CANVAS Annual Review: December 29, 2017

Photo: “Demonstrators clash with the Bolivarian National Police during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, April 10, 2017.” (AP, via


Tensions from 2016 continued and on 30 March 2017, the Venezuelan Supreme Court decided to take over legislative powers from the National Assembly (NA). This decision triggered widespread protests and the court quickly reversed its decision on April 1st. Nevertheless, protests continued almost daily for over three months. Protests regularly included violence and led to clashes between young protesters and the National Guard, causing the death of about 120 people this year. Critics did not only come from the opposition blaming the government for increasing autocratic tactics, but also from within the chavista ranks, formerly loyal to Maduro.

Amidst growing pressure, President Maduro announced the decision to call for a new constitution “saying it was the ‘only road to restore peace’ in the country“, and the establishment of a Constituent Assembly (CA) to draft the new constitution. The opposition which largely criticized the President’s intentions then organized a symbolic and unofficial referendum against the plan. While it coincided with a trial-run for the official July 30-vote for the new CA, the opposition’s unofficial referendum produced high turnouts, showed large rejection of the government’s plan and raised hopes for further pressuring the government.
However, the CA was eventually created in a controversial vote, criticized for being illegitimate and boycotted by the opposition. Large numbers of security forces had appeared to overlook the election sites, but also at protests – peaceful and violent – which were repressed violently with no tolerance for the pro-democracy demonstrators. The new pro-government assembly then went on to replace and take over the powers of the elected NA. This was deemed “illegal and unconstitutional”, also by international actors, especially the US which called the vote a ‘sham’ and Maduro a ‘dictator’, introducing financial sanctions against the country.

Despite the protests earlier this year, Venezuela’s opposition coalition partly faces distrust and has suffered from internal divides. In November, regional gubernatorial elections did not bring results in favor of the opposition as had been expected before, causing outcry by the opposition. Most recently, President Maduro banned three of the main opposition parties from participating in next year’s presidential election after a boycott of mayoral polls earlier in December, saying he was following criteria set by the CA. “The presidential vote had been scheduled for December 2018, but analysts say it could now be brought forward.” This brings the opposition into deeper crisis, after it had even been awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament. Several rounds of talks between the opposition and government in the Dominican Republic have failed to reach an agreement and are set to resume in January.

Like Venezuela’s (former) chief prosecutor and government critic Luisa Ortega Diaz or ousted Caracas mayor and opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, many Venezuelans are fleeing the country due to the crackdown on political dissent as well the deteriorating economic situation and humanitarian crisis. Venezuela’s economy strained by falling oil prices, subject to hyperinflation, sanctions and its failure to repay government debts, have led to shortages of food and medicine in the country. Widespread violence and crime have joined these problems. In response to economic consequences of sanctions, Maduro also announced the launch of the “Petro”, a digital cryptocurrency.

The Maldives

Early 2017, Former president of Maldives Mohamed Nasheed claimed that he wants to run for office again. Where Nasheed´s return would not be without a risk, the move would have proven a good step towards uniting the broad coalition of opposition-groups and coming out with a single candidate. In the remainder of the year, however, things went silent around Nasheed´s return. For the Maldives, 2017 was another year of aggravating government authoritarianism.

In April, a prominent blogger was stabbed to death in capital Male. Yameen Rasheed ran a blog called “The Daily Panic”, known for ridiculing the countries politicians, both ruling party and opposition. Rasheed was not the first media figure to be targeted in the Maldives, but so far all cases go unsolved. Besides guessing what the motives for these murders were, they have been said to “represent a new type of violence” in the Maldives that follow a new type of violent discourses, related to the country’s political context, and “thrive on the failure of its non-religious politics, as well as its fragmented religious landscape.” The murder even brought UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to urge for a swift and thorough inquiry into the killing, connecting the act to an upsurge in arrests and prosecutions of the political opposition.

Over the last year, however, space for legitimate dissent has been shrinking at alarming speed. The government of President Abdulla Yameen intensified its crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly. Authorities used new laws and criminal cases to silence political opponents, as well as human rights defenders, journalists and civil society. Halfway August, the Maldivian military locked down the country’s parliament, in what opposition lawmakers said was an attempt to hold them from voting on a motion to impeach the speaker of the house. Only a month before, a similar scenario played out, as the armed forces padlocked the gates of parliament to prevent another attempt at impeachment, in which the opposition said it had the majority of votes.

Also in 2017, the Maldives announced the reintroduction of the death penalty after a 60-year moratorium. The Yameen government claimed the measure was necessary to try and reduce the rising number of murders and stop drug-trafficking. Amnesty International has stated that the executions are a ploy by the government to distract attention from its own problems and ensure its political survival.

Lack of independence of the judiciary remained a concern, as it is said to be highly influenced by the country’s President. In September of this year, the Department of Judicial Administration suspended at least 54 lawyers and charged them with contempt of court, after they filed a petition demanding the rule of law in the country. Corruption, finally, also played a salient role in the Maldives this year. After Al Jazeera exposed how Yameen and his former deputy coordinated the theft of millions of dollars from state coffers, the President admitted receiving bags of stolen cash at his private residence, but has not been prosecuted since.


The first months of 2017 in Zimbabwe are characterized by two things. First, there is a degenerating political, social and economic situation in the country which is not adequately addressed by its ruling elite. Despite the fact that Robert Mugabe called Zimbabwe the second-most developed country in Africa, the country was struggling with deadly floods, Air Zimbabwe was struggling to keep afloat, and protesters had to face harsh reprisals. The country also faced shortages of fuel and basic commodities over the course of the year.  Government repression continued unabated throughout 2017. After the introduction of a new ministry responsible for Cyber Security, the Zimbabwean police charged an American woman over a tweet that appeared to insult President Robert Mugabe early October.

Secondly, both ZANU-PF as well as the political opposition seems to be more busy with internal alliances and disputes than guiding their country. Especially the factionalism within the ruling party takes over the headlines. The so called ‘G-40’-faction, representing the younger generation within ZANU-PF, supports Mugabe’s wife Grace to succeed her husband. On the other hand, there is the so called ‘Team-Lacoste’-faction, which backs up Vice-President Mnangagwa as Mugabe’s successor for party-leadership.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the military takes over Zimbabwe. After Zimbabwe’s army chief Constantino Chiwenga demanded a “stop” to the purge in the ruling party on November 13th, soldiers take over Harare the next day. Military spokesman, Major General SB Moyo makes the announcement that the military has temporarily taken control of the country to “target criminals” around President Robert Mugabe, but that the President and his family are “safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”. After a week of negotiations, Robert Mugabe announces his resignation, after 37 years as the leader of Zimbabwe, sparking massive celebrations all over Zimbabwe.

Former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sacked early November, is put forward by the party as their new leader. After his inauguration at the end of November, the new President has been trying to re-engage with those who can help him to stabilize the Zimbabwean economy: the international community, foreign investors, and white farmers. Despite a promising new budget statement, the removal of Zimbabwe’s corrupt police, and the acquaintance of several social movement leaders, skepticism remains, especially because of the deeply ingrained system of patronage that was built in 37 years under Mugabe. The opposition, shut out of Mnangagwa’s Cabinet in favor of military and ruling party members, now seems to focus on the 2018 elections.

The United States of America

This year, the US did not only witness natural disasters like wildfires or Hurricane Harvey, it also experienced two of its deadliest shootings in history. In October, a gunman fired into the crowd at a Las Vegas music festival, killing 58 and leaving hundreds injured. Only a month later, a man opened fire in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church, killing 26 and injuring 20 more.

Besides these tragedies, the US experienced political tensions surrounding Donald Trump’s first year of presidency. At the beginning of 2017, the history Women’s March brought one million people to the streets of Washington DC and more around the world, showing their discontent with the new president’s inauguration. But other protests throughout the US took place during the course of the year as well. One of the most prominent incidents in 2017 in which Donald Trump received criticism, was his initial reaction and – as perceived by many – lack of harsh condemnation of the events in Charlottesville in August. White supremacists planned to protest the removal of a Confederate icon statue on August 12th which was described as “one of the largest white supremacist events in recent US history”, when people also marched through the streets with burning torches, chanting slogans like “white lives matter” and “blood and soil”. Protests turned violent when white supremacists and nationalists clashed with counter-demonstrators, and a car driven into the crowd killed one and injured many others. CANVAS also followed the protests of professional athletes, especially in the NFL, kneeling during the national anthem seeking to raise awareness for racial injustice. While some supported the athletes, others opposed their protests, including President Trump, as they were perceived as being disrespectful to the anthem and the US.

Another topic which generated repercussions not only in the US but also around the world, was what became known as the #MeToo-campaign. After actress Alyssa Milano shared her account of sexual harassment by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, other high-profile accounts and accusations“about the pervasice damage wrought by sexual harassment” joined her. This “created a wave of awareness and brave confrontations over sexual harassment and assault, taking down powerful men in the process.” Time magazine even went on to name the #MeToo movement ‘Person’ of the Year 2017. Recent elections in Alabama were widely followed in this context as well, as controversial Republican Candidate Roy Moore was accused in various cases of sexual misconduct against teenage girls. The election surprisingly resulted in a Democratic win in the southern state.

Heightened tensions and reciprocal threats between the US and North Korea have raised fears of (nuclear) escalation on the Korean Peninsula, especially after repeated ballistic missile tests. On the international stage Donald Trump’s recent announcement to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital and to move diplomatic representations to the city, has led to widespread condemnation. The move which sparked protests and clashes in the Palestinian territories and beyond, has most recently been condemned by the UN General Assembly and “’demanded’ that all countries comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem”.


For Syria, the country that has been in war for more than 6 years now, this year was one in which the international superpowers played a game of chess on its future, while close to ten thousands of its people died in the meantime. Hopes of greater democracy and openness have been mostly replaced by chaos and violence, with the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his backers largely back in control of the main urban centers. The war is likely to go on for years and many millions of refugees who fled to neighboring countries are not yet able to return.

After the balance of power slowly but steadily shifted towards Assad late 2016, in January, Russia, Iran and Turkey agree to enforce a ceasefire between the government and non-Islamist rebels, after talks between the two sides in Kazakhstan. Early March, Russia and China veto a UN resolution to impose sanctions on Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons. After the election of Donald Trump as the new US-President, the United States of America intervenes in Syria, directly targeting Syrian military positions for the first time. In April, Trump orders a missile attack on an airbase from which Syrian government planes allegedly staged a chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Throughout the year, diplomatic efforts to restore peace in Syria continue in both Geneva and Astana. After six years of war, the US and Russia agree to a limited ceasefire in three war-torn provinces in southwest Syria, in July.  2017 ends with the collapse of the eighth round of UN-sponsored talks in Geneva designed to end the Syrian civil war, as those who represent Assad are unwilling to meet anyone with a different opinion, according to the Guardian.

In the meantime, the battle against Islamist groups continued throughout 2017. ISIS was pushed back heavily throughout the year. In May, President Trump approves military plans to arm the Kurdish YPG as part of the effort to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from IS militants, in a move which infuriates NATO-ally Turkey. After conceding defeat to the Syrian regime in Palmyra early March, the Islamic State group is driven from Raqqa, its de-facto capital in Syria in October. One month later, the Syrian army also takes full control of Deir al-Zour from Islamic State.


For Poland, 2017 was a year of deteriorating democracy and strong efforts to counter this dynamic. Continuing from 2016, Poland’s governing Law and Justice party (PiS), in office since 2015, is seen to slowly destroy the pillars under the Polish democracy. Polish public television is turned into a platform for ruling party propaganda, and the country’s constitutional court has effectively been brought under the control of justices close to the ruling party. Meanwhile, Poland also had to deal with the rising far-right movement in the country. In November, white supremacist and racist views were expressed by some of the 60,000 people who took part in a march on Poland’s Independence Day.

The European Union tries to do all it can to curb Poland’s efforts to turn away from democracy. According to the EU, serious questions have to be raised about the effective application of EU law, in the absence of judicial independence. Poland and the EU also clashed over the logging in Poland’s Bia?owie?a forest. The EU imposed a ban on logging in the primeval woodland, which was subsequently ignored by the Polish authorities. Only ten days before the end of the year, the European Commission triggered the so called Art. 7-procedure, which could result in the suspension of Poland’s voting rights in EU institutions, and block EU financial transfers. While these measures require unanimity among member-states, the outcome is unlikely, but it is telling for Poland’s direction in 2017. The EU’s interference could count on the support of a big part of Polish society, it also came across severe protest of those citizens supporting Polish conservatives.

Meanwhile, the Polish citizens have proved very effective in mobilizing and organizing against the state. In July, two new legislative bills caused eight days of mass mobilization across the country, in which hundreds of thousands of Poles took to the streets in capital Warsaw, as well as hundreds of other towns and cities, and held vigils in front of courthouses. Polish president Andrzej Duda eventually moved in to veto the two bills that sparked protests throughout the nation. The bills were meant to bring the Polish Supreme Court under control of the ruling party, and would allow the Ministry of Justice to appoint judges.

