The Venezuelan Crisis
Nicolas Maduro became late dictator Hugo Chavez’s hand picked successor to continue Venezuela’s so called socialist revolution. Since taking the reigns of power, Venezuela’s economy and political landscape has continued to spiral out of control leaving the country in a state of chaos with high inflation, violent street protests, food shortages, and increased government crackdowns on the political opposition. Instead of using Venezuela’s vast oil reserves for economic stability or embracing free markets, the Maduro regime has continued to forge ahead with his predecessor’s socialist agenda of reckless entitlement spending, constitutional manipulation, and judicial influence in order to maintain power.
Maduro allowed the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to completely take over the legislature that won a majority in recent elections. The measure was soon reversed, but seen by many Venezuelans as the final breaking point to an out of control dictatorial government. Maduro has even banned opposition candidate Henrique Capriles from running for political office. As a result, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets calling for Maduro to step down while dozens of Venezuelans have been killed by security forces in the process.
In an act of desperation, Maduro has ordered the government to arm his supporters in an effort to counter the protesters while proposing a new constitution and increasing the minimum wage. To make matters worst, Maduro’s government has nationalized the nations grocery stores and controls the prices causing the country to run out of the most basic supplies for survival leaving the majority of Venezuelans without food or medicine. As the situation continues, Maduro held a sham election that would grant him absolute power. Venezuelans could only vote for candidates in the constituent assembly making the election an easy victory for the ruling socialist party. After the election, two opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were arrested by Venezuelan authorities in the middle of the night and taken to an undisclosed location. Leopoldo Lopez remains detained and under house arrest.
In the wake of Venezuela’s state oppression, millions of Venezuelans have fled the country to neighboring Colombia or beyond in order to escape the daily hardships of scavenging for food and basic supplies. The majority of Venezuela’s population are starving because of the Maduro regime’s control over the country’s food distribution which is incapable of supplying basic commodities for survival due to the government’s reckless spending and resource mismanagement under a socialist system that has run out of money causing inflation to reach unprecedented levels which has resulted in empty store shelves. Venezuelans opposed to Maduro’s policies have become the target of a state sponsored crackdown on free speech, peaceful assembly, and political association.
In a change of events, opposition leader of the Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaido has declared himself interim president of Venezuela. This proposition has been made possible because Venezuela’s constitution grants Guaido the power to take control of the government if the presidential election is found to be fraudulent. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro won an election in 2018 and was sworn into office for a second term on January 2019 that the majority of Venezuelans view as a fraud and neither free nor fair due to irregularities that involved opposition candidates being barred from running for office, voter intimidation, election monitors being barred from polling stations, and the government was seen giving bonuses and benefits to Maduro voters.
Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido remain in a stand off as to who will be recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate president. The United States, European Union, Australia, Canada, Israel, Great Britain, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Latin American countries including Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Brazil have all recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s official president. Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Turkey, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay, and Bolivia support Maduro. The police have raided Juan Guaido’s home and the government has revoked his passport and frozen his bank accounts. As a result, the U.S. government has warned the Maduro regime of serious consequences if Guaido’s life is threatened. In a show of force, the U.S. has imposed fresh sanctions on Venezuela’s state owned oil company PDVSA. In an act of defiance against Maduro, one of the highest ranked generals in the air force Francisco Yanez has defected and says that ninety percent of the armed forces are not with the dictator.
Not to be defied, Nicolas Maduro ordered barricades to be placed on the Colombian and Brazilian borders in order to prevent international aid including food and medicine from entering into Venezuela. The aid would have helped millions of starving and sick Venezuelans who struggle daily to survive. Nicolas Maduro’s reason for stopping the badly needed aid from entering the country was on the presumption that the aid was an attempt by the United States to undermine and exploit Maduro’s inability to provide for his people.
In the turn of events, self described interim Venezuelan president Juan Guaido has been banned from holding public office for fifteen years by the Maduro regime. Guaido’s chief of staff was also taken into custody and charged with terrorism. Venezuela has been experiencing nationwide power outages as a result of corruption and mismanagement with its power grid. Maduro continues to blame the blackouts on the United States and a so called right-wing conspiracy that he believes seeks to undermine his government and remove him from office through a coup attempt. Cuba, China, and Russia are continuing to prop up the Maduro regime by any means necessary. Russian air force planes landed in Venezuela with one hundred troops and military equipment ready to assist Maduro’s government.
China’s Contradicting Constitution for Restricting Freedom
China’s constitution of 1982 is depoliticized, business friendly, emphasizes economic development, and contains many democratic elements.
Article 35. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.
Article 36. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.
However, many of these freedoms may be denied by some other articles in the constitution.
Article 51. The exercise by citizens of the People’s Republic of China of their freedoms and rights may not infringe upon the interests of the state, of society and of the collective, or upon the lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.
Article 54. It is the duty of citizens of the People’s Republic of China to safeguard the security, honor and interests of the motherland; they must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honor and interests of the motherland.
China’s constitution also reflects four cardinal principles:
- Uphold the principle of the socialist path
- Uphold the principle of the people’s democratic dictatorship
- Uphold the principle of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party
- Uphold the principle of Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong thought
According to Middle East Eye, The Punishment Methods of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State Are Basically the Same!
