April 5, 2019
Migrants are held for processing under the Paso del Norte Bridge in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Images
Cuba’s foreign exchange revenues are experiencing a steady decline as unrest continues in Venezuela and Algeria. Cuba’s relationship with Venezuela has slowly declined since 2014, and to compensate for this the country began importing oil from Russia and Algeria in 2017. Analysts believe that the political crisis in Algeria will be a threat to Cuba.
Dozens of Venezuelan migrants fear deportation from Bolivia, a country that still supports Venezuelan leader, Nicolas Maduro. Last month, Bolivian police arrested 14 Venezuelan protest leaders, protesters, and human rights groups who had previously held anti-Maduro protests in front of the Cuban embassy. Amnesty International director of the Americas, Erika Guevara Rosas, released a statement calling the Bolivian government to, “stop prosecuting and arbitrarily expelling Venezuelan refugees who need international protection”.
Four people have been injured, and ten detained following a protest in Managua on Saturday calling for the release of political prisoners. The injuries came from a gunman, who the government describes as a victim, opening fire on the crowd. This conflict between the government and protesters came just one day after President Ortega promised to restore press and protest freedoms. Ortega also reiterated his promise to work with the International Red Cross in order to release all political prisoners. Despite these promises, opposition forces remain hesitant to believe that Ortega will follow through on them, especially after the violence and suppression at Saturday’s protest.
Last month there was a break-in at the North Korean embassy in Spain, an event that North Korea is currently calling a “grave terrorist attack”. The government released its first official comment, stating that they are demanding an investigation as well as monitoring rumors that the FBI played a role in the attack. At this point, two international arrest warrants have been issued for main suspects.
A nighttime curfew has been imposed in five towns within the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Officials say that the curfew will be in effect from 9pm to 5am for two months, though the time frame could be expanded. A regional minister for border affairs and security signed the curfew into effect, hoping that it would stop some of the ongoing conflict between rebels and military in the state. The measure comes after months of attacks between the groups, causing property destruction and a number of deaths.
The UN has appointed an American lawyer to head their investigation into human rights abuses against Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar. The ‘Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar’ was initially established in September 2018 by the Human Rights Council, and was welcomed by the General Assembly in December. The investigation will look into the crimes and violations of international law committed by military and government in Myanmar since 2011.
This Sunday, the Trump administration reignited their threat to shut down the southern border with Mexico. This comes one day after President Trump cut aid to Central American countries that he has accused of deliberately sending migrants to the United States. Trump said there was a “good likelihood” he would close the border as early as this week if Mexico did not attempt to stop unauthorized immigrants from entering the United States. White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said, “Faced with those limitations, the president will do everything he can. If closing the ports of entry means that, that’s exactly what he intends to do”.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered that electricity be shut off in his critics’ homes after they claimed earlier this week that the prime minister had orchestrated blackouts to create support for his controversial dam project. Over the weekend, an environmental NGO suggested that the government had been restricting power flow in the Koh Kong province in order to justify building the dam. The project has been shelved since 2015 when environmental concerns shut it down.
Following Trump’s response to the growing numbers of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border, there exists a growing fear that there is a lack of proper care being provided for migrants. Relief organizations are concerned as they struggle to feed and house migrants, and have even warned that a public health crisis could be on the horizon if this is not addressed. Disturbing images were released this week at the western end of the Texas border with Mexico, showing migrants placed on the ground under a bridge for several days, subject to hot days and frigid nights.
The Maldives’ former president Abdulla Yameen has been released from prison on a court order, with the court saying there is not enough reason to hold him for more than a month. Yameen was initially arrested in February on charges of money laundering. His release comes just before the country’s parliamentary elections, which will take place on Saturday. Corruption has been a very popular talking point among all candidates fighting for the available 87 seats.
The UNHCR is directly involved with a humanitarian team ensuring that the Zimbabwe government provides aid and protection following the deadly Cyclone Idai. It is estimated that around 20,000 refugees in Zimbabwe have been affected, while 90,000 remain displaced, 200 dead, and 300 missing.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, has just concluded a 10-day visit to Cambodia, finishing with a very bleak, nearly 30-page report on the situation in the country. This report will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in June. Experts think that the report will have little effect on UN policy directives to Laos, though it may change the way NGOs and aid organizations interact with the country.
