June 2019 — CANVAS

June 28th Weekly Reports

Cuba A Russian warship, the Admiral Gorshkov, docked in Havana, Cuba this week giving foregin policy experts Cold War deja vu. The warship is armed with cruise missiles, air defence systems and other weapons. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday that US plans to deploy missile systems near the Russian border risks a nuclear standoff on a par with the height of the Cold War. The ship is docked in the same port where until last month American cruise ships docked until President Trump banned them from entering Cuban ports. Gabon  Gabonese women rights activists are denouncing Gabon’s President and dictator Ali Bongo Ondimba after he scrapped the ministry responsible for women’s affairs early this week. President Bongo pledged to empower the central African country’s women but activists say this move directly contradicts his promises. Gabonese women do not have full political or economic rights, and in the most recent elections, women won 15 of 120 seats in the National Assembly and 19 of 102 seats in the Senate.  Bolivia Notorious for its brutal prisons, Bolivia announced this week plans to reform and overhaul the prison system. The reform includes plans to build a new 10,000 capacity maximum security prison 40km from the Bolivian capital of La Paz. The prison will replace the current San Pedro maximum security prison, designed to hold 800 inmates but currently holding about 2,800. Bolivia has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America, ahead of neighbors Paraguay and Chile. The new prison is meant to alleviate overcrowding, which has led to deadly rioting in the past.  Nicaragua Four men...

Weekly Report: 20 June 2019

Health workers prepare to bury a coffin containing a victim of the ebola virus on May 16, 2019 in Butembo, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit John Wessels/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Cuba Cuba and the Cuban people are enduring economic turmoil after US sanctions and restrictions continue to take fold. Civilians are being forced to queue for food and endure sharp cuts in transport services. The latest move by President Donald Trump has been to ban American cruise ships from the communist-ruled nation last month, forcing approximately 800,000 tourists to change their travel plans. The Cuban state is also facing an economic crisis after its Southern communist ally, Venezuela, also faces international sanctions and continues to enter into more chaos. Nicaragua According to a report published by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) on June 19, the pro-government forces in Nicaragua committed human rights violations, some amounting to torture, during the suppression of protests against Daniel Ortega that began in April 2018. The abuses detailed in the report include, but are not limited to, “beating captured protestors…raping detainees…acid burns… [and] forced self-incriminating confessions.” The report also calls for governments in North America and Europe to impose targeted sanctions against top Nicaraguan authorities. North Korea State media reported from both China and North Korea that China’s President Xi Jinping will make his first trip to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong Un, marking the first trip by a Chinese president in fourteen years to North Korea. The meeting will take place two days before the G-20 Summit, amid rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula after failed talks between...

Weekly Report: 14 June 2019

Sudanese protesters wave national flags as they chant slogans during a sit-in outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum, April 26, 2019. VOA. Nicaragua Nicaragua’s Congress passed a sweeping amnesty law backed by President Ortega that offers protection to police and military officers who took part in the government’s violent suppression of anti-government protests last year. Nicaraguan lawmakers said they were taking a stand for national unity, but the move has been rebuked by the United Nations’ top human rights official, Michelle Bachele. Those opposed to the law cite that it impedes the ability of domestic and international actors to determine who violated human rights; other opposition groups say that it offers impunity to violent state sponsored criminals. Another objection to the newly passed law is that it stipulates that political opposition members released cannot partake in new protests –– opposition members demur the law: “Free, but still imprisoned.” North Korea Tension and hostility continued to grow between the United States and North Korea this week. The United States, along with 25 other countries, is accusing North Korea of violating United Nations sanctions on the import of refined petroleum via illegal ship-to-ship transfers. A report submitted to the UN sanctions committee by the US calls for the immediate halt of these petroleum transfers and for stricter enforcement of sanctions against North Korea. Meanwhile, North Korean state media called for the United States to change its “hostile policy” towards the North on the eve of the one year anniversary of the US-North Korean Nuclear Summit. This announcement comes at the same time the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition...

George Clooney: How Congress Can Help Stop the Killing in Sudan

George Clooney and John Prendergast are Co-Founders of The Sentry (www.thesentry.org), which follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers and seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system. Traveling throughout the Sudanese region of Darfur and neighboring refugee camps during the mid-2000s, we saw firsthand evidence of the monster the Sudanese regime had built to carry out a genocide. The government organized, armed and deployed militias, known then as the “Janjaweed,” alongside the regular army as the primary instruments of its killing machine. Ethnic cleansing and mass rape were the Janjaweed’s weapons of choice. Fast forward to the present: Massive peaceful protests that erupted throughout Sudan in mid-December led to the removal in April of Sudan’s 30-year dictator, Omar al-Bashir. In May, the protesters’ leadership and the military leaders who assumed power after the coup reached a tentative deal to establish civilian rule in the country, agreeing on a three-year transition to democratic elections and granting power to civilian-controlled institutions. Massive peaceful protests continued during and after the negotiations, as demonstrators kept pushing to dismantle the violent, undemocratic kleptocratic system built up during al-Bashir’s reign. But there was one big problem with the deal. The big losers in such an arrangement would be al-Bashir’s allied generals, who had looted the country with impunity for 30 years, and the Janjaweed militias, who would no longer have free, lawless rein in their areas of deployment. As a result, on June 3, Sudanese security forces spearheaded by the Janjaweed attacked a major protester encampment. Now known by the deceptively anodyne term...

Weekly Report: 10 June 2019

Protesters hold placards as they stage protest against the extradition law in Hong Kong, Sunday, June 9, 2019. (AP Photo) Gabon President Ali Bongo made his first speech on Saturday following his return to Bongo two months ago. In his speech, he called on the country’s Prime Minister to form a new government after last month’s timber smuggling scandal. Bongo had previously fired both his vice president and forestry minister in regards to the scandal, saying that the new government must be “exemplary, honest, and ethical”. Bolivia As the October 2019 general election approaches in Bolivia, the opposition has explored potential failures on their part to avoid the re-election of current President Evo Morales. Valeria Silva, the legislator of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) was interviewed by La Razon newspaper in which she discussed the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) failure to address the political problems and potential for dictatorship in August 2018 while in Bolivia. Silva believes that the threat of dictatorship is the strongest argument the opposition can use against Morales running for another term. Nicaragua The Nicaragua government said Thursday it has released 50 prisoners detained in protests from jail to house arrest as an agreed-upon deadline to release all such prisoners approaches. The government says that the prisoners were being held for crimes against public peace and security. Other releases have been made, but the opposition group, Civic Alliance, pulled out of talks with the Nicaraguan government because not all prisoners had been released. The Nicaraguan state says that it will release all 142 prisoners, but Civic Alliance says the number behind bars could...