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, Ernesto Araujo, at the meeting in Colombia's Amazonian city of Leticia on Sept. 6. The presidents of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia as well as Araujo, the natural resouces minister of Guyana and vice president of Suriname agreed to form an "Amazonian cooperation network" to track deforestation across borders. Venezuela, despite having a large swath of Amazonian territory, was not invited, as Colombia does not recognize the presidency of Nicolas Maduro. Brazil has the largest share of the Amazon by far, and Bolsonaro's failure to attend was assailed by environmentalists worldwide.
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. Sinovensa currently produces 110,000 barrels per day, a figure officials say will increase to 165,000 bpd with the addition of the new blending plant. A second stage of the project is projected to increase this figure to 230,000 bpd, but details have been disclosed. (VenezuelAnalysis, Aug. 12)
Last week we were treated to the perverse spectacle of the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China's "re-education camps." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (whose hypocrisy on this matter we have noted before) on July 18 called China's treatment of the Uighurs the "stain of the century," and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. (Reuters) At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. (SCMP)
Thousands of illegal gold-miners (garimpeiros) have invaded Yanomami Park, one of Brazil's largest indigenous reserves, demarcated in 1992, and covering 96,650 square kilometers of rainforest in the states of Roraima and Amazonas, near the border with Venezuela. An incursion of this scale has not occurred for a generation, bringing back memories among Yanomami elders of the terrible period in the late 1980s, when some 40,000 garimpeiros moved onto their lands and about a fifth of the indigenous population died in just seven years due to violence, malaria, malnutrition, mercury poisoning and other causes.
Judge Victoria Roberts of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled July 9 that a lawsuit by the Arab American Civil Rights League against the Trump administration's Proclamation No. 9645, the third iteration of his "travel ban," which restricts travel from seven countries, can move forward. The Proclamation states that, after consultation with the Director of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, and based on their assessment of threats against the United States from nationals traveling from the seven enumerated countries, "entry should be subject to certain restrictions, limitations, and exceptions." The administration sought to have the lawsuit dismissed based on the Supreme Court's ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, in which the court held that under §1182(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the president is granted broad discretion to lawfully decide "whether and when to suspend entry, whose entry to suspend, for how long, and on what conditions." Roberts held in the present case that, "although the Proclamation is facially neutral, its impact falls predominantly on Muslims."
Bolivian President Evo Morales launched his campaign for a fourth term with a massive rally May 18 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. (Al Jazeera, Reuters, May 18) The campaign begins amid controversy surrounding accusations that opposition lawmakers have sent a letter to US President Donald Trump jointly calling for his "intervention" against Morales' re-election.
Venezuelan army troops reportedly opened fire on indigenous protesters who were blocking a road near the Brazilian border Feb. 23, leaving several dead. Opposition lawmaker Américo de Grazia, from the southern state of Bolívar, announced on his Twitter feed that morning that soliders opened fire as protesters, including many from the local Pemón indigenous group, contended with troops attempting to bar the passage of trucks filled with aid coming in from Brazilian territory. The first victim was said to be a Pemón woman who was on the scene as a food vendor. A second Pemón was slain shortly later, and another 14 wounded, de Grazia said. He added that several troops, including the commander on the scene, were subsequently taken captive by Pemón warriors and are being held at the nearby indigenous community of Kumarakapay. De Grazia tweeted later in the day that the 14 Pemón who had been taken to a nearby hospital after being shot also succumbed to their wounds.
The US scored a propaganda coup against besieged Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro last week, sending planeloads of "humanitarian aid" to Colombia, where it was dispatched in a "caravan" toward the border. The aid was welcomed by the US-backed pretender to the presidency, Juan Guaidó, but rejected by Maduro, who thundered that Venezuelans are "not beggars." Maduro was put in the no-win situation of either having to turn away aid at a time of deprivation or accept assistance sent by a government that does not recognize him but recognizes his opposition. He opted for the prior, mobilizing troops to the border and blocking the three lanes of the international bridge between the two countries with a fuel tanker and shipping containers. The caravan is currently stalled at Cúcuta, the nearest city on the Colombia side. (The Guardian, AP) While the affair has occasioned much media bloviation either against Maduro for blocking the caravan or against Trump for politicizing aid, there has been an alarming paucity of information about who actually organized the caravan...