CANVAS Weekly Update – September 4, 2020


September 4, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers protests in Chile, the U.S., Mongolia and Zimbabwe, border disputes on the Sino-Indian border, election interference in Libya, as well as many other topics!

Coronavirus [UPDATE]

A meta-analysis performed by the World Health Organization found that common corticosteroids can reduce COVID-19 mortality rates by about one-third. The United States has withdrawn US$62 million in funding from the WHO and plans to sit out of the organization’s global vaccine effort in favor of a plan to distribute the vaccine to Americans first. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has reported that daily coronavirus cases are almost on par with those reported in March, which was previously considered the height of the pandemic.

The United States

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine, nearly four million people may die of coronavirus worldwide, with 620,000 perishing in the United States. In the best case scenario, two million people will die of COVID globally, with roughly 300,000 of them Americans. President Trump has suggested that Americans vote twice – once in person and once via mail-in ballot – in order to test the integrity of the election system, an action that is illegal in many states. Reports of a black man’s death by suffocation at the hands of a police officer have surfaced in the United States. Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old with mental health issues, was restrained with a spit hood and put on life support in a hospital after going cold. His death was reported as a drug overdose. The involved officers have been suspended, however Black Lives Matter protests have continued to occur.


Tensions continued to rise along the disputed Sino-Indian border this week as China accused Indian soldiers of making “flagrant provocations” and “trespassing” in Ladakh on two separate occasions. In response, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has banned 118 Chinese apps for being “hostile to national security.” Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people in Inner Mongolia protested a new curriculum under which core subjects are taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. Similar measures to use Mandarin as the language of instruction have been taken in Tibet and Xinjiang as part of a broader initiative to assimilate minorities into the broader Chinese identity.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has launched a voluntary city-wide COVID-19 testing operation as it fights its third wave of infections. While over 600k people have signed up for testing so far, activists and healthcare workers have called for a boycott of the campaign over fears that China will use it to collect DNA from Hong Kong residents. They cite the “direct involvement of mainland Chinese firms” in the testing operation and past accusations that China has collected DNA from Uighurs in re-education camps in Xinjiang province. Beijing denies that DNA will be collected during these COVID-19 tests.


Facebook has committed to increasing its efforts to take down hate speech and misinformation ahead of Myanmar’s election in November. U.N. investigators said that the social media platform played a “key role in spreading hate speech” in stoking violence against members of the Rohingya minority group in 2017. At the same time, the Ministry of Telecommunications blocked access to the website of activist group Justice for Myanmar, saying that it was spreading fake news. The group, which investigates Myanmar’s military and its business interests, says that the charge is false and the government is simply repressing critical voices.


After being arrested on the same day, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition politician Jacob Mgarivhume were both granted bail within hours of each other after spending over a month in prison on charges related to the July 31 anti-government protests. Chin’ono is not allowed to leave Harare or use social media while on bail, and Mgarivhume had to relinquish his passport. Overall, Zimbabweans continue to speak out against the government. Tens of thousands of people have used the tag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter on Twitter, and still more graffiti anti-government messages on the streets of the country.


Early Tuesday morning, a magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook the northern coast of Chile, followed by an aftershock of 6.3 magnitude, resulting in some damage and the evacuation of residents of the northern coast. Chilean truckers ended a 7-day strike on Wednesday, which damaged supply chains and food access across the country. Strikers were pushing the Chilean Congress to fast-track security legislation following an uptake of arson attacks of their vehicles and the death of a 9-year-old girl riding in her father’s truck. Strikers reached a deal with the government after a promise to increase security for truckers in the Araucania province.


On Saturday, Donald Trump announced plans to remove approximately 2,000 American troops from Iraq. Meanwhile, Al-Monitor reported that young Iraqi activists are in the process of registering 15 new political entities with the Independent High Electoral Commission ahead of next year’s elections. As 56% of Iraqis are under 24, the country’s sizeable young population has the potential to change the political landscape and has already been a considerable force in recent pro-reform protest movements.


This week, Libyans lined up at polling locations to elect municipal leaders amidst infighting between Government of National Accord leaders. GNA leaders have also accused the Russia-backed rebel forces of Khalifa Haftar of interfering with elections in eastern Libya, despite being recently ousted from Tripoli. Two Libyan families filed lawsuits in an American court against Haftar, who is an American citizen, claiming he is responsible for the deaths of their family members, including multiple children.