Crime: Blasphemy, Homosexual acts, Treason, Murder
Saudi Arabia=Death, Islamic State=Death
Crime: Slander, Drinking Alcohol
Saudi Arabia=At the discretion of a judge, Islamic State=80 lashes
Crime: Adultery if married
Saudi Arabia=Death, Islamic State=Death
Crime: Adultery if not married
Saudi Arabia=100 lashes, Islamic State=100 lashes
Saudi Arabia=Amputation of Hand, Islamic State=Amputation of Hand
Saudi Arabia=Amputation of Hand and Foot, Islamic State=Amputation of Hand and Foot
Crime: Banditry, Murder and Theft
Saudi Arabia=Death, Islamic State=Crucifixion
The Middle East Eye is a Qatari supported online publication with ties to Al Jazeera, a Qatar based satellite channel that acts as an agent of influence for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Saudi Arabia has severed their relations with Qatar by accusing the Qatari government of supporting Iran and financing terrorist organizations. Interesting, because Saudi Arabia also supports and finances terrorist organizations as well. Nevertheless, Qatar is in a position where it is trying to gain a tremendous amount of political influence in Washington D.C. by paying off lobbyists to sell Qatar as a place for American investment. Qatar’s support for Iran which is Saudi Arabia’s strategic enemy in the Middle East is key for the rift between the two countries. Saudi Arabia and Iran are in continuous conflict with one another over who has more control and influence over the Middle East.
The Iranians may be getting the upper hand in the Middle East by lending their support to Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi rebels that took control of Yemen and ousted Saudi backed president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, and now support from the Qatari government. As a way to downgrade the Saudi regime, Qatar uses publications like the Middle East Eye as a propaganda campaign in order to tarnish Saudi Arabia’s image on the international stage while advancing Qatari influence abroad. Qatar is governed by sharia law much the same way Saudi Arabia is. There is also a death penalty for Qatari Muslims for having sex outside of marriage. Qatar is more hesitant in carrying out punishments than Saudi Arabia is. However, Qatar’s support for Iran and Islamic terrorist organizations are all no strangers to enforcing the same barbaric punishment methods as Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State.
Politically Motivated Counter-terrorism Laws
Initiating counter-terrorism laws that crack down on terrorist activity is a good policy for any society to consider when faced with a potential terror threat. However, some countries use counter-terrorism laws as a way to crush all forms of political dissent.
The counter-terrorism laws that these dictators enacted are too broad in their interpretation and leave a lot of leeway for cracking down on political opposition and free speech. For example, these laws seek to gain access to critical information under the disguise of promoting national security by not specifically detailing the measures of lawful prevention. Several individuals from these countries have been detained and sentenced for simply criticizing the government, protesting, or joining a political opposition group that these dictators view as terrorist acts.
Here are four dictators that imposed counter-terrorism laws in their countries, not to deter real terrorists, but instead to use as a tool to round up and detain individuals, groups, or organizations critical of the government.
In 2015, the Chinese government enacted its first ever anti-terrorism law which increased the role of law in politics and governance. The law was put into action as a precursor against the growing unrest in the Xinjiang province in which ethnic Muslim Uighur’s claim that the Chinese authorities are restricting their religion and culture. The law is vague and does not give a clear definition of terrorism which opens the way for the Chinese authorities to interrupt what they think classifies as a terrorist act. The law, however strengthens and extends the Chinese governments police and intelligence capabilities of extracting critical information in the name of national security and placing tighter restrictions on media censorship. The people most affected by this law are the ethic Uighur and Tibetan separatists and anyone who contributes to disrupting China’s social system and public order.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan/Turkey
In April 2014, Turkey’s Parliament adopted a law that expanded the powers of the National Intelligence Agency which granted them the authority to access a citizens personal data without a court order. The law also strengthened the governments control over the internet by blocking websites without a prior court order often on vaguely defined terms when related to the right to privacy. In March 2015, The Turkish government passed two more package laws referred to as the Domestic Security Package. The sixty eight page law enhances the powers of the police to conduct searches, detain persons, use weapons, and wiretap individuals without a warrant. The other package law gives the government greater authority to remove online content and block the internet. The individuals affected most by these laws were journalists. Many journalists operating in Turkey have been targeted, threatened, and arrested for publishing photographs of banned terrorist groups that the government charged as spreading terrorist propaganda. In an effort to prevent the dissemination of the photos, the Turkish government briefly shut down Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and also threatened to ban access to Google.
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa/Bahrain
In July 2006, Bahrain enacted a counter-terrorism law called Protecting Society from Terrorism Acts which is extremely vague on what laws constitute a crime in relation to terrorism. The law contains broad terminology regarding terrorism that can be interrupted by the authorities including statements like “obstructing the public authorities from doing their work,”or “harming national unity” which are viewed as acts of terrorism. In August 2013, Bahrain proposed new measures to further strengthen the existing law by adding in a provision that would allow the government to revoke an individuals citizenship as a new penalty. Under the law, Bahrain’s government considers terrorist acts as any individual, organization, or group that openly criticizes the government, calls for protests, or any association with a opposition group that prevents the authorities from carrying out their duties. The majority of people affected by this law and considered terrorists have been peaceful protesters, photographers, human rights defenders, political leaders, and children. Most of these individuals have been detained under a lack of evidence and forced to confess under torture while having no access to a lawyer. Some have even been sentenced to death.
