From our Daily Report:

Iran
Iran

Iran: ‘Death Committee’ veteran becomes president

Iranians voted in a controlled election, virtually guaranteed to deliver an ultra-conservative president after all other serious contenders were barred from the race. The pre-ordained winner is Ebrahim Raisi, the chief justice, who has been under US sanctions since he oversaw repression in putting down the 2019 protest wave. Amnesty International reacted to Raisi’s election by calling for him to be investigated for “the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture.” Especially at issue is Raisi’s role as a member of the “Death Committee,” a panel of four special jurists that that oversaw the secretive execution of some 3,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
orwell

Podcast: George Orwell’s wartime dilemma

In Episode 76 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses and critiques The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort by Eric Laursen. Orwell and Comfort were divided on the question of Allied bombardment of Germany in World War II—although they both united to support the free-speech rights of anarchist anti-war dissidents. With fascism and genocide again emerging on the world stage, their quarrell sheds light on the contemporary wars in Syria, Libya and elsewhere—and how progressives and especially anarchists in the West should respond. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: The Orwell Archive)

North Africa

Will Biden reverse Trump policy on Western Sahara?

US-led forces are currently carrying out war games in Morocco, the periodic “Afrian Lion” exercises—this year taking place near the disputed region of Western Sahara. Morocco is trumpeting this as a re-affirmation of US recognition of its claim to the territory. The Trump administration last year formally recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for Moroccan diplomatic recognition of Israel as a part of the so-called Abraham Accords. But Spain, the disputed territory’s former colonial ruler, is opposing Morocco’s current push for international recognition of its claim. Just before the war games opened, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya called US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging him to reverse Washington’s recognition of Moroccan rule in Western Sahara. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
Sahel

France announces Sahel drawdown

France is to reduce its forces battling jihadists in the Sahel—a seven-year deployment that has failed to stem the violence, and which has proved increasingly unpopular both in the region and domestically. President Emmanuel Macron said there would be a “profound transformation” of its Operation Barkhane, with France relying more on special forces, air power, and cooperation with allies. France has suffered a recent setback in the Sahel with the death of its close ally, Chadian leader Idriss Déby, and an increasingly complicated relationship with Mali—the focus of Barkhane’s 5,100-strong intervention. Earlier this month, Paris suspended joint military operations with Malian forces after a second coup. Macron has also refused to support moves by some Sahelian countries to open negotiations with jihadists, and has suggested that African partners have not pulled their weight in the counter-insurgency fight—a conflict widely seen as militarily unwinnable. (Map: Wikivoyage)

The Andes
FANB

FARC ‘dissidents’ bring insurgency to Venezuela

So-called “dissident” FARC factions that have refused to accept the Colombian peace accords and taken refuge across the border in Venezuela now appear to be waging a local insurgency against the Nicolás Maduro regime. A group calling itself the Martin Villa 10th Front announced last month that it had captured eight Venezuelan soldiers during a battle in Apure state, near the Colombian border. Venezuela’s National Bolivarian Armed Forces later announced that the soldiers had been freed in a rescue operation. But independent media in Venezuela report that the eight were actually released under terms of a deal negotiated in Cuba. The deal was said to have been brokered with the help of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a second Colombia guerilla group which remains in arms and whose leadership is based in Havana. (Photo of captive soliders being released via FANB)

The Andes
false positives

Colombia: ex-prez apologizes for ‘false positives’

Colombia’s ex-president Juan Manuel Santos, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing an end to the country’s long internal war, publicly apologized for his role in the practice of “false positives“—extrajudicial executions by the armed forces, in which the victims were reported as guerillas slain in combat. The apology came in testimony before Colombia’s Truth Commission, created under the peace process that Santos himself initiated. Santos admitted that most of the “false positives” took place when he served as defense minister under the hardline president Álvaro Uribe, and that he initially turned a blind eye to the practice. (Photo: Contagio Radio)

