Weekly Report: 30 March 2018

Photo: More than 70 pro-democracy protesters were arrested at a demonstration in Minsk, Belarus this week. V Fedosenko. Reuters.


President Mnangagwa was slammed by opposition groups this week after ruling out possible election reforms. The decision was announced after negotiations with the US this week, where Zimbabwe was given a set of conditions that, if met, would lead to the restoration of good trade relations between the countries. The move not to reform was one of these given conditions. Critics are furious over this development, citing the dire state of civic freedom in Zimbabwe at present. “Villagers are being commandeered and coerced to attend Zanu PF political rallies and other functions. No less than 5 000 soldiers in civilian attire have since been deployed into rural Zimbabwe to clandestinely campaign for the ruling party,” said Obert Gutu, spokesperson of the MDC.

Also this week, Mnangagwa is launching five anti-corruption courts around Zimbabwe. This is to combat the pervasive corruption in the country, which Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranks extremely poorly, at 157 of 180 countries in the world. It’s also no coincidence that these courts are being launched right as Grace Mugabe faces game poaching and smuggling charges.

In other recent news from Zimbabwe, some activists in the village of Kadoma came up with a clever way to address the problem of potholes in their roads. They planted banana trees in the holes, an action that the government was definitely not pleased by. Like many creative and especially strategic protests, however, this had the exact intended effect, and the government moved quickly to fix the roads.


A fire was set in a police station in the city of Valencia, leading to the deaths of 68 people. Two of those killed were women who were visiting the station; the other 66 were inmates. The deaths were mostly a result of smoke asphyxiation, while others were of burns. The fire is believed to have been started by inmates attempting a prison break by setting their mattresses alight. According to a local opposition lawmaker, Juan Matheus, the detention center was holding three times its maximum capacity of 60 inmates. Venezuela’s head prosecutor assured the nation that a full investigation will be launched. Families of the inmates gathered outside the station, demanding answers about their loved ones. The crowd grew angry as officials refused to provide answers, even hours after the fire was extinguished, kicking riot shields, throwing stones, and leading the police to use tear gas to disperse the crowd.

This tragedy highlights the state of Venezuela’s atrocious prison system, one plagued with overcrowding and lawlessness. Over 230 current inmates are classified as political prisoners, and Human Rights Watch has reported that more than 6,600 people died in the country’s prisons between 1999 and 2015.

United States

Controversy erupted in the US this week over President Trump’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the national census. Opponents to this change immediately called it politically motivated, and at least twelve states have threatened to sue the Trump administration to block the change. The United States Constitution calls for an accurate census to be conducted every ten years that counts every individual living in the country, not just citizens, so that the results can be used to allot a wide range of government functions, including redistributing national representation and setting voting districts. The addition of a question about citizenship will discourage participation in the count, skewing these results. For the Trump administration, with its distinct war on aliens and immigrants raging, this could be the exact intended effect.

In this week’s update on chaos in the president’s cabinet, there has been one new replacement and innumerable bad decisions. President Trump moved to replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin with his own personal physician. Dr. Ronny L. Jackson is now to be faced with the serious challenges of the department, including its completely insufficient personnel and infrastructure. Dr. Johnson will still need to be approved by the US legislature before officially taking on the position, and this process could be problematic due to his sheer lack of relevant experience. Meanwhile, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson worked this week to scale back protections for fair housing, and the EPA is planning to roll back pollution requirements for cars in the US.

International news from the US this week saw a tensing of relations between the US and Russia. In response to the Russian attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK earlier this month, Trump decided to expel 60 Russian officials from the US and to close the country’s consulate in Seattle. In retaliation, Russia expelled 60 US diplomats and closed the US consulate in St. Petersburg. Relations between the countries appear to be at their worst since the Cold War, presenting a serious concern to the international community.


Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, a defender of indigenous rights and a special advisor to the UN on the subject, has been branded a terrorist by the government of the Philippines. This was officially over alleged connections to Maoist rebels in the country, with about 600 others also facing this terrorism charge. Tauli-Corpuz and many activists attest, however, that the label is merely a means for the government to target perceived political threats. In this case, the threat is the international attention that she has worked to draw to human rights violations by the government against indigenous peoples. An op-ed by Tauli-Corpuz for the Financial times warns that “You can keep shooting the messenger, but you will run out of bullets before we run out of messengers and, at the end of the day, the message will be heard.”  

Separately in the Philippines this week, the first public hearings by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines have begun into whether citizens’ human rights have been violated by fossil fuel companies. Testimonies at this trial so far have consisted of accounts of the tragic effects of climate disasters on livelihoods and ecosystems in the country. Many climate action groups see this trial as a huge and critical step for the environmental movement around the world. These hearings are expected to last a year.


The landscape of candidates for the presidency has been relatively settled, but today the official campaigning begins. Concerns over fake news in the country are growing, and rumors of meddling by Russian agents are leading the National Electoral Institute (INE) to take steps to protect the country and its elections from foreign influence. The INE has signed deals with both Facebook and Twitter, and is expected to sign a third with Google. These deals are to limit the impact of bots and trolls, which digital experts warn are being used by political parties at higher rates than have been seen before in the country.  


Myanmar’s parliament officially elected Win Myint to the presidency, succeeding Htin Kyaw who retired last week. Myint has been a longtime Suu Kyi loyalist, and that is not expected to change. Some analysts fear that he will be unwilling to put the country’s interests first, before Suu Kyi’s or the military’s wishes, and that this will be a nominal change at best.

In other news, the defense lawyers for the two jailed Reuters journalists have filed a motion to dismiss their case. They say that there is not any legally sufficient evidence that could be presented against the reporters. One of the reporters, Wa Lone, petitioned the new president, asking for freedom of the press in Myanmar and saying that he and other imprisoned journalists were there to report the injustices happening in the country. The police and prosecution maintain that they were arrested for violating the Officials Secrets Act by possessing confidential state documents illegally.

