Podcast: Hiroshima at 76
In Episode 83 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes signs of hope on the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, with the city's Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on the world's nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. President Trump walked away from US-Russia nuclear arms control treaties, and China is now rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Ukraine and Syria are ominously likely flashpoints for superpower conflict. But South Africa provides a shining example of progress—under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, newly post-apartheid South Africa became the first and only nation on Earth to willingly dismantle its nuclear weapons.
Mass protests break out across Cuba
Seemingly spontaneous protests broke out in Cuba on July 11, with demonstrations reported across the island—from Pinar del Río in the west to Santiago in the east. In Havana, hundreds gathered along the Malecón seawall, which was the scene of a brief uprising known as the Maleconazo in August 1994, amid the economic agony of the "Special Period." The demonstrators later marched on the iconic Capitolio building. Slogans included "Freedom," "Down with the dictatorship," "We are not afraid," "Homeland and life" (a reference to the official slogan "Homeland or death"), and "Díaz-Canel, singao [jerk, asshole]," a reference to President Miguel Díaz-Canel.
Khashoggi killers trained in US: report
Operatives of the Saudi secret unit responsible for the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the United States, the New York Times reported June 22. According to the account, an Arkansas-based security firm, Tier 1 Group, provided training to some of the operatives in question. Although the training was described as "defensive" and "devised to better protect Saudi leaders," the unit was then undertaking a series of kidnappings, detentions and torture to crush dissent within the kingdom.
Will Biden reverse Trump policy on Western Sahara?
US-led forces are currently carrying out war games in Morocco, the periodic "African Lion" exercises which this year also involve troops from Tunisia and Senegal. The games are taking place near the disputed region of Western Sahara, which Morocco is trumpeting this as a re-affirmation of US recognition of its claim to the territory. Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani said on Twitter ahead of the exercises that the event "marks the consecration of American recognition of the Moroccan Sahara." (The Defense Post, Africa News, June 15)
Peru: Keiko takes page from Trump playbook
One week after Peru's close and hotly contested presidential run-off election, far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori appears to be taking a tip from the Donald Trump playbook. The official results from the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) give Fujimori 49.8% of the vote, and 50.2% to her left-populist challenger Pedro Castillo. However, the results only become official when they are certified by the National Jury of Elections (JNE)—and Fujimori is calling for some 200,000 votes to be nullified as fraudulent, more than enough to throw the race in her favor. On June 11, the JNE said it would extend the deadline for filing challenges to votes, which had passed two days earlier. However, it reversed this decision hours later, in response to a public outcry and accusations by Castillo and his supporters of an attempted "coup d'etat." (Peru21, June 12; DW, June 11; BBC Mundo, June 10)
Biden admin grants protected status for Haitians
US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced May 23 an 18-month designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This humanitarian protection allows an estimated 100,000 individuals to apply to remain lawfully in the US. There are three statutory grounds for TPS designation: ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Haiti faces political crisis and human rights abuses, security concerns, and the exacerbation of a "dire economic situation and lack of access to food, water, and healthcare" due to COVID-19, Mayorkas found.
Migrant kids languish at Fort Bliss
Advocacy groups for migrants on the US southern border are protesting conditions at Texas' Fort Bliss, an Army base that the Biden administration has opened as an emergency holding facility. Nearly 5,000 minors who crossed the border without a parent or guardian are currently being held in large tents at the base. This is about a quarter of the total number of minors in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a body of the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). As of late May, nearly 600 of these had spent 40 days or longer at the "megasite." Nearly 1,700 minors had been there for at least a month, according to government data. Unlike traditional HHS shelters for migrant children, Fort Bliss and other emergency "influx" sites are not licensed by state authorities to care for minors, and have lower standards of care.
Armenia-Azerbaijan border stand-off —over water
Armenia's Security Council held an emergency meeting May 12 in response to a reported border incursion by Azerbaijan. Local authorities in southern Syunik province issued urgent reports that Azerbaijan's forces had crossed the border and completely surrounded Lake Sev. The glacial lake, which provides water for irrigation in the area, is bisected by the frontier between the two countries, with its northern third lying within Azerbaijan. But the territory on the Azerbaijan side had been held by Armenia between the 1991-4 war and last November's ceasefire, under which it was ceded back. The two sides remain at odds on the precise demarcation of the line, which had not been formalized in Soviet times.
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