Weekly Reports — CANVAS

27444297-5ad0-4904-af8f-6d9a17f11fd2

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.

Receive our weekly updates of global news directly to your inbox, by signing up for our newsletter – here!

Weekly Report: 19 April 2019

Iranian soldiers march during a military parade as they mark the country’s annual army day in Tehran, April 18, 2019. Source: Radio Farda

Cuba

The Trump administration announced on Wednesday their plans to restrict relations with Cuba, although the details of the restrictions remain unclear. This involves further limitations on non-family travel to the country, and the allowance of exiles to sue for property seized by the Castro government. This move, announced by secretary of state Mike Pompeo, was highly contested by officials in both Europe and Canada. John R. Bolton, national security advisor, cited the decision’s connection to Venezuela, saying, “The ‘troika of tyranny’ – Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, is beginning to crumble”.

Gabon

The government of Gabon announced last week that classes would be suspended nationwide following a number of large protests by high school students. The protests began in late March when the government announced that funding for aspiring university students would be cut. The changes in funding sharply reduces the number of students eligible for the grant by raising the maximum age to 19 and requiring a higher mark on exams. Thousands of students have since been protesting regularly, and are not expected to stop anytime soon.

Bolivia

A group of 12 politicians in Bolivia wrote a letter to US President Donald Trump, asking him to prevent Bolivian President Evo Morales from running in their upcoming October 2019 elections. Morales is seeking a fourth term in office, having held his power position since 2006. Despite Morales’ open support of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, the Trump administration has yet to make a strong comment regarding Evo Morales’ seeking a fourth term.

Nicaragua

One year has passed since anti-government protests began in Nicaragua, and there is still no end to the government crackdown in sight. This week, the UN announced that since the protests broke out a year ago, over 60,000 people have been forced to flee their homes fearing persecution or death. Many of these people have applied for asylum in Costa Rica, who maintains an open-door policy for migrants and refugees, but has had their resources stretched thin with nearly 30,000 applications. Despite Maduro’s promises of releasing political prisoners and allowing peaceful protests, he has yet to follow through with action. Meanwhile, the United States announced on Wednesday that sanctions against Nicaragua, as well as Cuba and Venezuela, would be increased in response to Venezuela’s continuing crisis.

North Korea

North Korea admitted this week that they tested a new tactical weapon on Wednesday. Just hours after the release of the test, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry official Kwon Jong Gun stated Pompeo had been, “letting loose reckless remarks and sophism of all kinds against us every day”. Pompeo was one of the primary supporters of the failed denuclearization talks held in February between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Myanmar

Two currently imprisoned Myanmar journalists for Reuters were awarded the Pulitzer prize this week. Reuters was given the award with special recognition for the two men: Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo for their “explosive” investigation into the military-led campaign of killing Rohingya people beginning in 2017. Despite more than 720,000 Rohingya minority Muslims being forced to flee the country, the government still denies all human rights abuses. The imprisoned journalists are serving seven years in one of Myanmar’s most notorious prisons for the crime of “exposing state secrets”.

United States

The long-anticipated Mueller report was released to the public on Thursday, April 18. Prior to the release, Attorney General William Barr held a press conference in which he defended his conclusion that there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute an obstruction case.

The 448-page document is the culmination of special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation into President Donald Trump’s obstruction of justice in his potential collusion with Russia during his campaign for presidency. While the special counsel’s investigation found that members of the Trump campaign were aware that they would benefit from Russia’s illegal actions, they also stated that neither Trump nor other Americans working with him took criminal steps to help this process. Mueller also made it clear that in his report that Congress could choose to continue to investigate President Trump.

The United States is considered to be a “problematic” country for journalists, as its ranking position declined in the Reporters Without Borders’ annual World Press Freedom Index. The United States was ranked below Romania, Chile, and Botswana. Trump has openly denounced certain news outlets, and the White House has begun to implement new security measures as newsrooms have been targeted with bomb threats.