Other News:

Syria – Russia has announced that the massive military offensive in Eastern Ghouta is almost over. Rebels have been cornered to just one town in the region, and tens of thousands of civilians have now been given safe passage out of the area. – Reuters

Egypt – President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is poised to stay on for a second term after the elections this week, with polls showing a victory of 92% from the 25 million votes counted so far. Many lament the backsliding, finding this election reminiscent of those that were taking place before the Arab Spring in 2011. – CNBC

Belarus – At least 70 people, but possibly many more, were arrested in Minsk for attempting to hold an opposition protest while attempting to hold a march. They had come out on the 100th anniversary of Belarus’ 1918 proclamation of independence from Russia to oppose Lukashenko’s authoritarian government. – ABC News

Honduras – Protests in the country continue against the re-election of President Hernandez and the continued detention of 26 political prisoners. Since these protests began in late January, hundreds of people have been arrested and at least 38 people have died. – teleSUR

Hungary – Recent numbers from Hungary have shown that a majority of voters want far-right Prime Minister Orban out of office. Their failure to unify the nation’s many opposition parties, however, effectively ensure that he and his party will maintain their huge majority of seats and power in the upcoming elections. – NYTimes

Guatemala – A judge in Boston has ordered that a Guatemalan man accused of war crimes and human rights violations be returned to his home country. He served as a paramilitary commander during Guatemala’s civil war, and the government claims he was involved in murders and other crimes against indigenous Mayans. – ABC News

Cambodia – Opposition members gathered in Phnom Penh this week, in a rare public demonstration since last year’s government crackdown. They came out on the 21st anniversary of a deadly grenade attack on an opposition rally that killed at least 16 people and left hundreds injured. – Reuters

New Malaysian Bill Against Fake News Isn’t Solving Any Problems

It’s no secret that in this modern age of fast and easy communication, fake news has become a serious threat to justice and democracy. Malaysia caught the world’s attention this week, however, after introducing a controversial bill that effectively worsens the very crisis it’s trying to solve.

Vietnam’s Own Lady Gaga Detained Post Album Promo

Singer and activist Mai Khoi Do Nguyen was detained upon returning from Europe, where she was promoting her most recent album titled “Dissent.” Her fame has so far kept her relatively safe from the harassment many Vietnamese activists experience. But, as the regime grows more comfortable exerting its power and the international community turns a blind eye to human rights violations, even those above the fray are subject to the whims of the government.

New Malaysian Bill Against Fake News Isn’t Solving Any Problems

Photo: An advertisement in a public transit terminal reminds commuters not to spread fake news online.

It’s no secret that in this modern age of fast and easy communication, fake news has become a serious threat to justice and democracy. Each country has reacted differently to this new challenge, with some fighting it full force and others embracing it to their own advantages. One of these strategies in particular attracted the world’s attention this week, though, when the Malaysian government introduced its controversial “anti-fake news bill”. The new policy could charge offenders with up to six years in prison for spreading “any news, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.”

At first, this plan may seem as though it could have some merit. Fake news is, after all, a grave and near universal problem today. A recent Freedom House report found that online manipulation tactics, including fake news, played a significant role in more than 18 elections last year. This, on top of the other ways that fake news affects and shapes society, also led to a fall in global internet freedom for the seventh consecutive year. All this is to say that the world simply has not figured out how to address this serious threat.

Malaysia’s strategy does seem to attack fake news directly, and it would perhaps be a good tactic if the articles themselves were the primary issue. As is demonstrated by the Freedom House report, however, the critical challenges are rather the intentional manipulation of information and the world’s diminishing internet freedom. These are therefore the standards by which Malaysia’s new policy should be measured.

Examining the “anti-fake news bill” through this lens, it quickly proves problematic. The government’s definition of fake news, for example, includes unverified speculation or conclusions by reporters. With upcoming elections in August, and with Prime Minister Najib Razak currently in the midst of a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal, the bill comes at a distinctly opportune time. The country’s Deputy Communications Minister last week declared that any information about the corruption scandal not confirmed by government would be considered “fake news” and subject to punishment under the new policy. In this way, the bill is a direct assault on free expression and transparency.

“The vague and broad definition of ‘fake news’, combined with severe punishments and arbitrary arrest powers for police, shows that this is nothing but a blatant attempt to shield the government from peaceful criticism,” said James Gomez of Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch similarly condemned the bill, adding that “The Malaysian government has no monopoly on the truth, but it’s attempting to be the arbiter of what can and can’t be said and written.”

The heavy criticism by national opposition and international critics unfortunately holds little promise for stopping the bill from being passed. Although the government did lower the proposed sentence to a maximum of six years imprisonment, from the original maximum of ten, it has simultaneously denied any attempts to stifle debate or prevent discussion of the prime minister’s corruption scandal. The bill will nevertheless achieve these ends, even if violators do end up serving a somewhat shorter prison sentence.

Malaysia’s “anti-fake news bill” addresses neither of the issues that pervasive fake news presents to the world today. On the contrary, by both decreasing internet freedom and deliberately manipulating the information available to its citizens, this bill is effectively propagating the very crisis that it was allegedly written to combat. The people of Malaysia must therefore continue to fight for transparency, the media must continue to investigate serious national scandals, and on a broader global scale, the battle against fake news must rage on.

Vietnam’s Own Lady Gaga Detained Post Album Promo

Photo: Mai Khoi holding up a sign during Donald Trump’s visit to Vietnam last November. Bennett Murray. The Guardian.

Mai Khoi Do Nguyen, often called Vietnam’s Pussy Riot or Lady Gaga, was detained at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi Tuesday morning. She had just returned from Europe, where she was promoting her newest album “Bat Dong,” or “Dissent” in English. Human Rights Watch attests that many Vietnamese activists have been prohibited from traveling abroad, but Mai Khoi has not yet been subject to this travel ban and able to travel to promote her music.

Many political activists fled the country during a government crackdown last year, but Mai Khoi stayed, and was seen last November during Trump’s visit to the country with a sign reading “Piss On You Trump.” She is one of dozens of activists on a watch list for her strong criticisms of the government, and she and her husband have been evicted from their homes three times. The most recent eviction was following her anti-Trump demonstration when “agents from Vietnam’s secret police claiming to be employees of the building’s owner” first barricaded her inside her apartment, then demanded she and her husband leave. With this arrest, her husband worries in a Facebook post about the conditions of her detention and whether they will be evicted again. At least 120 others are currently being held in Vietnam for dissent against the government.

Mai Khoi has used her music to criticize the authoritarian rule in Vietnam and to call for free speech and the promotion of human rights. In 2016 Mai Khoi joined the ranks of approximately 25 activists trying to claim seats in the Communist party dominated National Assembly. Running as independents, the activists failed to claim any seats after the authorities refused to approve their candidacies, despite the local support they had. Also that year, former US President Barack Obama visited Vietnam, giving Mai Khoi the opportunity to meet and plead with him to pressure Vietnam to uphold its human rights obligations.

