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: 26 October 2018

A caravan of migrants at the bridge at the Guatemala border, with hopes of reaching the US. (Mexico News Daily)

Syria

A mosque being used as a base for Islamic State was targeted and struck this weekend. Behind the strike was the United States-led coalition. In the air strike, 22 jihadists were killed near the Iraqi border, one of the last Islamic State territories. Furthermore, according to The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a separate airstrike carried out by the U.S. led coalition on last Thursday and Friday killed 41 people. This includes 10 children who may have been related to Islamic State fighters. On Saturday, Syria’s foreign ministry declared that the killings are considered a crime. They claim that the United States was relentless in their actions and has called on the United Nations to punish them.

After being held captive for three years, Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda is released. Yasuda was being held hostage by the Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliated group located in Syria. The Japanese government was notified this past Tuesday about Yasuda’s reappearance and had been sent to an immigration facility in Turkey, directly next to the border of Syria.

Bolivia

This Sunday, results of the voting intentions for the upcoming 2019 elections came out. In the results, Carlos Mesa headed the MAS by two points. Given, the opposition wishes to band together for the second round of votes in order to unite together against the MAS and claim victory. While news agency pagina siete reported the voting results, officials from the MAS are in disbelief of the outcome.

According to a survey published by pagina siete, 25% of people in Bolivia blame Evo Morales for the failure at the Hague. Further, Víctor Borda, MAS deputy stated that he believed the ruling influenced the mood of people in Bolivia against President Morales. While Morales took most of the blame according to the survey, 17% blamed it on the Bolivian legal team, 3% on Carlos Mesa, 2% on Héctor Arce and 1% on Eduardo Rodríguez Velzté.

On Monday, the president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Katia Uriona, resigned after being head since 2015.  Opposition leaders running for the 2019 elections are afraid that her resignation puts the MAS in control of the TSE. According to a leader from Democratic Unity, Uriona’s resignation risks “the full room…left with five members of majority masista.” While members of the ruling party, such as David Ramos believe that the members of the TSE will remain impartial.

After Morales’ government proposed a “law against lying” the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) is demanding its withdrawal from implementation. The SIP believes that the law takes away the right for freedom of speech, and is further incompatible with international standards of Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH) declares that any form of censorship, direct or indirect, cannot be a law. The IAPA indicates that in this year alone, 30 journalists have been killed within Bolivia. Journalists are not only facing severe censorship but also a violent backlash from the government.

The Plurinational Electoral Body (EPO) officially stated that political parties planning to run in the 2019 elections had until midnight on Wednesday of this week to present their participation. This means that militants of their respected organization must present “militant books” with corresponding legal personality admitting their abilities to run for elections. In total there are nine political parties which obtained legal personality, and twelve others which are still in the process of gaining legality. After midnight, it was calculated that the MAS has the highest number of militants registered with a total of 1,080,000. Meanwhile, the Left Revolutionary Front (FRI) which backs Carlos Mesa had 90,000 registrations.

Nicaragua

This week, the director of 100% Noticias received an award called the Freedom of the Press award, presented by the SIP. The director, Miguel Mora, gave a speech stating, “I thank God for granting me the honor of presenting the brave men and women of the independent press of my beloved blue and white homeland.” Further, he highlighted the past six months of Nicaragua, calling the situation a “state massacre.”

At a meeting in Washington this week, the Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General, Luis Almagro spoke of the violation of human rights occurring in Nicaragua. He further states that the violations carried out by Ortega’s government are “totally incompatible with democracy.” Almagro cautioned that if the Nicaraguan Government continues with its repression, the recourse of Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter will unfold. This article is specific to allowing the general secretary, or any member state to request the assembly of the permanent council to implement “diplomatic efforts” to alter a constitution which affects the democratic order within a country.

This week, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) declared that there are at least 40 political prisoners in need of medical treatment, but are not receiving it. Some prisoners suffer from chronic illness and authorities are refusing to give them medical attention. A representative of political prisoners has urged the judiciary to take prisoners to medical facilities in order to receive treatment, but they have yet to get a response.

A marathon runner by the name of Alex Vanegas continues to be a peaceful activist, protesting against the imprisonment of political activists and standing up against the Sandinista police. Vanegas used to show his support by running through the streets wearing blue and white, but due to a recent violent attack against him by Sandinista authorities, he can only walk. Recently, the marathon runner shared a video explaining what he previously faced as a political prisoner. Vanegas had spent four hours under interrogation and questioning, and further threatening of being jailed if he continues to protest against the government. This is the most recent detainments of four which he has faced.

As of early October, heavy rains have been severely affecting Nicaragua. This week reports estimate 21 deaths due to the rain. Between October 15th-22nd, 17 people died. On Tuesday the government established a “red alert” in a total of 15 regions of Nicaragua. The rest of the 7 departments which make up Nicaragua are in yellow alert, which warns civilians to act in case of a serious disaster.

