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The world has been dealing with pro-democracy protests, delayed elections and bombings this week with scant international news coverage.
In order to highlight these events, The North Star is introducing the first of its “World Briefing,” a bi-weekly series that looks at unrest, injustices and political going-ons around the world. The series seeks to call attention to key events going on in different corners of the world.
Zimbabwe: The Zimbabwean government, led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, came under fire by Catholic bishops who have accused it of human rights abuses and violent crackdowns. The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference released a pastoral letter on August 14 that claimed Zimbabwe was suffering from “a multi-layered crisis,” Al Jazeera reported.
“The Pastoral letter denounced the current human rights situation in Zimbabwe and noted that the call for demonstrations is the expression of growing frustration and aggravation caused by the conditions that the majority of Zimbabweans find themselves in,” Abel Chikomo, spokesman of Catholic Lawyers Guild, said in a statement to the public.
The letter was prompted by the arrest of at least 20 demonstrators following July 31 protests against government corruption and economic hardship. The protesters were charged with inciting public violence and later released on bail. Human rights organizations criticized the government’s response as being reminiscent of Mnangagwa’s predecessor Robert Mugabe, who ruled for 37 years before being deposed during a military coup in November 2017.
Bolivia: Following weeks of continued anti-government blockades and rising political tensions in Bolivia, the Andean country entered a relative calm on August 17.
Allies of former President Evo Morales built up almost 150 roadblocks around the country to demand elections be held on September 6, according to Al Jazeera. The roadblocks, which lasted nearly two weeks, led to widespread food shortages and delayed the transport of medical supplies.
Supporters also launched a series of strikes and marches to push the unelected government to hold elections. The interim government cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to postpone elections twice, NPR reported.
Tensions settled down after the country’s electoral tribunal passed a law that established a presidential election for October 18. The new date aims to avoid a projected peak of COVID-19 infections in Bolivia in September. The virus has infected more than 101,000 Bolivians and killed more than 4,100.
Thailand: Thousands of anti-government protesters have taken to the streets in Bangkok calling for reforms to the country’s monarchy and government.
Thailand has been experiencing more than a month of nearly daily student-led protests. The latest protests included protesters of all ages who demand democratic reforms, the dissolution of parliament and changes to the constitution written by Thailand’s constitution.
According to CNN, the protest held on August 16 was the largest demonstration in the six years that the country’s military took power. Thai discontent with the country’s government has intensified following the 2019 election, which gave Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a general who took power in the coup, another four years in power.
The protests held over the weekend were further fueled by the arrest of two activist leaders on August 14, Vox reported. Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong Jadnok were arrested and charged with sedition and violating the country’s coronavirus emergency decree after participating in past protests. The two were released on bail on August 15.
Belarus: Anti-government protests are rocking Belarus, as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators call for President Alexander Lukashenko’s ouster. Despite steadily losing the support of his people, Lukashenko has vowed to stay in power.
The embattled leader, who has ruled the eastern European nation for 26 years, attempted to rally support on August 17 among factory workers in Minsk but was instead met with calls to leave, according to NPR. “The government will never collapse,” Lukashenko said in response. “There will be no new election until you kill me.”
However, Lukashenko did offer to change the constitution through a referendum.
Massive pro-democracy protests erupted following the August 9 election, during which Lukashenko won 80 percent of the vote against opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. The government responded by brutally arresting thousands of demonstrators. Evidence of the violent response prompted strikes at state-owned businesses, the resignations of police officers and state news media officials, The New York Times reported.
At least two people have died and another 7,000 have been arrested during the protests.
On August 16, the Kremlin released a statement that Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke over the phone and that Putin had vowed to stand by Lukashenko. The statement has worried activists that Moscow may attempt to intervene.
Palestine: The Gaza Strip has endured seven nights of attacks by Israel, which claims to be targeting Hamas observation posts in response to fire balloon attacks across the border. According to Reuters, the balloon attacks were launched in a bid to pressure Israel to reduce the blockade and allow international investment. Israel first imposed the crippling blockade on the Palestinian territory in 2007.
Israel suspended fuel shipments to Gaza and closed the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom), its single commercial crossing with Gaza, and banned sea access, Al Jazeera reported. The move essentially shut down commercial fishing.
To make matters worse, the territory’s only power plant shut down on August 18. Gaza’s population of 2 million gets around six hours of electricity followed by 10 hours of no power, according to Reuters. An official at Gaza’s main power distribution company told the publication that Palestinians in Gaza may now only get four hours of power a day.
New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on August 17 that the country’s elections would be delayed by four weeks following a new coronavirus outbreak in Auckland. The elections, which were originally set for September 19, will be held on October 17.
The election delay was requested by opposition parties after a virus outbreak led Ardern’s government to place Auckland on a two-week lockdown, The Associated Press (AP) reported. Prior to the outbreak, New Zealand went 102 days without community transmission of coronavirus.
“Ultimately, I want to ensure we have a well-run election that gives all voters the best chance to receive all the information they need about parties and candidates, and delivers certainty for the future,” Ardern said. The popular prime minister vowed not to delay the election again.
The decision was welcomed by at least one opposition leader. ACT party leader David Seymour acknowledged that the outbreak forced him to cancel a dozen campaign events. “In order to have a free and fair election, candidates need to be out in the community listening to voters, and that’s not possible while Aucklanders are housebound,” he said.
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.