Weekly Reports — CANVAS

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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, including Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Syria, the United States, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

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Weekly Report: 22 March 2019

People walk on a flooded street in Buzi, central Mozambique, after the passage of the Cyclone Idai. AFP/Getty Images

 

Cuba

This week, the Trump administration announced their plan to end five-year visitor visas for Cubans, making it significantly more difficult for Cubans to visit relatives, or take part in academic exchanges within the United States. The State Department cited this decision as being one of reciprocity, due to Cuba’s only accepting one-time temporary visas from outsiders.

News of the suicide of Kenyan Dr. Hamisi Ali Juma shocked news outlets, initiating Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman to hire a team of experts to investigate the events leading to his death. Senators have already alleged to harsh treatment of Kenyan medics in Cuba, potentially being a large factor in the doctor’s death. Senators have called on the government to further investigate the terms and conditions of the exchange program.

Gabon

President Ali Bongo’s office announced on Thursday that the president would return to Gabon this weekend for the third time since suffering a stroke late last year. In the announcement, the spokesman expressed the president’s excitement to return to his country, as well as his thanks to Moroccan King Mohammed VI for his welcome and support throughout Bongo’s stay.

Bolivia

This week, Bolivia expelled several Venezuelans that have been accused of conspiring against the Cuban Embassy in La Paz. Bolivian President Evo Morales maintains his close relationship with Venezuela, the relationship forming during Hugo Chavez’s regime. Five Venezuelans have been detained, and have confessed to being a part of political activities.

General elections in Bolivia, originally scheduled for October 27, 2019, will now be held October 20, a full week earlier than planned. The reasoning for the change was to not coincide with the Argentina and Uruguay elections, scheduled for the 27th.

Nicaragua

The government crackdown in Nicaragua has reached a new critical point, and this week a group of countries from the region will meet with the UN Human Rights Council to discuss potential solutions. This is the first time Nicaragua has ever required a resolution by the UNHRC. The decision comes after months of Nicaraguans coming forward to share their experiences of abuse by Ortega’s regime – though all claims have been denied by the Nicaraguan government. Additionally, Human Rights Watch has been calling for the UNHRC to present a solution since August, though the situation has deeply deteriorated since then.

More than 100 anti-government protesters were arrested on Saturday during a march calling for President Ortega to release the hundreds of political prisoners arrested over the past year. The new arrests come just one day after Ortega released 50 political prisoners and vowed to release more. These arrests show that despite promises of change and renewed talks with opposition groups, Ortega’s regime will continue to suppress the Nicaraguan people.

North Korea

Two US Senators have addressed their frustrations regarding the Trump Administration’s slow movement on designated sanctions of North Korea. The letter addressed a 2019 UN report that highlighted concerns regarding North Korea’s defying US sanctions, and increased smuggling of petroleum products and coal, while also violating bans on arms sales.  

Spanish authorities announced this week their plans to further investigate an attack on the North Korean embassy in Madrid, reportedly taking place on February 22, right before the denuclearization summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. The attack was carried out by 10 people with fake firearms, who interrogated people inside.

Myanmar

A prominent Rakhine leader has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for treason, a verdict which can also carry the death sentence. This verdict is likely to intensify the already high tensions between the army and the ethnic group. Aye Maung was initially arrested for his “inflammatory speech” in January 2018, the day before deadly riots broke out and Rakhine rebels briefly took control of a government building, leading to the deaths of 7 protestors.

United States

US President Donald Trump has stated that the United States could impose harsher sanctions on Venezuela, stating that “all options are open” in the country’s handling of the Venezuelan crisis, and that the US is “not looking for anything other than taking care of a lot of people”.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, while criticizing Maduro’s regime, also criticized the implementation of US sanctions, highlighting concerns that it may cause more harm to Venezuelan citizens. Bachelet said to the Human Rights Council that she was concerned it “may contribute to aggravating the economic crisis, with possible repercussions on people’s basic rights and wellbeing”.

Cambodia

After top Cambodian opposition politicians recently announced their plans to return to their home country, Prime Minister Hun Sen responded by issuing a number of arrest warrants for them. The exiled activists are members of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was dissolved in 2017 after accusations of trying to overthrow the government. Their banishment occurred shortly before the election, which allowed the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to compete nearly uncontested and take all 125 seats in the National Assembly. Activists from the CNRP worry that Hun Sen is taking the country down a dark path, though aren’t able to help without returning to the country where they risk arrests or death.

Mexico

Santiago Barroso, a Mexican journalist often covering crime and drug gangs in the north Sonora state, was shot and killed in his home near the US-border. Officials have stated they are still unsure whether the killing is linked to his work, but this marks yet another death of a journalist in Mexico, being the third killing this year.