Yesterday, presumed Israeli airstrikes on Syria killed six Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary fighters outside the city of Mayadeen. On Wednesday, Syrian air defenses intercepted missiles fired by an Israeli warplane, and on Monday, airstrikes resulted in the deaths of one civilian, three government soldiers and seven foreign soldiers. The worn-torn country is also experiencing an aggressive outbreak of COVID-19, prompting concerns of “widespread transmission” and its effect on the country’s weak under-resourced and understaffed healthcare system by the UN.


Protesters were met with tear gas and rubber bullets as they gathered in Martyrs’ Square on Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of Greater Lebanon, demanding that the current government step down after their mishandling last month’s deadly blast in Beirut. The protests coincided with French President Emmanual Macron’s visit, during which he put forth a draft proposal for Lebanon’s new government. The proposal focuses on the categories of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuilding from the Beirut port explosion, reforming the government and private sector, and combatting corruption.


Following an agreement between Hamas and Israel, Palestinian fishermen have been allowed to work on the Mediterranian Sea. This stipulation comes in an agreement to contain airstrikes on Gaza by Israeli warplanes, brokered by Qatari diplomatic forces. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh visited Beirut to advise Palestinian factions on how to respond to normalization deals with Israel in an effort of a Palestinian coalition to negotiate their own deals.


German officials have determined that Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent used in a previous attack against an enemy of the Kremlin, late last month. Russia denies any involvement in the poisoning. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says that this poisoning constitutes “use of a banned chemical weapon.” Separately, the United States has deployed personnel and military equipment to Lithuania’s border with Belarus. Despite speculations that this comes in response to Putin’s statement that he was prepared to provide military support to Belarus’ embattled President Lukashenko if necessary, the USA has said that the exercises are “not directed against any neighbor, including Belarus.”

North Korea

Following two typhoons within the last week, North Korean media outlets have adapted reporting styles to resemble that of the international media, offering seemingly unscripted moments and overnight coverage, with reporters reporting directly from the harsh weather conditions. Specialists believe this attempt at modernization aims to keep up with South Korean and international media sources “seeping” into the country. South Korean sources claim that North Korea is waiting for the results of the U.S. election in order to resume nuclear arsenal negotiations with Washington.


According to Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the United Arab Emirates has “betrayed” the Muslim world by normalising relations with Israel. Amnesty International has gathered testimonies from thousands of people arrested in Iran following protests over a price spike in gas and has accused Iran of using torture to extract confessions. Pro-wrestler Navid Afkari faces two death sentences for the murdering of a security guard in Shiraz during peaceful protests in 2018. The US has expressed concern that Afkari’s confessions were extracted by torture and are false.


After months of health officials expressing doubt about Nicaragua’s low coronavirus infection numbers, the hacker group Anonymous gained access to the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 database and posted its contents on Twitter. The former Director of Epidemiology at the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health verified the database and found that it contained extensive evidence of the government underreporting cases. For instance, the government reported 3,413 cases of COVID-19 on August 11, whereas the database showed that they were aware of 10,524 confirmed cases.


The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), the country’s main rebel alliance consisting of nine rebel groups, signed a peace deal with the government on August 30th after 17 years of conflict. According to local sources, the deal allocates seats in the government to the SRF, provides land rights to those displaced by conflict, outlines details of a plan for transitional justice, and builds upon a previous deal to integrate rebel fighters into the national army. Two rebel groups refused to sign the deal.


The Venezuelan government has announced it will free and pardon 110 detained political opponents, many of which caused outrage for their arrests. Though many of Maduro’s most vocal opponents will not be released, many of the released have close ties to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by more than 50 country’s as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. This decision comes amid claims that opposition parties will boycott the upcoming legislative polls. Maduro has called for Venezuelans to volunteer to be injected with the newly-approved Russian COVID-19 vaccine, for which Health Minister Carlos Avarado offered 500 volunteers to Russia.


Experiencing one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Latin America, Bolivians have turned to digging unofficial graves for the dead, as the cost of cemetery spaces has skyrocketed in the past five months. On September 1st, the country reopened borders for international travel, despite keeping lockdown measures in place until September 30th.