The Caribbean
Otero Alcántara

Cuba releases artist arrested in censorship protest

Cuba released a dissident artist who had been arrested two weeks earlier for taking part in anti-censorship protests last year and placed in “preventive” detention. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was arrested in Havana while on his way to another such event—a “kiss-in” organized by members of the LGBT community to protest the censorship of a gay kiss scene in the 2018 film Love, Simon that was broadcast by the Cuban Institute of Radio & Television. Hundreds of artists and intellectuals signed a petition demanding that the Cuban government release Otero Alcántara. “This attack is not only against Otero Alcántara, but against all of the artistic and intellectual community, and against Cuban civil society in its totality,” reads the petition, started by New York-based artist Coco Fusco and signed by nearly 900 cultural figures, including Cuban artist Tania Bruguera. (Photo via Hyperallergic)

New York City
Essex County jail

ICE detainees in Newark on hunger strike

At least 10 detainees at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, NJ, began a hunger strike and dozens more have agreed to join in, according to detainees, jailhouse advocates and attorneys. They are demanding to be released on bond, possibly with ankle bracelets to track their movements, and some even said they’re ready to be deported. Inside the jail, they have been following news reports on the COVID-19 pandemic, and say they’d rather die on the outside with family than locked in cells. They also say that if loved ones die, they want to be with them rather than hearing the bad news later. Essex County has a multi-million dollar contract with ICE to house detainees awaiting immigration proceedings. (Photo: Gothamist)

Planet Watch
refugees

COVID-19 puts global refugee resettlement on hold

The UN announced that it will pause resettlement travel for refugees, due to concerns and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and its migration agency, IOM, said in a joint statement that they are “taking steps to suspend resettlement departures for refugees.” The statement listed several reasons for the change, including entry bans, flight restrictions, and the concern that “international travel could increase the exposure of refugees to the virus.” (Photo: UNHCR/Ioana Epure)

Africa
South Sudan divisions

Thousands flee clashes in South Sudan

Thousands are fleeing ongoing inter-communal clashes in South Sudan’s Jonglei State and the newly created Greater Pibor Administrative Area—the latest challenge to efforts to cement peace following last month’s formation of a unity government. The UN peacekeeping mission reports that some 5,000 civilians have been displaced amid fighting between Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic militias. Pibor, in the east of the country, is one of two new oil-rich “administrative areas” created by President Salva Kiir as part of the compromise deal with the rebel opposition that cleared the way for the power-sharing government. (Map: Wikipedia)

Syria
Syrian refugee children

From revolution to genocide: Syria’s grim anniversary

Nine years ago this week, the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful pro-democracy protests. The first demonstrations broke out in the city of Deraa after local schoolchildren painted a mural depicting scenes and slogans from the recent revolutions in other Arab countries, and were detained and brutalized by the police. The Bashar Assad regime responded to the demonstrations with serial massacres. After months of this, the Free Syrian Army emerged, initially as a self-defense militia to protect protesters. But the situation soon escalated to an armed insurgency. The regime lost control of areas of the country, and local civil resistance committees backed by the FSA seized control. Assad then escalated to levels of violence rarely seen on Earth since World War II. (Photo of refugee children on Jordanian border: Peter Biro/ECHO via The New Humanitarian)

Mexico
travel ban protest

SCOTUS lets stand ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

Some 60,000 asylum-seekers sent back by the United States to Mexico until their claims can be heard in US courts face a longer wait in Mexican limbo after the US Supreme Court issued an order that allowed a controversial anti-immigration policy to stand. An appeals court in San Francisco had ruled that the policy—officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols, but known as “Remain in Mexico”—was unlawful in the two border states under its jurisdiction: Arizona and California. The new order means asylum-seekers must now pin their hopes on the outcome of an expected formal appeal by the Trump administration—but that might not play out through the courts until early 2021. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Andes
Chapare

