Peru's creation of Yaguas National Park—covering nearly 870,000 hectares of rainforest along the remote border with Colombia—is being hailed as a critical advance for protection of global biodiversity. The territory in the Putumayo river basin is roughly the size of Yellowstone National Park, but with more than 10 times the diversity of flora and fauna—home to more than 3,000 plant species, 160 species of mammals (including manatees and the Amazonian river dolphin), 500 species of birds and some 550 fish species representing a full two-thirds of Peru's freshwater fish diversity. Some park also covers some 30 indigenous communities of the Tikuna, Kichwa, Ocaina, Mürui, Bora, and Yagua peoples. (NYT, Feb. 14; The Manual, Feb. 6; Mongabay, Jan. 11)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was in the news last week, as she traveled to Syria to meet with genocidal dictator Bashar Assad, part of an entourage that included unsavory figures from the fascistic Syrian Social Nationalist Party. The right-wing Liberty Conservative defends the trip, writing: "Why Tulsi Gabbard’s Visit To Syria Was The Right Thing To Do." The Observer, owned by Trump's top advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, also cheers on the Gabbard-Assad meet, under a headline that could be lifted from just about any lefty anti-war website: "War Hawks Jump on Progressives to Push for Intervention in Syria." Likewise providing gushy coverage of Tulsi's lovefest with the accused war criminal are Russian state propaganda organ RT, which hails her for sparking "outrage" in the DC "establishment," and the borderline fake news sites popular on the "left," MintPress and Global Research.
Colombia's Constitutional Court on Dec. 13 approved the government's plan for "fast track" authority to expedite congressional approval of terms for a peace deal with the FARC rebels. The 8-1 ruling is a victory for President Juan Manuel Santos, who argued that the deal could collapse if delayed by debates during the traditional legislative process. The "fast track" process eliminates certain legislative sessions and limits changes lawmakers can make to the package. (Jurist, Dec. 14) On the eve of the ruling, Santos said that the rejection of the original peace pact in a national plebiscite was a "blessing in disguise," as it gave both sides the impetus to return to the table and negotiate a "better accord." (El Tiempo, Dec. 12)
The first district court of Chiapas in southern Mexico on Feb. 23 ruled that charges of "terrorism, rebellion and sedition" brought almost exactly 21 years ago against Subcommander Marcos and 12 other leaders of the Zapatista rebel movement have officially expired under the country's statute of limitations. Marcos would have faced 40 years in prison under the charges, which were brought February 1995 against Rafael Sebastian Guillen, a long-missing philosophy professor named by authorities as as subcommander's "real" identity. Marcos was last seen in public in May 2015, although he had earlier issued what he said would be his final communique, announcing that he was to be replaced by a "Subcommander Galeano." (AFP, TeleSur, Feb. 24; El Universal, Feb. 23)
The ongoing dilemmas over Palestinian statehood took a new turn this week as the Vatican objected to a Palestinian Authority request for the two observer states to the United Nations to be allowed to raise their flags at its headquarters. The Palestinian leadership called on the UN to adopt a resolution approving the raising of the Palestinian and Vatican flags alongside those of the member states. In an Aug. 28 statement, the Holy See said it would abide by any resolution, but noted that since the its founding in 1945, it has been a tradition that "only flags of member States are displayed at the UN headquarters and offices." The statement seems to be aimed at placating Israel, which harshly criticized the Vatican in June after it formally recognized a Palestinian state, signing its first bilateral accord with the Palestinian Authority, concerning the activities of the Church in the Palestinian territories. A vote on the flag resolution, sponsored by 21 countries, is to take place Sept. 15. Among the co-sponsors are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria and Jordan. An Israeli Foreign Ministry official dismissed the resolution as a "cheap and unnecessary gimmick."
Bolivia's Vice-Minister of Government Alfredo Rada was asked by a reporter from TV show "Levántate Bolivia" June 25 how he viewed the controversial highway that would cut through the Isiboro Secure Inidgenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) in light of Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the dangers of climate change. Implicitly referencing the repression of protests against the highway in 2011, which resulted in suspension of the project, Rada responded: "At the time I considered, and still consider, that TIPNIS has been one of the errors of the government." (ANF, June 25; ENS, June 18) Just weeks earlier, President Evo Morales made a statement indicating that the highway project would be revived. At a ceremony marking the 45th anniversary of founding of Villa Tunari municipality, Cochabamba, which would be a hub on the new highway, Morales said: "This road, compañeros, will be realized." Alluding to the neighboring jungle department of Beni as a stronghold of the right-wing opposition, he added: "First, it will liberate Beni. Second, it will bring greater integration between the departments, we are convinced of this." He claimed the project has the support of the governments of Cochabamba and Beni departments, both now controlled by Morales' ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). (La Razón, June 25)
Upon ascending to the papacy today, the newly-anointed Francis addressed the eschatological paranoia that occassioned the resignation of his predecessor, saying that some cardinals had been "seeking the end of the world, but we are still here." But it seemed to be a pun, referencing his native land at the "end of the earth." Among the joyous crowd below in St. Peter's Square were several Argentine flags. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio is now the first pope from Latin America, something millions around the world had anticipated with hope. But the election of Cardinal Bergoglio deepens growing concerns about the complicity of the Catholic Church in Argentina's "Dirty War" of the 1970s.
You knew this one was inevitable. It is profoundly odious to have to favorably cite the monstrous Alan Dershowitz, but he's raised the alarm on something really alarming—not without distorting it in the service of his propaganda crusade. In a comment appearing Feb. 25 on Canada's National Post (among other places) Dershowitz portrays Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, apparently shortlisted to succeed Pope Benedict, as floating conspiracy theories about how the Vatican sex scandal (now reaching surreal proportions, as the Daily Mail gloats) was instrumented by (you guessed it) the Jews.