Mexico
Michoac√°n

‘Blood avocados’ in the news amid Michoac√°n violence

The US Department of Agriculture suspended inspections of avocados in the Mexican state of Michoac√°n due to security concerns, halting the top source of US imports. The move was taken after two agents of the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) were accosted during a protest in the town of Paracho, beaten and briefly detained. Michoac√°n is Mexico’s heartland of avocado production, but the trade has been notoriously co-opted by the local warring drug cartels to launder narco-profits, leading to charges of “blood avocados” in the violence-torn state. (Map: Google)

Central America
Honduras prison

Honduras implements ‘Crime Solution Plan’

The National Defense & Security Council of Honduran President Xiomara Castro announced¬†a sweeping plan to crack down on crime and safeguard public security. The Crime Solution Plan calls on the Defense¬†and Security secretaries to immediately execute interventions in municipalities with the highest incidence of major gang-related crimes, such as assassination, extortion, kidnapping, drug trafficking,¬†arms trafficking, and money laundering. The plan additionally¬†calls for construction of an Emergency Detention Center with a capacity for 20,000 prisoners. Finally, the plan directs the National Congress to reform the Penal Code to classify those who commit major gang-related crimes as “terrorists,” and mandate pretrial detention for those who commit such crimes. (Photo via OHCHR)

Africa
Sudan

US sanctions Sudan companies accused of funding war

The US Department of Treasury imposed sanctions¬†on a Sudanese financial institution and two private companies accused of funding belligerents in the ongoing civil war in the African country. The sanctions name Alkhaleej Bank and metal ore company Al-Fakher Advanced Works, said to be controlled by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), as well as development company Zadna International, controlled by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The Treasury Department accused the companies of fueling the conflict, laundering money, and engaging in “actions or policies that threaten the peace, security and stability of Sudan.” (Map: PCL)

Africa
wagner group

‘Blood gold,’ diamonds behind Russian war effort

Gold-mining operations in Africa under the control of the paramilitary Wagner Group are funneling money to the Kremlin for the Russian war effort in Ukraine, according to a new report by watchdog organizations. “The Blood Gold Report,” prepared by the Consumer Choice Center and Democracy 21, finds that Wagner has laundered some $2.5 billion in proceeds from its African operations since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, helping Moscow to ride out international sanctions. In the Central African Republic, Wagner is said to have exclusive operational control over the country’s largest gold mine at Ndassima in return for its services in propping up the regime. The European Union meanwhile announced¬† sanctions on Russia’s state-owned diamond giant Alrosa and its CEO, citing their¬†“long-standing partnership with the Russian Armed Forces.”¬†(Photo of CAR army troops wearing the Wagner Group insignia via Corbeau News Centrafrique)

Europe
Le Pen

France: far-right party Kremlin links exposed

A French parliamentary report leaked to the press asserts that Marine Le Pen’s far-right party Rassemblement National knowingly served as a “communication channel” for Kremlin propaganda. Le Pen called the report “sectarian, dishonest and politicized”‚ÄĒdespite the fact that it was Le Pen herself who demanded an investigation into foreign interference in French politics. Le Pen has long been openly supportive of the Kremlin. After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Le Pen insisted that Moscow’s annexation of the territory was not illegal. Her party, previously named the National Front, is known for extreme anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and anti-EU stances. As such, French banks are hesitant to give the party loans for campaigns. Le Pen instead obtained loans from a Russian bank in 2014, and more recently from Hungary’s state bank in 2022. (Photo: gregroose/Pixabay via Jurist)

Europe
Kremlin

US to designate Wagner Group ‘transnational criminal organization’

The US Treasury Department announced¬†that it will designate the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group as a “transnational criminal organization,” imposing further sanctions on the group’s financial activities. The Treasury Department press release on the move stated: “Wagner personnel have engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions, and physical abuse in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali.” The Wagner Group is believed to have some 50,000 mercenaries fighting in Ukraine. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Andes
Francia-Petro

Colombia: pending presidency ‘between two populisms’