Zimbabwe

The deadly Cyclone Idai swept across Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi this week. The cyclone has left nearly 100 dead, and hundreds more missing. Opposition politicians are placing blame on the Zanu-PF government for not being as active in releasing warnings, but the ruling party argues that natural disasters are detrimental in developing countries, and that the blame cannot be put wholly on one source.

The UAE has provided $4,9 million in emergency aid, alongside neighboring and regional countries providing further humanitarian assistance. President Mnangagwa has also declared further government assistance, including medicine and food.  

Laos

The World Bank has agreed to give Laos a $72 million loan in order to finance three projects working to reduce childhood malnutrition and improve the use of public resources, as well as service delivery. The $25 million “Scaling-Up Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Project” will provide households in the four northern provinces with access to improved water supply, sanitation, and hygiene services. These same families who are most affected by malnutrition are also targeted by the $27 million “Reducing Rural Poverty and Malnutrition Project.” Both of these projects are working directly to combat the very high percentage (40% of children under 5 years old) of malnutrition in the region. The last project, Enhancing Public Finance Management through Information and Communication Technology and Skills Project” will receive $20 million and continue an initiative already in place working to implement a basic public financial management system.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

This week, the DRC has addressed and admitted to local official’s roles in the harsh crackdown that lead to hundreds of violent deaths last December. DRC Human Rights Minister Marie-Ange Mushobekwa addressed the UN human rights council on Tuesday, stating, “What happened in Yumbi in December 2018 is not a source of pride for my country,” in response to a UN investigation held between in the middle of January.

A United Nations top official has suggested that President Felix Tshisekedi form a new government as quickly as possible, as his progression to a power position is one of the first peaceful transitions that the DRC has seen. Tshisekedi, quoted during his inaugural speech, called for the “building of a modern, peaceful, democratic state, and the release of all political detainees”.

Colombia

Recently elected Colombian President Ivan Duque began to follow through on his campaign promises of changing the 2016 peace deal. Last week, Duque objected to 6 out of 159 articles in the law implementing the peace deal with opposition group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Duque and his supporters believe that the establishment of a tribunal for war crimes makes the law too lenient toward commanders and former members of the opposition. The constitutional court said this week that they cannot rule on whether or not the changes are constitutional until they have been approved by congress. Large numbers of students have taken to the streets to protest the president’s move, saying that he is trying to stop Colombia’s peace process.

Venezuela

Representatives of opposition leader, Juan Guaido, stated on Monday that they have seized three diplomatic properties that have been previously used by the government of Nicolas Maduro. Guaido has stated that the purpose of taking over diplomatic buildings is to “strengthen bilateral relations with the U.S., and to better serve the Venezuelan community in the country”. Guaido’s main representative, Carlos Vecchio, said to reporters in Washington that they had officially “taken control of two defense buildings in the city and one consular building in New York”, and that there is a plan to take over the Venezuelan embassy in Washington “in the coming days”.

Malaysia

Formar Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak submitted four appeals related to his charges of criminal breach of trust and abuse of power to the Court of Appeals this week, three of which were denied. Najib was initially supposed to stand trial from February 12 to March 29 this year, though the four appeals filed by his lawyers have postponed his trial. Critics say that these appeals are just delay tactics to keep Najib out of prison for as long as possible.

Philippines

Seventeen months ago, a siege by Islamic State-linked militants drove hundreds from their homes in the Southern Philippines city of Marawi, the survivors of which are still unable to return. Hundreds marched on Wednesday, demanding to return back to their homes. One protester stated frustrations with the government because, “it keeps issuing timelines only to offer excuses later”. Eduardo del Rosario, head of a government task force in charge of rehabilitating the city, told evacuees that clearing operations would likely be finished by August.

Thailand

Thailand will hold the much-delayed general election this Sunday. The election will present 68 candidates for prime minister, all of which have very different backgrounds. Millions of young people will be voting for the first time in this election, and are very hopeful that a strong turnout from them could create real change in the country. However, many older Thais are less optimistic. They believe that despite promises of democracy from the ruling military party, “the election is already decided.” Many experts agree, saying that ruling party Palang Pracharat’s move to reserve a third of seats in parliament for the military will ensure their grasp on power, despite nationwide anger at their increasingly oppressive policies.

