Planet Watch
countervortex

Podcast: the countervortex of global resistance II

In Episode 100 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses recent uprisings in two disparate parts of the world—the South Pacific archipelago nation of the Solomon Islands and two of the states that have emerged from the former Yugoslavia. In both cases, people who were pissed off for damn good reason took to the streets to oppose foreign capital, and corrupt authoritarian leaders who do its bidding. But in the Solomon Islands, popular rage was deflected into campism and ethnic scapegoating, while in Serbia and Kosova the people on the ground actually overcame entrenched and bitter ethnic divisions to make common cause against common oppressors. The contrast holds lessons for global protest movements from Hong Kong to New York City. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.

Oceania
solomon islands

Solomon Islands uprising in the New Cold War

Australia has dispatched some 100 police and military troops to the Solomon Islands following days of rioting and looting in the capital Honiara. Calling for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to resign, protesters set the parliament building ablaze, and torched and looted shops, causing millions of dollars in damages. The looting centered on the city’s Chinatown, where three charred bodies have been found amid the ruins. Tensions between Guadalcanal and Malaita islanders have been enflamed by massive Chinese capital flows into the former island, while the latter remains comparatively impoverished. The two provincial governments are bitterly at odds over Sogavare’s recent decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic. (Map: University of Texas Libraries)

Africa

South Sudan: fighting, flooding, aid suspension

Close to 80,000 people have been displaced in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria, as a result of fighting between government forces and the opposition SPLA-IO–even though both sides are supposed to be forming a new unified army. A delay to security sector reform continues to set back implementation of a 2018 peace agreement. Faction fighting within SPLA-IO has added to the insecurity. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme is suspending aid to more than 100,000 displaced people—part of a “prioritization exercise” driven by a finance crunch. The fall in funding is despite the country experiencing the highest rate of food insecurity since independence in 2011, with more than 60% of South Sudanese going hungry. Months of flooding has added to that toll. (Photo: Phillip Mbugo/UNMISS via ReliefWeb)

Watching the Shadows
anti-bitcoin

Podcast: rage against the technocracy

In Episode 89 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes heart at the national uprising in El Salvador against the imposition of Bitcoin as legal tender, and draws the connection his own incessant struggles against corporate cyber-overlords Verizon—as well as the to the automated drone terror in Afghanistan. As we are distracted (or, at any rate, should be distracted) by the more obviously pressing issues such as police brutality and climate destabilization, the digitization of every sphere of human activity lurches forward at a terrifying pace—with zero resistance. Until now. The heroic protesters in El Salvador have launched the long overdue revolution of everyday life. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Twitter)

Central America
antibitcoin

Anti-Bitcoin protests shake El Salvador

Protests repeatedly erupted in El Salvador as the country became the first to make Bitcoin legal tender. The US dollar also remains official currency, but the law pushed through by President Nayib Bukele mandates that all vendors also accept Bitcoin. Small merchants and especially those in the informal sector complain of problems in trying to download the official phone app needed to use the currency. Protesters say the new law will deepen poverty by further excluding the already marginalized from the economy. They also assert that it will further enable corruption. “This is a currency that’s not going to work for pupusa vendors, bus drivers or shopkeepers,” one protester told Reuters. “This is a currency that’s ideal for big investors who want to speculate with their economic resources.” (Photo via Twitter)

Southeast Asia
lawan

Malaysia: black flag protests challenge government

Hundreds of activists have repeatedly filled the streets of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Themed #Lawan (Fight), the movement is also demanding the resumption of parliamentary sessions and a moratorium on the repayment of all loans. Protesters accuse the Muhyiddin government of using the pandemic to suspend parliament in order to consolidate power, and relying on harsh emergency regulations to silence and intimidate critics. Protesters chant hidup rakyat (long live the people), and carry black flags and effigies of dead bodies wrapped in white cloth to signify the high daily COVID-19 death tally in the county. (Photo: Misi:Solidariti via Twitter)

The Andes
castillo

Peru: populist president prevails amid polarization

Proclaiming that “change is coming,” Pedro Castillo, a left-populist former school teacher, was sworn in as Peru’s new president on the bicentennial of the country’s independence. He pledged to redraft the constitution, raise taxes on mines, and form a “Binational Cabinet” with neighboring left-led Bolivia. But Castillo assumes office amid a profound political crisis and growing polarization—as well as the highest COVID-19 death rate in the world. His far-right opponent Keiko Fujimori, who challenged his victory with baseless claims of voter-fraud, has a formidable bloc in Congress and promises to obstruct his agenda. (Photo: Diario Uno)

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)