Mexico

Butterfly conservationist disappears in Mexico

The State Human Rights Commission in Mexico’s west-central state of Michoacán is exhorting authorities to intensify their search for a campesino ecologist and advocate for protection of the world-famous monarch butterfly habitat, who has “disappeared.” Homero Gómez González went missing one day after he posted a video of himself on Twitter standing amid a swarm of butterflies at their wintering grounds in the Michoacán highlands. He has long served as administrator of Ejido El Rosario, an agrarian community of the Mazahua indigenous people in Ocampo municipality, which overlaps with the UNESCO-recognized Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve. The Michoacán prosecutor’s office says that 53 police officers from the municipalities of Ocampo and Angangueo have been detained in relation to the disappearance. Family members say Gómez González told authorities that he had received threats from local organized crime networks. (Photo: La Voz de Michoacán)

The Andes
Medellin march

Colombia: protests met with repression —again

The protest wave in Colombia was revived with a national mobilization—to be again met with repression from the security forces. Protest organizers explicitly rejected violence, but police and gangs of masked men sabotaged efforts by municipal authorities to maintain the peace in the country’s two biggest cities. In both Bogotá and Medellín, the progressive mayors who defeated President Ivan Duque‘s far-right Democratic Center party in local elections last year had adopted protocols to prevent attacks on peaceful protesters by the feared National Police riot squad, ESMAD. Yet in both cities, clashes erupted, with several injured and scores arrested. In a repeat of a strategy also seen in last November’s protests, police raided the homes of two Bogotá activists the night before the mobilization. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

The Andes
false positives

Colombia: ex-army chief called to trial over killings

The former commander of Colombia’s armed forces, retired general Mario Montoya, has been summoned to appear before a trial to take place under the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) concerning the grisly practice of “false positives”—the killing of thousands of non-combatants in the guise of military operations against the guerillas. Under terms of the JEP, Montoya will receive leniency if he confesses the full truth. However, if he is caught lying or trying to conceal even a portion of the truth, he may be expelled from the transitional justice court and could face a 40-year prison term. Montoya has always maintained his innocence in the “false positives” scandal, but the JEP judicial authorities say this is contradicted by evidence and the testimony of 11 of his former subordinates. (Photo: Contagio Radio)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia: UN protests slaying of rights activists

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the killings of human rights defenders in Colombia last year. The statement said the commission is “deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia during 2019.” The commission asserted that there were between 107 and 120 killings of rights activists in Colombia over the course of the year. It called on the “Colombian Government to make a strenuous effort to prevent attacks on people defending fundamental rights, to investigate each and every case and to prosecute those responsible for these violations, including instigating or aiding and abetting violations.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

CounterVortex

CounterVortex unveils new website

At long last, our new image-heavy mobile-friendly website has been unveiled. Without compromising our characteristic seriousness, comprehension and rigor, we have finally caught up with the smartphone zeitgeist. It was overdue and inevitable, and our developer has generously donated his services pro bono. HOWEVER: Our hosting costs are going up considerably to accommodate this change, effective immediately. Please help us close this gap. So far, six of you have responded to our year-end donation request, for a total of $413. And we salute these six loyal readers! But this is about half of our annual operating costs. And we only ask you for money once a year. So the time is NOW. Please come through for us. In the age of online media, it is critical that you put your money where your reading eyes are, to assure the survival and growth of the voices you support. We’re depending on you. Here’s all the info you need to make a donation, either via check or Paypal.