Democratic Republic Congo

For DRC, 2017 is mainly another year of unrest, violence and instability. The violence in Kasaï was perhaps 2017’s biggest news story. The Wire reports that in Kasai, “little children were being hacked to pieces  with machetes.” The south and northeastern parts of the DRC also witnessed deadly conflict in 2017. There was major fighting between the local Twa and Bantu populations in Tanganyika province. Uvira, on the outskirts of Lake Tanganyika, was the site of a battle between the rebel Yakutumba militia and government forces in September. Early December, 14 Tanzanian UN peacekeepers and five Congolese air force members are killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the “worst attack in recent history”, as stated by the UN.

President Joseph Kabila has succeeded in ignoring the request for elections in 2017. The President, who was originally supposed to step down at the end of his term in November 2016, is clinging on to power, and suppressing dissenting voices. Early 2017, DRC got to deal with another disappointment, after the deal the Catholic Church thought that it had reached with Kabila that would deny him a third term, collapsed. In February, long-standing opposition figure Étienne Tshisekedi dies, dealing a major blow to the talks between Kabila and the various opposition groups. His death deprived the opposition of its principal figure-head, who could mobilize popular support as well as cut political deals in Kinshasa. After negotiations in which the UN plays a role, new elections have now been planned not earlier as December 2018, which the opposition movement seems to find hard to accept.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in DRC has outpaced Syria, Yemen and Iraq in the number of people forced to flee. Averages of  5,500  people a day were being uprooted from their homes because of violence and insecurity, in the first half year of 2017. Following failed attempts to organise elections at the end of this year, analysts have forecast that postponing the elections is likely to incite grievances among communities in Congo, which may be used by armed groups to muster support into 2018. As the year is coming to an end, there seems to be little hope of a resolution to the major crises that have intensified over the past 12 months. The violence in Kasai is escalating and the conflict in south eastern Congo looks set to continue.


Towards the 2018 elections, Prime Minister Hun Sen seems to intensify his efforts to silence every form of political dissent against his rule. After coming close to defeat in 2013, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has since cracked down on any form of political dissenting, or dissenting voices. In 2017, the CPP arrested key political figures and members of civil society, cracked down on independent media platforms, and eventually dissolved the main opposition party.

Over the course of the year, independent media have been silenced. Halfway 2017, the Cambodian government launched a systematic attack aimed at independent media in the country. At least six media outlets (one daily newspaper, two foreign media services and three local radio stations)  were shutdown, forced off the air, or facing closure.  A staggering $6.3 million tax bill forced the Cambodia Daily to close , and radio stations carrying programs from Voice of America and Radio Free Asia were shut down for supposed technical and administrative violations. ASEAN lawmakers from around Southeast Asia expressed grave concern about the status of independent media outlets and civil society organizations in Cambodia.

Police arrested Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Kem Sokha over allegations of treason in September, with Prime Minister Hun Sen accusing the opposition president of conspiring with the United States to oust his regime. Where the main opposition party initially defied Hun Sen’s threats, his words turn out to be more than bluff. After Cambodia’s main opposition-party CNRP is dissolved by the Supreme-Court halfway November, Cambodia’s ruling Party is left unopposed in Parliament. The court accepted the government’s claim that the party conspired with foreigners to stage a revolution. This harsh measure is said to have had a wider effect on the already stifling debate in Cambodian society.

Cambodia can also be seen to slowly turn towards China, turning its back on the wider international community. After the Cambodian government closed a prominent American pro-democracy organization and ordered its foreign staff to leave the country in August, the US threatened to push for travel restrictions for Cambodian top officials. Hun Sen, however, played along the power game and expressed that sanctions by Western donors don’t worry him, subsequently challenging the United States to cut all aid. Part of his lack of worries is due to his administrations strong relationship with China, which has become by far the biggest giver of foreign aid as well as the biggest investor in Cambodia.


For Myanmar, the international headlines were completely occupied with the Rohingya-crisis, from the start of 2017 all the way through to the end. Myanmar military’s persecution of the Muslim minority group, which is not recognized as a national ethnic group by the government, caused an international outcry. World leaders pressed the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end the persecution of religious minorities and allow aid workers full access to areas of conflict. International organizations condemned the violence, which according to them amounted to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

From September, an unprecedented refugee crisis forms in Myanmar and over the border of Bangladesh. As of October, hundreds of thousands had already fled to the neighboring country. The people have no place to return to, as the Myanmar military allegedly went on a campaign to burn entire villages. Over time, military groups emerge in Rakhine state, with the intention to fight back against what they see as decades of oppression by the Buddhist majority.

Besides the deal that was reached late November between Myanmar and Bangladesh over the terms for the return of the Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh, so far no decisive measures have been taken. Myanmar de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi over the course of the year had to endure increasing criticism for her impotence or unwillingness to do anything about the crisis. She gets stripped from her Freedom of Oxford and Dublin Honors, and several voices call on the Nobel Peace Prize committee to follow these examples. At the end of the year, Myanmar blacklisted and barred UN investigator and special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, from entering the country. Also at the end of the year, two Reuters-reporters get arrested in Yangon, in a case which, according to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, is related to their reporting on the continued persecution of Rohingya Muslims in the country.

Other essential stories CANVAS has covered in 2017

 Spain – The struggle for Catalan independence dominated the headlines for several weeks in 2017, and the saga is very likely to continue into 2018 – Politico

South Africa – The political party that has represented the majority of South African citizens since 1994, ANC, is getting under more and more pressure, as they elected a new leader end of the year – Guardian

Honduras – Late November, tens of thousands flooded the streets of Honduras in opposition to what has been seen as a fraudulent election, that has decided in favor of incumbent President Hernandez – New York Times

Kenya – After months of allegations, protests and violence, Kenya’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously to uphold the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta in October’s repeat presidential vote which opposition candidate Odinga had boycotted, dismissing two legal challenges –  Reuters

Hong Kong – In 2017, protests over democratic freedom and independence in the Chinese ruled city continued – CNN

Iraq – Towards the end of 2017, the Iraqi Kurds voted for independence for their region. After weeks of reprisals and battlefield defeats, Massoud Barzani, the region’s president who led an independence push for the Kurdish region more than a decade, announced that he would quit as president – VOA

Romania – Early in 2017, Romania witnessed its biggest protests since 1989, accusing the government of corruption and putting other powers under growing government control. Recently in November, new demonstrations erupted throughout Romania and brought thousands to the streets, again. – The Guardian

Other essential stories CANVAS has covered in 2017

 Spain – The struggle for Catalan independence dominated the headlines for several weeks in 2017, and the saga is very likely to continue into 2018 – Politico

South Africa – The political party that has represented the majority of South African citizens since 1994, ANC, is getting under more and more pressure, as they elected a new leader end of the year – Guardian

Honduras – Late November, tens of thousands flooded the streets of Honduras in opposition to what has been seen as a fraudulent election, that has decided in favor of incumbent President Hernandez – New York Times

Kenya – After months of allegations, protests and violence, Kenya’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously to uphold the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta in October’s repeat presidential vote which opposition candidate Odinga had boycotted, dismissing two legal challenges –  Reuters

Hong Kong – In 2017, protests over democratic freedom and independence in the Chinese ruled city continued – CNN

Iraq – Towards the end of 2017, the Iraqi Kurds voted for independence for their region. After weeks of reprisals and battlefield defeats, Massoud Barzani, the region’s president who led an independence push for the Kurdish region more than a decade, announced that he would quit as president – VOA

Romania – Early in 2017, Romania witnessed its biggest protests since 1989, accusing the government of corruption and putting other powers under growing government control. Recently in November, new demonstrations erupted throughout Romania and brought thousands to the streets, again. – The Guardian

Tension is Rising in Honduras, as Election Standoff Continues

Picture: Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla march in protest for what they call electoral fraud in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Dec. 3, 2017 – Credit: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

Mainly outside the scope of the mainstream media, tension has been rising in Honduras, over the 26th of November election results. Most recently, the United States of America have recognized the re-election of Honduran President Hernández, despite massive allegations of fraud. What do you need to know about the developments in the central-American country?

November 2017 Elections

Juan Orlando Hernandez, who became the country’s President in 2012, has not been famous for his stunning human rights record. Several journalists and human rights activists have been killed over the last couple of years, almost always with impunity. Where the Honduran Constitution strictly allows Presidential candidates to only one term in office, those rules were declared “inapplicable” to Hernandez by the Supreme Court in 2015, paving the way for his reelection bid for the 2017 race.

Despite the ruling National Party’s abuse of public resources, the electoral campaign offered Honduran citizens several alternatives for President. The opposition, however, was heavily divided between the center-right Liberal Party and the center-left Opposition Alliance. It was therefore a huge surprise when, with nearly 60% of the votes counted, Salvador Nasralla led by five percentage points. One of the magistrates on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, called his win “irreversible,” and Liberal candidate Luis Zelaya publicly recognized Nasralla with his victory.

Then, the ruling party’s authoritarian forces started working, and after a 24-hour radio silence, the electoral council announced Hernandez as the winner. This dubious shift triggered accusations of fraud and, subsequently, street protests. As the authorities cracked down on protesters, the state declared a state of emergency early December, establishing a curfew and the right to involve the participation of the armed forces to support the national police in maintaining security and order. At least 14 people were killed during post-election protests, and more than 800 people have been arrested, according to Amnesty International.

Protest Movement got sparked

But the genie seems to be out of the bottle in Honduras. Over the last few weeks, “the disputed election has united diverse opposition groups and sparked a pro-democracy protest movement calling for a full and transparent recount.” Where several protests have led to violent standoffs between activists and security forces, a nonviolent movement has also taken hold of Honduras. The movement has mainly build on Honduran youths, leading peaceful rallies and candlelight vigils, while distributing white orchids to those who are supposed to repress them. The actions have even led members of the Honduras National Police force to refuse orders from the right-wing Hernandez government. Only a week ago, Honduras’ Opposition Alliance called on the protesters to continue their struggle in the streets.

Role Played by the International Community

Despite these hopeful developments, the opposition still faces significant challenges. The international community could play an important role in Honduras’ current struggle. On December 17, the same day that Juan Orlando Hernández was officially declared the winner by the electoral council, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, declared that the election process was plagued by irregularities, and called for new elections. The US, however, recently validated the results favoring Hernandez’s reelection.

The United States is by far Honduras’ most important international partner, providing large sums of security assistance to its government. Moreover, a large portion of Honduras’ GDP is due to receiving remittances from the States. Despite organizations calling on the American government to denounce fraud and violent repression following the elections, the Trump administration has decided to re-certify the Honduran government as complying with human rights protocols in order to allow the financial assistance to continue. As Steven Levitsky and Carlos Flores write in LA-times, “U.S. officials view the right-wing Hernandez as an ally, [and therefore] they seem willing to give him a pass on democracy and human rights.”

How has the United States policy of promoting democracy in the Americas changed over time? And how could the opposition movement overcome severe challenge for their pro-democracy movement?

Read more about the Honduras-situation here, here, and here.

Weekly Report, 22 December 2017

As a sign of solidarity and support, residents of eastern Ghouta, but also politicians and activists elsewhere have posted pictures of themselves covering one eye, in tribute to a baby who lost an eye and had his skull crushed during government attacks on his besieged hometown. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

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On Wednesday, Venezuela’s Constituant Assembly ruled that parties who boycotted this month’s local elections had lost legitimacy. By doing so, the pro-government body potentially eliminated the main opposition groups from the 2018 presidential race, as main opposition parties Justice First, Democratic Action and Popular Will did not run candidates in this month’s mayoral polls in protest against what they said was a „biased election system designed to perpetuate leftist President Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship,” according to Reuters. By doing so, the Assembly ruled, the parties have lost their legal status and should re-apply to the National Election Board.

As Venezuela sees more and more of the worlds nations turning against it, the Maduro-regime is looking towards other nations to support their regime. On Thursday, Venezuela’s foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza stated: “Thank God humanity can count on the People’s Republic of China to guarantee peace or at least less conflict,” according to South China Morning Post. The statement came after Arreaza lashed out at Donald Trump, US and EU sanctions, and American interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs at the Venezuelan embassy in Beijing during a three-day official visit. The foreign minister blamed the US for his country’s spiralling debt crisis on Thursday, saying Washington’s “permanent attack” had left the economy crippled. In this same week, Venezuela has awarded the Russian energy giant Rosneft with licences to develop two offshore gas fields.


