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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Earlier this week, a UN official investigating the Rohingya crisis said that her observations are leading her to believe that this may amount to genocide. “I am becoming more convinced that the crimes committed following 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017 bear the hallmarks of genocide and call in the strongest terms for accountability.” In her report, she further calls for a thorough, unbiased, and serious investigation into the crimes being committed against the Rohingya. Myanmar later issued a rejection of this UN statement. Top officials in the country denied that Myanmar or its military had committed any crimes against the Rohingya. This comes even after the army has, on rare occasions, admitted to killing some Rohingya people. Nevertheless, the government’s crimes against the minority are egregiously brutal and targeted, far beyond what they have acknowledged at all.
In another part of the country, approximately 2000 people were displaced by military forces this week. The Karen (alternately ‘Kayin’) State in southern Myanmar is home to another of the nation’s ethnic minorities. In 2012, the people here negotiated peace with the central government, in talks led by Aung San Suu Kyi. This invasion and displacement of the people endangers that ceasefire, risking a plunge back into one of the longest-running civil conflicts in the world.
Miguel Rodrigues Torres, ex-interior minister and former Chavez spy chief, was arrested March 12 for “involvement in actions against peace” according to a government statement and for “conspiring to destabilize the government.” The statement accused him of plotting a coup with discontented military officers and of working for US intelligence, supporting Maduro’s suspicions of US meddling, although no evidence has been offered.
Torres was close with Chavez, aiding his short-lived coup attempt in ‘92. Since then, Torres served for a time as Maduro’s interior minister, but after leaving the post has distanced himself from the unpopular president, expressing support for the opposition protests and even looking to run as a presidential candidate (though he was barred due to “administrative irregularities”). He was also accused of collaborating with Oscar Pe?rez, the bomb-dropping helicopter pilot who was shot and killed earlier this year by government forces. Torres denies this connection.
On another note, the Venezuelan opposition group Broad Front is calling for mass street protests against the “fraudulent” presidential elections scheduled for May. Broad Front spokesperson and parliament member Negal Morales claims the group is insisting upon nonviolent demonstrations, saying “We are not fostering … the possibility of a confrontation between civilian people and armed people” and that they are pushing only for civic dissent. The group is asking Venezuelans outside the country to set up protests in solidarity, wherever they may be. Broad Front additionally asked for “citizen assemblies” to be set up in each of the Venezuelan states. These assemblies would help coordinate the mass protests country-wide on Saturday, as well as form chapters for the coalition and record membership.
Venezuela is expected to ask the UN to send international observers for the upcoming election. Henri Falcon, an opposition candidate, will join the UN ambassador in his request, despite the main opposition’s fears that observers will only lend legitimacy to the elections.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he is pulling the Philippines out of the International Criminal Court (ICC). He notified the UN Secretary General of this decision on Friday, along with a supposed assurance of the Philippines’ commitment to the rule of law. In the official letter submitting the decision, the Philippines called this move a “principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights.” Duterte has notoriously been accused by the ICC of crimes against humanity, including the killings of thousands in his crusade against drugs. According to ICC protocol, the withdrawal will officially take effect in one year.
Earlier in the week, the Chief Justice of the Philippines has said that she will not resign, despite the impeachment complaints facing her. Lourdes Sereno has said that to quit would be easy, but that the people of the country deserve someone to fight for justice. Sereno is one of the few, and perhaps the most important, of those in government resisting Duterte’s war on drugs. She also famously opposed the president by voting against the martial law implemented on the island of Mindanao and against the decision to posthumously bestow full military honors on former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Sereno maintains that she will fight for innocence of these current politically-motivated charges until the end.
Turmoil hit the US government again this week with the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by President Donald Trump. Tillerson and Trump have long been known to disagree on foreign policy in critical areas, including the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate accord, North Korea, and the “overall tone of U.S. diplomacy,” according to Trump in a recent statement. With such a wide range of policy disagreements in critical area, this firing does not come as a huge surprise. It is, however, seriously concerning to those both in the US and abroad. The timing comes right before the summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, plunging the event into an even deeper level of uncertainty. In the tweet Tuesday that fired Tillerson, Trump also announced that current director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, is to become the new US Secretary of State.