The Amazon
bloc 58

Peru: indigenous opposition to Chinese gas project

A new coalition of Amazonian indigenous groups and environmentalists has come together in Peru to demand oversight and accountability in the development of a huge new hydrocarbon exploitation bloc in the rainforest. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won exploitation rights in 2017 at Bloc 58, in the Upper Urubamba zone of Cuzco region, after explorations revealed some 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, enough to increase Peru’s total gas reserves by nearly 28%. But Bloc 58 overlaps with the traditional territories of the Asháninka and Machiguenga indigenous peoples. The newly formed Amazon Indigenous Platform for Monitoring Chinese Investment in Peru is demanding that exploitation proceed at Bloc 58 only in compliance with the internationally recognized right to “prior and informed consent” of impacted indigenous peoples. (Photo via Andina)

The Andes
pedro castillo

Peru: Keiko takes page from Trump playbook

One week after Peru’s close and hotly contested presidential run-off election, far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori appears to be taking a tip from the Donald Trump playbook. The official results from the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) give Fujimori 49.8% of the vote, and 50.2% to her left-populist challenger Pedro Castillo. However, the results only become official when they are certified by the National Jury of Elections (JNE)—and Fujimori is calling for some 200,000 votes to be nullified as fraudulent, enough to throw the race in her favor. The JNE initially said it would extend the deadline for filing challenges to votes, which has now passed. However, it quickly reversed this decision in response to a public outcry and accusations by Castillo and his supporters of an attempted “coup d’etat.” (Photo: Diario Uno)

Europe
migrants

UN report blames EU and Libya for migrant deaths

Policy decisions of European Union member states and Libya have caused thousands of deaths along the central Mediterranean migrant route, according to a report from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. At least 2,239 migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe last year. In 2021 alone, at least 632 have died along the route. According to the report, the deaths were not a “tragic anomaly,” and could have been prevented. The lack of human rights protection for migrants during their journey is a consequence of the “concrete policy decisions and practices” of Libyan authorities, the EU, and its member states. (Photo: US Navy via Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
colonial pipeline

Podcast: lessons of the Colonial Pipeline disaster

In Episode 75 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines distorted reportage on the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline by Russian hackers. The disaster illustrates the urgent need for a crash conversion from fossil fuels—but also from digital technology. Signs of hope are seen in the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the recent indigenous-led protests against the Line 3 Pipeline in Minnesota, and the gas bill strike launched by Brooklyn residents to oppose the North Brooklyn Pipeline that would cut through their neighborhoods. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: US Energy Information Administration)

Planet Watch
lakota

Keystone XL pipeline cancelled —struggle continues

Calgary-based TC Energy Corporation (formerly TransCanada) confirmed that it has terminated the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. Construction on the project was suspended following the revocation of its presidential permit in January. The pipeline, which was to transport tar sands oil from western Canada, has been a critical concern in the fight against climate change. It has been especially opposed by Native American peoples whose lands lie along the project’s path. Dallas Goldtooth  of the Indigenous Environmental Network reacted to the announcement on Twitter: “We took on a multi-billion dollar corporation and we won!!” However, Canadian oil exports to the US are still expected to rise to over 4 billion barrels per day in the next years—a fourfold increase over levels in 2004, when Canada surpassed Saudi Arabia as the top US foreign supplier. (Photo of Lakota protest against Keystone pipeline: Victor Puertas/Deep Roots United Front via Intercontinental Cry)

Europe
Srebrenica

Bosnia genocide conviction: Russia cries foul

Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic lost his appeal of a 2017 conviction for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) upheld the life sentence for his role in the killing of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995. The Chamber also upheld his convictions for persecution of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, and terrorizing the population of Sarajevo with a campaign of shelling and sniping during the siege of the city. The Chamber also reaffirmed his acquittal on charges of carrying out genocide in five other Bosnian municipalities in 1992—a disappointment for surviving residents. However, Russia’s Foreign Ministry protested the upholding of the convictions, accusing the The Hague court of “hypocrisy.” (Photo of Srebrenica Genocide Memorial via Wikipedia)

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Featured Stories

Sri Lanka flag

SRI LANKA’S ANIMAL EMBLEMS

Much controversy surrounds use of the flags associated with the Sri Lankan peoples, as they are loaded with ethnic symbolism in a country recovering from a generation-long civil war along ethno-nationalist lines. The flags of concern here all feature big cats as central to their designs—the Sinhalese identifying with the lion and the Tamils with the tiger. The lion adorns both the flag of the Sinhalese people as an ethnicity and the national flag of Sri Lanka. The tiger adorns both the flag of the Tamil people as an ethnicity and that of the Tamil Tiger rebels—which is officially outlawed. Yet neither of these animals can actually be found on the island of Sri Lanka. In a commentary for Jurist, legal scholars Samir Pasha and Naga Kandiah make the case for the indigenous Sri Lankan leopard as a new, neutral symbol for a unified post-civil war nation aspiring to ethnic co-existence and social justice.

