From our Daily Report:

The Andes
Playa Cavero

Peru demands Repsol pay in coastal oil spill

Peru’s authorities declared an environmental emergency after announcing that 21 beaches around the Lima area were contaminated by an oil spill at a refinery run by Spanish multinational Repsol, calling it the “worst ecological disaster” in the city’s history. The Environmental Evaluation & Control Organism (OEFA) estimated some 6,000 barrels of crude had spilled—dramatically above the mere seven gallons that Repsol had initially reported to authorities when the disaster occurred days earlier. Some 1,740,000 square meters of coastline and 1,1187,000 square meters of sea have been covered in sludge that has blackened beaches and killed marine life. Peru is demanding compensation from Repsol, accusing the company of trying to cover up the scale of the disaster and not having a contingency plan in place. (Photo: Andina)

Planet Watch
Verizon

Podcast: against ‘normalcy’ III

In Episode 107 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues his rant against the ubiquitous propaganda that normalizes the oppressive and dystopian pre-pandemic normality—or, as it is now incorrectly rendered, “normalcy” (sic). The opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by 2020’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis is now being squandered. The fashionable COVID denialism of the anti-vaxxers is ironically complicit in the actual crimes of the pharmaceutical industry, such as the instating of a “vaccine apartheid“—failing to make the vaccine available to Africa and the much of the Global South. Just at the moment that socialist ideas are being legitimized in mainstream discourse again, the drum-beat for “normalcy” (sic) means less pressure for an urgently mandated public expropriation of corporate cyber-overlords such as Verizon, as well as Big Pharma and Big Oil. Meanwhile, consumerist and technocratic pseudo-solutions, such as the bogus notion of reducing one’s personal “carbon footprint,” obscure the systemic nature of the problem. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: IBEW)

Africa
Apiate

Mining disaster wipes out community in Ghana

A rural community in Ghana’s Western Region was virtually flattened when a truck carrying explosives to a gold mine collided with a motorcycle, setting off a massive blast. Some 40 have been hospitalized, and the official death toll of 17 is expected to rise. The truck, owned by a local mining services company called Maxam, was en route to the Chirano gold mine, operated by Toronto-based Kinross Gold. The explosion left a huge crater and reduced dozens of buildings to dust-covered piles of wood and metal in the community of Apiate, near the city of Bogoso, some 300 kilometers west of the capital Accra. The chief executive of Prestea Huni-Valley municipality told local media “the whole community is gone” after the blast. (Photo: Prestea Huni-Valley Municipal Assembly via Mining.com)

Afghanistan
afghanwomen

Afghanistan: Taliban repress women’s protest

Taliban fighters—now acting as the security forces of the self-declared “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”—used tear-gas to break up a protest by women in Kabul, called under the banner of “Rights and Freedom Now.” The small demonstration in the vicinity of Kabul University especially called attention to two incidents in recent days—the detention of three women activists at a protest in the northern city of Balkh, in Mazar province, who have yet to be released; and the slaying of two young women of the Hazara ethnic minority by Taliban gunmen at a checkpoint in Kabul. In the continuing protests since the Taliban seizure of power, women have been in the vanguard. (Photo: TOLO News)

Mexico
narco-fosa

Mexico approaches 100,000 ‘disappeared’

A year-end report by Mexico’s government registered a figure of 95,000 missing persons nationwide, with an estimated 52,000 unidentified bodies buried in mass graves. The report by the Comisión Nacional de Búsqueda de Personas (National Missing Persons Search Commission) found that the great majority of the disappearances have taken place since 2007, when Mexico began a military crackdown on the drug cartels. Alejandro Encinas, the assistant interior secretary for human rights, said that there are 9,400 unidentified bodies in cold-storage rooms in the country, and pledged to form a National Center for Human Identification tasked with forensic work on these remains. He admitted to a “forensic crisis that has lead to a situation where we don’t have the ability to guarantee the identification of people and return [of remains] to their families.” (Photo via openDemocracy)

Iran
Baktash Abtin

Iran: political prisoners on hunger strike

Six political prisoners began a hunger strike at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison after poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin died of COVID-19 at the facility. Abtin, who expired after being put into an induced coma during temporary transfer to a hospital, had been serving a five-year sentence on the charge of “assembly and collusion against national security.” Ardeshir Zarezadeh, director of the Toronto-based International Centre for Human Rights (ICHR), said in a statement: “The government of Iran must immediately and unconditionally release the political prisoners, and prisoners of conscience, specially due to the serious concern over the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran’s overcrowded jails.” Abtin was the second known political prisoner to die in Iran in the first week of 2022. On New Years Day, writer Kian Adelpour died at Sheiban Prison in Ahvaz province after going on hunger strike a week earlier to protest being imprisoned without a fair trial. (Photo: Center for Human Rights in Iran)