Cambodia

Pressure from the EU is continuing to grow as the European body investigates and monitors human rights abuses taking place in Cambodia. This year-long investigation began in February, when the EU announced that without significant reforms, Cambodia would lose its preferential trading status with the EU – seriously hurting Cambodia’s economy. Prime Minister Hun Sen still has yet to respond to the warnings, and businesses within the country are beginning to grow concerned about the lack of progress. On April 4, these businesses wrote a letter to the Prime Minister addressing these concerns and urging him to take action, though a response has not been received.

Mexico

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson announced the Trump administration’s decision to continue the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy. The policy demands that non-Mexican migrants claiming asylum at ports of entry along the southern border to remain in Mexico while their cases undergo processing in the United States. Mexico’s treatment of migrants is far from ideal as they are unable to accommodate the sudden increase of arrivals. Data reviewed by Reuters showed that in March 12,746 undocumented migrants were detained, a number that shows a 2/3 increase since January of the same year. There are hundreds of people stuck in reportedly unsanitary camps.  Analysts cite the reasoning for such harsh conditions being pressure from the United States government.

Maldives

The Minister of Youth, Sports, and Community Empowerment Ahmed Mahloof returned to his duties this week, two months after being suspended in the country’s biggest corruption scandal. Mahloof was one of many named in a report looking into the theft of nearly $90 million by the Anti-Corruption Commission. Mahloof was asked in February to stay home until the investigation had ended, but was released by police and cleared of involvement this week.

Zimbabwe

This week, experts met in Washington to discuss the process of imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe, and whether it is an effective move for the country. Panelists of the discussions confronted both the United States and members of the European Union with their imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, specifically how they were more harmful to the country’s economic progression. Panelists stated that the imposed sanctions were more harmful to citizens of Zimbabwe than they were to the political regime and that a new implemented system would be necessary.

Laos

As funding falls short, efforts to clear bombs leftover in Laos from the United States bombing during the Vietnam War will slow. Most years, the organization that works to remove the bombs receives at least $2 million from foreign donors. This year, they received half of that. With such a sharp drop in funding, the organizations had to cut 60 workers and a significant amount of equipment necessary for the efforts. Without proper funding for removal of the “unexploded ordnance”, civilians, and especially children, are at risk. It is estimated that 20,000 people have been killed or injured by the explosives, and it will take many more decades to remove them all.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Ebola continues to worsen in the DRC, and has now claimed at least 700 lives in its second outbreak in the country. A vaccine has been developed, but still around 1,000 people living in the DRC have been infected. The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders have claimed that international response has been weak, and more has to be done to control the spread of the virus. The World Health Organization blames security concerns, as health centers have seen an increase of attacks, making sustained treatment impossible.

Colombia

Despite peace efforts, recent reports from the United Nations show that violence is on the rise in Colombia, especially in provinces where the state presence is nearly nonexistent. This trend has been taking place since 2017, with homicides increasing by 64% and civilian injuries from conflict up by 75% just in 2019. Reports of torture and sexual violence have also increased by over 200% each in 2019, though both of these are frequently under-reported. Within the first two months of 2019, at least 2000 people have also been displaced due to violence or mass expulsions by armed groups. Most of the violence and displacements are taking place in areas under control of FARC, who is fiercely opposed by Colombia’s current president Ivan Duque.

Venezuela

The Trump administration announced sanctions on the Central Bank of Venezuela on Wednesday, which will make United States currency completely inaccessible, and make the international financial transactions difficult to conduct. The United States continues to support Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela, and implemented sanctions are designed to restrict finances of opposition Nicolas Maduro.

Humanitarian aid will not be restricted, as Red Cross volunteers distributed the first shipment of emergency aid on Tuesday in the neighborhood of Catia. Aid included water purification tablets and empty plastic jugs. Government supports fired gunshots into the air as the van arrived, and police were needed to maintain order in the area as the aid created a small commotion. Maduro previously did not accept humanitarian aid, saying, “We aren’t beggars”, but accepted this shipment citing that it coincided with “international protocols”.

