Weekly Report: 11 March, 2019 — CANVAS

“Lumad” teachers and students join other women’s groups in Mendiola to mark International Women’s Day on Friday. The lumad women paid tribute to their women leaders, teachers and human rights defenders, and protested the attacks against indigenous communities. Source: Earvin Perias

Cuba

Cuba has joined ten other nations in mentioning climate change in a new constitution through the inclusion of new amendments. The decision was approved by voters in late February, and comes alongside Cuba’s announcement of long-term plans to introduce policies that will tackle global warming.

Gabon

Gabon’s president Ali Bongo has returned to Morocco once again to continue receiving treatment for the stroke he suffered late last year. Bongo was only in the country for a short 2-day visit to address Gabonese officials. This is only the second time he has visited Gabon since the attempted coup that took place in early January. As Bongo continues to receive treatment in Morocco, officials have also had to shut down reports of his using a clone, or body-double for state visits. Rumors swirled after his visit last week that it was not actually Bongo visiting, though the government has been working to prove this is not the case.

Bolivia

Bolivia’s Unified Health System (SUS) was launched on March 1, and will cover around 70% of the Bolivian population with free healthcare. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called the system “extraordinary”, and have released statistics showing that Bolivia is one of the first Latin American countries to be active in their fight to reduce extreme poverty. Authorities estimate that SUS will cover around 5 million Bolivians who lacked coverage before the introduction of SUS.

Nicaragua

President Daniel Ortega promised this week that Nicaragua would free all imprisoned anti-government protesters. The announcement came on Sunday, when the government also said that electoral reforms would be implemented and talks will continue with the opposition. Before the most recent round of talks began this month, 100 political prisoners were released in February. Opposition parties are now calling for the release of over 700 people jailed by the Sandinista government, though it is not clear whether Ortega will actually release all of them, or just some. The opposition party, Civic Alliance, said that they will not hold any more talks with Ortega’s regime until he makes good on his promise to release the prisoners.

North Korea

Elections for the Supreme People’s Assembly were held on March 10, marking a mandatory voting day for all North Koreans over the age of seventeen. The provided ballot does not have options for candidates, thus making results for the most part unanimous. North Korea analyst Fyodor Tertitsky has stated that while it is possible to cross out a candidate on the ballot, it could result in suspicion and danger at the hands of the secret police.

Just under two weeks after the denuclearization summit held in Vietnam, John Bolton, top national security advisor, has stated that President Donald Trump would be “pretty disappointed” if North Korea launched a missile test. While Bolton did not confirm any reports that North Korea was making moves, he did state that the United States will be maintaining a close watch on North Korea.

Myanmar

Nine police were killed in Myanmar on Saturday by a group of Rakhine rebels. The attack happened when a group of about 60 rebels invaded a police post in Yoe Ta Yoke village. This is only the latest in a series of attacks that have been taking place in the troubled region since 2017. As a result, over 730,000 people have been forced to flee the country, with most settling into refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh. With no end in sight to the ongoing Rohingya crisis, Bangladesh announced at the beginning of the month that they would no longer be able to accept refugees coming from the Rakhine region.

United States

United States involvement with the political crisis in Venezuela continues to deepen as the United States pressures India to stop purchasing Venezuelan oil. India the second-largest consumer of Venezuelan oil, meaning any potential sanctions could be a significant blow to Maduro. Washington’s top envoy for Venezuela stated, “We say you should not be helping this regime, you should be on the side of the Venezuelan people”.

The US government has addressed allegations that they separated migrant parents from their children amid federal lawsuits. Most of the migrants were coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and US officials have admitted to deporting over 470 parents without their children. A federal lawsuit has been filed by the ACLU.

Cambodia

Six activists from the opposition party, Cambodian National Rescue Party, had to flee the country this week, fearing they may be in danger of political persecution by Cambodia’s ruling party. They are now seeking refugee status, and will join the other 75 members of CNRP who have fled the country as a result of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s attack on the opposition group. The group of six activists had been charged with incitement in December and were awaiting trial later in March, but felt the trial would not be executed fairly, citing their decision to flee.

Mexico

This week a group of armed men opened fire in a nightclub in Mexico’s Guanajuato state. The attack resulted in 15 deaths and 7 wounded, and comes amidst militarized efforts to address extreme violence in relation to powerful drug cartels. Previously in the week, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched an offensive to capture Jose Antonio Yepez, a gang leader also known as “El Marro” in another effort to address organized crime in the country.  

