Planet Watch

Oil prices surge: vindication is tedious

We've been told for the past several years now that the depressed oil prices were permanent, thanks to fracking and the surge in US domestic production. Now prices are rising again, due to a convergence of crises in major producers: escalating tensions among the Gulf states, labor unrest in Nigeria, deepening instability in Venezuela. The US was able to contain the price spike after the ISIS irruption in 2014 by boosting its own production. This trick isn't going to work forever.


Mega-Dam Project Now a Site of Heightened Conflict in Post-War Colombia

by Jeff Abbott, Toward Freedom

Colombia’s 52-year-long war came to an end in September 2016, when the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed the historic peace accords. The peace process has been slow, and the newly signed accords have faced steep challenges in being implemented. Colombia’s left has now confronted new threats, including targeted assassinations by paramilitaries, and criminalization for defense of land and the environment.

The 400-megawatt El Quimbo dam sits on the Magdalena River, in the southern province of Huila. Construction began in 2010, but the plans date back to 1995, when companies began to look upon the region as an area for development. The dam is owned by Italian energy giant Enel, but it was constructed with investments made from Spanish company Emgesa and Colombia energy company Energía Bogotá. It is the first privately funded hydro development project in the country.

The project came online in December 2014. Today, communities are demanding the closure of the dam due to the impacts on the region.


Chiapas: thousands flee new paramilitary violence

An estimated 5,000 Tzotzil Maya peasants have been forced to flee their homes in the municipality of Chalchihuitán, in Mexico's southern Chiapas state, facing threats by armed men in a land dispute with the neighboring municipality of Chenalhó. The local Catholic diocese said that an "atmosphere of terror" prevails in the area, and warned of a repeat of the 1997 Acteal massacre, when 45 were killed by paramilitary gunmen in a hamlet of Chenalhó.


UN rights chief against Mexico security legislation

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned that Mexico's proposed security legislation will contribute to the atmosphere of impunity in the country. The Law on Internal Security, approved by the Chamber of Deputies last month and now before the Senate, would would allow place police officers to be placed under the command of the armed forces.

Southern Cone

Argentina: 48 ex-officers sentenced in ‘dirty war’

An Argentine judicial panel sentenced 29 former officials to life in prison, and 19 to between 8-25 years for murder and torture during the military junta's 1976-1983 "Dirty War." The sentencing concluded a five-year trial and represented Argentina's largest verdict to date for crimes against humanity. Collectively, the 48 defendants were charged with the deaths of 789 victims. The crimes were mostly committed at the notorious Higher Naval Mechanics School (ESMA).