July 12, 2019
Weekly Reports July 12th
For the past year, the U.S. has hit Cuba hard with sanctions against its ally Venezuala’s state run oil company. But stopping the flow of Venezuelan oil to Cuba might prove harder than the U.S. expected. According to data compiled by Bloomberg News, tankers are being renamed and vessels are switching off their transponders to sail under the radar of the U.S. government. The vessel Ocean Elegance, an oil tanker that has been delivering Venezuelan crude to Cuba for the past three years, was renamed Oceano after being sanctioned in May.
FIFA, the international body governing football relations, has given Gabon’s football federation until Monday to explain how it is addressing salary errors dating back to 2016 totalling just over $1.35 million. As many as 20 clubs in the West African nation that hosted the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations owe money to a number of important players. African football’s ruling body stated that if the errors are not settled by the end of that month, Gabon’s clubs would be barred from continental competition.
Nicaragua’s political opposition says it is willing to resume dialogue with President Daniel Ortega’s government over resolving the country’s political standoff. The announcement to a letter directed to the Organization of American States by the Civic Alliance opposition group on Friday calls for the return international human rights groups in Nicaragua. In its most recent general assembly, the OAS gave Ortega 75 days to fulfill agreements from previous talks and return to the table. The Civic Alliance left talks May 20 after a man detained for political reasons died behind bars, and amid delays in releasing hundreds of others considered political prisoners. The last group of prisoner releases came June 11.
Kim Jong Un has been formally named head of state of North Korea and commander-in-chief of the military in a new constitution observers said was possibly aimed at preparing for a peace treaty with the United States. The new constitution said that Kim as chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC), a top governing body created in 2016, was “the supreme representative of all the Korean people”, which means head of state, and “commander-in-chief”. The previous constitution simply called Kim “supreme leader” who commands the country’s “overall military force.” The amendment to the constitution is seen as normalizing North Korea from a rogue state to a 21st century denuclearized one.
Hundreds of protesters have marched in Yangon amid outrage over the alleged rape of a two-year-old girl following a viral online campaign in a case that has left Myanmar society reeling. The alleged incident took place in the country’s capital Naypyidaw in May but a public campaign escalated last week after the girl’s father spoke to local media, venting his anger over the lack of progress in the inquiry.
President Donald Trump back away from adding a question about US citizenship to the 2020 census on Thursday, instead asking government agencies to provide records that could determine a head-count of citizens without polling census-takers directly. The turnaround comes after Trump repeatedly said he would continue fighting to insert the question despite a Supreme Court ruling that dealt a blow to the effort last month. The move would have substantial consequences appropriating government funding and congressional redistricting. In another attempted indictment of Trump’s policy, House Democrats again tried to cut US funding supporting the war in Yemen.
A new train connecting Bangkok and the Thai-Cambodian border for the first time since tracks were cut 45 years ago at the end of the US-Vietnam War. The new rail link ends one of the last infrastructural disruptions caused by the Cold War era conflict and will more tightly connect the peacetime economies of tow former staunch adversaries. The trainline is symbolic of recent economic and political developments; Bilateral trade, currently estimated at $6 billion. During the Vietnam War, Thailand hosted US airbases for attacks on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam during America’s Vietnam War.
The Maldives continues to clash with China over its rising debt to the country, which currently stands at $3.4 billion. Parliament Speaker and Former President Mohammed Nasheed has said his country will have to spend 15% of its yearly budget paying back the debt owed to Chinese companies starting in 2020. This comes as India is regaining strategic ground in the region after the exit of the pro-Beijing former President Abdulla Yameen.
The Zimbabwean government formally characterized and charged a high-ranking member of the opposition party with treason for comments attributed to him for threatening to overthrow the government unconstitutionally. Job Shika, who is the vice-chairman of the opposition MDC party, denied the charges. Government critics and state dissidents are frequently targeted by the police and security forces of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnagagwa’s oppositional forces grows by the day as hyper-inflation and resentment towards the government soars. This week, Zimbabwe’s public workers rejected a pay-raise of 21 million dollars from President Mnangagwa citing the increase in funding to be inadequate to deal with hyperinflation.
Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda was convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ntaganda’s charges include mass killings and sexual violence in the Ituri province in the east of the country. The trial has left many Congolese disappointed as the charges did not involve Ntaganda’s killing sprees in North and South Kivu provinces.
On July 2nd, self declared Venezuelan President, Juan Guaido, announced that he would not participate in talks with Maduro, because there is “never” a good time to speak with a “murderous dictator”. However, this past Sunday Guiado announced that discussions between Maduro and the opposition group would be under way in the near future. The meeting, mediated by Norway, is scheduled to occur in Barbados.
The United States Justice Department is investigating whether Deutsche Bank AG violated foreign corruption or anti-money-laundering laws in its work for state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Latheefa Koya, the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), said the agency has filed complaints against 41 individuals and entities to recover money given to them by former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
President Rodrigo Duterte infamous war on drugs has killed thousands of people over the last three years, and has come under fire for its brutality and secrecy from human rights organizations. Senator Ronald dela Rosa, Duterte’s former police chief and top enforcer of the drug war, told reporters in Manila that authorities “never intend” to harm the innocent during anti-narcotics operations. After the killing of two young girls during a raid, dela Rosa quipped “S* happens during operations. S* happens. Honest to goodness, there are some collateral damage,” igniting a firestorm of condemnation. This week, following widespread demand for investigations into a “crimes against humanity” from Amnesty International, the United Nations approved a resolution seeking action into Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs”
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan Ocha named his cabinet after a prolonged rule by decree. In the 36 person cabinet, the junta leader-turned-Prime Minister will also serve as the Minister of Defense, with other seats filled with loyalists and members of the junta government. During the transition into the new cabinet, Prayuth has revoked 66 out of 500 executive orders he had issued, in a move that has been criticized by civil society groups as an attempt to improve his image. The cabinet is expected to be confirmed in the parliament next week, ceasing the rule of the junta nominally.
In other news, a Thai Buddhist monk has finished his ‘peace walk’ around the United States of America, trekking from the West Coast of the country to the East.
When the United States increased tension between Iran by pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and imposing harsher sanctions, Iran clinched to European powers who remained in the deal. But on Thursday, Iranian boats “tried to intercept” a British oil-tanker which is “contrary to international law” according to a BP spokesman. SMH Montrose, a Royal Navy ship later forced to move to move between the Iranian boats to protect it. Two weeks before the BP altercation, the United States claimed Iranian forces had bombed two oil tankers in international waters. An allegation that Britain back but the Iranians disputed, calling the White House “mentally retarted.” This week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani mocked Britain calling it “scared” and “hope.
Last week, Sudan’s civilian opposition made a historic deal with the Transitional Military Council, which ruled the country since it toppled long-time leader Omar al-Bashir, to cement civilian rule in Sudan. Tensions between the TMC and the opposition were high in June after government forces opened fire on demonstrators at a peaceful sit-in outside the army headquarters June 3, killing more than 100 people. Following the government crackdown, the TMC cut off all internet services in Sudan. But this week, after the deal, the TMC lifted its ban, and videos during the tumultuous month of June are finally emerging. Videos revealing the brutality that the Sudanesee people had to endure during the month of June, including during the June 3rd crackdown, giving caution to the optimism that came out of last week’s deal.
On Monday, Russia’s ban on flights to neighboring Georgia came into effect causing both political and economic uncertainty for the Caucasus nation of 3.7 million people. Georgia annually hosts more than one million Russian tourists and will cost the nation around 300 million dollars. The travel blockade, which affects all Russian and Georgian airlines operating between the two countries also included tightening restrictions on wine. The ban was activated in the middle of the high tourist season. The Kremlin also urged Russian tourists visiting the country to return home, claiming that “Russophobic hysteria” made the country dangerous for citizens. The ban was announced in response to anti-Kremlin protests in Tbilisi angering a visit of a Russian legislator, Sergei Gavrilov, who gave an address from the Georgian parliamentary speaker’s chair sparked fear for many Georgians on Russian presence and aggression in the region.
