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

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CANVAS Weekly Report July 19th

CANVAS Weekly Report July 19th

Cuba

Communst-run Cuba passed sweeping governance reforms that solidifies a one-party system, while restructuring its government to have a prime-minister and provincial governors. The new law, which was unanimously approved, amends the 1976 constitution that vested all power into the president by outsourcing power to the legislative body and the prime-minister. The new law allows for two five year terms by the prime minister and shrinks its representative body from an unwieldy 605 to 407–– a number that is expected to shrink even further. The law aims to lighten the bureaucratic load on single-figureheads –– like the president –– and instead boost policy execution by more legislative bodies. Cuba has long touted its governance structure as more democratic than other Western powers but many are hoping that, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who took the presidency from Raul Castro last year, would further restructure its one-party system in light of Cuba’s social and economic over the last decade.

Gabon

On July 15th, the president of the Gabonese Patriotic Front (FPG), Gérard Ella Nguéma was arrested by the judicial police prior to taking part in a march in the town of Libreville. A FPG spokesman stated: “We still do not know the reason for his arrest,” adding that “it is possible that this is related to the somewhat harsh remarks that Nguema made against the Gabonese authorities during a press conference last week.” The spokesman was referring to a July 7th speech in which Nguéma accused several close relatives of Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who is currently recovering from a stroke in late October of a stroke, of trying to “manipulate” him. In his speech, Nguéma attacked the chief of staff of President Brice Laccruche Alihanga , the first lady Sylvia Bongo Ondimba and the president of the Constitutional Court Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo. The arrest of Nguéma comes days after the arrest of four leaders of Gabon’s main trade union coalition, Dynamique Unitaire, which declared in early July that Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba was “dead”.

Bolivia

Bolivia has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world and the highest in South America, officially declared it a national priority. Since January, 73 femicides –– a term to denote men who kill women based on gender –– which is roughly one woman killed every two days and the highest since 2013. A ten point “emergency plan” seeks to combat femicide and domestic violence through increased funding, the creation of a government commission, obligatory training courses for civil servants and public sector employees on gender violence and prevention, and teachers will also receive training about “the psychological, sexual and physical violence” women and girls face. Femicide usually goes unpunished or univestigated in bolivia with 288 out of the 627 cases since 2013 left open. 

Nicaragua

Last week, the Inter-American Commission On Human Rights (IACHR)  Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) denounced the continued and recent escalation of religious persecution. The repression, which is now targeting religious celebrations, is classified by IACHR as constituting “grave restrictions of public liberties.” The Daniel Ortega regime has restricted political assembly and dissent with over 700 political prisoners since April of 2018 but has increased religious persecution. The MESENI report states that the Ortega regime’s police frequently kidnap demonstrators at places of worship following services or mass: “These events occur within a context of increasing threats against the Catholic Church and religious leaders.”

North Korea

Rates of malnutrition and starvation have jumped in North Korea after it faced a dire drought in May. The severe drought has resulted in an underwhelming harvest; farmers harvested half of what was expected, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). South Korea has sent 50,000 tons of rice over the border, as well as donating millions of dollars to the UN World Food Programme and the UN Children’s Fund, in order to help North Korea through their struggle.

  Myanmar

The U.S. has announced sanctions on some of the top ranking officials of the Myanmar military. Myanmar’s Commander-in-chief, Deputy Commander-in-chief, as well as two generals were all banned from entering the United States. Last Tuesday, the Department of State said that they took action after evidence arose of the four’s involvement in violence against the Rohingya. Persistent violence against the Rohingya minority has been the leading contributor to the United States’s involvement in Myanmar. The presence of human rights violations has forced over 740,000 Rohingya Muslims to cross the border to reach Bangladesh.

United States 

President Donald Trump said last Sunday that “Progressive Democratic Congresswomen” should go back to their country, in a series of tweets that have ben labeled as “xenophobic” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I reject @realDonaldTrump’s xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation. Rather than attack Members of Congress, he should work with us for humane immigration policy that reflects American values,” said Madame Pelosi. President Trump’s tweets targeted representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. At a Trump campaign rally in North Carolina, supporters chanted “Send Her Back” targeted against Omar. Trump disavowed the chant the next day, saying he “disagreed with it” but during the rally he did not stop the racist chant.  

 Cambodia

The US House of Representatives recently approved a legislation that would target Cambodian officials that helped arrest peaceful activists that were commemorating the death of political activist, Kem Ley. The legislation, known as “HR 526 Cambodia Democracy Act”, currently has to pass through the senate in order to receive a seal from President Donald Trump. The legislation specifically calls for the reinstatement of Kem Sokha, the leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, as well as the restoration of the CNRP’s seats in the Cambodian Parliament. The cambodian government has been regularly accused of violating human rights, and has been called out for unfair elections, as well as political oppression.

Zimbabwe

On July 16th, Zimbabwean civil servants’ union protested in Harare against “slave salaries”, caused by the massive spike in inflation caused by the reintroduction of the Zimbabwean dollar as the sole legal tender. Inflation rose from 97% in May to 176% in June, pricing many Zimbabweans out of basic foodstuffs and necessities like gasoline, electricity and water. The protesters threatened to strike if their wages will not be increased. The price hikes are exacerbating the food and water deprivation caused by a major drought leaving two million people in Harare and Bulawayo with minimal access to clean water. 

