CANVAS Weekly Update – July 23rd, 2021


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.

Conflict Update:

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.

Coronavirus Update:

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.

The United States

Wildfires continue to rage across the American West. Oregon’s Bootleg Fire began with a lightning strike in early July and has grown to be twice the size of New York City; it is now powerful enough to generate its own weather. The Bootleg Fire is just one of 80 large fires burning across 13 US states. Smoke from the wildfires created a thick haze across the country this week, causing unhealthy air quality in the Midwest and Northeast. The record-setting drought and fire season is likely the result of global warming.
As the US continues to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the fate of the Afghans who assisted American military forces remains in question. Many Afghan interpreters, military personnel and their families face potential retribution from the Taliban for their work with American forces. American veterans have played a large role in advocating for their Afghan colleagues. On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to expand the number of special visas available to Afghan allies and to eliminate complications in the application process. However, uncertainty remains as the Senate has yet to vote on the issue. Many Afghans have already been waiting for years to receive their visas. Meanwhile, the Taliban’s advance continues across the country.


The US government has imposed sanctions on Cuba in response to human rights abuses during the recent massive protests on Thursday. The Biden administration has pledged to support the protesters and will “continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban peopl,.” in addition to finding ways to keep internet access open on the island. The Cuban government has attempted to dampen the demonstrations by detaining masses of people, silencing journalists, and running “sham” trials, according to the US government.
The Cuban Foreign minister has refuted these claims and responded to the sanctions angrily, saying that the US had no place to critique the Cuban government when the US has its own record of “daily repression and police brutality.” The Cuban presidenthas since called the media coverage of the protests a “lie”,  claiming that there were “false images” of the protests that painted an unrealistic picture of the demonstrations. The leader also claimed that these protest images glorified violence and encouraged the destruction of property. As government forces have mobilized, the protests have since petered out.
Cuba now has the highest covid rate per capita in the Americas. With nearly 4,000 cases per million people in the last week, Cuba is experiencing a covid outbreak that is 9 times the global average. The healthcare system is struggling, with oxygen and health supplies lacking in covid hot spots, such as Matanzas. So far, only a fifth of the population has been vaccinated.


On Monday, Nicaraguans celebrated the 42nd anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, which overthrew Anastasio Somoza’s dictatorship and led to the establishment of a leftist democratic government.42 years later, however, there is little to celebrate. With his regime resembling Somoza’s more and more day by day, Daniel Ortega is trying to gather popular support as the uncertain November presidential elections come closer. None of the 26 main political prisoners (including 5 presidential candidates) have been freed thus far, disregarding various claims from international organisms like the European Union, the Organization of American States, and most importantly the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
For the first time, this week the Nicaraguan church –a key political actor throughout the country’s history– took action in the turbulent political scenario, encouraging young citizens to partake in the electoral verification process and act as “watchdogs” in an imperiled “democracy.” As if potential electoral fraud was not enough, the Ortega administration has cracked down on critical media under the new Cybercrime law, which can incarcerate (with up to 10 years of prison) journalists for writing pieces that “pose a threat to Nicaragua’s sovereignty.” Gloomy days for civil and political liberties in a country that commemorates its 42 years of longed-for “freedom.”


As investigations of the alleged involvement of Argentine officials in the shipment of anti-riot weapons to Bolivia amid the sociopolitical crisis of November 2019 carry on, the Bolivian government shared a video on Monday showing some of the unused material stored at a police warehouse. In the footage, most boxes shown are labeled as “property of the National Gendarmerie of Buenos Aires, Argentina,” which the Bolivian public prosecutor Claudio Navas Rial deemed as “further evidence” that “strengthens the thesis of foreign intervention, championed by the Argentine and Ecuadorian governments, in the illegitimate ousting of Evo Morales.” The Argentine office of the public prosecutor has also taken action on the matter and is currently investigating the involvement of former President Mauricio Macri and former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich in the infamous shipment.
In other news, Bolivia has eradicated over 3,200 hectares of illegal coca plant cropsthus far in 2021. The countrywide operation has funding of USD$ 15.3 million and around 1750 on-ground police and military personnel at its disposal. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has commended the Bolivian government’s actions on the matter, praising what they deem to be a “very important step forward in the fight against drug trafficking in the region.”