Image result for iran flag  Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made a statement this week calling on countries across the Middle East to “unite against the United States”. Rouhani also called out Israel in his address, saying that it and the United States are the the root cause of the region’s problems. After a display of its military power through missiles, armored vehicles, submarines, radars, and defense system, Rouhani made it clear that its armed forces are not a threat to its neighbors in the region. The speech came just a few days after the United States designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization – to which Iran responded by calling all U.S. troops in the region terrorists as well.

Other News:

Saudi Arabia – Two prominent women’s rights activists arrested in May 2018 have had their trials postponed by a court in Saudi Arabia, due to “private reasons”. The women were fighting for the rights to drive as well as protesting the male guardianship system of the country. Allegations have been made regarding the treatment of the activists in prison, pointing to counts of torture of the women. The UN Human Rights Council demanded their release in March, including a signed statement of support from 30 countries. (BBC)

Peru – Peru’s former president Alan Garcia killed himself Wednesday shortly after police had arrived at his home to arrest him for corruption charges. Garcia had been accused of taking bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, who has admitted to paying $30 million in bribes within Peru since 2004. The former president had maintained that he was not guilty, and the victim of a political persecution. (BBC)

Indonesia – Indonesia’s presidential election has concluded with unofficial results showing current president Joko Widodo, commonly known as Jokowi,  winning a second term. In response to the results, the National Police Chief has strongly warned against protests coming from supporters of Jokowi’s rival. Because this will be Jokowi’s final term, many hope that he will make more sweeping reforms than in his first term without the fear of reelection. (CNBC)

Weekly Report: 12 April 2019

Sudanese demonstrators celebrate the arrest of long-time President Omar al-Bashir by the armed forces, outside the Defense Ministry. Ala Kheir/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Cuba

The United States has cancelled a deal made with Cuba intended to stop the human trafficking of baseball players to the U.S. The deal, which initially began negotiations under Barack Obama’s presidency was signed in December. Starting this year, Cuban baseball players older than 25 who had played in professional Cuban leagues for more than 6 years would be allowed to leave and sign with MLB teams, rather than leaving the country illegally. Now, the United States has backtracked on this deal, saying “additional information” had come to light. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later clarified that the reason for backing out was to ”pressure Cuba over its support for the Venezuelan government.”

Bolivia

The Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera made a statement this week criticizing new meddling by the United States in Bolivian internal affairs. The Vice President made his statement on behalf of the Bolivian government and people after a letter was sent from a US Senate Committee to the Upper House regarding Bolivia’s political situation. Garcia Linera referenced other occurrences of U.S. meddling in the past and called out the United States’ own political issues, stating that they must face their own problems before meddling in other states’ internal matters.

Nicaragua

This week, President Ortega’s government announced that they were ready to return to the discussion table with the opposition party. Month-long talks with the opposition Civic Alliance coalition began to properly resolve the political crisis and Ortega’s harsh treatment of protesters and journalists, only to be broken up last week without a decided agreement on reform. Ortega’s government has jailed over 600 opposition supporters, and since the discussions only 200 prisoners have been released. Ortega’s government released a statement saying its “will and commitment to continue working towards national and understanding” remained unchanged.

This week a Roman Catholic bishop in Nicaragua, Monsignor Silvio Baez, revealed that there was an active plot for his assignation at the hands of Ortega’s government. Baez is a known critic of Daniel Ortega’s government, and even said that the political department of the U.S. Embassy gave him the warning of the plot. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said that harassment of Baez was significant enough to “put the bishop and his family in a situation of seriousness and urgency”.

