The Caribbean
Otero Alcántara

Cuba: dissident artists get prison terms

The Popular Municipal Court of Central Havana sentenced artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántaraand Maykel Castillo PĂ©rez to five and nine years in prison, respectively. Activist artist Otero Alcántara was sentenced for contempt, public disorder, and “insulting symbols of the homeland”—a reference to his public performances involving the Cuban flag. Rapper Maykel Castillo was found guilty of contempt, public disorder, and “defamation of institutions, heroes and martyrs.” The latter charge relates to a meme Castillo posted on social media last year criticizing Communist Party leaders. Amnesty International accused the Cuban government of “using the judicial system to criminalize critical voices.” (Photo: Hyperallergic)

The Caribbean
cuba

Cuba approves harsh new penal code

The National Assembly of People’s Power, Cuba’s parliament, approved a new penal code as part of judicial reforms initiated after the enactment of a new constitution in April 2019. The new code reinforces sanctions for corruption, but also tightly controls unauthorized contacts with foreign organizations and individuals, and explicitly bans foreign financing of civic activities. Under the new code, those who give information to international organizations or individuals who have not been authorized by the government, face severe penalties. These include up to 30 years imprisonment and, in some cases, the death penalty. Human rights groups criticized the new legislation, warning it could have “catastrophic effects.” Ana Cristina Núñez, senior researcher for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said, “In a country where private media is illegal and journalists have no possibility of obtaining local funding, prohibiting foreign funding is a death sentence to independent journalism.” (Photo: Pixabay via Jurist)

Central America
Archipelago of San Andrés

Win for Nicaragua in maritime dispute with Colombia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague ruled that Colombia must end its “interference” in parts of the Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua, and bring under control fishing and other activities in the zone. This culminates a long conflict between Nicaragua and Colombia. In two rulings in 2007 and 2012, the ICJ recognized the sovereignty of Colombia in the islands constituting the Archipelago of San AndrĂ©s. However, the rulings also recognized the jurisdiction of Nicaragua in the surrounding waters. Colombia continued its activities in those waters, prompting Nicaragua to file a new complaint with the Court in 2013. Colombia argued that its actions were necessary to fight drug trafficking and secure environmental protection of the waters. In its new ruling, the ICJ found that these waters are within the exclusive economic zone of Nicaragua, and the “intervention” of another state is contrary to international law. (Map: Wikipedia)

Europe
suriname

Dutch citizen detained in Suriname war crimes case

A Netherlands court set aside a bid for amnesty and ruled to continue the pre-trial detention of a Dutch ex-army member suspected of war crimes, including the murder of civilians, during Suriname’s internal war. The 55-year-old Suriname-born Dutchman was arrested in Amsterdam on the basis of an investigation indicating that he murdered several Surinamese civilians in 1987. The Surinamese Interior War was a conflict waged in the inland rainforest of the South American nation and former Dutch colony between 1986 and 1992. During the war, the Surinamese National Army fought the Jungle Commando guerillas, killing hundreds of civilians and displacing thousands. The Jungle Commando won a base of support among the interior’s Maroon population, giving an ethnic cast to the conflict. (Map: University of Texas)

The Caribbean
11J

Cuba: prisoners on hunger strike as mass trials begin

Reports from opposition activists in Cuba indicate that trials are opening in several cities for some 60 who were arrested during last year’s protest wave that began July 11, now popularly known as “11J.” The defendants are said to include at least five minors as young as 16. Those facing charges of “sedition” could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison. More than 620 detainees are ultimately to stand trial over the 11J protests. Ten prisoners in Holguin who were already convicted and face high sentences are reported to have started a hunger strike. Sentences in their cases are expected next month. Trials are also said to be underway in Santa Clara, Mayabeque and Havana. (Photo: Havana Times)

The Amazon
Guiana shield

French troops hunt outlaw miners in Guiana

France has dispatched hundreds of army troops to the overseas territory of French Guiana, to hunt down outlaw gold miners who have destroyed thousands of hectares of rainforest along the Maroni River. But apprehending the garimpeiros is nearly impossible; they abandon their camps and dredges and melt into the jungle as the troops approach. Some 9,000 illegal miners are believed to be operating at around 150 sites across the territory—up from little more than 100 a decade ago. The garimpeiros, however, are the smallest links in a chain, paid a pittance—while the dealers they sell the gold to race up and down the river in speedboats. “We’re only catching the little guys,” admitted French Guiana’s public prosecutor Samuel Finielz. (Map of Guiana Shield: WikimediaCommons)

