CANVAS produces a weekly report on several countries where nonviolent resistance can play an important role in confronting challenges to democracy.
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The Latest: There are currently 427,138 confirmed active cases of the coronavirus around the world with 26,889 deaths. The United States now leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases, surpassing the number of cases in Italy and China on Thursday with a total of 82,404.
Ceasefire: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a global ceasefire in all conflicts. He told reporters that “it is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
Millions around the world are having to stay inside as governments issue requirements to shelter in place and follow curfews. After much pressure from the international community, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been delayed. They are now set to take place in 2021.
China is ending its two-month lockdown in the province of Hubei, which was hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. While people with a clean bill of health will be allowed to leave their homes, the city of Wuhan will remain shut down for another two weeks.
Censorship: Reporters Without Borders reported that if the Chinese media were free and if there had been no censorship by the authorities, they would have informed the public about COVID-19 much earlier. In its analysis, they said that the Chinese authorities have even banned the publication of the genome of the virus.
The streets of Hong Kong are slowly filling back up with protesters following weeks of silence. Hundreds took to the streets on Sunday to commemorate fifteen-year-old activist Chan Yin-lam who was found dead last September. In a separate incident, activists were attacked by “alleged national security law supporters” on Sunday.
Arrests: On March 26th, police arrested pro-democracy district councilor Cheng Lai-king. She was arrested at her home two days after reposting a message on Facebook that was calling for police accountability. The post revealed the identity of a police officer who shot and blinded Veby Mega Indah, a journalist for Indonesian-language Suara Hong Kong News, while she was covering a protest in Wanchai in September.
Zimbabwe’s doctors and nurses who work at public hospitals have gone on strike this week over the lack of available protective gear. The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association spokesman said they would not return to work until the government provides proper equipment that would keep them safe as they treat coronavirus patients. While the country has only recorded three cases of COVID-19, some patients’ families are being asked to provide basics such as gloves and clean water.
Ceasefire: Assad hosted Russia’s Defence Minister on Monday to discuss the recent ceasefire in Idlib. The ceasefire agreement between Turkey and Russia halted the three-months offensive of pro-Assad forces, but it raised tensions between the Russian and Syrian governments. On Wednesday night, a bridge on Highway M4 was detonated to prevent the Turkish-Russian joint patrol. The UN has called for a total ceasefire in the region and for a large-scale release of prisoners to reduce the chances of the spread of COVID-19.
The United States government is bringing charges of narcoterrorism against President Nicolás Maduro. US Justice officials claim that 14 Venezuelan government members and their connections conspired to “flood the United States with cocaine” and use the drug trade as a “weapon against America.”
In response, Maduro called US President Trump a “racist cowboy,” and worked to shift the blame back to the US, Colombia, and opposition leader Juan Guaidó. The US is offering up to $15 million for information that would lead to Maduro’s arrest.
Russia is currently developing a system that will use cell phone geolocation data to track people who may have come in contact with the coronavirus. Both civilians and regional authorities will be notified if they are at risk of catching the virus. The Kremlin said that this measure is not only legal but also necessary to combat COVID-19. On Friday, officials reported 196 new cases, bringing the total number of infected is 1,036. This is the largest one-day increase in cases Russia has seen.
Morgan Stanley estimates that no less than two years will be needed for Lebanon to restructure its debt. The coronavirus has worsened the economic crisis, pushing the newly formed Lebanese government to “stop paying all maturing Eurobonds in foreign currencies.” This could lead to “legal actions by lenders” in the future.
As the COVID-19 death toll nears 2,000, Iranian leaders are unsuccessfully trying to appear self-sufficient by rejecting aid from Doctors Without Borders. Still, they are being supported by the European Union with a €20 million aid package. The United Nations have also attempted to help Iran by calling for the US-imposed sanctions to be lifted. However, the United States has implemented new sanctions against Iran, causing further damage to Iranian infrastructure.
Ceasefire: The Government of National Accord (GNA) released a statement on Monday regarding shillings and raids by Khalifa Haftar Militias. Despite the fact that the two groups had agreed to a ceasefire, the Haftar militias have been targeting Mitiga International Airport and houses near Tripoli. The attacks have left five civilians dead and six wounded. Several days later, the hinterland of Tripoli was heavily shelled by Haftar forces. GNA said this has been the worst bombing in weeks.
On Monday, Myanmar’s government declared that the Arakan Army (AA) is a terrorist group. Myanmar’s military and AA have been fighting since November 2018, and the conflict has worsened significantly. The conflict has displaced more than 130,000 people in the Rakhine State. In the past, AA has also “arrested, killed, and tortured village administrators, civil service staff, and innocent civilians.”