Laos

This week, the Ministry of Information of Laos has ordered registration of social media news platforms by the proprietors of accounts posting news and information, under pain of legal action. Users of social media that post news on their accounts that refuse to register may be fined 4 to 20 million kip (460 to 2290 USD), or face imprisonment for three months to three years. Laos has several major criteria to register a media organization, including ideology, thus making this order effectively a crackdown on independent reporting in social media.

  The Democratic Republic of Congo

This week, the World Health Organization declared an international emergency over the Ebola epidemic in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that has killed over 1500 people so far. The emergency was declared after a case of Ebola was found in the city of Goma, which has 2 million people and is an important gate to Rwanda. 

In other news, the government of the DRC promised to reestablish the transmission of RTVS1, a television channel run by one of the leaders of the opposition group Lamuka, which was cut off in late June, after broadcasting a message from the opposition leaders. The promise, however, was conditional upon state censorship of broadcast material. Lamuka also saw one of its leaders, Freddy Matungulu, step down after being offered a job in the African Development Bank, in a move that recalls the former president Kabila’s strategy to neutralize opposition by coopting them with positions of power.

Venezuela 

Over the weekend, the Bishops of Latin America issued an indirect statement to Nicolas Maduro. Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, president of the Conference of Latin American Bishops, sent out a letter last Friday to express their concern for the “illegitimate and failed” government of Maduro. Additionally, Vidarte included words of encouragement for the starving citizens, as well as praisal for Caritas Venezuela, a branch of the local catholic church that provided food and aid to the struggling civilians.

Malaysia

In a step towards strengthening democracy, Malaysia’s parliament is debating this week over a proposal to amend the constitution to lower the voting age to 18. The proposal also includes measures to allow people to stand for elections once they turn 18 as well as automatic voter registration. Malaysia remains one of the only countries in the world where the voting age is 21, as 90% of countries have a voting age of 18. If passed, this will be the first time that the country’s government and opposition parties have worked together on a proposal to change the country’s constitution. The lower house passed the bill by a vote of 211-11, and the bill has to be approved by the Senate before it becomes law. The new amendment would add 7.8 million people to the electoral roll by 2023, in a country of 32 million people. 

 Philippines

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on the United States this week to send a naval fleet to the South China Sea under a mutual defense treaty. The ask is in order to exert more pressure on China over incursions by Chinese fleets into Filipino territory in the South China Sea. Facing pressure over his recent handling of an incident with the Chinese in the South China Sea, Duterte said he is prepared to invoke the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty to gain US aid. Facing aggressive Chinese expansionism in the sea, Duterte acknowledged that the Philippines does not have the strength or resources to stop it. Though US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured the Philippines that it would back them militarily over Chinese aggression, it is unlikely that the United States will respond to Duterte’s request. 

Health officials in the Philippines have also declared an emergency over an alarming spike in the number of dengue patients this year, as over 100,000 cases have been reported since January. This represents an 85% increase in the number of cases over the same period in 2018, prompting officials to issue the first ever national dengue alert. Officials are preparing to use military hospitals and clinics to treat the mosquito-borne disease, which affects about 390 million people annually. 

Vietnam

There have been new developments in the rising tension between Vietnam and China in the South China Sea. The Chinese have deployed ships to the Vanguard Bank  to prevent Vietnam from “advancing its interests in the region before a deal is reached on a code of conduct for the South China Sea,” according to the South China Morning Post. Beijing hopes that a deal can be reached by 2021 to establish claims over oil and gas reserves in the area. 

The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee on July 19 decided to issue a disciplinary warning against Vu Van Ninh, former Deputy Prime Minister. According to the Bureau, Ninh signed documents allowing the equitisation and divestment of State capital from Quy Nhon Port JSC and Quang Ninh Port JSC. Both of these actions were violations of the party’s principles and tarnished the prestige of the party. 

 Iran 

When the United States increased tension between Iran by pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and imposing harsher sanctions, Iran clinched to European powers who remained in the deal. But on Thursday, Iranian boats “tried to intercept” a British oil-tanker which is “contrary to international law” according to a BP spokesman. SMH Montrose, a Royal Navy ship  later forced to move to move between the Iranian boats to protect it. Two weeks before the BP altercation, the United States claimed Iranian forces had bombed two oil tankers in international waters. An allegation that Britain back but the Iranians disputed, calling the White House “mentally retarted.”  This week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani mocked Britain calling it “scared” and “hope

Sudan

The deal solidifying a transitional power-sharing council was made official in Khartoum this week. Civilian protest leaders and ruling military officials signed an accord outlining a transitional council made up of both civilians and military personnel that aims to lead the country to democracy. The body will be made up of 11 individuals (6 civilians and 5 soldiers) and the protest movement has been charged with nominating a Prime Minister. The two parties are also currently drafting a constitutional declaration. Whether members of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) will be tried for the killing of civilians remains to be seen, and although a deal has been signed, Sudanese protesters are still demanding justice for the murderous actions of the TMC in June. 

Russia

Early this week, it was announced that Russia would soon start jointly producing S-400’s with Turkey; shortly after this announcement, the United States pulled Turkey from its F-35 program, indicating high tensions between Washington and Moscow as the deadline for the INF treaty draws closer. On July 18th, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia “to take the responsible path” and destroy a newly developed missile so as to preserve the INF treaty. The US has claimed it will formally withdraw from the INF treaty if a deal is not reached by August 2nd, leaving both countries to freely develop medium-range nuclear missiles. 

