North Africa
tunisia

Tunisia: president accused of ‘coup’

Tunisian President Kais Saied was accused by opposition parties of launching a “coup” with the help of the country’s military after firing the prime minister and freezing parliament. The move comes after anti-government protesters took over the streets of the capital Tunis, expressing dismay over ongoing economic turmoil and a demonstrably poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent loan negotiations with the International Monetary Fund aimed at controlling mass inflation further raised the ire of Tunisians; terms require Tunisia to raise taxes, set higher prices on goods, and implement austerity policies reducing public-sector employment and programs. (Image: Pixabay)

Planet Watch

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle

In Episode 81 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the fast-mounting manifestations of devastating climate destabilization—from Oregon to Siberia, from Germany to Henan. In Angola, traditional pastoralists are joining the ranks of “climate refugees” as their communal lands are stricken by drought. In Iran’s restive and rapidly aridifying Ahwazi region, protests over access to water have turned deadly. These grim developments offer a foreboding of North America’s imminent future. Yet media commentators continue to equivocate, asking whether these events are “linked to” or “caused by” climate change—rather than recognizing that they are climate change. And the opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by last year’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. Oil prices are again rising, with the return to pre-pandemic dystopian “normality.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Ahwazi protesters in Iran: Ahwazna)

Africa
south africa riot

South Africa’s eruption: not just about Zuma

Violence and looting that left some 120 dead in South Africa diminished after thousands of troops were deployed onto the streets of the hotspot provinces. But the unrest was the worst since the end of apartheid, and has disrupted a stuttering vaccination program amid a COVID-19 third wave that is straining health services. Protests erupted after the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma, who refused to appear before a corruption inquiry. However, the unrest reflects broader frustrations, as pandemic restrictions result in job losses, deepening poverty in one of the world’s most unequal countries. One bystander in Johannesburg told a TV crew: “The matter is not about Zuma. People are hungry.” (Photo: MwanzoTV)

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)

Africa
eswatini

Uprising and repression in Eswatini

The government of Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, has launched what Amnesty International calls a “ruthless crackdown” in response to pro-democracy protests, with dozens killed and many others tortured, detained or abducted. Protests broke out last month, following the mysterious death of a 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye, in May, allegedly at the hands of the police. In late June, these protests grew into daily marches in several cities and towns around the kingdom. While the demonstrations were mostly peaceful, there were instances in which businesses linked to the monarchy were looted and torched. The protests have waned since the wave of repression was unleashed, but the opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) pledges to carry on the struggle. (Photo: Swazi students from University of Pretoria protest at Eswatini embassy. Via Twitter)

The Andes
paro

Colombia: Duque unleashes army on protesters

Colombian President Iván Duque announced the deployment of military forces to put down the protests that have been rocking the country since a national strike was called a month ago. Speaking from violence-torn Cali as some 1,400 soldiers arrived in the city, he said army troops would focus on “nerve centers where we have seen acts of vandalism, violence and low-intensity urban terrorism.” An additional 7,000 troops were sent to break up roadblocks in the local department of Valle del Cauca. “Islands of anarchy cannot exist,” Duque declared. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

The Andes
duque

UN expresses alarm over Colombia repression

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm at a new outburst of police violence against protesters in the Colombian city of Cali. This violence comes after more than a week of protests that have resulted in 14 deaths across Colombia. The protests began in response to a proposed tax reform law aimed at shoring up the country’s finances following a year of COVID-19 stagnation. Among the proposed reforms are deeply unpopular sales taxes on food and utilities, as well as cutbacks in social services. In the face of rapidly expanding protests across the country, President Iván Duque requested that the draft bill be withdrawn from Congress. But he also called the protesters “vandals and terrorists,” and has threatened to mobilize army troops in the cities. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes
castillo

