Weekly Report: 20 June 2019 — CANVAS

Credit John Wessels/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Cuba

Cuba and the Cuban people are enduring economic turmoil after US sanctions and restrictions continue to take fold. Civilians are being forced to queue for food and endure sharp cuts in transport services. The latest move by President Donald Trump has been to ban American cruise ships from the communist-ruled nation last month, forcing approximately 800,000 tourists to change their travel plans. The Cuban state is also facing an economic crisis after its Southern communist ally, Venezuela, also faces international sanctions and continues to enter into more chaos.

Nicaragua

According to a report published by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) on June 19, the pro-government forces in Nicaragua committed human rights violations, some amounting to torture, during the suppression of protests against Daniel Ortega that began in April 2018. The abuses detailed in the report include, but are not limited to, “beating captured protestors…raping detainees…acid burns… [and] forced self-incriminating confessions.” The report also calls for governments in North America and Europe to impose targeted sanctions against top Nicaraguan authorities.

North Korea

State media reported from both China and North Korea that China’s President Xi Jinping will make his first trip to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong Un, marking the first trip by a Chinese president in fourteen years to North Korea. The meeting will take place two days before the G-20 Summit, amid rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula after failed talks between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un earlier this year, and a trade-war between the US and China. China will reportedly give 100,000 tons of humanitarian aid and food to the North Korean regime.

Myanmar

A new UN report commissioned by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has concluded that there was a “systemic failure” of the UN in handling the Rohingya crisis over the past decade. The report sheds light on serious errors and a “dysfunctional performance” in crafting and handling a response to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. The report mainly highlighted the fact that there were competing strategies between UN agencies and a mistrust in relations with Myanmar’s government, which helped enable the 2017 crackdown on the Rohingya ethnic minority in the Rakhine state. This report comes as the UN threatens to withdraw aid to the Rakhine state  to avoid being complicit in a “policy of apartheid” for Rohingya Muslims. This policy shift is meant to put pressure on the government to close internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, which currently house about 128,000 displaced Rohingya.

United States

The tensions between the United States and Iran are reaching a boiling point as Iran shoots down a US naval drone, claiming it infringed on its airspace. This happened just two days after Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State privately delivered warnings intended for Iranian leaders that any attack by Tehran or its proxies resulting in the death of even one American service member will generate a military counterattack. As part of raising pressure on Iran, the Pentagon announced the deployment of additional 1000 troops in the Middle East.

In response to the United States’ scrapping trade privileges for India, the South Asian country has responded by imposing retaliatory tariffs on 28 United States goods, raising tensions between the two countries before the upcoming G20 meeting.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump formally launched his campaign for the 2020 election in Orlando, Florida. In his speech, he focused on the growing economy and announced that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would next week conduct raids aimed at finding and deporting millions of people who live in the US without the proper documentation.

Cambodia

On June 19, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement that urged Cambodian authorities to drop charges against two former Radio Free Asia journalists, claiming that the espionage charges are politically motivated. The two were arrested on claims that they had “illegally collected information for a foreign source.” The arrests and nine-month detention of the journalists is seen as just a small piece of Cambodia’s crusade against media dissidents.

Cambodian authorities have questioned, summoned, or detained more than 140 members of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in what seems to be an effort to silence dissent. The CNRP was the only opposition party until it was dissolved by a court in late 2017. Some of those detained were charged with “incitement to commit a felony” which is an inappropriate charge for showing political support.

Mexico

After US President Donald Trump announced hardball immgration policies to curb immigration northwards –– imposing five percent tariffs and cutting humanitarian aid in Latin America –– Mexico deployed approximately 6,000 troops to its southern border with Guatemala. Mexico said that the country detained 800 migrants over the weekend. Mexico’s counter reactionary policies may help counter the American tariffs, but have hurt the popular Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The immigration crisis marks the first strife between President Obrador and his base with resignations from the head of the immigration authority, Tonatiuh Guillen, after Mexico agreed to house migrants at the American-Mexico border, and his favorability rating is down seven points since March. Regardless, Obrador remains popular with 72% approval. In another attempt to appease President Trump’s hardball policies, Mexico became the first nation to pass the USMCA in a 114-4 vote, but the deal is still being debated in Canada and America, meaning that the trade deal ratified on Thursday will not be the final version.

Maldives

The Maldives has recently been caught in a geo-political tug-of-war between China and India due to its strategic location in the Indian Ocean. This week, India got the leg up as the Maldives announced that it has canceled a deal with China to build an observatory with the Maldives in the Indian ocean. India was concerned that this observatory would give the Chinese an advantage in an important Indian Ocean shipping route as well as having the potential for military encroachment on India, as the observatory would have been close to Indian land. This announcement comes after a recent visit to the Maldives by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the first in eight years.