The Caribbean
Osorbo

Imprisoned Cuban rapper on hunger strike

Supporters of imprisoned Cuban rap artist Maykel Castillo, better known by his stage name “El Osorbo,” warn that his life is in danger one week into a hunger strike, and that he has been removed to a “punishment cell” where he is being held incommunicado. Castillo is a leader of the San Isidro Movement, a collective of Cuban dissident artists and intellectuals, and co-author of the viral song “Patria y Vida,” which became an anthem of the protest wave across the island in July. He has been repeatedly arrested since 2015, including for protesting the controversial Decree 349, which places restrictions on artistic expression. He has been held at the maximum-security Pinar del RĂ­o prison since his May arrest for the vague crimes of “resistance” and “contempt.” He launched his total hunger and thirst strike in protest of his own detention and the crackdown on freedom of expression in Cuba. (Image: FreeMuse)

The Caribbean
Habana

Cuba: pre-emptive repression stifles protests

Plainclothes State Security in Havana pre-emptively shut down a “Civic March” that had been called by opposition networks. In addition to heavy deployment in the parks and squares, armed agents were stationed on rooftops around the iconic Capitolio building. What opposition website 14ymedio called pro-regime “vigilante groups” also gathered on street corners. According to independent human rights organization CubaLex, police arrested 11 people, while some 50 identified as key organizers were effectively “besieged” in their homes to forestall any public gathering. Those arrested had apparently attempted to gather in defiance of the security measures. A small group of youth was detained on the Paseo del Prado while shouting “Patria y Libertad“, slogan of the protest wave that shook Cuba in July. (Photo: 14ymedio)

The Caribbean
haiti-quake-rubble

Haiti: gang warfare hinders earthquake recovery

More than 500,000 are in need of emergency assistance in Haiti’s southern peninsula, where a 7.2-magnitude earthquake has killed more than 2,100 people and injured more than 12,200. Aid and medical efforts are hampered by debris-strewn roads, rain from Tropical Storm Grace, a shortage of working hospitals, and gang violence. A hospital in Port-au-Prince was closed by a two-day shutdown to protest the kidnapping of two doctors. Violent gangs patrol many of the country’s transport routes. The southern peninsula has yet to recover from Hurricane Matthew, which killed hundreds in 2016. Prime Minister Ariel Henryhas promised to speed up aid efforts—more than 30,000 families are displaced, and there are fears of cholera due to lack of safe water, sanitation, and shelter. (Photo: Evens Mary/The New Humanitarian)

The Caribbean
Havana

Podcast: how do we respond to the Cuba protests?

In Episode 80 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the actual politics of the Cuban protests—and how much of the response by supposedly progressive forces in the United States has been highly problematic. While opposing the embargo, and the inevitable attempts by US imperialism to exploit and co-opt the protests, we must guard against words and actions that abet the repression. Hundreds have been detained and at least one person killed as the protests have been put down by security forces. By uncritically rallying around the regime and portraying the protests as CIA astroturf, we not only make ourselves complicit with rights abuses—we help bring about exactly what we fear, showing the protesters that their only allies in the US are on the political right. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Mal Salvaje)

The Caribbean
Capitolio

Mass protests break out across Cuba

Seemingly spontaneous protests broke out in Cuba, with demonstrations reported across the island—from Pinar del RĂ­o in the west to Santiago in the east. In Havana, hundreds gathered along the MalecĂłn seawall, which was the scene of a brief uprising known as the Maleconazoin August 1994, amid the economic agony of the “Special Period.” The demonstrators later marched on the iconic Capitolio building. Slogans included “Freedom,” “Down with the dictatorship,” “We are not afraid,” “Homeland and life” (a reference to the official slogan “Homeland or death“), and “DĂ­az-Canel singao [jerk, asshole],” a reference to President Miguel DĂ­az-Canel. (Photo: Marcos Evora via Havana Times)

The Caribbean
Cherizier

Haiti: president killed amid paramilitary strife

An apparent squad of mercenaries, arriving in nine brand-new Nissan Patrol vehicles, staged a night raid on the home of Haiti’s President Jovenel MoĂŻse in the upscale Port-au-Prince suburb of Pèlerin, and shot him dead. His wife, Martine, was also gravely wounded. The seemingly professional hit job followed weeks of rapidly rising violence in Port-au-Prince. Days earlier, three gunmen on motorcycles killed 15 people in the Delmas 32 area. Shortly later, gunmen believed to be from the same group carried out the targeted assassinations of women’s rights activist Marie Antoinette “Netty” Duclaire and radio journalist Diego Charles, in the Christ-Roi neighborhood. A year-long truce between the city’s gangs was broken in early June, setting off neighborhood battles across the capital. (Photo: Haiti Liberte)