In Episode 205 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg looks at the recent re-escalation and (hopefully) denouement of the dispute over Esequibo—an oil-rich territory controlled by Guyana and claimed by Venezuela. Ironically, this claim was first asserted by the conservative, anti-communist Venezuela of the 1960s to help destabilize the anti-imperialist Guyana of Cheddi Jagan. Today, the left-populist but increasingly nationalistic regime of Nicolás Maduro even entertains hubristic claims to sovereignty over Venezuela's other much larger neighbor, Colombia. But this revanchism appears to mask the fact that "revolutionary" Venezuela largely remains a petro-state with a rentier economy, vulnerable to drops in the global oil price, even if Chinese corporate exploiters have been replacing gringo ones. With the recent easing of sanctions, US giants like Chevron have even returned to Venezuela—while the extractivist model results in indigenous resistance. Contrary to the dogmas of left and right alike, the real root of the Venezuelan crisis is that the country is insufficiently socialist.
Senior Houthi official Mohammed Al-Bukaiti issued a statement Dec. 19 saying the Yemeni armed movement would not stop its military operations in the Red Sea unless Israel stops what he referred to as "genocide crimes" in Gaza and allows humanitarian aid to enter the Strip. The move comes despite the US announcement of a new naval coalition to counter the attacks.
In the time-honored tradition of climate summits, COP28 wrapped up in overtime in Dubai Dec. 13, after frantic late-night horse-trading secured a deal that divided opinion. For some, the so-called "UAE Consensus" that agrees to "transition away from fossil fuels" is a historic first commitment (albeit vague and non-binding) to eliminate the main cause of climate change. For many climate activists and other sceptics, however, it represents a baby step on a marathon that requires a flat-out sprint. Arguably of greater import was the agreement to launch a loss and damage fund, after a hard year of talks. COP28 also agreed on a first Global Stocktake: an assessment of climate progress to date, and a roadmap for what still needs to be done—it calls, for example, for a tripling of renewable energy capacity.
The legislature of the Canadian province of Alberta invoked the controversial Alberta Sovereignty Act on Nov. 27 in response to new federal environmental policies. The provincial legislature passed a resolution resolving to "urge the Government to use all legal means necessary to oppose the implementation and enforcement of the Federal Initiative in Alberta." The initiative refered to is Canada's proposed Clean Energy Regulations, which the resolution says mandate "a set of emissions standards and timelines that are unattainable within the context of Alberta's electricity industry and available energy resource," and would have "an extreme chilling effect on investment in Alberta's electricity generation industry."
Amnesty International on Sept. 13 joined with over 200 civil society organizations to call upon participating governments of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to address the human rights record and climate policies of the United Arab Emirates. The COP, the annual summit of governments from around the world to discuss climate policy, is to be held in the UAE in December—convened by Sultan al-Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).
President Guillermo Lasso dissolved Ecuador's opposition-controlled National Assembly on May 17—just one day after his impeachment trial began. The impeachment proceedings are of course suspended, and Lasso is to rule by decree, subject to oversight only by the Constitutional Court, until new presidential and legislative elections are held. His office issued a communique asserting that Lasso acted under Article 148 of the Ecuadoran Constitution, which states: "The President of the Republic will be able to dissolve the National Assembly…if it repeatedly without justification obstructs implementation of the National Development Plan or because of a severe political crisis and domestic unrest." The so-called "muerte cruzada" (mutual death) provision, introduced in 2008, has never been used in Ecuador before.
The government of Kazakhstan has brought a legal action for violation of environmental protection laws against the North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC), the consortium leading development of the country's massive Kashagan oil field, seeking $5.14 billion in fines. In the complaint filed late last month, the Ministry of Ecology & Natural Resources cites storage of sulfur on site in excess of permitted limits, burning of crude gas on flares without a permit, improper discharge of wastewater, and other violations.
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.