July 22, 2022
CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!
In this issue, we cover the latest updates on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Zimbabwe’s political and economic instability, and numerous countries’ battles against the effects of the global climate crisis.
Over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired his top prosecutor, intelligence chief, and other senior officials, allegedly for working against Ukraine. Zelenskyy has said there were an “array of crimes” that hurt Ukraine’s national security, and that there were links between Ukrainian security forces and Russian special services that raised questions about leadership within the security forces and other government offices. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated that Russia intends to maintain control over broader areas beyond eastern Ukraine, including the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south, and cites Western-supplied, long-range weapons currently being used by the Ukrainians against the Russian offensive in the Donbas as the reason for this updated goal. Kherson in particular is a strategic site of ship-building at the confluence of the Dnieper River and the Black Sea, and is located just north of the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Panama has been experiencing three weeks of continuous protests over high fuel and food costs. These protests have started to cause shortages of some food products, fuel, and medicine due to blockades of major roadways, including the Pan-American Highway. Road closures as a result of the protests have delayed tankers carrying gas to run power plants, which has led the national electric company to ration electricity in Darien province, affecting about 7,000 families. Panama’s main wholesale market that supplies supermarkets and individuals is struggling to stock fresh produce, most of which comes from Chiriquí province through the Pan-American Highway. As of Wednesday, there have been some reports of the situation improving, with protesters clearing some roadblocks of the highway and allowing trucks carrying food to get to the capital.
Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected by Sri Lankan lawmakers Wednesday to be the new president. The choice has prompted outrage from the public, triggering more protests, since Wickremesinghe, as the former prime minister, is deemed by many to be too close to the former president Rajapaksa, who has fled the country. Wickremesinghe has been acting president since Rajapaksa’s exit, and was finance minister in his government. Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency on Monday in his role as acting president that gave him broad powers to take actions to preserve public security and order, including granting him the ability to change or suspend any law. This political turmoil has only worsened Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, though Wickremesinghe and a representative from the IMF have said they are drawing close to an agreement for financial rescue.
A report from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) came out this week containing information on the Taliban’s human rights abuses since they took power last August. In less than a year, the Taliban has killed 160 former government officials, have enforced severe restrictions on the rights of women, and have wrongfully arrested and executed 173 journalists and human rights defenders. However, the Taliban has denied all of this. In other news, the Taliban and the United States continue to negotiate the release of $7 billion of Afghanistan’s bank reserves that sit in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Iranian, Turkish, and Russian leaders met in Tehran on Tuesday, as part of a rare foreign diplomacy trip by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The diplomats discussed the Ukrainian grain blockade on the Black Sea, the civil war in Syria, and a Russia-Iran oil deal. Iranian media reported Tuesday that Russia plans to invest $40 billion in Iran’s oil industry, and that private Russian companies plan on joining in on the investment. This new level of cooperation between the countries is largely understood to be a result of their shared subjugation to Western sanctions.
Eight people were killed and twenty-three injured by a Turkish attack in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq. Turkey’s armed forced usually target the Kurdish militants training camps, however; this recent attack was aimed at civilians, worrying Iraq about the future escalation of such events. Furthermore, Iraq is planning on ordering Dassault Rafale fighter jets from France, strengthening their Air Force.
UNICEF warned this week that Lebanon’s recent water crisis could put millions at risk. While residents have been widely impacted by a limited availability of clean and safe water for over a year, UNICEF has now warned the “water supply systems across the country teeter on the brink of failure.” This warning comes as Lebanon faces yet another political crisis, as on Tuesday security forces raided the Central Bank. The raid is part of a continuing and divisive investigation against former Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, who was charged with illicit enrichment and money laundering in March. Salameh is held responsible by some for the debt crisis of the past year which has spurred inflation, poverty, and financial collapse.
Violence that broke out last July over a land dispute between the Birta and Hausa ethnic groups in Al-Damazin, Sudan, has recently escalated. The clashes have resulted in a humanitarian crisis, since international aid organizations are waiting for the clashes to subside before assistance can be delivered. 105 people have been estimated to have been killed as a consequence of the dispute, with several people moving to the neighboring Sennar state on foot. The government has announced a curfew and put restrictions on large public gatherings in an attempt to curtail the clashes. The clashes have been further exacerbated, experts say, as a consequence of a security vacuum left as a result of the coup and further increased existing tensions.