Mai Khoi’s music itself is rooted in advocacy: its roots, she says, stem from traditional and ethnic music. It doesn’t follow the contemporary western style of music, a conscious choice on her part against cultural dilution. For her, music “open[s] new ways of thinking and acting, making the unthinkable thinkable and the unspeakable speakable.” She wants to bring the focus of Vietnamese citizens from its bloody history to instead its current issues. “Bat Dong” was launched last week at an event attended by US diplomats, western expats, a documentary crew, and the elite of Vietnam’s artistic scene. “I only know of one other album so politically explicit that has been released in Vietnam since the end of the war. Just the fact that we managed to release it is a political victory in itself,” she said.

Although Mai Khoi was released later in the day, her husband had been unable to contact her for hours, and multiple embassies had reached out to various authorities, all of which claimed to have no knowledge of the detention. It remains unclear who exactly was holding her and why. Thus far, Mai Khoi’s fame and high profile have protected her as she has continued to publish critical albums and give diplomats her opinions, but in an interview last year, she said that she had been facing a “deepening pattern of intimidation.” This detention shows, however, that protection is not ensured for activists under a regime intent upon consolidating its power.

Weekly Report: 23 March 2018

Photo: Venezuela opposition banner reading “No to the dictatorship of hunger, corruption, and repression. OUT MADURO”


Four Venezuelan officials have been blacklisted by the United States, part of a new set of targeted sanctions against the South American country’s government. The four were all players in Maduro’s political network, and each was connected to allegations of graft and corruption. Any assets within US jurisdiction will be frozen, and any Americans are forbidden from engaging in any financial transactions with the individuals. Also included in this expansion of sanctions was a ban on Venezuela’s cryptocurrency introduced last month by Maduro. US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin lambasted the currency as Maduro’s attempt to maneuver around previous sanctions. The sanctions did not include any restrictions on Venezuela’s oil sector, as the US worries targeting oil would only deeping the suffering of Venezuelan citizens. The Venezuelan government however, has no such reservations. This week an ex-oil refinery boss of the state-owned company PDVSA was arrested and accused of corruption. This arrest joins dozens of others as the government cracks down on the oil sector. The opposition has called the arrests nothing more than a power struggle within the government.

In other news, several protests across the country were held over the weekend against the May presidential elections. They were organized by the Broad Front for a Free Venezuela, made up of the opposition coalition MUD, leftist dissidents, and some civil society groups. Parliamentarian Delsa Solorzano says “The assemblies are a show of resistance against a regime that wants to deny us our rights. We have to salvage the right to vote freely.” Another protest, not coordinated by the Broad Front, took place on Thursday when frustrated citizens vandalized a statue of Chavez. They gathered in a town square in the early morning, burning tires over power cuts and unpredictable food supplies in the region.


Mexican citizens can, for the first time, register to vote absentee while in the US for a presidential election. This has led to a flood of people trying to make registration appointments, and the Dallas consulate is overwhelmed by immigrants from Mexico trying to register before March 31 deadline. Originally, the consulate said it had reached its maximum number of appointment slots two full weeks before the deadline and was forced to book applicants into April, past the deadline. After an incensed response by the Mexican community in the area, the consulate has expanded its appointments by extending its hours and setting up temporary locations, nearly doubling the amount of appointments it can offer. Some Mexican citizens worry that the government failed to prepare itself for the increase registrations because many Mexicans in the US are expected to vote for Lo?pez Obrador, competition for the ruling party’s candidate Meade.

On that note, voter opinion polls show conflicting leads for Lo?pez Obrador, ranging from 5 percentage points to 18 points, with Anaya in second place in most polls and ruling party candidate Meade trailing in third. Following a discovery by the National Electoral Institute of falsified signatures from two independent candidates, only one independent remains in the race: right-wing politician Margarita Zavala. This, together with Anaya’s corruption scandal, could pull Anaya from second place and set Meade against Lo?pez Obrador.

Separately, Nieto’s presidency has reached the highest recording of violence against journalists— often committed by state officials, according to the human rights group Articulo 19. The numbers have reached 2,000 attacks and 41 murders during his six year term, representing a more than 200% increase from 2012.


Myanmar’s government is considering legislation that would allow greater oversight of work done by international bodies such as INGOs and UN missions. This has sparked concern that the country would crackdown more harshly on their activities, and is part of a trend by governments in Southeast Asia to limit civil society.

Myanmar’s civilian president Htin Kyaw has announced his resignation due to deteriorating health. He was a close friend of Aung San Suu Kyi and his role was more ceremonial, since Suu Kyi continues to function as the country’s de facto leader. He will be replaced by Win Myint, a longtime member of the ruling party and Aung San Suu Kyi loyalist, who was just elected to be the third Vice President. The new president will have little impact on the overall governance of the country and continue to act as nothing more than a figurehead. In the interim the more senior of the VP’s, the military’s appointment Myint Swe, will rule until parliament officially elects a new leader. Myint Swe is a retired general, and previously headed the military intelligence agency under the junta rule, and many in the civilian government’s ruling party are wary of what actions he may take during his brief time in office.

This Wednesday marked the 100th day since two Reuters reporters were arrested and accused of violating the Official Secrets Act, and the 11th time they appeared in court.


Government forces killed at least 47 people during protests in the DRC against Kabila last year. A UN report released this week called this an attempt by the government at “quashing dissent at all costs.” This crackdown on peaceful protesters threatens the prospect of peaceful elections, which are set to be held in April 2019. The date is already a much-delayed reschedule, coming after Kabila refused to step down from power in December. Meanwhile, Kabila denies that his security forces have used excessive force on the protesters. The UN report, on the other hand, details numerous accounts of the lethal force used and the force’s attempts to cover up the consequent human rights violations, including removal of victims’ bodies and preventing access to domestic or international observers.

Also this week, the UN Security Council humanitarian needs resulting from conflict in the DRC have doubled in the past year. They estimate that approximately 13 million people are affected, requiring humanitarian assistance, including 4.6 million acutely malnourished children. “We’re seeing mushrooming epidemics including the worst outbreak of cholera in 15 years. There’s also an epidemic of sexual violence — most of it unreported and unaddressed — and much of it against children.” The UNSC cited underfunding as the single biggest impediment to humanitarian response in the country.


Trump has replaced his national security advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster with John Bolton, his third national security chief in 14 months. Bolton has been in Republican circles for decades, serving under Reagan and both Bush administrations. His track record is one of hawkish opinions and a willingness to intervene, and a diplomatic style described as abrasive. Bolton and Trump are on similar pages regarding Iran, and the country appears to be “heading toward a much more confrontational relationship with the Islamic Republic.” Their opinions diverge more on North Korea, with Bolton fully supportive of a pre-emptive strike against the Asian country. He has nonetheless stated that Trump’s scheduled diplomatic meeting with Kim Jong Un will not be within the “norms of traditional diplomacy” for which Bolton has expressed disdain.

