Mexico
Pemex

Control of oil behind Mexico-Spain tensions

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called for a “pause” in relations with Spain, in a speech that explicitly invoked the legacy of colonialism going back to the Conquest. But the speech was aimed principally at Spanish oil company Repsol, which had been favored during the presidential term of Felipe Calderón. Specifically, López Obrador questioned the granting of gas contracts in the Burgos Basin, in Mexico’s northeast. He charged that Repsol operated the fields less productively than the state company Pemex had. “In the end, less gas was extracted than Pemex extracted” before the contracts, he charged. Repsol is meanwhile under investigation by Spanish prosecutors on charges of graft related to the company’s efforts to fend off a take-over bid by Pemex. (Photo via Digital Journal)

The Andes
Playa Cavero

Peru demands Repsol pay in coastal oil spill

Peru’s authorities declared an environmental emergency after announcing that 21 beaches around the Lima area were contaminated by an oil spill at a refinery run by Spanish multinational Repsol, calling it the “worst ecological disaster” in the city’s history. The Environmental Evaluation & Control Organism (OEFA) estimated some 6,000 barrels of crude had spilled—dramatically above the mere seven gallons that Repsol had initially reported to authorities when the disaster occurred days earlier. Some 1,740,000 square meters of coastline and 1,1187,000 square meters of sea have been covered in sludge that has blackened beaches and killed marine life. Peru is demanding compensation from Repsol, accusing the company of trying to cover up the scale of the disaster and not having a contingency plan in place. (Photo: Andina)

North Africa

Will Biden reverse Trump policy on Western Sahara?

US-led forces are currently carrying out war games in Morocco, the periodic “Afrian Lion” exercises—this year taking place near the disputed region of Western Sahara. Morocco is trumpeting this as a re-affirmation of US recognition of its claim to the territory. The Trump administration last year formally recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for Moroccan diplomatic recognition of Israel as a part of the so-called Abraham Accords. But Spain, the disputed territory’s former colonial ruler, is opposing Morocco’s current push for international recognition of its claim. Just before the war games opened, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya called US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging him to reverse Washington’s recognition of Moroccan rule in Western Sahara. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Europe
Lesvos

Greece urged to end pushback of asylum seekers

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Greek government to end its practice of illegal “pushbacks” of asylum seekers at both the land and sea borders with Turkey. Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic said she had “received a number of consistent and credible allegations concerning acts by the Greek Coast Guard to prevent boats carrying migrants reaching the Greek islands.” Following reports of verbal and physical abuse inflicted on migrants being pushed back to Turkey, she indicated that acts of the Greek state may be in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, on prohibition of torture. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

Mexico
Squadron 421

Zapatistas launch symbolic ‘invasion’ of Spain

Seven indigenous Maya members of Mexico’s Zapatista movement set sail from Isla Mujeres, off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, on a trans-Atlantic voyage meant to symbolically reverse the Spanish conquest of Mexico 500 years ago. Sailing in a wooden vessel they built themselves, christened La Montaña, the delegation hopes to reach Madrid by Aug. 13, anniversary of the 1521 fall of Tenochtitlán, Mexico’s ancient capital, to the conquistador Hernan Cortés. The delegation intends to land at Vigo, on Spain’s northern coast, and then continue to Madrid, beginning a tour of some 20 European countries. (Photo: Pie Página)

Europe
Hasél

Spain: protests follow arrest of Catalan rapper

The arrest of Catalan rapper Pablo Hasél on charges of glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy has sparked angry protests in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and other Spanish cities. Facing charges in relation to his tweets and song lyrics, Hasél barricaded himself alongside supporters inside Catalonia’s University of Lleida. His supporters sprayed fire-extinguishers at troops when the building was raided by the Catalan police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra. As he was led away, supporters shouted, “They will never silence us; death to the fascist state!” Hasél was turned over to Spanish authorities to begin serving a nine-month term. Angry protests immediately broke out, with several demonstrators arrested that night. Protests have continued throughout the week. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

