Sudanese demonstrators celebrate the arrest of long-time President Omar al-Bashir by the armed forces, outside the Defense Ministry. Ala Kheir/Picture Alliance via Getty Images
The United States has cancelled a deal made with Cuba intended to stop the human trafficking of baseball players to the U.S. The deal, which initially began negotiations under Barack Obama’s presidency was signed in December. Starting this year, Cuban baseball players older than 25 who had played in professional Cuban leagues for more than 6 years would be allowed to leave and sign with MLB teams, rather than leaving the country illegally. Now, the United States has backtracked on this deal, saying “additional information” had come to light. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later clarified that the reason for backing out was to ”pressure Cuba over its support for the Venezuelan government.”
The Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera made a statement this week criticizing new meddling by the United States in Bolivian internal affairs. The Vice President made his statement on behalf of the Bolivian government and people after a letter was sent from a US Senate Committee to the Upper House regarding Bolivia’s political situation. Garcia Linera referenced other occurrences of U.S. meddling in the past and called out the United States’ own political issues, stating that they must face their own problems before meddling in other states’ internal matters.
This week, President Ortega’s government announced that they were ready to return to the discussion table with the opposition party. Month-long talks with the opposition Civic Alliance coalition began to properly resolve the political crisis and Ortega’s harsh treatment of protesters and journalists, only to be broken up last week without a decided agreement on reform. Ortega’s government has jailed over 600 opposition supporters, and since the discussions only 200 prisoners have been released. Ortega’s government released a statement saying its “will and commitment to continue working towards national and understanding” remained unchanged.
This week a Roman Catholic bishop in Nicaragua, Monsignor Silvio Baez, revealed that there was an active plot for his assignation at the hands of Ortega’s government. Baez is a known critic of Daniel Ortega’s government, and even said that the political department of the U.S. Embassy gave him the warning of the plot. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said that harassment of Baez was significant enough to “put the bishop and his family in a situation of seriousness and urgency”.
Kim Jong Un has called a meeting of top committee members in the ruling Workers’ Party to address a “prevailing tense situation”. While the meeting comes shortly after the failed U.S.–North Korea summit in February, as well as the South’s upcoming summit with the U.S., an official news agency reported that this meeting will actually be addressing Pyongyang’s economic development. While it is unclear what exactly this means, some analysts say that it could involve a reshuffling of party officials or Kim laying out a new policy direction of a “socialist economic construction”.
A human rights crisis continues in Myanmar as Rohingya Muslims continue to be targeted, leading to around 740,000 fleeing to Bangladesh. This week, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announced their fears that Rohingya civilians may have been targeted last week in a military attack of Myanmar Rakhine state. The official government tolls reported 6 deaths, but the OHCRHR believe the number could be as high as 30.
The United States immigration system has reached a new low, with the government now unable to provide adequate humanitarian relief for migrants, or control the number of people entering the country. More than 800,000 cases are now pending with immigration courts, and each case takes an average of 700 days to process. The number of families crossing the border has also increased, jumping 560 percent higher in February than the same time one year ago. Rather than making changes to the U.S. immigration system or sending additional aid to the countries where migrants are escaping from, Trump announced late last month that the U.S. would cut off $450 million in aid sent to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. President Trump also declared this week that “our country is full”, and continued to threaten shutting down the southern border.
The United States called an emergency meeting with the United Nations Security Council this week to address the situation in Venezuela. At the meeting, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the council and reiterated that the Trump administration remains determined to remove Maduro from office, and said all options are on the table to do this. Pence also said that Russia and others in the way of stopping Maduro need to step aside. The Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada responded by saying that the ground has been laid for a U.S. invasion and the “war of Donald Trump” must be stopped.
Reports released by the Institute for Economics and Peace this week show that Mexico faced its most violent year on record in 2018, with more than 33,000 murders taking place in the 12-month timespan. The cost of these murders and their effects added up to 2.63 trillion pesos, making up 51% of Mexico’s overall cost of violence. The economic impact of violence for 2018 totaled 5.16 trillion pesos – up 10% from 2017, and making up 24% of the country’s GDP. The ‘Mexico Peace Index’ report also shows that the government is “underfunded in the justice system” and that corruption remains a large issue.