Libya

The turmoil in Libya continued this week with the kidnapping of a Libyan MP, the explosion of car bombs and an air strike on a field hospital. On July 11th, a Libyan official confirmed that multiple car bombs had exploded in the vicinity of Libyan National Army (LNA) leaders while attending a funeral service, leading the LNA to accuse the Government of National Accord (the U.N.-backed government) of the attack. The bombing did not kill or wound military leaders, but 2 civilians and 2 soldiers were killed. On July 17th, the LNA carried out an air strike on a GNA field hospital which killed at least 3. On the same day, it was reported that Libyan MP, Siham Sirgiwa, has been kidnapped by LNA forces; the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has called for her release and LNA forces have yet to respond. Britain, France, Egypt, the UAE, the US and Italy released a joint statement early this week urging de-escalation in Libya, but the statement does not appear to have had an immediate impact as violence has only continued. 

Togo

This week, Togo announced an agreement with The United Arab Emirates’ Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development (KFED). The agreement includes a set of guidelines to be followed for the partnership which will provide over $15 million funding assistance to small and medium enterprises in Togo. The agreement is estimated to finance nearly 4,000 projects and provide around 13,000 new job opportunities primarily across agricultural and technology sectors. The project is aimed at helping youth and 40 percent of the projects will be reserved for women. The agreement was signed last March by H.E. Hussain Jassim Al Nowais, Chairman, KFED and H.E. Noël Bataka, Togo Minister of Agriculture in Lomé. 

Additionally, Togo signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to develop and construct Solar projects. The details for the project have not been disclosed, but the projects will be developed under the pre-existing Scaling Solar Initiative, and finalized in the next two years. Togo frequently experiences energy shortages and according to USAID, they are supplied with power from hydropower and thermal plants imported from Ghana and Nigeria. Togo’s access rate to power is only around 28 percent currently and the government hopes to raise this to 75 percent in 2020 with full access to power by 2030.

Eritrea

The Roman Catholic Church, which makes up 5 percent of the Eritrean population of 6 million reports being under attack from President Isaias Afwerki’s regime. Nuns reported being evicted from their residences in church run-hospitals in the village of Zager, which is 20 miles north of Asmara, the capital. The church reports soldiers in military fatigues raided church convents that ran health clinics  and forcibly took over. The church says nearly two-dozen Catholic run clinics have been closed in the last month.

Hong Kong

Over one-tenth of European Parliament members came together to call for the government of Hong Kong to formally introduce democratic reforms, withdraw its extradition bill and to demand an EU-wide ban on supplying weapons to the city’s police. On Thursday (18 July), the European Parliament passed a cross-party, multinational motion to “strongly condemns the constant and increasing interference by China in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, as well as the recent assertion by China that the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 is a historic document and hence is no longer valid.” Next, the recommendation will be forwarded to the European Council. The motion demands the immediate release of peaceful protestors and echoes their demands for the government of Hong Kong to set up “independent, impartial, effective, and prompt investigations into the use of force” by police during recent protests. Currently, Britain and Germany are independently considering suspending arm sales to police in Hong Kong. Thousands are joining the protests in Hong Kong each week, many demanding universal suffrage.

Beijing called the European motion full of “ignorance and prejudice”.  Chinese officials are working quickly to develop their own strategy to deter political chaos and have ruled out using military force. Reports say Beijing doesn’t want to get involved directly and hopes Hong Kong authorities will resolve the situation. China condemned the joint motion for the European Parliament motion to “investigate export controls and deny China and Hong Kong access to technologies”. 

Kingdom of Eswatini

    • Children at an eSwatini school are being forced to work as groundmen because the government has not paid a grant it owes the school.  Reports say children at Vulamehlo are cutting grass, sweeping the school yard and picking up paper, duties a groundsman used to do, before he lost his job due to the school not paying him. This school and many others across the kingdom have yet to receive their free primary education (FPE) grants from the government.  Because of the lack of funding, students are also being denied meals, and an estimated 6 in 10 schools do not have enough teachers. After the government banned a witchcraft and magic competition,  it received international support. 

Other News:

Indonesia:  Over the weekend, President President Joko Widodo and defeated rival Prabowo Subianto met on the new Jakarta subway to discuss the future of Indonesia. The meeting marked the first time the rivals have met face-to-face since violent protests over the candidacy erupted in the capital. The reunion went smoothly with citizens taking pictures as the two exchanged smiles and handshakes. Afterwards, Subianto said that he would help President Widodo and the Indonesian government in any way he can, “because democracy requires checks and balances.”

