An indigenous journalist was among two killed when army troops were called in to evict a land occupation in Colombia's southern Cauca region Aug. 13. The lands of three haciendas had been under occupation for months by Nasa indigenous campesinos at El Guanábano, in Corinto municipality, as part of a land reclamation campaign dubbed "Liberación de la Madre Tierra." The elite National Police riot squad ESMAD was first mobilized to clear them, burning their huts and destroying crops. When the occupiers fought back, the army was sent in as back-up, and troops opened fire. Abelardo Liz, who was covering the confrontation for Nación Nasa community radio station, was shot in the abdomen, and died while being rushed to the hospital in Corinto. (El Tiempo, Las2Orillas, Las2Orillas, Bogotá, La Opinión, Cúcuta, Aug. 13)
An Algerian court on Aug. 10 sentenced journalist Khaled Drareni to three years in prison for speaking out against the government. Drareni, who is well known in Algeria and has a twitter account of roughly 150,000 followers, is editor of Casbah Tribune news website and correspondent for international TV5 Monde and media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF). He reported widely on the Hirak protest movement against the rule of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. At trial, prosecutors used as evidence a Facebook post Drareni shared, calling for a general strike. The court found him guilty of "endangering national unity" and "inciting" unlawful gatherings.
In Episode 55 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg exposes the hidden agenda behind Verizon's abandonment of landline service. Far from being driven by public demand, the ubiquity of wireless has been instrumented by Verizon and imposed on the populace as a design to finally extinguish the public entitlement of telephone service. Verizon is the most recent inheritor of this public trust responsibility that goes back to the establishment of the New York Telephone Company as a state utility in 1896. But the trust responsibilities go with the old copper wires—once they are gone, Verizon no longer has legal obligations as a "carrier of last resort." Weinberg calls for a public expropriation of Verizon, and making internet access as well as phone service a public entitlement. Those who are refusing to give up their landlines are, consciously or not, on the frontline of resistance to corporate rule—and the attendant digitization of all reality. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Long-ruling strongman Alexander Lukashenko has cut off internet across most of Belarus as the country explodes into angry protests in the wake of contested presidential elections. Riot police are unleashing harsh repression, using rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and water hoses against demonstrators in Minsk. One person has been reported killed and many more wounded, including several police officers. According to preliminary results, Lukashenko won an unlikely 80% of the vote in the Aug. 9 election, with the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya taking only 10%. Tikhanovskaya was a surprise replacement for her husband Sergei, a popular blogger who was arrested after he attempted to launch a presidential campaign. She held large rallies in Minsk and other cities, riding a groundswell of popular discontent with Lukashenko. (Politico, The Guardian, Meduza)
The US Court of Appeals of the Eleventh Circuit in Miami vacated a lower court judgment that had exonerated former Bolivian president Gonzalo ("Goni") Sánchez de Lozada and his defense minister Carlos Sánchez Berzaín of responsibility for the killing of protesters during the 2003 "Gas War." The pair fled to exile in the United States after repression that led to the deaths of at least 58 protesters failed to put down the protests. In 2007, surviving relatives of eight killed in the repression brought suit against the two exiled leaders in a US district court under the Torture Victim Protection Act. The case, Mamani et. al v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, marked the first time a former head of state has stood trial for human rights violations in a US court. In April 2018, the jury found the two liable under the TVPA and awarded plaintiffs $10 million in damages after a month-long trial that included six days of deliberations. But in an unusual move, Judge James I. Cohn set aside the jury verdict and entered its own judgment in May 2018, holding the defendants not liable based on insufficient evidence. The Eleventh Circuit has now reversed Cohn's ruling, and remanded the case to the district court. The lower court is instructed to weigh whether the jury verdict should be reinstated.
Protesters have launched blockades across main roads through Bolivia over the past days, effectively cutting off La Paz and other cities, to oppose the government's postponement of new presidential elections. The blockades have raised fears of food and gasoline shortages, with throngs of La Paz residents lining up outside markets and petrol stations. Chancellor Karen Longaric portrayed the protests as being masterminded from exile by ousted president Evo Morales, saying "Ex-president Morales and groups aligned with the Movement Toward Socialism have initiated violent and inhuman acts."
Chile's Mapuche indigenous people are holding emergency community meetings in their territory to discuss how to respond to a wave of racist attacks. The most serious incident occurred Aug. 1 in Curacautín, Araucanía region, where a group of Mapuche protesters were holding an occupation of the municipal building. The protest had been called in solidarity with Celestino Córdova, a Mapuche leader imprisoned in relation to a conflict over land rights, and now on hunger strike to demand his freedom. The protesters were set upon by a mob, who ejected them from the municipal building before beating them in the street and setting several of their vehicles on fire. The attackers used racist slurs and slogans such as "¡Querían terrorismo, acá tienen terrorismo!" (You wanted terrorism, now you have terrorism!). The Carabineros looked on but did not interfere, only acting afterwards to remove remnant protesters from the building. (Resumen, Concepción; BiobioChile.cl, BiobioChile.cl, Cooperativa, Santiago; Amnesty International)
Jihadist militants continue to wage a low-level insurgency in Mali, targetting government troops and their French allies. Last week, the Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin, or JNIM) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on French forces in northern Mali. The assault with two explosive-laden vehicles on a base in the Gossi area of Timbuktu region left one French soldier dead. (LWJ, July 30) But internecine fighting between jihadist factions has also started to take an increasing toll. Since an apparent truce broke down in February, there have been repeated clashes between JNIM, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the self-declared Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS, or EIGS by its French rendering). The ISGS has also engaged another Qaeda-aligned faction active along the border with Burkina Faso, the Macina Liberation Front.