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 Bogot√° over the past six years. (Photo: Falkanpost/Pixabay)

The Caribbean
san isidro movement

Havana: dissident hunger-strikers arrested

Cuban police agents raided the headquarters of the dissident San Isidro Movement (MSI) in Old Havana¬†and arrested the 14 activists who were inside the building, several of whom had been on hunger strike for the past week. Simultaneously, authorities cut off access to Facebook and Instagram across the island, in an apparent attempt to prevent images and reports of the raid from being disseminated. A tweet from MSI stated: “Agents of the dictatorship broke into our headquarters, savagely beat our compa√Īeros, took them away and we do not know their whereabouts. We fear for their physical integrity.” Cuban authorities said the raid was carried out over a violation of pandemic restrictions. (Image via CiberCuba)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly¬†elected China to the Human Rights Council‚ÄĒdespite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan‚ÄĒall similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones.¬†US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations‚ÄĒincluding¬†Russia, Iran and North Korea.¬†Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize¬†the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration¬†via The Diplomat)

Mexico
Bloque Negro

Mexico City: militant protest for reproductive rights

A march for abortion rights turned violent in Mexico City as a group of women wearing ski-masks and armed with hammers clashed with police. Members of the Bloque Negro feminist collective joined the protest after departing from the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which they had been occupying for weeks and had turned into a shelter for victims of gender violence. With their path to the city’s historic center blocked by riot police, some threw Molotov cocktails¬†and charged the police lines. Some of the women also bared their breasts, even as they wore goggles and helmets. Authorities said 11 police were injured in the confrontation. The demonstration was part of a Day for Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America & the Caribbean on the eve of International Safe Abortion Day. In Mexico, abortion is only legal in the Federal Distriact and southern state of Oaxaca during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In the rest of the country, it only permitted under limited circumstances, such as if a woman has been raped. (Photo via¬†Mexico News Daily)

The Andes
ELN

US move against Cuba imperils Colombia peace

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 Bogot√° 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 Bogot√° blast; civil society groups in Colombia have since been urging both sides to return to the table. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Caribbean
Havana farm

Cuba improvises under oil sanctions

On Cuba’s farms, oxen are again tilling the soil as tractors are paralyzed by oil shortages. President Miguel D√≠az-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)

The Caribbean
Otero Alc√°ntara

Cuba releases artist arrested in censorship protest

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 Alc√°ntara was arrested¬†in Havana while on his way to another such event‚ÄĒa “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 Alc√°ntara. “This attack is not only against Otero Alc√°ntara, 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)

Central Asia
Uighurs

Uighurs as pawns in the Great Game

In a perverse spectacle, the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, makes a great show of feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China’s “re-education camps.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China’s treatment of the Uighurs the “stain of the century,” and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi.¬†It is hard to fault the Ughurs for being heartened by this international attention, but it is clear that they are being exploited for propaganda purposes. (Photo:¬†Mvslim.com)

The Caribbean

Arrests at Havana’s first independent gay march

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 Malec√≥n, Havana’s seaside promenade, plainclothes agents moved in on the march, arresting at least six. (Photo:¬†CubaNet)

North America

ICE condemned for force-feeding detainees

Human Rights Watch condemned US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for force-feeding detained migrants. Detained men at the agency's El Paso Processing Center have been participating in a hunger strike since early January. ICE officials said that 11 men are striking, but AP reports the number may be closer to 30. In mid-January a federal judge authorized ICE to force-feed six of the protesters. The detained men have been protesting "rampant verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards" and long detentions while awaiting a hearing. Most of the hunger strikers are from India or Cuba. (Photo: Hetsumani/Pixabay)

Syria

Russia dispatches Cossacks to Venezuela?

Numerous media sources are reporting that Vladimir Putin has dispatched a team of private mercenaries to Venezuela to back the besieged government of Nicolás Maduro. Reuters cites claims that some 400 contractors from the Wagner group have arrived in Caracas. Wagner PMC (Private Military Company) is a Russian firm already contracted by Moscow's Defense Ministry to provide personnel for the wars in Ukraine and in Syria. Moscow Times cites Yevgeny Shabayev, ataman (commander) of the Khovrino Cossack paramilitary group, as saying that Cossacks had been recruited for the force to serve as a kind of Praetorian Guard for Maduro. "Our people are there directly for his protection," he said. Russian media cited Shabayev saying a "military conspiracy had been discovered in Maduro's inner circle, and therefore it was necessary to replace his personal security with loyal people." (Image: Voices from Russia)

Watching the Shadows

Amy Goodman plugs neo-Nazi symp as ‘expert’?

In an egregious and all too revealing faux pas, Amy Goodman appears to have put a mouthpiece of the German far right on Democracy Now as a "former UN expert" to discuss Venezuela. This is one Alfred de Zayas, who is given Goodman's typical sycophantic treatment—all softballs, no adversarial questions. We are treated to the accurate enough if not at all surprising line about how the US is attempting a coup with the complicity of the corporate media. Far more interesting than what he says is de Zayas himself. Not noted by Goodman is that he is on the board of the Desiderius-Erasmus-Stiftung, a Berlin-based foundation established last year as the intellectual and policy arm of Alternative für Deutschland, the far-right party that has tapped anti-immigrant sentiment to win an alarming 94 seats in Germany's Bundestag. He has won a neo-Nazi following with his unseemly theories of Aliied "genocide" against Germans in World War II. (Image via Democracy Now)