San Juan, Puerto Rico: Protests broke out in Puerto Rico –– likened to those that happened during military presence in 1999 ––  demanding the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosllo after hundreds of pages of private messages between Mr. Rosselló and some of his closest aides were leaked on Saturday. The messages revealed a slew of crude and inappropriate exchanges; some are homophobic, others are vile nicknames and attacks against journalist. The messages come in the wake of large corruption arrests which unleashed months of built-up frustration over Mr. Rosselló’s handling of Hurricane Maria, his education policies, and the federal oversight board that controls Puerto Rico’s troubled finances. While police used tear gas and pepper spray to stop protesters who damaged property, Governor Rosello applauded the protests calling it “an expression that I respect and keep very much in mind.” Other senior officials implicated already resigned, but Rosello is yet to do so saying they were inappropriate but not illegal. The protests continue featuring a number of high-profile Puerto Ricans, including the actor and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, singer Ricky Martin and trap artist Benito Martínez Ocasio, known by his stage name Bad Bunny, have also lent vocal support to the protests. 

Algeria: General Gaid Salah, Algeria’s de facto military leader, has increased crackdowns on demonstrators whose mass mobilization resulted in the end of the authoritarian rule of Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The military authorities have arrested dozens of protesters, blocked access to news websites, and, in preparation to the African Cup finals, where Algeria will face Senegal, it has also engaged in a media crackdown. Salah has also stoked ethnic tensions in the country by arresting protesters that fly the flag of the Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to Algeria and other countries of North Africa. 

Johannesburg, South Africa: In 2009,the UN declared through a resolution that July 18th to be Nelson Mandela International Day as a call to action against bigotry, racism, and hatred. And on its 10th anniversary, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres asserted that “on this day of reflection on Nelson Mandela’s life and work, let us embrace his legacy and aspire to emulate his example.” Activists, leaders, and layman alike all inherit the vast void Mandela left with his unconditional commitment to nonviolence, the persistence for a better tomorrow, and the fortitude he bestowed to the people of South Africa and the world –– and we ought to not just emulate him, but his message of a better tomorrow. 

Weekly Reports July 12th

Weekly Reports July 12th

Cuba

For the past year, the U.S. has hit Cuba hard with sanctions against its ally Venezuala’s  state run oil company. But stopping the flow of Venezuelan oil to Cuba might prove harder than the U.S. expected. According to data compiled by Bloomberg News, tankers are being renamed and vessels are switching off their transponders to sail under the radar of the U.S. government. The vessel Ocean Elegance, an oil tanker that has been delivering Venezuelan crude to Cuba for the past three years, was renamed Oceano after being sanctioned in May. 

Gabon

FIFA, the international body governing football relations, has given Gabon’s football federation until Monday to explain how it is addressing salary errors dating back to 2016 totalling just over $1.35 million. As many as 20 clubs in the West African nation that hosted the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations owe money to a number of important players. African football’s ruling body stated that if the errors are not settled by the end of that month, Gabon’s clubs would be barred from continental competition. 

 

Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s political opposition says it is willing to resume dialogue with President Daniel Ortega’s government over resolving the country’s political standoff. The announcement to a letter directed to the Organization of American States by the Civic Alliance opposition group on Friday calls for the return international human rights groups in Nicaragua. In its most recent general assembly, the OAS gave Ortega 75 days to fulfill agreements from previous talks and return to the table. The Civic Alliance left talks May 20 after a man detained for political reasons died behind bars, and amid delays in releasing hundreds of others considered political prisoners. The last group of prisoner releases came June 11.

North Korea

Kim Jong Un has been formally named head of state of North Korea and commander-in-chief of the military in a new constitution observers said was possibly aimed at preparing for a peace treaty with the United States. The new constitution said that Kim as chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC), a top governing body created in 2016, was “the supreme representative of all the Korean people”, which means head of state, and “commander-in-chief”. The previous constitution simply called Kim “supreme leader” who commands the country’s “overall military force.” The amendment to the constitution is seen as  normalizing North Korea from a rogue state to a 21st century denuclearized one. 

  Myanmar

Hundreds of protesters have marched in Yangon amid outrage over the alleged rape of a two-year-old girl following a viral online campaign in a case that has left Myanmar society reeling. The alleged incident took place in the country’s capital Naypyidaw in May but a public campaign escalated last week after the girl’s father spoke to local media, venting his anger over the lack of progress in the inquiry.

United States 

President Donald Trump back away from adding a question about US citizenship to the 2020 census on Thursday, instead asking government agencies to provide records that could determine a head-count of citizens without polling census-takers directly. The turnaround comes after Trump repeatedly said he would continue fighting to insert the question despite a Supreme Court ruling that dealt a blow to the effort last month. The move would have substantial consequences appropriating government funding and congressional redistricting. In another attempted indictment of Trump’s policy, House Democrats again tried to cut US funding supporting the war in Yemen

 Cambodia

A new train connecting Bangkok and the Thai-Cambodian border for the first time since tracks were cut 45 years ago at the end of the US-Vietnam War.  The new rail link ends one of the last infrastructural disruptions caused by the Cold War era conflict and will more tightly connect the peacetime economies of tow former staunch adversaries. The trainline is symbolic of recent economic and political developments; Bilateral trade, currently estimated at $6 billion. During the Vietnam War, Thailand hosted US airbases for attacks on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam during America’s Vietnam War.

Maldives

The Maldives continues to clash with China over its rising debt to the country, which currently stands at $3.4 billion. Parliament Speaker and Former President Mohammed Nasheed has said his country will have to spend 15% of its yearly budget paying back the debt owed to Chinese companies starting in 2020. This comes as India is regaining strategic ground in the region after the exit of the pro-Beijing former President Abdulla Yameen.

Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government formally characterized and charged a high-ranking member of the opposition party with treason for comments attributed to him for threatening to overthrow the government unconstitutionally. Job Shika, who is the vice-chairman of the opposition MDC party, denied the charges. Government critics and state dissidents are frequently targeted by the police and security forces of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnagagwa’s oppositional forces grows by the day as hyper-inflation and resentment towards the government soars. This week, Zimbabwe’s public workers rejected a pay-raise of 21 million dollars from President Mnangagwa citing the increase in funding to be inadequate to deal with hyperinflation.  

  The Democratic Republic of Congo

Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda was convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ntaganda’s charges include mass killings and sexual violence in the Ituri province in the east of the country. The trial has left many Congolese disappointed as the charges did not involve Ntaganda’s killing sprees in North and South Kivu provinces. 

Venezuela 

On July 2nd, self declared Venezuelan President, Juan Guaido, announced that he would not participate in talks with Maduro, because there is “never” a good time to speak with a “murderous dictator”. However, this past Sunday Guiado announced that discussions between Maduro and the opposition group would be under way in the near future. The meeting, mediated by Norway, is scheduled to occur in Barbados. 

Malaysia

The United States Justice Department is investigating whether Deutsche Bank AG violated foreign corruption or anti-money-laundering laws in its work for state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Latheefa Koya, the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), said the agency has filed complaints against 41 individuals and entities to recover money given to them by former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

 Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte infamous war on drugs has killed thousands of people over the last three years, and has come under fire for its brutality and secrecy from human rights organizations. Senator Ronald dela Rosa, Duterte’s former police chief and top enforcer of the drug war, told reporters in Manila that authorities “never intend” to harm the innocent during anti-narcotics operations.  After the killing of two young girls during a raid, dela Rosa quipped “S*** happens during operations. S*** happens. Honest to goodness, there are some collateral damage,” igniting a firestorm of condemnation.  This week, following widespread demand for investigations into a “crimes against humanity” from Amnesty International, the United Nations approved a resolution seeking action into Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte‘s “war on drugs”

  Thailand

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan Ocha named his cabinet after a prolonged rule by decree. In the 36 person cabinet, the junta leader-turned-Prime Minister will also serve as the Minister of Defense, with other seats filled with loyalists and members of the junta government. During the transition into the new cabinet, Prayuth has revoked 66 out of 500 executive orders he had issued, in a move that has been criticized by civil society groups as an attempt to improve his image. The cabinet is expected to be confirmed in the parliament next week, ceasing the rule of the junta nominally.

In other news, a Thai Buddhist monk has finished his ‘peace walk’ around the United States of America, trekking from the West Coast of the country to the East.

 Iran 

When the United States increased tension between Iran by pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and imposing harsher sanctions, Iran clinched to European powers who remained in the deal. But on Thursday, Iranian boats “tried to intercept” a British oil-tanker which is “contrary to international law” according to a BP spokesman. SMH Montrose, a Royal Navy ship  later forced to move to move between the Iranian boats to protect it. Two weeks before the BP altercation, the United States claimed Iranian forces had bombed two oil tankers in international waters. An allegation that Britain back but the Iranians disputed, calling the White House “mentally retarted.”  This week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani mocked Britain calling it “scared” and “hope

Sudan

Last week, Sudan’s civilian opposition made a historic deal with the Transitional Military Council, which ruled the country since it toppled long-time leader Omar al-Bashir, to cement civilian rule in Sudan. Tensions between the TMC and the opposition were high in June after government forces opened fire on demonstrators at a peaceful sit-in outside the army headquarters June 3, killing more than 100 people. Following the government crackdown, the TMC cut off all internet services in Sudan. But this week, after the deal, the TMC lifted its ban, and videos during the tumultuous month of June are finally emerging. Videos revealing the brutality that the Sudanesee people had to endure during the month of June, including during the June 3rd crackdown, giving caution to the optimism that came out of last week’s deal.

Russia

On Monday, Russia‘s ban on flights to neighboring Georgia came into effect causing both political and economic uncertainty for the Caucasus nation of 3.7 million people. Georgia annually hosts more than one million Russian tourists and will cost the nation around 300 million dollars. The travel blockade, which affects all Russian and Georgian airlines operating between the two countries also included tightening restrictions on wine. The ban was activated in the middle of the high tourist season. The Kremlin also urged Russian tourists visiting the country to return home, claiming that “Russophobic hysteria” made the country dangerous for citizens. The ban was announced in response to anti-Kremlin protests in Tbilisi angering a visit of a Russian legislator, Sergei Gavrilov, who gave an address from the Georgian parliamentary speaker’s chair sparked fear for many Georgians on Russian presence and aggression in the region.

Libya

Libya’s UN-backed government said the United Arab Emirates used a US-made F-16 fighter jet in Wednesday’s attack on a migrant detention center that killed at least 53 people.

Fathi Bashaagha, the Interior Minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), made the accusation to CNN on Friday: “We accuse the UAE of bombing the center with an F-16 jet.”  When asked if the GNA had any proof that an Emirati jet conducted the attack, the minister said: “The sound of the jet was identified by technicians and pilots who heard it. The destructive power (of the bombs) is very big and is similar to the destructive power (of the bombs dropped) in 2014.” Bombings and social unrest have led to many Libyans fleeing, and this week, 44 people, including four women and three children who were stranded in the Mediterranean. The ship contained citizens from Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Guinea, said they had left Zuwara in Libya early on Saturday in a wooden boat, according to AFP news agency. 

