CANVAS Weekly Update – October 8th, 2021


October 8, 2021

Dear Friends,


CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report! In this issue, we cover the latest updates on the U.S.-China diplomatic tensions, updates from the conflict in Afghanistan, growing cases of media freedom restrictions in Belarus, and more.


Conflict Update:

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, international attention is brought to the July walkout of Bosnian Serbs from state institutions, as well as the recent threats from Bosnian Serb groups that they intend to separate the Republika Srpska, a Serb-dominated region, from the rest of the country. This pullout would include the defecting of Bosnian Serb soldiers out of the Bosnian army, as well as the creation of a Republika Srpska army. Another measure threatened was noncompliance with the state taxation system. In the Gaza strip, Palestinians protested a deal made between the US and the United Nation’s agency for Palestinian refugees, claiming the deal violated Palestinian rights and sovereignty. Outside of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees’ , they protsted guidelines that “cancel[led] the rights of return for refugees.” The money given by the US is conditional on vetting aid receivers to make sure they are not receiving military training, part of a guerilla group, or the Palestinian Liberation Army. Another measure includes monitoring school curriculum in Palestine. Some objections by protesters were that the “UNRWA will act as a security agent for the US,” and that “The UN agency has no right to sign a contract at the expense of refugees’ interests and impose restrictions on their freedom of expression under the pretext of neutrality.” This is made more severe by the fact that this deal was penned without consultation of any Palestinian body. Early this year Colombia, due to controversial tax plans, strikes and protest movements grew commonplace, as well as violent police reactions to them. An estimated 60 protestors are dead as a result. Five years ago, the acting government signed a truce with Marxist Guerilla Front FARC. The following president scrapped this deal. Now, there are reports of 1,900 Colombia rebel groups being given safe harbor in Venezuela. Venezuela’s President Maduro has denied such claims, but in the past has expressed sympathy to the leftist rebel groups and openly welcomed some guerilla group leaders.


Coronavirus Update:

On Thursday, October 7, Pfizer and Biotech announced they officially submitted a request to US authorities for emergency  use of their vaccine for children aged 5-11 years old. The request, which was submitted to the Food and Drug Association (FDA), will be reviewed near the end of October. According to White House Covid response coordinator Jeffrey Zients, if the companies’ request is approved, the new vaccine could be ready as early as November. Zients added: “We are ready. We have the supply.” Meanwhile, policymakers around the world have been debating whether to recommend single or double doses of mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s. Officials are concerned about a rare side effect of these vaccines: myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. Although this side effect is rare and only significant after the second dose, several countries like Hong Kong, Norway, and Britain, have chosen to mitigate the risks and recommend a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 and older. Also on Thursday, October 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) shipped Covid aid supplies to North Korea through the Chinese port city Dalian. The WHO had confirmed its support for North Korea in its latest weekly report for South and East Asia. The report also stated the organization will deliver more shipments to North Korea in the coming weeks for “strategic stockpiling and further dispatch.” North Korea, who has restricted cross-border traffic for the past two years and has not reported a single case of COVID-19, has previously declined its vaccine allotment from the UN-backed COVAX distribution programme. Analysts speculate North Korea is uneasy about international monitoring requirements which accompany vaccine donations.



Despite humanitarian aid from the US and China, many Afghans are subject to economic catastrophe. Due to income loss, cash shortages, and rising prices of basic goods, combined with the added stress of potential bank collapses, there is widespread food insecurity and economic issues. The UN has warned that such a collapse would make the already present risk of malnutrition and famine much worse. The World Food Program has released data showing that 90% of Afghan families do not have enough food for daily consumption. Another data set shows 50% claiming that at least once in the last two weeks they have run out of food. The UN is estimating that without substantial change, over 1 million children could possibly face acute malnutrition this year. This economic crisis is a problem caused by the international community’s desire to sanction the Talbian government. The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund was used to pay civil servants and essential workers salaries. Due to the stoppage in the World Bank administered payments, essential services such as health and education systems are collapsing due to employees not being paid. Banks, both foreign and international, due to large cash-outs and lack of new supplies, don’t have the money to cover withdrawals. This leads Afghans to be unable to access the money they do have. While last week the US Treasury authorized electronic transfers with Afghan banks for humanitarian purposes, this money as well can not be withdrawn as banks lack the currency to do so. The Taliban has no ability to print money, Afghan currency is printed by European companies. Because most of the country’s money comes from export income and donor money, if there is no avenue to withdraw money and obtain new currency, more economic problems will arise. The aid the US plans to provide: $45 million, which will not be paper money. The Taliban have been accused of the killings of 13 ethnic Hazaras by Amnesty International, elevating suspicion that the Taliban plan to target ethnic groups such as the Shia. Eleven of those killed worked for the Afghan National Security Forces. The report claims that nine of the killings were extrajudicial executions that took place after surrender, and the other deaths were caused by shooting at the crowd.



