The Caucasus
georgia

South Ossetia suspends referendum to join Russia

The de facto president of South Ossetia, Alan Gagloev, suspended a planned referendum to determine whether the breakaway region of Georgia should join the Russian Federation. The referendum, scheduled for July, had been ordered by decree of Gagloev’s predecessor Anatoly Bibilov, and was widely seen as a play to cement his grip on power. However, Bibilov lost his bid for reelection, bringing his rival Gagloev to the presidency. In calling off the vote, Gagloev said that the Kremlin must be consulted on “issues related to the further integration of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation.” Georgian officials had denounced any moves by South Ossetia to join Russia as “unacceptable.” (Map: PLC)

Central America
Archipelago of San Andrés

Win for Nicaragua in maritime dispute with Colombia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague ruled that Colombia must end its “interference” in parts of the Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua, and bring under control fishing and other activities in the zone. This culminates a long conflict between Nicaragua and Colombia. In two rulings in 2007 and 2012, the ICJ recognized the sovereignty of Colombia in the islands constituting the Archipelago of San Andrés. However, the rulings also recognized the jurisdiction of Nicaragua in the surrounding waters. Colombia continued its activities in those waters, prompting Nicaragua to file a new complaint with the Court in 2013. Colombia argued that its actions were necessary to fight drug trafficking and secure environmental protection of the waters. In its new ruling, the ICJ found that these waters are within the exclusive economic zone of Nicaragua, and the “intervention” of another state is contrary to international law. (Map: Wikipedia)

Central America

Honduras transition in the New Cold War

Hondurans elected self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Xiomara Castro to be the country’s first woman president. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro pledges to revive his program—and take it much further, instating far-reaching reforms. Castro also announced that she will “open diplomatic and commercial relations with continental China,” which was widely taken as meaning a switch of diplomatic recognition. Honduras is currently one of only 14 countries that recognize Taipei rather than Beijing.  It is tragic to see the Central American republics, in their struggle to break free of Washington’s orbit, acquiesce in Beijing’s design to incorporate Taiwan into its own orbit—or, more ambitiously, its national territory.  (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Podcast: against Afghanistan revisionism

In Episode 87 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out revisionist online propaganda telling us (for instance) that Ronald Reagan in 1985 called the Taliban the “equivalent of America’s Founding Fathers”—when the Taliban actually didn’t even exist back then, and he actually said that about the Nicaraguan Contras. Meanwhile, the more idiotic sectors of the “anti-imperialist” left, which proclaimed “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan” during the Soviet intervention 40 years ago, are now taking unabashed glee at the Taliban takeover. Rather than viewing the Afghan people as pawns on the geopolitical chessboard or fodder for cheap propaganda, Weinberg calls for active solidarity with groups like the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), and the feminists and secularists who have chosen to stay behind and continue speaking out—at great risk to themselves. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Central America
boswas

Nicaragua: armed colonists invade indigenous lands

In a video conference with representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, indigenous leaders from Nicaragua’s eastern rainforest protested an illegal “invasion” of their titled territories by armed campesino colonists, who seize lands, clear trees and terrorize their communities. The Miskito and Mayangna leaders said 13 indigenous residents were killed by settlers last year, with eight wounded and hundreds forcibly displaced. Lottie Cunningham of the Center for Human Rights & Justice of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN) said some 30,000 hectares have been expropriated, and the colonists often work in league with timber and mining interests—illegal operations that nonetheless have total impunity in the lawless region. Among the impacted areas is the ostensibly protected Bosawas Biosphere Reserve. (Image: CafeConVoz)

Central America
Hurricane Eta

Villagers abandoned in Eta’s deadly aftermath

Some 150 are dead, with remote indigenous and campesino communities left stricken and without aid, a week after Hurricane Eta tore through Central America. Eta made landfall south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, as a Category 4 storm. Two güiriseros, or artisanal gold-miners, were among the first killed, as a landslide inundated the mining camp of Tigre Norte in Bonanza municipality of Nicargua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. Far worse was follow in Guatemala, where officials have called off the search for dozens believed to have been buried when a mountainside collapsed, engulfing the hamlet of Queja. Ovidio Choc, mayor of San Cristobal Verapaz municipality, said the site of Queja will probably be declared a cemetery. Elsewhere in Guatemala’s Maya Highlands, villagers have had to mobilize their own rescue and recovery efforts, effectively abandoned by the government. (Map: National Hurricane Center)

