Weekly Reports — CANVAS

Weekly Reports

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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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Weekly Report 21 February 2020

Weekly Report 21 February 2020

Iran
Iranians head to the polls today to elect a new parliament, but recent tensions in the country will test what the citizens think of its leaders. Many citizens of Iran have little to no confidence in their leaders. Little has improved since the last elections four years ago, and recent embarrassments on the national scale does not help.

However, Iran’s religious government leaders hold a tight grip on who can run; disqualifying more than 7,000 candidates in favor of those loyal to the Supreme Leader. Hardline loyalists are thus expected to dominate the elections. It is likely that voter turnout will be low, despite Khamenei’s tweet that said that voting will “display our unity against the enemies.

China
As the number of COVID-19 cases passes 75,000, new sectors of the population are put at risk. Health care employees make up 4% of confirmed cases, with one hospital director passing away Tuesday morning. The widespread ramifications are being felt in new ways. One estimate has the virus costing the airline industry almost $30 billion. Similar declines are being felt in the automobile industry.

Also: A new report shows exactly how and why the Chinese government has placed thousands of Uighur Muslims into detention camps. A whistleblower leaked a database that has confirmed that people are placed into camps strictly based on “their religion and their family ties,” contradicting the Chinese government’s claim that these camps are meant to curb political violence and have no relation to religion.

Germany
Nine people were killed in two shootings on Wednesday night. The far-right gunman targeted neighborhoods that have a large immigrant population, leading the police to believe that the motive is related to xenophobia. The gunman was found dead in his apartment with his mother on Thursday morning. This is another example of the dissemination of xenophobia throughout the country. Just last week, German authorities arrested 12 members of a far-right terrorist organization.

Syria
As pro-Assad forces continue to barrage the province of Idlib, domestic flights between Damascus and Aleppo have resumed. A symbolic flight carrying Syrian officials was completed Wednesday, demonstrating that Assad’s government has the upper hand in the region.

A Proxy War: On Thursday, Russia bombed Turkish troops in Idlib, which in turn targeted pro-Assad forces. This is the lowest point of the agreement between Russia and Turkey. Merkel and Macron are said to be ready to meet Putin and Erdogan to defuse tensions in the area.

Palestine
Despite having reached an agreement last week, tensions are continuing to rise between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Because of Hamas’ inability to prevent the launching of balloons and rockets from the Gaza Strip, Israel has decided to renege on its promise of easing restrictions.

Trade between Palestine and Israel has returned to normal on Thursday after months of tensions and boycotts. The trade conflict started after the Palestinian Prime Minister announced the nation would no longer import beef from Israel. Israeli and Palestinian ranchers and farmers were negatively impacted by the ban.

An 8-year old Palestinian Jerusalemite lost an eye after Israeli police shot him “with a rubber-coated steel bullet.” Police stated that they were controlling a riot, but surveillance footage has shown that there were no signs of a riot breaking out. Eyewitnesses said that the attack was “unprovoked” and “deliberate.”

Lebanon
The International Monetary Fund began talks this week on how to help Lebanon out of its worst economic crisis in 50 years. Having met with newly appointed Prime Minister Hassan Diab, the delegation is working to tackle the slow economic growth, the high unemployment rates, and the widespread corruption that sparked months of ongoing protests.

Lebanon’s current debt of $87 billion is 150% more than the country’s GDP. Many financial experts are worried that they might default on their $1.2 billion Eurobond debt that is due March 9th.

Libya
The Libyan National Army bombed Tripoli’s main port Wednesday. Renegade commander Khalifa Haftar and his LNA have wanted to gain control of the port for years; they have tried to a Turkish vessel carrying weapons.

At the UN: Peace negotiations in Geneva were temporarily halted after the bombing but resumed on Friday. Diplomats remain divided on the prospect of peace in the country. Many agree that “there can be no peace under the bombing,” while most diplomats are worried that if a peace deal is not reached soon, the violence will only continue.

On the Ground: A rare look inside the country by The New York Times revealed a worsening humanitarian crisis. “Everyone is afraid, even afraid of their fellow citizens,” one Benghazi resident said. Residents complain of corruption by local militia leaders, as well as unexplained bombings, abductions and detentions without trial.

Venezuela
The United States levied new sanctions against Rosneft, a major Russian oil company directly tied to the Maduro administration. Venezuela uses Rosenef for about 70 percent of its oil exports, which the US Treasury Secretary denounced as “looting of Venezuela’s oil assets.” The impacts of these sanctions are unknown, whether this will weaken Maduro’s stronghold or plunge the country into further crisis.

