CANVAS Weekly Update – February 12th, 2021


February 12, 2021

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers China’s ban on the BBC, Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in Nicaragua, and the “All Belarus People’s Assembly.”

Conflict Update:

In Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting since the coup on 1 February despite curfews, internet shutdowns and a ban on large gatherings. At least three people were shot during a protest where security forces deployed both live and rubber as well as a water cannon. Leaders of the coup have been sanctioned by the United States. In Haiti, 23 people have been arrested for an alleged coup attempt. President Jovenel Moïse claims his term in office ends in February 2022 while opponents say it ended this past Sunday. Protesters have taken to the streets to demand his resignation. Talks between India and China have led to the removal of troops from the disputed Himalayan border after months of high tension and casualties on both sides. In Madagascar, all political rallies have been banned by police in anticipation of protests organized by the opposition, Miara-manonja. The protests were organized to bring attention to rising unemployment, poverty and Miara-manonja’s request that the security forces deployed outside the house of former president Marc Ravlomananabe removed. In Somalia, 13 members of the security force were killed in a bombing attack after election management negotiations failed. The failed negotiations led to the postponement of the February 8 election. The opposition is refusing to recognize Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as president and are calling for the creation of a council to elect a temporary leader.

Coronavirus Update:

A new program, headed by the WHO and the EU, is going to deploy $60 million worth of Covid-19 vaccines to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. Another program, the UN-led COVAX initiative, is going to be shipping 90 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Africa. Specific vaccines will have to be deployed to the continent as South Africa has to suspend its use of the AstraZeneca vaccine this week due to evidence from a clinical-trial that revealed the vaccine failed to prevent illness derived from the South African variant. That decision led the director of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage countries that have not found cases of the variant to use the AstraZeneca vaccine. In contrast, the WHO is encouraging its use even in countries where the variant is circulating widely.


The United States:

The second impeachment trial against former President Trump for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol is ongoing. Democrats are emphasising the danger he poses to the U.S. democracy, and arguing that the rioters were encouraged by the “following order from their commander-in-chief”.  Meanwhile, a group of break-away Republicans, frustrated by the parties handling of Trump, are in talks to form a new anti-Trump centre-right party based on “principled conservatism”. In New York, Governor Cuomo is receiving backlash following allegations that he and his senior staff concealed the figures of Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes. In foreign policy news, President Biden is yet to call Israel’s Prime Minister, Netanyahu, raising questions about the state of the alliance.



BBC World News has been banned inside of China following the BBC’s report on the persecution of the Uighur minority. In response, UK regulators are banning China Global Television Network’s (CGTN). Meanwhile, the Chinese tech company Huaweiis taking the British bank HSBC to court to gain access to documents relating to the US fraud case against Huawei’s chief financial officer. Indian-Chinese relations are cooling as they agree to pull back troops from the border at Ladakh.

Hong Kong:

A new wave of Covid-19 infections in Hong Kong has ignited a series of racist incidents targeting people of South Asian descent in the Chinese-controlled city state. Racism against South Asians is not a new phenomenon in Hong Kong, where an estimated 92% of the population is ethnic Chinese, but the Coronavirus Pandemic has brought about a new surge of racist incidents. These include comments from a health official who suggested that minorities were spreading the virus. In other news, RTHK, Hong Kong’s public broadcaster, announced this week that programming by the United Kingdom’s BBC would be pulled from public broadcasts. The move came shortly after China’s National Radio and Television Administration banned BBC broadcasts “within Chinese territory,” citing the public broadcaster’s failure to meet broadcasting requirements.



An independent legislator and critic of President Mnangagwa, Temba Mliswa, was arrested today during a press conference for allegedly violating Covid-19 regulations. In other news, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) is drawing attention to widening inequality in the mining sector, resulting from both Covid-19 and unequal access to natural resources. In particular, gender inequality is also exacerbating, with women being segregated and discouraged from participating. Zimbabwe’s mining sector has been in the limelight since the Transparency International Zimbabwe report recently revealed the billions of USD lost via financial leakages. Finally, the leading party, Zanu PF, is supporting proposals to tear down housing developed illegally, including housing cooperatives with links to party figures.



Cuba has been faced with dramatic growth in Covid-19 cases as they have reported over 800 new cases Thursday. Authorities from the provinces with the highest ratesmet virtually with government officials, including President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who asked the leaders multiple times the numbers of cases in their area and what they are doing to prevent the spread. This meeting will hopefully bring more efficient job managing during this pandemic and a decrease in cases. Cuba has presented an initiative to improve resilience to drought by strengthening hydrological monitoring. This is a project that will be worked on with Russia and other UN nations.


Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) launched ground forces drills near the Iraqi border this week, following IRGC-conducted ballistic missile tests in January. Iran has increased its military exercises in recent weeks following the election of Joe Biden as President in the United States. The exercises are seen as an attempt by Iran to flex its influence in the region, as well a method of pressuring the U.S. to suspend sanctions on Iran in line with a renegotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In other news, the Turkish Defence Ministry announced this week that three Turkish soldiers were killed during a new offensive against Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq. Turkey launched operation “Claw-Eagle 2” against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in the northern Iraqi region of Dohuk on Wednesday.


On 8 February, the Parliament of Georgia held its first meeting regarding electoral reform. Attendees included MP’s from Georgia Dream and the opposition, as well as members of international and Georgian civil society outfits, Central Election Commission representatives and key election watchdogs. In the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region, also known as South Ossetia, a Georgian citizen, Erik Drulev, was released from prison after he was illegally detained. The day before Drulev’s release, the international community had condemned the Russian-backed authorities’ sentencing of a different Georgian citizen in the same region.


This week, Iran celebrated the 1979 revolution that has birthed the Islamic Republic. Thousands of both state and private vehicles filled the large square of the Freedom Tower for its 42nd annual celebration. Citizens found safe ways to celebrate the event, decorating their cars, plastering slogans and banners, and reading out loud revolutionary poems over the speakers. In other news, the US has sold the Iranian oil that has been seized during the administration of former President Donald Trump. Iran has the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, and their economy heavily relies on oil revenue. As the U.S. sanctions linger, the country continues to face economic repercussions, which will have a long-term effect on where Iran sits in the oil industry.



An update has been given by the investigation team of the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 crash in January. The preliminary report showed that the jet’s throttles had an “anomaly” that had been repaired several times prior to the incident. The exact cause of the anomaly and the crash is still unclear and updates are expected as the investigation moves forward.


Four pro-democracy activists charged with sedition and lèse majesté were refused bail by the court this week. The charges go all the way back from their attendance at an anti-government rally in September at the Tha Prachan campus of Bangkok’s Thammasat University. The court has set the date to March 15 to review the charges placed on them. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch have expressed their concerns that the Thai authorities have been abusing the lèse majesté law to silence any speech they do not like. Activists continue to fight for their freedom of speech and show the government that they cannot be silenced. In other news, Myanmar’s commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing has opened communication doors with Thailand’s Prime Minister. Myanmar’s commander-in-chief is said to have explained why they had to stage a coup and asked Thailand to help them support democracy. Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-Cha responded by saying that while he will always support democracy, he will not interfere with the country’s internal affairs. The Prime Minister has also expressed that he does not support the anti-Myanmar coup protests in the country.


Nicaragua has approved Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine and is currently in negotiations with Russia for the supplies. The Citizen Observatory in the country has said that the death toll of COVID-19 is approaching over 3,000, as compared to the reported 170 deaths by the country’s Health Ministry. The people of Nicaragua continue to wait for the first vaccine rollout and urge their government to implement stricter measures to control the spread of the virus.


Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko addressed nearly 3,000 party loyalists gathered for the All-Belarus People’s Assembly in the capital city of Minsk, where he denounced six months of protests against him as a foreign-directed “rebellion” and announced plans for constitutional reforms to take place within a year. The opposition derided the Assembly and urged citizens to take to the streets in protest, claiming that the meeting of government loyalists was an attempt to legitimize Lukashenko’s hold on power and stem public discontent. In other news, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have voiced safety concerns over a new Russian-built nuclear power plant in Belarus. The plant began producing electricity in November 2020 before satisfying outstanding safety concerns.


Sudan’s Prime Minister has picked his new cabinet which, because of a peace deal made in November, includes various rebel leaders. Many of the positions have been filled by individuals from Forces for Freedom and Change who led the protests that removed al-Bashir from power. The Finance Minister position has gone to Gibril Ibrahim, a rebel leader, and economist, and Foreign Minister has gone to the last democratically elected Prime Minister’s daughter, Mariam al-Sadiqal-Mahdi. In other news, Sudan prepares for the worst as Ethiopia has revealed its intentions to fill theRenaissance Dam. This decision could cause the death of many Sudanese and the destruction of their homes. The tension between the two nations and Egypt remains constant.


On Tuesday, healthcare workers in one of Bolivia’s regions hardest hit by Covid-19 began a 48-hour strike. The goal of this strike in Santa Cruz is to urge authorities to have a larger crackdown as Covid-19 cases surge. There are many doctors who are participating in the strike but those in emergency and Covid units are not. The hundreds of health care workers who chanted and held signs as they marched in the streets on Tuesday are hopeful this could incite officials to change lockdown rules and make them stricter.