Weekly report: July 4th, 2017


July 4, 2017

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Photo: Mas de 131: Twitter.

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A helicopter attacked two government buildings in Caracas on June 28 using guns and grenades. The helicopter was piloted by Oscar Pérez, a former captain in the CICPC, Venezuela’s intelligence and investigative body. The Venezuelan government says the CIA and the US embassy are behind the attack, although they offer no evidence to prove the claims. Some opposition members in Parliament express suspicion that the Venezuelan government staged the incident to justify a crackdown on critics. The CICPC helicopter flew a banner reading “350 Libertad” in reference to article 350 of the Venezuelan constitution, which states that the Venezuelan people will not recognize any authority that opposes democracy and human rights.

Violent riots and anti-government demonstrations continue around the country. Roughly 68 businesses have been looted in the city of Maracay, and the headquarters of the PSUV governing party were also burned in the violence. At least four people have been killed and eight injured in Barquisimeto, west of Caracas, bringing the total number of casualties to at least 80 since the protests began in April. The Attorney General’s office announced it was investigating allegations of government raids and detentions. Opposition protesters, led by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) are calling for early elections and an end to the government’s plan to rewrite the constitution.

On Sunday, President Maduro raised the country’s minimum wage by half, although given the falling value of the currency the new wage remains 17% lower since the last increase in May. The currency has fallen 99.7% since Maduro’s election in 2013, deepening the country’s economic and political crisis and leaving millions struggling to afford food.

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/28/what-do-we-know-about-the-venezuela-helicopter-attack 
  2. https://www.dw.com/en/venezuela-intelligence-chief-accused-of-human-rights-abuses/a-39501565 
  3. https://www.dw.com/en/several-killed-in-venezuela-anti-government-protests/a-39509370
  4. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-economy-idUSKBN19N0X5

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As ISIS holds less and less territory in Syria and after two US attacks on Iranian-backed forces in the region, many wonder how the US’ implication and role in the war is changing, especially with regards to its relations with Russia. Meanwhile, on Sunday, a car filled with explosives blasted in Damascus killed at least eight people. Two other such cars were intercepted and stopped by the police.

Focusing on the people in Syria, a recent UN refugee agency report says more than 440,000 internally displaced Syrians and 31,000 of those who fled abroad have come back to their home country this year. The UN warns, however, that the conditions for safely returning “are not yet in place”. Moreover, apart from the war, some areas of Syria have become unsafe due to a sudden polio outbreak. Health officials are now trying to urgently vaccinate around 320,000 children after at least 22 were left paralysed because of the disease. Health workers might have to coordinate with ISIS and other extremist groups to carry out the vaccination work.

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/06/the-us-enters-a-new-phase-in-syria/531177/
  2. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-polio-crisis-vaccinations-health-workers-rush-children-paralysed-a7817251.html
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-40460126
  4. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/car-bombings-syrias-capital-damascus/

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United States of America

On the 26th of June, the Supreme Court passed certain parts of President Trump’s Travel Ban in a 9-0 decision, albeit with certain restrictions on the extent of Presidential power over American borders.  The enforced ban is presumed to be much more limited in scope than President Trump’s original executive order. The justices also specified that the order “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

On the 28th of June, the office of the Vice-President announced that “a letter will be sent today to the 50 states and District of Columbia on behalf of the Commission requesting publicly available data from state voter rolls and feedback on how to improve election integrity.” Many states responded the day after, refusing to supply President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission with their full voter-roll data, which includes addresses, party affiliations and voting history since 2006. It is feared that such information might be used to pass disenfranchising legislation.

Finally, on Sunday July 2nd, dozens of protests were held across the United States pressuring Congress to impeach President Trump. Although there were protests in larger cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but also in smaller cities such as Davenport, Iowa and Amarillo, Texas.

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/us/politics/supreme-court-trump-travel-ban-case.html
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/06/29/trumps-voter-fraud-commission-wants-to-know-the-voting-history-party-id-and-address-of-every-voter-in-america/?utm_term=.59b421f6c67f
  3. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/protesters-rally-dozens-cities-call-trump-s-impeachment-n779131

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Mexico remains an unsafe place for journalists, after recent assassinations and alleged government spying on journalists’ and activists’ phones. This caused Wednesday’s “#sosprensa” protests, where journalists gathered in front of the Government to denounce the state of vulnerability of free press in the country. At the end of the protest, the participants visibly wrote “SOS PRENSA” on the ground, yet the local authorities quickly came to erase the message.

  1. https://www.telesurtv.net/news/Periodistas-protestan-por-asesinato-de-comunicador-en-Mexico-20170628-0059.html

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zimb flag

Last Monday, Zimbabwean political activist and founder of the “This Flag” movement, Ewan Mawarire, was briefly detained by the authorities after joining a peaceful student demonstration against university tuition hikes. Mawarire has repeatedly faced allegations of instigating violence and planning to subvert the government, which carry a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment.  International human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, warn that the government is striving to criminalize Mawarire’s advocacy and silence him, all the more actively in light of the upcoming 2018 general election.

  1. https://twitter.com/PastorEvanLive?lang=e
  2. https://www.newsweek.com/robert-mugabe-evan-mawarire-flag-zimbabwe-617726

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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Zihindula Mukegwa, the former spokesman for President Joseph Kabila, said in a televised interview that the Kabila government will hold elections by the end of the year, blaming voter registration problems on the delay. His remarks contradict popular criticism of Kabila, who remains in power past the two term limit enshrined in the country’s constitution. Mukegwa states that Kabila is in fact abiding by the constitution by following a provision that allows the President to stay in power if another candidate is not elected. Opposition politician Martin Fayulu claims Kabila is manipulating the election process using similar tactics Mobutu used during his 32 years in power.

Seven in ten people in one survey oppose Kabila’s extension past the two term limit, although organized opposition to his rule remains divided. Over 40 people have died and hundreds have been arrested in the demonstrations, leading to criticism from human rights groups around the world.

Meanwhile, the WHO has declared an end to a two-month long Ebola outbreak in DRC. It is the 8th outbreak of Ebola in the country since 1976. Officials stressed the importance of strengthening the health system, especially in Bas-Uele province where the cases emerged, and cooperating with the government to ensure survivors have access to care and preventative education

  1. https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/upfront/2017/06/dr-congo-kabila-intend-stay-power-170630061602366.html
  2. https://www.afro.who.int/en/media-centre/pressreleases/item/9744-who-declares-an-end-to-the-ebola-outbreak-in-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo.html

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More than two weeks after the country’s commune elections, there is no consensus between Hu Sun’s government, the major opposition party (CNRP), and a cluster of NGOs (which calls itself the Situation Room) regarding the fairness and legitimacy of the vote. Both the CNRP and the Situation Room agree that, while election day itself was without significant rates of fraud or voter intimidation, repression of opposition members, unequal representation in the media, and the overall political atmosphere in Cambodia precluded the elections from being “completely free and fair”.

In response, Prime Minister Hu Su has questioned the legality of the Situation Room, suggesting it violated NGO registration regulations and has sought to instigate another “color revolution”. On June 28th, the government initiated an investigation into the group, a move many observers describe as “another blow on Cambodia’s civic society”.

  1. www.reuters.com
  2. www.cambodiadaily.com

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