North Korea

Kim Jong Un has called a meeting of top committee members in the ruling Workers’ Party to address a “prevailing tense situation”. While the meeting comes shortly after the failed U.S.–North Korea summit in February, as well as the South’s upcoming summit with the U.S., an official news agency reported that this meeting will actually be addressing Pyongyang’s economic development. While it is unclear what exactly this means, some analysts say that it could involve a reshuffling of party officials or Kim laying out a new policy direction of a “socialist economic construction”.

Myanmar

A human rights crisis continues in Myanmar as Rohingya Muslims continue to be targeted, leading to around 740,000 fleeing to Bangladesh. This week, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announced their fears that Rohingya civilians may have been targeted last week in a military attack of Myanmar Rakhine state. The official government tolls reported 6 deaths, but the OHCRHR believe the number could be as high as 30.  

United States

The United States immigration system has reached a new low, with the government now unable to provide adequate humanitarian relief for migrants, or control the number of people entering the country. More than 800,000 cases are now pending with immigration courts, and each case takes an average of 700 days to process. The number of families crossing the border has also increased, jumping 560 percent higher in February than the same time one year ago. Rather than making changes to the U.S. immigration system or sending additional aid to the countries where migrants are escaping from, Trump announced late last month that the U.S. would cut off $450 million in aid sent to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. President Trump also declared this week that “our country is full”, and continued to threaten shutting down the southern border.

The United States called an emergency meeting with the United Nations Security Council this week to address the situation in Venezuela. At the meeting, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the council and reiterated that the Trump administration remains determined to remove Maduro from office, and said all options are on the table to do this. Pence also said that Russia and others in the way of stopping Maduro need to step aside. The Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada responded by saying that the ground has been laid for a U.S. invasion and the “war of Donald Trump” must be stopped.

Mexico

Reports released by the Institute for Economics and Peace this week show that Mexico faced its most violent year on record in 2018, with more than 33,000 murders taking place in the 12-month timespan. The cost of these murders and their effects added up to 2.63 trillion pesos, making up 51% of Mexico’s overall cost of violence. The economic impact of violence for 2018 totaled 5.16 trillion pesos – up 10% from 2017, and making up 24% of the country’s GDP. The ‘Mexico Peace Index’ report also shows that the government is “underfunded in the justice system” and that corruption remains a large issue.

Maldives

Official results of elections held in Maldives were released on Wednesday, showing the party of exiled former president Mohamad Nasheed and current President Ibrahim Mohamad Solih’s party had won. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) won 65 of 87 seats in parliament, making it a 2/3 majority.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has appealed to local and foreign donors for $613 million in aid to help recovery efforts from a severe drought which left 5 million people in need of food assistance, followed by Cyclone Idai, which destroyed the eastern part of the country. In the aftermath of Idai, hundreds of thousands were left without food, water, or shelter. A document given to reporters showed that the government is appealing for about $300 million in food aid, while the rest will go toward emergency shelters and other logistical needs.

Laos

Laos has been urged by fellow Mekong River Commission members, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, to address the impact of its ongoing Pak Lay hydropower dam project. Impacts would include any cross-border effects, potential environmental impact issues, and socio-economic impacts it may cause in surrounding areas.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Eleven people were injured in a clash of protesters during election campaigns for governorship in the Haut-Katanga province. The clash occurred between supporters of former president Joseph Kabila and the current president Felix Tshisekedi. Gubernatorial elections were set to be held on March 26th, though they were postponed by Tshisekedi for allegations of vote-buying by candidates. Kabila’s allies condemned this action, saying that it was an “abuse of democracy”.

Colombia

This week, Colombia’s lower house rejected modifications suggested by President Ivan Duque in March, specifically for a review of six parts of the law that regulate the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal created in 2016. The tribunal was designed as a peace deal between the government and FARC rebels to actively try rebels and officials for war crimes. The tribunal was signed under former President Juan Manuel Santos and is currently part of the country’s constitution. Duque’s suggested modifications included clarification of extraditions rules, stricter actions against war crimes, and the exclusion of sexual crimes from the tribunal’s remit.

