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THE INTERNATIONAL OBSERVER & RECORD

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GLOBAL SURVEY

            

  

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Our 39th year of publishing The International Observer & Record

The Latest Issue

Global Survey
Reference Aids

States Political Profiles

International Abbreviations

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Updated November 2019

VIEWING THE WORLD

Mexico's President

Mexico’s man of the people is dissatisfying and displeasing a growing number of supporters and voters. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (born 13 November 1953) who misses no opportunity to meet with people, especially the poorer ones, assuring them of a brazos, no balazos (hugs, not gunshots), is increasingly criticized for lording over a government that fails his promises of controlling raging crime and corruption, fixing the health system and social programs, and boost the economy. The president’s National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) has the majority in both houses of the National Congress where the two former ruling parties either lack leadership or are in disrepair.  

The government, with AMLO at its head, as López Obrador is referred to, is unable to cope with the current corona virus pandemic and besieged by massive protests against violence against women, disappearance of journalists and students, and militarization of public security. Demonstrations, so far mainly by educated middle class citizens are further fed by AMLO’s growing tendency to act autocratically, disregard democratic traditions, and expert advice.

June 2020

Exploiting pandemic emergency state for political ends

Democratically-governed states around the world have enacted states of emergency for limited periods to protect their people from the corona virus pandemic, to enforce curfews, lockdowns, personal distancing, and quarantine. In a number of countries, especially those only partially free or ruled autocratically, under the pretext of the pandemic, there are political crackdowns. Democratic freedoms are severely cut, from human rights to freedom of the press, often brutally enforced by police and military, including arrest, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings. Following is a selection of these violations:

  • Algerian authorities restricted rights and space of opposition movement and blocked online media.
  • In Azerbaijan the government allegedly uses the public health emergency to crack down on opposition and critics.
  • In Bangladesh there is a crackdown on those expressing concern over the handling of the public health threat with arrests for spreading “misinformation and rumors.”
  • Bolivia created a military cyber patrol to identify and prosecute the spreading of so-called misinformation as a crime against public health.
  • In the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the government is allowed to issue fines for spreading fake news through media or social networks while its constitution says the right to freedom of opinion and expression cannot be suspended. 
  • The emergency law passed in Cambodia on 10 April restricts communications and distribution of information which has been used to carry out arbitrary arrests of opposition supporters and critics, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). The law provides for punishment of up to a decade in jail for anyone found guilty of “obstructing authorities” or failing to respect government measures in such a way that causes social unrest or threatens national security.
  • In El Salvador, when the Supreme Court ruled detention of citizens for breaching quarantine unconstitutional, the president said he would not abide by the ruling. The Inter American Press Association expressed concern over an alleged increase in violations of press freedom and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced holding of 4,236 people in 87 containment centers and the encouragement of using excessive force.
  • The Guinean president is exploiting the crisis to silence opposition and tighten his grip on power.
  • In Hungary, the law adopted on 30 March, allows the prime minister to rule by decree without a specified time limit threatening freedom of information under the guise of charging false information. The European Parliament (EP) requested the European Commission (EC) to determine whether Hungary and Poland breached EU law using the corona virus pandemic for government actions “totally incompatible with European values.”
  • Kazakhstan is doing everything to muzzle activists to prevent their criticism of the government’s anti-coronavirus measures.
  • The Congress of the Philippines on 24 March granted country-wide emergency powers to the president.
  • Sri Lanka is cracking down on dissent, arresting critics of officials and opposition supporters.

May 2020 

Putin's Path?

During the first few weeks of the year, the Russian president’s support for constitutional changes – stretching the five-year term to six years or dropping the two-term limit – gave rise to the assumption about a new position of authority for him. The spreading of the corona virus is delaying holding a referendum on the constitutional ‘reform’ and final adoption but the draft bill was quickly passed by the State Duma on 16 January and the president’s active and personal involvement is changing perception of his future. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (born 7 October 1952) of the All-Russia People’s Front (ONF) since 2011, served his first and second four-year terms from 7 May 2000 until 7 May 2008, his third six-year term from 7 May 2012 until 7 May 2018, and since then serves his fourth term which will be completed in May 2024.

