In countries across the world, the impoverished are in the paradoxical position of being disproportionately impacted both by COVID-19 and by the police-state measures imposed in response to the pandemic—and consequent economic pain. In Lebanon, which had been in the midst of a national uprising before lockdown orders were imposed in March, protests have been re-ignited just as the lockdown is being eased—and with far greater rage. Violence escalated April 28 in the northern city of Tripoli as residents angered by the country's economic collapse set banks on fire and met volleys of tear-gas from security forces with barrages of pelted stones. The outburst came at the end of a massive funeral procession for a young man who died the previous day, apparently after being shot in a street clash with army troops. Mirroring a similar incident in Venezuela last week, mourners dubbed the deceased "Martyr of the Hunger Revolution." (WaPo, Foreign Policy)
Mexican authorities announced Jan. 6 that an estimated 61,637 people have disappeared amid the country's drug war. A previous analysis in April 2018 put the figure at just 40,000. The new figure was calculated based on analysis of data from state prosecutors. While the cases analyzed date back as early as the 1960s, more than 97% of the cases have occurred since 2006, when then-president Felipe Calderón began a military crackdown on drug traffickers. More than 5,000 people disappeared last year, according to Karla Quintana, head of Mexico's National Search Commission (Comisión Nacional de Búsqueda de Personas).
The new Bolivian regime's Government Minister Arturo Murillo is threatening a military invasion of the eastern lowland region of Chapare, heartland of support for ousted president Evo Morales, which has become a de facto autonomous zone outside the control of La Paz. Murillo implied to reporters earlier this month that planned new elections for Bolivia will not be able to proceed until control over Chapare has been re-established. "We cannot permit a part of Bolivian territory without presence of the state, without presence of police... If there is no respect for the rule of law, this complicates the question of elections." He warned the region's residents: "Be careful of being too tough, or there won't be elections." (Cuidado que por ponerse duros no tengan elecciones.) He said that "narco-terrorists" are among the cocalero syndicates that have effectively seized power in the region, and that Chapare had become a "lawless territory." (Los Tiempos de Cochabamba, Dec. 11)
Human rights groups, together with the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK), filed a criminal lawsuit in Argentina on Nov. 13, alleging that the government and military of Burma, including State Counsellor (and de facto leader) Aung San Suu Kyi, have committed crimes against humanity and genocide against the ethnic Rohingya minority. The complaint includes numerous accounts of mass killings, rapes and torture committed by government forces against Rohingya communities. The suit was filed with the Argentine federal courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which holds that any country can prosecute for certain grave crimes regardless of whether the crimes were committed within that country's territory.
Bolivia's government issued a decree cancelling a massive joint lithium project with German multinational ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA)—just days before the ouster of President Evo Morales. The move came in response to protests by local residents in the southern department of Potosí, where the lithium-rich salt-flats are located. Potosí governor Juan Carlos Cejas reacted to the cancellation by blaming the protests on "agitators" seeking to undermine development in the region. (DW, Nov. 4)
An appeals court in Rome sentenced 24 to life in prison on July 8, including former senior officials of the military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. The officials were found to have been involved in Operation Condor, under which opponents of military rule were tracked down and eliminated across South America's borders in the 1970s and early '80s. The exact number of people who were killed through this operation is not known. The case before the court focused on the disappearance of 43 people, 23 of whom were Italian citizens. The prosecutors applied the universal jurisdiction precedent from the 1998 arrest in London of Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. They also referenced the 2016 conviction of leaders of Argentina's military dictatorship, which confirmed the existence of Operation Condor for the first time.
An international space venture called Satellogic was just announced, with headquarters in Buenos Aires, to produce satellites for the China Great Wall Industry Corp at a new plant in Montevideo, Uruguay. It is slated to deliver its first 13 satellites this year, to be launched on China’s Long March 6 rocket. China Great Wall was established in 1980 under auspices of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, and operates the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, the principal space facility in the People's Republic (MercoPress, SpaceNews, NASA SpaceFlight) But the announcement comes amid growing concern within Argentina about activities at the Chinese-operated "spaceport" at Bajada del Agrio in Patagonia—and the apparent role of the People's Liberation Army in the facility.
In a perfectly predictable response, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the US of fomenting the latest irruption in the wave of popular protests that has swept the country since the start of the year. While failing to explicitly name Saudi Arabia, he accused other regional powers of joining with the US to fuel dissension in Iran to "separate the nation from the system." He said: "If the US was able to overpower the Islamic system, it would not have needed to form a coalition with notorious countries of the region to create chaos, unrest and insecurity in Iran." Last week, online videos showed police firing tear-gas at protesters angered over economic austerity. Vendors in Tehran's Grand Bazaar, a traditional area of support for Iran's leadership, went on strike over the collapse of the rial on foreign exchange markets. (The New Arab) Despite not having a union, Iran's truck drivers also staged a nationwide strike for almost two weeks in late May and early June. (Al-Monitor)