The Maldives

Early this week, former President Mohamed Nasheed stated that “the actions of the present administration pose Maldives to risk of war“. Raajje reports that in a tweet on Monday, the former President noted that the Parliament was hijacked and the Yameen government was engaging in activities that harmed bilateral relations with neighbors. The statement came after Maldives and China signed a controversial China Maldives Free Trade Agreement, on which CANVAS reported last week, much to the concern of regional partners, such as India. In line with Nasheed’s accusations, a pro-Yameen newspaper has kicked up a fresh political storm in the this week by describing PM Narendra Modi as a Hindu extremist who is also anti-Muslim. The editorial went on to describe India as the biggest enemy nation and said that a “new best friend” for Maldives would be China.

A week after the Maldives government announced new regulations under which local officials can no longer meet diplomats and NGOs without government permission from the home, three opposition party councilers have been suspended. The government suspended the members of a local body on charges of meeting with the Indian ambassador, Akhilesh Mishra, without seeking prior permission. All three suspended councillors belonged to the principal opposition party, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). On Monday, British ambassador to the Maldives James Dauris tweeted that this was the latest in a number of “unfortunate steps” taken by the government.

The Wire

The United States of America

On Monday, the UN Security Council failed to adopt a draft resolution which would have voiced the regret among its members about the US’ controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, after a veto by the US itself. The resolution would have called on the US to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in the city and reiterated the member states’ stance on the status of Jerusalem. In a briefing, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace process had highlighted the lack of significant positive progress towards peace in the recent reporting period and stated that “developments on the ground [cannot] be divorced from the broader context in which they are happening”, underlining the current uncertainty about the future of the peace process. Following the earlier decision by the United States to recognize the Holy City as the capital of Israel, the UN called for an Emergency Special Session on the issue. Happening on Thursday, Member States in the United Nations General Assembly “demanded” that all countries comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem, by an overwhelming majority.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House of Representatives approved the new GOP tax reform for the second time, sending it off to be signed in by President Trump. The House had to vote again on changes made to the bill by the Senate which had approved the bill earlier that day. While this has been described as Donald Trump’s first ‘major legislative victory’ and largely backed by Republicans, no Democrats – neither in the House nor in Senate – had voted in favor. The bill has earned widespread criticism for disproportionately favoring corporations and the US’ wealthy, as well as likely driving up state debt, besides seemingly having been a rushed endeavor before the year’s end. The Guardian reported of the bill being “deeply unpopular” and wrote that during the Senate vote, activists have reportedly shouted “Kill the bill, don’t kill us” in the press gallery. This has been the most drastic changes to the US tax system for 30 years.

UN News Centre


This week, CANVAS’ executive director Srdja Popovic and Greg Satell wrote about the worrying direction of the Polish democratic movement for RealClearWorld. After two waves of democratic movement in the last four decades, we are now seeing that same democratic process moves in reverse. However, almost as soon as PiS assumed power, activists have been able to mobilize civil society outside the sphere of party politics. They have extended the battlefield by strongly emphasizing the involvement of the international community, and effectively combined mass mobilization for street protests with concrete actions. Thus, this years’ developments in Poland cause both worries and hope. Can Poland become a model once again and point the way to defeating authoritarianism and protecting civil society?

On Wednesday, the European Commission has triggered Article 7, which serves as a warning but could lead to sanctions and suspension of voting rights in the EU.The Commission accuses the Polish government of having increasingly undermined the independence of the judiciary, common European values and the rule of law, despite repeated warnings and efforts for dialogue. The Commission’s recommendation now has to be accepted by a two-third majority of the member states in order to pass. When agreed upon, the Polish government also would receive a three-month period for adopting recommendations to restore judicial legitimacy by the Commission. PiS spokeswoman dismissed the decision and said it “‘had no merit’ and […] it was ‘solely a political decision’”, while Justice Minister Zbingniew Ziobro stated that his government “’must continue the reforms’”, wrote Deutsche Welle.

This coincides with the final signing in of two bills overhauling the judiciary, as Polish President Andrzej Duda declared also on Wednesday. Earlier this week, Poland’s upper house had approved the controversial judicial reform criticized for undermining the rule of law. Additionally, Poland’s lower house of parliament approved a different law admitting wide-ranging political power over the electoral commission as well. The latter, together with opposition politicians, criticized the move.

Deutsche Welle
Financial Times


Late last week, the UN-sponsored talks in Geneva designed to end the Syrian civil war collapsed. UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura claimed that “a golden big opportunity” had been missed. He openly blamed the Syrian government delegation, stating that those who represent Assad are “unwilling to meet anyone with a different opinion,“ according to the Guardian. The Syrian government delegation had allegedly refused to discuss two of the major agenda items – a constitutional process and presidential elections – insisting instead it would only discuss terrorism. De Mistura urged the government’s long time ally Russie to save the peacetalks. With implausible change on the battlefield, and under-resourced opposition, this might be the only way out to keep the peace-process moving. On Tuesday, however, the United Nations proposed a timeline for elections and guidance on constitutional reform to Syria’s warring parties, in a bid to revive stalled peace talks.

While President Vladimir Putin has said he will convene a Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in February, delegations from the Syrian government and some opposition groups are already arriving in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, for the eight round of Astana-talks on Thursday and Friday.  Talks spearheaded by Russia, Turkey, and Iran are expected to address the functioning of de-escalation zones, the release of detainees, transfer of bodies, and the search for missing civilians. While the talking continious abroad, the fighting continious inside Syria. In Eastern Ghouta – on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus – hundreds of thousands of people remain trapped as government bombings proceed. BBC writes about air-strikes on rebel held Idlib, which killed at least 19 people on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Independent writes about a symbolic act of defiance. In eastern-Ghouta, Syrians have launched a campaign in support of a baby who lost an eye and had his skull crushed during government attacks on his besieged hometown. As a sign of solidarity and support, residents of eastern Ghouta, but also politicians and activists elsewhere have posted pictures of themselves covering one eye, in tribute to the three-month-old child. The campaign, also known as  the „Solidarity with Karim“ campaign is the latest effort to draw international attention to the government siege that has been going on for almost four years now. The area is suffering from severe food-shortages and is in need of dire medicle aid.

The Guardian
Al Jazeera
The Independent


On Monday,  the Zimbabwean army announced that “Operation Restore Legacy” – the military take over officially ended. National Army commander Phillip Sibanda released a statement that affirmed claimes made on the 13 of November, syaing that the operation was launched by the security services “to remove criminals that had surrounded  former president, resulting in anxiety and despondency amongst our people.” The official end of what is claimed to have definitely been a coup has not freed former G-40 senior faction members from prosecution. IOL writes about several renowned officials that have fled the country, remain in detention, or have been charged with corruption.

Late last week, we could see the signs of a new Zimbabwean Cabinet trying to re-engaged with the international community. As Mnangagwa administration has made economic recovery a priority, this means a need for reconciliation with that community. Newly installed Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo state on the weekend that the newly installed Cabinet “is focusing on reassuring our friends and creating new friends, reengagement with those who were sitting on the fence before.” In reaction to critical testimonies made at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations last week, Moyo said its important for Zimbabweans to show unity at this time, specially on the issue of sanctions, which he said must be lifted. VOA expressed a particular scepsis towards the proclaimed „new agenda for the country“, mostly because those using this frame were part of the same party and government which held back this agenda for the past 37-years.

Another strongly expressed agenda-priority for Mnangagwa is corruption. On Wednesday, during his first state-of-the-nation address, the Zimbabwean President promised zero tolerance in his government’s push to punish corruption that stifled political freedom and economic growth under Robert Mugabe. Last week, Mnangagwa already claimed to have a list of key officials that violated the exchange-controle law, by illegally stashing money abroad. Those were given until March to return the stolen cash, in return for amnesty. The President stated that “corruption remains the major source of some of the problems we face as a country and its retarding impact on national development cannot be overemphasized,” according to Reuters. In what still looks like a focused attack on former G-40 faction-members, the government is also pursuing corruption charges  against former finance minister Ignatius Chombo. Chombo, whose allegedly commited crimes date back over two decades, faces trial early next year.

Independent Online

Democratic Republic Congo

UN chief peacekeeper Jean-Pierre Lacroix met President Joseph Kabila on Sunday, following an attack which killed 14 peacekeepers in the country’s east. Kabila and Lacroix discussed the attack as well as DRC’s need of greater security, according to sources who talked to Agence France Press. AFP further wrote that the UN official stated that “the violence in eastern DRC was ‘a collective problem that needs to be tackled collectively’.” DRC’s east has long been plagued by violence, but fighting and clashes have increased especially this year, between government soldiers and militia groups, as well as among ethnic groups. In a period of about three years, the hardline Allied Democratic Forces have killed more than 700 people in the Beni region, where UN peacekeepers had also been killed last week.

As it has now been one year since President Kabila’s second term in office has officially expired and new elections are only set for a year from now, the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) had called for protests throughout the country on Tuesday. However, AFP reported of low turnouts and only “a few dozen people” at the demonstrations, due to rain and a lack of coordination, said Felix Tshisekedi from the “Rassemblement” opposition coalition. According to a police spokesman, Tshisekedi himself had been stopped from leaving his house, and at least 30 people were arrested in the context of the protests. Though not many people reportedly attended them, witnesses said traffic and economic activity seemed lower than normal and more police were in the streets. Despite low attendance of the demonstrations, the opposition vowed to continue its campaign to push for Kabila to step down. So far, its protest campaign had been met with a police crackdown leading to deaths and arrests. On Tuesday, LUCHA – a citizen’s movement for change in Congo – had reported on their twitter that their peaceful protest had been repressed by the police in Kindu and has now called for ‘non-stop demonstrations’ from December 29 onwards until Kabila resigned.

After HRW had released a report revealing the recruitment of M23 Rebels to suppress protests in the DRC, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organizations in the DRC have released a report on Wednesday addressing the “slaughter” and “crimes against humanity” perpetrated in Congo’s Kasai region. The report, only available in French, reveals “the scale and seriousness of the crimes committed against the civilian population by the Congolese defence and security forces and their auxiliaries, the militia known as Bana Mura.” After FIDH and its partners had conducted a fact finding mission in Angola, talking to Congolese refugees in July this year, the organizations concluded among other things, that “[w]ith the elections repeatedly being postponed in the DRC, the atrocities committed in Kasai are part of a recurring scheme of Joseph Kabila’s regime to mobilise tension and violence in order to retain power through chaos and diversion.”

AFP/News24 (Lacroix meets Kabila)
AFP/News24 (Protests)


On Monday, Cambodia shut down 330 what it says to be “inactive” print media outlets, reported the Bangkok Post. The Cambodian government stated the prevention of such outlets misusing their press passes for different purposes as the reason for closure. Information Ministry representative Phos Sovann added that so far, none of the affected media companies had complained and many had already turned into online media. This move comes at a time of rising concerns about a government crackdown on opposition and independent media in Cambodia, ahead of next year’s general election.

Deputy President of the recently resolved CNRP Eng Chhay Eang, who lives in self-imposed exile, rejected a suggestion by Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen to “form a new party” this week. Speaking to garment workers in the country’s capital, Hun Sen stated that those CNRP members who have not been banned from politics should give up hope for the CNRP to be reinstated and go on to form a new party ahead of the elections. Eng Chhay Eang said the Prime Minister was therein trying to give next year’s elections new legitimacy in the midst of international criticism.

Bangkok Post
Radio Free Asia


Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on Tuesday, revealing details about abuses by security forces in the Rohingya Tula Toli village. “Massacre by the River: Burmese Army Crimes against Humanity in Tula Toli” is partly based on interviews with survivors and supports that abuses against the Rohingya “amount to crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution, and force deportation.” HRW calls on the Burmese government to stop its “campaign of ethnic cleansing” and allow access for aid organizations and the UN fact-finding mission to Rakhine State, and also on the UN and concerned governments to impose targeted sanctions.

Meanwhile, amidst increasing international condemnation, Myanmar blacklisted and barred UN investigator and special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, from entering the country as she was due to visit in January. The country’s government also said to withdraw “any government cooperation for the rest of her tenure”, wrote TIME. Lee’s assessment of human rights abuses and criticism in Myanmar had sparked backlash within the country before. According to the media outlet, the decision “comes as an escalation of Myanmar’s crackdown, but is not necessarily surprising.” Another UN fact finding mission has not been able to secure visas for the country and Lee had experience increasing resistance on the Myanmar side.


Other News

South Africa – The ruling but decreasingly popular ANC party voted on Monday in South Africa, to eventually elect Cyril Ramaphosa to replace incumbent President Jacob Zuma as the party’s leader. This makes the “anti-apartheid hero and business tycoon” likely to become South Africa’s next president in 2019. While he raises hope of improving the current ANC position again, others are more sceptic about his ability to change something in the system. – NY Times

Israel – Last weekend, thousands of people went out to protest Israel’s Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu. This makes it the third week in a row for demonstrators to protest over the PM’s alleged corruption. Though he is subject of criminal investigations into two separate corruption cases, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoings. – Middle East Monitor

Argentina – Early on Tuesday, the Argentinian Congress passed a reform to the country’s pension system, following days of demonstrations and violent clashes between protestors and police. The latter had led to the re-schedule of the debate in Congress from last Thursday to Monday, after the Senate had already approved the bill last month. Critics say the bill will hurt retirees while President Mauricio Macri wants to push efforts to slash fiscal deficit and attract investment. – Reuters

Uganda – On Tuesday, Uganda’s parliament abruptly adjourned a debate over the Presidential age limit after a lawmaker said soldiers had entered the building and members of parliament scuffled with police. The debate was suspended after opposition MPs protested alleged presence of the soldiers – The Nation

Honduras – On Wednesday, Honduras’s leftwing opposition urged days of intensified protests to challenge President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s claims that he won a new mandate in the November elections, that were allegedly marred by fraud – News 24

CANVAS’ Daily News

Music as a Tool in Protest and Nonviolence? – Yes!

