Weekly Report: 7 December, 2018


December 7, 2018

One of Colombia’s top wanted drug lords, named “Puntilla” was killed by authorities this week. (Colombia Reports)



According to a human rights group, a U.S. citizen who was held captive by Assad’s government for three years was killed. Layla Shwekani was born in Damascus and spent her childhood there, but then moved to the United States. Layla was known as a humanitarian activist. She returned to Syria in 2015, and then was detained in 2016. Soon after, she was reported dead.



Presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, Óscar Ortiz, the leader of the Democratic Social Movement requested “urgent treatment” for the February 21st referendum. The appeal is against the enabling of Evo Morales to run for presidential candidacy in the upcoming elections in Bolivia. Along with the appeal, the Democratic Social Movement began holding a signing throughout the country, on a national level, in order to disable Evo Morales from running for president.

Three separate mobilizations of people are making their way towards La Paz. The three groups began in Beni, Konani, and Chulumani. Their goal is to demand that the electoral tribunal not qualify Evo Morales. Once they arrive in La Paz, they intend to hold a peaceful vigil in front of the TSE. Further, they are not ruling out a hunger strike. The mobilization of people intends to hold their strike until the TSE listens to their demands.


This week, several civil society organizations will stand before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) and speak of the repressions which continue to unfold through Nicaragua due to the actions of Daniel Ortega’s regime. The objective of the hearing was to update information on the human rights crisis. Civil society groups made a strong demand that the IACHR halt all repressions, and document the crisis through on-site visits. In all, they hope to continue support from IACHR.


North Korea

Although talks between the United States and North Korea have confirmed a disarmament of nuclear weapons within North Korea, new satellite images deem these talks false. New images of an expanding missile base, capable of deploying weapons able to reach the United States have come into a new light. The base is located next to the border of China, and the location leads experts to believe that it is in this specific place because it would reduce the likelihood of a preemptive strike from the United States.



While the United States has continued to label the mass killing of the Rohingya people in Myanmar an “ethnic cleansing” rather than a “genocide,” this week a US-Hired Law Firm inched its way into labeling the horrific events as a Genocide. Thus far, the American government has been criticized for their lack of recognition towards the atrocities of the Rohingya people. In September, a 20-page report based on this law firms investigation found that “recent violence in northern Rakhine State was extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents.” After the report, more pressure was put on the Trump Administration to label the massacre as a Genocide, rather than ethnic cleansing.



After former U.S. Ambassador of the UN, Nikki Haley resigned just months ago, president Trump has nominated a new candidate named Heather Nauert. Nauert is the State Department spokesperson and previously worked as an anchor for Fox News. Among many of her roles as an ambassador, she will be responsible for maintaining international support for economic sanctions against North Korea and continue Trump’s support for Israel.  


This week, President Trump has threatened a partial shut-down of the government if Congress does not give him money to build a wall between the US-Mexico border. Although, as of Thursday, US Congress approved a 2-week stopgap spending bill to avert a government shut down. Before the bill expires, Congress is expected to consider a $450 billion bill to fund several agencies including the Department of Agriculture, State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security. Trump has also demanded $5 million for his plan to build the wall.



Cambodia’s supreme court began to hear an appeal against the conviction made in 2017 about a defamation case involving CNRP leader Sam Rainsy. Rainsy is now living in exile outside of Cambodia. Although, some are calling this a move to divide the opposition. Accordingly, ruling-party lawsuits against CNPR have blocked the development of democracy within Cambodia. It all causes great concern for civil society groups, citizens, and human rights groups.



There are indications this week that Mexico will push for tariffs on steel and aluminum against the United States. The foreign affairs undersecretary for North America believes that the tariffs imposed by Mexico on June 1st were not strong enough, and further regrets the decision to sign the new North American free trade pact, now known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. He believes that tariffs should be “like-for-like,” in other words, something symmetrical.


The Maldives

On Sunday, the President launched a campaign to ban single-use plastics. Accordingly, more than 280,000 plastic bags are used daily in the capital alone, and it is at a “worrying” level in President Solih’s terms. Although the Maldivian economy is dependent on natural resources, the increase of dumping garbage into the sea has proven to do the most damage to life in the sea. Solih hopes that his initiative will spark others to reduce single-use plastic.



According to the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, the country is “running out of fuel.” Apparently, Zimbabwe has exhausted a $60 million worth of fuel which was only imported last week. This is equivalent to about 100 million liters of fuel, which is suspected to be gone within 2.5 weeks time.



In a meeting held in Vientiane this week, the governments of Laos and Cambodia discussed further efforts to de-escalate tensions in a disputed border area. During the meeting, the two agreed on prohibitions on a variety of activities in the area, but have a view of a future resolution. The two countries continue to maintain bilateral talks and cooperation.



The state media in Vietnam announced a new way to crack down on corruption. There is now a telephone hotline number where people can report accusations of police corruption. In order for reports to be deemed liable, callers must declare their full name, telephone number, and substantiated information. The hotline had previously been used to report traffic police only, but it is now used for any type of police corruption.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Amid clashes between The Democratic Republic of Congo’s army and rebels, 18 people were killed. This recent violent outbreak is only 3 weeks before elections, which will replace president Joseph Kabila. The clash took place in South Kivu, an area known for ethnic tensions. The rebels are loyal to a former general named Yakutumba, which is an armed group in the region against Kabila and an ally of the National Liberation Front.



One of Colombia’s most prominent drug lords called “Puntilla” was killed by authorities this week. He was formally Colombia’s most wanted drug lord and had overseen drug trafficking routes to Venezuela and Brazil. Police have been trying to arrest him ever since his controversial prison release back in 2016 when a judge released him after lacking evidence to prosecute Puntilla.


After the peace talks in 2016, fires responsible for deforestation jumped sixfold, labeled an”unforeseen cost” in Colombia. Formally Guerilla-controlled areas now see an absence of all control by both government and FARC, and in those areas, there is a 600% increase in fires. Because there is a lack of control and protection in the vulnerable areas, the burning of forests shot up. Now, more than 40 soccer fields worth of land is lost every single day in Colombia.



In light of the sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States, President Erdogan from Turkey fired back at the US claiming “political problems cannot be resolved by punishing an entire nation.” This year, Turkey has become the largest importer of non-monetary gold from Venezuela, and Erdogan continues to strengthen trade ties between the two countries.

According to Reuters, Venezuela intends to import over 300,000 barrels per day of refined products in an attempt to ease fuel shortages plaguing the country. Although it is the country with the worlds largest crude reserves, they have yet to fulfill the demands locally and with customers like China and Russia.



December 10th marks the International Human Rights Day. Although Malaysia intends to hold a rally, there are reports of a security threat for the event this year. Without giving too much detail, the Royal Malaysia Police informed the prime minister’s office that the threat could even border on national security. The rally has been postponed, although some parties are continuing to follow through with their plan and intend to do so peacefully.


Other News

Palestine — After going on a hunger strike, a Palestinian social justice activist was tortured and punished. (Amnesty International)

China —China and North Korea held talks on Friday after a lack of progress from the international community to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Fox News)

Yemen — After two years, the Houthi’s and the Yemeni government are holding peace talks in Sweden. (NPR)