Long Reads: Venezuela’s ongoing struggles are leaving millions without a means to support themselves. Some are fleeing to Colombia, putting stress on a country ill-equipped to handle the sudden influx, while others are putting their children under the care of friends and family members.

North Korea
On Tuesday, North Korean refugees “launched a political party in South Korea… aiming to give a voice to the 33,500 defectors living in the South and oppose conciliation with Pyongyang.” The new South-North Unification Party is seeking to make amends between North and South Korea and will likely seek formal representation in April’s parliamentary elections. A former North Korean diplomat has already announced that he is running for a National Assembly seat but as a member of the established opposition party.

Bolivia
Bolivia’s electoral tribunal has officially disqualified former President Evo
Morales from running for Senate. Chairman Salvador Romero said that he did not meet the requirements for candidacy by not being a permanent resident of Bolivia. Morales was exiled to Argentina following his presidency, and he has yet to return to his home country. Morales responded via Twitter, calling the decision “a blow to democracy.”

Sudan
Peace talks between rebel groups and the Sudanese government failed to wrap up by the agreed-upon date of February 15th, so the groups decided to extend the talks for another three weeks. The peace negotiations have been taking place since October, and the groups have “agreed on a cease-fire, humanitarian access, land issues and the resettlement of those displaced by the conflicts.”

Russia
Human Rights Violations: Anastasia Shevchenko, a political activist, has been living under house arrest for over a year. She has been “accused of links to a pro-democracy group Open Russia UK, which has been banned from Russia as ‘undesirable’ and a ‘threat to state security.’” If she is found guilty, Shevchenko could spend six years in prison.

Peaceful protester Konstantin Kotov has been behind bars for more than six months. He has been charged with having connections with peaceful protests in Moscow last summer “over the exclusion of opposition candidates from the city and council elections.”

Iraq
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq recently released a study concerning education in Iraq and how children in ISIL-controlled areas are unable to attend school. They are unable to “move freely in and out of the camps.” The ISIL-induced crisis in Iraq has resulted in the displacement of 1.4 million people; 658,000 are children. Only half of those children have access to education.

Coronavirus: Iraq has closed its border with Iran after two Iranians died from the coronavirus on Wednesday. Iraq will continue to import goods from Iran and Iraqi citizens returning from Iran will be allowed to enter the country.

Yemen
Airstrikes: A United Nations report confirmed that more than 32 Yemenis were killed in a Saudi airstrike. The airstrike is a direct defiance of international humanitarian law. The United States backed the airstrike and has provided Saudi Arabia with weapons priced at hundreds of billions of dollars.

Airstrikes that occurred on Saturday injured 18 children and claimed the lives of 19 more. Houthi rebels have stated that “Saudi-led Arab coalition aircraft targeted Al-Jawf’s Al-Masloub district with several raids, killing 35 civilians and wounding others.” The United Nations has since denounced the attack

Other: Houthi rebels have blocked half of the aid delivery systems that were implemented by the United Nations, directly affecting more than two million people. The population is on the brink of starvation. In the past, the Houthis have attempted to convince the United Nations to give them 2% of the aid budget. Last week the Houthis withdrew this demand..

Hong Kong
HSBC announced its plans to cut 35,000 jobs over the next three years following its coronavirus-instituted economic slump. The UK-based bank with strong ties to Hong Kong saw a 33% decrease in profits in 2019, prompting the largest restructuring and simplification in the bank’s history. The bank gains most of its profit from the Asian region, so until stability is reached, profits will continue to shrink.

United States
The Trump administration announced that the country’s five largest newspapers will be treated as Chinese operatives rather than objective sources. The day after this announcement was made, China announced that it will expel three journalists who are affiliated with the Wall Street Journal as media relations between the two nations continue to sour. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was revoking their press credentials over a Wall Street Journal opinion piece titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”

Mexico
Mexico City was rocked with protests this week following the murder of a seven-year-old girl. After the body of Fatima Cecilia Aldrighetti was found over the weekend, protesters took to the streets to speak out against the waves of violence against women. On Wednesday, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum announced that police arrested several suspects. Despite the fact that President López Obrador has brushed the protests to the side, Mexico’s legislature has proposed toughening the prison sentences for inmates convicted of femicide.

Myanmar
The humanitarian crisis in Myanmar is worsening; the government has implemented “severe humanitarian restrictions and a sweeping internet blackout.” Tens of thousands of people have been displaced as the conflict between the military and civilian armies grows more intense. Last week, more than 17 students were injured after the shelling of a school. The military has been accused of war crimes, but information regarding these crimes is limited as an effect of the internet blackout in nine townships.