Tens of thousands of students nationwide walked out of their schools Wednesday to protest inadequate gun control in the US. This was the latest in a series of demonstrations by the ‘Mass Shooting Generation’ that was raised in a society where school shootings are treated just as an unfortunate fact of life. During this protest, many students marched outside their schools, holding powerful signs and demanding stricter gun control. Others held moments of silence, organized shows of solidarity, or used the opportunity to spread compassion among the student body, to let others know that they’re not alone.
Thursday saw the largest single day exodus of the war that has now plagued Syria for more than seven years. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people fled the Eastern Ghouta region that is currently heavily under siege. The battle over this area has already left more than 1,500 dead and more than 6,000 injured – numbers expected to rise until an effective ceasefire can finally be reached. Russia, although aware of the humanitarian tragedies playing out on the ground, has yet to propose or enact a plan that would effectively help the civilians affected. A report by Al Jazeera this week condemned the lack of food being allowed to enter the region. Approximately 25 trucks of food were permitted entry to the region, containing less than two days’ worth of food per family there.
Meanwhile in Afrin, another deadly offensive rages on. Here too, hundreds of families are fleeing for their safety. The Turkish attack has killed at least 20 people so far. Like in Eastern Ghouta, however, there does not seem to be a clear end to the violence in sight for this Kurdish city. Turkey has today dropped leaflets inviting surrender and “warning residents not to act as human shields for terrorists.” It remains yet unclear how the city will respond.
Maldives – The EU Parliament put through a resolution this week to impose sanctions that target the Maldivian government, in response to its worsening political crisis. This is yet another sign of the mounting and increasingly widespread international pressure on the small island nation. – AVAS
Zimbabwe – In the first televised interview with Robert Mugabe since his ousting in November, the former leader declared that the rise of Mnangagwa was an unjust coup d’etat. “We must undo this disgrace which we have imposed on ourselves, we don’t deserve it… Zimbabwe doesn’t deserve it.” – The Guardian
Brazil – Councilwoman and prominent human rights advocate Marielle Franco was assassinated in Rio de Janeiro this week. She had been one of the most important and well-known defenders of civil and human rights in Brazil. – teleSUR
Cuba – Cubans took to the polls last weekend to elect a new government, ushering in the end of the Castro era. The planning for this transition is now underway. – Jamaica Observer
Ecuador – Dozens of Amazonian women have taken to protest a law that permits extraction and development of the rainforest by camping out in front of the presidential palace. They are demanding a meeting with President Lenin Moreno, to challenge him on this decision, which they call unlawful and short of international regulations. – teleSUR
Peru – The nation’s congress has begun impeachment proceedings against President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. His charges involve a massive corruption scandal with the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. The overwhelming number of lawmakers behind this measure give serious credence to the prospect that the impeachment will go through. – Washington Post
Mexico – A report released by the UN this week reveals human rights violations and cover-ups by the Mexican authorities in their investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in 2014. – Amnesty International
Two weeks ago, an investigative journalist was murdered. In the time since, tens of thousands of people have taken to streets across Slovakia, demanding justice, change, and a better, more democratic future.
Kinder Morgan, North American energy infrastructure giant, wants to build a new pipeline through indigenous land, endangering the waterways and all those who live there. The people of First Nations are standing up and fighting back. Their resistance movement includes building Tiny Houses as an assertion of indigenous sovereignty and taking the struggle to the courts.
