Hong Kong sees first protests since 2020
The first protest since the introduction of the 2020 National Security Law in Hong Kong was held March 26 in Tseung Kwan O, an eastern area of the city. A small number of protestors marched against implementation of a new land reclamation plan to facilitate construction of a waste disposal facility. The marchers complied with restrictions imposed by authorities. The protest was limited to a maximum of 100 participants, whose banners and placards were screened before the demonstration. A cordon separated media from the protestors, who were also required to wear numbered tags as they chanted their slogans. (Jurist)
Israel protests score a win —for now
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 27 announced that he will delay his proposed reforms of the judicial system in the face of ongoing mass protests. Calling it a move to "avoid civil war," Netanyahu declared in a nationally televised address that his administration is "taking a timeout for dialogue." However, he added: "We insist on the need to bring about the necessary corrections in the legal system."
DRC: accused war criminal becomes defense chief
Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi appointed former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba as defense minister and deputy prime minister in a cabinet reshuffle on March 24. Bemba, who served as vice president from 2003 to 2006, was convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2016 of crimes against humanity over atrocities allegedly committed by rebels under his command when they intervened in the conflict in the neighboring Central African Republic in 2002. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, but the court overturned his sentence on appeal in 2018. However, five defendants were convicted on charges related to obstruction of justice in the Bemba case. (AfricaNews, France24)
Water also at issue in France protests
Amid nationwide protests over the government's pension reform in France, clashes between demonstrators and police are reported from the rural commune of Saite-Soline, in the western department of Deux-Sèvres. Thousands defied an official ban March 25 to mobilize against the construction of new water storage "basins" for crop irrigation. In the ensuing fracas, security forces deployed helicopters and tear-gas, and several protesters were wounded, some seriously. Authorities said that gendarmes were injured as well, and patrol cars set ablaze. Some protesters reportedly dug up and dismantled a section of pipe that had been laid to feed the reservoir, and marched with the severed segments held aloft. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin described the scene as "eco-terrorism."
Podcast: Mexico and the struggle for the genetic commons
In Episode 166 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses how a little-noted US-Mexico dispute on trade and agricultural policy has serious implications for the survival of the human race. Washington is preparing to file a complaint under terms of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement over Mexico's decree banning imports of GMO corn, slated to take effect in January 2024. Concerns about the (unproven) health effects of consuming GMO foods miss the real critique—which is ecological, social and political. GMO seeds are explicitly designed as part of an "input package" intended to get farmers hooked on pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers, and protect the "intellectual property" of private corporations. Agribusiness, which can afford the "input package," comes to dominate the market. Eased by so-called "free trade" policies, agbiz forces the peasantry off the market and ultimately off the land—a process very well advanced in Mexico since NAFTA took effect in 1994, and which is intimately related to the explosion of the narco economy and mass migration. The pending decree in Mexico holds the promise of regenerating sustainable agriculture based on native seed stock. It is also a critical test case, as countries such as Kenya have recently repealed similar policies in light of the global food crisis. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Moldova drops 'Moldovan' language; Russia irked
The parliament of Moldova on March 17 voted to remove references to the "Moldovan" language from the country's constitution and enshrine Romanian as the official language for all legislation. Lawmakers asserted that "Moldovan" is actually indistinguishable from Romanian, and that the notion that it is a separate language is a product of Soviet propaganda. The vote was applauded by Romania, whose foreign minister Bogdan Aurescu stated that the Moldovan language is an "artificial construct."
Oil contracts at issue in Somaliland conflict?
Fighting continues in Somalia's northern breakaway state of Somaliland, where three eastern administrative regions—Sool, Sanaag, and Aynaba—have taken up arms in a bid to rejoin the internationally recognized Mogadishu government. Somaliland accuses the neighboring autonomous region of Puntland and the government of Ethiopia (which is officially attempting to broker a dialogue in the conflict) of intervening on the side of the re-integrationist rebels, who are headquartered in the town of Las Anod, Sool region. Somaliland has been effectively independent since 1991, and has seen a more stable and secular social order than the regions controlled by the Mogadishu government.
Syria: reject 'normalization' of Assad regime
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad arrived in the United Arab Emirates for an official visit March 19—another advance in the attempt to normalize his genocidal regime. The trip was accompanied by more ceremony than Assad's visit to the UAE last year, his first journey to an Arab state since the Syrian revolution began in March 2011. The UAE trip comes after a visit to Oman last month. Days before the UAE visit, Assad was in Moscow for a meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. In addition to voicing support for Putin's war in Ukraine, Assad told Russian state media that he welcomes any expansion of Moscow's military bases in Syria. (EA Worldview, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, EuroNews)
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