Zimbabwe
On Monday, the European Union renewed its arms embargo on Zimbabwe and instituted a targeted asset freeze against Zimbabwe Defence Industries. The EU Council said that its decision is a response to “the yet to be investigated alleged role of the armed and security forces in human rights abuses.” Zimbabwe has said that the sanctions have heavily stifled its economic growth, especially because they have been in place since 2002.

Other News:

Ukraine: Violence in Eastern Ukraine has led to the death of a Ukrainian soldier and the injuring of several others. Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainians are assigning the blame to one another. This is some of the worst violence Ukraine has seen since the Paris summit in December.

Turkey: A few hours after being acquitted for his alleged role in the 2013 Gezi Park protests, Osman Kavala, Turkish businessman, prominent philanthropist, and human rights activist was detained by the police on charges of his alleged links with a failed coup d’etat in 2016.

Weekly Report 14 February 2020

Weekly Report 14 February 2020

Special Feature: The Plight of Women

This week, we are highlighting stories of femicide, female genital mutilation, and sexual abuse across five different nations. *Due to the nature of these stories, reader discretion is advised*

Mexico
The execution of a young female artist is the most recent example of the ongoing war on women in Mexico. Isabel Cabanillas was riding her bike home from a bar when she was shot twice, sparking protests throughout the country. Cabanillas belonged to the feminist group Hijas de su Maquilera Madre. Many of the group’s participants were the first women in their families to attend university, and this “new generation is a new kind of target.” Murals of the artist and feminist art installations have appeared around Cabanillas’s town following her untimely death.

Egypt
There has been renewed outcry against female genital mutilation (FGM) after a botched operation left a 12-year-old girl dead. The doctor who performed the surgery and the parents of the young girl were arrested last week. A doctor-led movement has taken to the streets, protesting the procedure that has been illegal since 2008, but is still widely practiced. Effects of FGM include both mental and physical health issues like “chronic infections, menstrual problems, infertility, [and] pregnancy and childbirth complications.” Egyptian conservatives have defended FGM, stating that “it is a religious thing” and that doctors “only listen to what the West is saying.”

Zimbabwe
In a recent poll, more than 57% of women in Zimbabwe revealed that they have been forced to perform sexual favors for employment or business offers. Women have been subject to this quid-pro-quo for years; one woman stated that “even police officers require some form of payment to help you.” The rise in sextortion is a result of the increased corruption in the nation. The secretive nature of these occurrences result in a lack of prosecution and reports.

Afghanistan
Human Rights Watch published a report on how perpetrators of sexual assault in Afghanistan are rarely prosecuted. Victims seeking justice are refused recognition. Cases of assault in the athletic world are surfacing, but “Afghan authorities have failed to arrest senior officials of the Afghan Football Federation” and are guilty of “participating in a cover-up of the abuse.” Aghan authorities have provided no legal support to the woman and boys affected and have threatened to punish activists.

Iraq
This week, SEED, a “local NGO whose core mission is to empower and protect women,” co-sponsored an exhibit calling attention to gender-based violence. Candles were lit at the exhibit to pay respect to the victims of abuse and violence, which runs rampant in the Kurdistan region. In 2019, approximately 120 women lost their lives from gender-based violence. However, only 13 of those deaths were “honor killings,” a major decrease from “previous years, [where] 60-70 women would be killed due to honor.” Sadly, none of the cases made it to court.


China

The World Health Organization (WHO) has given the coronavirus an official name: COVID-19. WHO leaders worked to find a name that “did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease.” Experts cannot agree on whether we have surpassed the worst of the virus. China’s top medical expert says that they expect the outbreak to end by April, but global medical professionals are worried that this prediction is too optimistic.

The Latest: China experienced the largest single-day increase in the number of new cases Thursday, with 254 new deaths and 15,152 cases. The sudden spike was the result of a new method of diagnosis that allows doctors to report it on the spot instead of waiting for official lab results to return.

Censorship: Two citizen journalists in Wuhan have disappeared after covering COVID-19. Fang Bin and Chen Qiushi both shared videos on Twitter and Youtube, showing the bleak conditions in a country known for intense media censorship. Neither man can be found, with activists being unsure if they have been taken by the police or put into forced medical quarantine.

 

Lebanon

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti has warned that “his country faces becoming a failed state if the population doesn’t accept painful structural economic reforms.” Dr. Hitti responded to anti-government protesters, the newly formed technocratic government is rooting out corruption in an attempt to save the country from its ongoing economic crisis.

Hundreds of people are losing their jobs and losing affordable access to health care. There have been “critical shortages of medicine. Hospitals have stopped performing nonessential surgeries and closed entire wings for lack of patients.” Doctors are opening clinics to provide “free medical care for anti-government protesters injured by security police.”

