August 1 Brazil: Thousands gathered in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia to show their support for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s call to change the country’s electronic voting system. Bolsonaro claimed without evidence that the current voting system is fraudulent, and insisted that the country adopt a mixed system of voting, according to Reuters. Currently, Brazillians cast their votes entirely electronically—Bolsonaro’s proposal would require each vote to have a physical print out that would be used in a recount. “People who say electronic voting is safe and subject to audits are liars,” Bolsonaro said in a video that was played for the crowd in Brasilia. Bolsonaro has threatened to cancel next year’s elections “if they are not clean and democratic.” A day later, Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court opened an investigation into Bolsonaro for his claims that next year’s election will be fraudulent. “Brazil has eliminated a history of election fraud,” the judges said in a statement. “The electronic voting system is subject to audits before, during and after the election.” On Aug. 5, a Brazillian congressional committee voted 23-to-11 against Bolsonaro’s proposal. Critics argue that Bolsonaro is increasing doubt in the current system in case he loses next year’s election. “Bolsonaro has threatened the elections because he has already lost,” said Congressman Ivan Valente of Socialism and Liberty Party. “He wants to perpetuate himself in power. He needs to be contained.”
August 4 Beirut, Lebanon: A year after the Beirut port explosion that killed over 200 people, hundreds of protesters gathered to demand accountability, according to Al Jazeera. “This is a day of pain and grief,” said Ilbrahim Hotreit, who lost his brother in the blast and became a spokesperson for the families fighting for justice. “It is the day we lost our loved ones and relatives and children. We hope all those coming down in solidarity with us respect our pain.” Protestors argue that, in the year since the blast, no one has been held accountable. Beirut’s fire service has also called for an investigation, following the deaths of nine firefighters and a paramedic who went to extinguish the fire at the port, unaware of the over two tons of ammonium nitrate that caused the explosion. “Had they told us what was inside, we would have conducted an evacuation of the area,” said First Lieutenant Ali Najem, public relations chief of the Beirut Fire Brigade. “Every fire is different and there are different ways that you can deal with it. In our world, there will be more fires, but we have to know first what we are dealing with to keep our firefighters safe and keep the public safe.” Protestors on the anniversary clashed with riot police near parliament. “I believe politicians, and anyone responsible, fear the people,” said Tatiana Hasrouty, who lost her father in the blast. “If we put pressure on them, we can acquire justice…They are scared that if they lift the immunity, they will be held accountable. All we can do is protest, let them fear us more.”
August 6 Tokyo, Japan: The International Olympic Committee announced that two Belarus team coaches would be removed from the Olympics, following their involvement in an attempt to send an athlete back to Belarus, according to AP News. On Aug. 1, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya posted a video saying that, in addition to being set to compete in the 200-meter sprint, she was added to the 400-meter relay—an event she says she never competed in—at the last minute because some teammates were ineligible. Later that day, she was told to pack her bags and head to the airport. Tsimanouskaya refused to get onto the plane and head back to Belarus due to worries of larger repercussions. “[Team officials] made it clear that, upon return home, I would definitely face some form of punishment,” Tsimanouskaya said. She explained her worries to police at the Haneda airport and was eventually taken to the Polish embassy where she received a humanitarian visa. “They did not expect that, in the airport, I [could] approach the police,” Tsimanouskaya said. “They think that we are scared to make a move, that we are afraid to speak, afraid to tell the truth to the whole world. But I am not afraid.” The events unfolded as Belarus faces continued criticism over repression of anyone that speaks out against the government.