On Monday, Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya visited Washington D.C. to encourage American diplomats to increase pressure on President Lukashenko’s regime. Tikhanovskaya challenged Lukashenko in the Belarusian presidential election last August but was forced to flee the country in the chaos following the election. During her visit, Tikhanovskaya met with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, USAID director Samantha Power and national security advisor Jake Sullivan. They discussed the ongoing repression in Belarus as Lukashenko’s assault on free media and NGOs continues. Tikhanovskaya urged the Biden administration to impose harsher sanctions on Belarus to weaken Lukashenko’s regime, advocating for targeted sanctions on Belarusian oil, wood, steel and potash sectors. However, some experts worry that increasing economic pressure on Lukashenko will put Belarus more firmly under Russian influence without resolving human rights abuses.
In other news, President Lukashenko is on course for his third constitutional referendum in his 27 year presidency. In 1996 and again in 2004, Lukashenko amended the Belarusian constitution to expand executive power and to remove constraints on the presidency. A Constitutional Commission formed in March 2021 has proposed new reforms such as increasing age and residency requirements for presidential candidates, expanding the power of the prime minister and declaring that marriage is “a union between a woman and a man.” Activists fear that the constitutional reforms are a way for Lukashenko to exercise influence over the country even after he leaves office. A new draft of the constitution will be completed by the end of the year and it will be put to a referendum vote in 2022.


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.’”


Central China’s Henan Province was devastated by a historic ‘thousand year’ floodearlier this week. At least 51 people have died, with many still missing. The populated city of Zhenghzhou was hit the hardest, with horrifying scenes of the subway flooding and a dozen people drowning. “During the evening rush hour on Tuesday, hundreds of commuters were trapped in rising water as murky torrents gushed into the tunnel and seeped into carriages.” According to the World Meteorological Organization, the four days of rainfall in Zhengzhou was more than a year’s worth of rainfall the city typically experiences on average. Attributed to global climate change by many scientists, this closely follows devastating floods in Germanythat killed hundreds last week.
China has rejected a World Health Organization (WHO) plan to research the origin of Covid in a second follow-up phase. WHO wants to investigate “alleged laboratory violations of China’s laboratory protocols” by looking at “certain science research institutions” after admitting that the first phase response prematurely ruled out the possibility that covid could have been created in a lab. China’s response was surprised and upset: “We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the Covid-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference.” The US government response was critical, saying that China was acting irresponsibly and dangerously. White House press secretary added that the “phase-two investigation of the virus’s origins is about saving lives in the future.”

Hong Kong:

The former executive editor-in-chief of defunct Apple Daily was arrested by national security police Wednesday morning. Lam Man-chung was charged with allegedly conspiring to collude with foreign powers to endanger national security. Alongside this, Apple Daily’s ex-associate publisher Chan Pui-man and Fung Wai-kong, ex-editor-in-chief of the English news section and editorial writer, had their bails revoked this week.
In other national security news, closing arguments were heard on Tuesday for Tong Ying-Kit’s trial. Lasting 15 days and to be decided by three appointed judges, Ying-Kit’s case was primarily focused over the slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” and whether he intentionally ran into police officers. The verdict will be handed down next week, setting an important precedent for how future national security trials will proceed.
Finally, Human Rights Watch published a letter composed of 72 international organizations and individuals urging that all charges are dropped against Chow Hang-Tung. Chow was one of the primary organizers for the annual Victoria park vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. Banned this year, Chow was arrested and has been in and out of jail since, awaiting a trial.


COVID-19 continues to sweep through Indonesia. The explosion of coronavirus cases in recent weeks has brought the country’s healthcare system to the brink of collapse, with hospitals overcrowded, healthcare workers getting sick and oxygen supplies running out. President Joko Widodo announced that he would extend restrictions this week as Indonesian Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, one of the most important Muslim holidays of the year. Activists worry that harsh restrictions will worsen the situation of Indonesia’s poor, many of whom are already struggling to find food and work to survive. In addition, there is a risk that air pollution from forest fires could exacerbate the COVID-19 crisis as the country enters the dry season.
On Thursday, plans were announced to build the world’s largest solar farm in Indonesia. The floating array of solar panels will be developed by Singapore-based Sunseap Group and will be installed at Batam Island, 20 miles south of Singapore. The solar farm has the potential to offset 1.8 million metric tons of carbon every year and will cost over $2 billion.


Anti-government protests continued this week in Bangkok. Taking a different approach, demonstrators burned mock body bags to represent the casualties from the pandemic and a puppet of Prayut Chan-o-cha. With more than 1,000 people at the protest, N95 masks, medical gloves, and raincoats were distributed to make the gathering more Covid friendly. The protest took a turn for the worse when some members attempted to get past the metal barricades and barbed wire blocking the Democracy Monument. Police responded by using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators. 13 people were arrested and one reporter was injured. While the demonstration was called off at 6pm, over one hundred protestors remained in a standoff with the police till 9pm.


