The Andes
Chapare

Bolivia: regime threatens autonomous Chapare

The new Bolivian regime’s Government Minister Arturo Murillo is threatening a military invasion of the eastern lowland region of Chapare, heartland of support for ousted president Evo Morales, which has become a de facto autonmous zone outside the control of La Paz. Murillo implied to reporters that planned new elections will not proceed until control over Chapare has been re-established. In the aftermath of the November coup, the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba, the cocalero alliance once led by Morales, mobilized to resist the new regime. The region was cut off by cocalero roadblocks, and several National Police statons burned. The roadblocks have since been relaxed, but large areas of the province are without any police presence and effectively independent. (Photo: Ollie Vargas via Twitter)

Syria
Idlib displaced

Syria: thousands flee intensified Idlib offensive

More than 235,000 people have fled from their homes in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province over the past days, as the Assad regime and Russia escalate their campaign of aerial bombardment. A report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs states that Ma’arrat An Nu’man and other towns in the province are now “almost empty,” while internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the extreme northwest of the province are rapidly swelling. “Displacement during winter is further exacerbating the vulnerability of those affected,” the report states. Perversely, the renewed offensive comes days after Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have extended cross-border aid convoys into Idlib from Turkey for another year—essentially condemning many of those not directly killed by the bombs to death by starvation and exposure. (Photo: UNHCR)

gauri lankesh protest 759

2019: INDIA IMPROVES JOURNO-MURDER INDEX

As the year 2019 is approaching the finish line, India appears to have improved its journalist murder index—with authorities counting only two slain in circumstances directly related to their work this year. Reporters Without Borders counts nearly 50 journalists killed for their work worldwide to date this year (compared to 95 in 2018), and India’s share has also gone down considerably—from six last year. However, there were several other cases across India in which it is yet to be confirmed that the victims were targeted for media activities. And with multiple conflicts now escalating around the country, this promises to be a critical question in 2020. Nava Thakuria reports from Guwahati, in India’s strife-torn northeast.

Continue Reading2019: INDIA IMPROVES JOURNO-MURDER INDEX 
Planet Watch
Cumbre de los Pueblos

Madrid climate talks a total bust

Nearly half a million demonstrators gathered in Madrid as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) opened more than two weeks ago, with young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg the star of the show at a mass rally. But despite being the longest climate summit yet, the affair ultimately amounted to little. Nearly 27,000 delegates came together with the supposed aim of finalizing the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement, which is to officially take effect in 2020—settling mechanisms for international cooperation under Article 6 of the deal. But, unable to agree on terms, delegates finally invoked “Rule 16” of the climate process—allowing them to put off the critical decisions for another year. This means there will have been no progress when COP26 is convened in Glasgow in November 2020. UN Secretary General António Guterres tweeted that he was “disappointed” with the results of COP25, and that “the international community lost an important opportunity.” (Photo: Global Justice Ecology Project)

Watching the Shadows

Trump’s EO on anti-Semitism abets anti-Semitism

President Trump’s executive order, ostensibly extending civil rights protections to Jewish students on college campuses, is a masterpiece of propaganda and disguised motives, actually criminalizing opposition to the expropriation of the Palestinians, making a consistent anti-racist position legally impossible—and thereby, paradoxically, abetting anti-Semitism. (Image: frgdr.com)

The Andes
FELCC

‘Anti-terrorist’ militarization in Bolivia

The new Bolivian regime’s Government Minister Arturo Murillo has announced creation of a special “Anti-Terrorist Group” (GAT), drawn from elite units of the National Police force, to “completely disarticulate all the terrorist cells” operating in the country. Murillo made the announcement at a meeting of the National Police Special Anti-Crime Struggle Force (FELCC) in Santa Cruz, where he charged that recent political violence in the country had been instrumented by foreign “terrorist” operatives financed by Venezuela as part of a plan to “destabilize” the countries of South America. He later told reporters that he would seek Israeli security aid for the new anti-terrorist unit. (Photo: La Razón)

