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 Río 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 doctorsViolent 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 Río in the west to Santiago in the east. In Havana, hundreds gathered along the Malecón 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 “Díaz-Canel singao [jerk, asshole],” a reference to President Miguel Díaz-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 Moïse 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)

North America
immigrants

Biden admin grants protected status for Haitians

US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced an 18-month designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This humanitarian protection allows an estimated 100,000 individuals to apply to remain lawfully in the US. Statutory grounds for TPS designation include armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Haiti now faces political crisis and human rights abuses, security concerns, and the exacerbation of a “dire economic situation” due to COVID-19, Mayorkas found. TPS for Haitians had been revoked by the Trump administration, although the revocation never took effect due to legal challenges. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

The Caribbean
Haitians in Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic to build wall on Haitian border

The Dominican Republic’s President Luis Abinador announced that work will begin this year on a wall along the country’s 376-kilometer border with Haiti. “Within two years we want to end the serious problems of illegal immigration, drug-trafficking and the transport of stolen vehicles that we’ve suffered from for two years,” said Abinader. Weeks earlier, Abinader and his Haitian counterpart Jovenel Moise signed an agreement that included a commitment to take measures against “the wave of illegal migration” and to “reinforce border security and vigilance.” Two years ago, Dominican authorities started erecting a section of fence along the border at El Carrizal, sparking angry protests by Haitian immigrants living in the area. (Photo: Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores via Change.org)

East Asia
Free Taiwan

Taiwan & Puerto Rico: forbidden symmetry

In Episode 63 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg draws a parallel between the self-determination struggles in Taiwan and Puerto Rico. Each is an island nation in the “backyard” of an imperial power, struggling for independence. Taiwan is de facto independent from China, with a movement to make it official. Puerto Rico is a de facto colony (officially an “unincorporated territory”) of the United States, with a movement for independence. Taiwan is being particularly threatened at this moment by the imperial power that covets it; Puerto Rico is being particularly fucked over at this moment by the imperial power that controls it. Yet the emergence of Taiwan-Puerto Rico solidarity is held back by the fact that their respective imperial metropoles are rivals on the geopolitical chassboard—another illustration of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Wang LeWei, Josh MacPhee, Mac McGill via Art for a Free Taiwan)

The Caribbean
havana

US returns Cuba to ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ list

The US Department of State has once again designated Cuba as a state that sponsors terrorism. In 2015, the Obama administration removed Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which currently includes North Korea, Iran and Syria. In a statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department accused Cuba of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists.” Ironically, this is a reference to Havana’s hosting of peace delegations from Colombian guerilla groups in their efforts to broker an accord with Bogotá over the past six years. (Photo: Falkanpost/Pixabay)