crisis of capitalism
Close to 80,000 people have been displaced in Tambura County, in South Sudan's Western Equatoria, as a result of fighting between government forces and the opposition SPLA-IO–even though both sides are supposed to be forming a new unified army. A delay to security sector reform continues to set back implementation of a 2018 peace agreement. The Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies has warned that South Sudan's "militarized political culture" could see tensions "boiling over"—threatening the national unity government. Faction fighting within SPLA-IO has added to the insecurity. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme is suspending aid to more than 100,000 displaced people in Wau, Juba, and Bor beginning in October—part of a three-month "prioritization exercise" driven by a finance crunch. The fall in funding is despite the country experiencing the highest rate of food insecurity since independence in 2011, with more than 60% of South Sudanese going hungry. Months of flooding has added to that toll.
In Episode 89 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes heart at the national uprising in El Salvador against the imposition of Bitcoin as legal tender, and draws the connection to his own incessant struggles against corporate cyber-overlords Verizon—as well as the to the automated drone terror in Afghanistan. As we are distracted (or, at any rate, should be distracted) by the more obviously pressing issues such as police brutality and climate destabilization, the digitization of every sphere of human activity lurches forward at a terrifying pace—with zero resistance. Until now. The heroic protesters in El Salvador have launched the long overdue revolution of everyday life. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Protests have repeatedly erupted in El Salvador over the past week as the country became the first to make Bitcoin legal tender. The US dollar also remains official currency, but the law pushed through by President Nayib Bukele mandates that all vendors also accept Bitcoin. Small merchants and especially those in the informal sector complain of problems in trying to download the official phone app needed to use the currency. Protesters say the new law will deepen poverty by further excluding the already marginalized from the economy. They also assert that it will further enable corruption. "This is a currency that's not going to work for pupusa vendors, bus drivers or shopkeepers," one protester told Reuters. "This is a currency that's ideal for big investors who want to speculate with their economic resources."
Hundreds of activists have repeatedly filled the streets of Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur since July 31 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Themed #Lawan (Fight), the movement is also demanding the resumption of parliamentary sessions and a moratorium on the repayment of all loans. Protesters accuse the Muhyiddin government of using the pandemic to suspend parliament in order to consolidate power, and relying on harsh emergency regulations to silence and intimidate critics. Protesters chant hidup rakyat (long live the people), and carry black flags and effigies of dead bodies wrapped in white cloth to signify the high daily COVID-19 death tally in the county.
Proclaiming that "change is coming," Pedro Castillo, a left-populist political outsider and former school teacher, was sworn in as Peru's new president on July 28—the bicentennial of the country's independence from Spain. The following day, a second symbolic inauguration ceremony was held at the Battlefield of Ayacucho, site of the 1824 battle that secured Peru's independence and put an end of Spanish colonialism in South America. (TeleSur, Reuters)
Tunisian President Kais Saied was accused by opposition parties of launching a "coup" with the help of the country's military after firing the prime minister and freezing parliament July 25. The move comes after anti-government protesters took over the streets of the capital Tunis, expressing dismay over ongoing economic turmoil and a demonstrably poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Saied had been engrossed in disputes with the now-ousted prime minister Hichem Mechichi since the pandemic struck.
In Episode 81 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the fast-mounting manifestations of devastating climate destabilization—from Oregon to Siberia, from Germany to Henan. In Angola, traditional pastoralists are joining the ranks of "climate refugees" as their communal lands are stricken by drought. In Iran's restive and rapidly aridifying Ahwazi region, protests over access to water have turned deadly. These grim developments offer a foreboding of North America's imminent future. Yet media commentators continue to equivocate, asking whether these events are "linked to" or "caused by" climate change—rather than recognizing that they are climate change. And the opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by last year's pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. Oil prices are again rising, with the return to pre-pandemic dystopian "normality."
The violence and looting that left at least 117 people dead in South Africa may have diminished after thousands of troops were deployed onto the streets of the main hotspot provinces. But the unrest was the worst seen since the end of apartheid, and has disrupted a stuttering vaccination program amid a Delta-driven COVID-19 third wave that is straining health services. Protests erupted after the July 7 imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, who had refused to appear before a corruption inquiry into the "state capture" allegations that blighted his rule. However, the unrest reflects broader frustrations, as pandemic restrictions result in job losses and deepen poverty in one of the world's most unequal countries. As one bystander in Johannesburg told a television crew: "The matter is not about Zuma. People are hungry."