In 2009, the Ethiopian government issued a anti-terrorism proclamation that is both broad and vague in its definition regarding terrorist activity which enables the law to criminalize all opponents to the regime. The law is so vague in its interpretation of terrorism that the government uses it to crack down on free expression, political dissent, peaceful political demonstrations, or any individual, group, or organization that is critical of the government. Terms like “disruption of public services” which could indicate public demonstrations or a non-violent march. Acts like property crimes or groups who engage in peaceful protests are deemed terrorists by the government. Any individual who supports, helps, or participates with any political opposition group is branded as a terrorist. The majority of people affected by this law are journalists, bloggers, political opposition, religious leaders, political organizations, and teachers. Many of these individuals have been kidnapped from other countries and brought back to Ethiopia to stand trial, often enduring arbitrary detention or the death penalty while being forced to confess and sign false documents under torture.
The United Nations Human Rights Council of Human Rights Abusing Dictators
The United Nations Human Rights Council is suppose to be the leader in upholding and defending international human rights. “The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) works with governments to ensure that all human rights are fully respected.” The United Nations Human Rights Council’s role is to “promote and protect human rights for all.” The council also “leads global human rights efforts speaks out objectively in the face of human rights violations worldwide.”
If these statements were true then why does the U.N. Human Rights Council allow countries with horrific human rights records to sit on the council?
Here is a list of dictatorial regimes that actually have a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council that are accused of committing severe human rights violations.
Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud/Saudi Arabia: Restricts the freedom of religion, expression, association, and assembly. Human rights activists are prosecuted. Enforces strict sharia law which includes public floggings, and executions for minor crimes. Discriminatory towards women’s rights. Exploits and abuses migrant workers. Supports and finances terrorist organizations.
Xi Jinping/China: All forms of free expression, assembly, and association are severely restricted. The government controls and monitors all media outlets. Religious freedom is highly restricted. Human rights activists are arbitrarily arrested, and tortured.
Raul Castro/Cuba: Initiates brutal crackdowns on individuals critical of the government, journalists, and human rights activists. Political dissent faces arbitrary detention and beatings while in custody. The government controls the media and severely restricts the freedom of expression. Political prisoners are kept locked up and endure harsh and abusive prison conditions. The government restricts the access to freely travel abroad.
Nicolas Maduro/Venezuela: Prosecutes political opponents. Enforces violent crackdowns on protesters. Conducts arbitrary arrests and tortures political dissent. Restricts the freedom of expression. Targets and harasses opposition media outlets and human rights activists. Enacts extrajudicial killings. The government controls the prices of food and manipulates the constitution and the judicial system.
Paul Kagame/Rwanda: Suppresses the freedom of expression. Limits the ability of the media and human rights groups to operate freely and criticize the government. The military and police routinely arrest and detain individuals critical of the government. Widespread use of torture against political opponents. The government creates a climate of fear among society to were citizens often practice self censorship with their thoughts and opinions because of retribution from the government.
Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani/Oatar: Freedom of expression is restricted. Migrant workers face exploitation and abuse. Discriminatory towards women’s rights. Sponsors and finances terrorist organizations.
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan/United Arab Emirates: Restricts the freedom of expression. Engages in forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and torture of political dissent. Widespread mistreatment of detainees. The government uses increased surveillance on dissidents. Abuses migrant workers. Discriminatory towards women’s rights.
Hailemariam Desalegn/Ethiopia: Government security forces routinely crackdown on peaceful protesters often shooting and killing unarmed civilians. The media is under government control, websites and social media are restricted and blocked. Journalists are jailed, opponents and critics of the government are arrested and tortured. All forms of free expression, assembly, and association are highly restricted.
Pierre Nkurunziza/Burundi: Opponents of the government are targeted, killed, raped, tortured, or forcibly disappeared. Human rights organizations are banned. The government manipulates the constitution and the judicial system.
Denis Sassou Nguesso/Congo: Freedoms of expression and assembly are met with violence and the arresting of opposition figures. The government conducts air strikes on residential areas. Presidential security forces use forms of torture and ill treatment against opposition members.
These dictators clearly know nothing about respecting human rights as they are all guilty of suppressing free speech, women’s rights and religious freedom while detaining and killing anyone who opposes or challenges their rule. It’s apparent that the U.N. Human Rights Council has no clue about respecting human rights because if they did they would not allow these countries and their dictators to be part of the human rights council in the first place. Allowing human rights abusers to be part of a human rights council that is suppose to defend human rights makes the United Nations look like a hypocritical out of touch institution that fails to uphold its own principles and obligations in regards to human rights.
Out of Power, But Not Forgotten For the Decades of Corruption and Human Rights Violations
Jose Eduardo dos Santos
Years in Power: 1979-2017
After nearly 38 years in power, Angolan dictator Jose Eduardo dos Santos finally stepped down amidst health concerns only to remain head of the ruling party MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola). After a long and enduring civil war that cost many Angolans their lives, dos Santos was able to use his power and the country’s oil finances to enrich himself, his family, and his closest associates while the rest of the country lived in poverty. dos Santos managed to keep himself in power by rigging the country’s elections through constitutional manipulation, fraud, and intimidation. Like all dictators, dos Santos restricted free speech and the right to assemble while using his security forces to crackdown on independent media, human rights activists, and critics of the government. In an effort to rebuild Angola, dos Santos routinely forced people from their homes in order to create new infrastructure projects.