Central America
Maria Elena Cuadra Movement

Nicaragua: sweeps target opposition activists

Over 30 opposition figures were detained by the National Police in nationwide sweeps across Nicaragua. Most were released after questioning, but some are still being held. The majority of the detained were members of a newly formed opposition body, the National Coalition, which brings together three political parties and several dissident organizations. Among the detained were 17 indigenous Rama and Kriol (Afro-Nicaraguan) activists from the Caribbean coast, including Kriol environmentalist Princess Barberena and Jaime McCrea Williams, president of the Territorial Government of Rama & Kriol. In Managua, police surrounded the offices of the Maria Elena Cuadra Movement, which advocates for the rights of working women, and interrogated the group’s representative Sandra Ramos when she arrived on the scene. Ramos told reporters she believed the group was targeted for its work representing the mothers of political prisoners since the protest wave of 2018. “We’re not a terrorist organization or anything resembling one,” said Ramos. “We’re a shitload of women who defend other women.” (Photo of Sandra Ramos confronting police via Nicaragua Confidencial)

Central America

Indigenous rainforest dwellers massacred in Nicaragua

Six members of the Mayagna indigenous people are dead and another 10 missing following an attack by gunmen on a community within the UN-recognized Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua’s eastern rainforest. The autonomous Mayagna Territorial Government reported that some 80 armed men entered the community, firing indiscriminately on residents and setting homes on fire. The statement described the assailants as colonos, or peasant colonists who have been invading the reserve in growing numbers, illegally clearing forest and settling on indigenous lands. (Photo: Global Justice Ecology Project)

Central America

Nicaragua approves police amnesty law

Nicaragua’s Congress approved an amnesty law that will offer protection to police and others involved in crimes against anti-government protesters over the past year. According to rights groups, more than 700 people were arrested in demonstrations that erupted in April 2018 when President Daniel Ortega tried to cut social security benefits. More than 300 mostly opposition protesters died in clashes with security forces, while more than 60,000 Nicaraguans have gone into exile due to political strife over the last 14 months. The new law was approved by 70 votes from Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in the 92-member chamber. It also allows for the release of detainees arrested during the protests, despite the fact that Ortega labelled them “terrorists.” The new law has faced harsh criticism from human rights groups and the UN. (Photo via InSight Crime)

The Andes

Bolivia: did opposition call for US ‘intervention’?

Bolivian President Evo Morales launched his campaign for a fourth term with a massive rally in the Chapare region where he began his career as a peasant leader a generation ago. But the country’s political opposition charges that Morales is defying a 2016 referendum, in which voters rejected a fourth consecutive term. The referendum results were later overturned by the Plurinational Constitutional Court—sparking a wave of protest. The campaign begins amid controversy surrounding accusations that opposition lawmakers have sent a letter to Donald Trump jointly calling for his “intervention” against Morales’ re-election. (Photo: Apporea)

Central America

Nicaragua ‘witch-hunt’ against dissent: UN experts

A group of UN human rights experts, including the special rapporteurs on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and extrajudicial exections, issued a statement urging the government of Nicaragua to "stop the repression" following 100 days of unrest in which at least 317 have been killed and 1,830 injured. "Reports indicate that there has been an increase in targeted repression, criminalization and alleged arbitrary detention, which is creating an atmosphere of fear," the statement said. "We are appalled that many human rights defenders, journalists and other opposition voices are being criminalized and accused of unfounded and overly punitive charges such as 'terrorism'." (Poto via Noticiias ONU)

Central America

UN protests Nicaragua ‘anti-terrorism’ law

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern for a law approved in Nicaragua, ostensibly aimed at money-laundering, arms-trafficking and terrorism. The statement warned that the definition of "terrorism" under the law is dangerously "vague," and that it could be used to suppress opposition. The law defines as "terrorism" any damage to public or private property, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, anyone found guilty of directly or indirectly financing or aiding so-called "terrorist operations" can also face up to 20 years. The law was introduced in April, just as Nicaragua's political crisis was breaking out. The OHCHR noted that the law was passed by a National Assembly "almost completely controlled" by the ruling Sandinista party. (Poto via Noticiias ONU)