Bolivia: regime targets Chapare for eradication

Bolivia’s National Council to Combat Illicit Drug Trafficking (CONALTID) has issued a new strategy paper calling for changes to the country’s General Coca Law that would allow eradication operations throughout the Chapare region in the eastern lowlands. The change would overturn a reform of the law made under Evo Morales that permitted coca cultivation for the legal domestic market throughout most of Chapare. The CONALTID strategy asserts that 91% of Chapare coca production is being diverted to the illicit market. In announcing the policy change, Defense Minister Fernando López issued a stern warning to the inhabitants of the Chapare: “We are not playing, we are ready for anything.” Chapare, a heartland of support for the ousted Morales, has been a de facto autonomous zone outside the control of La Paz since last year’s coup d’etat. (Photo: Página Siete)

Syria
Syria oil map

Great powers jockey for control of Syrian oil

In his talks with Vladimir Putin on their carve-up of northern Syria, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed joint Russian-Turkish control of the oil-fields in Deir ez-Zor province, now under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Wall Street Journal meanwhile reports that the SDF is selling oil from the those fields to the Assad regime. This is certainly an absurd irony, as US forces are backing up the SDF in control of the fields. Further evidence that, rhetoric and even official policy notwithstanding, the US is actually tilting to Assad in the Syrian war. The sales would appear to be another bid by the Kurds to win a separate peace with the Assad regime now that they are caught between foreign powers. The bitter irony is that Assad, ultimately, is also hostile to Kurdish autonomy. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Africa
Jubaland

Somalia clashes escalate regional tensions

Somali troops clashed with forces from the country’s semi-autonomous Jubaland region in a flare-up of violence that is raising tensions with neighboring countries and may play into the hands of the militant group al-Shabab. Tensions have been rising since August, when Jubaland’s incumbent president, Ahmed Madobe, won regional elections that Mogadishu described as “not free and fair.” The central government wanted a loyalist candidate to win, as it seeks greater control over Somalia’s regions ahead of upcoming national elections. Kenya, which has troops deployed as part of an African Union peace enforcement operation, is on the side of Madobe, who it sees as an ally against al-Shabab, while Ethiopia has aligned with Mogadishu. Kenya accused Somali troops of encroaching on its territory and destroying property during the new violence, while the US said that the clashes are a distraction in efforts against al-Shabab. An estimated 56,000 people have been uprooted by the recent fighting. according to the UN. (Map: African Executive)

Europe
Italy prison revolt

Italy: prisons in revolt over COVID-19 restrictions

A total of 12 inmates have been killed in prison riots across Italy, triggered by emergency restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The riots began in response to regulation changes that include the suspension of family visits. Uprisings have been reported at facilities from Bologna in the north to Sicily in the south. At Santa Ana prison, outside Bologna, fires were started and guards taken hostage. Soldiers and Carabinieri surrounded the facility to prevent inmates from escaping. Relatives of the inmates have also staged demonstrations outside the prisons. Protests and riots have been reported at a total of 27 prisons across Italy. (Image: Anarchists Worldwide)

Central Asia
Kyrgyzstan women's march

Women’s Day march attacked in Mexico, Kyrgyzstan

Police in Kyrgyzstan detained dozens of women’s rights activists—shortly after the International Women’s Day march was attacked by masked men. That same day, the women’s march in Mexico City was set upon by anti-abortion protesters, overwhelmingly men, some of whom gave the Nazi salute. There were scuffles between the two groups, and some marchers hurled Molotov cocktails over police lines toward the presidential palace. The following day, tens of thousands of women across Mexico walked off their jobs in protest of the government’s lack of action regarding the ongoing wave of femicide. (Photo via Twitter)

Europe
Lesbos

Grim milestone for the Mediterranean

Refugees have become political pawns in a power play between the EU, Greece and Turkey. Turkey abrogated its deal with the European Union to contain refugees within its borders, as a means of pressuring the EU to support its military campaign in Syria. Dramatic scenes ensued at the land and sea borders between Greece and Turkey: Greek police tear-gassing and pushing back crowds of asylum-seekers at a northern border crossing; the Hellenic Coast Guard firing warning shots at a dinghy full of asylum-seekers in the Aegean Sea; angry protesters preventing another group in a dinghy from disembarking in the port on the island of Lesvos. Amid all this came a timely reminder of what can happen when people feel compelled to attempt ever more dangerous journeys. The UN migration agency, IOM, announced that the drowning of 91 people off the coast of Libya last month and other recent fatalities had taken the toll in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 above 20,000. (Photo: IOM)