Venezuela

After meeting with the Red Cross chief on Tuesday, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has announced that he is ready to accept international aid. Maduro still refuses to recognize the situation as a humanitarian crisis, and reiterated during his meetings with the International Committee of the Red Cross that they should respect “the Venezuelan legal order”. Also this week, the United Nations was urged by Human Rights Watch and public health researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to declare the situation in Venezuela a humanitarian emergency. The groups appealed to the Security Council and urged Secretary General Antonio Guterres to make the call, therefore opening up the UN’s extensive resources for Venezuelans in an impartial, neutral way. Meanwhile, many parts of Venezuela, including the capital city of Caracas, have been hit by another blackout – the worst in a week. Once again, no reason was given by the government for this blackout.

Malaysia

On Friday, April 5, Malaysia announced that they will withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move that worries international observers in terms of human rights accountability and political stability in the country. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was described as “visibly upset” as he told a press conference, “this is not because we are against it but because of the political confusion about what it entails, caused by people with vested interests”.

Philippines

Two Russian destroyers and a tanker docked in the Philippines this week for a “goodwill visit” regarding tensions in the disputed South China Sea. This is the second time this year that Russian warships have docked in the Philippines. This week’s visit comes a few months before Russia and the Philippines are set to sign a naval cooperation agreement. The growing ties between the two countries comes at a time where tensions over land ownership in the disputed area is especially high.

Image result for iran flag Iran

United States Senator Rand Paul warned the Trump administration on Wednesday, stating, “you do not have the permission of Congress to go to war with Iran. Only Congress can declare war”. This comment was made the same week the United States President Trump called Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.

Other News

Israel – Israel voted this week to determine if current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would stay in office for another term, or if a new party would come to power. While Netanyahu and his closest rival Benny Gantz remained tied down to the wire with 97% of votes counted, Gantz eventually conceded, declaring Netanyahu the winner and longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history. Though the race was incredibly close, Netanyahu’s party Likud had a slight advantage with their alliances stretching further, making them more able to form a coalition with other right-wing allies. Despite his historic win, Netanyahu still has yet to face an upcoming trial for his charges of corruption, which he has denied.

Sudan  – A three-month long state of emergency has begun in Sudan, after the defense minister announced Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has been ousted and arrested after maintaining power for 30 years. Defense minister, Awad Ibn Ouf stated that the army will oversee a two-year transitional period which will then be followed by elections. Bashir currently has an international arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Course (ICC), as he is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. (BBC)

India – The initial phase of voting has begun in India, with 142 million voters voting on 91 candidates, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a second term. The elections will conclude May 19, with results being announced on May 23. Analysts say that while Modi is a front-runner, his biggest competition is Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party. (Al Jazeera)

Weekly Report: 5 April 2019

Migrants are held for processing under the Paso del Norte Bridge in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Images

Cuba

Cuba’s foreign exchange revenues are experiencing a steady decline as unrest continues in Venezuela and Algeria. Cuba’s relationship with Venezuela has slowly declined since 2014, and to compensate for this the country began importing oil from Russia and Algeria in 2017. Analysts believe that the political crisis in Algeria will be a threat to Cuba.

Bolivia

Dozens of Venezuelan migrants fear deportation from Bolivia, a country that still supports Venezuelan leader, Nicolas Maduro. Last month, Bolivian police arrested 14 Venezuelan protest leaders, protesters, and human rights groups who had previously held anti-Maduro protests in front of the Cuban embassy. Amnesty International director of the Americas, Erika Guevara Rosas, released a statement calling the Bolivian government to, “stop prosecuting and arbitrarily expelling Venezuelan refugees who need international protection”.

Nicaragua

Four people have been injured, and ten detained following a protest in Managua on Saturday calling for the release of political prisoners. The injuries came from a gunman, who the government describes as a victim, opening fire on the crowd. This conflict between the government and protesters came just one day after President Ortega promised to restore press and protest freedoms. Ortega also reiterated his promise to work with the International Red Cross in order to release all political prisoners. Despite these promises, opposition forces remain hesitant to believe that Ortega will follow through on them, especially after the violence and suppression at Saturday’s protest.

