Thousands protested in Guatemala's capital Nov. 21 against a newly approved 2021 national budget that imposes deep cuts in funding for health care, education and programs to combat malnutrition—at a time when the country is hit hard by natural disasters and COVID-19. One breakaway group of protesters hurled improvised incendiary devices at the Congress building, setting it on fire. Police used batons and tear-gas to push protesters back, attacking not only the some 1,000 in front of Congress but also a much larger demonstration in front of the National Palace. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned what it called an "excessive use of force" by the National Civil Police, while the government of President Alejandro Giammattei accused the protesters of "terrorist acts" that will be "punished with the full force of the law." (NYT, Al Jazeera, Prensa Libre, Prensa Libre)
At least 16 people have been killed in protests in Uganada since the arrest of two leading opposition candidates in upcoming presidential elections Nov. 18. One of the detained candidates, popular musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine (real name Robert Kyagulanyi), was accused of breaking COVID-19 restrictions at campaign rallies. Both he and fellow candidate Patrick Amuriat Oboi were detained while on their way to attend rallies. Four candidates, including two former military generals, have suspended their campaigns following the arrests. The military has been deployed to put down the protests in Kampala and other cities. Protesters are tearing down and burning campaign billboards of incumbent President Yoweri Museveni who has been in power since 1986, before the majority of Ugandans were born.
The already horrific conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray state seems set to escalate after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced Nov. 17 that a three-day ultimatum for local forces to surrender had expired, clearing the way for a government offensive on the regional capital Mekele. At least 20,000 refugees have fled to Sudan amid air-strikes and mounting reports of atrocities on both sides. Neighboring Eritrea has also apparently entered the conflict—ironically on the side of the Ethiopian government, long its bitter enemy. The state government of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) accuses Eritrea of sending tanks and thousands of troops over the border to support Ethiopian federal forces. Although this is denied by Eritrea, Tigray state forces have fired rockets into the Eritrean capital, Asmara. Mekele has also fired rockets at the airports in Bahir Dar and Gondar in Ethiopia's Amhara state, whose local forces have joined the conflict on the side of the central government. (CNN, UN News, Reuters, Jurist, Jurist, TNH, Horn Daily, Al Jazeera)
The Polisario Front has declared the 1991 Western Sahara ceasefire defunct after Morocco launched a military operation within the UN-patrolled buffer strip through the disputed territory Nov. 13. At issue is a road linking the territory to Mauritania, which passes through the buffer zone just before the border. Polisario considers the road illegal, claiming it was built in violation of the 1991 truce. What are variously called protesters or Polisario-linked militia have been blocking the road at the locality of Guerguera, within the buffer zone. Morocco's Royal Armed Forces say they are seeking to secure the flow of goods and people along the road; Polisario contends the road is being used to smuggle drugs and contraband. Polisario's armed wing, the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army, claims to have launched attacks on Moroccan forces. It is unclear if the renewed conflict has yet claimed any lives. (Sahara Press Service, WSRW, Maghreb Daily News, MEO, NYT, NYT, UN News, Al Jazeera)
Brazil's carbon emissions surged last year due to rising deforestation in the Amazon, jeopardizing the country's commitments under the Paris climate accord, an environmental group warns in a new study. Brazil spewed a total of 2.17 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2019, an increase of 9.6% over 2018, according to the Brazilian Climate Observatory. That coincided with the first year in office for President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right climate-change skeptic who has presided over a sharp increase in forest-clearing and wildfires in the Amazon.
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 on Nov. 3. 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 to 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.
Reports indicating that a Canadian oil and gas firm is planning to start hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in one of Africa's most critical remaining elephant habitats areas along the Namibia-Botswana border is raising alarm among global environmentalists. In August, Vancouver-based Reconnaissance Energy Africa Limited (Recon Africa), announced that it is planning to drill oil and gas wells in the newly proclaimed five-nation Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area, which supplies water to the Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world, shelters Africa's largest migrating elephant herd.
Tensions have been growing in Ghana since late September, when militants of the Western Togoland Restoration Front erected armed roadblocks on arteries into the country's eastern Volta region, and declared the secession of the territory as the independent state of Western Togoland. Security forces shortly cleared the roadblocks. But some 60 members of the Homeland Study Group, a nonviolent civil organization calling for independence for Western Togoland, were immediately arrested in sweeps. They were later ordered released by a judge, but one of the detained reportedly died in police custody.