Togo

A former presidential guard from Togo who faces the death penalty for helping his country’s opposition was deported from Russia to the West African nation, Moscow-based activists have said. Russia has for the past five years denied refugee status to Bozobeyidou Batoma, 42, a former member of the Togolese commando guard force, Russia’s Civic Assistance Committee said. A Russian court ruled last month to deport Batoma back to Togo, which he had escaped after allegedly being imprisoned and tortured and where he faced the threat of extrajudicial execution.

Eritrea

This week marks the first anniversary of the historic Ethiopia – Eritrea peace deal which Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reached last year sparking hope. Conflict began between the two countries sparling a two-year war between that killed an estimated 70,000 people from both sides. While the deal has yet to end all strife in the region, Eritreans and Ethiopians are able to move more freely between the two countries, especially in the disputed area of Badme, allowing families to reconnect. Citizens are also welcoming less military presence along the border. The two neighbors and their respected statesmen are working to fulfill and maintain the goals signed in Asmara last year.

Hong Kong

The Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, has declared the extradition bill that provoked mass protests that engulfed the city for weeks, “dead”. Lam criticized the government’s work on the now-suspended bill, but she refrained from withdrawing the bill from the Legislative Council. Lam’s statement came a day after a major protest by tens of thousands of Hongkongers which was organized to attract the attention of mainland Chinese visitors. The pro-Beijing camp has taken one more hit as TVB, a Hong Kong television broadcaster reported to have a pro-Beijing stance, lost multiple advertisers, including Pocari Sweat, after a social media campaign encouraging businesses to pull their ads from TVB. More protests are planned for this weekend. 

Kingdom of Eswatini

This week, the Kingdom of eSwatini has banned witchcraft and magic competition. Local organisers had planned to hold the competition in Manzini, the second city of eSwatini, but a statement issued on Tuesday citing that the Witchcraft Act of 1889 defines witchcraft, sorcery or the practice of voodoo as a punishable offense. eSwatini has a population of 1.3 million people, with many following Christianity and indigenous beliefs. 

Other News:

Greece, Athens: On Sunday, Greece held nation-wide elections for the prime minister and parliamentary positions. Center-right New Democracy party won by a landslide over leftist Syriza, which had been in power since 2015, and ND’s leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister, a day after results showed New Democracy gaining 39.85% of the vote in Sunday’s snap election, compared with 31.53% for Syriza, led by outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The election result gave New Democracy an outright majority with 158 seats in the 300-member Greek parliament. The election marks a significant shift for the crisis-hit country that has seen a decade of governments made from fragile coalition made from cloths with ideologically divergent parties united by their stance favor or against Greece’s bailout deals. 

 

Mali: More than two hundred thousand people have or are fleeing their homes in Mali, where deadly attacks on villages are destabilising an already critical situation in the country’s center. More people have fled since the start of the year with almost six times the number that were displaced in the same period last year. Nearly 600 civilians were killed in the first half of 2019.

Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina: Thousands of mourners gathered in Bosnia on Thursday to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II. Relatives of the more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb troops were among those attending a ceremony at a memorial site that included the burial of 33 newly identified victims of the July 11-22, 1995 massacre. More than 1,000 are still considered missing from the mass slaughter during the Bosnian civil war.

 

Weekly Report July 5th

Weekly Report July 5th

Cuba

According to a report from SBS-AAP, Cuba is considering the use of cryptocurrency in order to bolster its finances. The country’s Communist government announced on state-run TV that it would potentially use crypto as part of a package aimed to boost incomes for as much as a quarter of Cubans and assist with market reforms. The announcement comes in the wake of new sanctions from the United States and Brazil on Cuba this week with the hopes to further cripple Cuba’s ally Venezuela. Venezuela implemented its own form of cryptocurrency last year to curb hyperinflation and economic catastrophe.  

Nicaragua

In a letter to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers, Human Rights Watch argued that the EU should impose targeted sanctions against high-level Nicaraguan officials implicated in gross human rights violations and condition financial support to Nicaragua’s National Police. The European Union should increase pressure on the Nicaraguan government to curb human rights violations by police and other officials in the wake of anti-government protests, The crackdown on anti-government protests by Nicaragua’s National Police and armed pro-government groups that began in April 2018 led to more than 300 deaths and 2,000 people injured. The HMR wasn’t the only organization to condemn the gross human rights violations, The Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly adopted a joint resolution condemning the Nicaraguan government on Wednesday. 

North Korea

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that Alek Sigley is “released and safe” after being detained by the North Norean government. Last week, his family and friends lost contact with him, sparking fears he might have been detained, and these concerns were true. Sigley was the only “Austrialian living in North Korea” where he was pursuing a master’s degree and running a tourism business in Pyongyang. His release was said to comes after a meeting between officials from the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang and the North Korean government. Australia does not have its own embassy in the North Korean capital, but Sweden does, and often acts as a liaison for countries. It is not known why the student, a fluent Korean speaker, had been detained.