Other News:

Mozambique – Cyclone Idai has completely devastated a number of villages and towns in Mozambique. The cyclone hit last week, causing the two rivers in the area to burst their banks and wash over the densely populated area. The UN has confirmed 242 dead in Mozambique, 259 in Zimbabwe, and 56 in Malawi, though with flooding still affecting the area, these numbers are expected to rise. Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said on Monday that they believe more than 1000 people have died, though experts now say that is a conservative estimate. While a large international rescue effort has begun, thousands of people are still missing or in need of assistance in the form of food, shelter, and clean water. (The Guardian), (CNN)

New Zealand – Following the shootings at two New Zealand mosques last week that killed 50 people, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the banning of all military-style assault rifles. The announcement comes just 72 hours after the attacks took place, and will also include the banning of all semi-automatic weapons, implementing a buy-back program that is estimated to cost $100-$200 million dollars. (CNN)

Weekly Report: 15 March 2019

A demonstrator shouts slogans during a protest against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government in Managua, Nicaragua on 23 September 2018. Reuters/Oswaldo Rivas

Cuba

The work to ease tensions between the United States and Cuba first initiated during Barack Obama’s presidency has now reversed, with tensions now rising higher between the two countries. While experts say Cuba was eager to salvage the relationship, that has changed in Trump’s era of increased threats and sanctions against the island country. With tensions rising, Cuban state television channels have begun to air footage every night last week showing tanks rolling out and soldiers taking position. The airing of these images dubbed as “training for The War of the Whole People” is likely in response to the threat of a US invasion in Venezuela, which could potentially spill over in Cuba.

Bolivia

In a visit to Athens this week, Bolivian president Evo Morales voiced his continued support of Venezuela’s Maduro, and encouraged Western powers to stop meddling. Morales also said that history has proven Western intervention never bodes well, and encouraged the countries to rather support a dialogue within the country.

Nicaragua

This week showed both hope and disappointment in Nicaragua, amidst negotiations held between The Civil Alliance, made up mostly of students, entrepreneurs, and activists, and Daniel Ortega’s government. The negotiations were introduced to resolve the year-long struggle, but upon The Civil Alliance’s demands that Ortega release all political prisoners, Ortega’s government refused, and the opposition walked out.

        Ortega’s government released a statement on Monday saying they were prepared to continue peace talks, to which The Civil Alliance responded by saying they would, “return to the negotiating table only when the government of Nicaragua provides the country with convincing signs they want to find solutions to the crisis”. The Nicaraguan government and the Civil Alliance agreed on March 13 to resume peace talks, as the government agreed to release protesters that have been previously detained.

North Korea

In North Korea’s parliamentary election this week, Kim Jong Un did not appear on the ballot – the first time a leader has not been nominated for parliament in North Korea’s history. Regardless, Kim will still hold the same amount of power. These elections are mainly conducted as a way for North Korea to seem more democratic to the west, though there is only ever one state-appointed nominee from the Workers Party to vote for. By not putting Kim on the ballot, analysts think the country may be trying to be perceived as a “normal state” by the rest of the world.

Myanmar

Following a visit to Myanmar, UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, presented her report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, highlighting areas of significant concern, and questioning whether the Bay of Bengal was “truly habitable”. She noted that across the country there continues to be human rights abuses committed against the Rohingya population that fled from the Rakhine State in 2017. She also stated that there was, “nothing to indicate that conditions have improved for the Rohingya who remain in Myanmar”.

United States

The United States has removed the last 14 remaining diplomats from the US Embassy in Venezuela. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the diplomats were removed because of their presence becoming a “constraint on US policy. However, Maduro claims that the diplomats were told to leave by his regime, saying that they were “a threat to the country’s peace and stability.”  Despite their removal, the United States remains actively involved in Venezuela’s conflict, and is still committed to backing Juan Guaido.

Cambodia

        A drug raid of a nightclub resulted in the arrest of Kith Theang, a business tycoon who is the owner of the Phnom Penh nightclub. Police found 50kg of methamphetamines, and eventually arrested over three hundred people in connection to the case.

Mexico

Nineteen asylum seekers have disappeared in Mexico after they were pulled from a bus heading toward the US border by a group of armed men. While no information is currently known on their whereabouts, a search is being conducted by state and federal police, as well as a number of prosecutors.

Mexico has rejected the United States’ “Remain in Mexico” policy which calls for the return of asylum seekers to Mexico while they wait for their immigration court hearings. When the plan was initially announced in December, Mexico agreed to hold the migrants for humanitarian reasons, but only temporarily. Many immigrant rights groups have fought the policy, saying that it forces refugees to wait in Mexican border cities that are sometimes just as dangerous as the countries they are escaping. While US immigration officials say only 240 migrants have been returned across the border, this number is soon expected to increase.

Zimbabwe

A doctors’ strike in Zimbabwe has now entered its second day, as health workers claim that patients are dying due to a lack of medical supplies. One doctor said that the hospital has no more cancer drugs left, so patients are being given diagnoses, then sent away to die. The dozens of doctors striking have written an open letter to President Mnangagwa stating that the supplies they do have likely won’t last until the end of the month. Because of the lack of resources, simple diseases and procedures are now resulting in sometimes deadly complications, with no hope for more supplies in sight.