North Korea

Last month there was a break-in at the North Korean embassy in Spain, an event that North Korea is currently calling a “grave terrorist attack”. The government released its first official comment, stating that they are demanding an investigation as well as monitoring rumors that the FBI played a role in the attack. At this point, two international arrest warrants have been issued for main suspects.

Myanmar

A nighttime curfew has been imposed in five towns within the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Officials say that the curfew will be in effect from 9pm to 5am for two months, though the time frame could be expanded. A regional minister for border affairs and security signed the curfew into effect, hoping that it would stop some of the ongoing conflict between rebels and military in the state. The measure comes after months of attacks between the groups, causing property destruction and a number of deaths.

The UN has appointed an American lawyer to head their investigation into human rights abuses against Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar. The ‘Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar’ was initially established in September 2018 by the Human Rights Council, and was welcomed by the General Assembly in December. The investigation will look into the crimes and violations of international law committed by military and government in Myanmar since 2011.

United States

This Sunday, the Trump administration reignited their threat to shut down the southern border with Mexico. This comes one day after President Trump cut aid to Central American countries that he has accused of deliberately sending migrants to the United States. Trump said there was a “good likelihood” he would close the border as early as this week if Mexico did not attempt to stop unauthorized immigrants from entering the United States. White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said, “Faced with those limitations, the president will do everything he can. If closing the ports of entry means that, that’s exactly what he intends to do”.

Cambodia

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered that electricity be shut off in his critics’ homes after they claimed earlier this week that the prime minister had orchestrated blackouts to create support for his controversial dam project. Over the weekend, an environmental NGO suggested that the government had been restricting power flow in the Koh Kong province in order to justify building the dam. The project has been shelved since 2015 when environmental concerns shut it down.

Mexico

Following Trump’s response to the growing numbers of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border, there exists a growing fear that there is a lack of proper care being provided for migrants. Relief organizations are concerned as they struggle to feed and house migrants, and have even warned that a public health crisis could be on the horizon if this is not addressed. Disturbing images were released this week at the western end of the Texas border with Mexico, showing migrants placed on the ground under a bridge for several days, subject to hot days and frigid nights.

Maldives

The Maldives’ former president Abdulla Yameen has been released from prison on a court order, with the court saying there is not enough reason to hold him for more than a month. Yameen was initially arrested in February on charges of money laundering. His release comes just before the country’s parliamentary elections, which will take place on Saturday. Corruption has been a very popular talking point among all candidates fighting for the available 87 seats.

Zimbabwe

The UNHCR is directly involved with a humanitarian team ensuring that the Zimbabwe government provides aid and protection following the deadly Cyclone Idai. It is estimated that around 20,000 refugees in Zimbabwe have been affected, while 90,000 remain displaced, 200 dead, and 300 missing.  

Laos

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, has just concluded a 10-day visit to Cambodia, finishing with a very bleak, nearly 30-page report on the situation in the country. This report will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in June. Experts think that the report will have little effect on UN policy directives to Laos, though it may change the way NGOs and aid organizations interact with the country.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Ebola crisis in the DRC continues to worsen, as on March 29 there was a recorded 15 new confirmed cases of Ebola, the largest one-day rise since the outbreak was announced in August 2018. While health workers continue to work to fight against the epidemic, there remains a deep mistrust in first responders as militia violence continues to effect health zones.

Internal emails were released this week by a human rights organization, Justice First, showing Home Office officials attempting to persuade their Foreign Office colleagues to say that it is safe for people to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The emails also lead to uncovered information of people being deported from the UK to the DRC, and once returned suffering through imprisonment, torture, and have even disappeared. The director of Detention Action, a nonprofit based in England, stated, “These emails show a government desperate to ignore repeated and credible allegations of victimization of UK returnees to the DRC.”