Public Response: On Tuesday, protesters gathered in an attempt to block the roads leading to the capital so that politicians would not be able to reach Parliament and participate in a vote of confidence regarding the new government. Security forces used tear gas against the protesters, resulting in around 24 injuries. A Lebanese lawmaker was also injured after protesters damaged his car and beat him. Still, the government won the confidence vote.

 

North Korea

Internet usage in North Korea has increased by around 300%. Doing so has caused major concern in the United States over cybercrimes, such as exploiting data or stealing money from international banks. North Korea has “improved its ability to both steal and ‘mine’ cryptocurrencies, hide its footprints in gaining technology for its nuclear program and cyber operations, and use the internet for day-to-day control of its government.”

Other News: Despite the sanctions placed by the United Nations, North Korea has continued to amplify its nuclear programs as well as illegally export 370 million dollars worth of coal to China. Russia and China have argued that the UN sanctions have harmed North Korea, resulting in the currently suspended nuclear discussions between Pyongyang and Washington. Despite these concerns, France, Britain, and the United States do not believe that this is the opportune time to lift any sanctions.

 

Libya

The United Nations adopted a resolution for the support of ceasefire in Libya, demanding the warring parties commit to “a lasting ceasefire” according to terms agreed by military representatives from both sides at recent talks in Geneva.

Human Rights Watch: The Italian Foreign Minister met with Libya’s Prime Minister and Interior Minister to discuss some changes to the 2017 memorandum on migrants that was automatically renewed on February 2nd. The changes requested by the Italian government concern the formation of the Libyan Coast Guard and the external supervision of the refugee detention centers. The position of the Italian government has been highly criticized by Human Rights Watch: “The Italian government should suspend all support to the Libyan Coast Guard until Libya commits to a clear plan to fully respect migrants’ safety and rights”.

Other News: On Monday, six Libyan families filed lawsuits in the Federal Court of District of Columbia against Khalida Haftar and the United Arab Emirates government for war crimes. The families have asked that they paid one billion dollars in damages; their “relatives were murdered, injured or faced attempting killings.” Filing the lawsuit in the American capital “will bring to light the serious human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, and torture which the defendants have engaged in with absolute impunity and without fear of accountability.”

 

Sudan

Sudan has been trying to be removed from the United States’ list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) to get much-needed investment into the country. Their transitional government has taken many steps this week to curry favor with the international community.

The Latest: Leaders agreed to hand over Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court to face charges of genocide and war crimes. Al-Bashir served as the President of Sudan from 1989 until he was ousted in 2019. His charges surround the War in Darfur that broke out in 2003 and has led to the deaths of 300,000. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has also stated that Sudan will be terminating all relations with Hamas and Hezbollah.

Background: Sudan has been on the list since 1993, and there are a number of economic sanctions that come along with being on the list. United Nations chief Antonio Guterres announced that Sudan must be removed from the list and instead given financial support to “save the nation’s fragile and democratic transition from a plunging economy.”

 

Syria

After eight years of fighting, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces regained control over one of the most important pieces of territory: the Damascus-Aleppo highway, or the M5. Once an economic artery for the nation, control over this motorway has largely been seen as the key to winning the conflict. Syrian troops have slowly sought to regain control over it since rebels took it in 2012; this week they gained control of the last section.

Even More Violence: This week saw incredible amounts of violence as both sides sought control over the precious motorway. Turkey started to shell Assad militias in Idlib, rebel forces shot down a Syrian government helicopter, Syrian Defence Forces killed nine Turkish-backed rebels, and a Russian airstrike near Turkish outposts killed and wounded civilians in Aleppo.

Humanitarian Crisis: Over 140,000 Syrians have been displaced in the last three days alone, bringing the total of those uprooted from their homes to over 800,000, the United Nations said Thursday.

Further Reading: The Syrian Network for Human Rights has confirmed that there are still open cases regarding 8,143 missing ISIS detainees, including many activists. While the terrorist organization was supposedly subject to a territorial defeat, the whereabouts and the conditions of the detainees remain unknown.

 

Palestine

At the UN: President Mahmoud Abbas presented a rejection of Trump’s Israel-Palestine deal to the UN Security Council. The rebuttal claimed that the plan “breaches international law and the internationally-endorsed terms of reference for … [a] lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The divided Security Council forced the draft to be withdrawn, but not without lively debate and constant disagreements.

International Relations: On Thursday night, Hamas and Israel reached a ceasefire agreement. Hamas ensured that no more balloons or rockets will be launched at Israel, whereas Israel will lift some sanctions in the Gaza Strip.

