Outside the Bubble: International News for the Week of October 1

Maldivian Presidential Elections: Opposition Claims Victory

The Maldives held their presidential election on September 23. The incumbent President Abdulla Yameen represented the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). Ibrahim Mohamed Solih represented the opposition, Maldives Democratic Party (MDP). Solih won the election with 58 per cent of the votes, which was 17 points more than Yameen. Mariyam Shiuna, executive director of Transparency Maldives, said that “prior to Sunday’s elections, many feared about potential fraud [in Yameen’s favour] due to limited freedom of mass media.” According to BBC News, international monitors have been banned from observing the election, and most of the foreign media’s access was restricted on election day, which raised questions about the elections’ integrity. For Solih, his election is “the first successful step on the road to justice.”

Yameen recently signed a free trade agreement with China, and accepted Chinese investments in current and future construction projects in the Maldives. Solih supports an alliance with India and strongly opposes business with China. Solih believes China is allying itself with the Maldives to access the essential trade routes of the Indian Ocean. According to analysts, the Maldives’ association with China was an important issue for voters, and for China itself. Yameen’s loss could mean the loss of trade access for China. The Maldives’ future, and its new foreign policies, will be determined once the national electoral commission approves Solih’s claim on winning the election.

More Detentions of Nicaraguan Activists

Amaya Eva Coppens, a Nicaraguan-Belgian activist and medical student, was detained in León, Nicaragua on September 10, 2018. The police
accused her of “terrorism,” “assaults,” and the “illegal possession of firearms.” Together with the imprisonment of dozens of other
activists, the arrest of Coppens is part of the latest wave of Nicaraguan authorities detaining activists, many of which are student members of the April protests. In April 2018, Nicaragua’s Ortega administration announced a social security reform that would increase workers’ tax contributions, and ultimately lead to a decrease in pensions. Nicaraguan pensioners, students, merchants, members of feminist and Campesino (farmer) movements, and other citizens protested the proposal until it was revoked 22 April 2018 by President Ortega.

Discontent with the Nicaraguan authorities’ violent handling of the demonstrations has resulted in ongoing protests since April 2018. The protestors demand the resignation of President Ortega and of Vice-President, Rosario Murillo, who is also Ortega’s spouse. Concerns of police violence, infringements on free speech, violations of Indigenous peoples’ land rights and violence against women in the country are among the reasons people believe the government should resign.

According to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (Asociación Nicaragüense Pro Derechos Humanos), the Nicaraguan authorities’ violent response to the protests has resulted in the deaths of over 500, the injury of over 4,000 and the detention of over 1,400 individuals since April 2018. The Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (Centro Nicaragüense por los Derechos Humanos), as well as the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, criticize the detention of Coppens and other activists.

Coppens was held in incommunicado detention for nine days. This means that she was denied access to a lawyer, family members, or an independent physician. She has now been transferred to the women’s prison “La Esperanza” in Tipitapa. According to a statement from her father, despite a visit from her parents being monitored and filmed by prison staff, Amaya managed to communicate that she was beaten up while in detention. She also revealed that she has not been tortured due to her diplomatic position as a Belgian citizen. However, her fellow Nicaraguan prisoners may not be immune to this treatment. A Nicaragua Today article described the conditions in the prison as “inhumane” and reported that prisoners are denied medical attention despite some of them enduring critical illnesses such as terminal cancer.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford Testifies at Kavanaugh Hearings

Supreme Court nominee Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, following allegations of sexual assault. Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Justice Kavanaugh previously worked as a top aide to President George W. Bush, and in the US Court of Appeals. He is considered to be a likely opponent of Roe v. Wade.

The allegations against Kavanaugh by a then-anonymous woman first arose in July, Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had requested to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote to the Supreme Court. Ford came public with her allegations against Kavanaugh on Sept. 16. In the past week, three other women, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, and one other anonymous woman
have come forward with allegations against Kavanaugh.

In Ford’s testimony, she described her experiences with Kavanaugh in detail, stating that her “motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged [her] life, so that [the committee] can take that into serious consideration as [they] make [their] decision about how to proceed.” Remaining composed during her testimony, she recalled the alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge. When asked her most vivid memory of the night, she responded with “all of them having fun at my expense.” Kavanaugh adressed the allegations in a heated testimony, describing the current allegations as a political smear campaign by the left. He spoke of his good character as attested to by the women in his life, his relationship to alcohol, and his high school experience as he remembers it.

War, Famine, and Disease Plague Yemen

Content warning: death, war, terrorism

In 2017, 50,000 children lost their lives due to war in Yemen. Now, as the UN reports, Yemen faces a famine, which is expected to put 5 million children at risk of starvation. For almost three years Yemen has endured civil war between Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed forces who support Yemen’s former government. The Houthi rebels have been fighting for terms surrounding political and economic demands. By the end of this year, the country may be facing “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster for 50 years,” says Mark Lowcock, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Seventy-five per cent of the population is in need of assistance, but fighting near the main port Hodeidah is blocking the distribution of vital supplies.

In September 2014, the Houthi rebel group overtook the capital Sana’a and tried to seize Yemen’s second largest city, Aden, in order to overthrow the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. In response to the Houthi’s actions, a coalition backed by neighbouring country Saudi Arabia, launched airstrikes in an attempt to restore Yemen’s official government. These missiles, as well as other weapons and intelligence, came from the USA and the UK. Without this support, it would be difficult for Saudi Arabia to continue the war. The US has also claimed to have deployed a small number of troops on the ground, and France and the UK are also supplying the Saudi-led coalition with weapons and intelligence. Although Canada has provided upwards of $65 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen, it has also sold more than $284 million in weapons to the countries that are bombing Yemen. As a result of the war, both Al-Qaeda and ISIL have spread within the country; Al-Qaeda has taken over territory in the south of Yemen, while ISIL has launched an attack killing more than 140 people. The bombing operations have killed tens of thousands of people and caused the displacement of over 3 million. Many members of the US Congress, as well as humanitarian organizations, have called for the US and others to be charged with war crimes for the crisis in Yemen. Yemen’s people and economy are suffering greatly because of the war; the price of food has doubled, and the nation’s currency, the Yemeni riyal, has collapsed.

The war has taken a great toll on an already impoverished society. Airstrikes are killing civilians in hospitals and schools; most of the casualties are children. In August of this year, a US-backed Saudi missile hit a bus carrying children killing at least 29 children and wounding 30 more. Now, citizens of Yemen face famine and an outbreak of cholera. “We may now be approaching a tipping point, beyond which it will be impossible to prevent massive loss of life as a result of widespread famine across the country,” said Lowcock to the UN’s Security Council. “We are already seeing pockets of famine-like conditions, including cases where people are eating leaves.” Last year, the UN declared that Yemen had seen “the world’s worst cholera outbreak,” with a million suspected cases in December 2017 and 5,000 new cases being reported each day — over 2,300 lives have been lost. Even though Yemen has since reduced and recovered somewhat from the disease, the World Health Organization has reported that the country is about to face a third wave of cholera.

The fighting near the port of Hodeidah is making it nearly impossible to get any sort of aid to citizens. Understaffed and under-equipped health centres are noticing a spike in the amount of malnourished patients they come across. In August, Aslam’s health centre saw up to 99 cases of malnutrition, half of which were in the most severe stages. The UN is trying to raise more money and resources for the people of Yemen, but Lowcock claims that “humanitarian organizations simply cannot look after the needs of all 29 million Yemenis. That is untenable.”
You can donate to: Save The Children, Unicef, and Oxfam