Inauguration Day Protesters’ Trial Could Set Dangerous Precedent For Government’s Handling of Civil Disobedience

REAL CLEAR POLITICS – How Poland Can Be an Example Again, by Srdja Popovic and Greg Satell

Inauguration Day Protesters’ Trial Could Set Dangerous Precedent For Government’s Handling of Civil Disobedience

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images (Via The Intercept)

On 20 January 2017, the United States saw mass protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump as the country’s next President. Where most protest-efforts, better known as J20, were focused on disrupting the official event in a nonviolent way, over 200 people were arrested in Washington that day. Activists clashed with the police close to the White House, “in an outburst of violence rare for an inauguration,” according to Reuters. Black block anarchists smashed windows, threw bottles and rocks at the police, and set cars on fire. Police encircled a large group of protesters and thereafter arrested them. Now, almost a year later, 194 of those who were arrested face their trials in small groups, with charges including felony property destruction, misdemeanor rioting, and misdemeanor conspiracy to riot.

Salient feature in their process is that the public prosecutors never made the argument that the defendants actually broke the windows or otherwise destroyed property. To make its case against nearly 200 defendants, the prosecution is using the Pinkerton liability rule. This rule attributes every crime committed during what is judged to be a “conspiracy” to all those involved. In this particular case, by marching with those who committed violence, wearing the same style of clothes, and chanting the same slogans, the suspects “provide[d] cover for the ‘sea of black’ and those [who were actually] committing destruction,” argued assistant US Attorney Rizwan Qureshi. A conviction would mean that all defendants on trial for the protests can be sentenced for all crimes committed during the action by mere virtue of their proximity to the crimes committed.

As one author justly asked, is marching in a group the same as driving a getaway car? Defense attorneys have argued that, by failing to make the distinction between lawbreakers and protesters, the case amounts to criminalizing the First Amendment of the American Constitution. This Amendment should guarantee the freedom to associate with each other, and protects US citizens from being prosecuted for being present, walking, wearing clothing or having (antifascist) opinions the government does not approve off, according to the defense attorneys.

The prosecution of one particular protester has given this court-case an even more complicated character. Defendant Alexei Wood, a photojournalist from Texas, whose work focuses on resistance movements, live-streamed the entire demonstration, covering the violent acts amongst other things, before getting arrested. In an interview with The Intercept, Wood stated that part of the government’s case against him revolves around defining who is — and, in his case, who isn’t — a journalist. According to Woods and his attorney, that is not a determination which the state is supposed to make. In addition to undermining the First Amendment right to political speech, specifically Wood’s prosecution is portrayed as an alarming reflection of the government’s attempt to define — and criminalize — journalism.

Out of many, let us choose two points to make about all this. First of all, next to the fact that the charges together carry a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison, the prosecution of these protestors could set a dangerous precedent for the freedom of activists all over the United States. “The dispute comes down to what the First Amendment does or doesn’t protect.” Although CANVAS would never put itself behind any form of violence in a campaign for social change, this court case could put prosecution of civil disobedience on a sliding scale. Where many critics have said that the prosecutors’ strong opinions are a sign of a nationwide toughening stance against protest, a right balance needs to be found between what the First Amendment protects, and public safety. Sentencing activists for vague and seemingly trumped-up charges does not seem to secure any of the two.

Nevertheless, these events show the importance of nonviolence and nonviolent discipline. Where anarchists and Antifa-groups might use destruction of property and other forms of violence as a conscious method in their struggle, this method will withhold them from mobilizing critical masses and building large coalitions needed for sustainable social progress. Nonviolent discipline then will not only save your activists from unnecessary encounters with state-forces, but will also strongly de-legitimize those same forces when a confrontation will prove inevitable.

A jury will now decide over the first batch of prosecuted protesters, including Alexei Wood. The remaining protesters will be put on trial in groups of five or six, over the next year.

Read more about the importance of nonviolent discipline in CANVAS’ Core Curriculum (page 90 and onwards).

Published 21/12/2017

Music as a Tool in Protest and Nonviolence? – Yes!

Photo: “Martello (L) also played with the crowd as he brought his grand piano to what was the center of a battlefield a day earlier.” (Hürriyet DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL)

Published on 19/12/2017

Last Wednesday, The Hill featured an article by Judy Kurtz, addressing the topic of protest songs. Making reference to different artists in the past and presence, Kurtz examines the current role of protest-music in what she calls a “noisy political climate”. Different voices made various claims to why, but mostly agreed that protest songs are largely missing in the US today. Not saying they are totally absent, there at least seems to be a lack of big names or wide reach. This is unlike in the 1960s and early 1970s, when songwriters and musicians “gave voice to a generation, as Vietnam sparked violence at home and Watergate toppled a president, by capturing the angst and pain of a tumultuous political climate.”

What is different now? The arguments range from claims of a lesser urgency of what is happening, through a scattered pop culture, to a different media landscape today in comparison to before. Music analyst Bob Lefsetz further claimed that, besides frequently voicing criticism, artists seem reluctant and afraid to be ‘too’ political in their songs, fearing to alienate fans. In this context, Lefsetz makes reference to the country music band Dixie Chicks. Their music was widely stopped from airing on country music stations, after a comment by its lead singer criticizing then-President Geogre W. Bush at a London concert which some fans perceived as “unpatriotic”.

But maybe, it is also a matter of perspective. Pitchfork and Stacey Anderson, drew a slightly different picture in November, stating that “in 2017, ‘protest music’ seemed like a redundant term; when all identities are this politicized, all music feels political.” According to Pitchwork and Anderson, “[t]his year redefined our notions of politically reactive music: what it sounds like, who it comes from, and how much identity ignites its contents. Unlike other modern eras of American populist resistance, there was no single, centralized scene for discordant song […]. Sometimes they explicitly condemned the policies and people who dominated the year. And, just as often, for many artists, visibility itself was the defiance; this was music made by the marginalized voices Trump was working to exclude.” Taking this broader range of styles and topics into consideration for what they would categorize as protest music, Pitchfork and Anderson compiled a list of 20 songs, including well-known names like Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé.

If you were wondering, why discuss the subject of (protest) music? Music has played an important role in nonviolent movements around the world, and different sources have addressed the ‘power of music’ in this context. But before explaining where and how music has played an important role, put on this song from Turkey as your background tune to get inspired by one example of protest music. As PRI described it, this song by the well-known ensemble “Kardes Turkuler” (Songs of Fraternity) became “a sort of anthem for the protests” that happened mostly around Gezi Park and Taksim Square, in Istanbul, 2013. And this “Song of Pots and Pans” was not the only case in which music and humoristic elements took an important part in Turkey’s protests (also see cover photo).

In the US, the aforementioned role of music in the anti-Vietnam war movement is also only one example. Earlier in the United States, the Civil Rights Movement also largely counted on the power of music, even to a degree which inspired the documentary “Soundtrack for a Revolution” to address this topic in 2009. During the Civil Rights Movement, “’freedom songs’ raised courage, stated the goals, declared commitment, united separated communities, and sometimes took melodic aim at notorious police chiefs”, as Mary Elizabeth King put it on Waging Nonviolence in 2011. One of its most powerful and well-known songs has probably been “We shall overcome”.

In Ukraine during its 2004-2005 Orange Revolution, musicians played at rallies, 17 days in a row, day and night, to support those on the streets and give them “staying power”. And more recently at the beginning of the Syrian uprising or elsewhere during the Arab Spring, music also played a role in nonviolent opposition. But one of the most powerful examples of music in nonviolent movements and resistance, has probably been what even became known as the “Singing Revolution” in Estonia, restoring its independence from the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s, alongside its neighboring Baltic states Lithuania and Latvia.

Reading Mary Elizabeth King’s article as well as listening to interviewees on an event by the United States Institute of Peace which brought together activists, artists and peacebuilders to explore music as a strategic tool in nonviolent resistance, several aspects seem to explain the  power of music in nonviolence. First, the music represents a powerful medium to articulate one’s message. In music, the latter can be expressed not only through the words themselves, but also through its rhythm and melody, something rather universal. It is thus easier to reach people on different levels, including not only their reason, but their emotions as well. Music as a medium to express oneself can sometimes even be the only way to do so, when other mediums are regulated and limited. In this, the internet as a possibility to publish and disperse such music, has also played an important role.

Regarding music’s universal character and ability to affect people more easily, it is also a powerful tool to mobilize people and create solidarity with those who might not have been supporters or even opponents of a cause. And it can certainly act as a crucial means to create unity in a movement and its activities, thus helping to uphold one of the three basic factors of success. And it can also help encourage people to stick to nonviolent discipline and keep faith, especially in otherwise repressive environments. Mary Elizabeth King wrote: “As in the civil rights movement, singing the right song at the fitting moment can involve heart, mind, body, soul—one’s entire being—in making the decision to face fear, stand unflinching in attacking the political power of the adversary, or confronting likely grave retaliation.”

These former examples and arguments have shown, that music can play a vital role in nonviolence on many levels. And it underlines again, that not everyone who wants to make a political statement or contribute to a movement has to be very ‘political’ to start with, or go out to protest in the street. As with the sewing of protest banners, making use of one’s individual talent and creativity, in this case through music, can make a great contribution to nonviolent movements. May it be to inspire people through its lyrics, melody and rhythm, to become a symbol or means of protest itself, or to support the morale in the field.

Find out more about protest songs and music here:

Weekly Report, 15 December 2017

Photo: Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, this week said that the decision by Poland’s National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) to impose a fine on one of the country’s leading private independent broadcasters, TVN SA, is unjustified and disproportionate – PhotoCredit: OSCE

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The United States of America

“A peaceful beginning to the workweek was shattered Monday after an explosion rattled through one of the busiest transit hubs in New York City, causing the authorities to evacuate hundreds of commuters and throwing the morning into chaos,” writes the New York Times. Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke of an attempted terrorist attack and said no other devices had been found. Akayed Ullah, main suspect, made it clear from a hospital bed where he was being treated for burns from the pipe bomb he strapped to his body that he was on a mission to punish the United States for attacking the Islamic State group, said acting US attorney Joon Kim. The suspect had clearly hoped to die in the act, taking as many innocent people as he could with him, but through incredible good fortune, his bomb did not seriously injure anyone other than himself.

Also on Monday, a federal judge ruled that transgender people will be able to join the U.S. military as of January 1, 2018. The ruling denies a request by President Donald Trump’s administration to enforce his ban on transgender troops while the government appeals an order that is blocking it. The army members who sued Trump, defence Secretary James Mattis and military leaders in August had been serving openly as transgender people in the U.S. Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. They claimed that Trump’s ban discriminated against them based on their sex and transgender status, and that they had relied on the Obama-era policy to reveal they are transgender.

As we wrote about Roy Moore’s contested electoral race two weeks ago, voters in Alabama headed to the polls on Tuesday in a hard-fought U.S. Senate race. With Donald Trump endorsing fellow Republican Roy Moore in spite of allegations against him of sexual misconduct toward teenagers, the stakes were high. With the President’s approval ratings at an historically low, a win by Moore would have strengthened Trump’s grip on the Republican Party, some of whose leaders have not backed Moore, according to Reuters.  Against all odds, democratic candidate Doug Jones is announced the winner of the Senators-race in the conservative Alabama late on Tuesday, shaking the Republican establishment

1. CNN

  1. AOL
  2. Reuters


On Monday, the South China Morning Post reports on the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar’s security forces. An independent research by Associated Press has found that the forces’ behaviour has been sweeping and methodical, concluding that rape was used as a ‘calculated tool of terror’ against Rohingya. In interviews with 29 women and girls who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, AP found that the stories of sexual assault survivors had a “sickening sameness” to them, with distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants’ uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. According to the SCMP, “the testimonies bolster the UN’s contention that Myanmar’s armed forces are systematically employing rape as a “calculated tool of terror” aimed at exterminating the Rohingya people.” The interviewees ranged in age from 13 to 35 and described assaults between October 2016 and mid-September this year.