Syria
Syria oil map

Trump lays claim to Syrian oil

Before Donald Trump left the London NATO summit in a huff, he made the startling claim at a press conference that the US can do “what we want” with the oil-fields it now controls in northeast Syria. This faux pas, jumped on by the British tabloid press, recalls Trump’s 2016 campaign trail boast of his plans for Syria: “I’ll take the oil”—and turn the seized fields over to Exxon. A military showdown over the oil looms, as all sides to the conflict await the new order that will emerge from the current scramble for northern Syria. A contest between the US and Russian-backed Assadist forces is a terrifying possibility. One restraining factor is that the US holds the fields jointly with Kurdish forces—and Washington, Moscow and Damascus alike are attempting to groom the Kurds as proxies. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

New York City
Rupert River

NYC ‘Green New Deal’ to fund mega-hydro?

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio is aggressively touting his “Green New Deal,” boasting an aim of cutting the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions 40% of 2005 levels by 2030. Centerpiece of the plan is so-called “zero-emission Canadian hydroelectricity.” The city has entered into a deal to explore new power purchases from provincial utility Hydro-Quebec. But this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” (Map: Ottertooth.com)

Mexico
narcotanks

Corporate cannabis targets bleeding Mexico

There is a discomforting sense that Mexico is perpetually on the eve of cannabis legalization, as the country’s Congress wins a six-month extension from the Supreme Court to pass a law freeing the herb. But foreign capital is already eyeing Mexico’s emergent legal cannabis sector—even amid a terrifying escalation in the bloody cartel wars. When authorities attempted to arrest the son of “Chapo” Guzmán in Culiacán, the troops were surrounded by Cartel gunmen riding in trucks mounted with big machine-guns, and even what appeared to be improvised armored vehicles. The younger Guzmán escaped, and the Sinaloa Cartel proved it has the firepower to effectively challenge the state—at least on its home turf. (Photo via The Drive)

The Andes
sutesal

Peru next for regional protest wave?

Weeks after a nationwide uprising in Chile was sparked by protests over transit fare hikes in the capital, politicians in neighboring Peru are issuing nervous warnings in the wake of days of street demonstrations in Lima. This week, students occupied Central Station on Lima’s Metro to demand subsidized transit fares, workers marched to oppose the privatization of the city’s water system, and hundreds protested the pending release of imprisoned right-wing political leader Keiko Fujimori. President Martin Vizcarra took note of the threat of widespread unrest when he told the Annual Conference of Executives that Peru “is not free of protests” and must work to fight corruption and close the wealth gap. But his prescription was for an “authentic” free market—precisely the policies now being protested. (Photo: Diario Uno)

Southern Cone
Salar de Atacama

Chile: lithium interests under pressure by uprising

Chilean company Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), under pressure from the government amid falling prices and rising protests, committed to define by year’s end the destination for lithium from its lease area at the Salar de Maricunga. SQM, one of the world’s top producers, already has a larger lithium mine in production at another area of salt-flats, the Salar de Atacama—but operations there were suspended for several days as campesinos blocked roads to the site as part of the popular uprising in Chile. Leaders of the Consejo de Pueblos Atacameños, representing 18 indigenous communities, pledged to resist any expansion of lithium operations in the area, citing threats to local water sources. (Photo via El Ciudadano)

The Andes
Rafael Quispe

Bolivia: signs of de-escalation following dialogue

Bolivia’s Plurinational Legislative Assembly passed an “Exceptional & Transitional Regime Law” that annus last month’s contested elections and calls for new elections to be held within 120 days—without Evo Morales as a candidate. The pact follows talks mediated by the Catholic Church and the European Union between the new government of interim president Jeanine Añez and leaders of the ousted Morales’ party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), which continues to hold a majority in both houses of the Assembly. As a part of the talks, Morales supporters in the countryside have agreed to dismantle their roadblocks. Rafael Quispe, a traditional Ayamara leader, was also appointed to head Bolivia’s indigenous development agency. (Photo of Rafael Quispe being sworn in via El Pais, Tarija)