Official results of elections held in Maldives were released on Wednesday, showing the party of exiled former president Mohamad Nasheed and current President Ibrahim Mohamad Solih’s party had won. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) won 65 of 87 seats in parliament, making it a 2/3 majority.
Zimbabwe has appealed to local and foreign donors for $613 million in aid to help recovery efforts from a severe drought which left 5 million people in need of food assistance, followed by Cyclone Idai, which destroyed the eastern part of the country. In the aftermath of Idai, hundreds of thousands were left without food, water, or shelter. A document given to reporters showed that the government is appealing for about $300 million in food aid, while the rest will go toward emergency shelters and other logistical needs.
Laos has been urged by fellow Mekong River Commission members, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, to address the impact of its ongoing Pak Lay hydropower dam project. Impacts would include any cross-border effects, potential environmental impact issues, and socio-economic impacts it may cause in surrounding areas.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Eleven people were injured in a clash of protesters during election campaigns for governorship in the Haut-Katanga province. The clash occurred between supporters of former president Joseph Kabila and the current president Felix Tshisekedi. Gubernatorial elections were set to be held on March 26th, though they were postponed by Tshisekedi for allegations of vote-buying by candidates. Kabila’s allies condemned this action, saying that it was an “abuse of democracy”.
This week, Colombia’s lower house rejected modifications suggested by President Ivan Duque in March, specifically for a review of six parts of the law that regulate the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal created in 2016. The tribunal was designed as a peace deal between the government and FARC rebels to actively try rebels and officials for war crimes. The tribunal was signed under former President Juan Manuel Santos and is currently part of the country’s constitution. Duque’s suggested modifications included clarification of extraditions rules, stricter actions against war crimes, and the exclusion of sexual crimes from the tribunal’s remit.
After meeting with the Red Cross chief on Tuesday, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has announced that he is ready to accept international aid. Maduro still refuses to recognize the situation as a humanitarian crisis, and reiterated during his meetings with the International Committee of the Red Cross that they should respect “the Venezuelan legal order”. Also this week, the United Nations was urged by Human Rights Watch and public health researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to declare the situation in Venezuela a humanitarian emergency. The groups appealed to the Security Council and urged Secretary General Antonio Guterres to make the call, therefore opening up the UN’s extensive resources for Venezuelans in an impartial, neutral way. Meanwhile, many parts of Venezuela, including the capital city of Caracas, have been hit by another blackout – the worst in a week. Once again, no reason was given by the government for this blackout.
On Friday, April 5, Malaysia announced that they will withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move that worries international observers in terms of human rights accountability and political stability in the country. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was described as “visibly upset” as he told a press conference, “this is not because we are against it but because of the political confusion about what it entails, caused by people with vested interests”.
Two Russian destroyers and a tanker docked in the Philippines this week for a “goodwill visit” regarding tensions in the disputed South China Sea. This is the second time this year that Russian warships have docked in the Philippines. This week’s visit comes a few months before Russia and the Philippines are set to sign a naval cooperation agreement. The growing ties between the two countries comes at a time where tensions over land ownership in the disputed area is especially high.
United States Senator Rand Paul warned the Trump administration on Wednesday, stating, “you do not have the permission of Congress to go to war with Iran. Only Congress can declare war”. This comment was made the same week the United States President Trump called Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.
Israel – Israel voted this week to determine if current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would stay in office for another term, or if a new party would come to power. While Netanyahu and his closest rival Benny Gantz remained tied down to the wire with 97% of votes counted, Gantz eventually conceded, declaring Netanyahu the winner and longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history. Though the race was incredibly close, Netanyahu’s party Likud had a slight advantage with their alliances stretching further, making them more able to form a coalition with other right-wing allies. Despite his historic win, Netanyahu still has yet to face an upcoming trial for his charges of corruption, which he has denied.
Sudan – A three-month long state of emergency has begun in Sudan, after the defense minister announced Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has been ousted and arrested after maintaining power for 30 years. Defense minister, Awad Ibn Ouf stated that the army will oversee a two-year transitional period which will then be followed by elections. Bashir currently has an international arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Course (ICC), as he is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. (BBC)
India – The initial phase of voting has begun in India, with 142 million voters voting on 91 candidates, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a second term. The elections will conclude May 19, with results being announced on May 23. Analysts say that while Modi is a front-runner, his biggest competition is Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party. (Al Jazeera)