VICE (2013) s06e07 Episode Script

Russian Democracy & Global Gag Rule

1 SHANE SMITH: This week on Vice: a closer look at Russia's presidential election.
Russia! BEN FERGUSON: And who did that? BEN: Everybody's saying this election is going very well.
But it's expected that turnout will be much higher than it was in 2012.
SHANE: And then, the impact of America's policy against abortion in Africa.
So you see a direct connection between decreasing access to contraception and unsafe abortions going up.
(WOMEN SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Are you concerned that you're spreading your HIV to your clients? (THEME MUSIC PLAYING) (CROWD SHOUTING) They're saying that right now, it's time for change.
Accusations of Russian tampering with the 2016 presidential election, continue to be a source of controversy here in the United States.
But Russia itself is no stranger to political controversy with consistent accusations of voter suppression, ballot stuffing, and even murder of political opponents not aligned with the state.
This spring, Russian President Vladimir Putin ran for a fourth term with the potential to become the longest ruling Russian leader since Joseph Stalin.
(SPEAKING RUSSIAN) (CHEERING) We sent Ben Ferguson to Moscow to see firsthand how democracy is working in Russia.
BEN: We've come to the outskirts of Moscow.
This is the Institute of Science and it's where President Putin is about to cast his vote, and we're about to witness what elections look like Russia style.
(INDISTINCT CHATTER) (MAN SPEAKING RUSSIAN) - (INDISTINCT CONVERSATION) - (CAMERAS CLICKING) (SPEAKS RUSSIAN) (PUTIN SPEAKS RUSSIAN) Who do you think the best president will be for Russia? (SPEAKS RUSSIAN) (SPEAKS RUSSIAN) (WOMAN 2 SPEAKING RUSSIAN) (WOMAN 3 SPEAKS RUSSIAN) We're at the Central Electoral Commission, which is the body that oversees this election.
Everybody is saying this election is going very well, and it's expected that turnout will be much higher than it was in 2012.
(SPEAKS RUSSIAN) BEN: When evidence of ballot stuffing appeared on the screens, the officials responded to it live.
(MAN SPEAKING RUSSIAN) There are videos online of ballot stuffing.
Can you explain those? (SPEAKS RUSSIAN) BEN: While this looks like modern democracy in action, many ordinary Russians are skeptical about the fairness of the political system here.
No? Why? Tell me.
(CHUCKLES) What does that mean then, if this election is being held in a democracy, but there is definitely only one person that can win.
BEN: Vladimir Putin has been in power in Russia since the year 2000.
And his popularity has been driven by his cult of personality.
Fueled by iconic images of him on horseback, playing hockey with the Russian national team, and driving racing cars.
His approval ratings are polled at a staggering 80 percent.
(CHEERING) But Putin's tenure is also marked by the suppression of political dissent and the suspicious murders of his opponents.
Until 2015, one of the most outspoken critics of Putin was opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov.
(SPEAKS RUSSIAN) BEN: Nemtsov's repeated allegations of corruption at the highest levels of politics caught the attention of the Kremlin.
(SPEAKS RUSSIAN) BEN: Nemtsov was gunned down within sight of the Kremlin three years ago.
His mantle was taken up by anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.
(SPEAKS RUSSIAN) BEN: Navalny ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013 and came in second place.
He's rarely spoken with Western media, because the government uses such appearances to brand him as pro-Western.
But we were invited to his headquarters to meet with the head of his anti-corruption foundation, Roman Rubanov.
Tell us about Navalny.
Why is he the figurehead of this opposition movement? (SPEAKING RUSSIAN) BEN: Navalny has been arrested many times as police attempt to disrupt his protest movement.
(INDISTINCT SHOUTING) NEWSWOMAN: Navalny was arrested on his way to central Moscow this midday, and earlier today, police broke into Navalny's office.
The pretext for the break-in was a bomb threat.
- Really? - Yeah.
And who did that? BEN: And are you under total and constant surveillance? BEN: Navalny was convicted of embezzlement in 2013 and received a suspended sentence.
The verdict was found to be unfair by the European Court of Human Rights, and was widely seen as retaliation for political activity.
But Russian courts cited the charges as grounds to disqualify him from running in the presidential election.
BEN: What are the people in this office doing? BEN: 'Cause that's the context, isn't it? Most information channels here in Russia are state-owned.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
BEN: So the information that people receive is censored.
BEN: Alexei Navalny's YouTube channel has over 350 million views.
(NAVALNY SPEAKING RUSSIAN) BEN: How long though do you see this campaign lasting for for him? That's not hyperbolic.
There is a precedent that if you oppose the state too strongly you don't live very long.
BEN: There have been many critics of Putin who've died in suspicious circumstances.