Photo: Activists protest against government-backed amendments to Myanmar’s protest law in Yangon. (Reuters)
Between 200 and 500 demonstrators gathered in Yangon in protest on Monday while the parliament deliberated an amendment to the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law of 2010. This change threatens three years in prison for those who support any demonstration that damages the “security, rule of law and stability of the state, and the moral interests of the people.” In particular, the amendment requires protest organizers to divulge the details of their budget, including their funding sources. Political analyst Maung Maung Soe says the amendment may be intended to target nationalist opposition members who “pay money to people to protest,” in order to destabilize the young government, but that it will nevertheless impact activists not influenced by these nationalist lobbyists. “It’s not possible to only restrict one side,” he warns. The protesters say the amendment would limit free speech; if the government hinders protest, it “cannot hear the true opinions of the people,” said farmers’ rights activist Zaw Yan. A reactionary petition to the amendment has been introduced, signed by around 190 Myanmar civil society organizations and individuals such as Maung Maung Soe. On the other hand, once champion of human rights and democracy Aung San Suu Kyi has supported the amendment. It passed in the Upper House on Wednesday, despite the protests of some MP’s who disapproved of the increased punitive measures, the speed with which the amendment was pushed through parliament, and the vague wording that could allow authorities to arrest peaceful protesters.
The US Holocaust Museum has rescinded Aung San Suu Kyi’s Elie Wiesel Award for human rights due to her continued silence over the human rights abuses committed by the Myanmar military regime against the Rohingya Muslim minority. The mounting abuses have been described as an ethnic cleansing by the UN and have driven around 700,000 people to flee Myanmar. Suu Kyi and her government have refused to work with UN investigators and blocked international media from areas where violence was reported.
An international coalition and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict called on UN Secretary General Guterres to blacklist Myanmar for grievous violations of children’s rights. Watchlist’s report cites “numerous reports of the killing, burning and beating to death of Rohingya Muslim children by government forces.”
The opposition is once again calling for supporters to take to the streets in protest, asking for a March 17 demonstration against the presidential elections that it considers fraudulent and plans to boycott. Previously, the opposition had stopped calling for protests after a violent crackdown by the government resulted in more than 120 deaths. This protest will be the first major demonstration since last year.
The National Electoral Council announced the five candidates registered for the presidential race. Henri Falco?n and incumbent president Maduro are the two main contenders. The CNE also announced that citizens had until mid March to register to vote.
Henri Falco?n entered the presidential race after a break from the main opposition party. While they are of the opinion that his participation will add a “veneer of legitimacy” to the elections, Falco?n states that “Choosing to fight despite unfair rules does not legitimize the rules: It confirms our willingness to defend our rights,” and says the only way to topple a government is through popular uprisings. Voter opinion polls are conflicting. Falco?n references some that show him leading by 14 points against Maduro, who is struggling with hyperinflation, food shortages, and political turmoil. Another poll showed that only 17 percent of the population plans to vote, causing analysts to warn that this would nearly guarantee a win for Maduro. Falco?n maintains that participation is the only way to rid Venezuela of Maduro.
This Monday marked both the fifth year anniversary of Chavez’s death and the beginning of a summit featuring Latin American and Caribbean leaders. The leaders hailed Chavez’s legacy and denounced foreign intervention in Venezuela’s affairs, accusing the US and other states of violating Venezuela’s sovereignty.
Donald Trump is set to be the first US President to hold a diplomatic meeting with the leadership of North Korea. He and Kim Jong-un have announced a meeting in May, with the news coming after successful talks between North and South Korean diplomatic delegations. Kim has further said that he is “committed to denuclearization,” generating both international skepticism and also a glimpse of hope for stabilization in the world order.
Steel and aluminum tariffs have been announced by President Trump despite bipartisan advice against them. Lawmakers domestically and internationally have warned the president against these measures, which they fear could incite a trade war with the country’s important allies. The EU has already announced the retaliatory tariffs that it plans to institute in response to the US decision, but EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström added to the news that she was “eager to avoid an escalation in the war of words between Washington and Brussels over tariffs.”
The ceasefire conceded by Russia recently continues to prove insufficient for the humanitarian aid urgently needed in Eastern Ghouta. Recent conflicting reports allege a chemical attack against in the territory, but in any case, violence unquestionably continues.
The UN this week reported that more than 1000 children have been killed or injured in Syria since just the beginning of this year. Another report from Reuters exposed a rise in the number and frequency of attacks on health facilities in the country. In the first two months of 2018, the number had already climbed to half of the total amount of attacks that took place last year.