As the political situation in the Maldives cools off after many tumultuous years, the European Union has announced that they are revoking sanctions against the Maldives that were meant to stabilize the country and create an inclusive political situation. This announcement coincides with the Maldives Partnership Forum, where the government announced that over 1 billion USD were raised for development projects.

Zimbabwe

The economic crunch in Zimbabwe, which is experiencing a rise in inflation rates unseen since 2009, when the Zimbabwean dollar collapsed due to hyperinflation, has prompted the government to implement strict austerity policies, promising prosperity. This austerity has manifested itself in the inability of the government to provide certain core services — the Zimbabwean government does not have enough paper or ink to print passports, denying people the access to medical services and employment abroad. The prisons in Zimbabwe, overfilled with people imprisoned by the new government, are severely lacking medicine and food, as well as show uninhabitable conditions. Currently, Zimbabweans, who are struggling with cash shortages and a 100% inflation rate, do not have access to electricity for eighteen to twenty hours a day, as load-shedding allows access to power mostly in the dead of the night.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) does not qualify as an international threat, even though cases have been confirmed in neighbouring Uganda. Despite the WHO characterization –– or lack thereof –– there remains growing concern about the spread of the virus as at least 161 people were killed in the northeastern province of the DRC during ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities. Since June, hundreds of thousands have fled the northeastern province because of the clashes. Survivors describe victims being burned alive or hacked to death with machetes, including young children and babies. On Tuesday, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) expressed deep alarm over the brutal outbreak of violence in the DRC.

Colombia

Major landslides in central Colombia have disconnected the eastern portion of the country with the rest of the country. A road that connects the two regions has been completely wiped out. These landslides have had a major impact on trade, transport, and travel thus far and has led to the region asking the central government to declare an economic emergency for relief. The regions worry that the landslides will lead to a temporary spike in food and transport prices. Poor weather has hindered the reconstruction process of the road.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom and Colombia signed a new climate partnership agreement that has the UK committing $8.5 million to help Colombia protect their unique ecosystem and fight climate change. This new investment comes on top of the $130 million the UK has already given to the country for this push. Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Climate Accords, and this new investment is meant to accelerate the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Venezuela

The United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet has arrived to Caracas to probe the human rights violations by the Maduro regime, meeting with the regime and the victims of human rights violations. Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuelan opposition has called for protests and mobilizations to coincide with Bachelet’s visit, in a bid to make violations of the regime much more visible to the international arena.

Guaidó has been under fire this week, as the government accuses him and his team of corruption in connection to United States humanitarian aid coming from Colombia. In response, Guaidó has dismissed the individuals accused and opened an inquiry into corruption amidst his ranks, offering transparency.

The Venezuelan refugee crisis is continuing, as projections show that over 5 million people will have fled the country by the end of 2019, creating new issues with human rights and the treatment of asylum seekers in Latin America.  As of now, only 21,000 Venezuelans out of 460,000 who have sought asylum have been recognised as refugees.

Malaysia

Over the past six weeks, 15 Batek nomadic tribes people have died in the village of Kuala Koh, an isolated village deep in Malaysia’s northeast region. Measles is to blame for the deaths and the treatment of over 100 others in the village. Malaysia health ministry confirmed on Monday that 37 of the 112 who had fallen sick had been infected with measles. The village of Kuala Koh is quite isolated, and suffers from a lack of running water and electricity, with the nearest hospital being 75 kilometers away.

Philippines

On Monday, Phillipino President Rodrigo Duterte broke his silence regarding the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese ship in the West Philippine Sea (or the South China Sea). President Duterte dismissed it as a ” little maritime accident,” and not what protesters are calling Chinese aggression. The sinkage is the most heated issue in the West Philippine Sea since the Scarborough Shoal standoff in April 2012, which prompted the Philippines to file a historic case against China months later. Some anti-Chinese Filipino protests were not content with Duterte’s statement, burning twenty-two Chinese flags, an homage to the amount of Phillipino sailors killed.  

Thailand

Thailand was selected as a member of the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from 2020 until 2022. Thailand has been selected to sit on the committee for the Asia and Pacific Region, alongside China, Bangladesh and South Korea. The last time Thailand sat on the council charged with proposing and reviewing international policy on economic, social, and environmental development was from 2005 to 2007. The government of Thailand has said they are committed to advancing ECOSOC’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and will use previous Thai development initiatives to help guide them.

Vietnam

Vietnam has placed tariffs on certain Chinese imports like steel and aluminum in order to close China’s access to bypassing US tariffs by branding the products as “Made in Vietnam” and exporting them from the country. This action shows a commitment to good trade relations with the United States, supporting them in the US-China trade conflict. Vietnam was visited by the Thai Navy Commander as part of growing political and defense ties between the two countries, perhaps indicative of a closer alliance in Southeast Asia.