  Myanmar

The U.N. envoy for Myanmar said Monday that progress on alleviating the crisis that led more than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh has been slow and if there is no action it will be time to “ring the alarm bell.” Special UN Envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener, said that there have been “little changes on the ground” to the situation for Rohingya Muslims citing discrimination, military presence, and last week when Myanmaar suspended internet service cuasing a communication black out in Rhakine. 

United States 

On Sunday, after hobnobbing with G-20 leaders in Osaka, Japan, President Donald Trump made one of the most audacious diplomatic photo-ops in history when he crossed over the DMZ and into Norea Korea shaking hands with North Korea’s leader Kim-Jong Un. In doing so, President Trump became the first sitting American President in history to set foot in North Korea. The meeting was set up via Twitter with less than 24 hours. Both leaders said that the meeting marked a reboot to two previous failed summits regarding North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. While the meeting was historic, foreign policy experts criticized Trump’s tactics arguing the exchange should be the last step, not the first, to a nuclear arms agreement. Democrats parroted these concerns as presidential candidates criticized him for “coddling with tyrants” and “legitimizing dictators.” 

President Trump also came under fire for his jingoistic July 4th celebration that boasted the US’ military prowess. The “Salute to America” event featured military flyovers and fireworks. For the first time in recent memory, the Independence Day celebration featured a military parade. Opponents accused Mr. Trump of wasting money and politicizing the holiday ahead of his re-election campaign.

 Cambodia

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said that his country “will not bow down to any advice from foreigners” as he prepares to head to Geneva, where he is expected to address a United Nations human rights session on July 4 about Cambodia’s human rights progress. Despite Sen’s claim that human rights in Cambodia are improving, an activist and former elected official, Sun Yen, was beaten nearly to death in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province by a group of unidentified men. Yen is a member of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was disbanded in November 2017 for its alleged role in a plot to overthrow the government. The move was part of a wider crackdown by Sen on political opposition, NGOs, and the independent media that paved the way for Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win all 125 seats in parliament in the country’s July 2018 general election.

Zimbabwe

Eskom, a South-African based eclecticity provider, announced that Zimbabwe has failed to pay $10 million (R140 million) of its outstanding debt, despite undertakings by Zimbabwe Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube. Moreover, Eskom is refusing to be paid in Zimbabwean dollars, which is experiencing one of the highest levels of hyper-inflation in recorded history, and instead in South African Rand or in USD. Zimbabwe has been forced to implement power-cuts due to its inability to pay for foreign electricity imports and a severe drought leading to fewer outputs by its hydro-plant. The announcement marks another step towards social, political, and economic turmoil: if Zimbabwe is unable to produce electricity, other sectors of its mineral and oil rich economy will ultimately fail. Some Zimbbwean’s power is only available for a few hours in the middle of the night. 

  The Democratic Republic of Congo

President Felix Tshisekedi described interethnic bloodshed in DRC’s northeast as “attempted genocide” after scores of people were killed and tens of thousands displaced. The leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said the violence appeared to be a “plot” and vowed to “find out the truth” about who was behind the deadly unrest. Fighting in Ituri province between militias connected to Lendu farmers and Hema herders has killed at least 160 civilians since June 10, Tshisekedi said on Tuesday at the end of a three-day visit there. Earlier this week, Amnesty International called on the DRC  to withdraw its armed forces from the Fungurume mines to overt bloodshed after reports found that the DRC sent approximately a thousand of soldiers to protect Chinese Mining Incorporation.

Venezuela 

Following the death of a navy officer in custody over an alleged coup plot, Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Tuesday there were no plans to restart talks with the “murderous dictatorship” of President Nicolas Maduro. President Maduro has not said how the officer died, but a sixteen-page UN report released this week details the injuries inflicted on the navy captain, “including electric shocks, suffocation with plastic bags, water boarding, beatings, sexual violence, water, and food deprivation, stress positions and exposure to extreme temperatures”. Despite opposition leader Guaido’s statement that there would “never” be a time to negotiate with a “dictatorship” and the UN report, President Maduro was optimistic about future talks with the opposition: there “will be good news in the coming weeks about how well the contact, negotiation and pre-agreement processes are going.” 

 Philippines

This week in Manila, approximately 2,500 people gathered to honor the 90-year-old widow of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and celebrate a birthday party for Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines. However, more than two hundred and fifty guests fell ill with suspected food poisoning after the celebratory meal at a Ambulances rushed vomiting friends and supporters from a sports stadium Although Marcos was toppled by a peaceful uprising in 1986, the family is still revered by many in the Philippines and has made a political comeback in recent years.

  Thailand

Human Rights organizations have urged Thai authorities to investigate attacks on pro-democracy activists after one was beaten and left unconscious on a pavement last week. Amnesty International submitted open letters to Thailand’s defense minister and its police commissioner on Wednesday asking them to bring justice to the attackers. who have targeted three vocal pro-democracy activists on multiple occasions since the military seized power in a coup in 2014. In the letter, AI asserted that the attacks against the activists “appear to fit a pattern of systemic violence timed to coincide with their efforts to draw attention to perceived election irregularities and problems relating to the formation of a new government”.