Southeast Asian countries are discussing not inviting the head of Myanmar’s junta to a summit later this month, due to a lack of progress on an agreed roadmap to restore peace in the strife-torn country, a regional envoy said on Wednesday. The junta’s inaction on a five-point plan it agreed in April with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was “tantamount to backtracking”, Erywan Yusof, the bloc’s special envoy to Myanmar, told a news conference. Erywan, the second foreign minister of ASEAN chair Brunei, said the bloc was “deep in discussions” about not inviting the junta to participate in a virtual summit on Oct. 26-28, after the issue was raised by Malaysia and some other member countries. The bloc’s effort to engage with Myanmar’s military has been criticized by supporters of democracy, with a committee of ousted Myanmar lawmakers declaring the junta a terrorist group and saying ASEAN’s engagement would give it legitimacy. Still, excluding a leader from the summit would be a big step for ASEAN, which operates under consensus decision-making principles and prefers engagement, rather than confrontation, with member countries. Malaysia’s foreign minister has suggested his government may be willing to hold talks with Myanmar’s opposition National Unity Government, the latest sign that the nations of ASEAN are beginning to tire of the junta’s stonewalling on a Five-Point Consensus agreed in April. Saifuddin Abdullah made the comment in Parliament yesterday, in response to a question from parliamentarian Wong Chen about whether Myanmar might talk to the NUG if the junta continued to bar ASEAN’s special envoy from talking to “all parties” to the conflict – one of the bloc’s five points of consensus. Saifuddin’s remark is the first time that a Southeast Asian government has suggested dealing with it in an official capacity. Indeed, the 10-nation bloc took some heat from its critics after declining to invite the NUG to its special summit on Myanmar in April and has instead put its faith in engagement with the military administration.


The United States:

The Senate has averted a debt crisis that threatened to plunge the US economy after Democrats and Republicans approved a deal to increase the government’s borrowing limit by $480bn, enough to stop the government from defaulting until 3 December. Although this temporary fix prevented disaster just days before the 18 October deadline, it is unable to resolve larger disputes between the two parties. On Thursday, the US House select committee investigating the Capitol attack has issued new subpoenas to allies of Donald Trump as well as the organization affiliated with the “Stop the Steal” rally that deteriorated into the 6 January insurrection. On Wednesday, District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin blocked the state from enforcing the Texas’ near-total abortion ban while litigation over its legality continues. A day after, at least one provider in the state said it had resumed services on Thursday for patients seeking to terminate pregnancies beyond the law’s limit of about six weeks. CIA is creating a high-level unit aimed at sharpening the agency’s focus on China, which shall cut across all of the agency’s mission areas. Amid tense relations between the U.S. and China, a senior CIA official compared it to the agency’s tight focus on Russia during the Cold War and its concentration on counter-terrorism following the 9/11 attacks. In other news, the U.S. Supreme Court justices questioned why the U.S. government will not let a suspected high-ranking al Qaeda figure held at the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba testify about his torture at the hands of the CIA.



Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, artist whose performances and hunger strikes have inspired a pro-democracy artists’ movement in Cuba, is on a hunger strike again to bring into attention the incarceration of hundreds of protestors from July 11. He is currently imprisoned in Guanajay on the charges of  assault, contempt of the authorities and resisting police. His family and peers have been kept in the dark regarding his condition according to a Facebook post made by his partner Claudia Genlui, who posted on the platform  about his decision to go on hunger strike last week. After this announcement, two other activists – Art historian Carolina Barrero and poet Afrika Reina started a voluntary fast. Tania Bruguera, another prominent activist, used the hashtag #ImmoralBiennial to draw attention to the island’s largest visual arts event. She has urged visitors to boycott the 2021 show and says she leaves the decision of boycott “up to their conscience” for Cuban locals. Earlier Bruguera had negotiated the release of 25 other imprisoned activists in exchange for her leaving the country. The regime has agreed to release some of the detainees, such as Hamlet Lavastida, who was forcibly exiled to Poland with his partner writer Katherine Bisquet, along with other younger protestors. Tania’s sister Deborah Bruguera mentioned that she was escorted to the airport by a dozen agents to ensure she left the country. Cuba plans to conduct annual military exercises on Nov. 18-19, leading up to a day of civilian defence preparedness on Nov. 20. The date is clashing with Nov. 20 demonstrations on human rights around the country called by a Facebook group named Archipelago. This conduct of military exercise just before the protests is with the intention to further militarize the country for 20N said Yunior Garcia, administrator of Archipelago and leader of the planned protests. Archipelago has requested permission for marches in various cities on Nov. 20, to which the government has yet to respond. Meanwhile, Pharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma has shared news that Nicaragua has authorised two Cuban-made coronavirus vaccines to be used in the Central American nation.



Vice President Rosario Murillo announced on Tuesday that the Nicaragua government would receive seven million doses of the Cuban coronavirus vaccine.  Murillo explained that the vaccines will be used to inoculate children from ages two-through-seventeen.  Information related to COVID-19 deaths is tightly controlled by the government. The government reports that the country has only had 891 COVID-19 related deaths, however civic groups estimate that there have been around 5,551 deaths. It is not clear if Cuba donated or sold the vaccines to Nicaragua. The executive producer and series creator of the popular American teen drama, “Riverdale” made a plea for the release of his father who was detained as a political prisoner. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said that his 77-year-old father was the former Nicaraguan foreign minister and has been sitting in Nicaragua’s notorious “Nuevo Chipote” prison. Aguirre-Sacasa said that his father was arrested as him and his wife (Aguirre-Sacasa’s mother) drove to Costa Rica to get on a flight to the United States for hip replacement surgery however they were turned away at the border. On the way back home Aguirre-Sacasa’s father was arrested. Even with the severity of his father’s situation, Aguirre-Sacasa wants to use this opportunity to bring attention to the atrocities committed by President Ortega and his administration. Nicaragua activists working with indigenous community reported that one person was shot dead and three are missing after an attack on indigenous miners on Wednesday. Amaru Ruiz, the director of the Del Río Foundation said that the attack happened on the Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast and suggested it was an attack by settlers invading on indigenous Mayangna land. The protected land has been hit by illegal mining and logging even though it has the status of conserved area. This is one of several attacks that have resulted in the deaths of dozens of Miskito and Mayangna people. Activists report that the President Ortega and his administration have not taken any action to address the issue.



The Civic Committee for Santa Cruz reiterated that it will proceed with a national strike against the government on October 11. The committee is formed out of different civic representatives, opposition politicians, and activists, including: the National Committee in Defense of Democracy (Conade), the governor of Santa Cruz, the legislators of the Citizen Community (CC) and former president Jeanine Añez’s daughter, Carolina Ribera. Among other demands, the  committee is calling for the government to stop alleged political persecution and human rights violations conducted by the Judicial Branch and Prosecutor’s Office. They also demanded the government free its political prisoners, including former president Jeanine Añez. Additionally, the committee is opposed to the approval of a recent bill for the legitimization of illicit profits.  In response to the announcement, the Ministry of Labor announced on Thursday, October 7 that those who participate in the strike would face economic and administrative sanctions. On why this is the case, according to director general of labor, Arturo Alessandri, absence from work on Monday would constitute an “unjustified absence.”



