The concluding of a peace agreement between Senegal and separatist rebels in Casamance is being hailed by the government as "an important step" toward ending the 40-year conflict in the southern region. The deal was signed Aug. 5 in neighboring Guinea-Bissau by a delegate from President Macky Sall's administration and Cesar Atoute Badiate, leader of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), which has waged an insurgency since 1982. The long-simmering conflict was re-ignited in January 2021 when the Senegalese army launched a major offensive against the rebels. The Casamance rebels, accused of trafficking in timber and cannabis, have often taken refuge in Guinea-Bissau or Gambia. But Seydi Gassama, director of Amnesty International Senegal, noted that the MFDC is now but one of several rebel factions. "The negotiations must expand to include these factions so that a peace deal can be quickly signed with all the factions and peace can be established throughout all of Casamance," Gassama said. (North Africa Post, VOA)
Despite a peace process that has faltered under President Ivan Duque, the internal war in Colombia continues nearly across the country—now involving multiple armed actors: remnant guerilla groups, resurgent paramilitary forces, regional cartels, and the official security forces. Thousands have been displaced in recent months, as campesino and indigenous communities are either caught in the crossfire or explicitly targeted.
In Episode 99 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews an old friend and colleague—legendary journalist, naturalist and adventurer Peter Gorman, who reflects on his long years collecting (and personally sampling) psychoactive and shamanic plants, from the Peruvian Amazon, to the Rif Mountains of Morocco, to the Palani Hills of southern India. Now approaching 71, Peter is about to head back down to the Amazon to revisit the remote Matsés indigenous people, who he first contacted in 1985. His latest collection of first-hand accounts is Magic Mushrooms in India & Other Fantastic Tales.
In Episode 94 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg presents a special cannabis harvest season interview with Karla Avila in Northern California's Emerald Triangle. A licensed producer of artisanal outdoor cannabis for the legal market through her homestead-based company Flowerdaze Farm, Avila is an advocate for small-scale "legacy" growers through her work with the Trinity County Agriculture Alliance. She is also a founding member of the statewide Origins Council, which is seeking to establish official "appellations" for cannabis, certifying a strain's regional origin. Avila discusses the challenges now facing small legacy growers who are struggling to keep alive heirloom genetics and ecologically sound cultivation methods in a legal market increasingly dominated by large-scale enterprises on an agribusiness model. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 67 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues the Spring ritual from his old WBAI program, the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade (which he lost due to his political dissent exactly 10 years ago), of reading the George Orwell essay "Some Thoughts on the Common Toad," which brilliantly predicted ecological politics when it was published way back in April 1946. Among other reasons for hope this season, Bill notes passage of New York state's extremely progressive cannabis legalization act. Shout-out to Bill's old co-host Ann-Marie Hendrickson, who is still carrying on the Common Toad tradition on her own WBAI program, Mansion for a Rat. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Mexico's President Lopez Obrador met with Trump at the White House this month to inaugurate the new trade treaty that replaces NAFTA. Embarrassingly, the meeting was punctuated by horrific new outbursts of narco-violence in Mexico. And the country's promised cannabis legalization—mandated by the high court and looked to as a de-escalation of the dystopian drug war—is stalled by a paralyzed Congress.
Portland-based musician and vlogger David Rovics interviews CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg for Fifth Estate Live. The two discuss Weinberg's upcoming story for the anarchist journal Fifth Estate on the "two faces of fascism" the US confronts at this moment—a Trumpian dictatorship or a post-pandemic "new normality" of complete surveillance and social control. But the moment is also pregnant with possibility, witnessing the mainstreaming of anarchist ideas such as abolishing the police. Initiatives such as cannabis legalization as a first step toward this aim are gaining ground nationally. Looking back, they draw lessons for the current revolutionary moment from the Tompkins Square Park uprising on Manhattan's Lower East Side in the 1980s, and the rebellion of the Zapatistas in Mexico in the 1990s—who continue to hold liberated territory in the southern state of Chiapas even today. Watch the video archive on YouTube or listen to the audio version on SoundCloud.
Mexican lawmakers are predicting legal cannabis by month's end, and portraying it as a key to de-escalating the endemic narco-violence. But national headlines are full of nightmarish cartel violence—making all too clear how big the challenge will be.