 Vietnam

Vietnam was a direct beneficiary of the trade-war between the United States and China; however, there were worries that the country might be on the receiving end of the tarifs. To combat these fears, Vietnam signed a “historic” trade deal with the European Union that effectively cut 99% of all tariffs between Vietnam and the EU. On Thursday, President Donald Trump put a 456% tariff on imported Vietnameese steel amid a surge in exports to the U.S. and growing evidence of Chinese and other manufacturers diverting their goods via the Southeast Asian nation to bypass Chinese tariffs. In response, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered government officials to intensify their crackdown on fraudulently mislabeled products for exports and closely monitor U.S. reactions 

 Iran 

 President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Iran will boost its uranium enrichment after July 7 to whatever levels it needs beyond the cap set in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, defying US efforts to force Tehran into renegotiating the pact. Early this week, Iran announced has stockpiled more low-enriched uranium than is permitted under the accord. While the situation looks more like a disaster than a diplomatic triumph when both the United States and Iran are hitting back, Iranian Minister Mahmoud Alavi was cited by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying “negotiation between Iran and America will take place if the supreme leader gives the permission.” 

Sudan

On Wednesday, Sudan’s protest and opposition leaders resumed face-to-face talks with Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC). TMC and the opposition coalition have struggled for weeks over what form Sudan’s new government should take after the military deposed long-time president Omar al-Bashir on April 11. The meditators of the talk were done by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who flew down after talks broke down. After months of peaceful protest and a violent military crackdown, Sudan’s military leaders reached an agreement with the opposition alliance to share power until elections can be held. The two sides agreed to rotate control of the sovereign council for at least three years with the first president being picked by the TMC. They have also pledged to form an independent technocratic government and to investigate the aforementioned violence of recent weeks. News of the agreement reportedly sparked frenzied street celebrations.

Russia

On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia is ready to restart discussions with the U.S. over arms control and that recently there have been signs that Washington is beginning to consider resuming bilateral dialogue on a wide-ranging strategic agenda,” Despite fears that both countries pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF treaty) signed in 1987 would lead to an arms-race, both countries have denied that the collapse of a significant nuclear missile treaty between the two nations would prompt an arms race. 

Libya

On Thursday, a UN official has said that the attack on a detention centre outside the Libyan capital attack, which killed more than 44 migrants, could constitute a war crime. At least 130 people were injured in the attack, which the Libyan government blamed on an airstrike by forces loyal to a warlord, General Khalifa Haftar. Thousands of migrants are being held in government-run detention centres in Libya. Most of the dead are believed to be sub-Saharan Africans who were attempting to reach Europe from Libya.

Togo

On Sunday, Togo held its first local elections in 32 years where the country’s 3.4 million eligible voters were called to elect 1,527 municipal councilors to six-year terms, renewable twice, in 117 towns. However, most opposition parties are boycotting the election. The West Africa Nation has been governed by a single family for over three decades, and President Faure Gnassingbe stated the elections “mark a major advance in the establishment of democracy.” Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 38 years. Turnout was low with the polling stations visited by AFP reporters showing an average abstention of 75 percent.

Eritrea

A UN expert said in a report that the human rights situation in Eritrea shows no sign of improvement since it signed a peace agreement with neighboring Ethiopia last year, ending two decades of war. UN special rapporteur lamented that the peace deal failed to bring widespread abuse and violations to an end stating that “the dividends of peace are not yet benefiting ordinary Eritreans, nor are there any signs to suggest they will.” Despite an end to the conflict, Eritreans lack political rights and the government does not allow for dissent. 

Hong Kong

For the past month, protesters have been demanding the withdrawal of a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland. The anger against the bill has grown against Hong Kong authorities and morphed into a wider political crisis. On Monday, a massive peaceful protest in which organizers say more than half a million people marched through the city on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule. However, during the peaceful parade, a much more violent a riot emerge when Hong Kongers stormed and occupied the legislative night clashing with police on Monday night. On Thursday, the Hong Kong police made its first arrest. 

Iraq

Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIS or ISIL) in late 2017, and has continued to carry out arrests of suspected fighters, The Iraqi government does not provide figures on detention centers or prisoners, but some studies have estimated 20,000 are being held for alleged ISIL links. A recent investigation by the Human RIghts Watch reveals that the conditions for the suspects charged with “terrorism” are held in “degrading” conditions. The government does not allow the suspects to access a lawyer and many have already been charged but are still held in prison for months on end. One prison with a max capacity of 2,500 had over 4,000 prisoners. 

Other News:

Istanbul, Turkey: Hundreds of protestors marched the streets of Istanbul, attacking Syrian shops and residential areas after allegations that a young Syrian boy verbally harassed a young Turkish girl. A group of Turkish youths reportedly damaged several Arab businesses in the Syrian neighborhood on Saturday night before police dispersed the crowd, arresting 18. All 18 were released. Local government officials denied a physical assault had taken place.

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam’s first female mayor is facing a battle with sex workers in the city’s famous red-light district after raising the prospect of closing it down. Femke Halsema, a former leader of the national Green party who became mayor last year, is under fire for suggesting that the city “must dare to think about the red-light district without prostitution”.

Xinjiang, China: Thousands of Muslim children in China’s western Xinjiang region are being separated from their parents in what a new study calls a “systematic campaign of social re-engineering and cultural genocide”. The research sheds light on what happens to the children of so-called “double-detained” parents – when both a mother and father have been abducted by the state into what it calls compulsory “re-education” facilities. The UN says China has detained more than one million minority Muslims, mostly ethnic Uighurs, since a dramatic escalation of the policy in the spring of 2017.