Years in Power: 1980-2017
While embarking on a 37 year career as dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe managed to totally destroy a once prosperous country known as the bread basket of Africa into a wasteland of hopelessness and brutal repression. Robert Mugabe begrudgingly stepped down from power after a brief military coup that placed him under house arrest for firing his vice president in an attempt to automatically position his wife Grace to succeed him as president. Mugabe agreed to abandon his post only after impeachment charges were brought to his attention.
During Robert Mugabe’s reign, the powers of the presidency were expanded and all political dissent was crushed. Mugabe violently invaded white owned farms causing many of Zimbabwe’s white farmers to flee the country. The farms were replaced with inexperienced farmers and in return caused Zimbabwe’s commercial farming production to collapse which triggered years of hyperinflation and food shortages. Mugabe started a campaign to clean up the urban areas of Zimbabwe by bulldozing and forcibly evicting people from their homes leaving many Zimbabweans homeless and without food.
Robert Mugabe was able to maintain his power by rigging the country’s election process through intimidation and violence. In order to silence his critics, Mugabe launched attacks on human rights activists and restricted the freedom of expression by harassing journalists and arresting members of the media. Mugabe used his security forces to brutally crackdown on anyone critical of the government while detaining and torturing opponents who defied his rule.
Another African Dictator Out of Power!
Years in Power: 2012-2018
Ethiopia’s ruling party dictator Hailemariam Desalegn has officially stepped down from power in the midst of violent protests that has left hundreds of people dead and hundreds more detained by the government. While in power, Hailemariam Desalegn’s regime under the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front has been guilty of committing serious human rights violations particularly in the Oromia and Amhara regions of Ethiopia. During these protests, Hailemariam Desalegn’s government declared a state of emergency and used his security forces to routinely crackdown on the protesters by shooting and killing unarmed civilians.
The growing unrest was a direct result of the Ethiopian governments intense restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, and association. Desalegn’s government is also accused of taking land away from the Oromia and Amhara ethnic minorities in Ethiopia which led to protests and the security forces killing hundreds of people as a result. Under Hailemariam Desalegn’s rule, journalists and opponents of the government were arrested and routinely tortured. The media was under government control. Websites and social media were blocked and free expression was highly restricted. Hailemariam Desalegn was instrumental in using draconian counter-terrorism laws as a tool to target and oppress his political opposition and to silence individuals or groups that were critical of the government.
At the time of Hailemariam Desalegn’s resignation, he turned an about face and released several political prisoners he said his government did not have while vowing that his resignation would pave the way for political reforms in Ethiopia.
To Rule For Life
Chinese dictator Xi Jinping has been granted the powers to rule for life now that China’s rubber stamped party congress abolished the two term mandate paving the way for Xi to have great control over policy decisions while implementing his own vision and ideology into the constitution. This maneuver moves China into one man rule territory similar to that of Chinese Communist Party founder and murderous dictator Mao Zedong.
The underlying question is how will this power move impact the lives of Chinese citizens? Since coming to power, Xi has orchestrated more restrictions on free speech, religious organizations have seen higher levels of persecution, and numerous human rights activists have been arrested. China will witness an increased degree of human rights violations with a cult of personality aligned to an existing authoritarian state under Xi Jinping’s leadership. Expect to see more assaults on free expression, religious persecution, tighter control over the internet, arbitrary arrests, systematic killings, torture, crackdowns on human rights activists, and politically motivated disappearances. Giving Xi Jinping access to rule for life is a giant step backwards for China’s sovereignty and an even greater myth for those in U.S. foreign policy circles that opening China up economically will lead to democracy has officially been debunked.
Cuba’s Raul Castro Steps Down and Appoints a Successor
Years in Power: 2006-2018
Cuba’s dictator Raul Castro has formally stepped down from his position as president only to appoint his successor vice president Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez to the top position of president of Cuba. Raul will retain control over the Communist Party and the armed forces while continuing to dictate Cuba’s policies from behind the scenes. Prominent party loyalists and members of the Castro family are intertwined within the apparatus of the Cuban government including Raul’s son Col. Alejandro Castro Espin who runs counterintelligence for the Interior Ministry that controls the secret police. Raul’s ex son-in-law General Luis Alberto Lopez Callejas runs Cuba’s Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA) which is a state owned and operated holding company for Cuban businesses. Ramiro Valdes, a regime enforcer sits on Cuba’s highest governing body the Council of State.
The fact remains that the Castro’s are still firmly in control of the Cuban government and Miguel Diaz-Canel will only lead a ceremonial post at this time. The Cuban presidency is a powerless role when it’s occupied by someone who doesn’t control the party or the military. At the assembly, Miguel Diaz Canel reaffirmed the party congregation that Raul will be in control of all decisions involving Cuba. Miguel Diaz-Canel is not a reformer by any means, he has instead vowed to keep Raul Castro’s authoritarian policies in play. As a party loyalist who quickly moved up the ranks, Miguel Diaz-Canel is known to stand against any attempt to restore capitalism in Cuba while criticizing Cuba’s political dissidents and being okay with censorship.
During Raul Castro’s time in power, the well being and human rights conditions of the Cuban people has continued to erode like it did under Raul’s brother Fidel Castro when he was in control of the country. Critics of the government, journalists, and human rights activists are routinely arrested for voicing their opinions. Cuban’s who step out of line with the governments strict policies of anti-government behavior are targeted and arbitrarily detained. Detainees often face harsh and abusive prison conditions including beatings and torture. In an effort to silence dissidents and activists, the Cuban government will keep all political prisoners locked up indefinitely without access to a fair trial. Cubans are denied the ability to freely travel abroad. The government also controls all media outlets and severely restricts the freedom of expression.