COVID-19:Myanmar has confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19, much later than its Southeast Asian neighbors. Experts are worried that the country’s inadequate heath infrastructure may hit the country hard.
Two rockets landed in Baghdad’s Green Zone on Thursday, barely missing the Baghdad Operations Command and the US embassy. According to the Iraqi military, the target was once again the US embassy. This is the 26th attack against the Green Zone since last October. There have yet to be any confirmed casualties.
A South Korean news outlet has claimed that the coronavirus killed 180 North Korean soldiers in January and forced 3,700 people into quarantine. Kim Jong Un has continuously refused to provide any information regarding COVID-19 in North Korea. On Monday, he stated that “the infectious disease did not flow into our country yet.” North Korean officials have yet to announce any confirmed cases, but they have been “asking for medical aid privately.”
Related:President Donald Trump has sent a personal letter to Kim Jong Un, offering cooperation and good relations between the two countries as they battle COVID-19. He also congratulated Kim on his managing of the coronavirus.
The United States
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he would cut aid to Afghanistan by over $1 billion USD as political infighting threatens the stability of the US-backed peace deal. Pompeo said that the failure of President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah to form a new government “deeply harms US-Afghan relations.” He also threatened that more cuts would be coming in the future if the treaty as not respected.
On Wednesday, Sudan implemented a nationwide curfew from 8 pm to 6 am. The government has also ordered that public transportation be shut down. As of Tuesday, 341 people have overcome the virus and were discharged. Despite the new preventative measures taken by the government, “hundreds of Sudanese have reportedly refused medical supervision.” More than 300 people have left isolation centers, endangering their societies.
Street protests have paused as Chilean President Sebastian Pinera declared 90 days of state of catastrophe to try to stop the spread of COVID-19. Pinera did not provide any specific measures that will be implemented under the state of catastrophe. By law, a state of catastrophe puts the armed forces in charge of public order and security, and it enables military control of the movement of people and goods.
Bolivia is delaying their much-anticipated presidential elections that were originally scheduled for May 3rd. While a new date has not been set yet, the country is implementing a national 14-day quarantine. Besides the quarantine, Bolivia has strengthened restrictions on movement, permitting only one person per household to go out between the hours of 7 am and noon on weekdays. Also, the border closure has been extended to April 15th.
A Palestinian civilian was shot and killed by Israeli forces on Sunday in Nilin, Ramallah. The victim, Sufyan Nawwaf al-Khawaja, was on his way to buy necessities after the government implemented a curfew. He drove towards a road that is “reserved exclusively for Israelis” and was shot by Israeli forces. It has been reported the arrest of two Palestinian health workers in East Jerusalem by Israeli police.
According to the Ministry of Health, Nicaragua registered the first virus-related death on March 26th. This is the second of two confirmed cases of Coronavirus.
Migrants: Costa Rica’s government has begun transferring about 2,600 migrants bound for the United States to Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan government has yet to release a statement regarding the influx of migrants and the effect it could have on public health.
Israel: Israel is on the “verge of a constitutional crisis.” Likud cabinet members have accused the Supreme Court of carrying out a “‘coup’ against Israel’s elected officials.” The Blue and White Party have stated that “the country’s legislature must continue to function at such a critical time.” The party has accused Netanhayu of using undemocratic means to “cling to power.”
Kosovo: Kosovo’s government collapsed after a coalition partner pushed for a motion of no-confidence. This followed a large disagreement with the prime minister. The government led by Albin Kurti, a left-wing nationalist party, took office a meer 50 days prior.
The Numbers: Over the past three months, there are have been 265,873 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world and 11,181 deaths. At the current moment, 164,089 people are infected, and 7,793 people are in critical condition. Since the pandemic originated, 90,603 people have recovered.
Border Closures: Countries around the world are closing their borders and implementing curfews in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. The United States has closed its border with Canada. It has also enacted a travel ban that prevents foreign travelers from entering the country if they have recently visited countries that have been particularly affected by the pandemic. The European Union has also closed its borders to non-citizens for 30 days. Even the Schengenscheme is temporarily suspended as some EU-member states imposed some restrictions among themselves.
Economy: The stock market has continued to take serious hits, and the looming threat of a recession has sent Americans into a frenzy. Lebanon, a country that was already struggling financially before the virus, is still experiencing massive debt; its economy is “tanking.” Venezuela is facing the same problems. The IMF denied Venezuela’s $5 billion loan request, as it does not recognize Maduro as a legitimate president.
Vaccines: Three countries are currently testing vaccines on both human and animal subjects. The tests are being administered in the United States, China, and Europe. Results have yet to be reported.