This week, Donald Trump’s secretary advisor, John Bolton is to travel to Moscow to discuss Russia’s involvement in Nicaragua. Bolton does not believe that progress between the United States and Russia can continue if Russia works with Nicaragua’s regime. Bolton included Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba as three countries which Russia supports, and are antagonists to the United States. 

North Korea

The respective governments of North and South Korea have agreed to remove both guns and guard posts from Panmunjom, the only town that exists within the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South – where meetings between the two Koreas are usually held. This zone, governed by the UN, will have firearms and military posts withdrawn from it by October 25th, and the United Nations will help facilitate the process and aid both Northern and Southern troops in these changes.  

The DPRK’s state media has begun to step up its criticism of US involvement in inter-Korean affairs, particularly criticizing the fact that the United States continues to use economic sanctions against the North Korean government. In addition, the contents of this media make it clear that the DPRK is attempting to project a strong message towards Washington, and may even be threatening to stop some of its progress (such as an end-of-war declaration) if sanctions do not let up.

Despite the trend of warming ties between the DPRK and South Korea, the United Nations independent investigator on North Korean human rights has warned that the human rights situation in the DPRK has not changed at all, claiming that more must be done on the topic of human rights. Although the South Korean foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, has stated that now is not the time to raise “these issues,” the rapporteur has called such an approach “worrying,” especially as there has been no reference to human rights during any of the diplomatic meetings that the North has been involved in thus far.

This week, the FBI claimed that Singaporean man Tan Wee Beng has been laundering money for North Korea through two companies with which he has ties – Wee Tiong (S) Pte Ltd. and WT Marine Pte Ltd. Although the US issued a federal arrest warrant at the end of August, the Department of Justice only issued an arrest warrant this week. Tan, 41, told BBC reporters that he only found out about the claims through the internet, and was reportedly shocked at his alleged involvement.

Myanmar

On Tuesday, Australia’s government revealed that it would impose sanctions against five Myanmar military officers who have been accused of overseeing widespread violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim population. It is believed that the five who have been targeted by these sanctions, Aung Kyaw Zaw, Maung Maung Soe, Aung Aung, Than Oo, and Khin Maung Soe, are thought to have stepped down from their posts once it was indicated that they played pivotal roles in the mass killings. In addition, Australia has stepped down from its previous role in the training of Myanmar’s military, sending a loud and clear message of disapproval of the government’s actions.

In recent interviews with CNN reporters, Rohingya refugees within the Rakhine state for internally-displaced people have called their conditions akin to those of an “open-air prison.” Many of these people were told that they would be displaced for only a few weeks when violence broke out in 2012, but have been there for upward of six years. There is no opportunity for jobs or homes for these people in camps, and a widespread lack of trust in the government.

According to Marzuki Darusman, the chair of the United Nations fact-finding mission on Myanmar, has released a statement stating that the genocide against the Rohingya is still ongoing. Analysts with Al Jazeera believe that in spite of this conclusion and the current pressure on the UN Security Council to somehow intervene, it is incredibly unlikely that it would make it that far – especially as China and Russia would likely use their veto power to protect Myanmar from any Security Council action. Furthermore, the UN special investigator on human rights in Myanmar has described the situations as an “apartheid situation.”

Three journalists arrested for reporting on government corruption have been released on bail this Friday, although the reporters claim that they have done nothing wrong. The maximum sentence for incitement, which is what they have been arrested under, is two years. They are facing charges under the government’s colonial-era penal code. The Myanmar Press Council has been pushing for the dismissal of this case and claims that they cannot settle any kind of dispute with negotiations until they will talk to the government.

USA

After claiming that Russia has defied the terms of the arms treaty between Russia and the United States, President Trump has withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. After stating the official plans for withdrawal, Trump declared that “we’re not going to let them [Russia] violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.”

On Monday, LGBT activists took to the streets in order to defy the recent push to take away rights for transgender people. The Trump Administration is proposing allowing Health and Human Services define gender as biological and an immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth. The new definition could be submitted by the end of the year. Furthermore, it would abolish federal protection and recognition for transgender people.

This week, a series of pipe bombs were sent out through mail to a variety of prominent Democrats, the CNN headquarters, former President Obama and the Clintons. A total of five pipe bombs have been discovered. Officials are unclear as to who has sent them and some reports say that a few of the bombs were hand delivered. None of the packages reached their intended targets, thanks to security forces. The CIA sees this situation as a large threat and is continuing to investigate the matter.

Cambodia

A Cambodian-American political activist formerly jailed in Cambodia from 2015 until this past August has stated that he wishes to continue fighting for democracy and fair elections in Cambodia and may even return to his home country in the future. This man, Meach Sovannara, brought his family to America in 2003 after receiving death threats due to his work as a journalist with Radio Free Asia, where he covered government corruption and rule-of-law violations. Meach was held in the notorious Prey Sar prison, although he claims that he was treated rather well and visited often by members of NGOs, likely due to his American citizenship.