The appointment of Miguel Diaz-Canel will be nothing more than a continuation of the same repressive policies that have plagued the Cuban people for decades now. Raul Castro is not in the spotlight anymore, but the compulsive police state he brutishly enforced lives on through his predecessor Miguel Diaz-Canel who is neither a visionary of political reform nor a fan of individual freedom, but rather a product of the past with a bleak vision for the future.
Saudi Arabia’s Continued Corruption and Intolerance for Human Rights
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made an exclusive trip to the United States in an attempt to open the kingdom up to more innovation and enterprise opportunities. The Crown Prince who is posed to claim the royal throne from his father King Salman met with the president, members of congress, CEO’s from multinational corporations, and the tech industry. Prince Mohammed assured the United States that Saudi Arabia is ready to enact reforms to the kingdom’s highly controversial norms involving ending the country’s ban on allowing women to drive and the reopening of movie and entertainment centers. These moves were calculated in an effort to make the country look more enticing to new business investors instead of portraying an image of a backward country that inhibits strict rules and severe punishments which would deter most business ventures.
The U.S. tour and the reforms made by the Crown Prince were an act of pure political theater on his part in an attempt to solidify his standing on the international stage and concentrate his political power before he takes the throne. Before the trip to the United States and any mention of reforms, Prince Mohammed rounded up many high ranking prominent individuals inside Saudi Arabia including princes and military officials that might be a challenge to his future rule and had them detained inside a Ritz Carlton where they were tortured and had their investments confiscated. One of the detainees died while in custody. According to the Saudi authorities, the motive behind the round up was to cleanse the country of corruption. In reality the move was to send a message to all the Crown Prince’s rivals that there will be no competition to his kingship.
While women are being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, more women activists are being arrested for advocating for more freedom inside the kingdom. Saudi Arabia has arrested eighteen civil rights activists including Samar Badawi the sister of detained blogger Raif Badawi for challenging the country’s male guardianship laws. Four women have been temporarily released and banned from traveling outside the country. None of the women detained have been formally charged. Canada has also spoken out against Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on women activists and as a result Canada has witnessed all their formal relations with the Saudi regime being revoked and discontinued on an account of criticizing the kingdom’s human rights record.
The Saudi regime has also been accused in the disappearance of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi. According to news reports, Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul Turkey, but never left. It is speculated that Khashoggi was interrogated, tortured, murdered, and dismembered by a team of assassins inside the consulate. The plot to kill Jamal Khashoggi was coordinated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an effort to silence all rivals to his future rule.
Cuba’s New Constitution: Solidifying the Power of the State
Cuba’s new constitution will remove references for a communist society, recognize the right to private property, a created position of prime minister, and the recognition of same-sex marriages. According to the Center for a Free Cuba Article 3 of the new constitution says that “socialism and the social and political revolutionary system established by this constitution are irrevocable.” “Citizens have the right to combat by all means, including armed struggle, when other means are not available, against anybody who seeks to topple the political, social and economic order established by this constitution.” This means that the Cuban regime cannot be challenged or allow the creation of an opposition party to confront it. If anyone tries to challenge the ruling order then the regime contains the authority to put down all offenders.
Article 5 says “The Communist Party of Cuba, and no one else, guided by the teachings of independence hero Jose Marti Fidel Castro and Marxism Leninism, organized vanguard of the Cuban nation is the superior leading force of society and the state.” This reaffirms Article 3, hence the words “and no one else.” Article 224 says that “under no circumstance can the clauses about the irrevocable nature of socialism and the political and social system established in Article 3 be subject to reforms.” This means that the Cuban regime contains within itself the superior authority to remain in power and no one person or persons has the legal authority to change the status quo.
Uganda: A Crisis in the Making
Uganda, the home of former dictator Idi Amin has produced another tyrant in Yoweri Museveni. Museveni has been president of Uganda since 1986 and reelected through countless elections that were mired with voter irregularities. Never the less, Museveni’s National Resistance Movement which dominates the parliament and the judiciary pushed through a constitutional amendment that removed the presidential age limit of 75, paving the way for 73 year old Museveni to run again in 2021 and setting himself up to be president for life.
Opponents to Museveni’s rule have been met with violent consequences. Ugandan pop singer and law maker Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, stage name Bobi Wine who is a fierce critic of Museveni was detained and severely beaten by security forces after supporters of Ssentamu pelted Museveni’s motorcade with stones after departing a campaign rally in the same town where both individuals had been campaigning for rival candidates. Ssentamu’s drive was shot dead by Museveni’s security forces and all parties involved in the incident were arrested in what the president called a national security matter. Museveni’s government has also implemented a social media tax that charges 200 shillings ($0.05) per day for the use of mobile apps that include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp. The primary motivation behind the social media tax is to silence free speech by attempting to discourage and hinder peoples ability to use social media platforms as a way to speak out and mobilize against the Ugandan governments blatant corruption and authoritarian rule.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Dictator Finally Succeeds Power
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Years in Power: 2001-2019
Joseph Kabila became president of the DRC after his father President Laurent Kabila was assassinated. Joseph Kabila’s eighteen years in power was marginalized by decades of civil unrest, infighting with armed rebel groups, government corruption, and brutal oppression. Under the DRC’s constitution, the president is mandated to a two term limit. Joseph Kabila was suppose to transfer power on December 19, 2016, but instead decided to stay in office while stalling plans to organize elections. The elections were delayed on the notion that several armed groups had stepped up their attacks to oust Kabila. A date was set on December 23, 2018 for elections that recognized Felix Tshisekedi as the DRC’s newly elected president in over two decades. The political opposition in the DRC complain that the election was not entirely free due to irregularities in the voting system and that Kabila and Tshisekedi struck a deal that Kabila would rule from behind the scenes which has yet to transpire. The majority of Congolese are just glad to see Kabila out of the presidency in the first peaceful transfer of power since 1960.
