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)
With whole nations under lockdown, sweeping powers are being assumed by governments across the world in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hungary's parliament on March 30 voted to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree, without a set time limit. While the emergency legislation remains in place, all elections are suspended, as are several government regulations including (ironically) some concerned with protecting public health. Individuals who spread what is deemed false or distorted information may face up to five years in prison. Other measures include up to three years in prison for anyone who disregards quarantine orders. (Jurist, Politico)
Last week we were treated to the perverse spectacle of the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China's "re-education camps." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (whose hypocrisy on this matter we have noted before) on July 18 called China's treatment of the Uighurs the "stain of the century," and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. (Reuters) At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. (SCMP)
In Episode 31 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg documents the ugly far-right politics of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and how the 2010 document dump risked the lives of dissidents under authoritarian regimes in places like Zimbabwe—and may have constituted outright collaboration with the repressive dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. An objective reading of the circumstances around the 2016 Wikileaks dump of Democratic Party e-mails reveals Assange as a Kremlin asset and Trump collaborator, an active agent in a Russian-lubricated effort to throw the US elections—part of Putin's grander design to impose a fascist world order. Weinberg also notes that the ACLU and Committee to Protect Journalists have issued statements warning that the charges against Assange may pose a threat to press freedom. But he argues that even if we must protest his prosecution, we should do so while refraining from glorifying Assange—and, indeed, while forthrightly repudiating him as a dangerous political enemy of all progressive values. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Riot police raided a bookstore in the Belarusian city of Hrodno on Oct. 9, interrupting a lecture by anarchist historian Pyotr Ryabov, who was visiting from Moscow State Pedagogical University, and arresting him on the pretext of breaking up a "unsanctioned mass gathering." Ryabov, who had been giving a presentation on "Libertarian Social Thought," was convicted two days later on charges of "hooliganism" and sentenced to six days in jail. He promptly went on hunger strike. Belarusian human rights activist Alyaksandr Vaytseshyk, who came to the hearing to support Ryabov, was detained on the scene and charged with contempt of court. Ryabov's supporters picketed the Belarusian embassy in Moscow Oct. 13 to demand his release. (ContraInfo, Oct. 14; LibCom, Oct. 13; RFE/RL, Oct. 12)
The human rights situation in Belarus has seen a dramatic deterioration, according to a report published May 22 from Miklos Haraszti, the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus. The report notes numerous instances of rights abuses, beginning with the suppression of peaceful protests in March over a law (PDF) imposing a tax on people who are not employed full-time, in which more than 900 people were detained. Among those detained in the March protests were political opponents, civil activists, human rights defenders, journalists and foreign observers. This wave of mass arrests was the most severe repression of human rights since the contested election of 2010. Before the new crackdown, there were reports of political opponents, social activists, and human rights defenders being harassed.
OK, I’ve had enough with these disingenuous demands from the likes of Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Jeremy Scahill, etc. that the CIA "show us the evidence," and the frankly absurd charges of "McCarthyism," which is simply reading the politics of this mess backwards. I know not a blessed thing about digital forensics, but all the political logic here points to Russia being behind the hacks in an intentional strategy to throw our election to Donald Trump. All these "leftists" abetting the fascist takeover of the country like this (whether cluelessly or cynically) have me pulling my damn beard out. Please follow this.
We know we're going to be accused of alarmism, but please follow the logic. First, however self-serving it may be, the accusation of a Russian intelligence hand in the WikiLeaks dump of hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee is plausible. Famously, the e-mails reveal DNC staffers pulling for Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders, prompting the resignation of the supposedly neutral body's chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The DNC had apparently been hit by Russian hackers, and Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook is now openly charging that Moscow is trying to boost Donald Trump.