February 1, 2019
Demonstrators hold banner that reads “Justice” during a rally of the opposition with the self-proclaimed interim president Guaido in Caracas, January 25, 2018. Marco Bello
As the Cuban government makes the decision to push for legalization of gay marriage, Evangelical churches and their members have made their lack of support clear, causing concern that the reform will be rejected. The legalization of gay marriage will appear sometime this month in a state-proposed constitutional reform in a nationwide referendum. Pastors have been encouraging widespread “no” votes.
Bolivian president, Evo Morales, has secured the position as official candidate of his Movement for Socialism party after winning the primary election this week. This means that Morales will be able to run for a fourth presidential term, a move rejected by 51.3 percent of voters in a referendum in 2016, but approved by the Bolivian Supreme Court in December.
There has been an ongoing closure of human rights organizations both local and internationally based in Nicaragua, prompting investigations of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government, questioning its oppressive and potentially harsh nature. Alvaro Leiva, secretary of the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH) has called this a “crisis of repression”,stating that Ortega’s government is repressing fundamental rights.
The staff of the ANPDH previously received a number of threats, forcing the closure of their offices in Central America for safety reasons. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and two members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have also been forced out by Ortega, signaling significant and further concern.
Myanmar has experienced a resurgence of violence between security forces and the Arakan Army, resulting in a total of 26 deaths total from both sides. Myanmar officially classified the Arakan Army as a terrorist organization on January 18.
On January 26th, President Trump announced that he would back a deal to temporarily end the 35 day government shutdown, providing funding for federal agencies until February 15th. Despite making a concession on temporarily reopening the government, Mr. Trump still insists that the border wall will still be built.
Cambodia has been under the public eye since the release of the EU threat, warning the country that they would impose significant sanctions and remove trading preferences if the country did not actively address and investigate a number of human rights concerns occurring within the country.
A pipeline explosion in central Mexico last week has now killed 114 people, with another 33 people still hospitalized. The explosion was caused by oil thieves illegally tapping into the pipeline, creating a gasoline spill, which quickly caught fire.
There is significant concern over threat to personal freedoms in the Maldives after news of a young woman in Narifuri, an island north of the Maldives, was sentenced to death by stoning on charges of adultery on January 7, 2019. Despite the Maldives Supreme Court overturning the ruling within a day, many continued to take to social media to debate the religious undertone existing behind the ruling. Ibrahim Ismail, a chairman of Mandhu College in the Maldives,challenged posts from Islamic clerics, arguing the young woman’s sentence was defensible. The tense debate over social media eventually escalated to open threats being made towards Ismail from Islamist groups, and signs of an assailant breaking the glass of his office window.
Women in Zimbabwe gathered on Wednesday to protest the recent allegations of sexual violence by military forces in the country. Police have claimed that there was only one report of rape, though many women’s rights groups have argued otherwise. These allegations, along with the deaths of at least 12 people and ransacking of people’s homes are all part of the government’s violent response to a 3-day shutdown caused by protests regarding rising fuel prices a few weeks ago.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is feeling hopeful with the newly elected president, Felix Tshisekedi. In January 2019, Tshisekedi gave a speech stating that the DRC will not be a country of “division, hate, or tribalism”. The nation post-Kabila is one that exists with deep distrust in the government, perhaps one of Tshisekedi’s most difficult jobs to perform relatively quickly in his new leadership position.
Tshisekedi has already inspired monumental change within the country; this week around 50 rebel recruiters from the Kasai region, out of respect and recognition for Tshisekedi as their new president, made the decision to surrender; authorities estimated nearly 1700 militia fighters in the region.
Since Maduro’s inauguration in Venezuela, the number of people crossing into Columbia to escape food shortages and hyperinflation has dramatically increased. Human rights groups on the border hope that this influx of migrants will draw enough attention to bring necessary support for aid groups. The IRC showed a 21 percent increase in migration to Columbia between late 2018 and January 2019, with over 1000 people per day crossing the border in January.
Early this week, Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela accused Guaido of “violating the constitution and laws”, and alleged that the United States was staging a coup to remove him from a power position. Both actions prompted officials from the UK, Spain, Germany, and France to intervene on Saturday, January 26, threatening Maduro to hold elections within 8 days of their message, or they would be forced to recognize Guaido as the presidential power.
The escalating tensions in Venezuela reached the United Nations, as the UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet’s office released reports stating that “security forces and pro-government armed groups have shot at least 20 people during protests taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday”.
On Tuesday, January 29, Venezuela’s attorney general announced Guaido was under investigation, and would be both banned from the country and subject to frozen bank accounts. The United States has been active in support for Guaido; John Bolton, the US National Security Advisor, tweeted: “Let me reiterate – there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido”. Guaido’s team has made it clear that their future plans are nonviolent; a Guaido-appointed diplomat, Carlos Vecchio, has been meeting with USofficials in the hopes of beginning the process of a legitimate election.
While the United States has been a strong supporter of Guaido, the most notable nations supporting Maduro include Russia, China, Cuba, and Turkey.
Malaysia crowned their 16th king, Sultan Abdullah, on Thursday – about a month after the former king, Sultan Muhammad V suddenly stepped down. Sultan Muhammad V had only held the position for 2 years, and the palace gave no reason for his resignation.
Malaysia has been stripped of hosting the world para swimming championships after their decision to ban Israeli athletes from competing. Malaysia stated that they stand with their decision, on the ‘ground of humanity and compassion for the Palestinian plight.”
At least 21 people have been killed in a double bombing on a Catholic church on Jolo Island. The attack, executed during Sunday mass, has been claimed by the Islamic State. The attack comes just a week after a successful vote for the majority Muslim region to be ruled autonomously – part of a peace deal between the national government and the rebel group ‘Moro Islamic Liberation Front.’ While overall the vote passed in an overwhelming victory, Jolo Island voted not to pass the deal.
Brazil – 65 people are dead and 300 more are missing following the collapse of a dam in southeastern Brazil. The dam burst on January 25th, and residents in the surrounding area had little to no warning. Search and rescue efforts were hampered and 3000 people were forced to evacuate on January 27th when fear of another dam collapsing became evident. On Monday, 2 engineers and 3 employees of the mining company Vale SA were arrested as a result of the disaster.