Trump’s lawyer John Dowd resigned on Thursday, after Trump signaled his willingness to sit down with investigators, against Dowd’s advice. The team of lawyers handling this investigation is now populated more by TV personalities than by cautionary forces like Dowd, which will allow Trump to act how he wishes and “embrace a more aggressive posture” toward the inquiry.

Trump this week also announced plans to introduce tariffs up to US$60 billion on imports from China. China has retaliated with its own tariff proposal of 15% import tariffs on over 100 types of US products, like fruit, wine and steel pipes, worth US$977 million.

Other news:

Maldives – President Abdulla Yameen has finally lifted the 45-day state of emergency in the country. Earlier this week, security forces arrested former president Gayoom, two supreme court judges, and a top judicial administrator. They were all charged with terrorism. – Al Jazeera

South Africa –  Jacob Zuma is now to face 16 counts of corruption from the 1990s, after being forced by his party to resign from the presidency last month. –  BBC

Russia –  Vladimir Putin secured a fourth presidential term this week, winning the election by more than 75%. He received congratulations on his reelection from leaders of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, and later the US. –  CNBC

Nigeria –  Boko Haram has freed almost all of the 110 schoolgirls kidnapped last month. The information minister of Nigeria reported that no ransoms were paid, but rather that the release was achieved “through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country.” – Al Jazeera

Cambodia – Cambodia’s UN representative has rejected a statement by 45 countries calling for free and fair elections and criticizing the Cambodian government’s treatment of the main opposition party. “These backward steps include signs of escalating repression of the political opposition, civil society and media,” said the statement, but the Cambodian ambassador dismissed the concerns as being politically motivated. – Washington Post

Colombia – Activist Juan Mena was shot and killed while walking in public in Quibdo, Choco. He had recently returned to the area after fleeing death threats made against him. – TeleSUR

Bolivia – The police and coca growers clashed violently on Tuesday when the police barred the growers from a legal coca market. The growers responded with force, lighting sticks of dynamite and throwing stones at police cars. Officers used tear gas to disperse the rioters and took at least five people into custody. – LA Herald Tribune

Peru – President Kuczynski offered his resignation after videos allegedly showing his allies trying to buy off an opposition lawmaker were released. However, he has taken issue the wording of a congressional resolution to accept his resignation, and is threatening to remain, forcing congress to continue with a slow impeachment process. – ABCNew

Philippines – President Duterte has called for a mass withdrawal from the Rome Statute and the ICC. This is not expected to interfere with preliminary examinations of Duterte’s violent drug crackdown. Also, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is in danger of being impeached by Congress, ostensibly for over 25 different reasons. Some, however, believe she is being removed for her outspoken criticism against the government’s war on drugs. – Reuters  | Economist

Syria – A remaining group of rebels in Eastern Ghouta have announced a ceasefire to begin talks with the Russian military to allow for the safety of civilians – BBC

Murder of Brazilian Activist Brings People Power out in Force

The recent murder of Brazilian human rights activist and Councilwoman Marielle Franco has deeply shaken the communities she advocated for. More than a thousand people have taken to the streets of Rio de Janeiro in protest of not only her killing, but also its suspicious and abhorrent context. By mourning her loss, their voices prove something important: She was not alone.

Farmers in India March For Six Days For Change In Agrarian System

Farmers in India are tired of a failing system and an unresponsive government. Over 45,000 people marched for six days until they reached Mumbai, where they were greeted by supportive community members, and presented their demands to state ministers. The government listened to their demands, and when the protestors returned home, they had promises of change on 100% of their demands.

Farmers in India March For Six Days For Change In Agrarian System

Photo: The farmers were elated that their voices were finally heard (Kiran Mehta/Al Jazeera)

Thousands of farmers marched to Mumbai to demand better conditions for themselves in the country. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), abbreviated CPI(M), drew a parallel between this movement and the historic Salt March led by renowned nonviolent activist Mahatma Gandhi during British colonial rule. All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), a farmer-oriented political front connected to the CPI(M), is guiding this mobilization in Maharashtra state and is joined by many tribal farmers.

Around half of India’s labor force works in agriculture, but the industry makes up only 14% of the nation’s GDP. Infrastructure is lacking and support is far too inelastic, unable to support citizens in times of blight or drought and unable to accomodate or store surplus. These deficiencies are only deepened as climate change makes crop output ever more erratic. India’s agrarian system is severely failing farmers — destroying livelihoods and creating a trend of suicide among many who feel they will never escape hopeless debt. Activists estimate that between 2015 and 2016, nearly 12,600 farmers committed suicide. This occurs with alarming frequency during times of crop failure, highlighting the severity of the shortcomings of the agrarian system in India.

More than 45,000 protesters gathered in Mumbai after six days of walking. They were supported by community members, who brought them food, water, and slippers to replace their worn out shoes, in a show of solidarity. Some marchers were in their 60s and 70s, have depended on the land for decades, and left their livelihoods to be a part of the process. With this sacrifice, these farmers legitimized the cause and proved their conviction to it. In Mumbai, members of the march were seen greeting the police posted at the scene. Their friendliness illustrated their respect for and willingness to work with the government. A parade of state ministers from various political parties passed through the gathering, speaking with leaders of the protest to hear their appeal.

Their vision of tomorrow was made clear through their specific demands from the government. Their top priority was loan forgiveness for expenses associated with their farms. A loan forgiveness program had been promised last year, but has not yet been implemented. Next, since the government buys a large portion of crops to protect farmers from volatile market prices, they requested an adjusted and appropriate fixed minimum price for their produce, accompanied by a raise in their wages to at least one and a half times the cost of their crops. With this, they also called for the national pension amount to be increased. Furthermore, they asked for land titles to be transferred to the indigenous farmers who have worked the land for generations.

Talks between AIKS representatives and state ministers ended in success when the government promised to follow through within six months on 100% of the demands made. In response, the farmers agreed to withdraw their protest, and trains were arranged to transport the famers back to their homes.

No action has yet been taken in the week and a half since the marchers withdrew their protest. As the farmers return home, they are optimistic but cautious. As one farmers says, “We are happy that they listened to us, but let’s see when the promises are implemented.” The long march to Mumbai was a counterpart to a mass sit-in by farmers in Rajasthan last month. A similar mass mobilization is in the works in Uttar Pradesh, as AIKS encourages farmers to raise their voices and fight for their rights, and to use allied law- and policymakers to create change. The government has not upheld its promises in the past, so it is imperative that the people keep the pressure on.

