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 Nicolás 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 Valiñas, 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)

Planet Watch
Idlib displaced

UN: world refugees break record —again

An unprecedented one percent of the world’s population has been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution to seek safety either somewhere within their country or across borders, according to the latest annual report by the UN Refugee Agency. At the end of 2019, there were 79.5 million people around the world who had been forcibly displaced, up from 70.8 million the year before. The rise was in part due to new displacements in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sahel region of Africa, Yemen and Syria. It also reflected the inclusion for the first time of 3.6 million Venezuelans who have been displaced outside their country but who have not sought asylum. (Photo: UNHCR)

Planet Watch
peru exodus

Poor persecuted in COVID-19 police state

In countries across the world, the impoverished are in a grimly paradoxical position: disproportionately impacted both by COVID-19 and by the police-state measures imposed in response to the pandemic—and consequent economic pain. In Lebanon, which had been in the midst of a national uprising before the lockdown, protests have been re-ignited—and with far greater anger. In Venezuela and Argentina, harshly overcrowded prisons have exploded into uprisings over emergency restrictions that leave inmates incommunicado. As in India, stranded migrant laborers line the highways in Peru, defying lockdown orders that have left them destitute, far from home and without employment. UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet warns that “the public health emergency risks becoming a human rights disaster, with negative effects that will long outlast the pandemic itself.” (Photo: RebeliĂłn)

Watching the Shadows
PNP_Checkpoints

Global COVID-19 police state escalates

Mounting police-state measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are now resulting in stand-offs between executive and judicial authorities. In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele is openly defying Supreme Court rulings to respect fundamental rights while enforcing the lockdown. His security forces have arbitrarily detained hundreds in containment centers, where rights observers charge they face an increased risk of spreading COVID-19. Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the government may not continue using tracking capabilities developed by the internal security service Shin Bet in efforts to contain COVID-19, imposing a deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek legislative approval for the practice. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, already threatening to shoot lockdown violators, has escalated to warning of an imminent declaration of martial law. (Photo: Philippine National Police via Wikipedia)

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 DĂ­az-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 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 Nicolás 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)

North America
travel ban

Court hears arguments on Trump’s travel ban

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit began hearing oral arguments in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Donald Trump, a case challenging the administration’s travel bans. The plaintiffs argue that, despite the Supreme Court ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, their case is not barred. They contend that the high court simply addressed the preliminary injunction, and not the merits of the overall travel ban, while the administration argues that Trump v. Hawaii settled the constitutionality of the proclamation. (Photo: Syria Solidarity NYC)

The Andes
FELCC

‘Anti-terrorist’ militarization in Bolivia

The new Bolivian regime’s Government Minister Arturo Murillo has announced creation of a special “Anti-Terrorist Group” (GAT), drawn from elite units of the National Police force, to “completely disarticulate all the terrorist cells” operating in the country. Murillo made the announcement at a meeting of the National Police Special Anti-Crime Struggle Force (FELCC) in Santa Cruz, where he charged that recent political violence in the country had been instrumented by foreign “terrorist” operatives financed by Venezuela as part of a plan to “destabilize” the countries of South America. He later told reporters that he would seek Israeli security aid for the new anti-terrorist unit. (Photo: La RazĂłn)

The Amazon
Pachamama

‘Dubia Cardinal’ rages against Pachamama

Cardinal Walter BrandmĂĽller, one of the two remaining “dubia cardinals” who dissented from a perceived liberal tilt in the Catholic Church, praised the men who stole the controversial “Pachamama statues” from a church in Rome during last month’s Amazon Synod and threw them into the Tiber River. The German cardinal hailed the perpetrators as “courageous prophets of today.” The statues, representing the Earth Mother deity of many traditional peoples in South America, had been used in events and rituals during the Amazon Synod, which brought together 185 bishops from across the Amazon Basin. The Synod was also attended by indigenous leaders, and issued a final statement stressing the threat of climate change and the need for a concept of “ecological sin.” (Photo: National Catholic Reporter)

The Caribbean
Esequibo

Venezuela revives claim to Guyana territory

Venezuelan prosecutors finally announced charges against opposition leader Juan GuaidĂł for “high treason”—but not for colluding with foreign powers to overthrow the government. No, GuaidĂł is to face charges for his apparent intent to renounce Venezuela’s claim to a disputed stretch of territory that has been controlled by neighboring Guyana since the end of colonial rule. The Esequibo region covers 159.000 square kilometers—nearly two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory. The old territorial claim languished for generations—until  2015, when ExxonMobil announced discovery of a big offshore deposit in waters off the Esequibo coast. This came just as Venezuela was sliding into crisis, providing President Nicolás Maduro with a nationalist rallying cry. (Map via El Tiempo Latino)

The Amazon

Bolsonaro to The Hague?

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro failed to attend the summit of leaders of seven South American countries with Amazon Basin territory to address the devastating fires now consuming the rainforest. Duque claimed a medical emergency, and was represented by his foreign minister at the meeting in Colombia’s Amazonian city of Leticia. Just before the Leticia summit opened, a group of international attorneys specializing in human rights and environmental law announced that they will file a complaint against Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity and the environment at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The attorneys, including the former French ambassador for human rights François Zimeray, will seek to have Bolsonaro indicted for his failure to respond to the fires in a timely manner. (Photo via Mongabay)

The Andes

Venezuela further opens oil sector to China

The Venezuelan government has announced an expansion of Chinese investment in the country’s oil industry, with the aim of increasing production by 120,000 barrels per day. The investment, placed at $3 billion, will underwrite the construction of a new oil blending plant inaugurated this month as the first part of the two-stage plan. The “Jose” plant, in Barcelona, Anzoátegui state, is to be run by Sinovensa, a joint venture 49% owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and 51% by Venezuela’s PDVSA state oil company. The facility will blend extra-heavy grades from Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Belt into the exportable Merey crude, primarily for Asian markets. (Photo via VenezuelAnalysis)