During Joseph Kabila’s eighteen years in power, human rights violations intensified. A crackdown on free speech and peaceful assembly led to massive protests in the streets only to be met with gunfire by government security forces, killing hundreds of Congolese. A humanitarian crisis soon followed were domestic and foreign armed groups terrorized and pillaged neighborhoods killing and displacing thousands of civilians.
Joseph Kabila’s government severely restricted the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly by completely shutting down all media outlets, blocking radio stations, and preventing journalists from reporting on government affairs. Kabila banned opposition demonstrations and had his security forces and government officials target opposition leaders and their supporters including journalists and human rights activists while having them arrested and jailed on trumped up charges. Hundreds of Congolese have been killed as a result of government crackdowns on peaceful protests in which security forces used live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators.
Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down from power on December 2016 created a coalition of armed groups to assemble in an effort to fight Kabila’s government. In an act of retaliation, Kabila had his security forces mobilize M23 rebel fighters from Uganda and Rwanda to crush the armed opposition and anti-Kabila protests. The infighting between these armed groups and Kabila’s security forces has left thousands of Congolese civilians dead. Thousands more have been displaced from their homes since the fighting began. These groups are guilty of war crimes including forced recruitment of children, murder, rape, and pillage. Joseph Kabila may finally be out of power, but the legacy he leaves behind on the DRC is one that involved a desire to cling to power and who’s actions caused civil unrest added with a humanitarian crisis that cost thousands of Congolese their lives.
The United Arab Emirates and the Missing Princess
Since 2018, Princess Sheikha Latifa Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been missing and is believed to be held in captivity against her will. Princess Latifa is the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who is the vice president, prime minister, and ruler of Dubai. This was Princess Latifa’s second attempt at escaping to what she describes as a virtual prison where she was treated like an object and unable to make her own choices. Princess Latifa tried to flee Dubai in 2002 at the age of sixteen, but was caught between the border of the UAE and Oman and returned back to Dubai where she spent three years in prison at the Zabeel Palace. During this time, she was subjected to inhumane treatment and torture.
In 2018, Princess Latifa escaped Dubai for a second time with the help of her friend Tiina Jauhiainen and ex-French spy Herve Jaubert. Princess Latifa made a thirty nine minute video before her departure in which she described her reasons for wanting to leave the UAE and obtain her freedom and escape the clutches of her brutal father Sheikh Maktoum whom she describes as a pure evil self centered murdering thug that is guilty of serious human rights violations.
On March 4th, 2018, Princess Latifa along with her friend Tiina, Herve, and three Filipino nationals came under attack by the Indian Coast Guard. The yacht they were riding in was intercepted off the Indian coast of Goa. Soon after, a team of heavily armed UAE security forces arrived by boat and helicopter boarded the yacht beating and torturing the crew while dragging Princess Latifa away as she pleaded for asylum. Princess Latifa’s ultimate goal was to make it to the United States and seek asylum from the UAE. After the incident, Princess Latifa’s whereabouts were unclear. Speculations began to emerge that Princess Latifa was returned to Dubai where she was detained again or possibly dead.
On December 15, 2018 nine months after the incident, pictures began to surface online showing Princess Latifa posing with former prime minister of Ireland Mary Robinson in Dubai. The UAE’s foreign minister said Princess Latifa is safely at home with her family after the failed escape attempt. Mary Robinson said Princess Latifa was a troubled young woman and wanted to reassure the international community that she is receiving the necessary care and support she requires. The pictures and Mary Robinson were clearly propaganda on behave of the UAE regime in an attempt to create a public relations stunt to clear their image of any wrong doing. In the pictures, Princess Latifa is clearly seen looking away from the cameras and there is no recollection that Princess Latifa or Mary Robinson engaged in any sort of dialogue about her safety.
After the photo shoot, Princess Latifa has been missing from the public ever since. All those concerned about her safety have reason to believe that she is being arbitrarily detained against her will again for her attempted escape and for exposing her father and the UAE regime for corruption and human rights abuses.
Kazakhstan’s Dictator Resigns From Office
Years in Power: 1991-2019
Effective March 19, 2019, Kazakhstan’s long ruling authoritarian dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned from the presidency after thirty years in power. There’s a hitch though, Nazarbayev will remain head of the Nur Otan party and a life time appointment as head of the Security Council, a position he setup through a decree that will give him executive orders to possibly rule from behind the scenes. It is believed that Nazarbayev went ahead and resigned from office after a lengthy stay in order to secure a smooth transition without the dangers of nationwide resentment or protests that would disrupt the regime and its business investments while Nazarbayev’s family and inner circle continue to maintain control over the country. Nazarbayev chose this path of succession as a result of what happened in Uzbekistan with the passing of dictator Islam Karimov and the immediate dismantling of his policies and security forces.