Murder of Brazilian Activist Brings People Power out in Force

Photo: Supporters rally in Rio de Janeiro, protesting the assassination of activist and Councilwoman Mariella Franco. Dado Galdieri. Bloomberg.

The recent murder of Brazilian human rights activist and Councilwoman Marielle Franco has deeply shaken the communities she advocated for. More than a thousand people have taken to the streets of Rio de Janeiro in protest of not only her killing, but also its suspicious and abhorrent context. By mourning her loss, their voices prove something important: She was not alone.

Marielle Franco had been called a rising star in Brazilian politics. She was a powerful voice for the poor, LGBT communities, black people, and women. Born in a favela of Rio de Janeiro, Franco built her career on the pursuit of human rights and equality, making incredible advances and eventually holding elected office. She was elected to the City Council in 2016 – one of only seven women among the 51 members, and the only black female. Igarapé Institute director Ilona Szabó, an expert on public safety policies, lamented the loss of Franco for Brazilian society. “She represented hope for so many women who never felt like they had a voice.”

Franco had also been an outward critic of police brutality in Brazil. The streets are patrolled by a military police force whose grave abuses have been documented by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In 2017, police killed more than 1,100 people in Rio alone. There, in January, they committed one out of every four homicides. These grave injustices are notoriously difficult to pursue, and justice is almost never reached. Days before her assassination, Franco had posted a series of tweets criticizing the military police of Rio, leading many now to conclude their responsibility for the targeted attack. “To dare to murder someone with a profile as high in Rio de Janeiro as Councilwoman Marielle Franco takes a lot of confidence that there will be no justice.”

In any case, if the murder was an attempt to silence Franco, it has rather had the exact opposite effect. With more than a thousand people protesting the death, speaking out for both justice and their rights, the movement is far from over. Franco may have been a minority in Brazilian legislature, but as a black, bisexual woman from poverty, she represented the voices and rights of repressed groups that together constitute a solid majority of Brazil’s population. An activist at a recent march shouted over and over that “Marielle’s voice will not be silenced,” but her voice was never singular anyway.

Franco was a representative of the people and her murder is a serious tragedy for Brazil. It is a mistake, however, to think that her people or their political ambitions have also been defeated. As is evidenced by these recent demonstrations, the fight for civil rights is on, leaders are quickly emerging, and many historically oppressed people have begun to realize just how powerful they really are.

Weekly Report: 16 March 2018

Photo: An indigenous woman protests Amazon land rights in front of the presidential palace of Ecuador. EFE.


Earlier this week, a UN official investigating the Rohingya crisis said that her observations are leading her to believe that this may amount to genocide. “I am becoming more convinced that the crimes committed following 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017 bear the hallmarks of genocide and call in the strongest terms for accountability.” In her report, she further calls for a thorough, unbiased, and serious investigation into the crimes being committed against the Rohingya. Myanmar later issued a rejection of this UN statement. Top officials in the country denied that Myanmar or its military had committed any crimes against the Rohingya. This comes even after the army has, on rare occasions, admitted to killing some Rohingya people. Nevertheless, the government’s crimes against the minority are egregiously brutal and targeted, far beyond what they have acknowledged at all.

In another part of the country, approximately 2000 people were displaced by military forces this week. The Karen (alternately ‘Kayin’) State in southern Myanmar is home to another of the nation’s ethnic minorities. In 2012, the people here negotiated peace with the central government, in talks led by Aung San Suu Kyi. This invasion and displacement of the people endangers that ceasefire, risking a plunge back into one of the longest-running civil conflicts in the world.


Miguel Rodrigues Torres, ex-interior minister and former Chavez spy chief, was arrested March 12 for “involvement in actions against peace” according to a government statement and for “conspiring to destabilize the government.” The statement accused him of plotting a coup with discontented military officers and of working for US intelligence, supporting Maduro’s suspicions of US meddling, although no evidence has been offered.

Torres was close with Chavez, aiding his short-lived coup attempt in ‘92. Since then, Torres served for a time as Maduro’s interior minister, but after leaving the post has distanced himself from the unpopular president, expressing support for the opposition protests and even looking to run as a presidential candidate (though he was barred due to “administrative irregularities”). He was also accused of collaborating with Oscar Pe?rez, the bomb-dropping helicopter pilot who was shot and killed earlier this year by government forces. Torres denies this connection.

On another note, the Venezuelan opposition group Broad Front is calling for mass street protests against the “fraudulent” presidential elections scheduled for May. Broad Front spokesperson and parliament member Negal Morales claims the group is insisting upon nonviolent demonstrations, saying “We are not fostering … the possibility of a confrontation between civilian people and armed people” and that they are pushing only for civic dissent. The group is asking Venezuelans outside the country to set up protests in solidarity, wherever they may be. Broad Front additionally asked for “citizen assemblies” to be set up in each of the Venezuelan states. These assemblies would help coordinate the mass protests country-wide on Saturday, as well as form chapters for the coalition and record membership.

Venezuela is expected to ask the UN to send international observers for the upcoming election. Henri Falcon, an opposition candidate, will join the UN ambassador in his request, despite the main opposition’s fears that observers will only lend legitimacy to the elections.


President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he is pulling the Philippines out of the International Criminal Court (ICC). He notified the UN Secretary General of this decision on Friday, along with a supposed assurance of the Philippines’ commitment to the rule of law. In the official letter submitting the decision, the Philippines called this move a “principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights.” Duterte has notoriously been accused by the ICC of crimes against humanity, including the killings of thousands in his crusade against drugs. According to ICC protocol, the withdrawal will officially take effect in one year.

Earlier in the week, the Chief Justice of the Philippines has said that she will not resign, despite the impeachment complaints facing her. Lourdes Sereno has said that to quit would be easy, but that the people of the country deserve someone to fight for justice. Sereno is one of the few, and perhaps the most important, of those in government resisting Duterte’s war on drugs. She also famously opposed the president by voting against the martial law implemented on the island of Mindanao and against the decision to posthumously bestow full military honors on former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Sereno maintains that she will fight for innocence of these current politically-motivated charges until the end.