Sergei Magnitsky was an anti-corruption lawyer who died in police custody in 2009.
Anna Politkovskaya was a journalist who was assassinated in 2006.
But it was Boris Nemtsov's murder that attracted worldwide attention and made him a symbol of the dissident movement in Russia.
Alex Navalny's team rang us to say that he was gonna make an impromptu stop at the home of Boris Nemtsov.
For some reason, the police are also here.
And it's not just the ordinary police.
It's their specialist division that usually deals with things like terrorism who've come along as well.
(SPEAKING RUSSIAN) BEN: With Navalny out of the race, the candidate who's attracted the support of many liberals is Ksenia Sobchak.
(SPEAKING RUSSIAN) - (CROWD CHEERING) - BEN: Sobchak is a TV personality, who's worked both as a political journalist and as the host of a reality show.
(SPEAKING RUSSIAN) BEN: To see the campaign of a candidate allowed on the ballot, we went to her headquarters in Moscow.
Tell me about what it means to be part of the opposition in Russia.
Well, it's quite tough.
It's risky.
You can be surprised at any moment, and you never know when this moment comes.
Tomorrow when they don't need, you know, these elections to which should be clean and clear, they can surprise you any moment.
There can be a raid any moment.
You should be ready for that.
Tell me about why people distinguish between the so-called real opposition and the sanctioned opposition.
I think it's a distinction in the minds of the people.
How they distinguish it is like they see if you're in prison or if you are killed, then you are real.
BEN: Some Russians question just how real a candidate Sobchak herself is.
I will never vote for Ksenia Sobchak because she's a daughter of Putin's friend, and I think she's a part of Putin's system.
BEN: Sobchak's father was the mayor of St.
Petersburg and Vladimir Putin's mentor.
It's an association that figures such as Alexei Navalny find difficult to square with her public role as opposition candidate.
We've come to the headquarters of Alexei Navalny, who's doing a live broadcast to his supporters.
His special guest for this live broadcast is none other than Ksenia Sobchak.
(SPEAKING RUSSIAN) (SOBCHAK SPEAKING) (SOBCHAK SIGHS) BEN: The idea that the Kremlin's goal is to divide and marginalize the opposition was confirmed by another presidential candidate, a veteran conservative politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
(SPEAKS RUSSIAN) (ANNOUNCER SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) BEN: Zhirinovsky is an ultra-nationalist who's become famous for his anti-Western views over his three decades in politics.
(SPEAKS RUSSIAN) (CHEERING) BEN: He's made a career as the right-wing populist of Russian politics.
(SPEAKS RUSSIAN) BEN: He's known for his short, violent temper, and has had physical altercations on the floor of the legislative assembly.
He's made multiple bizarre appearances on television - (MONKEY CHITTERS) - (ZHIRINOVSKY YELLS) and has professed his adoration for dictators.
(SPEAKS RUSSIAN) BEN: Zhirinovsky ran for president in five to six Russian elections since the fall of the Soviet Union and has placed in the top five each time.
It's believed he's allowed to run because his extreme anti-Western views and highly eccentric behavior mean he's unlikely to threaten Vladimir Putin's grip on the Kremlin.
And the tactic seems to be working.
Because the result of the election was a Putin landslide victory.
(SPEAKING RUSSIAN) BEN: While Putin won more than three-quarters of the vote, support for the opposition candidates who were allowed onto the ballot proved to be as weak as expected.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky won less than six percent of the vote, and Ksenia Sobchak won less than two percent.
Vladimir Putin's term now runs to 2024, by which time he'll be the longest serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin.
(SPEAKING RUSSIAN) BEN: President Putin's turn towards authoritarianism is part of a larger global trend.
From Turkey to Egypt to Venezuela to China, strong men leaders are consolidating and broadening presidential power, often using the Putin playbook.
(SPEAKING RUSSIAN) BEN: Two days before the presidential inauguration, Alexei Navalny led anti-Putin protests that erupted across Russia.
- (MAN SHOUTING OVER BULLHORN) - (CROWD CLAMORING) (WOMEN SCREAMING) BEN: Roughly 1,600 people were arrested, including Navalny himself.
(SPEAKING RUSSIAN) SOLDIERS: Ura! Ura! Ura! (CANNON FIRE ECHOING) Just three days after his inauguration, President Trump signed a memorandum reinstating what's known as the global gag rule.
While the US has never directly funded abortions overseas, this policy curbs US funding for abortion-related services.
Historically, Republican administrations have enacted it, while Democratic ones have repealed it.
However, President Trump's version is unprecedented in scope, going well beyond reproductive health and amounting to nearly nine billion dollars in cuts to foreign aid.
If the president continues down this path, women will be hurt.
