“The Biden administration is stepping up its actions to punish Myanmar’s ruling military junta in the wake of a bloody weekend targeting civilians protesting against the February military coup.
On Saturday, the military commemorated Armed Forces Day by killing about 140 people — including six children — in 44 cities and towns amid nationwide peaceful protests, according to local reports and activists. One of the children, 11-year-old Aye Myat Thu, was buried with her drawings and toys as her family mourned beside her.
Thousands of people also fled into neighboring Thailand to escape the violence.
It’s the largest number of people killed in a single day since the military ousted the country’s democratic government in a February 1 coup. Some 500 people have been killed in total since the military seized control.
Pressure from the international community on Myanmar’s military to relinquish control has been growing, with the United Nations special rapporteur for the country recently calling the junta’s campaign “mass murder.””
“On Monday, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the Biden administration would “suspend all US trade engagement” with Myanmar that occurs under a 2013 bilateral trade agreement. That won’t stop all $1.4 billion in trade between the two countries, but it will curb the trade relationship, namely by ending US support for initiatives that helped Myanmar integrate back into the world economy.
That may not seem like much, but experts on Myanmar’s conflict like Cornell University’s Darin Self say the move “will sting” because “cutting off trade is meaningful.””
“even if Trump’s authoritarian bluster rarely cashed out into any real-world seizure of new powers for the president, it was far from harmless. Four years of 100-proof strongman rhetoric may have the effect of building up our tolerance if and when the real thing comes around in a smoother blend. When (at least) half of the political class feels driven by partisan loyalty to defend or downplay open contempt for constitutional limits, it’s likely to make well-planned assaults on those limits that much easier to execute. Donald Trump may yet end up being a “transformational” president, not because of the abuses he managed to carry out but thanks to the dangerous possibilities he revealed.”
“By excusing or ignoring the 45th president’s disgraceful assaults on democratic norms, Republicans have largely abandoned any principled objection to such moves in the future. If and when an actually competent authoritarian comes along, what will their argument be? “Yeah, but our guy wasn’t any good at it”?”
“According to reports from the region, the Myanmar military has taken into custody several top civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and democracy activist whose political party has won recent elections. In a televised statement, the military said that it had taken control of the country and declared a state of emergency for one year.
The military has been unhappy with the outcome of elections in November in which Suu Kyi’s party did well, while the military-backed party fared relatively poorly. The military is alleging voter fraud. Myanmar’s new parliament was due to convene Monday for its first session.
In a statement late Sunday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the United States is “alarmed” by the reports.
“The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition,” Psaki said, adding that the U.S. “will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed.””
“President Trump is refusing to concede the election. Most Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, won’t yet acknowledge that president-elect Joe Biden won. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday there will be a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration” (though perhaps he was joking).
So, you may be wondering … what’s going to happen?
With GOP politicians’ rhetoric all over the place, it’s useful to focus on concrete matters. Two things will happen over the next five weeks that ordinarily would be formalities, but in a disputed election will be crucial.
First, states will certify their election results — December 8 is the deadline set by federal law, but most states have set earlier deadlines. Second, once state results are certified, the Electoral College will cast the votes that will officially choose the next president, on December 14.
Both of these processes are currently on track to make Biden the next president. And despite all the sound and fury, nothing happening yet appears likely to get in the way of either process.
That could change, however. The dangerous scenario would be if some combination of Republican state officials, Republican legislators, and Republican-appointed judges attempts to block the certification of results in key states Biden won, or to replace Biden electors with Trump electors — likely citing assertions that the election results were plagued by some type of fraud.
But up to this point, Trump’s lawsuits have had little success. Republican state officials involved in the counts have insisted they’ve found no fraud, and there are no solid plans among GOP state legislators to change the outcome. To assess whether Trump’s ploy to overturn the election results is successful, keep an eye on whether any of these change in the coming weeks.”
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Republican lawmakers on Monday refused to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect, defending President Donald Trump as he continues to launch unsubstantiated allegations about widespread voter fraud.
McConnell, like many other Senate Republicans, neither repeated Trump’s false claims that Democrats are trying to “rig” and “steal” the election, nor publicly pressured the president to concede. Their reluctance to recognize Biden’s victory two days after he secured enough Electoral College votes highlights the grip that Trump still holds on the GOP, even as he will likely soon be leaving the White House. For now, they’re sticking with the president”
“Trump has continued to assert that there were widespread irregularities in several states but has so far provided no evidence. He falsely claimed on Twitter that he won the election, even as Biden on Saturday secured the necessary 270 electoral votes to win the White House, according to numerous media projections. The president has even suggested the election was “stolen” from him, but his campaign has lost several court fights already.”
“Senate Republicans said they expect the disputes to be resolved sooner rather than later. One GOP senator, speaking on condition of anonymity to candidly describe the party’s thinking, said “most people recognize where this is headed and that clearly Biden is leading in enough states to win, but let’s not rush the process.”
So far, only four Republican senators — Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine — have acknowledged Biden’s victory and referred to him as the president-elect.
But like McConnell, most Senate Republicans have refused to publicly acknowledge that Biden will become the next president, even though they admit that’s going to happen in private. While Biden is already aggressively planning his transition to power, GOP senators are deferring to the Trump campaign’s pending legal challenges to the election results in various battleground states.”