Turmoil hit the US government again this week with the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by President Donald Trump. Tillerson and Trump have long been known to disagree on foreign policy in critical areas, including the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate accord, North Korea, and the “overall tone of U.S. diplomacy,” according to Trump in a recent statement. With such a wide range of policy disagreements in critical area, this firing does not come as a huge surprise. It is, however, seriously concerning to those both in the US and abroad. The timing comes right before the summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, plunging the event into an even deeper level of uncertainty. In the tweet Tuesday that fired Tillerson, Trump also announced that current director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, is to become the new US Secretary of State.

Tens of thousands of students nationwide walked out of their schools Wednesday to protest inadequate gun control in the US. This was the latest in a series of demonstrations by the ‘Mass Shooting Generation’ that was raised in a society where school shootings are treated just as an unfortunate fact of life. During this protest, many students marched outside their schools, holding powerful signs and demanding stricter gun control. Others held moments of silence, organized shows of solidarity, or used the opportunity to spread compassion among the student body, to let others know that they’re not alone.


Thursday saw the largest single day exodus of the war that has now plagued Syria for more than seven years. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people fled the Eastern Ghouta region that is currently heavily under siege. The battle over this area has already left more than 1,500 dead and more than 6,000 injured – numbers expected to rise until an effective ceasefire can finally be reached. Russia, although aware of the humanitarian tragedies playing out on the ground, has yet to propose or enact a plan that would effectively help the civilians affected. A report by Al Jazeera this week condemned the lack of food being allowed to enter the region. Approximately 25 trucks of food were permitted entry to the region, containing less than two days’ worth of food per family there.

Meanwhile in Afrin, another deadly offensive rages on. Here too, hundreds of families are fleeing for their safety. The Turkish attack has killed at least 20 people so far. Like in Eastern Ghouta, however, there does not seem to be a clear end to the violence in sight for this Kurdish city. Turkey has today dropped leaflets inviting surrender and “warning residents not to act as human shields for terrorists.” It remains yet unclear how the city will respond.

Other news:

Maldives – The EU Parliament put through a resolution this week to impose sanctions that target the Maldivian government, in response to its worsening political crisis. This is yet another sign of the mounting and increasingly widespread international pressure on the small island nation. – AVAS

Zimbabwe – In the first televised interview with Robert Mugabe since his ousting in November, the former leader declared that the rise of Mnangagwa was an unjust coup d’etat. “We must undo this disgrace which we have imposed on ourselves, we don’t deserve it… Zimbabwe doesn’t deserve it.” – The Guardian

Brazil – Councilwoman and prominent human rights advocate Marielle Franco was assassinated in Rio de Janeiro this week. She had been one of the most important and well-known defenders of civil and human rights in Brazil. – teleSUR

Cuba – Cubans took to the polls last weekend to elect a new government, ushering in the end of the Castro era. The planning for this transition is now underway. – Jamaica Observer

Ecuador – Dozens of Amazonian women have taken to protest a law that permits extraction and development of the rainforest by camping out in front of the presidential palace. They are demanding a meeting with President Lenin Moreno, to challenge him on this decision, which they call unlawful and short of international regulations. – teleSUR

Peru – The nation’s congress has begun impeachment proceedings against President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. His charges involve a massive corruption scandal with the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. The overwhelming number of lawmakers behind this measure give serious credence to the prospect that the impeachment will go through. – Washington Post

Mexico – A report released by the UN this week reveals human rights violations and cover-ups by the Mexican authorities in their investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in 2014. – Amnesty International

Journalist’s Murder Sparks Protests and Progress in Slovakia

Two weeks ago, an investigative journalist was murdered. In the time since, tens of thousands of people have taken to streets across Slovakia, demanding justice, change, and a better, more democratic future.

“O, Canada, You’re on Native Land”

Kinder Morgan, North American energy infrastructure giant, wants to build a new pipeline through indigenous land, endangering the waterways and all those who live there. The people of First Nations are standing up and fighting back. Their resistance movement includes building Tiny Houses as an assertion of indigenous sovereignty and taking the struggle to the courts.

“O, Canada, You’re on Native Land”

Photo: Volunteers construct a ‘watch house’ as a gathering spot for Indigenous elders and people opposing the TransMountain pipeline on Saturday, March 10. Photo by Trevor Mack (National Observer)

Ten thousand people gathered to condemn the expansion of an oil pipeline in Canada on Saturday. Their chants of “Water is life”, “No consent, no pipeline”, and “Keep it in the ground,” filled the air, along with the sound of drums played by members of First Nations. They are standing up to Kinder Morgan, an energy infrastructure giant in North America. “We cannot sit by idly and let this project go with the way it would threaten our livelihood, our lives, our territories, our waters and our culture,” said Dustin Rivers, a Squamish Nation leader. First Nations were further joined  in their protest by non-indigenous locals, Greenpeace Canada, and local environmental groups like Stand.Earth.

Kinder Morgan has received the go-ahead from the Canadian government to construct the TransMountain pipeline, which would transport oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, nearly tripling the flow of oil into the Vancouver area. According to Canada’s National Energy Board, the project “is in the public’s interest,” but would have “significant adverse effects” on endangered orcas that live in the waters off the coast of Washington. A Greenpeace press release presented research expecting the pipeline to spill over 30 times in a 50-year span, threatening drinking water, rivers, lakes, and streams, and risking the extinction of the local orcas.

Protesters erected a watch house on top of the current pipeline and blocking the planned route for the expansion. This initiative is called ‘Kwekwecnewtxw’ meaning “place to watch from.” This indigenous tradition has existed for thousands of years, posting a guard to watch for enemies and dangers to the tribe. A speaker at the protest, Will George, is a Tsleil-Waututh member who has promised to remain in the house “as long as it takes” as a modern defender of the community.

Also planned is the construction of tiny houses. There will be ten homes erected and placed strategically along the more than 500 km pipeline route. This will block access to the pipeline as a tangible assertion of indigenous sovereignty. Each tiny house will provide housing to a Secwepemc family, as the population is facing a housing crisis resulting from “deliberate colonial impoverishment.” Additionally, the project aims to fully power the houses through solar panels, consistent with the community’s efforts against nonrenewable energy. Greenpeace Canada provided manpower and logistical support for this project.

As the next step in the campaign, those allied with the cause are being asked to risk arrest in a mass demonstration of civil disobedience. “Every step of the way, we will continue to oppose Kinder Morgan and the financial institutions bankrolling this climate-killing, Indigenous rights-bulldozing pipeline,” said Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Canada. The campaign’s website stipulates that violence will not be tolerated.