Africa
Coalition for the Sahel

France prepares more troops for Sahel

At a meeting with leaders of five West African nations, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to send 220 more troops to fight growing militancy in the Sahel. The increase is unlikely to be welcomed by aid groups, which have called for civilians to be prioritized in responses, and criticized the region’s growing militarization. Meeting in the southern French city of Pau, the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger agreed to step up military cooperation, combining their respective forces under a single command structure, to be called the Coalition for the Sahel. (Photo: Wikipedia)

North America

Trump order allowing localities to refuse refugees blocked

Maryland federal judge Peter Messitte blocked the Trump administration’s order permitting state and local governments to prevent refugees from settling in their respective jurisdictions. The order stated that refugees must apply for written consent from their local governments before settling in their areas of choice. It was challenged by three immigration advocacy groups, the Church World Service, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

North America

Trump to divert Pentagon funds for border wall —again

President Trump plans to divert $7.2 billion from the Pentagon to go toward border wall construction this year, a sum five times greater than what Congress authorized in the 2020 budget last month, the Washington Post reported. This marks the second year in a row that Trump has sought to redirect money to the planned border wall from military construction projects and counter-narcotics funding. The administration will take $3.7 billion from military construction and $3.5 billion from counter-narcotics programs, according to figures obtained by the Post, compared to $3.6 billion and $2.5 billion last year, respectively. (Photo via Jurist)

Palestine
Bensouda

ICC prosecutor rejects Bibi’s ‘anti-Semitism’ charge

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court responded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accused her of “pure anti-Semitism” for seeking to investigate possible war crimes committed in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. “This is a particularly regrettable accusation that is without merit,” Fatou Bensouda told the Times of Israel in an interview. “I, along with my office, execute our mandate under the Rome Statute with utmost independence, objectivity, fairness and professional integrity. We will continue to meet our responsibilities as required by the Rome Statute without fear or favor.” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons via +972)

Syria
Syria oil map

Kurds betrayed in new Russo-Turkish alignment?

Moscow hosted the first direct meeting in years between the intelligence chiefs of Turkey and Syria’s Assad regime, supposedly deadly rivals. The head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan met with Ali Mamlouk, head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, a sure sign of a Russian-brokered rapprochement between the burgeoning dictatorship of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the entrenched dictatorship of Bashar Assad. Sources said the discussions included “the possibility of working together against YPG, the terrorist organization PKK’s Syrian component.” This is a reference to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia in northern Syria, which is ideologically aligned with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the banned Kurdish revolutionary organization in Turkish territory. The YPG made a separate peace with the Assad regime to resist the Turkish invasion of Kurdish territory last year. It should come as little surprise that Assad is now considering their betrayal in exchange for some kind of peace with Turkey.  (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Syria
Idlib

Idlib demonstrators revive Syrian revolution

Reviving Friday demonstrations that were a tradition of the Syrian revolution, activists in besieged Idlib province in the north filled the Idlib city center, flying the Free Syria flag, chanting slogans against the Assad regime and Russia, and demanding international action against the ongoing bombardment of the province. The demonstrators especially expressed sympathy and support for the displaced from Maarat al-Nuaman, a town which has come under especially intense bombardment. The Assad regime and Russia launched their bombing campaign in April, violating the “de-escalation” zone deal reached between Russia and Turkey. Since then, some 700,000 people have been forced to flee. (Photo: OrientNet)

Iran
Iran protests

Podcast: solidarity with Iran —the people, not the state

In Episode 46 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the racist imperial narcissism in coverage of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani—all of which (left, right and center) is solely concerned with whether he was responsible for the deaths of “hundreds of Americans.” Safely invisible is the reality that Soleimani and his militia networks were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians. Iranian forces in Syria have been carrying out a campaign of sectarian cleansing, with Shi’ite militia leaders usurping the lands of displaced Sunnis. Soleimani’s militias in Iraq have meanwhile been serially massacring protesters. Over this same period, hundreds of protesters have been killed in state repression in Iran itself. Anti-war forces in the West must not be confused by Trump’s cynical pretense of support for the Iranian protesters. Our opposition to Trump’s war moves must be in explicit solidarity with Iran —meaning the people of Iran, not the state. And that includes solidarity with the struggle of the Iranian people against an oppressive regime. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image: @iranprotest2019)