New Discovery: The second dog to test positive for the coronavirus was reported on Thursday in Hong Kong. According to the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department, “there’s no evidence that pets can transmit the virus to humans.” Humans can, however, pass the virus to animals. Medical professionals are planning to run tests on quarantined dogs and cats in the near future.
The European Union has accused Russian media of “pushing fake news online in English, Spanish, Italian, German, and French” and “using contradictory, confusing, and malicious reports to make it harder for the EU to communicate its response to the pandemic.” The EU has discovered 80 cases of disinformation; the Kremlin has denied all allegations.
President Barham Salih has appointed former mayor of Najaf Adnan al-Zurfi as Iraq’s new Prime Minister-designate. Salih appointed al-Zurfi “without the consultation of the political parties in Parliament.” Al-Zurfi has 30 days to appoint cabinet members that will then be put to a vote of confidence in parliament.
For the first time since the pandemic began, China has “reported no domestic #COVID19 cases yesterday.” China has taken drastic measures to slow the spread of the virus, but the World Health Organization has been left to wonder why China took so long to address the pathogen. Nevertheless, China has been able to flatten the curve, and as more countries enact the same policies as China, we can expect the number of cases to decrease over time.
Despite the fact that a military judge overturned the release of Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury, he will return to the United States. Fakhoury was going to trial for allegedly “kidnapping, torturing, and detaining Lebanese citizens as well as ‘killing and attempting to kill others.’” He was a warden at Khiam Prison during Israel’s occupation of Lebanon. The prison is said to have been a “center for torture.”
The United States has implemented new sanctions on Iran after the bombings of American military bases have worsened. Iranians believe the sanctions have come at an extremely inappropriate time, as they are battling the spread of COVID-19. More than 17,000 are infected, and around 1,100 have died.
In an attempt to regain the Idlib province and the M-4 Highway, the Syrian Arab Army has sent reinforcements to the area this week. The army will continue to reinforce the front lines in order to resume their offensive attack against the jihadist rebels. On Wednesday, pro-Assad forces blocked the M-4 Highway in order to “prevent the joint Turkish-Russian military patrol from being conducted.” The joint patrol started on March 15th when Turkey and Russia agreed to a ceasefire.
Sudan has disbanded Islamist groups that were “formed to confiscate church properties” in order to protect Christians from religious prosecution. Sudan is currently ranked seventh in the world for Christian prosecution. The transitional government “finalized a constitutional declaration last year that no longer refers to Islam as the primary source of law in the country,” and it also repealed a law that allowed police to detain people for “violating religious-based moral teachings.” Sudan is now on the U.S. State Department’s “Special Watch List” instead of the list of “Countries of Particular Concern.”
North Korea has yet to report any cases of COVID-19, but the pandemic has pushed Kim Jong Un to call upon his country to “hastily build a ‘modern general hospital’ to ‘better protect the precious health and safety’ of North Koreans. The construction of the hospital is one of the country’s top priorities and is set to be finished by October.
Chilean anti-government protesters are being forced to postpone their demonstrations due to the government declaring a “90-day catastrophe.” President Sebastian Pinera has yet to specify what exact policies the government will enact, but citizens can most likely expect to be quarantined until the number of cases starts to decrease.
13 American journalists have been expelled from China. The expulsion comes weeks after China accused the United States of enacting “‘unreasonable oppression’ of Chinese journalists” residing in America.
Despite the current arms embargo implemented by the United Nations in 2011, jet oil shipments from the United Arab Emirates have been received in Eastern Libya. The United Nations is aware of the shipments and has yet to respond.
Two of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s former allies have founded two new political parties in hopes of creating a more democratic nation. However, “they are likely to face formidable challenges.”
Myanmar military jets attacked four Christian villages in Chin State last weekend, killing 21 people and leaving many injured. As a result of the attacks, 2,000 people have fled the region. Hospitals are experiencing a shortage of medical supplies and are currently asking for support to treat the victims.
Israel: Israel swore in their new parliament Monday after the last national elections failed to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enough seats to form a government. His rival Benny Gantz was chosen to form a governing coalition instead. Experts are worried that this will be a tough task, as the parties that Gantz will have to bring together have little in common besides their dislike for Netanyahu.
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia’s National Anti-Corruption Commission arrested 298 government officials, including military and security personnel, on charges of bribery and exploiting public office. Some experts are worried that this will be a repeat of 2017 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrested many of his political opponents under the guise of cracking down on corruption.
Brazil: Brazilians are protesting against far-right President Bolsanaro’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
Juan Guaidó called for a new round of protests, the first since returning home from his international tour earlier this year, but a disappointing result left the movement unsure of how to move forward. Only a small amount of people turned out in support, and the march was broken up quickly by police with tear gas. Opposition protests drew millions a few years ago, but now it is surprising to even see 1,000. Protesters are growing weary with no sign the government is changing course, and an increasingly harsh police force is making it dangerous.