After the Belarusian security forces shot dead Jewish dissident Andrei Zeltzer last week, hundreds of opponents of the authoritarian regime have been arrested in recent days. Andrei Zeltzer was a 31-year-old programmer who opposed the Lukashenko regime. He was shot during a raid at his home in Minsk Tuesday. Protests come after a state television channel called STV delivered a critique of Zeltzer that echoed antisemitic criticism often applied to Jews in the Soviet Union, to which Belarus belonged. Many of Belarus’s Jews, especially among the younger generations, are displeased by the lack of democratic representation and an independent judiciary in the country. A new criminal probe has been launched against independent news website, whereby an unspecified number of staff members are suspected of jointly inciting social hatred or discord, the Investigative Committee of Belarus said on October 7. If charged and convicted, the suspects would face up to 12 years in prison. This incident adds to the continuing crackdown on independent media and freedom of speech. Komsomolskaya Pravda, a popular Russian newspaper has shut down its branch in Belarus after one of its local staff was arrested last week in the wake of a shootout that left an opposition supporter and a security officer dead. On Monday, Belarus parliament passed a legislation allowing the country to refuse to take back migrants from the EU. With that Belarus is suspending the 2020 readmission deal with the EU. This could worsen tensions on the borders with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.  Shots were fired at the Polish troops by Belarusian forces amid migration pressure. Officials stated that no one was hurt and the shots are assumed to be blank ammunition. On Tuesday, Lithuanian MEP Andrius Kubilius, a former prime minister, told the house in Strasbourg that “Lukashenko must be taken to the International Court of Justice.”  His position was supported by German Green MEP Sergey Lagodinsky. Members of the European Parliament are poised to increase their pressure for the international prosecution of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on charges of involvement in mass torture and repressions, this demand is likely to make it into a European Parliament resolution to be voted through the full house this Thursday.



Georgia’s ruling party, the Georgian Dream party, won with a significant lead in a municipal election, winning 46.7% of votes to 30.7% for the United National Movement (UNM). The UNM was founded by former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who was arrested the day before the elections after he had returned from exile to support the opposition. In the capital Tbilisi, incumbent mayor Kakha Kaladze won 45% of the vote, while the chairman of the opposition UNM, Nika Melia, received 34%. As no candidate won more than 50%, the city will hold a second round on Oct. 30. Melia was jailed for three months earlier this year on charges of fomenting violence, which he rejected as politically motivated. His release in May was part of an EU-brokered agreement aimed at resolving Georgia’s political crisis. Saakashvili’s incarceration has sparked international concern and looks set to deepen domestic divides within Georgian society as the country braces for a series of second-round run-off votes in major cities including Tbilisi. The former president remains defiant and has called on supporters to mobilize ahead of coming run-off ballots, while the authorities have rejected calls for his release.



Rights campaigner and journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin and labour activist Wang Jianbing who were said to have disappeared in September are confirmed to be detained by Guangzhou police. However, Guangzhou police refused to disclose what charges high-profile women’s rights campaigner and freelance journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin and labour activist Wang Jianbing were facing, or where they were being held. In their first talks on China for a full year, leaders of the European Union’s 27 member states discussed the need to “rebalance” the bloc’s relationship with Beijing in their first talks on china this year. The talk revolved around issues such as climate change, an investment deal struck in December that “remains de facto frozen”. The Chinese foreign ministry blamed freedom of navigation operations and demanded answers on US nuclear submarine accident in South China Sea amid warnings by analysts regarding Complex underwater terrain and ongoing nuclear submarine arms race. China along with Russia has also asked the UN to check biological warfare strength of US and allies in a joint statement. Regarding Taiwan’s position, US President Joe Biden mentioned to have spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping after Beijing sent a record number of military aircraft into the self-ruled island’s air defence zone (ADIZ). Officials from Taiwan said ties with China are at their worst in 40 years. President Tsai Ing-wen said that although Taiwan wants to prevent military conflict, it will “spare no effort” to defend itself. Tsai said Taiwan was seeking to strengthen its ties with the United States, Australia, India and Japan – the so-called Quad pact – and Asean nations.


Hong Kong:

Hong Kong is at a new start for development under a national security law imposed last year, leader Carrie Lam said on Wednesday as she unveiled plans for tackling a long-standing housing shortage in the Chinese-ruled city. Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing have long blamed unaffordable housing in the former British colony for deep-rooted resentment that they say helped fuel anti-government protests in 2019. At the center of plans announced by Lam in her last policy address in this term of office is a Northern Metropolis on the border with the mainland’s technology hub of Shenzhen, covering 300 square kilometers. It will ultimately have some 926,000 homes – more than half to be newly built – for some 2.5 million people. Hong Kong authorities on Thursday said they have made their largest smuggling bust, seizing goods including endangered species worth an estimated $26.9 million. The government said the smuggling ring operated using speedboats and that four trucks were also impounded in the raid. It said a 34-year-old man was arrested in the operation that began in June and more details were set to be released. A statement said the customs department and the marine police small boat division descended on the smugglers who were operating in the city’s New Territories close to mainland China on Sept. 23.