The Caribbean
11J

Cuba: prisoners on hunger strike as mass trials begin

Reports from opposition activists in Cuba indicate that trials are opening in several cities for some 60 who were arrested during last year’s protest wave that began July 11, now popularly known as “11J.” The defendants are said to include at least five minors as young as 16. Those facing charges of “sedition” could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison. More than 620 detainees are ultimately to stand trial over the 11J protests. Ten prisoners in Holguin who were already convicted and face high sentences are reported to have started a hunger strike. Sentences in their cases are expected next month. Trials are also said to be underway in Santa Clara, Mayabeque and Havana. (Photo: Havana Times)

Palestine
bedouin protest

Bedouin land protests rock the Negev

As part of a “forestation” plan, Israel’s Jewish National Fund began clearing cultivated lands at the “unrecognized” Bedouin village of Sawa in the Negev desert, sparking angry protests by the villagers. The protests started as villagers and Bedouin leaders expressed their objections the JNF plan to plant trees on an area of 5,000 dunums (1,250 acres), much of which had been planted with wheat only a few months ago. Things escalated as tractors arrived at the area to begin clearing the fields, and villagers physically resisted. Police detained 18 local youth for throwing stones. Protests continued for the following two days, with the security forces firing rubber-coated bullets, tear-gas and malodorous “skunk water,” causing several injuries. (Photo: WAFA)

Planet Watch
anthropocene

Podcast: against ‘normalcy’ II

In Episode 106 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues his rant against the ubiquitous propaganda that normalizes the oppressive and dystopian pre-pandemic normality—or, as it is now incorrectly rendered, “normalcy” (sic). The opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by 2020’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis is now being squandered. As fossil-fuel prices soar, the Biden administration is continuing a Trump-era policy to aggressively open public lands to coal mining, refusing to return to an Obama-era moratorium on new leases. US greenhouse gas emissions dramatically bounced back in 2021—one of the hottest years on record. The global mean sea level is rapidly rising, and will keep rising for centuries even if the Paris Agreement goals are met, as seems less likely each day. And all this as hospitals remain overwhelmed coast to coast, and the National Guard is being mobilized to keep them functioning. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)

North Africa
libya protest

Migrant protest camp broken up in Libya

More than 600 asylum-seekers and migrants were detained when Libyan security forces cleared a protest encampment in front of an aid center run by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, in the capital city of Tripoli. The protesters—who were asking for protection, and evacuation from Libya—had been camped out since last October, when Libyan security forces violently rounded up more than 5,000 asylum-seekers and migrants, forcing them into notoriously grim detention centers. Before the raid on the protest camp, UNHCR permanently closed the center in Tripoli, leaving thousands without humanitarian assistance. The Norwegian Refugee Council said the most recent arrests were the “culmination of a disastrous situation,” and Médecins Sans Frontières called on the EU to “stop supporting…an unending system of detention, abuse, and violence in Libya.” The EU backs the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepted more than 32,000 asylum-seekers and migrants at sea last year, returning them to detention centers. (Photo: Kaka Fur via InfoMigrants)

South Asia
Nagas

Nagaland: cross-country march against ‘special powers’

Hundreds in India’s conflicted eastern state of Nagaland held a two-day cross-country march to protest the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives the military broad power to use deadly force in areas where it is declared to be in effect. The march swelled to a thousand by the time it reached state capital Kohima. The action was called in response to last month’s massacre of 14 residents in the village of Oting, where army troops fired on what proved to be truck filled with mine workers—not guerillas, as had apparently been suspected. The march was organized by the Naga Mothers’ Association, whose spokesperson Rosemary Dzüvichü accused the Indian government of viewing Nagas as “the other.” She lamented: “We still have this colonial attitude being shown to us.” (Photo: Nagaland Express)

Greater Middle East
ANHRI

Egypt: rights group closes under regime pressure

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), one of Egypt’s last independent human rights organizations, officially closed, citing government pressure. In its statement, ANHRI described political repression and expansion of arrests against human rights defenders, journalists and political activists as reasons for the organization’s closure. The statement was accompanied by a list of attacks that ANHRI members have suffered over recent years, including violent physical assaults and illegal summonses. The group charged that in today’s Egypt there is an “absence of the bare minimum of the rule of law and respect for human rights.” (Image: Facebook via AlBawaba)

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Social Movement

STATEMENT FROM UKRAINIAN SOCIALISTS

As the Russian army masses its forces on the Ukrainian border and  threatens to intervene if the US and NATO do not meet the Kremlin’s demands, Ukrainian socialists call on the international left to condemn the imperialist policies of the Putin government and to show solidarity with the people who will suffer from an escalation the war. In an international call for anti-war solidarity, Ukraine’s democratic-left Social Movement exposes the revival of Russian imperialism, describes the situation in the conflicted Donbas region, and proposes steps to ensure peace.