 

Iran

In a recent interview, Mohsen Rezaei, a former leader of the Revolutionary Guards and current secretary of the Expediency Council, stated that “Iran is just looking for an excuse to attack Israel and ‘raze Tel Aviv to the ground.’” Raezaei is accusing Israel of being involved in the killing of Qassem Soleimani. He also stated that Iran has access to extremely specific information regarding American troops, where they stay, where they get their supplies, how many American ships currently deployed, and who individual troops considered friends. He credited the bombing of the Ayn Al-Assad base to the collection of specific information. The attack on the American base has resulted in at least 100 injured troops, despite President Trump’s initial statement, where he said that no one was injured.

 

Venezuela

The conflict between Juan Guiadó and Nicolás Maduro worsened this week as Guiadó returned to Venezuela after seeking international support. Guaidó broke a travel ban by going to Colombia, Europe, Canada, and the US; in many of these countries, he is considered the rightful president of Venezuela.

At the airport, he was met by both protesters and supporters, with many pro-Maduro forces yelling “fascist!” and throwing liquids at him. In response, Maduro made a public appearance and called upon the public to “not get distracted by stupidities, by dummies, [and] by traitors to the homeland.” Maduro has threatened Guiadó before, but he has never been detained.

Meanwhile: Venezuela is experiencing the seventh year of a “crushing depression” and has seen a recent spike in their infant mortality rate, all of which Maduro has denied. He has, however, given foreign firms near-total autonomy over the Venezuelan oil industry. Russian and Chinese oil companies are set to take over an oil industry that has deteriorated significantly as a result of “American sanctions, [and] years of gross mismanagement and corruption.”

 

Iraq

Tensions between security forces and protesters have continued to worsen. On Monday, crowds gathered near al-Ain University, resulting in the murder of one anti-government protester. In Nasiriyah, southern-Iraq, police fired live bullets and tear gas canisters at the protesters on Wednesday. The demonstrations have taken place over the last five months; at least 500 protesters have been killed by security forces.

 

Hong Kong

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a member of the Executive and Legislative Council of Hong Kong, has said that the government needs to draft new emergency laws because of the spreading coronavirus. This decision may lead to more violations of human rights. Her decision came after thousands of Hongkongers were seen queuing overnight for masks. Basic supplies like food, toilet paper, and disinfectant are scarce; markets are quickly running out these necessities amidst the panic fueled by the spread of the coronavirus. Supermarkets have been forced to implement a “rationing policy limited customers to two items of the products in short supply.”

The Latest: Beijing has replaced Zhang Xiaoming with Xia Baolong as the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Baolong is known for the demolition of thousands of Christian churches in 2014. He is also close to China’s President Xi Jinping. By placing Baolong as head of China’s office in Hong Kong, Beijing is further demonstrating its intention to assert more power over Hong Kong.

 

Yemen

Renowned Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) affiliate Qassim al-Rimi has been killed by United States’ forces. An audio recording of al-Rimi has recently surfaced. In it, he stated that he gave orders to a Saudi military officer to attack a United States military base in Florida this past December; the shooting killed three sailors and injured eight others. Having lost a key leader, the group “has been weakened, [but] intelligence and counterterrorism officials warn that the organization remains dangerous.”

The Saudi-led coalition is facing a courts martial against the Yemen strike aircrews, the first case of its kind. Its military personnel is suspected of violating the International Humanitarian Law in 22 cases since the beginning of the conflict, including the targeting of a school, a wedding ceremony, and a civil bus.

Developing News: UN experts have said that the Saudi-led coalition may be responsible for war crimes, including murder, torture, rape, enlisting children under the age of 15 and direct attacks against civilians.

 

Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan government has finally released newsprint and ink to the country’s best-known daily newspaper, La Prensa. The paper, which has a history of being critical of the Ortega regime, claimed that their supplies were purposely held up in customs as retaliation for their protest coverage. The authorities released the supplies without any explanation or comment, but the newspaper is celebrating. “The newsprint has been liberated!” read the headline on Saturday’s front page.

Other News: Parliament approved four new state-run companies to run the country’s oil and gas industries just two months after the US Treasury Department put extreme regulations on the last corporation, accusing President Daniel Ortega of using it for his own financial benefit. The new company was approved without debate by the Parliament currently controlled by Ortega’s Sandinista party. Opposition leaders are interpreting this move as a way to maneuver around old sanctions and are sure that the new companies will also serve Ortega’s self-interests.

 

Russia

Human Rights Violations: Russian Court jailed seven anarchists for six to eighteen years on charges of plotting a “terror attack” during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Human rights organizations accused the government of having made up their accusations, as well as having extracted confessions with the use of torture. Every member of the accused party has denied this conviction.