Colombia

Thousands of Venezuelans broke barriers along the Colombian border and stormed into the country on Tuesday. Maduro’s regime has had two bridges blocked by trucks and shipping containers since February in order to keep U.S. aid out. Since then, Venezuelans have had to swim across the river separating the countries to get food, medicine, and work. With high amounts of rainfall flooding the river over the past few days, Venezuelans were forced to break down the barriers to get out. The head of Colombia’s migration agency has said in response that Maduro will be held responsible for any problems or harm to those escaping.

Venezuela

This week, Nicolas Maduro announced a 30-day plan to ration electricity following nationwide power cuts that have sparked widespread protest. The Red Cross (IFRC) has said they will begin to distribute aid within the next two weeks, helping an estimated 650,000 suffering from food and medicine shortages.

This week, opposition leader Juan Guaido was completely stripped of parliamentary immunity, a move that could eventually lead to Guaido’s arrest; this comes after Guaido publicly acknowledged that there cannot be a successful change of government without support from the armed forces. Guaido has vowed to continue to fight Maduro’s government, and is backed by 50 countries who recognize him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Guaido called his stripping of parliamentary immunity a “cowardly” attempt to suppress an uprising. Guaido stated, “If we weren’t so close to removing Maduro, the regime wouldn’t be so desperate”.

Malaysia

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak appeared in court on Wednesday over accusations of corruption related to the 1MDB financial scandal, from which nearly $5 billion was stolen by Najib and Malaysian financer Jho Low. Najib reportedly stole as much as $681 billion from the sovereign wealth fund, which was supposed to boost Malaysia’s economy. Officials also said on Wednesday that they would sell a superyacht bought by Jho Low with money stolen from the 1MDB fund. The trial of the of Najib has long been delayed and Jho Low remains at large, with both still claiming no wrongdoing. Analysts say that Najib’s best bet for avoiding jail will be postponing his trial until 2023 and hoping that his allies return to power then.

Philippines

Rights groups condemned police response to 14 farmers in what they consider a “massacre”, stating that the men were “farmers asserting their rights to land”. Authorities stated that the operation was a direct response to rebel attacks in Negros, and have defended their reaction by stating that the men shot at officers first. Rights and peasant groups have come forward, saying the men involved were completely defenseless, and are being portrayed as communist rebels when really, they were just asserting their rights to their land. Many are using this incident as another example of President Duterte’s harsh reaction to those critical of his government. The nation’s rights body announced they will investigate the incident.

Thailand

Thailand’s election took place over a week ago, but the official election results still have yet to be released – and won’t be until May 9th. On Thursday, the Election Commission released a final vote count showing that the pro-military party had won the popular vote. However, a number of accusations of voting irregularities and interference by the pro-military party has postponed the release of the official results. With an initial reported turnout of 65% seeming too low and rising to 75% after the final number were released, many opposition members are questioning the legitimacy of the results, and calling for the Election Commission to be dismissed. The new government will not be formed until official results are released in May, giving the EC the opportunity to rerun the votes in certain areas, as well as investigate calls of election law violations.

Vietnam

The closely followed trial of Doan Thi Huong has finally come to a close this week. Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese women who was a suspect in the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, plead guilty to a lesser charge in a Malaysian court, and her lawyer has stated she could be freed as early as next month. The judge told Huong she was “very, very lucky”, as the original charge of murder could have resulted in the death penalty.

Image result for iran flag  Iran

This week, Iran continues to cope with the flooding emergency, which has left at least 62 dead and the death toll continues to rise according to the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization. Funds from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund will go directly to families who have lost entire homes and livelihoods beyond foreseeable repair.

Other News

Algeria – Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika has announced that he will officially step down before his mandate expires on April 28, after having been in power for a total of 20 years. Protests were widespread in the country, lasting for two months, and famously involved a large number of young people and women. They have protested not only Bouteflika but the entire political system of Algeria. (BBC)