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In the second installation of The North Star’s newest bi-weekly series, “World Briefing,” we’ll take a look at peace talks in Sudan, sanctions against four Venezuelans and the release of a U.S. Marine convicted of murdering a transgender woman in the Philippines. “World Briefing” highlights unrest, injustices and political going-ons around the world. This series aims to cover important events occurring in different corners of the world.
If you missed the first edition, you can read that here.
Sudan: The Sudanese government and a major rebel group in the African nation’s southern region announced on September 4 that they would hold new peace talks noted by South Sudan. The announcement follows a peace deal signed by Khartoum and other opposition groups on August 31.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu agreed to reach a peaceful resolution with the Khartoum government on conflicts stemming from the regime of ousted leader Omar al-Bashir. Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s office said that the two sides had agreed to set up workshops for various issues but did not reveal a timeframe or other details, Reuters reported.
“We will continue negotiation under Juba mediation. So far, there’s no agreed date for the talks,” Atman Amum, the rebel group’s chief negotiator, told Reuters. Amum also sent the news organization a photo of Hamdok and Hilu signing a document in Ethiopia in which both groups promised to reach democracy and “separation of religion and state.”
SPLM-N operates in a part of Sudan that is inhabited by minority Christians and followers of African beliefs. Those groups experienced discrimination under the al-Bashir’s strict Islamist regime.
According to Al-Jazeera, the new peace talks means that only one major rebel group keeps fighting — a division of the Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM).
Venezuela: Four Venezuelans were blacklisted by the United States on September 4 for allegedly helping Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government to prevent fair parliamentary elections in the country in December. The move comes just days after Caracas said it pardoned more than 50 opposition politicians ahead of the elections.
Venezuela’s opposition and the U.S. claim that the Latin American country’s national electoral council is overrun by Maduro loyalists and therefore cannot oversee fair elections, Al Jazeera reported. The December elections will be boycotted by the main opposition coalition, its leader said.
The four people sanctioned were identified as: council members Indira Alfonso and Jose Gutierrez, Maduro’s solicitor general Reinaldo Munoz and former Venezuelan state Governor David de Lima.
The Treasury Department said in a statement that the actions of the four “are part of a broader election interference scheme to prevent free and fair parliamentary elections from taking place in December 2020 by restructuring the National Electoral Council and controlling the state’s wealth and assets for regime purposes through the Solicitor General.”
“The corrupt Maduro regime is attempting to seize control of the National Assembly of Venezuela through a fraudulent election,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
Philippines: The early release of a U.S. Marine convicted of killing a transgender woman in Olongapo, Philippines, sparked protests and criticisms from her family. Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was given four years off of his 10-year homicide sentence on September 1 for good behavior.
The then-19-year-old Marine met 26-year-old Jennifer Laude at an Olongapo bar in October 2014 when the Marines arrived in the port city for joint military exercises. Laude was discovered dead in a motel room. He admitted to choking Laude after discovering she was transgender but claimed he was acting in self-defense.
Pemberton was initially sentenced to six to 12 years in prison in 2015, but his sentence was later reduced to 10 years, according to The Washington Post. Since his conviction, Pemberton has been held at Camp Aguinaldo, the Philippine military headquarters in Manila. Laude’s family received an estimated $100,000 in civil damages following the conviction.
The woman’s family appealed the Olongapo court’s decision to release Pemberton. Attorney Virginia Suarez, who is representing the family, said the court failed to alert the family that Pemberton had applied for early release. Suarez said that Pemberton is ineligible for release because there is no evidence he has reformed.
“He never even apologized to the family…[yet] he has the nerve to invoke good conduct,” Suarez said.
The family’s former lawyer, Harry Roque, said the decision to release Pemberton revealed the U.S. continued to exert strong influence on its former colony. “As former private prosecutor for the Laude family, I deplore the short period of imprisonment meted on Pemberton, who killed a Filipino under the most gruesome manner,” Roque said, according to The New York Times.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.