July 23, 2021
Dear friends, CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers growing wildfires across the United States, persevering protests in Iran, and a devastating flood in China.
After weeks of dueling protests in the wake of Peru’s presidential election, leftist candidate Pedro Castillo was declared the official winner. Keiko Fujimori, Mr. Castillo’s right-wing opponent, finally conceded the race after weeks of spreading claims of election fraud. Still, Ms. Fujimori also encouraged her supporters to peacefully mobilize against what she maintains is an “illegitimate” presidency. Mr. Castillo will be sworn in on July 28.
On Monday, it was announced that Ariel Henry will replace Claude Joseph as Haiti’s leader, following a period of uncertainty after President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination on July 7th. Dr. Henry, a neurosurgeon and politician, was selected as Moise’s successor shortly before the assassination, but Mr. Joseph claimed the position instead. Following Monday’s announcement some Haitian politicians, such as the president of Haiti’s senate, argue that America especially has played too influential a role in the selection of Haiti’s new leader. American officials claim that they simply wish to see a united government fill the power vacuum left by the assassination. Dr. Henry says he will announce his interim government soon and hold elections in September. However, tensions resulting from the assassination have not died out, and protests erupted at President Moise’s funeral on Friday, as some protestors believe the police chief played a key role in the assassination.
Israel’s army and southern Lebanon militants briefly exchanged artillery fire on Tuesday. The shells from both sides landed in open areas resulting in little damage and no casualties. An anonymous Israeli military official asserted the belief that the rockets were fired by Palestinian militants in Lebanon, although no faction in Lebanon has taken responsibility.
After becoming Asia’s new epicenter for Covid-19, Indonesia has begun to see new cases slightly fall this week. President Joao Widodo hinted towards easing up restrictions on Tuesday, citing the slight drop in cases. However, some health and humanitarian officials said the decline may be due to fewer tests being administered to Indonesians. A growing number of people are hesitant to get tested, not wanting to isolate or face the stigma if they test positive. The World Health Organization is urging the country to implement stricter lockdowns to combat infection.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health’s Nicholas Crisp announced that South Africa is aiming to give at least one dose of the vaccine to 35 million people by Christmas. With a population of around 60 million and hardest hit by the third wave, South Africa is racing to get vaccinated. While the country has not laid out a clear plan for meeting this goal, it has stirred further interest in the region. On the same day Pfizer announced that a South African firm will begin to manufacture the vaccine. Starting in 2022, Biovac Institute based in Cape Town will begin to produce Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, with a long-term goal of 100 million doses distributed annually across the continent.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron is dealing with sporadic protesters angered by his newest Covid-19 regulations. Last week, Macron announced sweeping measures across France to fight surges in new infections. This included mandatory vaccination of health workers and a new Covid-19 vaccine certificate or negative PCR test to enter bars, restaurants, cinemas, or any place that welcomes more than 50 people. Protests across Paris, Nantes, Marseille and Montpellier have sprouted. Tear gas has been used by police to disperse demonstrators.
Inmates in a prison in Yangon, the country’s commercial capital, staged a protest on Friday against the junta and terrible Covid-19 outbreaks inside prisons. Shouts of “End the dictatorship” and “Revolution” were heard and filmed from outside the prison walls. There are currently unverified reports that the protests commenced in the women’s ward with the support of some of the prison staff, who had their weapons confiscated by the military earlier that day. Prisoners’ demand for increased healthcare follows the death of prominent political prisoner U Nyan Win on Tuesday after he contracted Covid-19 in prison. Mr. Nyan Win served as the spokesperson to the now-ousted governing party, the National League for Democracy, and as the lawyer for former civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Like most other party officials, Mr. Nyan Win was charged with sedition after the coup d’état, and remained in jail until he was transferred to a hospital on July 11 due to his severe case of Covid. The protests and Mr. Nyan Win’s death reflect the dire state of the pandemic in Myanmar’s poorly managed and overcrowded prisons.
Overwhelming Covid cases and oxygen shortages continue to rise outside prisons as well. In addition to hoarding oxygen, reports have increased of Myanmar’s Military government arresting doctors who refuse to support their regime. In response, many health care workers have been forced underground, further exacerbating the Covid crisis. Although Myanmar’s junta has mostly received widespread international backlash, on Wednesday the head of Russia’s state arms exporter announced they are continuing to provide Myanmar’s military with weapons. Russia’s cooperation with the junta is considered by rights activists as a despicable legitimization of the regime.
Protests continued in Tbilisi this week, demanding Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s resignation and an investigation into an attack on journalists at the July 5th Pride counter-rally. The protesters, mainly media representatives, politicians, and civil activists, claim that the PM holds responsibility for the events and has given right-wing groups “a green light” to act violently. Participating journalists call the protests “an uncompromised fight for freedom,” which capture a broader sentiment of dissatisfaction with the ruling Georgia Dream party’s treatment of the media and democratic backsliding. On Wednesday activists projected an image of TV Pirveli cameraman Lekso Lashkarava, who was beaten severely at the demonstration and passed away days later, onto the walls of the Administration of the Government of Georgia. In response to the protests, Tbilisi mayor Kakha Kaladze accused the journalists of “psychological violence”; this prompted the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, an NGO, to ask the government “to stop discussing laws to restrict freedoms of expression and switch to a ‘working relationship regime.’”