Iran

A US drone was shot down by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard early Thursday morning, reports say. A spokesperson for the Iranian forces claimed that the drone had entered Iranian airspace while a US official said the incident occurred over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, the same location that two tankers were sunk last week. The drone attack comes at a time of heightened tension between Iran and the United States, and two days after President Trump announced he would deploy an additional 1000 troops to the Middle East in response to the tanker attacks.

Sudan

Sudan’s former president Omar-al Bashir was formally charged with corruption related offenses after being detained in April. This was Bashir’s first public appearance in three months. The charges come after Bashir was ousted by the Sudananese Transitional Military Council (TMC), putting the country’s political crisis further towards disaster. Despite the internet blackout by the TMC and the violent crackdown leaving over hundreds dead, Sudanaese protesters have begun a “revolutionary escalation” to pressure the TMC to hand over power to civilians and condemn the crackdown on a sit-in camp earlier this month. Civilian leaders say that the TMC has lost their trust after the violence.

Russia

Russia has secured the support of two more regional allies in their effort to end the eight year civil war in Syria. The Russian special envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentyev announced that Lebanon and Iraq have agreed to support the Russians in their efforts, which comes as the US policy towards Syria has come under increasing scrutiny. This will certainly aid in Russian efforts to prop up the Assad regime, as Lebanon and Iraq are close allies with the Syrian government’s main regional supporter, Iran.

Libya

Fayez al-Sarraj, the Prime Minister of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), has proposed holding elections in order to stop conflict in the country, to be held before the end of 2019. This proposal was made in the context of an impending battle between GNA and the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Hifter, over Tripoli. Many fear that this battle may return the country to the days of civil war and divide it even further. Hifter has vowed to continue his offensive until he takes Tripoli. The conflict rages on, as the Libyan army, aligned with the GNA, took control of Tripoli airport from Hifter’s forces.

Eritrea

A social media movement called ‘yiakl,’ which means enough, is spearheaded by Eritireans living abroad in the U.S., U.K., and Europe campaign is gaining steam by calling for an end to what they say is a repressive regime in their home country. The group is using social media by paralleling the ‘ice bucket challenge’ by nominating people in videos to denounce the “North Korea of Africa.” The movement hopes to mirror the Sudanese people-powered campaign that helped toppled their dictator-for-life.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-48034365

Hong Kong

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has signaled that she will not reintroduce the controversial extradition bill, but refused calls to resign amid the controversy and massive protests. This marks a major win for the protestors and a defeat for Beijing-backed Lam, who has faced immense pressure from millions of protestors to scrap the bill. This past Sunday, about two million people flooded the streets of Hong Kong in a second round of protest against the bill, putting severe pressure on Lam’s government to acquiesce to their demands. This came after Lam offered a tear-filled apology on Saturday, but protesters were determined to continue their campaign. Lam has vowed to finish out her term which expires in 2020, saying she has “heard (them) loud and clear and have reflected deeply on all that has transpired.” The protests have left Lam in a weakened position to govern, with many viewing her as a “lame duck.”

Iraq

On Wednesday June 19, a rocket hit the headquarters of several global oil companies, including US company Exxon Mobil, in Iraq’s southern city of Basra. Three workers were injured while the others were medically examined at the location. The oil ministry claimed there was no damage to any of the oil production after the explosion. The explosion comes at a time of increased tension between the United States and Iran, with Iraq being seen as a potential battleground for the two nations.

Other News

France: The Women’s World Cup is under way in Paris, France. Scores of fans are hailing from all over to see 32 different countries compete for the sports’ most sought out trophy. The United States Women’s team set the record for most goals scored and largest victory when they defeated Thailand 13-0. There has been much debate over the implementation of video assistant referee (VAR) as France has twice been the beneficiary of VAR decisions. The host nation was awarded match-winning penalties against Norway and Nigeriain the group stages.

Ukraine: Ukrainian MP and military affairs analyst Dmytro Tymchuk, who had blogged extensively about the conflict in eastern Ukraine, was found shot dead at his home in Kiev on Thursday. According to officials, it is unclear whether he was murdered, killed himself deliberately, or shot himself on accident. Tymchuk was one of the most prominent and outspoken critics of Russian aggression and presence in Ukraine, leading to suspicion towards his death.

Saudi Arabia: United Nations special rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, published a report on June 19 that provides new details of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. The report places blame on Saudi Arabia,  claiming that aspects of Khashoggi’s death are coinsidered as torture. The report also claims there is credible evidence “warrants an additional probe into Crown Prince Mohammed’s role in the killing.” Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir says the UN report “contains clear contradictions and unfounded allegations, casting doubt on its credibility.”