Former president Mugabe has startled many this week by posing for a picture with the retired general who will head the opposition Zanu-PF party in the country’s approaching election. This seemed to be an endorsement of the modern party that he formerly led for almost 40 years. At a rally two days after the photo was published, normally-disciplined youth at a Zanu-PF rally shouted “down with Mugabe” in apparent opposition to the development and its implications. Beyond this outburst, many across the country have recently begun to fear a resurgence of the politician. They fear destabilization and the threat he could pose to President Mnangagwa, although most are unsure exactly how the risks would play out.
In a speech later this week, Mnangagwa attempted to reassure the people of both his power and also his visions of progress and good governance in the country. “My government will continue to ensure that there is policy clarity, certainty, cohesion consistency and will guard against policy overlap, information asymmetry, and policy reversals.” Many are nevertheless continuing to express their uncertainty for the future of Zimbabwe’s leadership.
The ex-police chief of the Maldives has been arrested due to allegations of plotting to overthrow the ruling government. This development follows his firing in February, which occurred after he ordered the release of all the country’s political prisoners. That moved sparked the current bout of intense turmoil in the country, including the implementation of a state of emergency that is still in effect and the crackdown on protests in capital Malé. Many have been suppressed and taken as political prisoners. The UN Human Rights Council this week reprimanded the country over its unacceptable human rights situation under the state of emergency.
In other recent news regarding the Maldives, former president Mohamed Nasheed disclosed in an interview with Deutsche Welle that the nation’s current government is selling oil to North Korea. A ship was recently caught violating US sanctions against the rogue state. That ship was not only flying Maldivian flags, but was registered in the country and financed by the Bank of Maldives. This creates an incredibly complex situation for both the international community and the people of the Maldives, whose lives could be directly affected by the consequences of this action.
The Cuban people will vote on Sunday in elections that will decide 612 new members of the National Assembly of People’s Power and fill more than 12,000 local positions. Although the people do not directly elect their president, a new leader will also be decided in this process by the National Assembly. Raul Castro has announced that he will not seek another term in office, making this the first time in decades that Cuba will have a president outside the Castro family. For many, this fact is a sign of hope, for others it is anxiety.
Not involved in the elections this time are any members of the country’s opposition alliance. Opposition leaders announced in November that they had failed to get any candidates through the first round of selection for the municipal positions up for election this weekend. Several hundred dissidents had sought nomination, and their failure across the board is blamed on repression by government authorities.
The Honduran anti-corruption commission Maccih, backed by the Organization of American States (OAS), has expressed concern over proposed legislation that would alter the Seizure of Assets Law to protect those charged with corruption. In a tweet, Maccih said that the reform could give “privilege to public officials who are being charged with embezzling state funds.”
Two years ago, indigenous activist Berta Caceres was murdered after a decade-long fight against a dam project. This week, Roberto David Castillo, executive president of a hydroelectric company behind the development of the controversial dam, was arrested in connection with her death. He was accused of “providing logistics and other resources to one of the perpetrators already prosecuted for the crime,” according to Public Ministry spokesman Juri Mora. He is a former military intelligence officer of Honduras and the ninth arrest in this case so far. Last week, members of Caceres’s activist group gathered in front of prosecutors’ offices in the capital, demanding the arrests of the other officials they consider responsible.
Italy – The results of national election Sunday divided the country between the north and south, but both regions brought victory to populist, anti-establishment, Eurosceptic parties that much now vie for government leadership. – BBC
Czech Republic – Thousands of people came out in protest Monday after the national parliament endorsed a new head of oversight of the Czech police. The chosen lawmaker is Zdenek Ondracek of the Communist party, a former member of a communist-era special police unit. – Reuters
Sri Lanka – A nationwide state of emergency has been imposed following the outbreak of violence between Muslim and Buddhist groups early this week. – AlJazeera
Ukraine – Ukrainian police have been accused of attacking and injuring multiple journalists covering protests in Kiev last week. – KyivPost
Poland – President Andrzej Duda apologized this week to Jews expelled from the country by the ruling communist authorities in 1968. This came as a surprise to many, in light of the nation’s recent controversial actions regarding its history and involvement in Jewish history. – BBC
Chile – In her final days in office, outgoing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has announced that she will work with lawmakers to replace the “dictator-era constitution” with a modern rewrite including equal pay for men and women and the right to strike for workers in Chile. The move is largely symbolic, as it is almost impossible that such a change could go into effect by the end of her term Sunday. – Reuters
Mexico – Leftist presidential candidate Lopez Obrador pulls ahead of his competition by another point, at 35% of the popular vote and a 14 point lead, according to a poll completed last week. His competition, Anaya and Meade, is mired in accusations of corruption and both squabble for second place, dragging each other down. – Reuters
The longest-jailed journalist in the world is finally free. After 19 years, Uzbekistan has released Yusuf Ruzimuradov. While many are celebrating this victory as a sign of progress, however, human rights organizations are focused on the long battle still ahead for achieving press freedom in the country.
