Colombia’s voters on June 17 elected conservative Iván Duque as the country's president, handing a decisive defeat to leftist candidate Gustavo Petro in a run-off vote. Duque is political protege of ex-president Alvaro Urbe, a bitter opponent of the peace process with the former FARC guerillas, and campaigned on a pledge to revise the peace deal. A popular referendum on overturning the legislation that was passed to implement the peace deal has been broached. (Colombia Reports, Bogotá CIty Paper, Global Observatory, June 17)
Several human rights organizations presented a report (PDF) June 11 to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning possible crimes against humanity committed from 2008-2010 by the Mexican Army in the context of its Chihuahua Joint Operation (OCCh). The report outlines the murders, torture, sexual violence and forced disappearances of more than 121 victims committed by the Mexican military in the state of Chihuahua that "have still not been investigated, prosecuted, or punished." The report asserts: "These crimes constitute crimes against humanity falling under the jurisdiction of [the ICC], because of their systematic nature and because they were carried out through regular patterns of action that confirm their organized nature."
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on June 6 condemned the government of Bangladesh for the killing of suspected drug offenders by security forces. The High Commissioner responded to reports that 130 individuals had been killed in three weeks and thousands arrested after the government proclaimed a "zero-tolerance" policy on illegal drugs. He especially expressed concern over the government's public message claiming that the individuals killed were not innocent and that "mistakes can occur in an anti-narcotics drive." He also raised concerns that "already vulnerable communities living in slums were particularly being targeted," and that drug users may fear being arrested or killed for seeking treatment or just accessing health services. Al Hussein called on the government to review the incidents and hold human rights violators accountable. He emphasized that the stance of the UN rights office remains: "Every person has the right to life. People do not lose their human rights because they use or sell drugs. The presumption of innocence and the right to due process must be at the forefront of any efforts to tackle crimes."
Residents of Ciudad Guzmán, in Mexico's west-central state of Jalisco, took to the streets June 5 to demand the withdrawal of military troops from the municipality—and the reappearance alive of two local youths. Mexican naval troops were ordered to the town, also known as Zapotlan el Grande, to fight the New Generation cartel, but were accused by locals of "disappearing" the two young residents—one just 17 years old. In both cases, witnesses claim the young men were detained by the Navy and were never seen again. Navy troops fired shots in the air after the rally turned violent, with protesters throwing rocks and bottles—possibly due to infiltration by provocateurs. At least three were reported wounded.
A massive protest encampment erected in front of Tbilisi's parliament building demanding the resignation of Georgia's government prompted President Georgi Margvelashvili to meet with demonstration leaders June 1, and remove his chief prosecutor. The latest round of mass protests began May 31, over accusations of a government cover-up in the slaying of two youths. But pressure had been building for weeks. The first protests broke out in mid-May to demand drug legalization after a series of police raids on nightclubs. Gay rights advocates took to the streets to mark the International Day Against Homophobia May 17—but were confronted by organized gangs of neo-Nazis, who tried to intimidate them into dispersing, giving Hitler salutes and chanting "death to the enemy!" Georgia’s State Security Service issued a warning the group calling itself the "Nationalist Socialist Movement—National Unity of Georgia" to abstain from using Nazi symbols in public. Public display of either Nazi or Soviet symbols is illegal in Georgia. The protest wave indicates a new generation tired of rule by ex-Soviet elites coming of age—but starkly divided between more liberal and harshly reactionary currents. (RFE/RL, OC Media, June 1; RFE/RL, May 30; OC Media, May 18)
In Episode 10 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the re-emergence in the news of three figures associated with the drama that played out over revolutionary Nicaragua in the 1980s. Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua then, is again today, and just faced massive protests calling for his ouster. Oliver North, who headed the Reagan White House covert operation to destabilize Nicaragua's Sandinista regime back then, was just named as head of the National Rifle Association. And Luis Posada Carriles, the right-wing Cuban terrorist who was part of North's private spy network back then, just died. Historical ironies abound. North, who supported a counter-revolutionary terrorist network in Nicaragua (the "contras"), now baits nonviolent gun-control activists as "terrorists." Ortega, whose government distributed land to the campesinos in the '80s, is now seizing land from campesinos for his monstrous inter-oceanic canal plan. And the conspiracy theory popular among the NRA's white heartland base about the government preparing to disarm the populace and detain resisters in military camps has its roots in the actual FEMA martial law plan drawn up by Oliver North, to be implemented in the event of a US invasion of Nicaragua—with Central American refugees to be detained in military camps. A final irony is the NRA-Russia connection, which comes as Nicaragua is cooperating with a resurgent Russian military presence in the Caribbean. Vladimir Putin recently became the first Russian (or Soviet) leader to visit Nicaragua. So is it possible that we are today so far through the proverbial looking glass that Oliver North and Daniel Ortega are now on the same side? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
The US Department of the Treasury issued new sanctions against Iran on May 17. The new sanctions target two individuals, Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi and Abdallah Safi al-Din. Both of them have been identified as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs). Bazzi has been identified as a financier for Hezbollah, and Safi al-Din has been identified as Hezbollah's representative to Iran. The Treasury Department stated that the sanctions "show the convergence of Iran's support for terrorism with many facets of illicit criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking." The sanctions come after President Trump's decision to leave the Iranian nuclear deal last week and to begin reimposing sanctions against Iran.
US forces in Afghanistan have dropped more munitions in the first three months of 2018 than during the same time period in 2011—a time widely considered the height of the war. The spike in bombing comes after years of drawing down US troops across the country's remote rural areas—and therefore relies increasingly on technical rather than human intelligence. Figures released by US Air Forces Central Command indicate 1,186 "munitions expended by aircraft" in January, February and March this year. In 2011, during those same months, the military documented 1,083 weapons released from both manned and unmanned aircraft. The increase in "kinetic air operations" is part of a strategy to degrade the Taliban’s finances by targeting drug labs, which the insurgents are believed to tax.