“Even as Biden’s team is preparing for the transfer of power, a top political appointee in the Trump administration is thus far refusing to officially certify Biden as the president-elect. Such a declaration is necessary in order to kick-start the presidential transition process; specifically, it would unlock resources for Biden’s team, including federal funding and access to the federal agencies that will need staffing.
Republicans largely declined to weigh in on whether the appointee, General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy, should certify Biden as the winner, though Collins went as far as to say that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “should be given every opportunity to ensure that they are ready to govern” when they take office on Jan. 20.”
“After winning Hungary’s 2010 election, the prime minister systematically dismantled the country’s democracy — undermining the basic fairness of elections, packing the courts with cronies, and taking control of more than 90 percent of the country’s media outlets. He has openly described his form of government as “illiberal democracy,” half of which is accurate.
Since the coronavirus, Orbán’s authoritarian tendencies have only grown more pronounced. His allies in parliament passed a new law giving him the power to rule by decree and creating a new crime, “spreading a falsehood,” punishable by up to five years in prison. The Hungarian government recently seized public funding that opposing political parties depend on; through an ally, they took financial control of one of the few remaining anti-Orbán media outlets. In May, the pro-democracy group Freedom House officially announced that it no longer considered Hungary a democracy.”
“Religious conservatives find Orbán’s social policies to be a breath of fresh air. Orbán has given significant state support to Hungary’s churches, officially labeling his government a “Christian democracy.” He provided generous subsidies to families in an effort to get Hungarian women to stay at home and have more babies. He launched a legal assault on progressive social ideals, prohibiting the teaching of gender studies in Hungarian universities and banning transgender people from legally identifying as anything other than their biological sex at birth.
Conservative nationalists focus on the Hungarian approach to immigration and the European Union. During the 2015 migrant crisis, Orbán was the most prominent opponent of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open borders approach; he built a wall on Hungary’s southern border with Serbia to keep refugees from entering. He has repeatedly denounced the influence the EU has on its member states, describing one of his governing aims as preserving Hungary’s national character in the face of a globalist onslaught led by Brussels and philanthropist George Soros.
For Western conservatives of a religious and/or nationalist bent, Orbán is the leader they wish Donald Trump could be — smart, politically savvy, and genuinely devoted to their ideals. Hungary is, for them, the equivalent of what Nordic countries are for the American left: proof of concept that their ideas could make the United States a better place.
Yet while the Nordic countries are among the world’s freest democracies, Hungary has fallen into a form of autocracy.”
“Orbán and much of his inner circle are lawyers by training; they have used this expertise to set up a political system that looks very much like a democracy, with elections and a theoretically free press, but isn’t one. This gives intellectually sympathetic Westerners some room for self-delusion. They can examine Hungary, a country whose cultural politics they admire, and see a place that looks on the surface like a functioning democracy.”
“If these thinkers continue to insist that Hungary is just another democracy — despite copious evidence to the contrary — how can we expect them to call out the same, more embryonic process of authoritarianism happening at home? If American conservatives won’t turn on a foreign country’s leadership after it crosses the line, what reason would we have to believe that they’d be capable of doing the same thing when the stakes for them are higher and the enemies more deeply hated?”
“The world response to the COVID-19 epidemic has been completely unprecedented. At the time of writing, 82 countries have restricted travel through their borders and 37 have completely closed them completely. Both the invisible and physical walls that separate the world have grown less penetrable, but no region has enacted measures as strict as Latin America, whose governments fear their vulnerable health systems will not be able to cope with widespread outbreak.
A dozen Latin American countries—with a combined population of more than 175 million people—have placed their citizens on full lockdown, a measure which some countries are enforcing by deploying soldiers to the streets.”
“The primary barrier to governments enacting controversial power grabs are the critics and institutions who would object, so a handful of Latin American leaders are taking dramatic steps to silence those who check their power. They’re now muzzling journalists through intimidation, arrest, or character assassination.
In Honduras, the government passed an emergency measure that temporarily suspended constitutional protections on free speech for both citizens and journalists. On March 25, the Bolivian government announced a decree that allows imprisonment for up to 10 years of those who “misinform” or “promote non-compliance” with government regulation. The nonprofit Human Rights Watch has criticized the language of the law, saying it is intentionally vague and could be used to prosecute political opponents and journalists alike.
In Venezuela, freelance journalist Darvinson Rojas was arrested by Special Action Forces (FAES) and imprisoned for his coverage of the coronavirus crisis. The local Venezuelan press has covered half a dozen instances of journalists being intimidated. And on April 6, FAES arrested Luis Serrano, a civil assemblyman who would have determined the next election oversight board in Venezuela, according to WOLA, a human rights group in Latin America. They seized masks and protective gear Serrano’s organization had donated to journalists covering COVID-19 and detained politicians who’d been contradicting the government’s official coronavirus statistics, which many medical experts consider unbelievably low.
In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has turned the crisis into a political weapon, claiming that the press is trying to destroy his presidency through misinformation. Despite ignoring advice from health officials within his own party about the danger of the epidemic, he used the crisis as justification to release an executive order that abolished freedom of information legislation, effectively undermining the ability of journalists or NGOs to obtain public health information. The executive order was quickly struck down by Brazil’s Supreme Court.”
“Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia have all been heavily criticized by the United Nations for violent repression of a continent-wide wave of protests that swept through Latin America just months ago. If civil unrest flares up again over economic or health issues during the current state of emergency, protesters in many countries may find themselves facing down state forces with extralegal powers and a muzzled press.
The degree of authoritarianism varies by country”