This week marked the anniversary of the Paris Peace Accord, which ended the war between Cambodia and Vietnam 27 years ago and was lauded as a development pushing Cambodia on a course towards democracy. Unfortunately, due to the state of the Cambodian government currently, the anniversary was met with very little celebration and fanfare among the previously involved parties as Cambodia has been suffering from a long democratic backslide over the past few years.

Despite the perceived closeness between Chinese and Cambodian officials, anti-Chinese sentiment has been rising among Cambodian citizens due to the increase of Chinese nationals living and working in Cambodia on Chinese construction projects. Hun Sen claimed that the influx of Chinese nationals was necessary due to the level of work needed by Chinese projects. However, those in affected provinces have claimed that the Chinese nationals living in Cambodia have caused land prices to rise, something that is negatively impacting the livelihoods of locals.

Mexico

Demanding entrance into Mexico, a caravan of nearly 4,000 Central American migrants are camped outside the border between Guatemala and Mexico. The large crowd of people is a mix of men, women, and children. There has been a standoff between Mexican authorities and those trying to cross the border. The caravan eventually plans to cross into the United States. Cries from the migrant crowd said, “we’re not criminals, we’re international workers!” While metal barriers and police with pepper spray continue to hold off the rush of people crossing the border, some have managed to use rubber rafts or get past police in small, manageable groups in order to continue on their journey north.

The Maldives

The top court of the Maldives has unanimously rejected outgoing President Abdulla Yameen’s bid to annul the results of the presidential election this September, claiming that no claims of fraud were substantiated and that there was “no constitutional basis…to order a new poll.” Yameen, who lost the vote by a margin of 16 percent to his opposition, filed a complaint against the results after initially appearing to accept them. Thankfully, it appears Yameen’s desperate attempt to cling to power ends here.

The High Court also freed an opposition leader on Monday, setting aside his lower court conviction for bribery – which he conveniently was sentenced to after he joined forces with the opposition. This man, Qasim Ibrahim, is only one of many who have been jailed by Yameen’s administration after a series of politically motivated trials, and it is hoped that this will be a sign of good things to come as Mohamed Nasheed prepares to take the presidency this November. After a long hiatus, the Maldivian parliament will reconvene this Sunday to decide the start date of the next presidential term.

Zimbabwe

The ongoing economic crisis in Zimbabwe has led to what has been described as an “acute shortage” of medical drugs, and an increasing amount of Zimbabweans have turned to the black market in order to fulfill their healthcare needs. For some with chronic medical needs, the prices of necessary drugs soared. Furthermore, the government has neglected to import enough antibiotics in recent months – as, according to the government, these drugs are not a priority. However, this neglects the fact that many Zimbabweans with chronic respiratory illnesses disproportionately rely on cough medicines to control their symptoms – and that many of those affected by conditions that require short-term antibiotics are vulnerable, such as children.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa says that in order to resolve the current economic crisis, it is necessary that Zimbabwe create a transitional authority, claiming that his party is “ready to discuss” the issues with current President Emmerson Mnangagwa – though Chamisa stressed that he would still refuse to recognize Mnangagwa’s presidency as legitimate.

Laos

Repercussions from the collapse of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy saddle dam in Southern Laos this July are still being felt by Lao citizens; many of the other dam projects within the Southeast Asian country have come under scrutiny by both Lao citizens and international actors. Many of these dams – funded and supported by important agents of development such as the World Bank – have displaced a huge number of people and even destroyed livelihoods due to the creation of reservoirs, which has flooded wide swaths of farmland, forests, and otherwise crippling important industries to Lao citizens.  The consequences are mainly felt by the masses, as the dams do not generate income for them while forcing them to uproot and destroying their industries. The affected civilians are also the most disadvantaged due to the repressive nature of the Lao government and little infrastructure for civil society that would allow them to advocate against these large construction projects. A panel of water experts that met this week claimed that specifically the World Bank’s promotion of these dams – referred to as a “hydro-power myth” by some – has been a massive failure in terms of obtaining sustainability.

Vietnam

This Tuesday, Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong was confirmed as Vietnam’s new President, giving him unparalleled control and solidifying him as a strongman despite the original structure of the Vietnamese government having been meant to diffuse power among four distinct individuals. Trong is known for his close ties with Chinese leaders, as well as his large anti-corruption campaigns – although it is thought that he has little actual governing experience. It is thought that his double role as president and party head will allow him to take an unprecedented amount of power, especially when it comes to trade and foreign relations with an eye towards China and the United States.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The harassment and arresting of journalists continue to be an issue in the DRC with the most recent abduction of five journalists. After publishing articles about “misappropriation of rations” for the police in AfricaNews, Octave Mukendi, Bruce Landu, Roddy Bosakwa, Dan Luyila, and Laurent Omba were taken. Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog, called for the release of the five journalists. Reportedly, they were soon released after 12 hours.