Peru: electoral upset portends polarization

Peru seems poised for polarization following surprise results in first-round presidential elections that saw a previously unknown leftist candidate, Pedro Castillo, taking 19% of the vote in a very crowded field—more than any of his rivals. In a June run-off, he will face his runner-up—hard-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, who took 13%. The two candidates represent the extremes of Peru’s electoral spectrum. Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori—and had herself been imprisoned as corruption charges were pending against her last year. Her Fuerza Popular party is the paradoxical populist vehicle of the most reactionary sectors of the country’s elites, and has actually been assailed as a “mafia organization.” Castillo, in vivid contrast, is a former school-teacher and trade unionist of campesino background from the poor and rural Andean region of Cajamarca. His successful grassroots campaign is seen an upsurge from such forgotten parts of the country, in rejection of the Lima-based political class. (Photo of Pedro Castillo in Lima via Twitter)

Southern Cone
paraguay

March revolution in Paraguay?

Paraguay is witnessing an explosion of mass protest over government mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis. With hospitals overwhelmed and infections soaring, teachers refused orders for a mandatory return to classes. The following day, nurses, doctors, patients and their families demonstrated outside the main hospital in the capital Asunción to protest the lack of vaccines, protective equipment and basic medications. Finally, widespread protests escalated to clashes with the riot police, leaving one demonstrator dead and several injured. President Mario Abdo Benítez of the conservative Colorado Party offered dialogue and forced the resignation of several cabinet members, including the health minister. But protesters continue to mobilize, demanding the resignation of Abdo himself and his entire government, under the slogan !Que se vayan todos! (Throw them all out!) (Photo via Twitter)

Planet Watch
Mars probe

Podcast: US robo-imperialism hands off Mars!

In Episode 64 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the maddening and telling irony that while we’re all supposed to be ga-ga with triumphalism over NASA’s latest Mars probe, it has received practicailly no attention that Afro-Brazilian peasant communities are being forcibly removed from their traditional lands to make way for a US-backed expansion of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center in impoverished Maranhão state. This juxtaposition of news stories is paradigmatic of the whole global struggle—sustainable, Earth-rooted cultures against a hypertrophing technosphere that is now colonizing the very heavens. Meanwhile, there are already so many satellites in orbit that near-Earth space is experiencing a fast-growing “space junk” problem. And economic austerity down here on terra firma is compounding the agonizing impacts of the pandemic. Whatever useful knowledge may be gleaned from the Mars probe, accounts don’t note that Halliburton is drawing up plans for mining operations on Mars. We recall Gil Scott Heron’s wry reaction to the 1969 Moon landing (“Whitey on the Moon“), and say with Marvin Gaye: “Spend it on the have-nots!” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image adapted from NASA photo)

The Andes
yaku

Indigenous candidate upsets Ecuador elections

Ecuador is heading to a run-off presidential race in April after leftist candidate Andrés Arauzof the Union of Hope (UNES) coalition won a first-round victory, following years of economic austerity made more painful by the pandemic. However, in a surprise development, his rival leftist Yaku Pérez Guartambel of the indigenous-based Pachakutik party emerged neck-to-neck with conservative banker Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing Creating Opportunities (CREO) party. The vote is still too close to call which challenger Arauz will face in the April run-off. Pérez portrays UNES and CREO alike as parties of the right that have embraced an economic model based on resource extraction. (Photo: Revista Crisis)

Greater Middle East
tripoli

Anti-lockdown protests rock Lebanon

Frustration over a strict COVID-19 lockdown and a collapsing economy exploded into protests in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, where a government building was set aflame, and several days of clashes between security forces and demonstrators left one person dead and more than 100 injured. Lebanon is in the midst of a 24-hour curfew, with even supermarkets closed—a measure that authorities defended as necessary given a surge of coronavirus cases that has left the healthcare system struggling to cope. But crippling poverty is on the rise in Lebanon—thanks to an ongoing financial crisis, compounded by the global pandemic and an August explosion at the Beirut port—and some argue that the strict containment rules go too far. Some local aid groups say they have been denied permission to bring help, including much-needed food, to vulnerable families. (Photo via Twitter)