Then on Thursday, Dublin councillors vote to revoke the Freedom of the City of Dublin award given to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The decision is a new chapter to the story of symbolic protests against her handling of violence against Rohingya Muslims in the country, the Guardian reports. Only a month ago, musician Bob Geldof returned his own freedom award at Dublin city hall, as a protest against Suu Kyi. The news comes on the same day that Doctors Without Borders claims it has found at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed between August and September in a crackdown by Myanmar’s security forces. The organization makes this claim based on field surveys conducted by its own people over the last couple of months, in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Also on Thursday, Reuters reports on the arrest of two of its journalists in Yangon this week. According to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, these acts were a signal that press freedom is shrinking in Myanmar and the international community must do all it can to get them released. Guterres implied a relation between the arrests and the continued persecution of Rohingya Muslims in the country. “It is clearly a concern in relation to the erosion of press freedom in the country,” he told a news conference in Tokyo, referring to the detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been working on stories about the strife in Rakhine State.


  1. The Guardian
  2. Reuters


On Monday, Al Jazeera reports on the ongoing protests of Zimbabwean diaspora, after the ousting of Robert Mugabe a month ago. The article reflects the feeling of disillusionment, after the end of the 37-year Mugabe rule sparked scenes of jubilation all over the country. Members of the Zimbabwe Vigil Coalition have demonstrated outside the Zimbabwean embassy in London every Saturday since October 2002. Now, even though Mugabe is gone, they claim that Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s replacement, has filled his cabinet with “contaminated genocidaires from the armed forces and discredited former Mugabe freeloaders”. The article goes on quoting Sue Onslow, a specialist in African history at The Institute of Commonwealth Studies in London: “There were hopes that Mnangagwa would reach out to other elements, to build upon the extraordinary multiple agenda of supporters of the opposition and civil society activists in those massive street demonstrations in Harare and Bulawayo, [but] these have been swiftly disabused,” she told Al Jazeera.

On Thursday, VOA reports on United States’ efforts pressuring the Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa to address the 1980s Gukurahundi. US lawmakers and a top Department of State official have urged the ZANU-PF leader to address atrocities committed by the country’s North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade, which left more than 20,000 supporters of the then opposition Zapu party led by Joshua Nkomo dead and thousands maimed and displaced. “Thousands of Zimbabweans still live with physical and psychological wounds of the atrocities,” said remarks made at a Congressional hearing on Zimbabwe conducted by the Congressional Committee on Foreign Relations. Mnangagwa is believed to have had a strong hand in the atrocities, which were covered as a fight against dissidents that were killing innocent civilians. The Congressional Panel also urged Mnangagwa’s government to allow people living in the diaspora to vote in the next elections.

On Friday, at the long-awaited ZANU-PF congress, the party was expected to announce Emmerson Mnangagwa as their candidate for the 2018 national elections. ZANU-PF also would endorse their recall of Robert Mugabe from the party and government. Farai Mutsaka, writing for the National Post, signals some “bold moves” in the new President’s first weeks in office. A new budget plan proposes to reduce diplomatic missions and ban first-class travel for everyone but the president; the new cabinet also plans to amend an unpopular, Mugabe-backed indigenization law; Zimbabwe’s corrupt police, have been removed from the streets and told to reform; and Cabinet ministers who rarely attended parliamentary question-and-answer sessions seem to have changed their ways. Despite the fact that such changes would have been unthinkable under Mugabe, Mutsaka remains sceptical, especially because of the deeply ingrained system of patronage that was built in 37 years under Mugabe.

  1. Al Jazeera
    2. The National Post
    3. VOA-News


Syria Deeply writes about a new dynamic among Syrian refugees seen in recent months. Syrian asylum-seekers have begun to move in the opposite direction because of what they describe as a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in host countries. The article describes the story of Um Farouk, a 47-year-old Syrian refugee, who decided to leave Europe and return to Turkey. Farouk felt lonely, had difficulty coping with the Danish culture, and felt looked down upon for wearing a veil. The article moves on to argue that, “although few in comparison to the number of people who fled Syria for Europe, stories like Um Farouk’s no longer are so unusual as they once were. The number of Syrians leaving Europe is on the rise after an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment. Little is known about how many refugees are leaving Europe, as the majority of those leaving are illegally smuggled out through Greece and most are not returning to Syria – but to neighbouring countries like Turkey.

On Tuesday, a UNHCR appeal for $4.4 billion to support 5.3 million Syrian refugees in surrounding countries focused on a possible opposite movement of refugees. Syrian refugees could again seek to reach Europe in droves if aid programs are not sustained in five neighbouring countries hosting the bulk of them, as well as the host communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt that have taken them in, the United Nations claimed. UNHCR referred to 2015, a year in which the lack of funding led to an acute shortage of services, when one million refugees fled to Europe.

  1. Syria Deeply
  2. Reuters

The Maldives

Late last week, The Maldives signed an important free trade deal with China. While President Yameen said the Maldives viewed China as “among our closest friends, most trusted and most dependable partners”, his government had to defend its free trade agreement with the country against criticism from the opposition that it was signed in haste and with insufficient parliamentary scrutiny. The deal was said to be especially important for fish-exports, since the EU declined to extend tax exemptions for Maldives fish in 2014. Main reason to do so was the country’s failure to comply with international conventions on freedom of religion. According to VOA, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said it was deeply concerned over what it claimed to be a rushed deal. It said lawmakers had requested access to FTA paperwork but the government gave parliament less than one hour to approve a document of more than 1,000 pages.

On Tuesday, Raajje reports on a new government decision under which local officials can no longer meet diplomats and NGOs without government permission. The government announced that every councillor from now on requires a special permission from the home ministry to meet members or diplomats of foreign nations and organizations. According to the news platform, the United States’ Ambassador to Maldives Atul Keshap has criticized the government’s decision to restrict local councils from meeting members or diplomats of foreign nations and organizations. In a tweet on Monday, Keshap stated that it was a “further restriction on democracy and transparency” in Maldives.

1. VOANews

  1. Raajje


On Thursday, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has said that the decision by Poland’s National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) to impose a fine of 1.48 million Polish Z?otys (€352,000) on one of the country’s leading private independent broadcasters, TVN SA, is unjustified and disproportionate. TVN SA received the fine for coverage by one of its channels, TVN24, of opposition demonstrations in Warsaw in December 2016. The protests came as a response by the opposition and public to the Polish government’s proposals to limit the media’s access to the Polish parliament. OSCE representative Harlem Désir stated that the channel’s coverage of the protests in Warsaw was clearly about an issue of public interest, in the light of which “there appears no justification for the finding that TVN24’s coverage breached the law and in any case the huge fine levied is clearly disproportionate to the alleged violation.”

Newly appointed Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, making his debut on the European stage, claimed he is happy that Poland’s opposition to allowing refugees into Europe seems to be gaining greater acceptance in the 28-nation bloc. The Prime Minister’s comments came in reaction to European Council President Donald Tusk’s statement that the EU’s mandatary refugee quota system has been divisive and ineffective. Tusk called on EU leaders to reach unanimous agreement on reforms to the European asylum system, and claimed he will propose alternatives if there is no consensus. Morawiecki’s predecessor Beata Szydlo’s term as prime minister was marked by bitter conflicts with the EU over migrants, the environment and the state of Poland’s democracy.


  1. The National Post


On Monday, Reuters writes about the growing number of Venezuelans fleeing economic hardship, crime and what critics call an increasingly authoritarian government. The nearby Brazilian city of Boa Vista fears a full-fledged humanitarian crisis when more Venezuelan migrants make their way over the border, especially since the local towns have limited infrastructure, social services and jobs to offer the migrants. According to United Nations High Commission on Refugees, shelters are already crowded to their limit. The crush of migrants have also fled to Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean country to Venezuela’s north, and Colombia, the Andean neighbour to the west. We can also see a completely different demographics leaving Venezuela now, compared to early on in the conflict. “Unlike earlier migration, when many Venezuelan professionals left for markets where their services found strong demand, many of those leaving now have few skills or resources. By migrating, then, they export some of the social ills that Venezuela has struggled to cope with,” according to Reuters.

On Tuesday, the country’s chief prosecutor stated that Venezuela will open a criminal investigation into former oil czar Rafael Ramirez. As Nicolas Maduro has named a completely new and military leadership to the country’s state oil company PDVSA, this broad shakeup of the OPEC nation’s oil industry has resulted in the arrest of dozens of executives. The Maduro administration claimed that the decision came forth out of a review of documents known as the Panama Papers that showed Ramirez’s involvement in the “intermediation” of oil sales together with his cousin Diego Salazar, who was arrested this month. Only a week ago, Rafael Ramirez had to announce his resignation as Venezuela’s UN Ambassador claiming he “was removed for expressing ‘opinions’ critical of the Venezuelan president”.

1. Reuters
2. Reuters


On Wednesday, the United States called on Cambodia to reverse steps that “backtracked on democracy” before the general elections next year. After a year in which a rival of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, Kem Sokha, was arrested, and his opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia stated that the US is “advising that these steps that have taken place here that have backtracked on democracy could be reversed.” Murphy told reporters in Phnom Penh that Cambodia still had time before the general election in July to “conduct an electoral process that is legitimate”. The statements come in the same week that the Committee on Foreign Affairs for the U.S. House of Representatives called for a list of individuals and businesses in Cambodia that should be subject to sanctions. That same Committee also talks about a review of trade agreements with the country as part of a bid to pressure its government to reverse restrictions on democracy ahead of a general election next year. Both the EU and the US this week suspended funding for the 2018 elections.

On Friday, Reuters writes about Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s reaction, in which he allegedly challenged the United States and European Union to freeze the assets of Cambodian leaders abroad, in response to his government’s crackdown on the opposition and civil society. “I encourage the European Union and United States to freeze the wealth of Cambodian leaders abroad,” he stated in Phnom Penh. As part of the measures, the US and EU have suspended funding for next year’s election and Washington has put visa curbs on some Cambodian leaders.

1. Reuters

  1. Reuters

Democratic Republic Congo

Late last week, DRC makes the international news for a bit, when 14 Tanzanian UN Peace Keepers were killed in the country. On Monday, The United Nations mission in the DRC paid tribute to the Tanzanian soldiers, who were killed on 7 December in “the worst attack on UN ‘blue helmets’ in recent history.” The killings are attributed to an Islamist extremist group. Besides the death of 14 UN staff, more than 50 peacekeepers were left wounded after militant fighters overran a remote base in the east of DRC, the Guardian reports. The attack was said to be well-coordinated with the attackers being armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Close to the end of 2017, The Wire writes about the tough year for DRC and especially its citizens. The list of reasons why the country would like to forget 2017 seems endless. “Presidential and legislative elections were delayed, the violence in Kasai intensified, a long-standing opposition leader died and violence in eastern Congo continued,” forming just a fraction of the list. Like this is not enough, Time on Thursday writes about eleven Congolese fighters who have been jailed for life, for raping dozens of children. The militiamen were found guilty of raping 40 children aged between 18-months and 12-years old. Reuters also reports on the verdict, saying that human rights groups hailed Wednesday’s decision as a strike against the culture of impunity around sexual violence in Congo, where rape is used as a weapon of war.

  1. UN News Centre
  2. The Wire

Other News

Saudi Arabia – Citizens of Saudi Arabia will soon be able to go to the movies for the first time in more than 35 years. From March next year, commercial movie theatres will be granted licenses, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information said in a statement on Monday. Will the need to diversify its economy make the conservative country open up even more? – CNN

Uzbekistan – President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s decision to liberalize the ex-Soviet nation has urged some mosques in Uzbekistan to start broadcasting the Muslim call to prayer from loudspeakers for the first time in a decade – Reuters

European Union/Israel – While Benjamin Netanyahu paid the first visit to the European Union headquarters by an Israeli prime minister in 22 years on Monday, he did not find similar endorsement from the EU as he got from President Trump on the issue of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – NY-Times

Ukraine – On Monday, A Ukrainian judge turned down the prosecutors’ request to place opposition figure Mikheil Saakashvili under house arrest, paving the way for his release from detention – Reuters

Bulgaria – Early this week, Bulgaria has frozen assets, property and bank accounts belonging to businessman and media owner Ivo Prokopiev, who said the state was trying to silence the country’s independent media – Reuters

South Africa – The country’s ruling ANC will pick a new leader this weekend to replace Jacob Zuma. The next party leader will also very likely become South Africa’s next President, and face the difficult task to revitalize the Zimbabwean economy and fight corruption – Reuters

CANVAS’ Daily News

Palestinian Nonviolence in the context of Trump’s Jerusalem announcement

Palestinian Nonviolence in the context of Trump’s Jerusalem announcement

Photo: “Jerusalem itself has seen some of the largest protests, as here in front of the Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City. Hundreds of additional police were deployed to control the masses after Palestinian calls for protests after Friday prayers.” (Getty Images/AFP/A.Gharabli, via Deutsche Welle)

Published on 13/12/2017

A week ago, President Trump’s announcement of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital and moving the US Embassy there has sparked strong reactions globally and in the region, fostering ongoing tensions. BBC wrote that the “status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians”, as both sides make their claims to the city. Jerusalem is home to key religious sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians, especially in the East. While Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed the US’ move and labeled it a “historic landmark” and “courageous and just”, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed the decision to be unacceptable and to undermine every peace effort. Leader of the Islamist movement Hamas, Ismail Haniya, has called for a “new intifada” and sees the American move as an aggression against his people. Meanwhile, “Fatah Central Committee Member Nasser al-Qudwa called for participation in ‘non-violent’ and ‘unarmed’ protests“, reported The Jerusalem Post.

