The Amazon
bloc 58

Peru: indigenous opposition to Chinese gas project

A new coalition of Amazonian indigenous groups and environmentalists has come together in Peru to demand oversight and accountability in the development of a huge new hydrocarbon exploitation bloc in the rainforest. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won exploitation rights in 2017 at Bloc 58, in the Upper Urubamba zone of Cuzco region, after explorations revealed some 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, enough to increase Peru’s total gas reserves by nearly 28%. But Bloc 58 overlaps with the traditional territories of the Asháninka and Machiguenga indigenous peoples. The newly formed Amazon Indigenous Platform for Monitoring Chinese Investment in Peru is demanding that exploitation proceed at Bloc 58 only in compliance with the internationally recognized right to “prior and informed consent” of impacted indigenous peoples. (Photo via Andina)

Mexico
SNITIS

AFL-CIO files labor suit against Mexico factory

The AFL-CIO and other trade unions announced that they have filed a complaint against Tridonex, a Mexican auto parts factory and subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Cardone Industries, located in the city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas state. This case will be one of the first to test the United States-Mexico-Canada Act (USMCA), which supersedes the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The complaint is brought under the new “rapid response” mechanism of the USMCA, allowing complaints of labor violations to be brought against individual factories. The complaint comes after Tridonex workers attempted to organize with an independent union, replacing the co-opted “protection union” at the plant. Over 600 workers were fired for their association with the new union. Susana Prieto Terrazas, the lawyer representing the Tridonex workers, was also arrested and jailed by the Tamaulipas governor on “trumped-up charges,” and only released after agreeing to leave the state of Tamaulipas. (Photo: Prensa Obrera)

Mexico
CFE

Mexico: court suspends new electricity law

A Mexican court issued a suspension of the new electricity law that aims to strengthen the state-run company, Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE). The law is supported by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who wants to increase state control of the energy market. López Obrador claimed that under the previous administration, the electricity market was skewed in favor of private operators. Grupo Bimbo, Walmart Inc and two unnamed companies filed challenges against the law. The US Chamber of Commerce expressed concern that the new law violates the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and may create a monopoly in the electricity sector. The injunction will be in place until the case is decided on its merits. The judge asserted that the injunction was necessary “to prevent economic damage to the electricity sector, to ensure competition, and to protect the environment.” (Photo of power lines in Ixtapaluca via Wikimedia Commons)

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)

Mexico
guardianacional

Mexico: narco-dystopia amid Trump-AMLO schmooze

Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador met with Trump at the White House to inaugurate the new trade treaty that replaces NAFTA. Embarrassingly, the meeting was punctuated by horrific new outbursts of narco-violence in Mexico. And the country’s promised cannabis legalization—mandated by the high court and looked to as a de-escalation of the dystopian drug war—is stalled by a paralyzed Congress. (Photo: Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana)

The Amazon
Manuin

Peru: Bagua survivor succumbs to COVID-19

A revered leader of Peru’s Awajún indigenous people, Santiago Manuin Valera, 63, died of COVID-19 at a hospital in the coastal city of Chiclayo. Head apu (traditional chief) of Santa María de Nieva in Amazonas region, Manuin was gravely wounded in the Bagua massacre of June 2009, when National Police opened fire on indigenous protesters. Hit with eight bullets, he was left for dead. Against all expectations, he recovered—although he had to use crutches or a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He continued to be an outspoken advocate for the territorial rights of the Awajún and other indigenous peoples of rainforest. His daughter, Luz Angélica Manuin, warned of a dire situation in the Awajún communities and across the Peruvian Amazon, with COVID-19 taking a grave toll. “There are many dead,” she said. “We keep vigil over them and we bury them. The government has forgotten us.” (Photo: Andina)

Greater Middle East
NEOM

Tribesman killed for resisting Saudi robot city?