North Africa
Sahrawis

‘Abraham Accords’ betray Palestinians …and now Sahrawis

President Donald Trump announced that Morocco and Israel have agreed to normalize relations, adding that the US will formally recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the occupied territory of Western Sahara. The blatant quid pro quo makes Morocco the third Arab state to join Trump’s vaunted “Abraham Accords,” which have already seen the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recognize Israel this year. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Morocco’s King Mohammed VI for his “historic decision” to sign the deal, and pledged a “very warm peace” between the two countries. This would indeed be appropriate, as Israel and Morocco are both illegally occupying the territory of a colonized Arab people. Until Trump’s proclamation, not one country on Earth has recognized Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara, which was seized after Spain withdrew from its colony of Spanish Sahara in 1975. Some 60 recognize the exile government that has been declared over the territory by the Polisario Front, the national liberation movement of the territory’s Sahrawi Arab people. (Photo: Kirby Gookin via Western Sahara Resource Center)

Europe
stuart christie

Stuart Christie, Scottish anarchist icon, dead at 74

Stuart Christie, the legendary anarchist and anti-fascist militant most notorious for his 1964 assassination attempt on Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, died at his home in East Sussex, England. At 74, Scottish-born Christie was still an international icon of the anarchist movement, seen as a bridge between the era of “classical” anarchism in the early 20th century and the resurgent radicalism of the New Left that emerged in the 1960s. After serving three years in a Spanish prison, Christie founded Anarchist Black Cross, a support group for anarchist political prisoners worldwide which remains active today. He would later face charges for his supposed involvement in the Angry Brigade, an underground cell that carried out a series of bombings that caused property damage at several targets around London in the early 1970s, including the US and Spanish embassies. He was still maintaining an anarchist small press house, Christie Books, at the time of his death. (Image via Bella Caledonia)

Central America
el-salvador-jesuit-priests-murder

Ex-Salvador military officer goes on trial in Spain

A former Salvador military commander, Inocente Montano, went on trial in Spain, accused of ordering the murder of six Spanish Jesuit priests in 1989. Two Salvadoran women were also killed in the incident. Montano was formerly held in the US, but was extradited to Spain in 2017. Ex-colonel Montano was vice-minister of public security in El Salvador during its civil war from 1979-1992. Montano commanded troops believed to be responsible for at least 1,169 human rights violations. Additionally, prosecutors believe Montano was part of the paramilitary group La Tandona that carried out extrajudicial executions. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Planet Watch
air pollution

UN climate talks delayed one year by COVID-19

International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced. The next summit, dubbed COP26, was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs—such as a bailout for the oil companies. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year’s summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

Europe
refugees

COVID-19 port closures leave migrants stranded at sea

Migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa have been left stranded on the Mediterranean Sea after Italy and Malta closed their ports due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Alarm Phone, which acts as a hotline for refugees and migrants in distress on the Mediterranean, says that it has lost contact with boats that requested assistance in Malta’s search-and-rescue zone. Maltese authorities have failed to respond. The Aita Mari, a rescue ship run by a Spanish NGO, has been dispatched in an attempt to reach them, but it is only authorized to provide life vests, food and water. Meanwhile, the Alan Kurdi, a rescue ship run by a German charity, has been in Italian waters for a week, but has been prevented from docking. The ship has 150 people aboard. (Photo: callmonikm/Flickr via TNH)

Planet Watch
Ghana soldiers

Growing police-state measures in face of COVID-19

As nations across the globe remain under lockdown, more sweeping powers are being assumed by governments in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing demands for relief from poor barrios running out of resources under his lockdown orders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shoot protesters in the streets. Police have opened fire on lockdown violators in Nigeria, Ghana and Peru. In Tunisia, remote-controlled wheeled robots have been deployed to accost lockdown violators. States of emergency, including broad powers to restrict movements and control the media, have been declared from the Philippines to Serbia. Amnesty International warns that the restrictive measures could become a “new normal.” (Photo: Pulse, Ghana)