The recent Pandora Papers leak has exposed two of Indonesia’s coordinating ministersThe papers, which involve more than 117 countries, revealed that the ministers had established offshore shell companies in tax havens through a financial service company called Trident Trust. The ministers in question include coordinating maritime affairs and investment minister Luhut Pandjaitan and coordinating economic affairs minister Airlangga Hartarto. In other news, this week, President Joko Widodo approved a request to grant amnesty to Saiful Mahdi, a lecturer at Syiah Kuala University in Aceh. Mahdi was imprisoned last month for defamation under the notoriously controversial Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law. Mahdi’s release is thanks to the Advocacy Coalition for Saiful Mahdi, which is composed of various non-governmental groups such as: the Darussalam Alliance for  Academic Freedom (ADuKA), Amnesty International Indonesia, Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR), Indonesia, and the Constitutional and Administrative Law Society (CALS). In a public statement, the Advocacy Coalition has also expressed thanks to coordinating politics, law, and security minister Mahfud MD, who was allegedly key to Mahdi’s amnesty.



Police in Thailand said Thursday they are seeking four suspects in connection with the shooting of a policeman in the head during a violent street protest in Bangkok. The Wednesday night incident, in which the policeman was badly injured, was a major escalation in a series of wild melees that began several months ago between police and militant anti-government protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha. It was the first time a policeman has been shot. The Din Daeng neighborhood has become a battleground. They burn tires and throw fireworks, among other objects, at the police, who respond with tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets. Both sides have suffered injuries. The protests are an offshoot of a pro-democracy movement that began in early 2020 against Prayuth’s government, which it says is undemocratic, and the underlying political system, particularly a military-imposed constitution, that it considers unfair. Thailand will increase the visitor tax much higher than previously anticipated beginning in January 2022. Initially, a fee of 300 baht (AU$12.20) per arriving tourist was approved. The idea has been reintroduced, and the amount of money the government intended to charge visitors has been increased to 500 baht (AU$20.32). Based on the 10 million tourists expected to visit Thailand in 2022, the government will earn AU$200 million. Officials stated that the fund would be used to develop and maintain tourism destinations throughout the country however, the tax will effectively drive out backpacker and low economic value tourism, resulting in fewer tourists who spend more money.



On Thursday, video evidence broadcast on the Iran News Network showed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps intercepting U.S. speedboats in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy unit that is responsible for this maritime area denied the event ever took place. It appears that the confrontation was an attempt by Iran to push back against U.S. interference, with the video showing a speed chase, with Iranian forces saying “Let’s get closer and give them a warning.” Tensions between the two nations have been aggravated due to the international pressure of the Iran Nuclear Deal, which remains to be settled. Reports of Iran opposition groups and allies using drones to carry out airstrikes confirmed a statement by Israeli PM Naftali Bennet that claimed Iran has used the drone in attacks against Saudi Arabia and the US, suggesting that Iran planned to rule “the skies of the Middle East with this lethal force.” This report is confirmed only by an exiled opposition group member of The Quds Force of the elite Revolutionary Guards. The source claims that there are eight facilities in Iran to assemble drones, and provided images of such facilities that were unable to be verified. To produce them, Iran has had to smuggle engines and electric components from China, and materials from Turkey and South Korea. The source also claims that there is now a UAV Command unit of the Aerospace force. Other claims include that the country has brought members of pro-Iran militias into the country in order to train them in the use of drones.  particularly in Syria, where Iran is invested in supporting president Assad, there are claims that Iran has used drones to attack Syrian opposition.



