Fears are mounting over an environmental disaster of still unknown origin in Russia's Far East after residents reported finding dozens of dead sea animals washed onto a beach from the Pacific. Greenpeace Russia said tests conducted on water samples taken from Khalaktyrsky beach in Kamchatka krai showed petroleum levels four times higher than usual, and phenol levels 2.5 times higher. "The scale of the contamination has not yet been determined, but the fact that dead animals are found all along the coast confirms the seriousness of the situation," the organization said in a statement, warning of an "ecological catastrophe." Images shared on social media, including by popular blogger Yuri Dud showed dead fish, octopuses, sea urchins, crabs and other marine animals washed up on the shore.
Rodrigo Tovar AKA "Jorge 40," one of Colombia's most wanted paramilitary leaders, was flown back to his home country Sept. 28 after spending 12 years in US prisons for drug trafficking. Once a local official in his hometown of Valledupar, Tovar became commander of the feared "Bloque Norte" of Colombia's right-wing paramilitary network in the first decade of this century. Revelations upon his demobilization in 2006 triggered the so-called "parapolitics" scandal, with his testimony implicating top government figures in the officially illegal armed networks. But Tovar stopped cooperating with Colombian justice after his brother was assassinated in 2009, a year after his extradition to the US. He now faces multiple charges of war crimes and human rights violations in Colombia, most notoriously the February 2000 massacre of 60 civilians at the village of El Saldado, in the Medio Magdalena region. His one-time mentor in the paramilitary movement, Salvatore Mancuso, is currently fighting deportation to Colombia after also serving a drug trafficking sentence in the US.
The NYPD's violent mass arrest of peaceful protesters in the South Bronx this past June violated international human rights law and will likely cost New York City taxpayers several million dollars in misconduct lawsuits, according to a new investigation by Human Rights Watch. The in-depth report examines the June 4 incident in the Mott Haven district, where hundreds of demonstrators were "kettled" behind police barricades before being arrested. As riot police blocked protesters' path minutes before Mayor Bill de Blasio's 8 PM curfew, a second line of officers charged them from behind, "unprovoked and without warning...wielding batons, beating people from car tops, shoving them to the ground, and firing pepper spray into their faces before rounding up more than 250 people for arrest."
A march for abortion rights turned violent in Mexico City Sept. 27, as a group of women wearing ski-masks and armed with hammers clashed with police. Members of the Bloque Negro feminist collective joined the protest after departing from the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which they had been occupying for weeks and had turned into a shelter for victims of gender violence. With their path to the city's historic center blocked by riot police, some threw paint balloons and Molotov cocktails, and charged the police lines. Some of the women also bared their breasts, even as they wore goggles and helmets. Authorities said 11 police were injured in the confrontation. The demonstration was part of a Day for Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America & the Caribbean on the eve of International Safe Abortion Day, Sept. 28. In Mexico, abortion is only legal in the Federal District and southern state of Oaxaca during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In the rest of the country, it is only permitted under limited circumstances, such as in the case of rape. (Mexico News Daily, Yucatan Times)
Over 30 opposition figures were detained by the National Police in nationwide sweeps across Nicaragua on Sept. 26. Most were released after questioning, but some are still being held. The majority of the detained were members of a newly formed opposition body, the National Coalition, which brings together three political parties and several dissident organizations. Among those detained were 17 indigenous Rama and Kriol (Afro-Nicaraguan) activists from the Caribbean coastal department of Río San Juan. Included in this group were prominent Kriol environmentalist Princess Barberena and Jaime McCrea Williams, president of the Territorial Government of Rama & Kriol. In Managua, police surrounded the offices of the Maria Elena Cuadra Movement, which advocates for the rights of working women, and interrogated the group's representative Sandra Ramos when she arrived on the scene.
A new report by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and the Jamestown Foundation, a DC-based policy think-tank, has found evidence of a system of forced displacement and labor in Tibet, mirroring that put in place over the past two years in Xiinjiang. The report, entitled "Xinjiang's Militarized Vocational Training System Comes to Tibet," finds that over half a million people received instruction at "military-style" training centers as part of the program in the first seven months of 2020—around 15% of the region's population. Of this total, almost 50,000 have been transferred to jobs away from their homes within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China. Many end up in low-paid labor, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture. Those targeted for the program are designated "rural surplus laborers," which according to the report usually refers to traditional pastoralists and nomads.
Local indigenous people on Sept. 16 toppled the statue of the conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in Popayán, capital of Colombia's southwestern Cauca department. The statue came down 84 years after local authorities had erected it atop of Morro de Tulcán, a hill that had been a sacred site for the Misak indigenous people. The Movement of Indigenous Authorities of the Southwest (MAIS) issued a statement saying the move to overturn the monument was taken following a decision by traditional elders of the Misak community. The monument to Belalcázar, who founded Popayán in 1537, had long been viewed as an insult to the native population of Cauca, Colombia's most heavily indigenous region. Maria Violet Medina, a leader from the local Nasa indigenous people, said: "The conquistadors brought disease, both physical and spiritual, to indigenous people. It was a genocide. That history isn't told. The statue of Belalcázar represents pain, revictimization, and causes resentment."
An NYPD officer and Army reservist was arrested by federal authorities Sept. 22 on charges that he has been acting as an agent of China's government and surveilling Tibetans living in the New York City area. Baimadajie Angwang of Nassau County worked as a community liaison officer at the 111th Precinct in Queens and held a "secret" security clearance as a member of the Army Reserves at Fort Dix, according to documents filed by prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York federal court. Court papers say Angwang, a native Tibetan and naturalized US citizen who reportedly served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine, sent information to officials at the Chinese consulate in Manhattan about the activities of ethnic Tibetans in New York.