At least five have died this week over the course of eight consecutive nights of protests in the region of Khuzestan as water shortages sweep through the nation. Iran is facing the worst drought in 50 years, and the water crisis has been exacerbated by years of severe natural resource mismanagement. Hydroelectric power generation has also suffered during the drought, leading to sporadic blackouts across Iran. Large crowds gathered in cities across the region as protesters chanted “we want water” and demanded the resignation of local officials. The protests have been met with tear gas and firearms, which security forces use to disperse the crowds. While five have been confirmed dead, Amnesty International reported it has documented 106 deaths.
Amid the protests, mobile internet services had shown significant slowdowns and, in some places, a complete internet shutdown. Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks claimed the shutdowns were meant to stifle protests and limit civil communication. Iran began to restore internet access on Thursday, but NetBlocks reported that only 10% of connectivity has been covered.
Also on Thursday, state TV showed pro-government rallies taking place in dozens of cities, with participants carrying national flags and slogans “Rioting is not protesting”.


A suicide bomber killed at least 30 people in an attack on a crowded Baghdad market on Monday. The Islamic State took credit for the attack, which took place on the eve of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha. It was the deadliest bombing in Baghdad in six months, and health officials fear the death toll will rise as more than 60 were wounded. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has ordered the arrest of the commander of the federal police regiment in charge of security in the market area, and President Barham Salih condemned the attacks in a tweet.
In other news, top U.S. and Iraqi officials are set to release a statement calling for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by the end of the year. The statement reaffirms, however, that U.S. military cooperation is still needed in the intelligence and training fields to support Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State.


Peace-signed and regular security forces of the former regime have been accused of perpetrating a violent attack on the Sortony camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in North Darfur. In the early hours of Saturday, the camp faced an onslaught of artillery shelling, and several houses were burned. At least seventeen people, including children, were killed during the attack. The remaining displaced people fled the area and now live without shelter.  On Tuesday, hundreds protested against the attacks and the government inaction. Although the new governor of North Darfur has promised to increase security after the attack, the General Coordination of the Displaced and Refugee Camps condemned what they claim is the transitional government’s complicity in the violence.
In West Darfur, inter-communal fighting is taking a disproportionally large toll on women, who are at high risk for sexual violence and are largely responsible for their family’s livelihood. The sixty-five thousand displaced since fighting broke out in April are mostly women and children, many of whom suffer from extreme anxiety and depression due to constant stress and uncertainty. In other news, Sudan’s Minister of Health, Dr Omar El Najeeb, appealed for continued adherence to Covid-19 safety measures amid reports of rising cases in Khartoum and red sea states.


Officials have located twenty-year-old Ugandan weightlifter Julius Ssekitoleko a few days after his disappearance from the Olympic training camp in Osaka. Ssekitoleko left a note in his hotel room explaining that he didn’t wish to return to his country and intended to find work in Japan. He traveled over 100 miles away from the training camp before being identified by police. He is set to return to Uganda next week.
Activists previously detained for supporting opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi (also known as Bobi Wine) claim to have experienced a myriad of human rights abuses while in prison. The alleged abuses range from being denied representation to undergoing systematic torture. These claims follow a general increase in human rights abuses in Uganda since current President Yoweri Museveni started facing political challengers. In other news, it has been confirmed that the fake doses of the Covid-19 vaccine administered to over 800 people in Uganda just contained water, not a harmful substance. However, some who received the fraudulent vaccines have since died in the newest wave of infections after assuming their immunity. The doctor and nurses accused of orchestrating the vaccination scheme still await trial.


Zimbabwe is sending its first black swimmer to the Olympics in Tokyo this week. Donata Karai is competing in the 100 backstroke, following in the footsteps of white swimmer Kristin Coventry, the most decorated African Olympian of all time. Historically, African Olympians, especially swimmers, have been white, so sending a black olympian from a 99% black country is significant and exciting. While unlikely to medal in these games, Karai has broken Coventry’s youth records, setting herself up for future global success in the sport.
Zimbabwe has ordered government workers to all receive the vaccine, with pay consequences if they do not comply. However, one of the largest government worker groups is refusing to comply with the required vaccinations. Covid continues to skyrocket in Zimbabwe, with only 1.2 of 14 million Zimbabweans receiving their first shot of the vaccine. In response, the government has increased restrictions on citizens by decongesting public and private sector workspaces by 25%, in addition to previous restrictions implemented for the past month. In total, Zimbabwe has 88,415 confirmed coronavirus infections and 2,747 deaths. Numbers will plateau soon, according to the government, as the vaccination campaign kicks into full gear.