UN Secretary General António Guterres stated the issue “would jeopardise the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians”, the status of Jerusalem better to be negotiated between the two parties. During a UN Security Council emergency meeting which was held on Friday, the move was also met with widespread international condemnation. US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, countered the criticism, calling the decision common sense due to other Israeli political institutions being in Jerusalem. She went on to say that “with its decision, the US has not taken a position on boundaries or borders; it has not advocated for any change in the administration around holy sites in Jerusalem, and it has not predetermined final status issues”, wrote Al Jazeera.

Besides the condemnation on the diplomatic level, Trump’s announcement has also caused widespread protests and sometimes violent clashes in the Palestinian territories, but also beyond the region. Not only were protests held in other countries with major Muslim populations across the Middle East, North Africa or Southeast Asia, but also in cities like London, Athens, Rome or Berlin. While some security forces, like those in Lebanon met demonstrators with means like teargas and water cannons, Israeli military has reportedly killed four in Gaza targeting “Hamas facilities” after rockets fired earlier in Israeli direction.

Where such violence by security forces should certainly be condemned, this article rather seeks to focus on acts of violence in civil society engagement. That is, because violence can be destructive for civilian-based power looking to create change. In CANVAS Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle, “Nonviolent Discipline” is explained as one of the three general principles for success of nonviolent campaigns and movements (pp. 88-92). In this context, nonviolent discipline is two-fold: it means “following the strategic plan for a struggle and refraining from violence” (p. 90), wherein the latter refers to members of the movement not using violence in their own actions and not participating in “threats to violence”. The importance of nonviolent discipline is due to several reasons. It makes movements more inclusive for the general population and takes away the excuse for a violent crackdown or de-legitimizes the opponent if met with violence in return. Nonviolence also creates sympathy and growing support for a cause, even with security forces who are deployed and receive orders to suppress the movement – a recent example of which has been the Honduran police defying its orders.

Furthermore, studies like the prominent example of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan (2011) have shown that nonviolent civil resistance is more likely to be successful than its violent counterpart. And while some might have a contrary perception, articles have been highlighting a tradition of nonviolence in Palestinian resistance (see e.g. Peace Science Digest, Vol. 2 Special Issue, June 2017, pp. 10-13, Yousef Munayyer on Foreign Policy, 2011, or Mason & Falk, State Crime Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 2016, pp. 163-186). Considering this and the current international attention, Palestinian protesters could build on their nonviolent past and try to push for a next step in a peaceful, constructive and inclusive resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

To read more about the protests and international reactions to the announcement you can go to the following sources:

Weekly Report: 08 December, 2017

Photo: “Opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla gives a speech to thousands of supporters taking part in a demonstration claiming that he won the November 26 elections, near the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in Tegucigalpa on Sunday.” (Photo: Agence France-Presse, via South China Morning Post)


Last Saturday, members of Venezuela’s government and opposition coalition met in the Dominican Republic to resolve the Venezuela’s political crisis. The parties however failed to reach an agreement and set a new meeting for December 15th. The talks held at the Foreign Ministry in Santo Domingo were “difficult, heavy, hard and full of debate and confrontation” according to opposition political Julio Borges, while Venezuela’s information minister Jorge Rodriguez sounded more hopeful stating his side to be “’deeply satisfied’ with the two-day talks.” Reuters stated that few Venezuelans expect further talks to bring a breakthrough, considering the opposition’s current divided and demoralized state. Opponents have accused President Maduro of exploiting the talks to buy more time, while he accuses the opposition of preferring violence. According to an anonymous source, the two sides did not compromise on any key points.

Amidst Venezuela’s deep economic crisis and hyperinflation, Nicolas Maduro announced the introduction of a new crypto-currency in the country, the “Petro”. While Maduro said it is supposed to be backed by oil, gas, gold and diamond reserves, not many other details are known about the currency, which is usually not backed by governments or central banks. The opposition said such plans needed congressional approval and many doubted credibility and any potential success for the plans. “Still, the announcement highlights how sanctions enacted this year by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration are hurting Venezuela’s ability to move money through international banks”, Reuters wrote. Meanwhile, a subsidiary of one of China’s biggest state-owned oil companies filed a lawsuit in the US against PDVSA, Venezuela’s national oil company, which could be interpreted as a sign of shrinking Chinese patience with Venezuela’s unpaid debts.

On Tuesday, Venezuela’s UN Ambassador Rafael Ramirez announced his resignation claiming he “was removed for expressing ‘opinions’ critical of the Venezuelan president”, wrote Deutsche Welle. The news outlet further referred to analysts warning “of a growing purge as Nicolas Maduro gears up for presidential elections in 2018.” In the past week, UN Watch called on UN officials to condemn a ‘fake investigation’ into Venezuela’s human rights record by Alfred de Zayas who was set to spend a week in the country. Following his visit, some news outlets have reported about his statement of ‘no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, […] condemning international sanctions’.  However, according to a Scoop article among others referring to UN Watch’s call, de Zayas is “known as a cheerleader of the Maduro regime”, and “a long-time defender of Fidel Castro and a hero to Holocaust deniers for his writings accusing the World War II allies of committing ‘genocide’ against Germany” said UN Watch’s executive director.

Reuters (crypto-currency)
Reuters (government-opposition talks) (criticism of ‘fake investigation’)

Democratic Republic Congo

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a new report, documenting “the repression of peaceful protesters, activists, journalists, and political opposition leaders and supporters in Congo in December 2016 and the covert recruitment” by security forces. They recruited at least 200 former rebels from the M23 armed group from Uganda and Rwanda. Among other things, the report states that the rebels were instructed to use lethal force if necessary and “suppress any threat to Kabila’s rule.” The rights group put their findings into perspective with more protests planned for the upcoming weeks and said that they “raise concerns about further violence and repression.” With the report, HRW also published an interview with the researchers about their work.

Amnesty International also called on DRC to investigate into and stop the ‘heavy-handed police crackdown’. Only last week the police arbitrarily arrested more than 200 protesters (of which 100 remained in detention on Friday) who were calling for President Kabila to step down before the end of the year, killing one and leaving dozens more injured during the protests throughout the country. Furthermore, “Journaliste en danger”, a Reporters without Borders partner, reported  and condemned last Friday that four journalists and technicians of a Catholic radio station had been arrested, held and tortured by DRC state security forces in Kabinda, wrote eNCA (an independent media outlet from South Africa). A student protest demanding their release was broken up by police as well.

BBC reported of aid agencies reporting of 1.7 million people who have fled their homes this year, making DRC “worst-affected by conflict displacement in the world”, the second year in a row. According to the news outlet, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s DRC director has called this “a mega crisis” and warned to react now to prevent worse in “a race against time.” More recently refugees have also been arriving in Tanzania, but they have especially been crossing the border to neighboring Zambia, where humanitarian activities have been ‘hugely underfunded’, just like in DRC itself, said a UN spokesperson according to VOA.



After newly installed President Emmerson Mnangagwa installed his cabinet late last week, many saw the new cabinet as a betrayel of his promises. Critics said the line-up showed Mr Mnangagwa had no plans to bring real change to the country despite hailing a “new democracy”, according to the BBC.  Military chiefs remain in charge of the foreign affairs and land portfolios, and not even one opposition voice was included. After a massive outcry, two ministers of the original group got replaced. Education minister Lazarus Dokora, who is seen as the main responsible for the decline in educational standards over the last few years, did not return. Petronella Kagonye becomes labour and social welfare minister in place of Clever Nyathi, who becomes a special adviser to the president on national peace and reconciliation. Real reform seems to be of no priority to Mnangagwa. Opposition-leader Tendai Biti represented the disillusionment among Zimbabweans, tweeting “”We craved change, peace & stability in our country. How wrong we were”.

Pursuance and prosecution of former Mugabe-loyalists has also started in Zimbabwe. On Friday, VOA reports that Zimbabwe’s central bank has ordered banks to freeze accounts belonging to former Higher Education Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo and former Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere. These measures are taken amidst claims that Moyo and Kasukuwere were involved in corrupt activities while working for the Zanu PF government. One day earlier, Ignatius Chombo got freed on bail by a Harare-court, as he faces fraud charges dating from 2004-2009 when he held a ministerial role. A close ally of former president Robert Mugabe, Chombo was the first Mugabe loyalist to be charged with a crime.

On Thursday, the UK Telegraph reports on Mnangagwa’s apparent new policy of “inclusiveness” starting to yield real results. Seventy-one-year-old Rob Smart was “whooped with joy” when he was told that he can return to his farm in eastern Zimbabwe this week. He and his family, were evicted at gunpoint from their farm in the east of the country nearly six months ago by several gangs loyal to former first lady Grace Mugabe. In a reaction to the decision, Mnangagwa-adviser Chris Mutsvangwa, said: “Land reform is over. Now we want inclusiveness. All citizens who had a claim to land by birth right, we want them to feel they belong and we want them to build a new country because this economy is shattered.” Symbolic deeds of a still fragile new regime, or real reform?



This week, Cambodia and the Philippines announced to have concluded a new defense agreement, further advancing their bilateral cooperation which has been highlighted since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016. While various agreements have been signed since the end of the Cold War, the two countries only decided more recently to set up a Joint Commission for Bilateral Consultations, serving as a forum to review past agreements and explore new possibilities of cooperation, whose second meeting in six years was held this week. As for the new defense pact, few details are known.

After the US announced on Wednesday to introduce visa restrictions on “individuals responsible for undermining Cambodian democracy” in response to the ongoing crackdown against political opposition and freedom of expression, Cambodia’s government called on the US to reconsider the decision. Ruling party spokesman Sok Ey San did so, accusing the US of “’having double standards’ by contradicting what he called U.S. President Donald Trump’s ‘policy of non-interference’ in the affairs of sovereign states”, while Cambodia maintained the US decision would not impact internal affairs, wrote Radio Free Asia. Former CNRP President Sam Rainsy who lives in self-imposed exile since 2015 and whose party was recently dissolved, welcomed the visa restrictions but urged the US and other members of the international community to take further measures against the current Cambodian government. Prime Minister Hun Sen who has been in power for more than 32 years, this week accused Sam Rainsy “of ‘treason’ for calling on Cambodia’s military to disobey the prime minister’s orders to kill protesters, and said the former CNRP chief will face additional legal action for his comments” – while Rainsy is already subject to convictions “widely seen as politically motivated”. Meanwhile, the Irish Times reported of Cambodia’s independent press’ ‘fight for life’ as the government has been shutting down media.

The Diplomat (defense agreement)
Radio Free Asia
Irish Times


Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has named its development and finance minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, to take the place of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo who filed resignation on Thursday. Morawiecki, 49, who has become known for taking on tax evasion and bolstering the welfare state, takes his new position amid what is expected to be a “borader government reshuffle to prepare the rightwing party for votes due in the next three years”. Outgoing Szydlo has overseen the “sweeping changes to state institutions in Poland” which have met critical voices for undermining democracy and the rule of law. Szydlo herself had been “one of the country’s most popular leaders”, wrote Abc News on Tuesday, when a tweet by Szydlo had already hinted at her leaving the position. The news outlet further wrote that “[w]hile the ruling Law and Justice party and Szydlo herself are both popular among Poles, Morawiecki could be better prepared to represent the country internationally as Poland faces off against the EU over legal changes seen as attacks on the rule of law.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission is to sue Poland alongside Hungary and the Czech Republic for refusing to take asylum seekers, accusing them of non-compliance with their obligations. After unsatisfactory replies to earlier procedures, the Commission has decided to move to the next stage. BBC wrote that Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister reacted by saying that “his government was ‘ready to defend its position in the court’.”

The Guardian (new PM)
BBC (European Commission)


After having received criticism for not mentioning the Rohingya refugees publicly by name during his visit in Myanmar, Pope Francis explained on Sunday he did not want to risk shutting the door on dialogue with the country’s leaders, reported CNN. He said his views had already been well known and he had been able to “go beyond his public words” during private meetings. As the Pope was talking to the press after his visit to Bangladesh, he also stated he was deeply moved when meeting Rohingya refugees.

