The Andes
cartel de los soles

Venezuela: does the ‘Cartel of the Suns’ exist?

In a rare move, the US Department of Justice issued an indictment against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, charging him and 14 officials with narco-terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and other crimes. The DoJ alleges that Maduro conspired with Colombia’s FARC guerrilla army prior to becoming the president, and continued to do after assuming power. The indictment charges that this nexus has congealed under the name “Cartel of the Suns,” and that Maduro continues to collude with dissident factions of the FARC that remain in arms despite the Colombian peace accords. Attorney General William Barr said the aim of the conspiracy is “to flood the United States with cocaine.” (Image: DoJ)

Syria
Syria prisoners

Demand urgent action to protect Syrian detainees

The Syrian regime has announced the first case of COVID-19 in the country after weeks of denial, and advocates in the diaspora believe the real number of cases is likely higher. The UK-based Syria Campaign writes that an outbreak in Syria could mean “horror beyond imagination.” Thousands of displaced families living in overcrowded camps cannot self-isolate. Health infrastructures in the country have collapsed due to the systematic targeting of hospitals by the regime and Russia. Especially vulnerable are the nearly 100,000 detainees and forcibly disappeared, many of whom are held in cramped underground centers where they are exposed to horrific conditions including torture and deprivation of proper food, water, hygiene, and medical care. These cells are already perfect breeding grounds for viruses and illnesses, and if coronavirus spreads containment will be impossible. (Photo of hunger strikers at Syrian prison via Foreign Policy. Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

North America
Central Processing at McAllen Border Patrol facility

Demand detainee release amid COVID-19 outbreak

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) calling for the immediate release of at-risk immigrant detainees in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. The suit was brought on behalf of 13 immigrants that are currently held in California detention centers. The suit calls for the immediate release of these immigrants due to their “advanced age and underlying medical conditions” that make them “especially vulnerable to the potentially fatal COVID-19 infection while they are confined in crowded and unsanitary conditions where social distancing is not possible.” (Photo: US Customs and Border Control via Jurist)

Planet Watch
Aleppo ruins

UN calls for ‘global ceasefire’ in response to COVID-19

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is calling for warring parties across the world to lay down arms in support of the battle against COVID-19. “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” he said. “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives… Silence the guns, stop the artillery, end the air-strikes. It is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, to bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.” (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

North America
DoJ

DoJ seeks new powers during COVID-19 outbreak

The Department of Justice has called on Congress to grant the US Attorney General emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal would allow federal judges to pause court proceedings, giving them the ability to detain people indefinitely without trial. Critics such as Norman L. Reimer, director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, are raising concerns over violation of habeas corpus rights. Reimer said the proposal “means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency is over. I find it absolutely terrifying.” (Photo via Jurist)

North America
refinery

Will COVID-19 mean oil industry bailout?

Already depressed oil prices are now plummeting in response to COVID-19 pandemic. Global oil consumption is said to be in “free-fall,” now predicted to lead to the largest “annual contraction in history.” Canada’s federal government is preparing a bailout package for the oil and gas sector, with a possible value of $15 billion. Among the proposals is a share buyout along the lines of the US Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) for banks and automotive companies during the 2008 financial crisis. (Photo: kris krüg)

New York City
Essex County jail

ICE detainees in Newark on hunger strike

At least 10 detainees at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, NJ, began a hunger strike and dozens more have agreed to join in, according to detainees, jailhouse advocates and attorneys. They are demanding to be released on bond, possibly with ankle bracelets to track their movements, and some even said they’re ready to be deported. Inside the jail, they have been following news reports on the COVID-19 pandemic, and say they’d rather die on the outside with family than locked in cells. They also say that if loved ones die, they want to be with them rather than hearing the bad news later. Essex County has a multi-million dollar contract with ICE to house detainees awaiting immigration proceedings. (Photo: Gothamist)

Planet Watch
refugees

COVID-19 puts global refugee resettlement on hold

The UN announced that it will pause resettlement travel for refugees, due to concerns and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and its migration agency, IOM, said in a joint statement that they are “taking steps to suspend resettlement departures for refugees.” The statement listed several reasons for the change, including entry bans, flight restrictions, and the concern that “international travel could increase the exposure of refugees to the virus.” (Photo: UNHCR/Ioana Epure)

Europe
Italy prison revolt

Italy: prisons in revolt over COVID-19 restrictions

A total of 12 inmates have been killed in prison riots across Italy, triggered by emergency restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The riots began in response to regulation changes that include the suspension of family visits. Uprisings have been reported at facilities from Bologna in the north to Sicily in the south. At Santa Ana prison, outside Bologna, fires were started and guards taken hostage. Soldiers and Carabinieri surrounded the facility to prevent inmates from escaping. Relatives of the inmates have also staged demonstrations outside the prisons. Protests and riots have been reported at a total of 27 prisons across Italy. (Image: Anarchists Worldwide)

Europe
Lesbos

Grim milestone for the Mediterranean

Refugees have become political pawns in a power play between the EU, Greece and Turkey. Turkey abrogated its deal with the European Union to contain refugees within its borders, as a means of pressuring the EU to support its military campaign in Syria. Dramatic scenes ensued at the land and sea borders between Greece and Turkey: Greek police tear-gassing and pushing back crowds of asylum-seekers at a northern border crossing; the Hellenic Coast Guard firing warning shots at a dinghy full of asylum-seekers in the Aegean Sea; angry protesters preventing another group in a dinghy from disembarking in the port on the island of Lesvos. Amid all this came a timely reminder of what can happen when people feel compelled to attempt ever more dangerous journeys. The UN migration agency, IOM, announced that the drowning of 91 people off the coast of Libya last month and other recent fatalities had taken the toll in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 above 20,000. (Photo: IOM)

Watching the Shadows
Coronavirus

Podcast: COVID-19 and impending bio-fascism

In Episode 49 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the grim political implications of the COVID-19 outbreak and resultant hysteria. Even before the outbreak, China had detained perhaps upwards of a million ethnic Uighurs in concentration camps as a “counter-terrorist” measure. Under emergency measures imposed in response to the outbreak, a staggering half-billion people have been placed under lockdown in Hubei and surrounding provinces. Italy has now just imposed a similar lock-down, affecting 16 million people in the country’s north. Here in the United States, where Trump is building an incipient concentration camp system for detained migrants, the White House has thus far been trying to downplay the COVID-19 threat—as Xi Jinping did before the depth of the crisis became inescapable. If such a point is reached here as well, the posture of the Trump administration could change fast—with potential for sweeping lockdowns, mass internment of targeted populations, and even exploitation of the crisis as a “Reichstag Fire” to throw or suspend the 2020 elections. The coronavirus hysteria could be a terrifying advance for the global detention state, and progressives must urgently formulate a response. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Chinese police demonstration video, via Twitter)

East Asia
wenzhou

China: internal resistance to bio-police state

“Citizen journalists” and “netizens” in China who are critical of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak are being “disappeared”—but online criticism is spreading faster than official censors can contain it, in by far the biggest eruption of dissent under Xi Jinping’s rule. At least one city, Wenzhou, has seen a street protest over the draconian controls the government is instating, in open defiance of the lock-down. Even voices from within China’s political establishment are saying this could be the biggest challenge to the regime’s legitimacy since 1989. (Image via YouTube)