Tensions are escalating in Bolivia ahead of the first post-coup elections, which after numerous postponements are now slated for this month. In one incident, a youth meeting of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) in the Manufacturing Complex of the working-class city of El Alto was attacked with tear-gas bombs by unknown assailants, causing an exodus from the cavernous space. Days earlier, MAS supporters in the mining hub of Oruro hurled stones at a vehicle caravan of the right-wing Creemos (We Believe) coalition, forcing it to retreat from their barrio, known as the Mining Helmet for the strength of organized labor there. The protesters shouted “Out, out, out! Oruro must be respected!” (Photo: Bolivia Prensa)
In countries across the world, the impoverished are in a grimly paradoxical position: disproportionately impacted both by COVID-19 and by the police-state measures imposed in response to the pandemic—and consequent economic pain. In Lebanon, which had been in the midst of a national uprising before the lockdown, protests have been re-ignited—and with far greater anger. In Venezuela and Argentina, harshly overcrowded prisons have exploded into uprisings over emergency restrictions that leave inmates incommunicado. As in India, stranded migrant laborers line the highways in Peru, defying lockdown orders that have left them destitute, far from home and without employment. UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet warns that “the public health emergency risks becoming a human rights disaster, with negative effects that will long outlast the pandemic itself.” (Photo: Rebelión)
Mexican authorities announced that an estimated 61,637 people have disappeared amid the country’s drug war. A previous analysis in April 2018 put the figure at just 40,000. The new figure was calculated based on analysis of data from state prosecutors. While the cases analyzed date back as early as the 1960s, more than 97% of the cases have occurred since 2006, when then-president Felipe Calderón began a military crackdown on drug traffickers. More than 5,000 people disappeared last year, according to Karla Quintana, head of Mexico’s National Search Commission. (Photo: WikiMedia)
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)
Human rights groups, together with the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, filed a criminal lawsuit in Argentina, alleging that the government and military of Burma, including State Counsellor (and de facto leader) Aung San Suu Kyi, have committed crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya minority. The complaint includes numerous accounts of mass killings, rapes and torture committed by government forces. The suit was filed with the Argentine federal courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which holds that any country can prosecute for certain grave crimes regardless of whether the crimes were committed within that country’s territory. (Photo: VOA via Jurist)
Bolivia’s government issued a decree cancelling a massive joint lithium project with German multinational ACI Systems Alemania—just days before the ouster of President Evo Morales. The move came in response to protests by residents in the southern department of Potosí, where the lithium-rich salt-flats are located. Potosí governor Juan Carlos Cejas reacted to the cancellation by blaming the protests on “agitators” seeking to undermine development in the region. Plans for lithium exploitation were first announced over a decade ago, but have seen little progress—in large part due to the opposition of local communities, who fear the region’s scarce water resources will be threatened by mining. (Photo: Wikipedia)
An appeals court in Rome sentenced 24 to life in prison, including former senior officials of the military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. The officials were found to have been involved in Operation Condor, under which opponents of military rule were hunted down across South America’s borders in the 1970s and early ’80s. The exact number killed is not known. The case focused on the disappearance of 43 people, including 23 Italian citizens. Prosecutors applied the “universal jurisdiction” precedent from the 1998 arrest in London of Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. They also referenced the 2016 conviction of leaders of Argentina’s military dictatorship, which confirmed the existence of Operation Condor for the first time. (Image via Deep Dives)
Announcement of a joint Chinese-Argentine satellite production company comes amid growing concern within Argentina about activities at the Chinese-operated "spaceport" at Bajada del Agrio in Patagonia—and the apparent role of the People's Liberation Army in the facility. The Bajada del Agrio facility played a part in tracking China's recent lunar probe, but is overseen by companies that answer directly to the PLA's General Armaments Department. Only personnel authorized by Beijing have access to the facility, arousing much suspicion about the site in Argentina's news media. (Photo via InfoBae)
In a perfectly predictable response, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the US of fomenting the latest irruption in the wave of popular protests that has swept the country since the start of the year. Just as predictable was US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's transparently bogus statement of support for the Iranian protesters. Somewhat more surreal was the spectacle of Rudolph Giuliani, addressing a Paris rally staged by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), political wing of the cultish armed opposition group Mujahedin-e-Khalq—once listed as a terrorist organization by both the US and EU. Giuliani of course had to invoke the dreaded "regime change" phrase at the NCRI rally. This kind of US "support" hurts more than it helps, allowing the ayatollahs to more easily portray protesters as pawns, dupes or agents of the West. (Photo: Center for Human Rights in Iran)
The exiled Royal House of the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia elected Prince Frederic Luz as the new monarch—claiming dominion over a large area of Chile in the name of the region's Mapuche indigenous inhabitants. Although now dispersed in Britain and France, the Royal House traces its origin to 1860, when Orélie de Tounens was recognized as king by the Mapuche, on his pledge to help them resist Chilean encroachment on their unceded territory. In the 1870s, the territory was finally taken in a genocidal campaign by the Chilean military. De Tounens returned to Europe and campaigned for international recognition of his exiled government. The Royal House still advocates for the rights and sovereignty of the Mapuche today. (Photo: North American Araucanian Royalist Society via CraigsList Philadelphia)
Protests against austerity and the lords of capital are erupting simultaneously in Iran, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, China, Peru, Honduras, Argentina and Ecuador, recalling the international protest wave of 2011. Such moments open windows of utopian possibility, but those windows inevitably seem to close as protest movements are manipulated by Great Power intrigues or derailed into ethnic or sectarian scapegoating. What can we do to keep the revolutionary flame alive, build solidarity across borders, and resist the exploitation and diversion of protest movements? Bill Weinberg explores this question on Episode One of the long-awaited CounterVortex podcast. You can listen on SoundCloud.
The 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization was held in Buenos Aires, marked by discord within the venue and angry protests in the streets. Inside, talks collapsed, while outside demonstrators clashed with police. The conference came amid ongoing protests against President Mauricio Macri's proposed legislation to take money from workers' pensions to close Argentina's fiscal deficit.