CANVAS Weekly Update – January 29, 2021


January 29, 2021

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers Sudan’s conflict on the Ethiopian border, protests in Thailand, vaccine distribution in Bolivia, and US-Iraqi joint military strikes.

Conflict Update:

Across Israel on Sunday police clashed with ultra-Orthodox Jews who violated the coronavirus lockdown by opening up schools and religious seminaries. Also on Sunday, Brazilians took the streets to call for the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of the coronavirus. On Monday, more violent anti-lockdown protests erupted in the Netherlands, resulting in more than a hundred arrests. In Poland, there were protests on Wednesday after the government announced that a near-total ban on abortion had gone into effect. In Greece, peaceful demonstrations were held in the two biggest cities on Thursday against proposed education reforms, defying a weeklong ban on protests due to the coronavirus. On the disputed border between India and China, it was reported that troops clashed and were injured on both sides. India’s army said there had been a “minor” incident that had been “resolved.” Also in India, a protest over farm reforms turned violent and over 200 people were detained.

Coronavirus Update:

Amid a gap in vaccine access between low and high-income countries, Pfizer has announced that it will sell 40 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Covax, the initiative organizing the purchase of vaccines for 92 lower-income countries. In the EU, vaccine rollout has been slow due to vaccine shortages. As a result, the EU is considering blocking the export of millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine to Britain. One of the reasons for the shortage is that AstraZeneca says it is only able to deliver 25% of the 100 million doses that were promised by March, which has caused public tensions between the company and the EU. In Vietnam, local transmission was reported for the first time in two months.


The United States:

President Joe Biden has continued to sign executive actions including, eliminating the use of private prisons, lifting the Muslim ban on immigration, and initiating regulatory actions to combat climate change. Biden and his administration plan to continue making steps towards curbing the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, economic change, health care action (especially with the Affordable Care Act), and immigration. The House Walked Donald Trump’s impeachment bill to the Senate on Monday evening and the official trial will begin on February 9th. In other news, Wall Street is under immense pressure as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over 2%. The online trader forum Robin Hood is also under pressure from the public and lawmakers, such as Rep, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sen. Ted Cruz, as they curb trading.



Lai Xiaomin, the former head of Chinese state-owned asset management company China Huarong Asset Management Company, was executed this week on bribery charges, an unusually severe penalty for a corruption case. Mr. Xiaomin was one among thousands of officials caught up in a long-running anti-graft campaign championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.  In other news, Indian and Chinese soldiers clashed along the disputed Himalayan border this week. Details surrounding the skirmish remain scant, but reports indicate injuries on both sides. Since this summer, both China and India have sought to ease tensions, but an estimated 100,000 troops remain on opposite sides of the border.

Hong Kong:

The Chinese government announced this week that it would no longer recognize the British National Overseas (BNO) passport as a valid travel document or form of identification. The move came just hours after the United Kingdom announced that it would begin taking applications for BNO visas, which could permit an estimated 5.4 million Hong Kong citizens to be eligible to live and work in the United Kingdom for five years and then apply for citizenship. The United Kingdom claims that Beijing’s imposition of new, restrictive national security measures in Hong Kong breaches the terms of the 1997 agreement which saw Hong Kong switch from British to Chinese control.



Prominent journalist and government critic Hopewell Chin’ono, who was accused of publishing falsehoods on Twitter, was granted bail this week. One of the bail conditions being required by the court is that Chin’ono stop using his Twitter account to “incite the holding of mass demonstrations.” Also in Zimbabwe, there has been controversy over remarks made by Nick Mangwana, a spokesman for the government. He suggested that the recent deaths of four cabinet members due to COVID-19 were carried out by “political activists hiding behind medical qualifications,” who he deemed “medical assassins.” Mangwana has since apologized for his comments, but the conspiracy theory continues to spread.  


Amid the Covid-19 uptick in the country, the new South African variant has been detected in Cuba. This comes as the country announces its high hopes for their Sovereign II vaccine as it enters the second round of human trials. In other news, tensions continue to grow between the government and the art community. A group of young Cuban artists gathered in from of the ministry on Wednesday but were pushed away by a large crowd. They said they were violently removed at the crowd was led by the minister himself. The crowd was forced onto a bus and taken to a police station but was later released. It is clear that despite agreeing to negotiations, the government has no intention of making a deal with the artists right now.  