Libya’s UN-backed government said the United Arab Emirates used a US-made F-16 fighter jet in Wednesday’s attack on a migrant detention center that killed at least 53 people.
Fathi Bashaagha, the Interior Minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), made the accusation to CNN on Friday: “We accuse the UAE of bombing the center with an F-16 jet.” When asked if the GNA had any proof that an Emirati jet conducted the attack, the minister said: “The sound of the jet was identified by technicians and pilots who heard it. The destructive power (of the bombs) is very big and is similar to the destructive power (of the bombs dropped) in 2014.” Bombings and social unrest have led to many Libyans fleeing, and this week, 44 people, including four women and three children who were stranded in the Mediterranean. The ship contained citizens from Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Guinea, said they had left Zuwara in Libya early on Saturday in a wooden boat, according to AFP news agency.
A former presidential guard from Togo who faces the death penalty for helping his country’s opposition was deported from Russia to the West African nation, Moscow-based activists have said. Russia has for the past five years denied refugee status to Bozobeyidou Batoma, 42, a former member of the Togolese commando guard force, Russia’s Civic Assistance Committee said. A Russian court ruled last month to deport Batoma back to Togo, which he had escaped after allegedly being imprisoned and tortured and where he faced the threat of extrajudicial execution.
This week marks the first anniversary of the historic Ethiopia – Eritrea peace deal which Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reached last year sparking hope. Conflict began between the two countries sparling a two-year war between that killed an estimated 70,000 people from both sides. While the deal has yet to end all strife in the region, Eritreans and Ethiopians are able to move more freely between the two countries, especially in the disputed area of Badme, allowing families to reconnect. Citizens are also welcoming less military presence along the border. The two neighbors and their respected statesmen are working to fulfill and maintain the goals signed in Asmara last year.
The Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, has declared the extradition bill that provoked mass protests that engulfed the city for weeks, “dead”. Lam criticized the government’s work on the now-suspended bill, but she refrained from withdrawing the bill from the Legislative Council. Lam’s statement came a day after a major protest by tens of thousands of Hongkongers which was organized to attract the attention of mainland Chinese visitors. The pro-Beijing camp has taken one more hit as TVB, a Hong Kong television broadcaster reported to have a pro-Beijing stance, lost multiple advertisers, including Pocari Sweat, after a social media campaign encouraging businesses to pull their ads from TVB. More protests are planned for this weekend.
This week, the Kingdom of eSwatini has banned witchcraft and magic competition. Local organisers had planned to hold the competition in Manzini, the second city of eSwatini, but a statement issued on Tuesday citing that the Witchcraft Act of 1889 defines witchcraft, sorcery or the practice of voodoo as a punishable offense. eSwatini has a population of 1.3 million people, with many following Christianity and indigenous beliefs.
Greece, Athens: On Sunday, Greece held nation-wide elections for the prime minister and parliamentary positions. Center-right New Democracy party won by a landslide over leftist Syriza, which had been in power since 2015, and ND’s leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister, a day after results showed New Democracy gaining 39.85% of the vote in Sunday’s snap election, compared with 31.53% for Syriza, led by outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The election result gave New Democracy an outright majority with 158 seats in the 300-member Greek parliament. The election marks a significant shift for the crisis-hit country that has seen a decade of governments made from fragile coalition made from cloths with ideologically divergent parties united by their stance favor or against Greece’s bailout deals.
Mali: More than two hundred thousand people have or are fleeing their homes in Mali, where deadly attacks on villages are destabilising an already critical situation in the country’s center. More people have fled since the start of the year with almost six times the number that were displaced in the same period last year. Nearly 600 civilians were killed in the first half of 2019.
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina: Thousands of mourners gathered in Bosnia on Thursday to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II. Relatives of the more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb troops were among those attending a ceremony at a memorial site that included the burial of 33 newly identified victims of the July 11-22, 1995 massacre. More than 1,000 are still considered missing from the mass slaughter during the Bosnian civil war.