In the midst of the most recent Ebola outbreak, Congolese rebels have kidnapped 12 children and killed 15 civilians. The attack appeared to be in the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, making it extremely difficult for aid workers to continue with their job in stopping the spread of the disease.

Over the weekend, reports came out about eleven political prisoners who were released. The prisoners backed opposition presidential candidate Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko during elections, two years ago. According to local civil rights groups, dozens of political prisoners have been jailed. While advocacy groups for human rights continue to defend political prisoners, the current president of the Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso faces criticism and pressure to improve human rights within the DRC.

Colombia

Up until 2016, most landmines and explosives were placed throughout Colombia by ELN and FARC groups. After the peace treaty was signed between the Colombian Government and FARC, Colombian authorities and international organizations have been working together in order to remove them. Although, Red Cross reports that this year, 106 people, mostly civilians have fallen victim to landmines. There is a target to rid the country of the explosives by 2021, but some regions are still plagued. The 106 people affected by the devices is a large spike in comparison to last years, 56 victims.

On Monday, Pope Francis and President Duque met to discuss the issues facing Colombia today. While Duque did not speak much about the conversation between the two, the Vatican stated that the Pope underlined the importance of collaboration and dialogue between the church and the state. Further, the Pope gave input in the peace process between the government and FARC, given Pope Francis is a large supporter of proceeding with peaceful means.

Venezuela

Amidst Venezuela’s plunging economy, Coca-Cola Femsa is getting ready to lay off about 2,000 employees. There are a total of 4,800 current employees at the site in Venezuela. Given the country’s recession since 2015, consumer demands have increasingly gone down. Furthermore, because Venezuela is inconsistent with meeting demands of import basic goods such as sugar, large plants like Coca-Cola have needed to halt production.

President Maduro has been “looting” Venezuela of its gold, according to the U.S. Treasury’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing. Reports came out this week that Maduro is illegally exporting Venezuelan gold to Turkey in the attempt to save his country amidst its economic collapse. In recent months, the Venezuelan government has shipped more than 21 metric tons of gold without legal approval. This comes after the United States sanctioning on gold exports.

Malaysia

According to Malaysia’s opposition leader, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck neighboring state Indonesia was “punishment from Allah” for the activities of LGBT people. Ahmad Zahid is only the latest in a series of Malaysian politicians making increasingly homophobic statements, including the current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Currently, Ahmad Zahid has been arrested for corruption and is facing jail time. On Friday, Malaysia’s Prime Minister rejected the very concept of LGBT marriage during a state visit to Thailand on Thursday, claiming that the “institution of the family has…been disregarded in the West.”

Palestine

In a statement on Wednesday, China’s commerce ministry confirmed the signing of a free trade agreement with Palestine. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) is an agreement between Palestine and China stating that both sides will “step up” negotiations.

This week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the government of Palestine for carrying out human rights abuses. HRW reports that Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have systematically tortured and imprisoned people. In response to these accusations, Palestinian Authorities said: “The state of Palestine has signed all international laws and conventions that ban human rights abuses and torture and is committed to enforc[ing] them.” They further claim that Human Rights Watch is biased.

Other News

Russia —  After Trump announced his decision to pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Russian President Putin warned that this action could lead to a new “arms race” between the two countries. (Radio Free Europe)

Hungary — A planned Holocaust museum set to open in Budapest has continued to come under fire for erasing the role of Hungarian perpetrators in violence against Hungarian Jews, portraying Hungarians only as “rescuers” in what scholars from the World Holocaust Remembrance Center call a “grave falsification of history.” (Channel News Asia)

Poland— On Thursday, the outcome of last weekend’s local elections came out. Accordingly, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has taken the lead within regional parliament but did not win mayoral contests in Poland’s largest cities. (Politico)

The Philippines — Despite widespread international criticism, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has finally faced his first serious drop in popularity ratings as a result of the worsening Philippine economy. (The Guardian)

Pakistan — For the first time in history, Pakistan plans to send their first human into space. This will take place in 2022 with the help of China. (Times of India)

China — China has claimed that it will defend its ‘territory’ in the South China Sea and Taiwan ‘at any price’ – despite Taiwan’s self-governance and the territories in the South China Sea being widely disputed. (Al Jazeera)

Iran Iran has been called on by Human Rights Watch to immediately discharge eight environmental activists. Accordingly, the activists have been detained since January. Reports say that at least four of them could face the death penalty. (Radio Free Europe)

Yemen After a Saudi-led attack on Yemen at a vegetable market, 21 people have been confirmed dead. (Al Jazeera)

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)