The Russian Parliament approved an amendment to their national constitution that would reset Vladamir Putin’s term count, allowing him to stay in power for another 12 years after his current term ends in 2024. The revised constitution will go to a nationwide vote next month. The amended document includes a ban on same-sex marriage and adds “a belief in God” to a list of Russia’s traditional values.
After a week of deadly violence, Iraq’s foreign minister summoned ambassadors from the United States and Great Britain for an emergency meeting. Overnight airstrikes against the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah killed five, which were in response to a previous attack on US and British soldiers. The violence comes less than a week after security forces used tear gas against protesters in Baghdad, injuring 16 demonstrators.
Satellite images of the city of Qom show mass graves being dug, confirming that the COVID-19 outbreak in the country is much more serious than the government is letting on. The minister of health has already been accused of lying about the seriousness of the virus, and many are worried that Iran is ill-equipped to deal with it.
Government leaders asked the International Monetary Fund for a $5 billion loan, the first time the country has turned to the IMF since its 1979 revolution. Even before the outbreak began, Iran’s economy had taken a hit from slipping oil prices and international sanctions.
Last week’s ceasefire for the region of Idlib seems to be holding steady as Turkish and Russian officials hammered out more details of the agreement this week. Turkish President Erdogan said that he would be willing to take strong military action against even the smallest violation of the agreement.
However, the peace was not felt over the entire country — a car bomb killed at least four people in northeast Syria Thursday. Turkish officials blamed Kurdish militants for the attack.
As China slowly recovers from the COVID-19 outbreak, experts are looking at this crisis from a new angle: the high human rights cost. Amnesty International condemned the country for its lack of regard for its citizens’ rights, while Chinese officials defend their actions, saying that these unprecedented circumstances dictated a strong response. China developed facial recognition software and apps to identify masked people and decide whether or not they should be allowed into public spaces. Critical online postings about the government’s response to the virus have been censored, and individual whistleblowers and activists have been threatened.
The United States
Per their agreement with the Taliban, US troops have begun to leave Afghanistan, their goal being to reduce to 8,600 over the next 4 months. However, the deal is being overshadowed by an unfolding political crisis. Both incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah were sworn in as leader of the country after the American envoy to the country could not broker a deal between the two.
Anti-government protesters assembled for a memorial dedicated to a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Student who died last November. Police deemed the assembly illegal and detained several people. Violence broke out and police knocked over a Cable TV reporter with shields. A bipartisan committee in the United Kingdom’s Parliament has launched an investigation into potential human rights abuses committed by the Hong Kong police force.
The Government of National Accord (GNA) bombed Haftar’s depot of ammunition on Sunday in response to Haftar’s army relentlessly attacking civilians. After the bombing of the ammunition depot, Haftar’s forces shelled the capital, killing two civilians and injuring four more. Haftar agreed to sign a ceasefire during a meeting with Macron on Monday. The leader of LNA underlined that he would withdraw in case the ceasefire would be violated by the UN-backed GNA. Libya has been receiving more than 100 deliveries of military supplies by planes since January that will only worsen its civil war. The United Nations has struggled to uphold its embargo, resulting in the importation of 5,000 metric tons of cargo per flight.
Lebanon’s already poor economy is set for a major decline after the country failed to pay its massive foreign debt. They are trying to restructure their crumbling reserves, but experts are worried that many financial institutions will fail at the expense of the public. Parliament is working on legislation to legalize cannabis cultivation, a move that has the potential to bring billions of dollars of revenue into the country.
At the funeral of revolutionary priest and poet Ernesto Cardenal, attackers “chased, attacked, and robbed” journalists that were covering the event. The assailants reportedly shouted slogans in support of President Daniel Ortega and wore the colors of the ruling Sandinista party. This comes after the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees released a new report that states that over 100,000 people, many of them journalists, have fled Nicaragua in the past two years since the country broke out in violence.
A new law in Zimbabwe could result in the imprisonment of parents who fail to send their children to school. In an attempt to lower the country’s dropout rate, the government has made education compulsory until 16. The law also bans schools from sending home children who cannot afford an education – 60% of families report facing an economic barrier to providing education. Opponents of the law are frustrated that this does address the root of the problem: providing free, high-quality education for all students.
Parliament has rejected reforms meant to update the undemocratic 2008 Constitution. Tuesday was the “first day of voting on a slew of amendments to the military-drafted charter.” The National League for Democracy (NLD) has proposed amendments to decrease military power in the government, but the proposal must receive more than 75% of votes in Parliament.