As the news cycle moved on in the days and months following Trump's signing, the effects of this policy quietly rippled across Africa.
So we sent Gianna Toboni to track the impact of how this change in US policy has affected Uganda.
GIANNI: African countries are the largest recipients of US development aid in the world, with the majority of funding going towards basic health care and medical services across the continent.
But as we learned from Dr.
Ibembe, director of programming at Reproductive Health Uganda, these basic services may now be in jeopardy.
What are the effects of this policy being put into place? Fifteen, twenty percent of our funding has actually been lost as a result of the well, we call it the global gag rule.
Is there any area of health care that is not affected by this policy? Hmm, I struggle to think about what isn't affected.
Are childbirth services affected? Yes.
Childbirth services are affected, definitely.
- Mammograms? - Mammograms are affected.
- HIV/AIDS? - Yes.
- Malaria? - Yes, malaria prevention.
- Typhoid? - Yes, exactly, it will be affected.
I think what's most surprising is that the vast majority of services affected have nothing to do with abortion.
Yes, that is the irony of the whole thing.
I mean, Uganda is a country that abortion is very restricted, so there's no reason why, uh, the Mexico policy should apply to us here.
GIANNI: The global gag rule, originally known as the Mexico City policy, was first enacted by President Reagan in 1984.
The original policy required that NGOs agree that in order to receive any federal funding, they would neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.
Since then, every Democratic president has overturned the policy while every Republican has reinstated it.
The president issued a memorandum reestablishing the Mexico City policy.
GIANNI: But President Trump did more than just reinstate the Mexico City policy.
He drastically expanded it.
The new Trump human rights policy will protect more babies overseas from the violence of abortion.
(CHEERING) GIANNI: Trump's version not only eliminates family planning funding, it also cuts initiatives that have nothing to do with abortion or reproductive health.
In total, the new policy puts nearly nine billion dollars of US health care funding at risk in more than 60 countries.
To better understand the local impact of this policy, we visited Mulago Hospital, which has one of the busiest maternity wards in the world.
What types of patients are in the emergency gyne room? So you see a direct connection between decreasing access to contraception and unsafe abortions going up.
How severe are the injuries that women suffer after these abortions? Wow.
GIANNI: Abortion is already illegal in Uganda, but now, there may be more abortions performed on the black market than before the gag rule was put in place.
In fact, Marie Stopes International estimates that under Trump's version of this policy an additional 120,000 abortions will occur by 2020, and that's just in Uganda alone.
We're right outside of Kampala, and since US funding has been taken out of these communities, what we're hearing from local organizations is that black market abortions have gone way up, and so we've tracked down a back-street abortionist who's agreed to talk to us as long as we conceal her identity.
GIANNI: How long have you been performing abortions? (WOMAN SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) How often do you have girls coming to you asking for this? Do you know when your next appointment is? (WOMAN SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) GIANNI: How far along are you in your pregnancy? (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Can I ask why don't you use contraception? Women have become severely injured and even died by getting these types of abortions.
Are you concerned for your health and, um, the consequences of getting an abortion like this? (WOMAN SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Has anyone ever died after receiving an abortion from you? GIANNI: When girls come to you, do you tell them that they could potentially die by doing this? (WOMAN SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) GIANNI: Do you feel guilty for what you do? I mean, that people are getting severely injured and even dying after after receiving abortions from you? GIANNI: Abortions aren't the only thing on the rise because of the gag rule.
There are also fears of rising HIV infections across Africa, which had gone down since George W.
Bush launched his emergency plan for AIDS relief, or PEPFAR, in 2003.
These communities really benefited from President Bush putting massive amounts of funding toward HIV/AIDS and there was huge progress as the result of it, but that progress could very easily be reversed by President Trump's new policy.
GIANNI: Tracylove is one of the 1.
4 million people living with HIV in Uganda, the majority of whom depend on anti-retrovirals.
How long have you survived with HIV? (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Do you know why you're losing access to treatment? GIANNI: Tracylove has been the sole provider for her family since her husband died of AIDS 12 years ago, and she now fears the worst for her children.
What do you do for work? How do you make money? GIANNI: But she's not only losing access to her HIV medication, the new policy also limits US funded NGOs' ability to provide condoms as well as other health services, which threatens to increase the spread of the virus.
We're walking with Tracylove through this neighborhood to what she calls her office.
Um, it's where she brings back clients.
GIANNI: What's your plan tonight? (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) GIANNI: The rate of HIV among sex workers is five times the national average, and US funded NGOs have played a crucial role in curbing the spread of the virus.
When did you notice that you first lost access to good condoms? (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) GIANNI: Are you concerned that you're spreading your HIV to your clients? Do you think that many people will die in this community as a result of that? (BOTH SPEAKING)