President Evo Morales announced Aug. 21 that Bolivia has contracted a Boeing 747 "Supertanker" to help extinguish huge forest fires in the Amazon have that have spread over the border from Brazil. The giant air-tanker, capable of carrying up to 19,200 gallons (72,680 liters) of water or fire retardant, was flown from California to Viru Viru International Airport in Bolivia's eastern city of Santa Cruz, on lease from the firm Global Supertanker. Morales has also mobilized army helicopters to evacuate affected communites deep in the rainforest. Some 500,000 hectares of forest are now said to be in flames in Bolivia. (Fire Aviation, TeleSur, Folha de S.Paulo, Aug. 22)
In the coming days, up to four million Muslims in India's northeastern state of Assam could find themselves officially stateless, and facing detention or expulsion from the country. Last year, the Assam state government published a draft National Registry of Citizens. supposedly lisiting all those who legally reside in the territory. Four million people, mostly Muslims who have been living in India for decades, were excluded from the list. Those people have until Aug. 31 to prove their residence in India before a 1971 cut-off point, or they will be deemed illegal. State authorities are rapidly expanding tribunals to determine citizenship status, and planning huge new detention camps for those deemed aliens. Many of those whose citizenship is now being questioned were born in India and have exercized full citizenship rights, such as voting. Rights groups are warning of a "Rohingya-like refugee crisis" in the making. Like the Rohingya of Burma, many Assamese Muslims are considered by authorities to be Bangladeshi citizens—yet this citizenship is not recognized by Bangladesh. (Gzero, SBS News, Indian Muslim Observer)
The Indonesian military and National Police are rushing hundreds of additional troops to the provinces of Papua and West Papua in an attempt to restore order amid a popular uprising in the region. The government has also shut internet access in the two provinces. Thousands of Papuans have taken to the streets in Jayapura, Sorong, Manokwari and other major towns of Indonesia's Papuan territories following a wave of mass arrests, police violence and attacks on Papuan students and activists. The repression was unleashed after an incident in Surabaya, Java, on Aug. 16, the eve of Indonesia's Independence Day, when Papuan students were accused of disrespecting the Indonesian flag. The repression has only sparked a general uprising in the Papuan territories, further fueling demands for independence.
Just after Chinese officials announced that the detention camps for Muslim Uighurs in Xinjing region had been mostly emptied, reports emerge that women in the camps are facing forced sterilization. Dubious claims of the camps' closure were made by Alken Tuniaz, vice chairman for Xinjiang, who told reporters July 30 that "the majority of people who have undergone education and training have returned to society and returned to their families." He used the official characterization of the camps as "education and training" centers, and of their inmates as "students." He added: "Most have already successfully achieved employment. Over 90 percent of the students have returned to society and returned to their families and are living happily." Both he and Shohrat Zakir, party chairman for Xinjiang, refused to say how many people have been held in the camps.
Over the past weeks, the two biggest members of the international coalition supporting the official government of Yemen against the Houthi rebels have fallen out, with Saudi Arabia continuing to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the United Arab Emirates switching its support to southern separatists. Last week, the UAE-backed Security Belt militia, armed wing of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), seized effective control of the port city of Aden after days of fighting with Saudi-backed forces of the official government.
In a communiqué entitled "And We Break the Siege," signed by Insurgent Subcomandander Moisès, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas on Aug. 17 announced an expansion of their zone of autonomous self-governing territory. The statement said the EZLN has created seven new "Caracoles" (regional self-governing bodies) and four new Zapatistas Rebel Autonomous Municipalities (MAREZ). These 11 new bodies add to the five Caracoles and 27 MAREZ already in existence, bringing to 43 the number of self-governing territories within the Zapatista autonomous zone. The new rebel entities are within the "official" municipalities of Ocosingo, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chilón. Tila, Amatenango del Valle, Motozintla and Chicomuselo. The Zapatistas have named their new campaign of expanding their territory in Chiapas "Samir Flores Soberanes," after the indigenous leader who was assassinated in Morelos state this year. (Roar, Excelsior, TeleSur)
A lawsuit brought by a Peruvian farmer and mountain guide against a European utility over the imminently threatening impacts of climate change in the high Andes has been stalled for months in the evidentiary stage, partially due to the lack of an inter-governmental legal assistance agreement between Germany and Peru. Earlier this year, the Higher Regional Court of Hamm, in North Rhine-Westphalia, made a request to the government of Peru to be allowed to inspect the alpine lakes that are the subject of the lawsuit. This is expected to take at least one year to arrange. Meanwhile, signs mount of the glaciers above the lakes becoming destabilized by warming, portending a regional disaster.
Peru's Ministry of Energy & Mines (MINEM) on Aug. 9 officially suspended the license of the giant copper mine planned for Tia Maria, in the agricultural Tambo Valley of Arequipa region. The project had been the focus of years of protest mobilizations by local residents, and a new general strike, dubbed the Paro Macro-Regional, had been declared after MINEM finally issued a construction permit to the project's developer, Southern Copper Corporation, on July 8. In revoking the permit, MINEM implicitly invoked the protests, saying the "spaces for dialogue had not been generated" before the license was granted. Although the suspesion is indefinite, MINEM chief Francisco Ismodes said a review process for the social impacts of the project should take three months. Before the suspension, the Tambo Valley had been girding for a new wave of repression; days earlier, the Public Ministry issued an order allowing the use of military troops against protesters in the area. (AP via SinEmbergo, Aug. 11; Diario Uno, Diario Uno, Aug. 10; Reuters, Aug. 9; Peoples Dispatch, July 23)