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Brazil: bill to open indigenous reserves to mining

Under the slogan "Ato Pela Terra" (Stand for the Earth), thousands of protesters, including some 150 indigenous leaders from eight ethnic groups, gathered for the biggest environmentalist demonstration ever held in Brazil's capital on March 9, protesting a series of bills dubbed the "death package" by critics. The package being pushed by President Jair Bolsonaro would open indigenous reserves to a wide range of economic activities, including mineral exploitation. This measure, assailed as unconstitutional, is actually opposed by the Brazilian Mining Institute (IBRAM), which issued a statement calling it "inappropriate" and warning that it would give legal cover to informal "garimpo" mining in the Amazon rainforest. But Bolsonaro maintains the measure is mandated by the Ukraine war, which has threatened supplies of strategic minerals, including the key fertilizer ingredient potassium. Brazil, the world's top soy producer, imports 80% of its fertilizer—20% from Russia, its biggest supplier. (Mongabay, TRT World)

Mexico: narco-massacre in militarized Michoacán

As many as 17 people were killed in a massacre in Mexico's west-central state of Michoacán on Feb. 27, with video of the grisly incident going viral on social media. The victims were lined up along the outer wall of a house and shot dead execution-style after armed men forced them out of a wake they were attending in the pueblo of San José de Gracia, in Marcos Castellanos municipality. The perpetrators, who have not been identified, removed the bodies in trucks and took them to an unknown location. It appears to be the worst massacre in Mexico under the presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who came to office in 2018 pledging to de-escalate violence in the country.

Human Rights Watch assails NYC housing policy

A New York City program that has privatized management and effective control of much public housing stock lacks adequate oversight and protections for residents' rights, Human Rights Watch charges in a report issued Jan. 27. The 98-page report, 'The Tenant Never Wins': Private Takeover of Public Housing Puts Rights at Risk in New York City, examines the impact of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) program called Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT), which utilizes a federal program developed by the US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) called the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) to permit the semi-privatization of public housing.

Bedouin land protests rock the Negev

As part of a "forestation" plan, Israel's Jewish National Fund began clearing cultivated lands at the "unrecognized" Bedouin village of Sawa in the Negev desert this week, sparking angry protests by the villagers. The protests started Jan. 10, when villagers and Bedouin leaders expressed their objections the JNF plan to plant trees on an area of 5,000 dunums (1,250 acres), much of which had been planted with wheat only a few months ago. Tractors arrived at the area the following day to begin clearing the fields, and villagers physically resisted. Police detained 18 local youth for throwing stones. Protests continued for the following two days, with the security forces firing rubber-coated bullets, tear-gas and malodorous "skunk water," causing several injuries. Border Police joined the Israeli Police force at the scene.

Chile: Boric faces Mapuche challenge

Gabriel Boric, a young leftist lawmaker and former student protest leader from Punta Arenas, is celebrating his victory over far-right rival José Antonio Kast in Chile's Dec. 19 presidential run-off election. His declaration "La esperanza le ganó al miedo" (Hope triumphed over fear) has gone viral over social media in the South American country. He was the candidate of Apruebo Dignidad (Approve Dignity), a new coalition that came together to press for progressive reforms under Chile's new constitution. The constitutional redrafting process was set in motion by incumbent President Sebastian Piñera in response to a wave of popular protest two years ago.  (TeleSur, NYT, The Wire, Al Jazeera)

'Environmental uprising' in Serbia —and Kosova

In what local media are calling an "environmental uprising," protesters blocked roads and occupied public squares in Belgrade and other towns across Serbia on Nov. 27 to oppose plans for a lithium mine at Loznica, on the Drina River. Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto has been buying up land in the area, in anticipation of final approval of the project. But concerns over a toxic threat to local waters have sparked widespread outrage over the plan.

Podcast: Thanksgiving and Atonement

In Episode 98 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the book Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience by Melanie Kirkpatrick. A work of Thanksgiving boosterism, it nonetheless recognizes the dissidents who reject the holiday as a celebration and sanitization of genocide, and even call for replacing it with a day of atonement. The idealized portrayal the first Thanksgiving in 1621 belies the bloody realities of the Pequot War and King Philip's War that shortly followed. Perversely, the Wampanoag indigenous people, who shared in that first Thanksgiving and were later defeated in King Philip's War, were the target of a new attempt at "termination" by the Trump administration, which sought to disestablish their reservation at Mashpee, on Cape Cod just 30 miles south of Plymouth Rock. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.

Protests shut down Peru's largest copper mine

Peru's massive Antamina copper mine had to halt operations Oct. 31 due to protest blockades on an access road by local campesinos. The company, owned by the Australian BHP Billiton and the Swiss Glencore, urged the government "to restore order" and open dialogue with the protesters, stating that as long as "these conditions are not met, we cannot continue to operate." Residents of the local Aquia district (Bolognesi province, Áncash region) charge that Antamina "usurped" campesino lands for the project, which brings no benefit to the community. After a week of blocking the access roads, the campesinos on Nov. 2 agreed to lift the protest following intercession by the Ministry of Energy & Mines. However, they pledged to maintain the blockades until Antamina signs a formal agreement recognizing them as dialogue partners. (MercoPress, Mining.com, Caretas, Reuters

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