The United States government further complicated the future of peace in Colombia by adding Cuba to its list of countries that do not cooperate with counter-terrorist efforts. The State Department cited Havana’s failure to extradite leaders of the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s last active guerilla group. Colombia requested extradition of the ELN leaders after the group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a Bogotá police academy last year. Havana responded that the ELN leaders had been brought to Cuba for peace talks with the Colombian government, and that it was obliged to honor terms protecting them from arrest. Colombia’s government broke off the talks after the Bogotá blast; civil society groups in Colombia have since been urging both sides to return to the table. (Photo: Colombia Reports)
On Cuba’s farms, oxen are again tilling the soil as tractors are paralyzed by oil shortages. President Miguel Díaz-Canel has imposed fuel rationing, among other emergency energy-saving measures and price controls on food. As in the “special period” a generation ago, Cubans must line up for gasoline and public transport. The island has been running on just 30% of petroleum deliveries as the US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on more maritime firms and vessels shipping Venezuelan oil to Cuba. In February, the Cuban government resorted to purchasing a ship carrying fuel after its owner refused to put into port on the island for fear of incurring US sanctions. (Photo: CounterVortex)
Cuba released a dissident artist who had been arrested two weeks earlier for taking part in anti-censorship protests last year and placed in “preventive” detention. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was arrested in Havana while on his way to another such event—a “kiss-in” organized by members of the LGBT community to protest the censorship of a gay kiss scene in the 2018 film Love, Simon that was broadcast by the Cuban Institute of Radio & Television. Hundreds of artists and intellectuals signed a petition demanding that the Cuban government release Otero Alcántara. “This attack is not only against Otero Alcántara, but against all of the artistic and intellectual community, and against Cuban civil society in its totality,” reads the petition, started by New York-based artist Coco Fusco and signed by nearly 900 cultural figures, including Cuban artist Tania Bruguera. (Photo via Hyperallergic)
Venezuelan prosecutors finally announced charges against opposition leader Juan Guaidó for “high treason”—but not for colluding with foreign powers to overthrow the government. No, Guaidó is to face charges for his apparent intent to renounce Venezuela’s claim to a disputed stretch of territory that has been controlled by neighboring Guyana since the end of colonial rule. The Esequibo region covers 159.000 square kilometers—nearly two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory. The old territorial claim languished for generations—until 2015, when ExxonMobil announced discovery of a big offshore deposit in waters off the Esequibo coast. This came just as Venezuela was sliding into crisis, providing President Nicolás Maduro with a nationalist rallying cry. (Map via El Tiempo Latino)
Hurricane Dorian’s slow, destructive track through the Bahamas fits a pattern scientists have seen in recent decades, and expect to continue as the planet warms: hurricanes stalling over coastal areas, bringing extreme rainfall. Research shows that more North Atlantic hurricanes have been stalling as Dorian did. Their average forward speed has also decreased by 17%—from 11.5 mph to 9.6 mph—between 1944 and 2017, according to a study by NASA and NOAA. Researchers think the stalling is caused by a general slowdown of atmospheric circulation—in turn caused by global climate change. The temperature contrast between the Arctic and equator is a main driver of wind, and this contrast decreases as the Arctic warms. (Photo: NOAA via Inisde Climate News)
Rights groups throughout the Caribbean are raising the alarm on the persistence of racist attacks in the Dominican Republic, charging they are being actively encouraged by authorities. The wave of attacks on Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian background has been particularly focused in the region of El Cibao, which has become a center of operations for ultra-right nationalist groups. The mayor of Santiago, Abel Martínez Durán, a member of the Central Committee of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party, has promoted hate campaigns against Haitians. Media outlets amplify the racist and conspiracy-laden speeches of anti-immigrant public figures about a “silent invasion,” continuing a disastrous tradition that began under the long right-wing dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. (Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores via Change.org)
Puerto Rico swore in its third governor in less than a week, Wanda Vázquez Garced, after the removal of Pedro Pierluisi by order of the commonwealth’s Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that his appointment was unconstitutional. Pierluisi had been the chosen successor of Ricardo Rosselló, who stepped down following weeks of mass protests. The protest wave began after group chats between Rosselló and his staff were made public, disclosing ugly homophobic and misogynistic comments aimed at political rivals—and even victims of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017. New research links the unprecedented destruction of Maria to climate change—with grim implications for the future of the island and Caribbean region as a whole. (Photo of NYC rally for Puerto Rican independence by CounterVortex)
Activists in Havana held Cuba’s first independent gay pride march, after authorities cancelled the officially sanctioned event. The march assembled in Old Havana’a Parque Central, where the official event had been shceduled to start. Accompanied by a large escort of riot police and State Security agents, including some with dogs, the activists headed down the Paseo del Prado, waving rainbow flag. Upon arrival at the Malecón, Havana’s seaside promenade, plainclothes agents moved in on the march, arresting at least six. (Photo: CubaNet)
Thousands of Haitians filled the streets of Port-au-Prince and several provincial cities to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise on the anniversary of the 1986 ouster of long-ruling dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Demonstrators also called for the arrest of officials responsible for the plundering of monies from the Venezuela-provided PetroCaribe fund over the past 10 years. At least two were reported dead in the protests, with vehicles burned, a police station attacked, some 40 arrested, and many wounded. Haiti faces a fast-deepening crisis, with hunger, unemployment and inflation all growing. Protesters are additionally angered by the government's vote with Washington in the OAS not to recognize the presidency of Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro. (Photo: Haiti Liberté)
Ex-CIA asset Luis Posada Carriles, wanted by Cuba and Venezuela for a string of deadly armed attacks, died a fee man in Miami at the age of 90. Exiled from his native Cuba after the 1959 Revolution, Posada Carriles dedicated his life to armed counter-revolutionary activity. He was wanted by Cuba for a string of bombings of Havana hotels, and by Venezuela for masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner in which 73 were killed. The US refused to extradite, and he had been for years living openly in the Miami area. He did face some legal trouble when he was accused of lying to immigration officers about how he got into the US before applying for asylum in 2005, but was acquitted in 2011 and spent his remaining years in a comfortable South Florida existence. In the 1980s, he worked with the CIA in covert resupply operations for the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. (Photo: anti-Posada Carriles propaganda billboard in Havana, from CounterVortex archies)
A group of Cuban anarchists announced "a new phase in the process of self-emancipation," with the opening of ABRA Social Center and Libertarian Library in Havana's Vedado district. This endeavor of the Alfredo López Libertarian Workshop (an anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist initiative launched in 2012, which forms part of the Anarchist Federation of the Caribbean and Central America), with the collaboration of allied collectives such as the Cuban Critical Observatory, seeks "to build an autonomous and sustainable space in today's Cuba."
Haiti's President Jovenel Moise is moving to re-establish the country's army after 22 years—in the name of fighting the narco-gangs, of course. Haiti has been without an army since 1995, when populist president Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded the military after returning to power following a coup. But veteran officers of the disbanded army were behind the 2004 coup that ousted Aristide for a second and final time. And some of these same veteran officers are themselves implicated in the narco trade.