The struggle is also being fought in the courts. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau once said that “Governments might grant permits, but only communities can grant permission.” First Nations have legally challenged the project, saying that the land Kinder Morgan wants to build on was not and will not be ceded. They are clear that consultation with them was inadequate. If the project continues, it will be without having met the minimum international regulations for extractive practices on indigenous lands, which involve the community’s free, informed, and prior consent. Development is therefore illegal under the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in violation of the protections outlined in Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution.

Indigenous peoples are often on the frontlines of environmental people power movements. Their communities’ traditions have their roots in respect for the land and this uniquely positions them as “defenders of the earth.” Standing Rock’s NODAPL movement is another famous example of an anti-extractive industry campaign led by indigenous peoples, though it by no means stands alone; the UN states that indigenous groups help protect an estimated 80 percent of the planet’s remaining biodiversity. Through the assertion of sovereignty and jurisdictional rights over their ancestral lands, indigenous people are collectively resisting – forming coalitions and strong alliances with women’s, environmental, and youth movements. They are a shining example of people raising their voices against injustice. As climate activist Emily Johnson writes “Fundamentally, Trudeau was right: they do need our permission to devastate the world. . . What the industry is learning from all of these fights is that if we want to stop them, we can. More importantly, that’s what we’re learning.”

Journalist’s Murder Sparks Protests and Progress in Slovakia

Photo: Protesters in Slovakia demand justice over the assassination of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. Joe Klamar. AFP.

Two weeks ago, an investigative journalist was murdered in an incident that police have linked to his work. Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were at home when an attacker shot and killed them over information that he exposed regarding tax evasion by prominent businessmen in the country. Threats had been made against him in the past, and police reports had been filed, but his death is nonetheless a huge shock.

Across Slovakia, this shock sparked a crisis. In the largest Slovak movement since the Velvet Revolution, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets, opposing not only the nation’s rampant corruption troubles, but also the politicians that allow them to go on. Robert Kalinak, who had been serving as Interior Minister, stepped down earlier this week as the people’s voices became too loud to ignore. They are calling now for the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Fico is currently serving his third term in office, having been in power now for more than a decade. In that time, the people of Slovakia feel that he has done far too little to combat corruption or cronyism, making the murder of Kuciak the final straw. The people are no longer willing to tolerate a system so broken that it cannot even protect those individuals trying to achieve justice.

In a too-rare case of people power movements, it seems that these protestors may really achieve this turnaround, and soon. Fico has agreed to step down from his role as prime minister. The move just needs approval from the nation’s president before becoming official. Even so, it demonstrates a degree of responsiveness and an emphasis on resolution that does imbue some hope in the nation.

Nevertheless, further demonstrations are planned for Friday in Bratislava. Nobody has yet been charged with the murder of Kuciak and his fiancée, meaning that for the time being, justice is still a long way from being reached. Not trusting the government to carry out this process, another dominant call by protesters has been for the intervention of Europol in the investigation. Even with the prospect of a promising future taking shape, true freedom in Slovakia will not be complete unless democratic rights are defended. The tens of thousands of people, emboldened and taking to the streets, are not going to stop short in their demands for justice.

Weekly Report: 9 March 2018

Photo: Activists protest against government-backed amendments to Myanmar’s protest law in Yangon. (Reuters)


Between 200 and 500 demonstrators gathered in Yangon in protest on Monday while the parliament deliberated an amendment to the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law of 2010. This change  threatens three years in prison for those who support any demonstration that damages the “security, rule of law and stability of the state, and the moral interests of the people.” In particular, the amendment requires protest organizers to divulge the details of their budget, including their funding sources. Political analyst Maung Maung Soe says the amendment may be intended to target nationalist opposition members who “pay money to people to protest,” in order to destabilize the young government, but that it will nevertheless impact activists not influenced by these nationalist lobbyists. “It’s not possible to only restrict one side,” he warns. The protesters say the amendment would limit free speech; if the government hinders protest, it “cannot hear the true opinions of the people,” said farmers’ rights activist Zaw Yan. A reactionary petition to the amendment has been introduced, signed by around 190 Myanmar civil society organizations and individuals such as Maung Maung Soe. On the other hand, once champion of human rights and democracy Aung San Suu Kyi has supported the amendment. It passed in the Upper House on Wednesday, despite the protests of some MP’s who disapproved of the increased punitive measures, the speed with which the amendment was pushed through parliament, and the vague wording that could allow authorities to arrest peaceful protesters.

The US Holocaust Museum has rescinded Aung San Suu Kyi’s Elie Wiesel Award for human rights due to her continued silence over the human rights abuses committed by the Myanmar military regime against the Rohingya Muslim minority. The mounting abuses have been described as an ethnic cleansing by the UN and have driven around 700,000 people to flee Myanmar. Suu Kyi and her government have refused to work with UN investigators and blocked international media from areas where violence was reported.

An international coalition and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict called on UN Secretary General Guterres to blacklist Myanmar for grievous violations of children’s rights. Watchlist’s report cites “numerous reports of the killing, burning and beating to death of Rohingya Muslim children by government forces.”


The opposition is once again calling for supporters to take to the streets in protest, asking for a March 17 demonstration against the presidential elections that it considers fraudulent and plans to boycott. Previously, the opposition had stopped calling for protests after a violent crackdown by the government resulted in more than 120 deaths. This protest will be the first major demonstration since last year.

The National Electoral Council announced the five candidates registered for the presidential race. Henri Falco?n and incumbent president Maduro are the two main contenders. The CNE also announced that citizens  had until mid March to register to vote.

Henri Falco?n  entered the presidential race after a break from the main opposition party. While they are of the opinion that his participation will add a “veneer of legitimacy” to the elections, Falco?n states that “Choosing to fight despite unfair rules does not legitimize the rules: It confirms our willingness to defend our rights,” and says the only way to topple a government is through popular uprisings. Voter opinion polls are conflicting. Falco?n references some that show him leading by 14 points against Maduro, who is struggling with hyperinflation, food shortages, and political turmoil. Another poll showed that only 17 percent of the population plans to vote, causing analysts to warn that this would nearly guarantee a win for Maduro. Falco?n maintains that participation is the only way to rid Venezuela of Maduro.

This Monday marked both the fifth year anniversary of Chavez’s death and the beginning of a summit featuring Latin American and Caribbean leaders. The leaders hailed Chavez’s legacy and denounced foreign intervention in Venezuela’s affairs, accusing the US and other states of violating Venezuela’s sovereignty.


Donald Trump is set to be the first US President to hold a diplomatic meeting with the leadership of North Korea. He and Kim Jong-un have announced a meeting in May, with the news coming after successful talks between North and South Korean diplomatic delegations. Kim has further said that he is “committed to denuclearization,” generating both international skepticism and also a glimpse of hope for stabilization in the world order.