In 2012, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Elie Wiesel Award for human rights. Earlier this week, the honor was rescinded. How could it be that this leader, once among the most respected champions of human rights in history, has now so egregiously abandoned her virtues?
Take a look at the Guardian’s live feed of actions on International Women’s Day here.
On Thursday, the presidential elections originally slated for April 22nd were pushed back a month to May 20. The deadline to register a candidate was extended to the afternoon of Friday, March 2. Despite the revised date, the main opposition coalition uphold to its decision to boycott the election, and have not submitted any candidates to the race, declaring the delay a “farce to legitimise a dictatorship.” Other minor opposition parties have decided to nevertheless participate, and several have put forward candidates. Henri Falcon on Tuesday announced his decision to run for president in defiance of the opposition, saying that he “operates independently of the opposition coalition,” who accuse him of trying to claim the spotlight.
The Venezuelan government has also said that it will allow international observers to oversee the election, however experts have said that “four to six months [are] needed to allow for international observers to do their work.” The United States and many of Venezuela’s neighbors have rejected the vote, and Peru has withdrawn Maduro’s invitation to the Lima group’s summit in mid April. A one-month delay in the elections does little to balance the heavy repression, hundreds of political prisoners, media censorship, and death. Instead, some suspect the move is a ploy to deceive observers into thinking that Maduro is complying with international pressures, with the actual goals of lightening sanctions and fracturing the opposition.
The May election will include only the presidential slate. The National Electoral Council (CNE) has rejected Maduro’s call for a “mega-election,” which would have held legislative, state, and municipal elections at the same time as the presidential election. The CNE President Tibisay Lucena stated that the country would be unable to prepare a range of elections in such a short time frame, but signaled that the parliamentary elections could be moved up and that the CNE will evaluate the dates. The parliamentary elections are planned for 2020.
The Maldives is still under a State of Emergency. The country has stated that it will lift the emergency only when “threats posed to national security are nullified.” This comment was made in response to the European Union request that it be lifted at once. The nation is currently detaining not only protestors, but also international lawyers that have been sent to study the emergency on the ground. Amnesty International released a statement this week regarding the conditions in the country. “The Maldivian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all people who have been arbitrarily detained under the state of emergency solely for exercising their human rights and halt attacks on peaceful protesters.” Opposition officials are seeking UN mediation in an attempt to bring about the end of this crisis, however at this time, the future remains fairly uncertain.
During a visit by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, civil rights groups in Honduras decried the consolidation of power by President Hernandez and violence against protesters. Hernandez was reelected in November 2017, which was only made possible by a controversial 2015 Supreme Court ruling that modified a constitutional provision from the early 80’s, at the end of military rule. The Coalition Against Impunity in Honduras and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) explain the ruling as a result of Hernandez’s, and the ruling National Party’s, rising control over key institutions like national courts. This election was also shrouded in accusations of fraud, slow and biased counting of votes, and general opacity of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which “manipulated the system,” according to former Opposition Alliance candidate Nasralla. His supporters took to the streets and the situation rapidly deteriorated as protestors took up arms, stones, and homemade mortars, and the government met them with police, riot shields, tear gar, and some reported instances of firing live bullets.