Russian Court convicted Maxim Vernikov for involvement in an “undesirable” organization. Verinkov was involved in the activities of the Open Russia Civil Movement and the court sentenced him to 300 hours of mandatory labor. Three more activists who are connected with this organization have been prosecuted with similar charges. The Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy Through Law (the Venice Commission) accused Russia of violating fundamental human rights through this “undesirable” organization law.

 

United States

The United States has announced its intention to withdraw troops from 15 bases in Iraq. France, Germany, and Australia are following suit. On Thursday, the Senate voted to “limit President Donald Trump’s authority to launch military operations against Iran.” The vote passed 55-45 as a result of the increased fear of the possibility of starting another war in the Middle East. Trump is expected to veto the bill.

Deportations: Concerns have risen after a report surfaced that the Trump administration is working on a plan to deport thousands of Hmong who fled Laos during the Vietnam war. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and revealed that the administration was negotiating to allow for the deportation of Laos-born people back to their birth country.

Other News: President Trump and his administration have proposed massive budget cuts that would result in halving its funds to the World Health Organization. Lawmakers have deeply criticized the proposed cuts, calling them reckless, especially when the spreading of the coronavirus has shown no signs of slowing down.

 

Bolivia

Heavy rains have caused massive floods and mudslides in northern and western Bolivia that have left eight dead. Sudden downpours overflowed rivers in La Paz, Santa Cruz, Potosi, Beni, Cochabamba, and Tarija. An estimated 50 homes have been leveled by ensuing mudslides. Residents have complained that emergency services did not respond to their calls for help.

 

Other news:

Germany: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Angela Merkel’s would-be successor, decided to withdraw from the leadership of CDU. The decision to step down laid bare the current fragmentation of the conservative party and projected some uncertainty for the future of Germany.

Brazil: A new virus has broken out in Brazil that scientists have never seen before. The new virus, Yaravirus, was discovered in a lagoon. There have yet to be any diagnoses, but scientists have said that “it would be necessary to isolate new viruses similar to Yaravirus to improve [their] analysis and try to define [its] origin.” Thus far, the virus poses no major threat to humans.

Weekly Report 7 February 2020

Weekly Report 7 February 2020

The United Kingdom

MEPs in Brussels ratified the United Kingdoms’ official withdrawal agreement from the European Union with 621 votes in favor and 49 against.

What comes next: The UK now has to navigate tough trade agreements with the EU, turning the two former partners into rivals. Foreign ministers have also visited Australia and Japan to strike other trade deals.

Can They Do It: Boris Johnson has promised to finish these negotiations by the end of the year, but many experts say that this is much too optimistic. It seems that the first clash will occur overfishing policies, as the UK has refused so far to ensure members of the EU free access to its waters.

Related: Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon has renewed its calls for Scottish independence but has ruled out a second referendum for now.

China

As the count of coronavirus cases climbs to over 30,000, the entire world is feeling the effects. China’s economy is experiencing a massive slump, the worst since 2015. Their stock market reopened on Monday after being closed for the Lunar New Year.

China tried to jumpstart the economy with a decision to half additional tariffs on 1,717 products imported from the United States. This economic policy will be enacted on February 14th; it is worth $75 billion of goods. On Thursday, the market responded positively to the Chinese attempt to boost financial confidence.

A Publicity Nightmare: China has accused the United States of causing panic and fear over the coronavirus. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the US was wrong for pulling its nationals out of the country and restricting travel. She said that they should have instead provided meaningful aid to keep the virus at bay.

Syria

Violence continues to wreak havoc in the Syrian region of Idlib, the opposition’s only remaining stronghold. An exchange of fire between Syrian and Turkish forces killed eight Turkish troops, thirteen Syrian troops, and nine civilians.

Turkey said that they notified local forces of their positions and that their envoy was there to prevent conflict between the Syrian and Russian-backed troops. But this brought Assad and its allies to a crossroad: either attack Turkey’s troops or let them advance into their territory.

Analysis: This will likely heighten tensions between Turkey and Russia. Despite backing opposite forces in this conflict, Russia and Turkey remained close allies with many common interests. The two nations even agreed to de-escalate violence in the province in 2017. However, the area has recently been subject to extreme levels of violence.

Implications: On Monday, the United Nations announced that half a million people have been displaced since December 1st due to the hostilities, around 80% of them are women and children.

Bolivia

Monday was the deadline for politicians to register their candidacy for the upcoming legislative and presidential elections.