Steel and aluminum tariffs have been announced by President Trump despite bipartisan advice against them. Lawmakers domestically and internationally have warned the president against these measures, which they fear could incite a trade war with the country’s important allies. The EU has already announced the retaliatory tariffs that it plans to institute in response to the US decision, but EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström added to the news that she was “eager to avoid an escalation in the war of words between Washington and Brussels over tariffs.”


The ceasefire conceded by Russia recently continues to prove insufficient for the humanitarian aid urgently needed in Eastern Ghouta. Recent conflicting reports allege a chemical attack against in the territory, but in any case, violence unquestionably continues.

The UN this week reported that more than 1000 children have been killed or injured in Syria since just the beginning of this year. Another report from Reuters exposed a rise in the number and frequency of attacks on health facilities in the country. In the first two months of 2018, the number had already climbed to half of the total amount of attacks that took place last year.


Former president Mugabe has startled many this week by posing for a picture with the retired general who will head the opposition Zanu-PF party in the country’s approaching election. This seemed to be an endorsement of the modern party that he formerly led for almost 40 years. At a rally two days after the photo was published, normally-disciplined youth at a Zanu-PF rally shouted “down with Mugabe” in apparent opposition to the development and its implications. Beyond this outburst, many across the country have recently begun to fear a resurgence of the politician. They fear destabilization and the threat he could pose to President Mnangagwa, although most are unsure exactly how the risks would play out.

In a speech later this week, Mnangagwa attempted to reassure the people of both his power and also his visions of progress and good governance in the country. “My government will continue to ensure that there is policy clarity, certainty, cohesion consistency and will guard against policy overlap, information asymmetry, and policy reversals.” Many are nevertheless continuing to express their uncertainty for the future of Zimbabwe’s leadership.


The ex-police chief of the Maldives has been arrested due to allegations of plotting to overthrow the ruling government. This development follows his firing in February, which occurred after he ordered the release of all the country’s political prisoners. That moved sparked the current bout of intense turmoil in the country, including the implementation of a state of emergency that is still in effect and the crackdown on protests in capital Malé. Many have been suppressed and taken as political prisoners. The UN Human Rights Council this week reprimanded the country over its unacceptable human rights situation under the state of emergency.

In other recent news regarding the Maldives, former president Mohamed Nasheed disclosed in an interview with Deutsche Welle that the nation’s current government is selling oil to North Korea. A ship was recently caught violating US sanctions against the rogue state. That ship was not only flying Maldivian flags, but was registered in the country and financed by the Bank of Maldives. This creates an incredibly complex situation for both the international community and the people of the Maldives, whose lives could be directly affected by the consequences of this action.  


The Cuban people will vote on Sunday in elections that will decide 612 new members of the National Assembly of People’s Power and fill more than 12,000 local positions. Although the people do not directly elect their president, a new leader will also be decided in this process by the National Assembly. Raul Castro has announced that he will not seek another term in office, making this the first time in decades that Cuba will have a president outside the Castro family.  For many, this fact is a sign of hope, for others it is anxiety.

Not involved in the elections this time are any members of the country’s opposition alliance. Opposition leaders announced in November that they had failed to get any candidates through the first round of selection for the municipal positions up for election this weekend. Several hundred dissidents had sought nomination, and their failure across the board is blamed on repression by government authorities.


The Honduran anti-corruption commission Maccih, backed by the Organization of American States (OAS), has expressed concern over proposed legislation that would alter the Seizure of Assets Law to protect those charged with corruption. In a tweet, Maccih said that the reform could give “privilege to public officials who are being charged with embezzling state funds.”

Two years ago, indigenous activist Berta Caceres was murdered after a decade-long fight against a dam project. This week, Roberto David Castillo, executive president of a hydroelectric company behind the development of the controversial dam, was arrested in connection with her death. He was accused of “providing logistics and other resources to one of the perpetrators already prosecuted for the crime,” according to Public Ministry spokesman Juri Mora. He is a former military intelligence officer of Honduras and the ninth arrest in this case so far. Last week, members of Caceres’s activist group gathered in front of prosecutors’ offices in the capital, demanding the arrests of the other officials they consider responsible.

Other news:

Italy – The results of national election Sunday divided the country between the north and south, but both regions brought victory to populist, anti-establishment, Eurosceptic parties that much now vie for government leadership. – BBC

Czech Republic – Thousands of people came out in protest Monday after the national parliament endorsed a new head of oversight of the Czech police. The chosen lawmaker is Zdenek Ondracek of the Communist party, a former member of a communist-era special police unit. – Reuters

Sri Lanka – A nationwide state of emergency has been imposed following the outbreak of violence between Muslim and Buddhist groups early this week. – AlJazeera

Ukraine – Ukrainian police have been accused of attacking and injuring multiple journalists covering protests in Kiev last week.  – KyivPost

Sierra Leone – A fair and free election was held in the country on Wednesday this week. While voting was conducted peacefully, vote counting and the results remain yet unclear. – AfricaNews

Poland – President Andrzej Duda apologized this week to Jews expelled from the country by the ruling communist authorities in 1968. This came as a surprise to many, in light of the nation’s recent controversial actions regarding its history and involvement in Jewish history. – BBC

Chile – In her final days in office, outgoing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has announced that she will work with lawmakers to replace the “dictator-era constitution” with a modern rewrite including equal pay for men and women and the right to strike for workers in Chile. The move is largely symbolic, as it is almost impossible that such a change could go into effect by the end of her term Sunday. – Reuters

Mexico – Leftist presidential candidate Lopez Obrador pulls ahead of his competition by another point, at 35% of the popular vote and a 14 point lead, according to a poll completed last week. His competition, Anaya and Meade, is mired in accusations of corruption and both squabble for second place, dragging each other down. – Reuters

World’s Longest-Jailed Journalist Freed in Uzbekistan, but Media Struggle Continues

The longest-jailed journalist in the world is finally free. After 19 years, Uzbekistan has released Yusuf Ruzimuradov. While many are celebrating this victory as a sign of progress, however, human rights organizations are focused on the long battle still ahead for achieving press freedom in the country.

A Look at the Failure of Aung San Suu Kyi

In 2012, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Elie Wiesel Award for human rights. Earlier this week, the honor was rescinded. How could it be that this leader, once among the most respected champions of human rights in history, has now so egregiously abandoned her virtues?

Take a look at the Guardian’s live feed of actions on International Women’s Day here.