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Rohingya

BURMA’S GENOCIDE —THE VIEW FROM BANGLADESH

It has been four years since Burma’s military launched an assault against the country’s Rohingya Muslim population with genocidal intent, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee across the border to Bangladesh. Today, the number of Rohingya living in Bangladesh has climbed to more than a million. Plans by the Bangladeshi government to relocate the refugees from overcrowded camps to an isolated island off the coast have rightly drawn protests from international human rights groups. But it must also be acknowledged that Bangladesh has received all too little aid from the international community to address the refugee crisis in the country’s south. Andy Heintz provides an in-depth look for CounterVortex.

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belarus

ANARCHY IN BELARUS

The former Soviet republic of Belarus exploded into angry protests last August in the wake of contested presidential elections that resulted in a totally implausible landslide victory for long-ruling strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Police, riot squads and army troops unleashed harsh repression, using rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and water-hoses against demonstrators in the capital Minsk and other cities. Since then, protests have been held every weekend. Industrial strikes have spread across the country as sectors of the working class broke from the regime-controlled labor unions to organize independently. Over the past months, tens of thousands have been detained, and hundreds have been subject to torture. Anarchist Black Cross Belarus has been specifically monitoring repression against anarchists and anti-fascists in the ongoing protest wave. One member of the group, known as “Sonya,” spoke with Bill Weinberg in an email interview for the American anarchist journal Fifth Estate.

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Tecun Uman

U.S. MILITARIZING BORDERS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

The Biden Administration recently came to agreements with Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala to increase their border enforcement. These agreements aim to reduce the number of migrants who are able to make their way to the US-Mexico border by extending American border defense thousands of miles south of that border. And they do so in a very American fashion—through deterrence achieved by militarizing borders. Now, the US is outsourcing the militarization to other nations. Legal scholar Kevin Lapp critiques the policy in a commentary for Jurist.

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Haitian_immigrants

BIDEN MUST STOP DEPORTING HAITIANS

While Haiti is facing its worst violence since the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier, the Biden Administration is expelling or deporting thousands of Haitians back to a country in turmoil, where civilians experience brutality at the hands of government and criminal forces. Both immigrant advocates and voices on Capitol Hill are urging the administration to re-designate Haiti for Temporary Protective Status (TPS). The Trump administration declined to redesignate Haiti for TPS, meaning the status granted by the Obama Administration is set to end in October. Meanwhile, Haitians are beng summarily expelled under Title 42 of the Public Health Code, which had been invoked by Trump in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden White House has designated Myanmar and Venezuela for TPS, while continuing to send Haitians back to face state terror. In a commentary for Jurist, Anne Bloomberg calls upon the new president to live up to his promises to protect asylum seekers and refugees.

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burma ethnic protest

ETHNIC MINORITIES AND BURMA’S DEMOCRATIC RESISTANCE

With its February coup d’etat, Burma’s military—known as the Tatmadaw—has unwittingly created a nonviolent resistance that is more diverse and inclusive than any movement in the country’s history. The threat of death, torture or prison has not deterred protesters from continuing to participate in acts of civil disobedience against the military junta. And unlike past protest movements in Burma, this new movement features an alliance between the Burman Buddhist majority and the country’s ethnic minority groups. The Kachin, Karen, Shan and Rohingya have harshly criticized deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for acquiescing in the Tatmadaw’s genocidal campaigns of repression, counter-insurgency and ethnic cleansing. But these ethnic minorities and pro-democracy protesters from the ethnic Burman majority now perceive that they have a common enemy in the new military dictatorship. Journalist Andy Heintz explores the question in a special for CounterVortex.