Surprisingly, former President Evo Morales is running for a seat in parliament. Morales, who has been living in exile in Argentina, is banned from running for President but wants to be a legislator. However, a warrant has already been issued for his arrest in Bolivia.

Who’s Running: Bolivia’s interim President Jeanine Áñez has already expressed her candidacy to stay in office, despite her original promise to only remain in power until a new president is elected. Morales named former economy minister Luis Arce as the presidential candidate for his Movement for Socialism party. Centrist former president Carlos Mesa, who Morales beat in 2019, is also running. MAS leads recent opinion polls with 26% support.

Iraq

President Barham Salih appointed a new Prime Minister: former parliament member and Minister of Communications Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi.

The former Prime Minister stepped down last November, leaving the nation without a Prime Minister until this week. In his acceptance speech, Allawi acknowledged the anti-government protesters, stating that their sacrifice and bravery are going to help change the country. However, demonstrators have deemed him “Iran’s choice,” and they have continued to protest.

Eritrea

Leaders from Eritrea, Somalia, and Ethiopia recently met to discuss “revamping economies for the respective nations.”

In their trilateral talks, the three nations agreed to join forces against terrorism, especially in Somalia where the al-Shabaab group still wields a considerable amount of power. Other topics that were discussed include cracking down on human trafficking, modernizing infrastructure, and mobilizing natural resources.

Background: These Horn of Africa nations have been plagued with conflict and tense relations for a long time, but in recent years they have shown signs of increased cooperation. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for brokering peace with Eritrea, but he still faces backlash over his internal human rights record.

Sudan

There are no signs of protests slowing down any time soon; tens of thousands of people are continuing to participate in marches.

Demonstrators are “urging the government to form a Parliament and to appoint civilian governors.” Civilians are expressing mixed feelings towards these protests. People who support the movement believe that “the transitional period to form the government structures has dragged.” The opposition vehemently believes that the transition should not be pressured, as the current government is heavily supported because of their removal of the former president.

Related: The head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council has been working to improve his diplomatic image around the world. He met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week and set to visit the United States later this year.

Iran

A leaked audio recording shows that Iran knew immediately that it shot down a Ukraine passenger jet last month. The conversation between an Iranian pilot and an air traffic control tower in Tehran contradicts the government’s denial of the incident. The recording was played on a Ukrainian news channel Sunday night, with Ukrainian President Zalinsky saying that it “proves that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane had been hit by a missile.”

Response: The Iranian government accused Ukraine of leaking confidential evidence into the investigation; they consequently stated that they will no longer be cooperating with Ukraine.

Lebanon

Two civilians involved in the anti-government protests face trial this week for “resisting security forces.” One defendant, Hassan Yassine, had marks on his body as a result of the physical abuse he received in prison. The other activist, Nour Chahine, was denied access to a lawyer and was barred from contacting his family.

Response: Human Rights Watch has stated that “military courts have no business trying civilians.” They are asking Lebanon to pass laws that remove civilians from the jurisdiction of the military court.

The Latest: The worsening Lebanese economy is causing a massive brain drain. Young adults and well-educated adults are filling out immigration forms in search of a more promising life in a country that can provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed in their respective fields.

Palestine

The Arab League has completely rejected US President Donald Trump’s plan for peace in the Middle East, saying that the plan will ultimately result in anything but peace.

The regional group of states in the Middle East said that it does not “meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people,” and that they would not be cooperating with the enforcement of the plan. An emergency session was requested by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who responded to the plan with “a thousand no’s.”

In Contrast: Oman and Saudi Arabia representatives were present at the presentation of the plan, saying how they “appreciated efforts from Trump’s administration in the Middle East.” Their positive political, military, and economic relations with Israel played a major role in their acceptance of the plan.

Venezuela

President Nicolás Maduro has been making small strides towards economic liberalization in an attempt to prevent Venezuela from the looming threat of an economic disaster. The socialist leader has reportedly been letting businesses operate more freely.

The reality: This has only benefited a select few; most residents continue to face massive inflation and poverty. This is a possible indication of the beginning of a shift towards a Chinese-like model of authoritarian capitalism; it can also be interpreted as an attempt by Maduro to gain support from business leaders.

Related: Opposition leader Juan Guaidó attended US President Trump’s annual State of the Union address this past Tuesday. Trump referred to him as “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela.” Guaidó received a bipartisan ovation. This was only one stop of Guaidó’s international tour meant to build support for him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela; he already has the support of nearly 60 countries.

Hong Kong

After experiencing a 1.2% decrease in its economy in 2019, Hong Kong’s economic status is expected to deteriorate even more due to the spread of the coronavirus. Financial Secretary Pauk Chan has stated that the coronavirus “will greatly increase the risk of continued economic contraction this year.” Schools, shops, parks, and attractions are currently closed, and the nation experienced its first fatality on Tuesday.