Laos

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has published a report naming Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos as being at the heart of both methamphetamine production and trafficking in East and Southeast Asia. The 90-page report highlights areas of significant concern, as well as individualized profiles of all three countries, called the “Golden Triangle”. There have been notable surges in methamphetamine confiscations in just two years between 2016 and 2018.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

President Tshisekedi signed a decree on Wednesday that he would free around 700 political prisoners who were jailed under Joseph Kabila’s regime. The release of these political prisoners was one promise he had made to complete within his first 100 days in office. Tshisekedi also announce that he would work to improve the conditions for a return of those who fled the country for political reasons. He also urged political exiles  currently residing in neighboring Republic of the Congo to return home.

Colombia

The power outage in Venezuela continues, forcing many to seek refuge within Colombia, including relatives of Maduro. His relatives request to cross the border into Colombia for a week was denied, the mitigation directing saying, “While the people of Venezuela die in hospitals because of lack of electricity, we’re not going to allow those close to the Maduro regime to vacation in Colombia, evading the reality of a people in agony”.

        This week, Colombians marched in favor of a peace deal made with the FARC. Demonstrators say that President Ivan Duque is hindering the process of achieving peace.

Venezuela

A nationwide power failure affected most of Venezuela this week, leaving 19 out of 23 states without power for as long as a week. While power has now been completely restored, the failure created disruptions for many businesses and schools, and created chaos in many hospitals. Opposition groups have said that as a result of the failures, 26 people are dead, including 6 babies. While the power has been restored, some cities still face intermittent shortages, as well as the risk of lootings and unsafe drinking water. Venezuelans in the northern states even reported black water coming out of their faucets, though officials say this is related to human error and not the power outages.

President Maduro has blamed the United States for the outages, saying that it was a “demonic plot” to force him from power with an “electromagnetic attack.” He also accused opposition leader Juan Guaido of sabotaging the national power grid, and has asked the country’s supreme court to investigate this claim. However, analysts and engineers have disagreed, saying that the outage is a result of years of underinvestment, mismanagement, and neglect by Maduro’s regime.

Malaysia

Malaysia has rejected Vietnam’s plea to free Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese woman accused of poisoning Kim Jong Nam. Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s half-brother, was murdered in 2017. This request comes only one day following Malaysia’s release of an Indonesian woman accused of the same charge. The Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh asked Malaysia to, “ensure a fair trial for Huong and set her free”. Vietnam’s justice minister has also been in contact with Malaysia’s Attorney General attempting to secure her release.

Philippines

A water shortage in the capital region of the Philippines is worsening. The shortage has now affected over 6 million people, with a spokesman from Manila Water Co. Inc., saying that these people will have their water cut anywhere from 6 hours to 21 hours per day until the reservoirs refill in the rainy season of May and June. Initially, the shortage affected dozens of villages, but now, have spread to large cities including the capital, Manila. With so many questions on why these shortages are happening, and for such long periods of time, the supplier company will face an upcoming senate probe on March 19.

President Duterte announced on Thursday that 46 government officials, including three congressmen, are involved with illegal drugs. While the president does not have solid proof that the allegations are true, he said that he trusts the government agencies that provided him with the information. This is the latest in Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, which has caught the attention of many international human rights groups with thousands of drug killings taking place.  

Thailand

As Thailand’s March 24th election approaches, the introduction of a cyber-security bill hinders the hopeful anticipation of democratic change. The Cyber Security Bill was passed February 28, and may give the current military government the power to seize data and electronic equipment without proper legal authority. Katherine Gerson, a Thailand researcher at Amnesty International, stated, “This law’s aim is simple: to put the internet in a cage”.

Vietnam

Six activists in Vietnam are headed to prison, facing long sentences of 8-15 years for their peaceful protests last year. A high court is scheduled to hear their appeals early next week in Ho Chi Minh City. The activists were initially arrested for participating in a pro-democracy group, as well as participating in public rallies, and expressing views on social media. Human Rights Watch has condemned the arrests, in addition to the other 142 people who have been convicted on similar charges since June of last year.

Other News

Algeria – For several weeks, Algerians have protested current President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s extension to his already 20-year rule. While Bouteflika announced he would not be seeking reelection, he also delayed the election date. Algerians responded with protest, and even jokingly took to social media stating that they would have to change the slogan from “No to a fifth term” to “No to an extended fourth term”, and calls for another Friday demonstration were made. (Al Jazeera)

New Zealand – A terrorist attack took place at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, with 49 people currently reported dead. According to police, four people were taken into custody, with one man already being charged with murder. In light of the attacks, New Zealand’s relatively relaxed gun laws are likely to face increased scrutiny.  (CNN)

Weekly Report: 11 March, 2019

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

Cuba

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

Gabon

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

Bolivia

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

Nicaragua

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

North Korea

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

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

Myanmar

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

United States

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

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

Cambodia

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

Mexico

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

Zimbabwe

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

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

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

Colombia

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

Venezuela

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

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

Malaysia

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

Philippines

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

Thailand

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

Vietnam

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

Other News:

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

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