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Burma protest

BURMA: A NEW DEMOCRATIC UPRISING

Burma is once again in the international headlines, as the Southeast Asian nation has lost another opportunity to sustain its credibility as a multi-party democracy. A one-year state of emergency and period of military rule were announced in the early hours of February 1, when the generals again seized power. Many newly elected lawmakers were detained just hours before Parliament was to convene its fresh session. But over a hundred thousand Burmese citizens have taken to the streets across the country in the days since then, demanding restoration of democratic rule and release of all detained political leaders. The spontaneous demonstrations bring back memories of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, which paved the way for the democratic transition four years later. The coming weeks and even days will be critical in determining whether Burma will face another dark period of military rule—or if the country’s new democratic uprising will meet with effective international solidarity. CounterVortex correspondent Nava Thakuria, across the border in northeast India, reports.

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Capitol

INVOKE INTER-AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC CHARTER FOR U.S.A.

Americans were shocked by the storming of the US Capitol by the right-wing mobs and militia. Some commentators now refer to the country as a “banana republic”—a derogatory term for Central American states with histories of unstable government. But Latin Americans, with greater such experience, can more easily recognize anti-democratic behavior and its dangers—and have been at the forefront in taking multilateral and region-wide action to promote and protect democracy. The Western hemisphere has, in fact, designed a process to collectively defend against threats to democracy like that now faced by the US: the Inter-American Democratic Charter. It has been invoked twice before—in Haiti and Venezuela. In a commentary for Jurist, international law scholars Henry “Chip” Carey and Jennifer McCoy make the case for its invocation in the United States.

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Nagaraj

JOURNO-MURDER SURGE IN INDIA

In an industry already hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s media this year also saw an alarming increase in the slaying of journalists. As 2020 approaches its end, India emerges as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for working journalists—second only to Mexico. While Mexico has seen 12 journo-murders this year, the world’s largest democracy has registered 12. Local journalists reporting on land-grabbing and illegal resource exploitation have been especially targeted. Writing from Assam in India’s conflicted northeast, Nava Thakuria provides an overview of the grim national toll.

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hibakusha

HIBAKUSHA ‘STILL CANNOT GET OVER IT’

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will finally come into force after the 50th country, Honduras, ratified it in October. The treaty will make the development, testing, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons illegal for those countries that have signed on. None of the nine countries that currently have nuclear arms are signatories, and some have vocally opposed the treaty—especially the United States. Nonetheless, this is an extraordinary achievement for those that have suffered the most from these weapons—including the hibakusha (survivors) of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who have been some of the most strident campaigners against the use of these weapons. Writing for The Conversation, Gwyn McClelland, a researcher collecting the oral histories of atomic bomb survivors, discusses the role of the hibakusha in the campaign for the nuclear weapons ban.

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Shinmin Prefecture

ANARCHIST COMMUNE MANCHURIA

By the official version of history, World War II started in Poland in 1939, but cases can also be made that it really began in Austria in 1938, Spain in 1936, Abyssinia in 1935—or Manchuria in 1931. However, it is nearly forgotten that the Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria that year was partially aimed at crushing a self-governing anarchist “autonomous prefecture” that had been established in the region by exiles from Korea, which had been occupied and annexed by the Japanese Empire in 1910. This anarchist commune, dubbed Shinmin Prefecture, was an inspiring model of autonomy and resistance, akin to the Spanish Revolution of 1936, the Makhnovtchina of 1918 in Ukraine, and the Magonista Revolution of Baja California in 1911—but is considerably more obscure to contemporary historians. Francesco Dalessandro explores this critical episode for the anarchist journal Fifth Estate.

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It Can't Happen Here

TWO FACES OF FASCISM

In his latest contribution to the anarchist journal Fifth Estate, Bill Weinberg explores the twin threats of a totalitarian order that the United States faces at this history-making moment: Trump-fascism, perhaps to be lubricated by a “Reichstag Fire” scenario ahead of the November election, and a post-pandemic “new normality” of complete surveillance and social control. Eerily predictive of these twin dystopias are two works of “future fiction” from the 20th century—It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis and The Machine Stops by EM Forster. With the Black Lives Matter uprising deepening the ugly backlash from the Trump camp and a COVID-19 “second wave” looming, the US is poised on a razor’s edge between long-overdue leaps of social progress and descent into some kind of updated American variant of fascism.

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