Rather than seeking a new position of “authority,” today Putin appears to be on the way to hold the presidency until May 2036. It remains to be seen whether he will advance by the Duma disregarding the preceding four terms or by abolishing the two-term limit for presidents. To make Putin in effect President for life, the first woman in space, cosmonaut and Duma member Valentina Tereshkova proposed “adding a clause that after the revised constitution enters force, the incumbent president, just like any other citizen, has the right to seek the presidency." The president agreed with the proposal, reported AP.

April  2020

The pandemic is causing pandemonium everywhere

Worldwide, with a few exceptions in remote areas, the pandemic caused by the coronavirus, is temporarily sidelining attention on the constant threats from climate change or nuclear mass weapons. Government leaders are quickly learning that they are dealing not just with a public health disaster but that the outbreak of the virus is facing them with overriding human and social challenges too and that it has far reaching global, political, security, and economic effects. People, health facilities and governments are trying to cope with the spread of COVID-19, some with more success than others while in a number of African and American regions preparations are underway to limit infections. Some continuing conflicts in the world seem to be little affected but quite a few of the large nations’ security forces are deeply engaged in assisting public health endeavors, quarantines, and limiting contact between people.  

Kabul under pressure

Afghanistan’s government is pressured by Taliban and the United States to abide by an ill-defined open agreement. Left out from talks about a comprehensive peace agreement and withdrawal of US forces that began in October 2018, told by the Taliban it would not negotiate with it, and consumed with the fallout from elections when both political rivals claimed the presidency. Trying to mediate between president and former chief executive, the US state secretary cut the US1 billion aid to force the two contenders to agree to a unified government that would be able to end the conflict with an intra-Afghan political solution. The government decided to assemble a delegation that would be a partner in any intra-Afghan talks or negotiations and belatedly has agreed to limited and timed exchanges of prisoners. Two days later, the Taliban complained that the team was not selected so it would include “all Afghan factions” and refused to negotiate with it. Meanwhile Taliban attacks against national army, security forces, district governments and civilians are continuing as are US air strikes in support of Afghan National Army operations. Concern is rising among Afghans and governments abroad not only that Washington’s effort to end the conflict will be crippled and vital for Afghans that their government will fall apart and the country will again be split among warlords and the Taliban.

March 2020 

North Korea restarting missile tests

The announced end of the moratorium on North Korean nuclear and missile tests deeply concerns United Nations Secretary General António Guterres. On 1 January, he expressed his hope that the tests will not resume, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions. Non-proliferation remains a fundamental pillar of global nuclear security and must be preserved. He once again expressed his support for the resumption of a dialogue that will lead to complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Diplomatic engagement is the only pathway to sustainable peace.

February 2020

UN Assembly president alerts about loss of native languages

While the world’s attention is fixed on the loss of land to rising oceans and the disappearance of species of animals and plants caused  by changing climate and human expansion, languages of indigenous peoples are also vanishing, especially those of small native populations. 

Calling attention to this worrisome development, the President of the current 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, on 17 December cautioned that “challenges persist” despite UN efforts to highlight the daily disappearance of mother tongues across the world. 

“Every fortnight, at least one indigenous language vanishes from the face of the earth”, warned Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria. “This translates into two extinct indigenous languages each month”. Turning to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the President pointed out that the 2007 milestone calls on states, among other things, to enact policies and laws aimed at preserving and strengthening indigenous languages. 

“The status-quo is indeed grave”, he asserted, painting a picture of only 4,000 surviving indigenous languages, spoken by a mere 6 percent of the total world population. He also said it was “equally noteworthy”, that 15 percent of the poorest people on the planet are indigenous.        

Indigenous traditions have served as a “dependable means of acquiring knowledge” which can be transmitted across generations, he stated, citing examples of herbal medicine, food processing and settling disputes within communities.  And although linguistic diversity is essential to preserve humanity’s common heritage, which is critical to its survival, it is imperiled with every language that goes extinct. “With the death of languages, the indigenous people who speak them lose a significant part of their identity”, he lamented.  

Muhammad-Bande urged the world to focus attention on the measures to ensure the survival of those which remain, underscoring that “schools have a major role to play”. “By integrating indigenous languages into their curricula, they would have fulfilled the vital mission of shielding the languages from external onslaught and internal decay”, he said.

 January 2020

 

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