Zimbabwe

US President Donald Trump has extended sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe for a year, despite calls from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and other African leaders to lift sanctions to give Zimbabwe’s economy time to recover from the current crisis. The US government believes that the current policies in Zimbabwe pose a threat to American foreign policy, and have stated that there will not be any significant changes made to the sanctions unless Mnangagwa addresses restrictions of the media and violent responses to protests.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

An Ebola treatment center was attacked in the DRC this week, resulting in the death of a policeman and a wounded health worker. The attack came on the same day that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), was scheduled to visit the health center. The ongoing attacks continue to threaten any progressions made towards treating the virus, as it is both difficult to contain and easily spread.

Colombia

Colombia announced on Saturday that Venezuelans will be allowed to enter the country using expired passports. This decision comes as a result of the dire economic situation in Venezuela, where many people are not able to renew their passports, and therefore also cannot apply for visas. Passport renewals in Venezuela have become almost impossible because of the high cost of materials and production. The head of Colombia’s migration agency said in the statement that because of these limitations, Venezuelans will now be allowed to enter Colombia with passports up to two years past their expiration date.

Venezuela

This week, demonstrators gathered in the capital city Caracas in response to opposition leader Juan Guaido. Guaido addressed the crowd, stating, “We are going to come, all of Venezuela to Caracas, because we need all of them united”. Police were present at the march, and there were moments Guaido supporters and policeman clashed on the streets, resulting in the use of pepper spray by police.

The demonstration comes just days after a massive power outage, reportedly caused by problems from a hydroelectric plant. Nicolas Maduro blamed the power outages on “sabotage”, while Guaido used the power cut to politically energize Venezuelans to protest, “against the usurping, corrupt, and incompetent regime that has put our country in the dark”.

Malaysia

Malaysia’s Minister of Religious Affairs has called out the presence of LGBTQ groups at a Women’s Day march in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. He said that the groups were showing a “misuse of democratic space”, and continued to say that LGBTQ acts are illegal in Malaysia. While the group who organized the march said that the attacks against the LGBTQ community bordered on incitement, hatred, and violence, they also said that their presence took attention away from their key demands of banning child marriage, an equal minimum wage, and ending gender-based violence. Civil rights groups say that this is one of many recent incidents showing the hostility toward LGBTQ people in Malaysia.

Philippines

Thousands of women gathered in the capital city of Manila on Friday, International Women’s Day, to protest President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent misogynistic comments. Duterte has reportedly made jokes about sexual assault and rape, resulting in an exhibition displaying clothes of survivors amidst the protests. Since the beginning of Duterte’s presidency, there has been a 153% increase in sexual assaults of women in the Philippines. Protesters chanted against Duterte while there were around 4,000 police officers monitoring the scene.

Thailand

The political party that tried to nominate a Thai Princess for prime minister has been ordered to dissolve immediately, and its leaders have been banned from participating in politics for 10 years. Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled last week that by nominating a member of the royal family, the group Thai Raksa Chart had violated the country’s constitution. By banning the party from the election set to take place later this month, the chances of a pro-military coalition taking control of the parliament are now much stronger.

Vietnam

Tran Duc Anh Son, a Vietnamese academic and deputy head of the Danang Institute for Socio-Economic Development, has been expelled from the ruling Communist Party following accusations that he posted comments on Facebook critiquing the government. Son was commenting on the South China Sea issue, and the Vietnamese government stated that he was, “writing Facebook posts that were untrue and went against the party’s views and state policies and laws”.

Other News:

Sudan – President Omar al-Bashir ordered the release of women protesters that were detained during protest, symbolically ordered Friday, March 8, on International Women’s Day. The exact number of women detained has not been released, but activists have estimated around 150 women in detention. (Al Jazeera)

Algeria – Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s announcement to stand for re-election next month following a 20-year rule ignited protests as demonstrators gathered on Sunday, chanting “Bouteflika, there will be no fifth term”. University teachers and students have gone on strike, many of whom were largely involved in the protests. During a protest on Friday, police fired tear gas on a largely peaceful protest, resulting in around 195 people detained by security forces. (BBC)