camp inside the capital of Bogota where hundreds of Venezuelans have situated themselves. The camp is called El Bosque and home to many families and individual Venezuelans looking to eat, sleep, and figure out next steps. Unfortunately, as of this week, reports say that police have plans to barricade the site and evict people living there. While local authorities are trying to move children and pregnant women to shelters, the rest of the residents must fend for themselves.

According to a report by Reuters, if the crisis in Venezuela continues to worsen, there could be as many as 4 million Venezuelan migrants living in Colombia by 2021. Further, it is estimated that this influx of people would cost near $9 billion and .5 percent of Colombia’s gross domestic product in healthcare, education and infrastructure spending. While this is a prediction of the “worst” possible outcome, it is an estimation that Colombia is deeply considering and paying attention to.

Venezuela

After this months more than 3,000 percent increase to Venezuela’s minimum wage–which is claimed to not be enough to cover needs–PDVSA oil workers began to protest. Accordingly, the new minimum wage law disregards agreements on previous pay scales and union agreements. On Friday, dozens of oil workers protested outside of Petropiar, demanding fair wages. Because of the protests, workflow and procedures have come to a halt.

Malaysia

Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been arrested by members of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency on Thursday. She has been charged with 17 counts of money laundering and tax evasion; this is similar to her husband, who faces multiple counts of money laundering, breach of trust, corruption, and the abuse of power. Rosmah pleaded not guilty. Some of her belongings, however, have been linked back to her husband’s corruption at the very least. The United States Department of Justice discovered in its inquiry, released last year, that Rosmah’s $23 million pink diamond (set in one of her necklaces) was paid for with funds stolen from 1MDB.

A Syrian asylum seeker, who has been stuck in transit in an airport in Kuala Lumpur since March has been forcibly removed by immigration services and is reportedly in questioning. The asylum seeker, 36-year-old Hassan al-Kontar, has been moving from country to country since 2016 in hopes of seeking asylum, with no success. He has also applied for asylum in Canada, but the process can take up to two years, and the United Nations refugee agency has yet to offer “real solutions.”

A United Nations human rights expert urged Malaysia to ban child marriage immediately, weighing in on a controversy that has raged since reports of a 44-year-old Malaysian man marrying an 11-year-old Thai girl came out in July. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has promised to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 since his ascension to the presidency in May. However, he has faced quite a bit of backlash from Islamic courts and officials, as they have technical jurisdiction over marriages between Muslim individuals – and are currently able to approve marriages between those younger than 16, the current marriageable age in Malaysia.

Palestine

On Monday, the order for Israel to complete a demolition in an occupied Palestinian neighborhood in the West Bank came into effect. Of the people living in the Khan-Al-Ahmar region, some 180 of them are being forcibly evicted and transferred. The Palestinians and Bedouins in the area were given a warning, but are choosing to stay and confront the Israeli troops who will eventually come and knock down the infrastructure. Some from the international community strongly oppose this, including countries like the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain given this demolition will further threaten the continuation of a two-state solution. Further, the UN has called on Israel on numerous occasions to stop the plan, stating that it is a “breach of international law.”

 

Other News

Russia — This week, a top Russian diplomat warned that the United States is “on a dangerous path” by accusing Russian military intelligence of hacking Western institutions. (Radio Free Europe)

Hungary — Alongside Poland, Hungarian officials have taken the European Union to court over an EU directive that proposes tightening labor laws for workers sent abroad from less wealthy states. (Politico.eu)

Poland— A new movie involving the corruption of priests hit the theatres in Poland this week, causing outrage in conservative politicians within the country. (Reuters)

The Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has revealed that he is awaiting the results of tests for cancer, staying that he does not “know where [he is]” now physically. (Time)

Pakistan —  Weeks after the United States cut off $300 million in military aid, Pakistan is urging the country to restore relations and continue military aid. (Radio Free Europe)

Tibet The U.S. Congress has passed a bill saying that it will deny U.S. entry to Chinese officials who prohibit American citizens from entering Tibet after lobbying from Tibetan-Americans and Tibet supporters. (Radio Free Asia)

China Photos posted by a Canadian law student show a rapid expansion of a re-education camp in western Xinjiang, where 8 million Uighur Muslims are detained. (Business Insider)

Iran This week, the United States has terminated the 1955 treaty with Iran. This came directly after the United Nations urged the Trump administration to calm sanctions against Iran. (Al Jazeera)

Yemen This week, southern separatists, backed by the UAE, called for an uprising against the Yemeni government. While the separatist movement has demonstrated months of violent protest in the port city of Aden, they are continuing to uprise because of their suffering. (Al Jazeera)