International outrage over the mounting wave of executions in Iran reached another milestone Aug, 27, when 12 drug convicts were hanged at Karaj Central Prison outside Tehran. Days earlier, when the 12 were transferred to solitary confinement at the facility in preperation for the executions, the United Nations issued an urgent plea. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, called on the Islamic Republic to stay the executions immediately. After they were carried out, Shaheed's response was harsh.
Business and transportation across much of Colombia's eastern plains and mountains were paralyzed this week in an "armed strike" called by the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerillas. Roads were blocked and commerce ordered suspended by the guerillas starting Sept. 12 in the departments of Arauca, Vichada, Norte de Santander and Casanare. Most affected was Arauca, where vehicles were burned at guerilla roadblocks and authorities suspended school classes. The paro armado was officially lifted after four days, but the ELN has threaetened to resume the strike and expand it to other departments. A recent increase in ELN violence is seen as a guerrila strategy to increase the group's leverage in peace negotiations with the administrations with President Juan Manuel Santos. The talks were announced in 2014, just before Santos' re-election, but have yet failed to enter the formal stage. (Caracol Radio, Sept. 14; Semana, Colombia Reports, Sept. 12)
In a public ceremony in Bogotá, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos asked forgiveness for the state's role in the systematic killings of leftist activists in the 1980s. The ceremony at the presidential palace Sept. 15 was attended by surviving members of the Patriotic Union, some wearing shirts in the yellow colors of the recently reorganized party, with the slogan "They can cut the flowers, but they can't stop the birth of spring." Some 3,000 members of the short-lived political party were slain by right-wing paramilitary forces in what has been termed a "political genocide." Said Santos in his remarks at the ceremony: "This tragedy should have never occurred. The persecution of members of the Patriotic Union was a tragedy that led to its disappearance as an organization and caused untold damage to thousands of families and our democracy." (AP, Sept. 16)
Leaders of a peasant community in San Martín municipality of Colombia's Cesar department say they have been threatened with legal action by oil giant ConocoPhillips for blocking roads to prevent development of a fracking site. Carlos Andrés Santiago of activist group Corporation in Defense of Water, Territory and Ecosystems (CORDATEC) said Sept. 14 that he had received threats of legal action and also of violence against his person by anonymous parties claiming to speak on behalf of ConocoPhillips. CORDATEC activists and members of Cuatro Bocas corregimiento (rural district) have been maintaining their road blockade since Sept. 7 to bar work crews from reaching the PicoPlata1 oil well. Cuatro Bocas resident say the well was permitted on their lands by the National Hydrocarbon Agency (ANH) without their consultation. Several such blockades of fracking sites are also underway in Caquetá department, despite repeated attacks by the ESMAD elite anti-riot force. (Semana, Contagio Radio, Sept. 14; Prensa Rural, Sept. 11; Contagio Radio, Sept. 5)
A hacienda owner in Colombia's Cauca region is demanding payment for damages to his property after indigenous protesters clashed there with security forces Aug. 29. Álvaro Saa, owner of Hacienda García Arriba in Corinto municipality, says 25 million pesos (approx. $8,500) in damages to his sugar cane crop and farm equipment were sustained in the invasion of his property. Leaders of the "Liberate Mother Earth" campaign, who seek to recover traditional indigenous lands in Cauca, say the occupation of the hacienda began peaecfully and only turned violent when protesters were attacked by the ESMAD elite National Police anti-riot force. They pledged to maintain the land recovery campaign, and charged that Colombia's National Police are serving as "a private force in favor of the multinationals." (El Tiempo, Bogotá, El País, Cali, Aug. 31; ACIN, Aug. 29 )
With the Rio de Janeiro Olympics over, the world media are moving on—but the city's poor favela dwellers are left to contend with a wave of murderous police terror. This was launched a year ago as part of an effort to pacify and sanitize the sprawling megalopolis for the Games. Amnesty International reports that over 100 people have been killed by police in Rio de Janeiro state so far this year—the big majority young Black men. A total of 307 were killed by police in the state in 2015. At least eight people in Rio were actually killed by police during the Games—to little media coverage. The clean-up operation was, of course, disguised as a crackdown on drugs and crime. The inevitable rationale was provided by the narco economy in the favelas—informal urban settlements virtually abandoned by the government for anything other than militarized law enforcement.
Bill Weinberg rants about the current left-right convergence, and how the politics of the Hitler-Stalin Pact are being revived in the age of Trump and Putin. The recent appearance at the "progressive" (sic) Brooklyn Commons of a neo-Nazi-cohort-turned-9-11-conspiracy-guru exemplifies the "Red-Brown" politics of the contemporary "left"—also seen in the nearly universal position in favor of the genocidal dictatorship in Syria.
Forces led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, loyal to Libya's eastern government, launched an attack Sept. 10 on three ports held by Petroleum Facilities Guard troops, loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA). The attack on terminals in Libya's "oil crescent" is the first armed conflict between the eastern government and the UN-recognized GNA, based in Tripoli. A spokesman for Haftar's forces said the offensive, dubbed "Surprise Lightening," has taken control of the Sidra and Ras Lanouf oil terminals, with fighting continuing for the facilities at Brega and Zuwetina. (MarketWatch, Libya Observer, Sept. 11)