political geography

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.

Oil contracts at issue in Somaliland conflict?

Fighting continues in Somalia's northern breakaway state of Somaliland, where three eastern administrative regions—Sool, Sanaag, and Aynaba—have taken up arms in a bid to rejoin the internationally recognized Mogadishu government. Somaliland accuses the neighboring autonomous region of Puntland and the government of Ethiopia (which is officially attempting to broker a dialogue in the conflict) of intervening on the side of the re-integrationist rebels, who are headquartered in the town of Las Anod, Sool region. Somaliland has been effectively independent since 1991, and has seen a more stable and secular social order than the regions controlled by the Mogadishu government.

Podcast: the linguistic struggle in China

In Episode 154 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg conducts an in-depth interview with Gina Anne Tam, author of Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960 (Cambridge University Press) on how Mandarin (Putonghua) became the official language of China, and what has been the role in China's national identity of the regional "dialects," or fangyan. In a dilemma that has vexed China's bureaucracy for 2,000 years, the persistence of fangyan raises questions about conventional notions of nationalism and state formation. What can the tenacious survival of Shanghaihua (Wu), Fujianese (Min), Cantonese (Yue), Toisan and Hakka tell us about the emergence of an "alternative Chinese-ness" in the 21st century? 

ICJ rules in Chile-Bolivia water dispute

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) Dec. 1 delivered its judgment in a water dispute between Chile and Bolivia. In the case formally referred to as the Dispute over the Status and Use of the Waters of the Silala, the court found that the Río Silala is governed by international law, meaning that Bolivia cannot assert complete control over the waterway, and that Chile is entitled to the "equitable and reasonable use" of its waters. The court further found that Chile is not responsible for compensating Bolivia for its past use of the Silala's waters.

Erdogan invokes burning of Smyrna

Amid rising tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan explicitly invoked the burning of Smyrna at the end of the Greco-Turkish War. "We have only one word to tell Greece: Do not forget Izmir," Erdogan said in a speech early last month, using the Turkish name for the coastal city that was the scene of atrocities targeting the substantial Greek populace after it was taken by Turkish forces in September 1922. "We may come suddenly one night," Erdogan added, using his oft-repeated phrase when he warned of launching an operation into neighboring Syria.

'Cleansing' of Armenian culture in Azerbaijan exclave

New clashes broke out on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan Sept. 13, with each side accusing the other of violating the ceasefire. Fighting was first reported near the Lachin Corrdior, which connects Armenia to the autonomous ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh. But attacks on the Armenian border have also been launched from the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan (also rendered Nakhichevan or Naxçıvan), which is cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory. A land corridor through Armenia to Nakhchivan is one of Azerbaijan's key outstanding demands in the conflict. (See map)

South Ossetia suspends referendum to join Russia

The de facto president of South Ossetia, Alan Gagloev, on May 30 suspended a planned referendum to determine whether the breakaway region of Georgia should join the Russian Federation. The referendum, scheduled for July, had been ordered by decree of Gagloev's predecessor Anatoly Bibilov, and was widely seen as a play to cement his grip on power. However, Bibilov lost his bid for reelection earlier in May, bringing his rival Gagloev to the presidency. In calling off the vote, Gagloev said that the Kremlin must be consulted on "issues related to the further integration of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation." Georgian officials had denounced any moves by South Ossetia to join Russia as "unacceptable."

Israel high court approves Temple Mount development

The Israeli Supreme Court on May 15 ruled in favor of the government's planned cable car over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The ruling was met with approval by proponents such as Jerusalem's mayor, Moshe Lion, who claimed the project will "reduce air pollution in the area, solve the transport and parking distress and allow comfortable and efficient access to the Western Wall and the Old City." However, the decision has been met with condemnation by many, including city planners and architects, environmental groups, and Karaite Jews, a minority sect with a cemetery located along the proposed cable car's path. Palestinian groups have especially criticized the proposed path, as it would travel over East Jerusalem, an area ceded to Arab control in the 1949 armistice but occupied by Israel in 1967. Ir-Amim advocacy group tweeted: "Folks will hop in in WJ [West Jerusalem] and have no idea they're cabling over the heads of occupied Palestinians."

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