Not easily quelled, the protests have run throughout the country over the last two months. This weekend, a “caravan of insurrection” took place in the east of capital Tegucigalpa; a procession of hundreds of vehicles assembled to oppose electoral fraud and demand that Hernandez step down. “This is a protest against the murders, the abuses and the electoral fraud,” said former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, coordinator for the Opposition Alliance.
Civic groups and the UN have condemned the treatment of the protestors, citing CEJIL in its claims that over 190 demonstrations were repressed and 1,257 people detained. They report 38 deaths, 76 victims of torture, 393 wounded in protests, 105 displaced due to violence, 15 journalists attacked, and 73 people victims of threats because of the militarized response, and on Monday the Opposition Alliance accused the US and the Organization of American States of “becoming ‘a real present threat to the Honduran people’ for enabling the government to ‘kill’ and ‘persecute’.”
Rights advocates within Honduras have expressed dismay at the international community’s response to the country’s behaviour, calling the UN’s reaction tepid and criticizing the US decision to support Hernandez. Opposition supporters returned to the streets on Tuesday, protesting the US decision during Haley’s visit to the county. At least six people were wounded in clashes with the police. The demonstrations included the burning of tires and the carrying of coffins and crosses to represent the 38 people who died in the December and January protests. The police used tear gas to scatter the protestors.
In other news, Former First Lady Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo has been arrested on charges of graft, allegedly siphoning public funds for programs for the poor for her family’s personal use.
A visit by President Enrique Peña Nieto to the White House has been cancelled after a “heated phone exchange with US President Donald Trump.” This is the second time a meeting between the two has been cancelled. Both cancellations resulted from comments by Trump about the border wall he hopes to construct between the countries.
The United States ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, has said she will resign from her post in May, stating further that it was a very difficult decision and “all the more difficult because of [her] profound belief in the importance of the US-Mexico relationship.”
Presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya has been accused by opposition parties of corruption and money laundering. After his own party called for an investigation into the accusations, they also demanded he be barred from the race.
The battle over gun control in the United States raged on this week. Teachers and students continue to protest across the country for tougher regulations against obtaining firearms, while proponents of gun ownership and the NRA continue to defend the easy access to ownership for Americans. There has been progress, with some states moving toward higher age limits, tougher background checks, and the introduction of a national bill to ban bump stocks. The private sector has also taken action, with US companies raising age limits and setting additional regulations on purchasers.
Jared Kushner, the President’s son in law, has had his personal security clearance downgraded this week. Until this development, he had been working with an interim security clearance while the FBI conducted a full background check. Now that this is completed, the portfolio and range of tasks taken on by Kushner is expected to shrink drastically; he will now be privileged to much less information. Serious concerns have also arisen over Kushner’s leveraging of his position. Reports this week came out detailing how Kushner’s private business received almost $200 million in loans after meeting with financial executives at the White house.
In other notable news, a top intelligence official revealed this week that the US Government has not ordered the National Security Agency to counter Russian influence in US elections. This is of serious concern in an international system where Russian meddling seems a pervasive and credible threat. Additionally, US Communications Director Hope Hicks has resigned after admitting that she has told lies in official capacities for President Trump. This resignation came the day after a nine-hour interrogation by the Special Counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Three Nobel Peace Prize laureates have demanded that Aung San Suu Kyi condemn the violence against Rohingya, or else face prosecution for genocide. Suu Kyi is “directly responsible for the crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya Muslims,” according to Ebadi, one of these three lauriates. The trio had visited Rohingya refugee camps in Southern Bangladesh as part of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, a mission to “witness the plight of Rohingya women in the squalid refugee camps.”
Myanmar has deployed troops to the border with Bangladesh in an “anti-terrorist operation.” Both the UN and Bangladesh have responded negatively, the UN concerned about the “military build-up” and Bangladesh summoning the Myanmar ambassador and insisting the military pull back their forces immediately.
The House of Representatives passed a new piece of legislation this week, allowing MPs to press charges against those who “undermine its honour or that of its members.” Media members and civil rights advocates worry this law will limit freedom of the press and expose journalists to litigation for simply doing their job, moreover reducing the accountability of politicians in Indonesia. This legislation was passed with little fanfare while the country was distracted by relatively controversial changes to the penal code. These changes will outlaw “extramarital and homosexual sex,” alarming the local LGBT population. Arsul Sani, a politician with the conservative Islamic United Development Party, said that these updates will bring the code “in line with the rest of the country’s “religious values’.”