The Ebola crisis in the DRC continues to worsen, as on March 29 there was a recorded 15 new confirmed cases of Ebola, the largest one-day rise since the outbreak was announced in August 2018. While health workers continue to work to fight against the epidemic, there remains a deep mistrust in first responders as militia violence continues to effect health zones.
Internal emails were released this week by a human rights organization, Justice First, showing Home Office officials attempting to persuade their Foreign Office colleagues to say that it is safe for people to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The emails also lead to uncovered information of people being deported from the UK to the DRC, and once returned suffering through imprisonment, torture, and have even disappeared. The director of Detention Action, a nonprofit based in England, stated, “These emails show a government desperate to ignore repeated and credible allegations of victimization of UK returnees to the DRC.”
Thousands of Venezuelans broke barriers along the Colombian border and stormed into the country on Tuesday. Maduro’s regime has had two bridges blocked by trucks and shipping containers since February in order to keep U.S. aid out. Since then, Venezuelans have had to swim across the river separating the countries to get food, medicine, and work. With high amounts of rainfall flooding the river over the past few days, Venezuelans were forced to break down the barriers to get out. The head of Colombia’s migration agency has said in response that Maduro will be held responsible for any problems or harm to those escaping.
This week, Nicolas Maduro announced a 30-day plan to ration electricity following nationwide power cuts that have sparked widespread protest. The Red Cross (IFRC) has said they will begin to distribute aid within the next two weeks, helping an estimated 650,000 suffering from food and medicine shortages.
This week, opposition leader Juan Guaido was completely stripped of parliamentary immunity, a move that could eventually lead to Guaido’s arrest; this comes after Guaido publicly acknowledged that there cannot be a successful change of government without support from the armed forces. Guaido has vowed to continue to fight Maduro’s government, and is backed by 50 countries who recognize him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Guaido called his stripping of parliamentary immunity a “cowardly” attempt to suppress an uprising. Guaido stated, “If we weren’t so close to removing Maduro, the regime wouldn’t be so desperate”.
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak appeared in court on Wednesday over accusations of corruption related to the 1MDB financial scandal, from which nearly $5 billion was stolen by Najib and Malaysian financer Jho Low. Najib reportedly stole as much as $681 billion from the sovereign wealth fund, which was supposed to boost Malaysia’s economy. Officials also said on Wednesday that they would sell a superyacht bought by Jho Low with money stolen from the 1MDB fund. The trial of the of Najib has long been delayed and Jho Low remains at large, with both still claiming no wrongdoing. Analysts say that Najib’s best bet for avoiding jail will be postponing his trial until 2023 and hoping that his allies return to power then.
Rights groups condemned police response to 14 farmers in what they consider a “massacre”, stating that the men were “farmers asserting their rights to land”. Authorities stated that the operation was a direct response to rebel attacks in Negros, and have defended their reaction by stating that the men shot at officers first. Rights and peasant groups have come forward, saying the men involved were completely defenseless, and are being portrayed as communist rebels when really, they were just asserting their rights to their land. Many are using this incident as another example of President Duterte’s harsh reaction to those critical of his government. The nation’s rights body announced they will investigate the incident.
Thailand’s election took place over a week ago, but the official election results still have yet to be released – and won’t be until May 9th. On Thursday, the Election Commission released a final vote count showing that the pro-military party had won the popular vote. However, a number of accusations of voting irregularities and interference by the pro-military party has postponed the release of the official results. With an initial reported turnout of 65% seeming too low and rising to 75% after the final number were released, many opposition members are questioning the legitimacy of the results, and calling for the Election Commission to be dismissed. The new government will not be formed until official results are released in May, giving the EC the opportunity to rerun the votes in certain areas, as well as investigate calls of election law violations.
The closely followed trial of Doan Thi Huong has finally come to a close this week. Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese women who was a suspect in the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, plead guilty to a lesser charge in a Malaysian court, and her lawyer has stated she could be freed as early as next month. The judge told Huong she was “very, very lucky”, as the original charge of murder could have resulted in the death penalty.
This week, Iran continues to cope with the flooding emergency, which has left at least 62 dead and the death toll continues to rise according to the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization. Funds from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund will go directly to families who have lost entire homes and livelihoods beyond foreseeable repair.
Algeria – Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika has announced that he will officially step down before his mandate expires on April 28, after having been in power for a total of 20 years. Protests were widespread in the country, lasting for two months, and famously involved a large number of young people and women. They have protested not only Bouteflika but the entire political system of Algeria. (BBC)