Economic and political chaos have continued to ensue in Zimbabwe, and many political analysts are worried about what this means for Zimbabwe’s elections next year. According to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), unemployment has reached 90 percent. While the government claims this is false, for many work informally in Zimbabwe, inflation has continued to rise, showing evidence of continued economic decline. Even with Zimbabwe’s turn to gold coin currency, “the Zimbabwe dollar, introduced to contain the hyperinflation of 2019, is now trading (officially) at 379 to the United States dollar”. Many analysts believe that the most likely outcome of the election would be that governmental control remains the same, continuing a cycle of economic and social repression that will trigger even higher migration flows than the country is currently experiencing. Additionally, Zimbabwe teachers are distrusting of the government and their promised salary raise. After a promised 100% salary increase, teachers were only given $48 USD for their monthly salary, falling extremely short of promised income. Unions plan to meet on the 22nd to discuss further action, and plan to force the government to take their societal contribution seriously.
One year after the country’s mass anti-government protests in July 2021, Cubans have returned to the streets to protest a variety of issues, including nation-wide power outages, the government, the fragile economy, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In areas such as Pinar de Rio Province, the government has restricted Internet and telecommunications access. Experts are claiming that the country is experiencing its worst economic crisis in over 30 years.
Many supporters of President Daniel Ortega’s political party, Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), gathered in Managua, Nicaragua to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the Nicaraguan Revolution. During the commemoration, Ortega announced that Nicaragua would not be involved in any dialogue with the United States, furthering the tense relations between the two countries. In response to the regime’s corruption, the U.S. is limiting sugar imports from Nicaragua and implementing higher tariffs. The Nicaraguan government could face economic upsets since its sugar sector accounts for 4% of the GDP, affecting around 150,000 jobs. In other news, Ortega’s regime has closed down 770 NGOs since June 6 in an effort to silence the people’s rights.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden made a public announcement concerning climate change, as extreme heat waves roll through parts of the country. He announced the Federal Emergency Management Agency will direct 2.3 billion dollars to building infrastructure that can “withstand extreme weather and natural disasters.” He further stated in his speech that Congress is not doing enough to prevent climate change and that he plans to take executive actions in the coming weeks.
Amid this summer of continued mass shootings, another incident occurred in an Indiana mall that left three people dead and two injured. However, unlike previous cases, the gunman was stopped and killed by Elisjsha Dicken, 22, who legally had a pistol with him at the time. His actions have added on to the long, frequent debate of American gun control. On one end, some view him as a hero whose actions justify legal gun ownership, whereas others see this single positive outcome as rare.
China is expected to see a “sharp spike” in temperatures around the southern and eastern provinces this Saturday, a day commonly known on the Chinese Almanac as the day of the “big heat.” These extreme temperatures come as the country’s economy contracts from the strict COVID-19 regulations that impact businesses and consumers. In the last quarter alone, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) decreased by 2.6%.
On Thursday, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) fined the mobile transportation platform DiDi around 8.026 billion yuan for “illegally [collecting] customer information since 2015 and [handling] data in a way that endangered national security.” Some have questioned the CAC’s investigation of DiDi, highlighting discrepancies in the administration’s motives and findings.
Four Indonesians from Pulau Pari filed a lawsuit against Swiss-based Holcim, the largest cement producer in the world, for climate damages, with the support of the NGO Swiss Church Aid. Pulau Pari is one of several islands around the world acutely impacted by the global climate crisis, facing an increase in flooding and the threat that parts of the island could be submerged under water in the coming decades in the absence of robust climate action. Indonesia suffers disproportionately from the climate crisis relative to its carbon emissions. The claimants are requesting compensation (totaling to just 0.42% of the total cost of climate damages and adaptation measures) and for Holcim, which ranks 47th out of 100 in the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s 2021 greenhouse polluters index, to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by specific targeted percentages in the coming decades. The lawsuit is an attempt to hold Holcim accountable for its proportional responsibility for the global rise in carbon emissions and the resulting environmental harm.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is going to rule on Myanmar’s objections to a genocide case on the Rohingya Muslim population. The court heard the government’s objections in February, and is predicted to reject the objections and move towards the next phase of the case. In this phase, it will begin considering evidence against the Myanmar military and government. The case was brought before Myanmar by the Gambia, with the support of the Organization for Islamic Corporation (OIC) in 2019.
Amid revelations that Thailand has used the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware to surveil and track government critics, a Thai minister has confirmed these actions, stating that surveillance software is being used to track individuals in cases of drugs or national security. A joint investigation by the Thai human rights group iLaw, internet watchdog Digital Reach, and Canada-based Citizen Lab has determined that Pegasus has been used to spy on a minimum of 30 government critics between October 2020 and November 2021.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) criticized Belarus for unlawfully grounding a Ryanair flight in Minsk that led to the arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich. Belarus air traffic control claimed that there was a bomb on board the flight, however the ICAO stated the claim was deliberately false and endangered the safety of the passengers and flight crew.