Saudi activists and dissidents are disputing official accounts alleging that a tribesman who refused government orders to surrender his home to make way for a new mega-project was killed in a shoot-out with security forces. Authorities say Abdul Rahim Ahmad al-Hwaiti, from Tabuk province on the Red Sea, was a “wanted terrorist” who opened fire on State Security agents who arrived at his home. But the incident came two days after al-Hwaiti posted a video statement saying he and other local residents were being pressured by the government to give up their properties and accept relocation. Al-Hwaiti, a member of the powerful al-Huwaitat tribe, accused the government of a policy of “forced displacement.” The project at issue is the NEOM, a planned “special economic zone” for high-tech industry, to cover an area bigger than Belgium, where robots will outnumber human residents. (Image via NeoScribe)

Africa
OGFTZ

Worker uprising at Chinese FTZ in Nigeria

Aggrieved workers at a Chinese company in the Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone, in Nigeria’s Ogun State, staged an uprising after they were locked within the complex, ostensibly under emergency measures to contain COVID-19. Several vehicles and a sentry box were set ablaze. The incident comes amid tensions between Nigeria and China over reports of Nigerian nationals in Guangzhou facing discrimination and harassment, apparently because of unfounded rumors that they are carrying the coronavirus. (Photo via Instagram)

Southeast Asia

Vietnam: ‘free trade’ advances; free speech retreats

The European Council announced that it has approved the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), hailed as the most ambitious trade pact between the EU and a developing country. Under EVFTA, upwards of 99% of tariffs on goods from both sides will be lifted. The deal was approved two weeks after a Vietnamese environmental activist was sentenced to six years in prison for “anti-state” Facebook posts. Nguyen Ngoc Anh, a shrimp farming engineer, is accused of writing posts that urged people to take part in peaceful protests over corporate pollution. The posts especially noted the Formosa Plastics disaster in 2016, in which a Taiwanese-owned steel plant dumped toxic waste into the ocean off the coast of central Vietnam, killing millions of fish. (Photo of Nguyen Ngoc Anh via Human Rights Watch. Sign reads: “Fish Need Clean Water, People Need Transparency.”)

Central America

Central America climate crisis fuels migration

Commentators have noted the roots of the current massive migration from Central America in the political economy of the free trade order. The US-led repression and counter-insurgency in the isthmus in the 1980s allowed the imposition of “free trade” or “neoliberal” regimes in the generation since then—culminating in the passage of CAFTA. This, in turn, has exacerbated the expropriation from the peasantry of their traditional lands by agribusiness and agro-export oligarchies. But this dynamic is now being augmented by factors related to political ecology—the degradation of the land itself due to climate destabilization. (Photo: IOM)

The Amazon

‘Silk Road’ to Peruvian Amazon?

Peru is to sign a memorandum of understanding to join China’s Belt & Road international infrastructure initiative, Beijing’s ambassador to Lima said. The announcement coincided with a Beijing summit to promote the initiative, also known as the New Silk Road, where Peru’s trade minister stated that a revision of Lima’s Free Trade Agreement with China will be implemented next year. These announcements come amid growing environmentalist concern over the Hidrovía Amazónica, a Chinese-backed mega-project aimed at further opening Peru’s eastern rainforests to resource exploitation. (Photo: Segundo Enfoque)

The Amazon

Peru: butcher of Bagua goes out by his own hand

The ongoing political crisis in Peru reached a grisly climax with the suicide of ex-president Alan García as he was being arrested over his suspected involvement in corruption surrounding troubled Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. García’s last presidency was most significantly marked by Peru’s entrance into the Free Trade Agreement with Washington, and harsh repression against the indigenous protest wave that this set off. This repression was notoriously punctuated by the Bagua massacre of June 2009, when National Police troops attacked an indigenous roadblock—known as the “Amazon’s Tiananmen Square Massacre.” The grievances that animated the 2009 protests are still very much alive—and sparking renewed militant action by indigenous Amazonians. (Photo: La Mula)