The Philippines’ top diplomat urged the United Nations not to “weaponize” human rights, encouraging it to send an impartial investigator to the country: just not Agnes Callamard, the special UN rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or summary executions. The administration feels that Callamard has prejudged both the country as a whole and also its war on drugs, which is thought to have killed thousands in its first year, as she has in the past condemned the drug crackdown.
President Duterte has announced plans to step down from the presidency two years before the deadline at which his term would have otherwise expired.
Last weekend, the Philippines commemorated the 32nd anniversary of the People Power revolution that ousted dictator Marcos.
The ruling party has claimed all 58 seats in the country’s senate, which is of little surprise since the opposition party was dissolved last fall. The sweeping win illuminates the “faltering political health” of Cambodia and fortifies the power of the Cambodian People’s Party. The senate is elected not by the body politic directly, but rather by local level councilors. The senate will become a “rubber-stamp chamber” with very little of its own power, predicts Southeast Asia researcher Jonathan Sutton.
This concerns the international community; the US has announced cutbacks on aid programs and the EU is considering the withdrawal of trade preference from the country.
After intense and overwhelming pressure from innumerable foreign sources, Russia has finally agreed to a ceasefire in Ghouta, where fighting has killed more than 600 people in the past two weeks. This was intended to bring about an opportunity for humanitarian intervention, but by all accounts, it is completely inadequate. The violence has not sufficiently de-escalated and officials believe that the daily five-hour pauses in violence are not adequate time to administer much-needed aid and to allow civilians to escape the besieged area.
EDSA Commemoration Reminds the Country and President of the Strength of the People – The Philippines commemorated the anniversary of the People Power Revolution of 1986. But it was not just celebration: many activists used the weekend to raise their voices against the actions of President Duterte. They called for the end of drug-war killings, martial law, and proposed changes to the constitution.
Colombia – Colombia’s ELN rebels will hold a four-day ceasefire during the elections this month, the group announced on Monday. This is out of respect for the voters, not a concession to the “corrupted electoral process,” the group clarified. The presidential candidate of Colombia’s demobilised FARC has been taken to hospital with chest pain. – teleSur | BBC
China – President Xi Jinping has moved to abolish Presidential term limits, in a move that has shocked and concerned many in China and across the globe. The country also made a curious move to suppress information by banning the letter ‘N’ online, in an attempt to quash dissent in the wake of the term limit announcement. – The Economist
Cuba – Protests this week by Cuban nationals around the world demanded the return of Guantánamo to Cuba. A Cuban diplomat tweeted: “#Guantánamo Is Ours: According to the Cuban Constitution, the Republic of #Cuba repudiates and considers illegal and null treaties, pacts or concessions concluded in conditions of inequality that ignore or diminish its sovereignty and territorial integrity … #USOutofGuantanamo.” – Mundo Obrero
Russia – In an annual address to his nation ahead of the approaching March 18 election, President Vladimir Putin promised to stoke the economy, vowed to halve the poverty rate, and boasted of new ICBMs that were impervious to US defenses. His reelection is, in any case, practically guaranteed. – Radio Free Europe
Italy – National elections are to be held Sunday, and many are deeply concerned about the widespread misinformation that has spread over social media in the runup. Most possible election outcomes give victory to a government that is more pro-Russian than many of its other, especially Western European, contemporaries. – NYTimes
Thailand – Although currently under military rule, the country is on track to hold elections next year. This was announced by the Prime Minister, who has although moved the predicted elections from November 2018 to Spring 2019. There is presently a ban on political campaigning, which had been instated after a former army chief seized power in 2014. This is expected to be lifted by August 2018 so that political parties can form and candidates can step forward. Lifting the ban, however, and holding the elections, have been pushed back multiple times. This delay has inspired around 300 activists to protest at Thammasat University, wearing Pinocchio masks and calling the military leader a liar. – Bloomberg | Reuters