A joint U.S.-Iraqi military strike killed the top ISIS leader in Iraq, Abu Yasir al-Issawi, during an air-and-ground operation in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The strike, which killed ten ISIS fighters in all, came less than a week after ISIS carried out its worst attack on civilians in Iraq in years, a double suicide bombing in Baghdad which killed 32. In other news, a senior Catholic cleric announced this week that Pope Francis would meet top Shia religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during the first ever papal visit to Iraq in March 2021. Louis Sako, the patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, said that he hoped Pope Francis and Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani would sign the document on “human fraternity for world peace,” an interreligious text condemning “extremism” which Pope Francis signed with the leading Sunni scholar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb in 2019.


The 10 opposition parties in Georgia are asking the ruling party, Georgia Dream (GD), to continue negotiations mediated by foreign ambassadors. The opposition parties are calling for repeat elections, the release of ‘political prisoners’ and for reform of the electoral system and election administration. The talks were stalled after the chairperson of GD announced legislation designed to suspend state funding to the opposition. Only four of 60 opposition MP’s are currently in parliament and 51 MP’s have requested that parliament suspend their MP status. In other news, there have been protests in Tbilisi over the government’s decision to extend the COVID-19 restrictions through March.


Since Monday, January 25, 2021, Iran-based Signal users have reported that the messaging service has been shut down. Signal has been a preferred messaging platform by many citizens due to its encrypted communication compared to other counterparts. Last January 14, Signal was ordered to be removed from Iran’s mobile app store. This is not the first time Signal was targeted by Iranian authorities. Given that there are no official grounds to block the application, the messaging service was quietly unblocked in 2017. Today, the two remaining applications that are free to use by Iranians are Instagram and WhatsApp. Activists fear that the Iranian government may have access to their communications given that there has not been a ban for those platforms.



Hundreds of Rohingya at a refugee camp in Aceh are believed to have been trafficked, according to local officials. Local authorities and the UN have not been able to identify the whereabouts of over 200 refugees. Since the refugees arrived in Indonesia, they have been advised to not leave the camp due to the dangers in fleeing. Human rights groups are putting the blame on the Indonesian government for reducing the security at the refugee camp. The director of Amnesty International’s Indonesia office, Usman Hamid, said that the move to reduce security is still a breach of its obligations to protect the refugees even if they are not a signatory to the international convention of refugees.


Pro-democracy protests continue in Thailand despite the coronavirus pandemic. While larger rallies have been rare, protestors have been utilizing guerilla-like protest tactics and smaller-scale events to call changes for Thailand’s lese majeste law. As the political tensions in Thailand rise, scholars believe that the pro-democracy movement will only continue to be stronger from here.




Two weeks ago, Nicaragua’s private television, Channel 12, was warned that its assets will be auctioned off for a tax relief of US$1.4 million dollars. When anti-government protests heightened in 2018, the channel was one of the media outlets that documented the turn of events. There are implications if the channel were to close, according to Tony Lopez, the legal representative of the channel, especially since that Channel 12 is one of the few critical media that openly denounce harassment and persecution.


Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called upon the European Union and the United States this week to be “braver and stronger” in their response to helping end the disputed rule of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Tsikhanouskaya, speaking at an online event with multiple European Union foreign ministers, exhorted the E.U. to speed up approval of a fourth package of sanctions targeting Lukashenko supporters. In other news, lawyers for opposition figure Viktar Babaryka announced this week that the corruption case against Mr. Babaryka would be heard directly by Belarus’s Supreme Court, a move which takes away any chance of lawyers appealing the verdict. Babaryka, a former banker, was once seen as a potential challenger to Alexander Lukashenko before being jailed on corruption charges.


Tension on the Sudan Ethiopia border has continued to increase this week. Ethiopia believes that the conflict was started by an unnamed third party and urges Sudan to work with them to peacefully end the conflict. However, Sudan has recently announced their claim to territories that have been under Ethiopian control for the last 25 years. Sudan has stated that it will not cede any of the recaptured territories and urges its citizens to join in the fight of protecting its borders. The death toll in the Darfur region continues to increase as leaders from the UN and other nations urge the Sudanese government to gain control and bring an end to the conflict. In other news, the Israeli intelligence minister has visited Sudan to discuss maintaining their agreement to normalize ties. This was agreed upon last year in an agreement with the United States when Sudan was taken off its terrorist watch list.


On January 29th, the first 10 health professionals in Bolivia were vaccinated against Covid-19 with the Sputnik V immunization. This occurred in the department of Santa Cruz, as they are the most affected by the pandemic, with the presence of President Luis Arce. They have received 4,400 doses of the vaccine. The delivery of these vaccines into Bolivia has made people hopeful for the future and the fight against Covid-19. In other news, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has enabled 698 radio, television, and digital and print media platforms to broadcast propaganda for the subnational elections in March. There are more than 7.1 million people authorized to vote in these subnational elections on March 7th.