border conflicts

Maritime collision escalates South China Sea tensions

Manila has accused Chinese military vessels of engaging in "dangerous manoeuvres, including ramming and towing" a Philippine ship in an effort to disrupt a "routine" resupply mission to an outpost on Second Thomas Shoal (known to the Philippines as Ayungin Shoal) in the the disputed Spratly Islands (known to the Philippines as the Kalayaan Islands) June 17. By Philippine media accounts, the craft was fired upon with water cannon and boarded by Chinese troops, with several Filipino soldiers injured in the ensuing confrontation. (SCMP, Nikkei Asia, Inquirer, GMA)

Israel seizes 'buffer zone' on Gaza-Egypt border

The Israel Defense Forces on May 30 took "operational control" of the Philadelphi Corridor, the strip of territory running along the border between Egypt and Gaza, claiming it was being used by Hamas to traffic weapons into the Strip. In the operation, the IDF's 162nd Division said it uncovered dozens of rocket launchers in a network of tunnels under the Corridor. The Corridor, known to the Egyptians as Salah al-Din, had been established as a demilitarized zone under the 1978 Camp David Accords, and its re-occupation by Israel as led to fears that Egypt will "tear up the peace treaty" between the two countries.

ICC petitioned to investigate new Armenian genocide

The California-based Center for Truth & Justice (CFTJ) published a report April 18 purporting that acts of genocide have been committed in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region and Armenian border provinces, and calling upon the International Court of Justice to open an investigation. The CFTJ claims that Azerbaijani security forces have evicted ethnic Armenians from their native lands in these areas since the war of 2020, documenting instances of torture, arbitrary detentions and extrajudicial killings. 

Podcast: geopolitics of the Essequibo dispute

In Episode 205 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg looks at the recent re-escalation and (hopefully) denouement of the dispute over Esequibo—an oil-rich territory controlled by Guyana and claimed by Venezuela. Ironically, this claim was first asserted by the conservative, anti-communist Venezuela of the 1960s to help destabilize the anti-imperialist Guyana of Cheddi Jagan. Today, the left-populist but increasingly nationalistic regime of Nicolás Maduro even entertains hubristic claims to sovereignty over Venezuela's other much larger neighbor, Colombia. But this revanchism appears to mask the fact that "revolutionary" Venezuela largely remains a petro-state with a rentier economy, vulnerable to drops in the global oil price, even if Chinese corporate exploiters have been replacing gringo ones. With the recent easing of sanctions, US giants like Chevron have even returned to Venezuela—while the extractivist model results in indigenous resistance. Contrary to the dogmas of left and right alike, the real root of the Venezuelan crisis is that the country is insufficiently socialist.

Podcast: Himalayan fault lines in BRICS

In Episode 189 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that despite all the tankie pseudo-left enthusiasm for the BRICS summit in South Africa, the notion of a unified bloc against Western hegemony is illusory. The Johannesburg confab was immediately followed by a diplomatic spat between China and India, sparked by Beijing's release of an official map of the territory of the People's Republic—showing two Himalayan enclaves claimed by India as Chinese territory: Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, which have both been the scene of border skirmishes in recent years. The map also shows an island in the Amur River, by mutual agreement half controlled by Russia, as entirely Chinese. Moscow, depending on China's acquiescence in the Ukraine war, has lodged no protest over this. But the border disputes between nuclear-armed India and China have the potential to escalate to the unthinkable. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.

Deaths linked to Texas-Mexico floating border barrier

Mexican authorities confirmed Aug. 3 that they recovered two bodies from the Rio Grande near the border town of Piedras Negras, Coahuila state. Authorities recovered one of the bodies, a Mexican national, from buoys recently floated by Texas in an effort to impede border crossings from Mexico. The second body, that of a Honduran national, was recovered further upstream, away from the buoys. The incidents have renewed attention on the floating barrier, which is now the subject of a lawsuit between the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the state of Texas.

Podcast: geopolitics of the Barbie affair

In Episode 181 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the strange reality that the Barbie move has been banned in Vietnam over a brief image of a world map appearing to show the "nine-dash line" demarcating China's unilaterally claimed territory in the South China Sea. While US-China brinkmanship over Taiwan has won headlines recently, Beijing's maritime dispute with Hanoi holds unsettling potential for escalation. In a nearly surreal paradox (for those who remember their history) Vietnam has actually been tilting to the US in the new cold war with China. It has also been increasingly resorting to internal police-state measures to protect the interests of foreign capital in the country. All of this constitutes a rebuke both to the neoliberals, who cling to the discredited dogma that "free markets" inevitably lead to peace and democracy, and to the tankies, who rally around both the regimes in Beijing and Hanoi, in defiance of political reality. 

Mexico border change leaves locals 'stateless'

The Oaxaca state congress voted April 12 to modify the border with neighboring Chiapas state, complying with a March 2022 order from Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN). A 162,000-hectare territory of montane forest known as the Chimalapas is ostensibly to be returned to Zoque indigenous communities of Oaxaca, who have protested to demand that the state comply with the SCJN ruling. The decision came as the result of a decades-long campaign by the Zoque communities of San Miguel and Santa María Chimalapa. These municipalities filed a case with the SCJN in 2012, arguing that their rightful lands had been invaded by ranchers and loggers from Chiapas with approval of that state's government. However, the border change also impacts several campesino communities that have since settled in the area from the Chiapas side. These were incorporated as the municipality of Belisario Domínguez by the Chiapas government in 2011. Mexico's National Electoral Institute (INE) has stopped issuing credentials to the 20,000 residents of Belisario Domínguez until it is determined whether they are legally citizens of Oaxaca or Chiapas.

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