August 11, 2023
CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!
The heads of state of nine West African nations held an emergency summit to discuss options related to the situation in Niger. In a move to solidify their rule, the coup’s leaders announced a new government, including 21 cabinet ministers. Neighboring countries have imposed economic and travel sanctions, and the Nigerian president pledged that “no option is off the table,” though experts cast doubt on the capabilities of the ECOWAS bloc to restore democracy. Sources reported that they threatened to kill President Bazoum if military intervention was attempted. There is also speculation that the junta may appeal to the Wagner Group, Russia’s mercenary army, for help, which is active in the Sahel region.
Fernando Villavicencio, a presidential candidate vocal about state corruption and organized crime, was assassinated while leaving a rally on Wednesday evening. Nine other people were shot, and crossfires between security forces killed the suspected gunman, with six other people in connection detained. Less than a month after the fatal shooting of the mayor of Manta, a port city used by gangs to transport drugs, this falls within a year of unprecedented crime and violence. It also comes just days before the first round of voting is set to take place. President Guillermo Lasso has declared a state of emergency for 60 days and three days of national mourning.
As European and Western nations place sanctions on Russian fuel imports in an attempt to cut Russia’s war funds, fuel smuggling emerges as an increasingly attractive business. A report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime warns that Russian crude oil smuggling may increase with the Danube River, including nearly 40 locations in Serbia, serving as a central transport route. The illegal trade not only helps Russian business, but also cuts out the tax revenue that the Balkan countries would have gained from legal regulations.
In other news, Serbia has stated that, after a difficult decision, it will choose to ignore the U.S. sanctions placed on four Bosnian Serb officials. The sanctions came in response to a law drafted by the officials to not recognize the decisions of Bosnia’s multi-ethnic Constitutional Court. The law appears to be a further attempt to distance the Bosnian Serbs from the Bosnian federation, thereby undermining the unity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
More than three months after the devastating events of mass shootings in Serbia, citizens who protested against the structural violence that transcended to the fatal consequences still gather on the streets of Belgrade and other Serbian cities. Even though the number of protesters decreased, citizens are still determined to peacefully make the Serbian government meet their demands. On Wednesday the 15th protest against the violence has been announced for Saturday, 12 August in Belgrade. According to the map for the upcoming protest, citizens will walk to the Government of Serbia. The main focus will be on verbal and institutional violence, a phenomenon of femicide, and the fact that none of the protest demands have been met so far.
In the first step of a planned prisoner swap, five Americans imprisoned in Iran have been transferred to a hotel in Tehran for house arrest. The agreement, in negotiations for months, will grant Iran access to an estimated $6 billion in assets, currently frozen in South Korean banks due to U.S. sanctions. The funds are to be used exclusively to buy food, medicine, or humanitarian aid, which will be overseen by Qatar’s central bank. The Biden Administration is also expected to release several Iranian prisoners serving sanctions-related sentences. Counsel for one of the Americans hopes this development marks “the beginning of the end,” while many have likened this to a “hostage” situation, using false charges to weaponize people as “bargaining chips.”
Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian met with Japanese officials on Monday, for the first visit between high-ranking officials from the two countries in over three years. Prior to the meetings, which spanned the Japanese Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister, Amirabdollahian denied the allegations that Iran has provided drones to Russia to use in its war against Ukraine. Additionally, Japan, who has supported restoring the nuclear deal, raised concerns over nuclear development in Iran. In a statement released afterwards, it urged compliance with International Agency for Atomic Energy standards.
The foreign minister also summoned a British Ambassador, Simon Shercliff, to Tehran following social media comments, a common practice to protest disagreeable remarks by Iran’s envoys. In a post on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, Shercliff urged the Iranian government to release those “arbitrarily detained.” Shercliff specifically included the jailing of journalists, as the country has been named the worst jailer of journalists in 2022 and is celebrating Journalists Day this week.
Venezuelans protested this week after six trade unionists were sentenced to sixteen years in prison each with charges of conspiracy and terrorism. Opposition leaders, including María Corina Machado and Henrique Capriles, have taken to Twitter to speak out against the charges.
Maduro’s regime successfully took back $1.5 billion USD in assets that had been in Portugal in an account with Novo Banco. Maduro saw the frozen funds as another attempt of foreign governments trying to limit his power as they were intended to be used to support a UN backed fund to give humanitarian assistance to the country. This, however, was the same claim that Maduro made when the United States lifted sanctions last year, and the fund has yet to be created.
On the evening of July 23rd, police raided Avalon an LGBTQ bar in Valencia, Venezuela and arrested 33 patrons. The men were rounded up in the bar and then brought to police headquarters without being told what crime they were charged for, instead they were told they were witnesses. The men were charged with “lewd conduct” and “sound pollution”, which many claim were simply baseless allegations to discriminate against these men even though being LGBTQ is not a crime under Venezuelan law. The patrons’ personal photos were also leaked by the police, which added to the quick backlash and protests (including the hashtag #los33) from citizens criticizing President Maduro for supporting anti-LGBTQ groups and policies.
At a rally on Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa tells supporters they will go to heaven if they vote for his party in the upcoming August 23rd election. The ruling ZANU-PF party has been in power for 43 years, ever since Zimbabwe gained independence from white minority rule. Mnangagwa claimed, “No one will stop us from ruling this country. We are the only party that brought independence and freedom to a colonized people of this country. We kicked out imperialism.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa claims that Mnangagwa is undermining independent institutions and using intimidation in order to cling to power. He points to Mnangagwa’s use of police and courts to stifle opposition rallies and deter candidates from entering the race. In the words of Chamisa, and in light of a recent murder of a Chamisa supporter, the choice appears for many, “death or ZANU-PF”. While President Mnangagwa denies these charges, independent NGOs such as Amnesty International have found evidence of such violations.
On Tuesday, the United Nations released a report that detailed a dramatic increase in war crimes in Myanmar. The report went on to say that there was “strong evidence that the Myanmar military and its affiliate militias have committed three types of combat-related war crimes with increasing frequency and brazenness.” The three types of war crimes that have experienced a drastic increase are the killing of civilians, torture, and sexual violence. The Burmese government continues to deny these atrocities and claims that it is carrying out a legitimate campaign against terrorists.
Pheu Thai political party’s prime ministerial candidate will be backed by the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) to help them push through the country’s political deadlock. PPRP are not a part of Pheu Thai’s coalition but believe the country needs to have functioning leadership after five months of a limited caretaker government. However, Pheu Thai is still short on votes to attain the majority they need to confirm a new prime minister. The winning party from May’s elections, Move Forward, have yet to decide if they will back Pheu Thai after their PM candidate was blocked again by the Senate and Pheu Thai subsequently left their coalition.
Georgian Dream MP Ketevan Dumbaze has been appointed as the Head of the House of Writers. Over 80 Georgians involved in literature and culture, such as writers, translators and publishers, have signed a statement that neither recognizes the Ministry of Culture nor the Head of the House of Writers. Part of the statement reads, “The decision taken by the minister to select the head of an institution such as the House of Writers behind closed doors on the basis of party affiliation is categorically unacceptable.”
Amid a slew of environmental disasters across the world, the death toll of the landslide that occurred on August 3rd in the resort town of Shovi has risen to 17. The town also suffered major damage to their infrastructure including important bridges.