January 27, 2023
CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced that he was sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to aid Ukrainian forces. The announcement came just hours after Germany’s leader, Olaf Scholz, said it would send 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks. The announcement is a reversal of the US’s past position and signals a significant escalation in the effort to counter Russian aggression.
Dina Boluarte, Peru’s President, called for a “national truce” following civil unrest since her predecessor, Pedro Castillo, was impeached in December. Hours after the President’s announcement, thousands of demonstrators clashed with authorities using tear gas and pellets in the country’s capital. The protests have resulted in the death of nearly 50 Peruvians over the past two months. Protestors have called for Boluarte’s resignation, new elections, and a revised constitution.
On Saturday, 100,000 people protested in Tel Aviv against significant changes in Israel’s judiciary being proposed by the new far-right government. The new coalition under Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s recently reelected Prime Minister, has accused Israel’s Supreme Court of overstepping its authority. The new parliament is looking to limit the power of the courts and give the Knesset more control over judicial appointments.
The UN deputy chief and head of UN Women have sent a direct message to Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership, urging them to prioritize the good of the country and halt recent measures that have restricted women and girls to their own homes and violated their fundamental human rights. Top UN officials spent four days on a fact-finding mission in Afghanistan to engage with Taliban leaders and “underscore UN solidarity with the Afghan people.” These official visits come after recent measures by the Taliban to prevent women from working with humanitarian aid groups and banning women from secondary school. There have been some exemptions to the ban, but the UN is making efforts to expand on these exemptions to allow for more access to women working in the aid sector.
The Iranian protests triggered by Masha Amini’s death in September 2022, found the most extreme response by the Iranian government, executing four protesters in the past two months. According to Deepa Parent, an Iranian journalist, such repression by the Iranian authorities signals that the regime is weak and scared, creating a ‘fire under the ashes’ by fueling protesters’ anger who are now even more motivated and determined to achieve their goals. The culmination of brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian government against the peaceful protesters was responded to by the EU which launched a new package of sanctions on Iran, targeting the most responsible people for such repression. This could also affect the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) if labeled as a terrorist group by the EU. The reason for such a decision can also be found in an explanation that the Foreign Minister of Iran Hossein Amir-Abdollahian provided. Namely, he claims that designating IRGC as a terrorist group would, in turn, harm the EU’s security, as this way IRGC would lose its vital role in securing the safety of the region, and the Iranian regime would become angered.
The governor of Iraq’s central bank, Mustafa Ghaleb Mukheef, was replaced on Monday in the midst of a multi-week plunge in the value of the Iraqi Dinar. While the official rate stands at 1,470 to the dollar, the true rate as of January stood at 1,670, which marks a 7 percent drop since mid-November.
The drop in the Dinar’s value led to protests on Wednesday, with hundreds of Iraqis marching near the country’s central bank in Baghdad. The protestors, angry about the subsequent rise in the price of foreign imported goods, demanded monetary intervention. The decline in the Dinar can largely be traced back to November when the US New York Federal Reserve imposed stricter controls over international dollar transactions to Iraqi commercial banks to curb their siphoning of dollars to Iran.
On Monday, the lead judge of the 2020 Beirut explosion investigation resumed the inquiry into Lebanon’s top politician’s involvement in the incident. Judge Tarek Bitar charged former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and two other former ministers with homicide with probable intent. Other officials, including the country’s public prosecutor and the head of the domestic intelligence agency, were also charged for their connection with the blast. On Wednesday, Lebanon’s top prosecutor, Ghassan Oweidat, charged Judge Tarek Bitar and ordered the release of detained suspects accused of the explosion. These recent events are part of a growing tension between the judiciary and Lebanon’s top politicians during the lengthy investigation into the blast. On Thursday, over 200 people protested in front of Lebanon’s justice palace in response to the judicial scandal. Families of the blast victims demanded that politicians allow the judge to continue the investigation.
Following the killing of four people by unidentified gunmen, a state of emergency was declared in South Kordofan province by acting Provincial Governor Mousa Gaber Mahmoud. The victims were traveling to areas controlled by Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, a political party and militant organization which signed a peace agreement with the Transitional Government of Sudan in 2020.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed traveled to Sudan for his first visit since the 2021 coup. Talks between Ahmed and Sudan’s de facto head of state Abdel Fattah al-Burhan included an alignment on the construction of the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which the Egyptian government is actively hostile to. Sudan’s Sovereign Council stated that the two leaders held talks in Khartoum to broadly find “ways to strengthen and enhance bilateral relations.”
A Bolivian judge has determined that Luis Fernando Camacho, a famous politician and governor to the Bolivian department of Santa Cruz, shall be detained while awaiting trial on “terrorist” accusations. Judge Rosmery Lourdes Pabon’s decision upholds a previous ruling by a different judge in late December. It requested for Camacho to be held in pre-trial detention for four months after prosecutors feared he could flee or obstruct the ongoing inquiry. The arrest of Camacho in December 2022 sparked protests amongst his supporters, who constructed road blockades in Santa Cruz to isolate the city and disrupt food supply distributions. Camacho is accused of instigating the 2019 political protests that led to the resignation of Evo Morales, the country’s first Indigenous president, following his contentious fourth-term election victory. Prosecutor Omar Mejillones claimed on Thursday that Camacho was responsible for creating a “power vacuum” after Morales’ resignation, citing a letter Camacho delivered to the then-president, accompanied by a police escort, in which he urged Morales to stand down.