Continue ReadingSTATEMENT FROM UKRAINIAN SOCIALISTS 
oromo

ON THE ETHIOPIAN CIVIL WAR

In November 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched full-scale war on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which governed Ethiopia’s Tigray regional state. He claimed this was a mere police operation against terrorists, and lied that no troops from the neighboring country of Eritrea were involved. Since then, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have attacked the Tigrayan people as a whole, by looting farms, factories and hospitals, burning crops and food supplies, and raping women. Some 60,000 Tigrayans have fled to Sudan as refugees, and more than two million Ethiopians are now internally displaced. Abiy has used mass starvation as an instrument of war, which has left some 900,000 Tigrayans haunted by famine. Frank Arango of Seattle Workers’ Voice traces the conflict to rival visions of a federal versus unitary state system for Ethiopia over the course of successive regimes, going all the way back to the empire of Haile Selassie. He urges support for the current struggle for a democratic and federalist future for the country, rejecting the new drive for a unitary state under the war criminal Abiy Ahmed.

Continue ReadingON THE ETHIOPIAN CIVIL WAR 
naga

INDIA: OUTCRY AGAINST ‘SPECIAL POWERS’ AFTER NAGALAND MASSACRE

Northeast India’s conflicted state of Nagaland, on the Burmese border, is seeing a mass public outcry against long-standing emergency measures in the wake of an army massacre of civilian mine workers. Army and paramilitary troops laid an “ambush” on a truck on a rural road, opening fire when it failed to stop. Troops apparently believed the truck was carrying a unit of one of the militant groups that have for generations waged an insurgency seeking independence for Nagaland. In fact, the truck was carrying coal miners returning from work. At least 14 were killed. The massacre sparked an immediate upsurge among the villagers of the area, who vented their rage at the security forces. Since the bloody incident, the state has seen continuing protests and strikes demanding repeal of India’s 1958 Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives the military broad power to use deadly force without judicial review. A special report for CounterVortex from reporter Nava Thakuria in Northeast India.

Continue ReadingINDIA: OUTCRY AGAINST ‘SPECIAL POWERS’ AFTER NAGALAND MASSACRE 
Row, NH

‘WHAT MUST BE DONE’ FOR THE PLANET

The regional coalition No Coal No Gas has launched a direct-action campaign to shut down New England’s last coal-burning power plant, Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire. In an October civil disobedience, campaign members planted gardens on company property, including a bed hacked out with pickaxes in the middle of an access road. Rail lines to the plant were occupied, while a flotilla of “kayaktivists” on the Merrimack River blocked the plant’s access to the waterfront. Several were arrested by state police troops in full riot gear. But campaigners have also organized an ongoing utility bill payment strike to pressure local utility Granite Shore Power. Arnie Alpert, a longtime nonviolent action trainer in New Hampshire, provides a first-hand account of this uncompromising grassroots response to the global climate crisis for Waging Nonviolence.

Continue Reading‘WHAT MUST BE DONE’ FOR THE PLANET 
Zurg Xiong

ANTI-ASIAN PERSECUTION IN CALIFORNIA’S CANNABIS COUNTRY

Even as California grapples with its ugly past of discrimination and even pogroms against Asian immigrants and their descendants, a survival of this legacy persists in remote parts of the state. A disturbing escalation is reported in far-north Siskiyou County, where Hmong immigrants from Laos have been getting in on the cannabis economy—sparking a xenophobic backlash. Conservative politicians are making hay of the tensions, even cutting off water to Hmong farms—in a supposed crackdown on unlicensed cannabis cultivation. This finally prompted local Hmong to stand up and protest. This summer, a Hmong evacuee from the region’s wildfires was killed at a police checkpoint on a county road—further enflaming the situation. Bill Weinberg reports for The Progressive.