On Tuesday, Myanmar received renewed international pressure when Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, made reference to possible genocide when addressing the situation in Myanmar and operations against the Rohingya in a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. After he had already talked about ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ before, he now “elevates the charge to te gravest of crimes against humanity”, wrote the NY Times. Al-Hussein said that scale and gravity of the atrocities “warrant investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague”. Even though the team has not yet been allowed into Myanmar, an ongoing fact-finding mission by the UN Human Rights Council has been collecting information and heard “allegations of ‘extreme severity,’ including genocide.” Additional investigations are being conducted by a UN special representative, focusing on sexual assault and violence by the Myanmar military. Al-Hussein urged the UN General Assembly to establish a separate body for investigation of individual criminal responsibilities of involved authorities in Myanmar.

NY Times

The United States of America

On Saturday, the Senate decided to pass the tax reform also known as the GOP tax plan, which had been protested throughout the US beforehand. The bill was adopted by a small margin of 51-49 in the Republican-controlled Senate. Contrary to what President Trump had said about the tax reforms, economists have found that it will likely only hold limited benefits, for a short time, for the middle class and for the poorest of the country, while benefitting companies and wealthy households. The “biggest losers” of the tax reform will be mostly high-tax areas, graduate students, government workers and public school teachers, often being Democrat, claimed Bloomberg and others. Moreover, it is said to drive up national debt. As debates continue, the bill has not fully passed due to differing versions in the House and Senate, which is now being worked on by a conference committee. The Washington Post wrote that Trump said on Wednesday: “There are very, very few people that aren’t benefiting by [the tax package], but there’s that tiny little sliver, and we’re going to try to take care of even that very small group of people that just through circumstances maybe don’t get the full benefit of what we’re doing”, though it was not clear whom he was referring to. The Post article reported that rich New Yorker friends had voiced concerns “that the current plan would drive up their taxes and hurt his home state.”

On Monday, the US and South Korea jointly launched aerial-drills, to enhance readiness and operational capability and to ensure peace and security on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. military had said, according to Reuters. The exercise which North Korea called a provocation, comes a week after it had tested what it said to be “its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile ever in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation.”

In the Middle East, President Trump’s announcement on Wednesday of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital and moving the US Embassy there has sparked strong reactions globally and in the region, fostering ongoing tensions. BBC wrote that the “status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians”, as both sides make their claims to the city which is home to key religious sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians, especially in the East. While Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed the US move and labeled it a “historic landmark” and being “courageous and just”, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed the decision to be unacceptable and to undermine any peace effort. Leader of the Islamist movement Hamas, Ismail Haniya, has called for a “new intifada” and sees the American move as an aggression against his people. UN Secretary General António Guterres stated this “would jeopardise the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians”, being an issue which had to be negotiated between the two parties. The UN Security Council has called for a meeting to discuss Trump’s decision today. His announcement has caused widespread protests and sometimes violent clashes in the Palestinian territories, but also beyond the region.

The Guardian


As UN-led Syian peace talks started last week, mediator Staffan de Mistura announced that the talks will be extended until mid-December. He said that current talks are taking place “against ‘quite a backdrop of intense diplomatic activity, in recent weeks to find a political solution to the Syria crisis, following important meetings in Vietnam’s DaNang, Russia’s Sochi, and Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh”, wrote the UN News Center. De Mistura highlighted that ‘no preconditions’ should be raised by the parties. The mediator noted that the warring parties not meeting in the same room was not a ‘deal-breaker.’  He said that while discussions have been covering the 12 points/principles plan including points for the future of Syria and have started addressing the issues of how to proceed on a new constitution, the issue of the presidency had not come up.

Based on the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and local sources, Al Jazeera reported that Israel fired missiles at Syrian sites on Saturday and Monday. According to the Observatory “the targets [were] warehouses and locations belong to the regime forces and their allies”. Another source said “the Israeli raid was aimed at government military sites and positions of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement”.

The BBC reported that Jan Egeland, the UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator for Syria, has reprimanded Russia and Iran for not increasing their efforts to give aid organizations access to Eastern Ghouta, a besieged rebel enclave just outside Damascus. Egeland, who is also secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, called “the failure to persuade the Syrian government, their ally […] ‘complete impotence’.” Around 400,000 people are trapped in the area, where Joint UN and Syrian Red Crescent aid convoys have not been able to supply enough nutrition and medical supplies for all the people. Among them are desperately ill children waiting for permission to leave, “despite the area, which has been besieged since 2013, being designated as a ‘de-escalation zone’ by Russia, Iran and Turkey”. A BCC journalist stated that Egeland seemed “visibly angry when discussing the inability of the UN and its partners to evacuate people with life-threatening medical conditions”. Civilians “are also reported to have been killed in air and artillery attacks by government forces in the past month, though a ceasefire is now in place.”

UN News Center
Al Jazeera

Other News

Honduras – Tens of thousands had flooded the streets of Honduras in opposition to what has been seen as a turn in the dragged vote counting in favor of incumbent President Hernandez after elections almost two weeks ago, plunging the country into its worst political crisis since a military coup in 2009. The election counts have been accused of vote count fraud, making Hernandez the winner after first polls had signaled his opponent Nasralla to win. Protests were violently suppressed, leading to 11 deaths, until the Honduran police surprisingly defied orders stating it did not want to repress and violate the rights of the Honduran people anymore. The Honduran election tribunal has now announced a recount of 4,753 ballot boxes “that have cast a shadow on the results of the country’s presidential election, […] bowing to a demand by the Organization of American States (OAS).”

Spain – On Tuesday, the Spanish Supreme Court withdrew an international arrest warrant for Puigdemont “in order to bring his case “back solely under Spanish jurisdiction, leaving him without an international legal stage to pursue his independence campaign”, as Reuters writes. On Thursday, nearly 50,000 people, many traveled from Spain, marched through Brussels’ European quarter in support of Catalan independence and the region’s ousted president who had fled to Belgium and is likely to be detained in Spain due to “pending pending investigation on charges of sedition, rebellion, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust.” Catalonia is set to go to the polls on December 21st.

Ukraine – In what Agence France Press called a “dramatic showdown between hundreds of Saakashvili supporters and the Ukrainian authorities”, the former Georgian president was freed from a Ukrainian police van. Mikheil Saakashvili had been arrested on Tuesday on “charges of assisting criminal organisations.” He had been President of Georgia until 2013 after the so-called Rose Revolution, before coming to Ukraine to work as a governor of the Odessa region until “falling out with [President] Poroshenko”, who had stripped Saakashvili of his passport. According to AFP, “Saakashvili urged the crowd to march to the Ukrainian parliament and demand the impeachment of the president”, after emerging from the van.

CANVAS’ Daily News

Also read what we featured in our daily news section this week:

Fighting Big Corporations – Attac-Activists Occupy Apple Store Paris

Fighting Big Corporations – Attac-Activists Occupy Apple Store Paris

Protest at the Apple store in Paris on Saturday Credits: Christophe Archambault/AFP 

Published on 05/12/2017

Over the weekend, Apple was the target of a wide-spread protest-campaign. Groups of activists all over France protested against alleged tax-evasion by the US-based multinational technology company.  The occupation of the Apple store in Paris was the event that generated most media-coverage. About a hundred activists invaded and occupied the expansive two-level store near the Paris Opera for several hours. Activists demanded that the US technology giant pays billions of euros of overdue taxes.  

The actions came after the August 2016 reporting by the European Commission, in which it estimated that the company owed $14.5 billion in taxes after it negotiated highly favourable tax arrangements with the Irish government. Last month “Paradise Papers” shed light on Apple’s tax avoidance strategy, by which the company transferred funds to the small island of Jersey, which typically does not tax corporate income and is largely exempt from European Union tax regulations.  

The French protesters were a part of Attac, an international organizational network of activist groups that seeks alternatives to unbridled globalization, particularly opposing its neo-liberal aspects. The group held about 30 demonstrations across France on Saturday. “From Rennes to Marseille, from Dijon to Saint Brieuc, Lille or Velizy”, Attac was everywhere in France over the weekend. The direct actions were mostly directed at physical Apple-stores, ranging from public display of discontent to exchanging ideas and information with Apple customers.  

But how does one fight the big corporates of this world? What is the ‘Grand Strategy’ used to curb the power-structures on which their malpractices rely? These companies represent immense economic interests and their powerful leadership seems to have no direct interest in seeing the current power-structures to be altered. Despite the fact that Apple might know it does something which is morally questionable, the company supports its actions by structurally stating that it follows the law in each country it operates in.  

The second target for action, perpetrator if you will, are the governments which allow these companies to make use of beneficial tax-constructions. Their conviction is that, eventually, the country will benefit from the presence of these big companies in the country. But what can you do, if you feel that this rationale does not represent your idea of how things should be. And more important, when you feel that your government ignores the popular opinion about the issue?  

Erica Chenoweth and Tricia Olsen address this issue from a quantitative social science perspective. Their research teaches us about the conditions in which big companies are more likely to concede to civil resistance campaigns. First of all, they find that big corporates will be more likely to give in when campaigns are more durable over time. Then, their study concludes that concessions are more likely when civil resistance campaigns target a large company or a company that is undergoing a leadership change. Finally, companies operating in highly competitive markets in contexts of weak rule of law, and firms operating in industries upon which the state is heavily dependent are less likely to concede. 

However, as our very own Srdja Popovic once said, “these conditions are very important for planning, but what really makes a difference is skills.” What are the methods being used by Attac in this particular Apple-tax protest? First of all, we can see that Attac fights Apple in a campaign, instead of single-protests. Instead of a one-off protest, real change needs to see “a direct-action campaign that harnesses a series of actions into an escalating sequence.” Attac’s representatives stated that they received a formal commitment from an Apple manager that the organization would be granted a meeting with national leadership within 15 days. “If this meeting does not take place, we will come back before Christmas,” spokeswoman Aurelie Trouve said.  

The French Attac campaign seems to have invested a lot of time in building a nation-wide network of activists. Their plan to take on Apple then seems to look beyond direct protests, trying to negotiate the company’s position with the top-management. A meeting with that same management will at least prove a small victory. Building does small victories will deliver you the goods in the end. 

Read more about the work done by Attac in France here! 

Weekly Report: 1 December, 2017

Photo: Pope Francis with Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw. While Francis has stressed the importance of “unity in diversity” while meeting leaders of several faiths as well as the army in Burma, he has made no mention of the violent campaign by the Burmese military against the Rohingya Muslims – Credit: AFP

Democratic Republic Congo

On Sunday, the Democratic Republic of Congo government banned rallies that were planned this week in the capital Kinshasa, over the extended rule of President Joseph Kabila. Both the coalition in favour of Kabila, as well as the opposition coalition had planned a march, to voice support or disagreement with the delayed elections. Despite concern over a crackdown, the head of the opposition coalition, Felix Tshisekedi, said he would not heed the ban. “There’s no question of depriving us of our rights and freedom,” he tweeted according to the Daily Nation. The opposition march was planned for Thursday this week.

Then on Monday, AFP reports that a group of influential bishops in the DRC urged President Joseph Kabila to pledge he will not seek a third term in office in order to ease fears of unrest. The Catholic church plays an important role in the country, as bishops last year already tried to help broker a deal under which elections for a new president would be held in 2017. In a statement, the bishops stated that “It is essential, on the grounds of (demonstrating) sincere political will, to reassure the Congolese people and international partners by providing guarantees that elections will effectively be held.”

On that same day, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published their latest DRC-situation report. The report displays the unrest of the last month and the relationship between violence and food-insecurity for millions of Congolese. According to the report, “food insecurity has increased by 30 percent since 2016 due to a lack of access to food, suspended agricultural activities, insufficient food reserves and income, and the fact that previous harvests have been either looted or burnt as a result of the conflict. Between 40 and 60 percent of households were forced to adopt negative coping mechanisms.”

1. Daily Nation
2. News24
3. ReliefWeb

The Maldives

Late on Friday last week, Assad Shareef announced that he is to file a case in Court over the Council’s refusal to investigate RaajjeTV for staging a peaceful protest in MMC media awards night. Shareef, who is a member of Maldives Media Council (MMC), claimed that using the awards ceremony to stage a protest was a direct challenge to other media and journalists. Therefore, Assad argued, the case must be investigated. RaajjeTV staged a silent protest at the Media Council awards in October. Staff of the station held signs displaying sentiments against Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC), as to address the unfairness and bias of the Commission in penalizing the station.

On the weekend, Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has expressed his displeasure about the fact that his son, Dhiggaru constituency MP Faris has been in police custody since July, and is yet to be sentenced. In a tweet, the man who ruled the nation for 30 years noted that detaining an innocent, influencing trials and embezzling from state funds, are severe injustices, the latter directed towards the mass corruption allegations against his half-brother’s administration.

On Thursday, Orlando Crowcroft for NewsWeek publishes an extensive analysis of the current situation in the Maldives and the changing image of the Indian Ocean nation. As former President Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed is waging his battle with the government of Abdulla Yameen from London, his campaign has stopped short of calling for an outright boycott of the Maldives’ tourism industry. However, the former president has called for targeted sanctions against the new regime in Malé. In response, the government has gone on a charm offensive. About Nasheed’s combined battle for democracy and environmental justice for the Maldives.

