March 2018 — Page 2 of 3 — CANVAS

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...

Weekly Report: 16 March 2018

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

“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...

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....

Weekly Report: 9 March 2018

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