Continue ReadingANTI-ASIAN PERSECUTION IN CALIFORNIA’S CANNABIS COUNTRY 

THE TRAGEDY OF AHWAZ

The protests in Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan region have won some international media attention. But coverage has not noted that this region, known to its Arab inhabitants as Ahwaz, had for centuries been an independent emirate before its incorporation into Iran in 1925. This annexation was effected through military force, and with the acquiescence of the Great Powers of the day—principally Britain and Russia. With the US and European Union now attempting to revive the nuclear deal with the Tehran regime, it remains to be seen if the Ahwazi people’s re-emerging aspirations to self-determination will again be betrayed. Rahim Hamid, writing for Canada’s Dur Untash Studies Centre, provides an in-depth analysis.

Continue ReadingTHE TRAGEDY OF AHWAZ 
kabul protest

AFGHAN WOMEN WHO ARE SPEAKING OUT

Before the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, some of the country’s loudest voices for peace belonged to women. In southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, for example, “seated demonstrations” demanding an end to the fighting in July drew hundreds of women from different walks of life. Some of those voices have been pushed underground with the Taliban takeover, but they haven’t been silenced. In private chat groups or on social media like Twitter, Afghan women discuss their fears, find support, share reports of what’s happening in the country through the Afghan diaspora, and speak about defending hard-won opportunities for women and girls. Journalist Robyn Huang of The New Humanitarian spoke with Pashtana Durrani and Fahima Rahmati—two Kandahar women who head community organizations, and have chosen to remain in Afghanistan and continue speaking out.

Continue ReadingAFGHAN WOMEN WHO ARE SPEAKING OUT 
huq

WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST CONFRONTS A DIVIDED BANGLADESH

Shireen Huq has never shied away from taking a stand. Huq, founder of the women’s rights organization Naripokkho (meaning Pro-Women or For Women), has been on the front line of feminist causes in Bangladesh since the group was founded in 1983. Today, however, she not only faces the continuing struggle for basic rights and gender equality in Bangladesh, but a host of related crises that are roiling the country. In a telephone interview from Dhaka, she speaks with CounterVortex journalist Andy Heintz on issues ranging from the plight of more than a million Rohingya refugees living in the Cox’s Bazar district, impacts of the military coup in neighboring Burma, and the crackdown on freedom of speech and expression within Bangladesh.

Continue ReadingWOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST CONFRONTS A DIVIDED BANGLADESH 
mexico

MEXICO: WILL CANNABIS DECRIM DE-ESCALATE DRUG WAR?

Two years and counting after Mexico’s Supreme Court ordered the country’s Congress to legalize cannabis, the high court justices ran out of patience with the legislative paralysis and issued a new ruling—this one removing penalties for personal use by judicial decree. But there is no provision for commercial production, and the decree calls for tight federal regulation even of personal cultivation. Will this move prove to be at least a beginning in the daunting challenge of ending Mexico’s long and bloody narco-nightmare? Bill Weinberg takes an in-depth look for Project CBD website.

Continue ReadingMEXICO: WILL CANNABIS DECRIM DE-ESCALATE DRUG WAR? 
Razia Sultana

ROHINGYA FEMINIST SEEKS INTER-ETHNIC UNITY

Nearly four years after the Burmese army’s genocidal attack, more than a million Rohingya remain in overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh. Repatriation efforts have failed, as the Rohingya don’t feel safe returning to their homeland. A large percentage of Rohingya women and girls living in the camps have suffered sexual violence at the hands of the Burmese army, witnessed the death of loved ones, or been victims of domestic violence. Razia Sultana, a Rohingya lawyer and educator, has documented these crimes and is organizing advocacy and empowerment programs for survivors in the camps. In a phone interview with CounterVortex correspondent Andy Heintz, she speaks about the prospects for building unity with Burma’s other persecuted minority peoples—and even with the ethnic Burman majority now also facing harsh repression since this year’s military coup.

Continue ReadingROHINGYA FEMINIST SEEKS INTER-ETHNIC UNITY 
khuzestan

IRAN: A NEW WAVE OF MASS PROTEST

Iran is experiencing another wave of mass protests and strikes as economic, social, political, environmental and health problems make it impossible for the large majority of the population to have the bare minimums needed to live. Protests over a severe water shortage in the mainly ethnic Arab province of Khuseztan have now been joined by wildcat work stoppages in the petrochemical and agricultural sectors. In addition to pressing for the right to independently organize, workers are expressing solidarity with the protests over water, and demanding COVID-19 vaccines. Frieda Afary of Iranian Progressives in Translation argues that any effort to engage in solidarity with the people of Iran means not only calling for the removal of US sanctions but also holding the Iranian regime accountable for its repression and exploitation.

Continue ReadingIRAN: A NEW WAVE OF MASS PROTEST 
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.

Continue ReadingSRI LANKA’S ANIMAL EMBLEMS