For the first time, Iraqi citizens will vote for candidates rather than parties. Reportedly this measure was implemented to gain support for the state in a country where youth-led protesting is becoming more commonplace.The decision to hold this early election, originally scheduled for 2022, is a result of the widespread protests in 2019 that demanded punishment for corruption and poor services. In the upcoming elections taking place this Sunday, candidates will be able to run without a party affiliation. Over 3,200 of those seeking offices claim to be “free of affiliations with the powerful blocs in parliament,” but many claim this move is just for show. Some candidates who claim independent status have had strong partisan ties in the past. Iraq announced plans to increase its production of crude oil by 60% in the next six years. In accordance with such plans, the country is reportedly investing in infrastructure to support such increases in exports. One of these measures is an offshore pipeline. The country has been in talks with oil giant Chevron to create four new “exploration blocks” in southern Iraq, and expects to sign a deal with them.



On October 5th,  Sudan’s General Intelligence Service reported that four suspected members of ISIS were killed in a raid inside a residential building in the capital of Khartoum. The raid happened in the same area where last week five members of the General Intelligence Service were killed after going after a reported “cell linked to the Islamic States group”; additionally, on Sunday eight “foreign elements” were arrested in the same district. Witnesses said that they watched the Intelligence Service and the suspected terrorist group exchange gunfire. In total three soldiers were injured; four suspected members were killed, and four members were arrested. Attacks by terrorist groups in Sudan are rare however, Sudan does have a complicated relationship with terrorism. From 1992-1996, the country was home to former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Last December Sudan was removed from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism. The removal came after Sudan promised to normalize relations with Israel. In a statement to the UN on Thursday, the Human Rights Council asked the UN member states should continue to scrutinize the activities in Sudan. The HRC stated that the transitional efforts by the government have started off strong (positive actions include ratifying key international agreements) but the state still needs to be watched by outside observers. The statement pointed to the increasing violence in Darfur, including mass displacement and civilian casualties, the way security forces avoid investigations by refusing to provide evidence, and unlawful killings of protesters. Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and other leadership members of ruling coalition were briefed on the dispute between the military and the crisis in eastern Sudan. Ethnic tensions and violence in the East, such as Darfur, have been an issue of concern for the ruling coalition who are looking to expand their base supporters. The Prime Minister wants to include more revolutionary forces including members from the political parties of Justice and Equality Movement and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi. Now the military branch of the government has suspended meetings with the civilian government.



The Telecom firm MTN Uganda IPO is predicted to double what Uganda’s capital market has raised since its inception. Uganda’s Security Exchange stated that it raised $623 million USD since its inception in 1998 and MTN Uganda said that it had already had its approval to list 20% of its shareholding. The Telecom firm MTN Uganda IPO is predicted to double what Uganda’s capital market has raised since its inception. Uganda’s security exchange stated that it raised $623 million USD since its inception in 1998 and MTN Uganda said that it had already had its approval to list 20% of its shareholding. This follows an requisite by the Capital Markets Authority for MTN to sell 20% of its shares with the public; currently, MTN Group owns 96 percent of MTN Uganda. A request by foreign envoys to reopen international schools before the end of the year was rejected by the Education Ministry due to the concerns of COVID-19. Education Minister Janet Museveni justified the decision by saying, “most learners in international schools are day scholars and would easily transmit infections.” This leaves 15 million school students at home since the government shut down schools on the sixth of June. President Yoweri Museveni has allowed religious and social activities, such as weddings and funerals, to resume.



The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Finance Minister began an investigation into Innscor and other companies accused of using illegal exchange rates. Innscor is a manufacturer of consumer goods and owns many popular fast-food outlets.  On Wednesday a story broke that Innscors leading chains were charging customers up to $200 in local currency for products worth one US dollar. This rate is $115 above the Reserve Bank’s official rate of one US dollar to $85. Attention to the illegal exchange rate was exposed as the story began circulating on social media. A spokesperson for the Reserve Bank made a statement of gratitude to the public for exposing the truth, he said, “Perpetrators shall be brought to book. Thank you, Zimbabwe for exposing the rot.” By the end of the year, Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate could end at 35-53 percent. This was higher than the 25%-35% the central bank had predicted as the local currency dropped on the black market. The Zimbabwe dollar was weakened on the black market from 130 to one US dollar to 170 for electronic transfers. A majority of the economy of Zimbabwe relies on the black-market rare currency even though the central bank continues to insist that the economy can generate a sufficient amount of cash to meet demand.  Politicians have been closely monitoring the inflation rate to avoid a currency collapse and hyperinflation.