Rest assured that Nazarbayev is poised to keep the status quo in check and the business as usual model at the forefront of Kazakhstan’s future as long as he’s still alive. During Nazarbayev’s time in office, Kazakhstan’s population withstood rapid corruption on a grand scale with all the county’s wealth going straight to Nazarbayev and his family. Elections were neither free nor fair. Opposition figures are imprisoned. The media is controlled by the state. Freedom of speech and assembly are restricted.
Brunei’s Shariah Law Islamic Penal Code Goes Into Effect
In 2013, Brunei announced that the country would be implementing shariah law into its penal code. The law was delayed amid backlash from the international community that called for boycotts and divestment’s of the country’s sovereign wealth which includes oil investments and ownership of the Dorchester hotel chain and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles California. However, starting April 3, 2019, Brunei will begin carrying out statutes of the shariah penal code and enforce the penalties as described by the law. The punishments will include death by stoning for adultery and gay sex. Homosexuality is already illegal in Brunei, with the penalty of ten years in prison. With the law in effect, homosexuals can also be whipped and stoned. Penalties for robbery involve the amputation of hands and feet. The practice of religions or exposing beliefs to Muslims or to none religious individuals other than the teachings of Islam are prohibited under the law. The law applies to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The individual championing this barbaric law is none other than Brunei’s sultan dictator Hassanal Bolkiah. Aside from the outrageous intentions of the law, Bolkiah has a bad habit of restricting the freedom of expression, religion, and women’s rights in his own country. In the wake of international outcry to Brunei’s Islamic penal code, Bolkiah has stated that the death penalty for pacific offenses to the law would not be enforced. However, as long as the provisions constitute the law of the country then there is a risk that the punishments could still be carried out.
Cuba and Major League Baseball’s Program Comes To An End!
The Trump administration has officially ended a program created during the Obama administration between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation that allowed Cuban baseball players to sign contracts with the U.S. teams. In the contracts, the Cuban players had to agree not to defect and to return to Cuba in the off season. The Major League Baseball teams paid a release fee which accumulated to 15% to 25% of the players total earnings to the Cuban Baseball Federation for each player signed.
The program was nothing more than a human trafficking scheme that collected the players garnished wages which in return went straight to the Cuban regime. The Cuban Baseball Federation is run by none other than Fidel Castro’s son Antonio Castro Soto. Major League Baseball is guilty of accommodating the Cuban dictatorship and aiding in the exploitation and discrimination of the players who are considered property of the Cuban state. The program was just another illustration on how an organization like Major League Baseball and the Obama administration continued to look the other way in regards to addressing human rights violations committed by the Cuban government.
The U.S. Treasury Department sent out the following statement confirming the ending of the MLB and CBF program.
“We are writing to update you on the applicability of a general license under the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515 (CACR), to the activities of the Office of the Commissions of Major League Baseball (MLB). In September 2016, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) provided written guidance to MLB with the respect to various proposed activities involving Cuba and the Cuban Baseball Federation. In particular, OFAC indicated that certain payments from MLB to the Cuban Baseball Federation were authorized by a general license at section 515.571 (e) of the CACR.
The CACR, administered by OFAC, prohibit all persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States from dealing in property in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest except as authorized or exempt. Section 515.571 (e) of the CACR authorizes transactions related to the sponsorship or hiring of a Cuban national to work in the United States in a non-immigrant status or pursuant to other non-immigrant travel authorization by the U.S. government, except that an employer may not make payments to the Cuban government in connection with the sponsorship or hiring of a Cuban national.
In light of facts recently brought to our attention, and after consultation with the U.S. Department of State, OFAC has determined that MLB’s payment to the Cuban Baseball Federation are not authorized by section 515.571 (e) of the CACR, because a payment to the Cuban Baseball Federation is a payment to the Cuban government. Additionally, no other general license in the CACR authorizes these payments. As such, MLB’s payments to the Cuban Baseball Federation are prohibited unless specifically licensed by OFAC. If MLB would like to make these payments, it may seek a specific license from OFAC.”
Algeria’s Dictator Steps Down From Power
Years in Power: 1999-2019
Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down from the presidency on April 28, 2019 after 20 years in power amid a backlash of massive protests that demanded the dictator resign from office after he announced that he would be running for a fifth term as president. Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013 that confined him to a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public. Algeria’s army chief Lt. General Ahmed Gaed Salah declared Bouteflika unfit for office. Caught between riffs within the army and his inner circle, protests, and a corruption investigation, Bouteflika decided to step down from office. Abdelkader Bensalah stepped in as interim president for three months until elections are held.
Bouteflika served as Algeria’s foreign minister then became president in 1999. During the 1990’s, Algeria was engaged in a brutal civil war against Islamists who tried to come to power, but were prevented from doing so by the military. Bouteflika’s obligation was to bring an end to the civil war, rebuild the country, fix the economy, and return a sense of stability to the nation. Stability in Bouteflika’s Algeria would come at a price in which the government would become entrenched in widespread corruption and state repression in order to achieve its goals and centralize its grip on power.