Government response: As of midnight this Friday, Hong Kong’s new quarantine policy will be enacted. The policy requires all citizens “returning from the mainland … [face] a mandatory 14-day quarantine.” Anyone who breaks quarantine is subject to a maximum fine of HK$25,000 and up to six months in prison.

Nicaragua

Despite protests quieting down, President Daniel Ortega is still facing large amounts of internal pressure and public calls for his removal. Bianca Jagger, a Nicaraguan social and human rights advocate, called Ortega a “murderous dictator” in a recent interview. She called upon those who led the Sandinista revolution that brought him into power now to turn against him.

Similarly, Nicaragua’s best known former political prisoner, Amaya Coppens, has called upon international organizations to investigate Ortega’s abuses. Ortega has managed to stay in power throughout the protests, but only time will tell if he can hold on for much longer.

North Korea

North Korea has closed its borders with China and Russia to protect itself from the coronavirus, further isolating itself from the rest of the world.

The infamously sealed country has suspended all flights, trains, and cars from entering the country. Outsiders are worried that this will further worsen the country’s limited economy and sever the remaining economic ties that have kept the nation afloat. Without raw materials and processed goods from China, North Korea will have no new medical supplies, clothing, or flour until the ban is lifted.

Yemen

Eighteen months of negotiations with Saudi Arabia finally resulted in the first flight to depart from Yemen in three years. On Monday, the United Nations flew seven extremely ill Yemenis from the nation’s rebel-controlled capital to Jordan. The patients are in dire need of kidney transplants or cancer treatment. The flight has “offered a glimmer of hope for faltering diplomatic efforts to broker an end to a grinding five-year war that pushed much of the country to the brink of starvation.”

The United Nations strongly criticized Houti’s authority for preventing humanitarian aid to be delivered to people in need in the North of the country. Houti’s authority has not replied to the critics so far.

Related: On Wednesday, the Information Minister of Yemen tweeted that eight civilians (four women and four children) died during the ballistic attack over the populated district of Rawda in Ma’rib.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean opposition lawmaker Job Sikhala has gone to trial to face charges of trying to overthrow the government. He entered his plea on Monday, saying that he was not guilty. The prosecutors accused Sikhala of trying to “subvert the government ‘through unconstitutional means.’” Human rights organizations have labeled the accusations as harassment.

Russia

Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) is pressuring popular technology companies to pre-install Russian apps and software onto smartphones and other personal devices that are meant to instill “traditional Russian spiritual and moral values.”

In a country already plagued with gratuitous censorship, the new law outlaws selling technology that does not have the pre-installed software. Russia is now requesting that Apple, Microsoft, and Google not only install the software but also give customers the ability to delete non-Russian built-in apps.

Libya

The United Nations envoy to Libya Ghassan Salamé has said high-ranking officials from both sides of the conflict have agreed on the need for a “permanent and lasting” ceasefire. Salamé also condemned ongoing violations of an arms embargo by both sides. Despite these talks of a ceasefire, military commander Khalifa Hatar received a large supply of weapons from the United Arab Emirates on Monday. Salamé hopes that those who are participating in the arms trade “understand that there is already more than 20 million pieces of ordnance in the country, and that is enough.”

Other news:

United States: The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump concluded on its 13th day after the Senate voted to acquit Trump of charges of abusing his office and obstructing Congress’s investigations.

Ghana: Ghanaians struggling with mental health and substance abuse do not have access to any form of therapy, counseling, or medications. Instead, those patients are being chained to trees for years at a time. Only “2% of the 2.75 million Ghanaians suffering from mental disorders are receiving care at medical facilities,” according to the World Health Organization. Until Ghanaians receive proper medical treatment for these disorders, “the only thing on offer is the chain.”

Mexico: Two environmental activists have been found dead in separate incidents that are likely linked to the cartel. Homero Gómez González was found at the bottom of a well January 28th, and Raúl Hernández was found severely beaten February 2nd. Both men were involved with activist efforts to protect monarch butterflies in northern Mexico, which included anti-logging initiatives that have been upset by the nearby cartels.

El Salvador: The United States’ frequent deportations have resulted in the murder, torture, sexual assault, and abuse of more than 200 El Salvadoran immigrants seeking asylum upon their return to El Salvador. Many immigrants have fled in an attempt to “escape forcible gang recruitment,” but have faced even more violence when they arrive. The United Nations have finally begun to monitor what happens to El Salvadorans who return home after being deported from the US; so far, they have written a 117-page report.