Following a first round of presidential elections, “between two populisms” is the catchphrase being used by Colombia’s media for an unprecedented moment. A pair of political “outsiders” are to face each other in the run-off: Gustavo Petro, a former guerilla leader and Colombia’s first leftist presidential contender, versus Rodolfo Hern√°ndez, a construction magnate whose pugnacious swagger inevitably invites comparison to Donald Trump. Hern√°ndez, an independent candidate and the former mayor of Bucaramanga, rose precipitously in an ostensibly anti-establishment campaign driven by social media, winning him the epithet “King of TikTok.” But Colombia’s political establishment is now lining up behind him to defeat Petro. The former mayor of Bogot√° and a veteran of the demobilized M-19 guerillas, Petro is the candidate of a new progressive coalition, Colombia Humana, emphasizing multiculturalism and ecology as well as more traditional social justice demands. (Photo via Twitter)

Iraq
Iraq mass grave

UN team delivers report on ISIS atrocities in Iraq

The United Nations team investigating Islamic State crimes in Iraq¬†delivered its report to the Security Council, accusing Islamic State (ISIS) actors of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq & the Levant (UNITAD), uncovered evidence of massacres including the deaths of at least 1,000 Shi’ite prisoners at a prison in Mosul in June 2014. The executions had been planned in detail by senior ISIS members. The team also carried out an analysis of battlefield evidence that showed ISIS developed and deployed chemical weapons as part of a long-term strategic plan. The team identified more than 3,000 victims of ISIS chemical attacks to date.¬†(Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

North Africa
tarhouna_collage

Libya: UK slaps sanctions on Haftar-aligned militia

The UK government imposed sanctions on Libya’s al-Kaniyat militia and its leaders for violations of international law. The militia is reportedly responsible for 27 mass gravescontaining the remains of hundreds of residents reported missing in the Libyan town of Tarhuna, on the southern outskirts of Tripoli. The group, aligned with the forces of eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, is additionally held responsible for atrocities such as torture, murder, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance.¬†Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the UK and the US are the two that have imposed sanctions on the militia. A Security Council resolution that would have placed international sanctions on the militia was blocked by Russia last November.¬†(Map: CIA)

The Andes
peru protester

Peru: after deadly repression, protesters win a round

Following an outburst of angry protest across the country, Peru’s third president in less than a week was sworn in, with a coalition cabinet aimed at bringing the country back from the brink of chaos. The crisis was set off by the¬†impeachment of President Mart√≠n Vizcarra, who had been investigating corruption by the hard-right Fujimorista bloc in Congress‚ÄĒand whose removal was assailed as a “legislative coup.” The new interim president, former Congressional leader Manuel Merino, was perceived as a pawn of the hard right; demonstrators flooded the streets of Lima and other cities after his inauguration. In two days of repression by the National Police, two young protesters were killed, more than 200 injured, and two more listed as “disappeared.” Merino and his cabinet stepped down, leaving the country without a president for nearly 24 hours before Congress finally agreed to approve a replacement. This is Francisco Rafael Sagasti, a first-term congressman representing Lima. Although Sagasti is from the center-right Partido Morado, his installation is being seen as a victory for the protesters. He took office with an homage to the slain demonstrators, praising them for having “marched to defend democracy.¬†(Photo: Revista Ojozurdo)

The Andes
Venezuela protests

UN report: ‘crimes against humanity’ in Venezuela

A UN report¬†accused Venezuelan state authorities, including the president, of being complicit in human rights violations and abuses “amounting to crimes against humanity.” An Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela found cases of extrajudicial executions, disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture committed by the government or its agents. High-level authorities, including the ministers of the Interior and Defense, as well as President Nicol√°s Maduro himself, were not only aware of the violations but gave the orders and provided the resources to carry them out. “Far from being isolated acts,” said Marta Vali√Īas, chairperson of the Mission, “these crimes were coordinated and committed pursuant to State policies, with the knowledge or direct support of commanding officers and senior government officials.”¬†(Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

The Andes
cartel de los soles

Venezuela: does the ‘Cartel of the Suns’ exist?

In a rare move, the US Department of Justice issued an indictment against Venezuelan President Nicol√°s Maduro, charging him and 14 officials with narco-terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and other crimes. The DoJ alleges that Maduro conspired with Colombia’s FARC guerrilla army¬†prior to becoming the president, and continued to do after assuming power. The indictment charges that this nexus has congealed under the name “Cartel of the Suns,” and that Maduro continues to collude with dissident factions of the FARC that remain in arms despite the Colombian peace accords. Attorney General William Barr said the aim of the conspiracy is “to flood the United States with cocaine.” (Image: DoJ)