On February 10, 2019, Bouteflika announced his candidacy for a fifth term in office. The protests started on February 22, 2019 as demonstrators called for the ailing dictator and the political establishment to step down. The protesters declared that Bouteflika’s government is out of touch with the problems that normal Algerians face including the struggle to find jobs, opportunity, and democracy in the natural gas rich country. In the wake of mass protests across the country, Bouteflika announced that he would not seek a fifth term and the presidential election scheduled for April 18, 2019 would be postponed thus giving Bouteflika the opportunity to stay in power indefinitely which intensified the protests even further prompting Bouteflika to officially submit his resignation to the Constitutional Council on April 2, 2019.
Algerians also decried the need for institutional reform noting that Bouteflika had primary control of the judiciary which undermined the potential for independence. Bouteflika also presided over the Supreme Judicial Council which oversees the judiciary that is responsible for selecting and dismissing judges. During Bouteflika’s 20 years in power, Algerians endured an array of human rights violations involving restrictions on free speech in which individuals can be prosecuted for simply insulting the president and state officials. Homosexual relations were punishable with up to two years in prison. Press freedom became very limited in which the state had instituted pacific requirements for what is deemed respectable journalism. If speech norms were violated in any way then individuals can be arrested and detained indefinitely without a fair trial. Unauthorized public demonstrations were criminalized to one year in prison and were banned in the capital of Algiers. All associations had to register with the state for approval to operate which gave the authorities leeway to deny authorization if they viewed the organizations content as objectable to state standards, laws, and regulations.
Sudan’s Dictator Is Removed From Power In A Military Coup
Years in Power: 1989-2019
Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir was overthrown and removed from office in a military coup April 11, 2019 after protests ensued against his 30 year rule. Bashir’s departure was the result of economic paralysis over the rising price of food and fuel and the complete absence of political accountability and democracy under Bashir’s leadership. As the protests grew, Bashir declared a state of emergency and had his security forces open fire on protesters that resulted in civilian casualties. The military removed Bashir from power and charged the dictator with being involved in and inciting the killings of protesters, corruption, money laundering, and financing terrorism. After Bashir’s ouster, Sudan is now governed by a transitional military council for two years that has also faced a wave of protesters who demand an immediate transition to civilian rule.
Protesters and the military are engaged in a political standoff that has led to the deaths of hundreds of protesters by the security forces. General Awad Ibn Ouf was the first head of the military council, but he immediately stepped down after protesters demanded his resignation after it was alleged that he was involved in the 2003 genocide in Darfur. The military council is currently headed by Lt. General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan. The coup in Sudan is being viewed as a palace revolution by the military in which they are protecting the regime and preventing the opposition from taking power. After weeks of unrest, the Sudanese military and the pro-democracy protesters have announced a power sharing agreement. The agreement consists of a jointly run sovereign council which would rule for three years until elections are organized. The sovereign council will allow a military leader to head the council for twenty one months and then followed by a civilian leader for the next eighteen months and so on. The agreement also calls for an independent Sudanese investigation into the security forces deadly crackdown on protesters in which hundreds of people were killed and an agreement to restore the country’s internet service.
Omar al-Bashir came to power in a military coup in 1989. Before that Bashir was a commander in the army who led operations against rebel leader John Garang. During this time, Bashir carried out war campaigns in the south that led to the deaths of over two million civilians and the displacement of well over four million Sudanese. Bashir also conducted an assault in the Nuba Mountains in the early 1990’s that led to the deaths of half a million people. In 2003, Bashir launched a counterinsurgency campaign against black ethnic Sudanese groups involving the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) after they took up arms and initiated attacks in the town of Golo and attacked a government airfield, killing seventy troops in what was viewed as an act of defiance against the Khartoum government in response to the economic and political marginalization of the regions black African ethnic groups involving the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa.
Bashir’s government recruited Arab militias know as the Janijaweed to conduct ethnic cleansing policies against all ethnic Africans in Darfur. The Janijaweed aided by the Sudanese military and state security forces bombed villages, looted stores and homes, raped women and children, murdered unarmed civilians, and burned villages down to the ground. The genocide in Darfur is estimated to have effected over 3 million lives with over 100,000 to 400,000 deaths and millions more displaced during the conflict.
Omar al-Bashir is accused of some of the most vicious human rights violations involving genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes that include attacks on civilians, pillaging towns and villages, murder, torture, rape, extermination, mass killings, causing severe bodily and mental harm. Bashir’s government is also accused of violently cracking down on protesters by beating them with sticks and hoses and using tear gas to dispurce the crowds. Protesters, human rights activists, and opposition party members were arbitrarily arrested and detained without being charged. Detainees were subjected to forms of torture involving beatings, electric shocks, and solitary confinement in harsh conditions.
Bashir’s government was notorious for harassing and prosecuting critics of the state and putting restrictions on the media for those critical of the government. Newspaper outlets were suspended or confiscated and journalists were arrested for writing about government sensitive material. Bashir’s Sudan was governed by Islamic sharia law which restricted the freedom of religion and imposed on non-Muslims as well. Apostasy charges were brought against those who converted to Christianity. Christians were forced to renounce their faith in some incidents. Church buildings were demolished by the government. Women faced dress code violations and personal choice crimes that are punishable by public humiliation and flogging. Sudan’s government under Bashir did not recognize marital rape as a crime.
In 2009, the International Criminal Court indicted Omar al-Bashir and issued an arrest warrant against the dictator for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide for his role in the 2003 atrocities that occurred in the Darfur region. Omar al-Bashir remains detained by the Sudanese military and it is still uncertain if the same military that removed Bashir from power will turn him over to the ICC for prosecution.