1. Raajje
2. Raajje
3. Newsweek


On Friday, Emmerson Mnangagwa is sworn in as the new President of Zimbabwe. The former Vice-President will remain head of Zimbabwe until the next elections, for which a date has not yet been set. Analysts do not predict a radically different Zimbabwe now Mnangagwa is in charge. He has been named a ‘ghost of Mugabe’, with similar affiliation to the ruling party and a big influence on the Zimbabwean army, as a former liberation-fighter and then Defence Minster. During his inauguration-ceremony, Mnangagwa mentioned his intentions to fight corruption, and kick-start the economy, with a focus on youth and agriculture. Mnangagwa also referred to the current stance of politics, to which he himself has, one would say, strongly contributed. “We must appreciate the fact that over the years, our domestic politics have become poisoned and rancorous and polarizing. We dare not squander the moment,” according to Zimbabwe’s new President. However, when Mnangagwa announced his new cabinet on Thursday, many were very dissapointed.

On Sunday, several media reported on the deal that was negotiated by the Mugabe’s before Robert’s resignation last week. The ousted president and his wife will receive a “golden handshake” worth not less than $10 million. Furthermore, both Grace and Robert Mugabe would be getting immunity from prosecution. The salary of the 93-year-old former president will also be paid until his death, the Guardian reports. That same report adds that, instead of going into exile, Mugabe’s negotiators managed to strike a deal with the generals that enables him to rather enjoy his retirement in Zimbabwe with all his benefits. Opposition politicians have criticized the deal, stating that even when the ruling party and the army make a deal with the ousted President, this does not mean that he cannot be prosecuted for his actions while in government.

Early on Wednesday, Pastor Evan Mawarire was acquitted on charges of trying to overthrow Robert Mugabe’s former government. As the case was widely seen as a test of judicial independence after the forced resignation of Mr Mugabe last week, the High Court in Harare ruled there was no evidence that he had “urged a violent removal of government”. The case had dragged on since Mawarire’s arrest on February first of this year. According to the BBC, “some Zimbabweans will see his acquittal as a symbolic victory, coming just after Mr Mugabe’s resignation and the inauguration of his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as president.”

1. Financial Times

  1. The Guardian
  2. BBC


Last week on Friday, the Syrian opposition selected a new chief negotiator to head a unified delegation to peace talks with the Syrian government in Geneva this week, Reuters reported. Nasr Hariri said the opposition was going to Geneva on November 28 to hold direct talks and was ready to discuss “everything on the negotiating table”. Hariri replaces hardliner Riyad Hijab, who abruptly quit this week, hinting that the High Negotiations Committee under him had faced pressures to make concessions that favoured Assad. Opposition groups in Riyadh maintained the position that President Assad has no role in a transitional period under a U.N.-sponsored peace deal.

On Sunday, at least 23 people were killed in government shelling and airstrikes on a rebel-held enclave outside the capital Damascus, Agence France-Presse reported. More than 100 people have been killed by airstrikes and shelling on the Eastern Ghouta suburbs since pro-government forces, backed by Russian warplanes, launched an offensive nearly two weeks ago to reclaim one of the last rebel strongholds near the capital, the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. According to Newsdeeply, separate Russian airstrikes on the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, targeting Islamic State killed another 34 people, including 15 children.

Starting from Tuesday, peace-talks in Geneva were held, as the government and opposition would have a chance to negotiate directly for the first time. After a delay that was allegedly caused by the opposition’s insistence that Assad step down, which he has refused to do, the government-delegation finally made it to Geneva on Wednesday. ABC-news reports that, despite the fact that much has changed in Syria since the last peace-talks this summer, there is little optimism that the current round would achieve any significant breakthroughs. According to a European diplomat close to the negotiations, a real dialogue between the two sides on these two matters would already represent a “significant step forward,” considering Geneva’s past record for deadlock.

1. Reuters
3. ABC-News


As Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has named Major General Manuel Quevedo as the new head of state oil company PDVSA and the country’s energy ministry on Monday, analysts expect that the military will be given more leading posts in the countries oil sector. The appointment of the army General comes as a surprise, as Maduro claims his main reason for the appointment was the fight against corruption. After executives of Citgo, the oil company’s US refining subsidiary, were arrested over corruption allegations last week, the move by Maduro seems to be the next chapter in his polarizing tactics. According to VOA, sources within PDVSA and the oil industry said Maduro’s administration was using corruption allegations to side-line rivals and deepen its control of the industry, which accounts for over 90 percent of export revenue.

On Tuesday, online magazine the Wire publishes an in-depth article about Venezuela’s digital news upstarts and their “sense of energy and urgency […] to provide accurate, independent coverage of the turmoil engulfing the country.” With the credibility of the country’s traditional media completely shattered since 2014 by government censorship and punishing economic policies, several digital outlets now provide new sources for new audiences. Read everything about the strategies and goals of these platforms in this incredible piece by Diego Marcano.

On Wednesday, two rights groups brought out a combined report, in which the Venezuelan government is accused of “systematically” abusing anti-government protesters this year. In a joint report, New York-based Human Rights Watch and Venezuela-based Penal Forum documented 88 cases between April and September, from excessive use of force during marches to protest against arbitrary detentions. Presenting the 62-page report, “Crackdown on Dissent: Brutality, Torture, and Political Persecution in Venezuela,” on their website, HRW claimed that “while it was not the first crackdown on dissent under Maduro, the scope and severity of the repression in 2017 reached levels unseen in Venezuela in recent memory.”

1. VoaNews
2. The Wire
3. Human Rights Watch


Thousands of Catholics welcomed Pope Francis when he starts his three-day-visit to Myanmar on Monday. According to the Guardian, the head of the Catholic church faces a difficult diplomatic balancing act on his first papal visit to Myanmar. Even mentioning the word “Rohingya” would allegedly set off a firestorm in the Buddhist-majority country, where the military and government revile the minority group, preferring to call them “Bengalis”, which suggests they are immigrants. The pope has already spoken about the Rohingya in two appeals from the Vatican this year, calling them “our Rohingya brothers and sisters”. Francis met with the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday, but strategically avoided mentioning the Rohingya.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch reports that while Pope Francis has stressed the importance of “unity in diversity” while meeting leaders of several faiths as well as the army in Burma, he has so far made no mention of the violent campaign by the Burmese military against the Rohingya Muslims. Myanmar’s powerful army chief told Pope Francis there is “no religious discrimination” in Myanmar. Meanwhile, Bangladesh threatens to move 600,000+ Rohingya to Bhasanchar, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, “if they do not leave the country shortly.”

Also this week, the South China Morning Post reports on Aung San Suu Kyi being stripped of her Freedom of Oxford honour for ‘turning a blind eye’ to the Rohingya crisis. According to the SCMP, “Oxford city council voted unanimously to permanently remove the honour given to the de facto leader of Myanmar in 1997”, and said it did not want to celebrate “those who turn a blind eye to violence”. Only five years ago, Suu Kyi was celebrated with an honorary doctorate from Oxford, and held her 67th birthday party at St Hugh’s college, where she studied politics, philosophy and economics in the 1960s.

1. The Guardian
2. Human Rights Watch

The United States of America

A new chapter in the era of ‘fake news’ this week in the USA. Project Veritas, an organization that uses fake stories, and secret recordings to try and discredit news-outlets, allegedly tried to set up the Washington Post. The organization, run by James O’Keefe, had one of its colleagues reach out to the Post with a made-up account on sexual misconduct by the Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore. The hope within Project Veritas seems to have been that the Post would reveal anti-Moore bias and perhaps eventually publish the lie. When the account would turn out to be fake, this would firmly discredit the Washington Post, and boost Moore’s campaign. More disturbing, finally, is that another apparent goal has been to discredit another woman who previously spoke with the Post about real alleged sexual misconduct by Moore. However, thanks to thorough fact-checking by the Post, Veritas’ operation got discovered and exposed. In a reaction, O’Keefe wrote:  “This is how undercover work goes. This isn’t the first time that has happened, and it won’t be the last time.”

On Thursday, Donald Trump told Prime Minister Theresa May to focus on “terrorism” in the UK after she criticised his sharing of far-right videos. After the US president had retweeted three inflammatory videos posted online by a British far-right group, reactions from all over the world were triggered. As one of the retweeted videos purportedly shows a “Muslim migrant” attacking a young Dutch man on crutches, the Dutch embassy in Washington DC answered by tweeting: “Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law.”

1. CNN
2. BBC


After the dissolvement of Cambodia’s main opposition party earlier this month, an NGO founded by Cambodia’s jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha is set to become the latest casualty of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ongoing campaign to crush critical voices in his country, Voice of America reports on Monday. Sokha founded the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) in 2002, but the organization is now forced to close its doors, because it is claimed to be a front for sinister foreign meddling. Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that “in fact, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights should be shut down because it follows order from foreigners. It is because foreigners created it, not Khmer.” For more about the spreading crackdown in Cambodia, read the full VOA-article.

Which role has the international community played in the current collapse of Cambodia’s democracy? In the days and weeks following the Supreme Court decision to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party, international condemnation was poured out over the CPP-regime. In their turn, CPP-party officials defended themselves stating that “democracy and human rights in the neighbourhood are … incomparable with Cambodia,” and “no country in the Greater Mekong Subregion has a better democratic regime than Cambodia.” Although their argumentation comes very close to a fallacy, there might be some truth in it. As Andrew Nachemson, writing for the Phnom Penh Post, claims; “Indeed, with a military junta in charge in neighbouring Thailand to the west, and repressive communist regimes in power in Vietnam and Laos to the east and north – not to mention a troubled, corrupt regime in Malaysia, a sultanate in Brunei and a so-called benevolent dictatorship in Singapore – Cambodia’s comparatively liberal democratic Constitution sticks out like a sore thumb.” Was the attempt to shoehorn democracy into Cambodia by the UN naïve?

1. VOA-News
2. Phnom Penh Post


On the weekend, mocked-up pictures of opposition politicians allegedly hanging on gallows were unfurled at a far-right demonstration in Katowice, near Krakow. Members of the far-right movement ONR brought the gallows to their rally, figuratively hanging-up the pictures of six Members of European Parliament from the Civic Platform (PO) opposition party. These politicians voted in favour of a resolution adopted on 15 November by the European Parliament denouncing judicial reforms in Poland as a threat to the fundamental values of the European Union. After that vote, the six were accused by the ruling conservatives of acting “against their country”. Poland’s Minister of Justice announced an investigation into the protest. According to the NY-Times, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, said in an interview with a private radio station that the demonstration was unacceptable, but also blamed opposition parties for the escalation of tensions.

Also on Monday, the Polish authorities were looking into an act of vandalism against a Muslim cultural centre in capital Warsaw. Stones were thrown at the centre by unidentified people, smashing about a dozen windows. “I am 100 percent sure this was a racist, anti-Muslim attack,” Muslim community leader Youssef Chadid told several news platforms. According to the Imam, these acts of hatred and xenophobia are being reported more frequently in Poland since the Law and Justice party came to power two years ago. The government promotes Catholicism and refuses to take in non-Christian refugees as part of an EU relocation plan, citing security concerns, says ABC News.

1. New York Times
2. ABC-News

Other News

Spain – On Tuesday, several pro-independence parties presented their election campaigns, while more than a few of their candidates remain either in prison awaiting trial, or in exile in Belgium – CatalanNews

Uzbekistan – Where Uzbekistan was one of the world’s most isolated states, it is slowly opening up since the death last year of former president Islam Karimov, Reuters reports. Where Karimov kept an iron grip on the economy and politics and mistrusted both Russia and the West, his successor Shavkat Mirziyoyev, started tentative reforms to an economy that had failed to create jobs, fuelling discontent. Nevertheless, Mirziyoyev has maintained a strong top-down political system – Reuters

Romania – Thousands took to the streets on Sunday all over Romania, protesting a government draft law which is criticized for possibly putting the judicial system under political control – EuroNews

Australia – After CANVAS reported on different protests methods being used in the struggle for the evacuation of the immigration detention centre on Manus Island three weeks ago,  five activists chained themselves by the neck to the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence to push for the evacuation of the Manus and the Nauru offshore processing centre in a new act of protest this week – The Guardian

Vietnam – A Vietnamese court has upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a prominent blogger convicted of publishing propaganda against the state – Reuters and HRW

Honduras – As the political limbo continues, Honduras moved into a fifth day of presidential vote count on Friday, which has sparked unrest amid opposition accusations of electoral fraud. The process will likely to take up to two more days before yielding a winner – Reuters

CANVAS’ Daily News

Also read what we featured in our daily news section this week:

1. Thousands in the streets on Sunday – Romanian protests continued!

2. Lessons from radical, political art in Russia: Pussy Riot, Pyotr Pavlensky and Co.

  1. With Zimbabwe, other African states are shifting into spotlight!