While expecting the London court battle for unpaid debt from the Castro era, the Cuban government shifted to Russian aid in the field of market reforms.
This Monday Cuba began a legal battle, as CRF I Ltd, an investment firm bringing the case, reinforced its 3-year-old lawsuit against the Cuban state. CRF I Ltd claims it is owed 72 million euros it gave to Cuba through two installments during the 1980s. The case, which will last for the following eight days, is held in London’s High Court and will be followed by the other parties who have struggled to compensate for the $7 billion worth of loans that have been given to Havana. This case is acute as Cuba’s inability to solve matters with its commercial creditor nations in the London Club keeps the country out of international capital markets.
Meanwhile, after two days of talks on law enforcement and security issues with the US that Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla described as mutually beneficial, Cuba turned to Russia for advice on market reforms. The need for such help stems from indecisiveness on how the Cuban state should deal with small and medium-sized private enterprises that were authorized in 2021. Cuba and Russia allegedly took their relationship to a “new level” by creating a “Center for Economic Transformation” through which Russian experts will share technical expertise and help Cuba carry out economic reforms involving the private sector.
At a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, California, a gunman opened fire killing 11 people, marking the worst massacre in Los Angeles County History and sending shockwaves through the Asian-American community. As California Governor Gavin Newsom was meeting with victims and their families in the hospital, news broke of another mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, California where seven farm workers were killed, many of them immigrants. Over eight days, 25 people in California died in mass shootings, and although the attacks seem to be unrelated, the statistics are staggering. Gov. Newsom and the public have stressed their fatigue and despair with the recent losses at the hand of mass violence. The shooting in Half Moon Bay was an apparent workplace violence case whereas the motive of the shooter in Monterey Park is still being investigated.
On the 50th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, thousands of protestors across the United States marched against the end of the federal right to abortion. Demonstrators condemned the Supreme Court’s decision last year, organizing more than 200 marches in 46 different states. Since the court’s decision, abortion has been banned or severely restricted in 14 states.
The most recent economists’ estimations imply that China’s rapid growth may be over, due to various factors and changes within the state. Namely, economic transition, Zero-COVID policy, decrease in the working force, and existing debt coming from years of investments in infrastructure and real estate sectors are contributing to the decrease in China’s economic strength. In the UN forecast report on global economic growth, it is stated that China’s economic expansion will likely remain well below the pre-pandemic rate of 6 to 6.5 percent. Xi’s new strategy towards “high-quality growth” will most likely bring about low consumption rates, economists say. A decrease in productivity in the Chinese industry will leave space for other industries from Southeast Asian countries and create competition that will change the power balance in the region. Whatever the case, the world will certainly feel the impact of changes occurring within China.
Meanwhile, China seems to be determined to continue its pioneering position in Africa, where Chinese banks remain to be the main lenders. The US addressed the issues with debt in Zambia, calling for China to release debt and cooperate with the US on the matter. Chinese officials responded to the US, by asking it to end their pressure on China and solve their economic issues instead, as US issues hurt the global economy. Likely, China also seems reluctant in cooperating with the Philippines to minimize threats and conflicts in the South Chinese Sea area where it stood out as the most responsible for straining relations of affected countries.
The UN announced that more than 3,500 Rohingya fled Bangladesh or Myanmar by the sea in 2022, a fivefold increase since 2021. Of these refugees, at least 348 have been pronounced dead or missing, underscoring the danger of these trips and the precarious living conditions for the more than one million Rohingya living in poverty and persecution in Myanmar and Bangladesh. A group of Myanmarese activists and sixteen alleged victims of military abuse filed a criminal complaint in Germany accusing Myanmar’s military leadership of orchestrating genocide against the Rohingya, as well as conducting other atrocities since its coup in 2021.
The Myanmar military carried out two airstrikes against members of the Chin National Front, an ethnic armed group located in the country’s western Chin state. The attacks, which are part of an escalating series of bombings against the CNF in the last month, have done little to dismantle the operational capacity of the organization, which has been further galvanized by the attacks. Furthermore, the airstrikes took place near the India-Myanmar border, evoking concern from the Indian government about encroachments into their airspace and violence spilling over into its territory.
Residents of Bangkok have been advised to wear masks and work from home due to worsening air pollution. Officials are encouraging people to use public transportation instead of personal vehicles if they need to commute, to limit further pollution. The government says it expects similar conditions to persist and will continue to monitor the air quality levels in the coming week. The poor air quality stems from agricultural burning and forest fires in the northwest of the country along with preexisting pollution from factories, construction, and traffic in the country’s capital.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that Ukraine has proposed entering a non-aggression pact. Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, disclosed the offer at a meeting of government and law enforcement officials. The President said, “…they are asking us not to go to war with Ukraine in any circumstances, not to move our troops there. They are proposing we conclude a non-aggression pact.” Lukashenko also alleged, without evidence, that Ukraine is allowing the West to use its territory to train militants who could threaten the situation in Belarus. Belarus has allowed Russia to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict, however, its own troops have not fought in the war thus far.